I’ve always thought that Raven Gregory was pretty much the household name of Zenescope, even more so than founders Joe Brusha and Ralph Tedesco, but writer Pat Shand is starting to give them all a serious run for their money! Zenescope really set him up for success too. After letting him get his feet wet with some basic Grimm stuff, he got the reigns on Robyn Hood and Godstorm, which are two very unique and recognizable properties. Robyn Hood has some of the most eye-catching art of any book out there, and it’s one of the more recent books that stands out a bit from others in the Grimm Fairy Tales line, especially as it capitalizes on the archer trend, and in trademark Zenescope style. There’s also Godstorm, which even if a lot of people know it as “the one with the dude in it” it’s a book that stands out and makes you do a double take as to who is working on it.
I think these things have helped make his name recognizable, and now he’s signed an exclusive contract with them, and he keeps working his way up the ladder – earning it all the way too. He’s got a big hand in UNLEASHED, a Zenescope take on the mega comic book event. My fellow Zenescope correspondent Adam Cheal and I recently had a chance to pick his brain a bit, and we got some kick ass answers to our questions!
Scorpio Moon: What I love the most about your writing, and I’ve mentioned this in my column, is that it always feels like enough. Do you know what I mean, that feeling sometimes when you just breeze through a comic book and you say “damn, did anything just happen in that” and you have to try and kind of recount it in your head? I don’t get that with the issues you write. Each issue really feels like a full chapter, or an installment in the story, I’m always satisfied. Is that something you intentionally strive for?
Pat Shand: Hey, thanks man. And yes, definitely – I hate when I read a comic book and realize that what I just read could have been told in five pages instead of twenty-two. I’m a big fan of decompression when done right, but a comic book shouldn’t take five minutes to read. I spend a good chunk of time writing the scripts, so the last thing I want is for a reader to blow through it and feel cheated. I’ve felt that before, and I won’t do that to folks who throw down the money to check my stuff out.
Adam Cheal: We want to know a bit about writing for Zenescope, take the Robyn Hood and Godstorm properties for example, who pitches what to who? How much of that is Zenescope editorial or creativity and how much is yours?
PS: At first, when I was doing one-shots for Zenescope, I would get the full plots from editorial, and I’d just write the scripts. I was able to add my own voice and pitch ideas that fit within the outlines, but it was very much working for someone else’s big picture. Once I got on the ROBYN HOOD and GODSTORM miniseries, though, I would get the outlines and Raven Gregory and I would revise them fully so I was able to tell my own story with them. Now, it’s a mix of that and me pitching stories from scratch. Now I’m one of the guys who is able to give outlines to other writers, and it’s been a really cool sort of role reversal.
AC: How challenging is it to be a staff writer and to have to deliver scripts that match the vision of the creators? Is that more pressure than creating your own work?
PS: It’s not challenging for me. I’ve grown to love the characters, and a lot of the ones I’m working with were developed by me. At first it was a bit challenging to write Sela because, unlike Robyn and Zeus whose voices I crafted, Sela has been around since the second issue of GRIMM FAIRY TALES. It took a lot of studying to get her and Belinda right, but that’s all love, you know? If I didn’t really care about these stories and characters, I couldn’t write them. I’m as much of a fan of this universe as I am a part of it.
AC: Writing for Zenescope would be the Holy Grail for many aspiring writers. A lot of comic book writers go from working on purely indie and creator owned projects before slowly building a reputation and building up a body of work. Can you tell us about your own transition to the mainstream?
PS: It was pretty quick, actually. My first ever comic was a short ANGEL comic through IDW Publishing. ANGEL is my favorite television show, so it was very much a dream gig. Soon after that, I reached out to Ralph Tedesco, EIC of Zenescope, and he gave me some gigs writing for the 1000 WAYS TO DIE graphic novel and some GRIMM FAIRY TALES one-shots. I’ve worked with some other companies before going exclusive, but every time I get upset about something or frustrated with a project, I just pause and remember how awesome it is to be doing what I’m doing.
SM: Robyn Hood has been one of the most buzzworthy Zenescope characters of late, how far along was the book before you realized just how popular she was, and did that ever influence the writing at all?
PS: It didn’t influence me, but it made me feel vindicated. I care a lot about the character and the story I’m telling with her, so when I saw the sales and the fan reaction, I felt as if people were really taking to her and getting it. A lot of writers (wisely) warn against reading reviews, but it honestly does help me. I’d never mold a story to what fans want or expect, but it’s very gratifying to see that people dig the book. Some people are even cosplaying as the characters, and that’s just the most amazing thing.
