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Mike Raicht: Featuring the Creature

A comics interview article by: Kevin Powers
Mike Raicht is no stranger to the world of comics. He’s tackled numerous Marvel characters and also has a love for all things horror and zombie related. I first met Mike at the New York Comic Con earlier this year and I found a man who loves comics, loves to tell stories, and loves the horror genre, be it straight up blood and gore or tongue-in-cheek “B” movie material. This weekend Mike will be debuting Mike Raicht’s Creature Feature from Th3rd World Publishing. It’s an anthology collection of horror stories by a few of comics’ big names including Chris Yost, C.B. Cebulski, Andy Schmidt and Brian Smith. Mike appears in the book himself as a sort of “Cryptkeeper” and I’ve got to tell you, I’ve never been a big horror fan, but this is the most fun I’ve ever had with the genre. I had a chance to sit down with Mike and pick his brain about his past work, the Creature Feature and the future of the anthology. Once you’ve read the interview, head over to the news section to check out an exclusive preview of the Creature Feature!

Kevin Powers: You are no stranger to the Marvel Universe. You’ve covered Exiles, Black Panther, Mystique, Spider-Girl, the X-Treme X-Men, Spider-Man and Hulk to name a few, any particular favorite musings in the Marvel U?

Mike Raicht: I was a huge fan of UNCANNY X-MEN growing up. Days of Futures Past had a huge influence on me. I saved up some serious dough to get that book at my local comic shop. I think it was like 12 bucks or something at the time. So starting up Exiles with Judd Winick, Mike McKone, Jim Calafiore and Mike Marts was pretty special. A whole book devoted to fun alternate reality stories. How cool is that?

KP: Are there any projects you’d like to tackle with Marvel?

MR: I got my chance to write EXILES: DAYS OF THEN AND NOW, a one shot for the series. It was built to be a goodbye to the original series. It was a blast and I’d love to do it again sometime. I’d especially like to revisit the offshoot team of characters I created for that story led by Quentin Quire. I think it had some real potential.

I also am a huge Cannonball fan. Anything with him in it would be cool. IRON FIST is a character I never really thought much of before. The stuff Matt, Ed and David Aja did with the character is amazing. I love Fat Cobra and the rest of the characters from the tournament arc. I‘d love to tell some untold tales of those characters as well.

KP: You’re a big horror fan, I remember you saying you loved zombies. What are some of your favorite horror comics, movies, books etc.?

MR: I do love Zombies and pretty much anything that even has a hint o f zombieness about it. It’s a sickness. I’ve written two separate Zombie limited series, ZOMBIE at Marvel and DEADWORLD: FROZEN OVER for Desperado Publishing. (Issue #4 is coming soon by the way. That series has been really behind but it is finally wrapping up. I’m excited to see it collected.) And I’d be more than psyched to tackle some more stories in that genre. I am obsessed. It’s not a good thing. I need help.

I collect WALKING DEAD. CROSSED from Avatar is something I’m really looking forward to. I enjoyed BLACK SUMMER. Especially for the Jose Ryp art. Which means I’m picking up NO HERO since he’s drawing that as well. I’ve been reading all things GREEN LANTERN and I really enjoyed UMBRELLA ACADEMY. FEAR AGENT is fun. I love the writing and the art. Moore and Opena are both awesome. IRON FIST is, like I mentioned above, a lot of fun and I’ve been catching up on EX MACHINA in trades. I’ve cut down a lot but I still am enjoying some books.

I loved the new DAWN OF THE DEAD and 28 DAYS LATER and thought the first 10 minutes of 28 WEEKS LATER were perfect. I’ve watched RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD quite a bit. Non-Zombie favorites include CARPENTER’S THE THING and SUNSHINE which are both more sci-fi than horror but they are favorites and have some horror elements to them. DOG SOLDIERS is a weird little werewolf movie I enjoy as well. And EVIL DEAD 2 is a favorite as well.

