Nick Percival Talks Legends
For anyone who hasn’t read a preview, what is Legends: The Enchanted all about?
Legends: The Enchantedis a hard as nails, urban action-fantasy tale that takes classic characters from folklore and fairytales (Red Riding Hood, Jack the Giantkiller, Hansel & Gretel, Rapunzel, Goldilocks, etc.) and throws them violently into a dangerous post-industrial world, giving them a harsh look and attitude combined with the skills, weapons, and powers they need to survive as something from their past returns to settle a life-long grudge by trying to wipe them all out in the most terrible way possible.
These legendary characters are now well into adulthood. Feared and loathed by many, they spend their existence as outlaws, vigilantes, bounty hunters, spies, and such, living their lives independently in an increasingly hostile world.
When one of the Enchanted discovers the mutilated body of the supernatural warrior Pinocchio, he realizes that someone has managed to break the volatile magic that has always protected them. At the same time, Red Hood’s daughter is kidnapped by someone (or something) that knows there is more to this young girl than any of the Enchanted realize—a secret that has the potential to destroy them all.
Using a combination of unique weaponry, their wits, and what remaining powers they still have, this fractured group of characters are forced to work together to uncover the threat which has a mysterious link to all their childhoods and will alter their futures forever.
We seem to be in a creative time in which many people are revisiting or rebooting classic properties. Why do you think this is?
I’m not totally sure. For me, it’s kind of weird because a lot of this wasn’t happening when I first began to develop Legends and then it seemed to become a current trend of taking something that’s basically familiar to most people and giving it a new look and feel. I guess when you look at the many different interpretations of classic stories such as Dracula, Frankenstein, etc. and the tons of different versions of vampire tales, and so on, it’s something that’s always gone on to some extent. Obviously an advantage to the reboots is that you’re dealing with an already existing audience for this stuff. It’s easier to hit the ground running in explaining who these characters are and some elements of their back story are going to be common knowledge, so it certainly gives you a good, solid starting point, but then the trick is to bring something new and fresh to the table, which I hope I’ve achieved in the Legends graphic novel.
You’ve said in other interviews that you haven’t read Fables, which is Vertigo’s own reimagining of fairytale characters. What’s stopped you from picking it up to make sure that you weren’t duplicating the same concepts or character ideas?
To some degree, yes. As I’ve said before, I wasn’t aware of Fables when I first created the concept for Legends some years ago. When I did first see the comic, aside from occasionally flicking through it at the comic store, I never read or bought it. From what I could see, I knew the artwork and the world I was creating was vastly different to Fables and I guess we were always going to be using a similar cast of characters just by the nature of the concept. Ultimately, it seemed to make sense to me to just get on with my book, regardless of what was going on in other comic books. People that have read both tell me they’re quite different in lots of ways, so there you go. I guess I could go and pick up the trades and read them now, but as I’m developing ideas for further stories in the Legends universe, I might just leave them alone again.
Radical Books seems to place a huge focus on digital artwork. How do you see this relatively new visual approach fitting into a medium that has been around for nearly a century? Have you found that people are ready to accept this change?
To me, digital art is just another way of depicting images. Some of it is terrible, some of it is fantastic, depending on the artist—same as any comic book art or any art in general, for that matter. It’s just another tool to get images down on the page and all artists have different styles anyway. I suppose the younger audience might take to it a little more because of the similarity of digital images in video games and so on and die-hard comic fans might be harder to win over, but to be honest, if it serves the style of the story and tells it well and it’s good quality stuff, I don’t see that there should be any problem.
Why did you opt for an all-digital approach to the artwork over more traditional methods?
My original background is in traditional painting. I painted hundreds of comic book pages and covers (Judge Dredd, Slaine, etc.) all in acrylics or oils—all high-detail, fully painted stuff, so I’ve paid my dues in traditional art. The main reason I went all digital for Legends was for speed and the techniques that would allow me to create and depict the world and characters in the most suitable way for the story. It’s normally faster to create a page digitally, and you’ve got way more options for tweaks, color, and compositional changes. Also, it gave me more scope to blend the visual technology elements (which digital is great at) with the more organic stuff, and it’s always strong for special FX elements. When I paint digitally, though, I use all the same building techniques I would do on a traditional painting anyway, so the final images look “painted” with splatters, brush strokes, texture, etc. I still pencil the pages traditionally, scan them in, use washes, glazes, and undercoats the same way and build the colors up the same way I would with oils, so to me, it’s still painting.
What are you most proud of in the creation of Legends?
