In the world of comics there is literally hundred’s of independent comic companies struggling to make their mark on the industry. For years now I have been a huge supporter of Philadelphia based Zenescope Entertainment, publishers of the cult hits Grimm Fairy Tales and Return to Wonderland. Formed in 2005 by writers Joe Brusha and Ralph Tedesco, Zenescope has developed a strong fan following, specializing in horror comics based on fairy tales and fantasy themes, and featuring busty damsels in distress and cheesecake imagery accompanied with intelligent storytelling and gruesome imagery. Although not for the squeamish, Zenescope comics never fail to disappoint. In recent months Zenescope has seemed to finally have gained it’s foot hold in the comic industry, finally cracking into the big time as one of the top ten comic publishers in North America, and expanding it’s line of books to include spin offs, licensing and even a brand new all ages line! Zenescope is quickly becoming one of the premier comic companies in the world.
In August 2010 I finally had the pleasure to meet Zenescope co-founder and vice-president Ralph Tedesco at the Toronto FanExpo. As Zenescope staff attended the crowd on the busy Saturday afternoon, and two gorgeous “Zenescope girls,” which accompany the company at all it’s appearances met and took pictures with fan boys of all ages, Ralph and I had a chance to talk about some of the newest projects that Zenescope has been releasing over the current months:
Sam Tweedle: When you and I first spoke, you and Joe Brusha explained to me that you guys were originally screen writers that got into comics. Is there any possibility that we’ll be seeing any Zenescope books hitting the screen anytime in the future?
Ralph Tedesco: Yeah. We have a few things we are in development on. The biggest thing right now that I can talk about is The Piper. We are teamed with producers from Persistent Entertainment, Matt Rhodes and Aaron Cruze, and we are working on getting The Piper made, obviously, as a horror film, but a smart horror film. We don’t want to crank out some cheesy movie. We want to make sure its done right so we are looking at attaching a really great screen writer. The thing with that seems to be going well. There are a couple of other things that are in early development that we haven’t announced yet.
Sam: I always thought that Grimm Fairy Tales would make a great anthology TV series.
Ralph: So do we. Write to your local congressman. (Laughs) Hopefully it will. That’s something we’d like to get going. There seems to be an influx of dark, gritty stuff coming out. I would love to see Sela on TV.
Sam: Have you been seeing more of people coming to conventions dressed as your characters now?
Ralph: A lot. Over the years it has grown. That’s when you know your doing something right. We have people coming as Callie from Return to Wonderland. Callie is probably the most popular one. We’ve had Salem’s Daughter pop up. Of course the Grimm Fairy Tale characters are always popular. But Callie is pretty cool because she is a specific character of ours that has a specific look that has her own fans.
Sam: You have a number of Grimm Fairy Tales spin off books coming out in the next while, but currently you are publishing Inferno which has been a real trip. For the sake of people who are not reading can you give us a bit of a 101 on that series?
Ralph: Inferno is about Mercy Dante who originally popped up in Grimm Fairy Tales. She was first introduced in #29 and she kills a little girl to get revenge on the little girl’s father who had, in turn, killed her family when she was a little girl. So the worst revenge she felt that she could dish out was to kill the man’s daughter. Then in #41 she got her redemption when she was given a second chance by Sela and decided that she would not kill the little girl and kills herself instead. Inferno is a spin off about Mercy’s sister Grace who is leading a really messed up life and has amnesia and is trying to figure out what is going on around her. She sees demons and a lot of messed up stuff and doesn’t know what is going on. Issue #1 is a lot of set up, but by #2 there is a lot more revelations.
Sam: One of the strangest releases that you have ever put together is about to come out. What can you tell us about The Monster Hunter’s Survival Guide?
Ralph: It is coming out in mid October. It’s a guide for all of you amateur monster hunters out there. It’s written by JP Russ who is an actual monster hunter.
Sam: In real life?
Ralph: Yeah. He is a monster hunter.
Sam: Is he crazy?
Ralph: He’s out there but he knows his stuff. He has a lot of experience.
Sam: And what has he hunted.
Ralph: Everything (Laughs). I can’t tell you. Your looking at me like I’m crazy. I can’t tell you the secrets that he reveals. It’s going to be a four issue mini-series but we’ll then put it out as a TPB. The first issue deals with the undead – your basic vampires, zombies and any undead creatures. We also have an issue deal with cryptozoology – Bigfoot, the yeti, the Kraken, the Jersey Devil. We’ll be doing more with Monster Hunters once we’ve done the first series, but I can’t get into that just yet.
Sam: A big part of what a lot of independent companies are doing today is getting into licensing. For the last few months you guys at Zenescope have been doing a Charmed comic! How did that book come to happen?
Ralph: It was something that’s been in the works for a long time. When we started talking to Warner Brothers about the rights we had to go through some different channels. We had to make sure that the girls were on board with the likeness right because we needed to do that in order to do the series the right way. If we didn’t have the likenesses it was not going to work. We had to sit for a little while to make sure that Warner Brothers reached out to all the girls and worked everything out. It was one of those things that we worked our way up to over the course of a couple of years. Charmed seemed to fit in with our wheelhouse. There are three strong female characters, which is what they do. They are all attractive, which helps. It just seemed to fit into our line of books and would have a fan following because Charmed is such a popular TV series and it would make for a great comic.
Sam: I’ve heard that Zenescope is going to have a line of comic for younger readers coming out. That is a bit of a surprise and a real departure from your “sex/horror” books you are known for. What can you tell me about your new all ages line?
Ralph: Again it was something that we had wanted to do for a while. It was just about coming out at the right time. We wanted to make sure that we were at a point that we were one of the top ten publishers and then we were going to spin off on an all age’s line. We approached The Discovery Channel with the idea to do Top Ten Deadliest Sharks.
Sam: Well there is a cult following surrounding Discovery’s Shark Week.
Ralph: Yeah. It’s huge. We wish we could have had it out in time for Shark Week but the deal wasn’t done in time. We are doing Top Ten Deadliest Sharks and then we are doing two other graphic novels with Discovery Channel. Our all age’s line isn’t something that you’ll see ten titles suddenly popping up. We want to build it like we build Zenescope – slow and methodical. We’ll put one or two titles out, wait a bit, put another two titles out and just get that small build going.
Sam: So Ralph, I gotta admit that one of my guilty pleasures is looking for the Zenescope girls of the month on your web-site. I specifically liked Shauna as the Cheshire Cat (October 2009) who has been on my screen saver for months now.
Ralph: Oh yeah.
Sam: Is she single and can you get me her phone number?
Ralph: She’s probably not single.
Sam: Of course not. Girls like that are born with boyfriends.
Ralph: If you pay me enough I might give her your phone number.
I never did hear from Shauna the Chersire Cat Girl, but he did give me a batch of Zenescope swag! Zenescope produces some of my favorite books that I purchase every month, and I can not recommend their books and graphic novels enough – especially to the fans of horror and dark fairy tales. Primarily known for their “sexy covers” it should be reiterated that the content inside contains some of the best written material in the dark fairy tale genre. Over the next few months more spin offs of Zenescope’s flagship title, Grimm Fairy Tales, will be appearing at your comic shops including a new on-going series titled Grimm Fairy Tales Myths and Legends, and a newer, even darker series titled Grimm Tales. For more information on Zenescope books, makes sure to talk to your local comic book retailer or check out their web-site at www.zenescope.com.