Landmark issues are fun, uniting, exciting, and ground-breaking. Especially when the company is smaller in size. Since its inception, Zenescope has been pushing boundaries, and breaking the mold. 2014 will see Zenescope reach their 100th issue on Grimm Fairy Tales. With us at Geekality is one of their lead writers, and editors, Pat Shand.
Pat Shand sat down to talk to with us about Zenescope’s Age of Darkness and other upcoming titles. Pat was generous enough to share some information on upcoming titles, and some new, unreleased covers! Pat’s known for his work on Robyn Hood, Godstorm, and the massive Unleashed event.
Look for Pat’s work in 2014:
Robyn Hood: Legend, Helsing, Godstorm: Hercules Payne, Realm Knights: Age of Darkness, Wonderland: Asylum, Code Red, Quest, Ascension and more. Pat also hinted at a new creator owned project, as well as a team-up with Ralph Tedesco and Joe Brusha for some special, double sized-issues as we careen toward GFT #100.
He’s also editing Wonderland, Clash of Queens, B.A.R. Maid (and writing that too).
Geekality: Pat, 2013 was a big year for Zenescope. 2014 is promising to be eve bigger yet. As we build up to “Age of Darkness,” could you first tell us a bit about Unleashed? How was it as a crossover, was it successful and does it tie into Age of Darkness?
Pat Shand: Unleashed was massive. It’s kind of crazy looking back at when we were doing it, because the timeline is sprawling, the cast was expansive with both new and returning characters, and, on top of that, it was high concept. I think the bait and switch we pulled worked — you know, you bill an event as “Grimm Fairy Tales versus classic monsters,” and you think you know what to expect. The plan all along, though, was to pull the rug out from under the readers and flip the script in the end. It wasn’t about another fight to rule the world, it was about a powerful creature dethroning an absent god and making the choice to protect our world… even if millions have to die to get him where he needs to be.
I think the mark of if we were successful or not comes with time. With an event, you’re looking for lasting effects while not completely changing the shared universe. The Marvel mold back when they were doing Civil War, which led into Secret Invasion, which led into Dark Reign, which led into Siege, which led into the Heroic Age… each event worked on its own while enriching the universe. So I think Unleashed did that — we’re still writing the aftermath now. The Ascension (see more on that below!) series we’ve got coming out in February is a direct sequel to Unleashed, and it’ll deal with some of that fallout.
Age of Darkness is a different beast, though. It’s a banner we’re putting on our books leading to #100, and while some of the characters we’ve introduced in Unleashed will show up in the AoD books, it’s less of an event and more of a bold new direction for the Grimm Universe.
Oh no, each series is completely new reader friendly. Age of Darkness isn’t an event — it’s a banner. Quest, Code Red, Neverland, Clash of Queens… and all of the one-shots that’ll come out like Robyn Hood, Dark Queen, Realm Knights and a bunch more — those aren’t just pieces of a big story. Each story works on its own.
Now is definitely the time to jump on. The stories welcome new readers, the artwork is better than we’ve ever had, and we’re telling stories I’m really proud of.
I think a lot of comic readers will be a bit surprised by the banner (vs. event) concept. Can you explain the difference in execution? Is there a primary story that will be telling the main narrative? Or is it more thematic in the books with the banner?
It’s 100% thematic. There is no core “Age of Darkness” book. With Unleashed, we had a main title and tie-ins. With “Age of Darkness,” each series IS the main title. In each miniseries, you get the complete story. Obviously because it’s a shared universe under a thematic banner, it’s leading toward something big, and it doesn’t hurt to jump in all reckless abandon-like and read all of them, but I think it’s important that our fans know that these books aren’t tie-ins. They’re the real deal.
Unleashed started from a plot by me and Raven, yeah. Age of Darkness comes from Ralph and Joe. What we do, though, is every year, we have a writing summit to figure out the publishing schedule. The 2012 summit was all about Unleashed, and the 2013 summit, which happened last month, was all Age of Darkness. It’s very collaborative with the four of us. It’s a good environment.
And within that environment, your writing duties have vastly expanded in the last year. You’ve been playing with Robyn Hood, Quest, some Grimm Fairy tales and even took a tour of Wonderland. Can you tell us a bit about what’s coming out on the shelves currently? There’s at, the very least, fan favorite Robyn Hood returning in Robyn Hood: Legend, right?
Yeah, definitely. We’ve got a lot of books coming out that I probably can’t talk much about, but I can certainly speak on Legend. It’s the final installment of the Robyn Hood trilogy, and it’s the culmination of everything I’ve wanted to do with that title. Robyn Hood was my first miniseries for Zenescope, and I love the character, the world, and I’ve loved building that story. Legend is going to be all payoff for our loyal readers, but I hope some new folks give Robyn a chance, too. Orders on the last series were UP by the final issue, which I never expected, so I think people are taking notice.
I’m also really excited about the Helsing series we’ve got coming out. The fans voted on which of the Unleashed characters should get their own miniseries, and Helsing came out victorious. Her story, which I’m writing right now, sort of takes a British ghost story and puts it in modern times… while spanning the globe. It’s coming out really fun.
Sounds fun. That’s a unique approach to launching a new series, letting the fans decide. And congrats on the up orders for Robyn Hood. Now that you’re at the end of your trilogy, do you have plans for the character post-Legend (should she survive of course!)