I recently read WORLD WAR Z by Max Brooks and just finished a very cool zombie book called DAY BY DAY ARMAGEDDON by J. L. BOURNE. My favorite book of all time is THE LONG WALK by Stephen King which is more sci-fi than horror. It has some alternate history type stuff that I‘m always a sucker for as well. I love almost all of Stephen King’s short stories in his NIGHT SHIFT and SKELETON CREW collections. I’m also a little obsessed with Chuck Pahlahniuk who wrote FIGHT CLUB and CHOKE as well as any World War II memoir type stuff by Stephen Ambrose. I find all of his interviews with World War II veterans amazing.

KP: So what inspires you to put something together like the Creature Feature?

MR: Hundreds of hours of really questionable but fun horror movies that I sat through as a kid and young adult. My friends and I spent countless hours watching movies like PIRHANA 1 and 2, BLACK CHRISTMAS, SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT, BUG, BURIAL GROUND and classic ones like FRIDAY the 13th, HALLOWEEN… and honestly hundreds of others not many people have heard much about. Nor should they. Some are great because they are actually great and others are great because they are incredibly bad. All that mattered to me was whether or not my local video store had them on the shelf. If they were, I rented them. Good or bad, they all had little gems of goodness to them.

So when Th3rdworld Studios approached me to put a book together for them I naturally gravitated to the late 70s and early 80s horror scene I grew up on. So when you ask what inspired me to do this, I think it actually might be a selfish reason. I wanted “new” horror movies from the late 70s and 80s. And I think everyone involved has given me exactly that. More fun loving horror to chew on.

KP: I love the introduction to each story featuring yourself giving the readers some background information on the journey they are about to embark on. How did it feel to be the proverbial “Cryptkeeper?”

MR: I’m glad you liked the intros. We were hoping it would tie the book together in a way that a lot of books with multiple stories in them don’t have. To have the guy doing the introduction actually be me was more than a little weird. At first it was kind of a joke. Then we considered creating a character for it but that seemed forced. TL Collins, the artist who worked on the interludes with me, drew a little strip for the book with me in it. He is actually one of those unfortunate souls who has had to endure the endless movies marathons of gore. When Mike Devito and John Conkling saw it we all thought he did a funny enough version of me that we should go for it. We were really hoping it would give the book a different feel and show we were really trying to create an experience for people. It’s all in good fun.

KP: It’s almost like you’re the mastermind behind the evil. That “Mike Raicht’s Drive-in” means certain doom. I must say though, it’s a GREAT touch to get readers into that “horror mood.”

MR: I wanted to set a tone and to make it more of an experience than just a set of three and a half stories. It hopefully highlights the comedic-horror tone that all of these stories should be approached with. And Mastermind might be a bit strong. I like my official title in the book which is Drive In Host. I’m just as much along for the ride as the reader. I hope that comes across. I really think Tim (TL to the comic book world) did a great job adding little touches around the page to give the world a really fun, crazy feel.

KP: The writers featured in the book are no strangers to the comic mix, Andy Schmidt, C.B. Cebulski, Brian Smith and Chris Yost. How did they get involved?

MR: Honestly, with Andy, CB and Brian Smith, I’m just lucky enough to know them all from my time working in Marvel editorial. I asked them and they were all excited to do something a little different. We actually used to watch some pretty horrible horror movies from my collection up at Marvel during lunch. It was frowned upon by management but we did it anyway. It was fun and it made me certain they would get the vibe of what I was trying to do. It felt like I had trained them for this moment. It felt good in a kind of perverse way.

I had read Chris Yost‘s stuff on New X-Men but did not know him personally. Mike Devito of Th3rdworld Studios approached him and he was interested. He turned in a really great story. And now he’s writing everything up at Marvel. We were really lucky to get him. But he’s the only writer I didn’t know personally that is working on the series, even including the second book.