SM: Are we ever going to get more about what happened to Robyn’s eye? We know she was maimed and then after being transported it kind of healed into a glowing light, will she ever question that more, or have it related to like a new super power for her?
PS: Yeah, sure. I don’t think it’s much of a mystery right now because Robyn does kind of piece what she knows about her history together, and returning to Myst certainly awoke something magic inside of her. I do plan to dig deeper into her origins and what that means for her in the present.
AC: GODSTORM: The book plays heavily on the ancient Greek gods and mythology legends from historic literature. Were you a big fan of these stories already or did it take a whole lot of research?
PS: Yeah, absolutely. The gods have personal significance to me beyond what would normally come up in an interview, but hey – I’m feeling open. I was raised believing in a certain faith, and then when I learned about the Greek gods in the fourth grade, I came to this startlingly clear realization that the Greeks… they believed in these deities the same way I was being told to believe in my god, right? And they believed totally and fully… but now it’s being taught as mythology. It was this epiphany I remember to this day, and it spoke of both the need people have to construct myths and legends so they don’t feel alone in this world AND of the power of stories. That theme permeates what I’m doing with the gods in GODSTORM and very, very much in their role in UNLEASHED.
AC: The narrative of using a modern-day Zeus and his painting gallery to frame the flashbacks is not only inspired, it’s damn clever too. How did you come up with the concept?
PS: The hall of paintings came to me as a fully formed idea. Can’t really trace back its origin. The moment Raven and I started revising the GODSTORM outline, I was just like, “Stop, hold on, I have the full idea for #0, let’s just plot #1-4.” That issue really helped me figure out who Zeus is.
AC: The concept of gods living as humans in the modern world is interesting. Even after all the centuries that have passed the gods don’t seem to have evolved their personalities all that much and still crave human nature. Is it hard to write characters that yield such power and still make them accessible so the readers can relate to them?
PS: That’s the way in for me – that is what makes me understand these characters. The more larger-than-life they are, the bigger their flaws.
SM: Adam was told in his pre-LSCC interview that Godstorm wasn’t getting quite as much love as Zenescope had hoped, was the event in the finale an effort to generate more interest? Was there ever a sense of, “we need to address that, we need to build up this book” or are you sticking to the original gameplan on that one?
PS: A bit of both. The plan was very much for GODSTORM to have these big moments, and to reveal “the Being,” the nameless villain who is the threat behind the UNLEASHED crossover. Since the GODSTORM sales have been a bit lower than, say, ROBYN HOOD or WONDERLAND, we’ve made an effort to make sure readers know how significant the impact of GODSTORM #4 will be on the Grimm Universe as a whole.
SM: Are you writing Robyn Hood vs. Red Riding Hood? Is Robyn a character you feel possessive over?
PS: Yes to both questions. I pitched ROBYN HOOD VS. RED RIDING HOOD; that was another idea that sort of just hit me. I built toward it in GRIMM UNIVERSE #2 and then pitched it to Joe Brusha, and he saw the bigger picture of what I was doing and told me to have at it. As far as Robyn, yeah, I certainly feel possessive over her. I love this shared universe, but Robyn is sort of to me as what Calie Liddle is to Raven Gregory. Calie is Raven, and Robyn is me; she’ll certainly be part of larger stories and other writers will probably write for her, but if there is ever a Robyn Hood sequel, it would be me writing it. I love the character too much to reach out to another writer. That would be the last book I’d give up for time reasons.
SM: What exactly happened to the bad guy after the end of Grimm Universe #2?
PS: Sela took him… somewhere. That’s what Britney called in the favor for. I’m really glad you asked that, because it’s something I want to explore in the upcoming REALM KNIGHTS miniseries if we have room.
SM: How much can you tell us about Unleashed?
PS: Really, anything you want to know! It’s a mega-event that features the Being unleashing a host of classic monsters in the Grimm Universe. The main draw is all these fairy tale characters fighting these classic monsters, which is something you won’t get anywhere else. The main UNLEASHED series, which runs from #0 to #6, and five tie-in miniseries to focus on the monsters (VAMPIRES: THE ETERNAL, DEMONS: THE UNSEEN, WEREWOLVES: THE HUNGER, ZOMBIES: THE CURSED) and the hunters who try to keep the world safe (HUNTERS: THE SHADOWLANDS). Raven and I plotted the whole thing together, and I’m writing the main UNLEASHED series, VAMPIRES, and DEMONS. Mark L. Miller is writing WEREWOLVES, Troy Brownfield is writing ZOMBIES, and Raven is on HUNTERS. Each of the series ties into what I’m doing with the main event book, but each of the books is completely accessible as a standalone series as well.