I can’t really talk post-Legend. Anything I say would be a spoiler!
Worth a shot! With characters like Helsing, did you have more of a hand in creating (due to the pitch) the Unleashed characters compared to Robyn Hood?
It’s hard to compare Helsing and Robyn. With Robyn, I was really lucky. When I came on board, Joe had an outline for the first issue and a rough direction of the series. I worked on a proposal for where I saw the first series going, and I was sneaky, because I was already plotting the sequels in that very pitch. So Will Scarlet and Marian and Gisbourne and Avella and Robyn’s voice… I was really just lucky that Ralph and Joe were so open to letting the new guy create and world-build. Robyn has more of my heart in it than anything I’ve ever written, so I can’t really say there’s been anything that I’ve had MORE freedom with that Robyn.
A female Helsing was actually Ralph’s idea, and it was a great one. He had the concept, Anthony Spay designed her, and I worked out her history, her voice, and the story for her miniseries. As always — I don’t know if you saw the picture of me, Raven, Ralph, and Joe at the summit last month, but it’s very much a writer’s room. It’s all about collaboration and working together to tell the best story.
What I see a lot in reviews is that people think that our books have four writers on them. That is not the case. Our STORY BY credit is shared by the four of us, but the WRITTEN BY credit tells who script it, who took it beyond those talks, who expanded on the outline and made it his or her own. It’s much more like television and movies than traditional comic book writing… and seeing as those credits are on nearly every film that comes out, I don’t really get the confusion there.
I think many comic book readers nest into a specific company, and differences from their usual pull list are surprising. It sounds like the four of you have formed a bit of a rat-pack so to speak. How do additional writers, because there are others at Zenescope, fit into that mold?
We’re hiring more freelancers than ever this year, I think. We’ve got Dan Wickline on a few more books, we’ll have Troy Brownfield come back, but we also have newer guys. Eric M. Esquivel, who is an incredible writer you’ll probably know from his work at Boom!, came on to do our Dark Queen one-shot, which is now a favorite of mine. I’m editing now, too, so I’m looking to pull writers in from all over. Jeff Massey was a professor and then a friend of mine, and he’s an expert in Medieval literature and werewolves, and he’s a writer — so when it came time to pick a writer to do a back-up story in TALES FROM OZ that focused on Toto, who is a wolf in our continuity… it was kind of a no brainer to hire him. We’ve also got the super talented Shane McKenzie, who is known in the horror community as this powerhouse of prose. The dude writes like five, six novels a year. He’s got a great style, and I think diversifying the Zenescope voice has really been helping us out.
The continued expansion of the line proves that! Now, in a bit of a different direction. Arguably, one of Zenescope’s selling points is it’s availability on the Convention Circuit. At this point, finding DC or Marvel only happens at the biggest of shows, though you can find their artists and writers here and there. But I would argue that the Con-circuit is a big plus for Zenescope right now. Can you tell us about any convention plans this year? I’m sure we’ll be seeing new special releases and the like at least.
I actually don’t really know. All I know is that it’s going to be a BIG year for us — the biggest convention tour we’ve ever done. At this point, I just know a few of the ones I’ll be going to. I’m going to Amazing Arizona, Motor City, Fan Expo, Wizard World Philly which is our home show, SDCC, NYCC, and a bunch more that I’m forgetting. They keep me busy, and I love it.
At the end of Unleashed, the Being made his true plan clear. Not only did he usurp the Maker and vow to protect the Earth, he has devised a scheme to murder the other Keepers (the ancient deities that created and watch over the realms) and replace them with powerful beings of his choice. One of the twists was that he’s chosen Samantha Darren, Guardian of the Nexus, as one of the New Keepers.
Samantha’s issue is that she’s always failed to save the world… and now she sees that Sela is no more capable of protecting it than she is. She’s in a position where she has to weigh her choices… she can either join the Being and help protect the world HIS way, or she can fight him and have yet another horrible battle. It’s the whole divine plan versus free will thing.
But yeah, the cover makes it seem as if Sam is going with the Being. She and Sela have had a conflict brewing for a long time, and this series will certainly reflect that and bring it all to a head.
And you’re not against killing off characters, as seen in Unleashed. Is it safe to say that no one is safe to survive Ascension? (or Age of Darkness for that matter).
Have you seen the teasers for Ascension? We’re not beating around the bush on that series. The tagline is “Who will die?”
And Helsing is holding the green orb in one of the teasers. Could it be that Sela is running out of allies for her fight against the Being?
I can say without spoilers that Helsing and Sela are completely inseparable. You’re not wrong that Sela is running out of allies, but Helsing will always stand by her side. Sela is the most important person in the world to Helsing, and even when they’re both in really bad places, they’ll be sticking together.
But you are right about the orb. That’s the Doomsday Device that Helsing invented toward the end of Unleashed. It can essentially level an entire city — and the fact that she’s pictured with it on the cover is pretty grim indeed.
That pun never gets old. Sorry not sorry.
Thanks Pat. Is there anything else you would like to tell readers at this point?
I know I say it a lot, but just a continuous thank you. I’m still new to this, so the fact that I can walk into a shop and see books that I wrote on the shelves… the fact that people are really enjoying the books… it means a lot.
Interview conducted by Sean O’Brien