So the moral of the story if you are doing an anthology is to have really talented friends.

KP: The stories are all vastly different from one another, spanning the genre. We’ve got the crazy owls, the alien monster, the always bankable arachnophobia story and the cleverly devised Rockenstein. Are these all original stories from their respective writers were they collaborative ideas?

MR: I provided everyone with a mission statement for the project and then they went from there. My only concern initially was that the book have a variety of stories for people to enjoy. Ending up with 4 stories about killer spiders or 3 tales of birds running amuck would have been bad. Luckily everyone picked different horror staples to attack and brought something fun to the table.

KP: I got the sense that most of the stories are meant to both frighten the readers and to give a few laughs. Was this a type of balance you set out to accomplish or did the stories just come together in that way?

MR: The sense of horror mixed with comedy was definitely the goal. It is what I loved about those old Drive In type horror movies. The good ones had it all. People doing dumb things. The audience laughing a bit and then realizing, wait a minute, this is kind of scary, should I be laughing? And then hitting them some good old fashioned comedy splashed with a bit of gore. These movies should always be teetering on the edge of questionable taste. Done right, like these stories are, it can be a really fun time.

KP: Are these concepts going to continue to advance as the series moves forward?

MR: Right now this is just a two issue limited series. We’ve talked about it becoming an annual type thing. If I want to give people the opportunity to do sequels if they want to or to attack something new if they have a desire to go another direction. I think we all know the staple of this genre, especially in the 80s was the sequel. And who doesn’t want to see a Rockenstein sequel or the return of the aliens in Night of the Abductors. I know I do.

But, if not, I’d love to see new stuff as well.

KP: Are we going to see anything new introduced to the mix for the next issue?

MR: You bet. Next issue we have a whole new set of creators and stories.

Stuart Moore (IRON MAN, WOLVERINE and PUNISHER) and Alberto Ponticelli (upcoming UNKNOWN SOLDIER) deliver a riff on the cop/buddy movie with a twist called TERMITE BLUES.

Leah Moore and John Reppion (RAISE THE DEAD and ALBION) and PJ HOLDEN (2000 AD and FEARLESS) deliver a very cool blob tale called IMAGO.
And then I finally get my chance to do one of these alongside the uber-talented Jacob Chabot (MIGHTY SKULL BOY ARMY) on DON‘T EAT THE SNOW about nice things like snow-frolicking, sledding and death.
And of course Brian Smith (LOUD BOY) wraps up the second part of ROCKENSTEIN. I can’t wait to read that one.

KP: The layout of this collection of stories is different than most anything we’ve seen. Creators don’t often appear in their own books, but you are more or less the director of this “horrorfest.” Granted, a lot of editors do act as directors and producers, how does that role differ from simply writing the books? Is it a method of comic making that you prefer?

MR: I never in a million years thought I would end up in a comic book as a character and it was not really something I’d ever aspired to. I have continually felt doing it was more than a bit over the top but everyone involved that knows me seems to get a real kick out of it so we went for it. It kind of is the spirit of the time so it works. And I do have to admit it, the interludes seem to bring the book together.

I really think of myself as more of a producer on this book. I put the parameters in place for these guys to do their thing. And Th3rdworld was nice enough to back me on it. Artists like Shaun “Artchild” Turnbull, Jon Reed, Joe Lalich and Brian Smith are the real directors of these tales. They take these scripts and really storyboard them out and bring the stories to life.

Straight up writing is definitely a much more intense and lonely experience than editing. After the parameters are set, especially in a book where the writers and artists are creating their own worlds and not dealing in an established reality like at Marvel or DC, being an editor is a lot of fun. Just going back and forth with people on their stories and getting to read fun horror scripts is a blast.
This series is really a reflection of my love of these types of stories put out there for everyone to see. Scary, right? That being said, I can’t picture myself appearing anywhere but in Creature Feature in my Drive In host role. I think that’s really for the best, don’t you?

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