That fact that I finished it, for one. But I’m most proud of the fact that I think it all holds together. The characters and creatures and even the “normal” folk look like they all “belong” in the world that I’ve created. I wanted to maintain an atmosphere and style that flowed through the whole book, different color schemes for different characters, a consistent feel to the environments and props and I feel it works as a whole finished product.
As a self-proclaimed perfectionist, what would you now go back and change about the book?
Everything! Seriously, I would have always liked more time on each page but any artist will probably say the same thing. I was pretty happy with the level of detail I got in there and feel I maintained the consistency over 100+ pages, but you always want to do more. Never satisfied, I guess. Maybe some extra pages to let the story breath a little bit more and a few more splash pages would have been nice.
You’ve wanted to work in this visual aesthetic, but why does this take place in a post-apocalyptic setting storywise?
It’s not totally “post-apocalyptic” in the way that a lot of movies are. There are still towns and cities that have thriving populations and people are still going about their daily routines, albeit in a downbeat, repressed kind of way. It’s certainly not a nice place to live, but nothing has really been fully destroyed; it’s just changed and decayed somewhat. I think the world is a combination of present-day settings fused with bizarre technology and wild nature. It’s clearly not our world but retains enough elements of that to logically work. Storywise, it has this look because it’s a place that may have at one time been more traditionally fantasy-based but magic has kind of been forgotten. Magic is seen as something very ancient, and there are not many individuals that can use it any more. We only see the Godmother and the Hag use magic in the book. Technology has become much more practical and powerful, and so we see its infiltration visually everywhere in places such as the Bionic Woodlands and even in the Hag’s Lair and the Godmother’s Infirmary. The way that I’ve evolved the classic fairytale characters into, for want of a better term, “action superheroes” with modern looks and hard modern attitudes, I felt it worked better if I could have them in a world with hi-tech, weapons, vehicles, science, and all the modern-day accoutrements to visually serve the story I wanted to tell.
After eight years spent working on this first book, where do you see this story going from here? Will this world ever repair itself into something that doesn’t involve rotting corpses?
I have plans to take it farther and bring other characters into the mix. I think things will get worse for the Legends population before it gets better, and the world is still a way off from becoming a nice place for the average person to live. There’s a war coming…
What do you feel that your story has to offer the average comic reader?
I hope it has all the elements they’d like and respond well to. It has action, extreme visuals, unique powerful characters, and a dark storyline all wrapped up in a world that I feel has not been seen or depicted this way in mainstream comics. I think there’s a lot to get your teeth into.
The synthesis of science and magic is prevalent throughout the story. Does this reflect a spiritual perspective that you might personally hold, or is it just a neat plot device?
Magic interests me a great deal, purely because the possibilities would be endless—not bound by traditional rules and so on, but I‘m definitely no Alan Moore as far as that interest goes. But on the flip side of that, current science and technology would have been seen as magic centuries ago, and I definitely always lean toward scientific explanations for things. I think if it really was possible to combine the two and have the power of magic amplified by the power of technology, it would lead toward some “interesting” results. But yeah, “neat plot device.”
Legends has been optioned for cinematic treatment. How far along is production, and who would be your ideal production team?
As the recent announcements have said, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer of Imagine Entertainment are producing with Radical, and it’ll be in the process of going out to the various writers that they work with and then onto directors. I’m really pleased that a filmmaker of Ron Howard’s skill and credibility is involved. I think it gives it a serious edge since he’s an intelligent guy and obviously a highly regarded and respected director in his own right. Imagine are one of the largest production companies and actually have the power to get movies made, so it’s good that an entity like that loves the book and is on board. So, it’s still early days and I’m hoping to be involved as much as I can with the production. I would love to see a very visual director come on board and one who isn’t afraid to use color, since a lot of these comic book movies seem to end up washed out with limited color palettes. I think Legends would translate very well visually to film, since I spent a lot of time in the artwork, with cinematic lighting, textures, widescreen-style views, and action set pieces, etc.
Is there anything else you’d like people to know about this book?
I really hope they like it. The reaction seems extremely positive so far, which is great. It’s very daunting to have a product out there that is all yours creatively and it’s been a significant chunk of my career putting it all together, so it’s all my fault, good or bad, on how it’s received, but as a self-confessed control freak, that was always going to be the case. I’ve not cut any corners on it and Radical have put together a very slick looking hardcover book with added material like my sketches and early concepts, so I think you certainly get your money’s worth. Please go out and buy lots of copies. And then buy some more.