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AICN COMICS Q&@: Optimous Douche rips open the brain pan of Zenescope writer/editor Raven Gregory!

@@@ What the &#$% is AICN COMICS Q&@? @@@

Q’s by Optimous Douche!

@’s by Zenescope’s Raven Gregory!!!

Sup comicphiles? Optimous Douche here. I had the opportunity to sit down recently with Zenescope writer and editor Raven Gregory. This was a no holds barred conversation about Zenescope Cheesecake, the difference between writing and editing, and how personal tragedy becomes the wellspring of creative goodness.

OPTIMOUS DOUCHE (OD): Raven, I want to shoot down the white elephant out of the gate, Zenescope's propensity towards cheesecake. Because I think this label is from a myopic audience that has only looked at Zenescope's covers. Back me up please.

RAVEN GREGORY (RG): This conversation has come up time and time again. At this point it really is what it is. It's just a label. If someone who has never read a Zenescope book before wants to call us the cheesecake factory then there's not much I can do about it. WONDERLAND and GRIMM FAIRY TALES are both big sellers for us, and have a very high profile. So when people see Zenescope, that's usually what they see. Sure I can say we put out JURASSIC STRYKE FORCE 5, THE LIBRARY, WINDY HOLLOWS, and the various Discovery Books, but most of the time people have already made up their minds. It's never been about having a propensity toward cheesecake related material. It's always been about trying to put out the best comics we possibly can. That's what we do.

OD: What book would you recommend to sway those naysayers?

RG: Any of the books I mentioned above are great examples. THE WAKING, THE THEATER, JUNGLE BOOK and BRIMSTONE are a few more. But again, there's a reason GRIMM FAIRY TALES and WONDERLAND are such big sellers and it's not just because of a few hot covers here and there. It's because of the stories themselves. They're great stories. Before I became a part of the company I was a fan, and there's a reason I was a fan. Zenescope tells the stories no one else is doing and they do it well.

OD: So is WONDERLAND the place to start for Zenescope noobs?

RG: That or GRIMM FAIRY TALES. Both are very new reader friendly and encompass the best of what we do at Zenescope.

OD: Can you give us the skinny on those two series? Being a Philly boy, I like to support local companies (I drive past the Zenscope office everyday on my way home from my 9-5), so I've been reading Zenescope for awhile and even I've confused the two properties before. Please help acclimate the fresh faced cherubs.

RG: WONDERLAND follows the journey of Alice's daughter Calie as she fights against an evil dimension that threatens to engulf our world. While GRIMM FAIRY TALES follows the adventures of Sela battling against the forces of evil. Originally the series was very much a retelling of the original classic fairy tales, but with more of a horror vibe. As the series has evolved though, it really has become Sela's tale.

OD: GRIMM FAIRY TALES recently concluded a Kickstarter to cross mediums from comics to TV. When I last checked you guys trounced your goal. Where does that project currently stand?

RG: The pilot is currently in production. All the voices have been recorded and the animatics are completed. We're having a screening event at New York Comic Con on October 13th, so it will be completely finished by then.

OD: While most associate you as the face of WONDERLAND, that's far from your only contribution to the Zenescope dream machine. What else are you working on these days?

RG: Just finished up Volume 2 of THE WAKING. Now I'm working on the last issue of IRRESISTIBLE and getting ready to launch the first issue of FLY Volume 2. Also, I've been working with a group of very talented writers on the editorial front. Pat Shand (ROBYN HOOD, GODSTORM, Mark L. Miller (GRIMM FAIRY TALES, JUNGLE BOOK, Joey Esposito (BAD GIRLS) and Troy Brownfield (GFT MYTHS & LEGENDS) are all doing some amazing work. Some of the best writing we've ever had.

OD: Let's keep this about you for a minute. Give us a brief lowdown on FLY, WAKING and IRRESISTIBLE. I've read all three and each take very different paths tonally.

RG: FLY is the story of three teenagers who experiment with a designer drug that gives them the ability to fly. But when one of the teens becomes addicted to the drug we see how that addiction or any truly destroys lives.

THE WAKING is my CSI meets Dawn of the Dead zombie tale. The first series followed four detectives who were investigating two murders where the victims were coming back from the dead to kill the people who killed them. The second volume of the series deals with a world where this supernatural event has become the norm and murder has become practically extinct. It's in this world where one of the detectives from the first series must stop a serial killer who has figured out a way to outsmart the "waking."

IRRESISTIBLE is about an average heart broken sap named Allen Keeg who can't get over breaking up with his ex and finds himself completely unwanted by the opposite sex. But when Allen saves an old woman from being mugged he receives a gift that makes him irresistible. Suffice to say he quickly learns the gift is more of a curse.

OD: How do you conjure titles so different in tonality and theme? Life, sheer imagination, a combination therein?

RG: Mostly life. FLY deals with my own personal battle with addiction while IRRESISTIBLE was very much a direct result of going through a divorce that very nearly destroyed me emotionally and mentally. Writing has always been a kind of therapy for me, helping me deal with whatever is currently happening in my life. It's a double edge sword in that way, but it is what it is.

OD: I'm going to get personal here for a minute, since we're Facebook friends I know you went through another tragedy recently. Is there a book coming from these events?

RG: Yeah, that was pretty rough and I have my days I'm still working through it. For those that don't know, on the morning of June 2nd a very good friend of mine was in a fatal car accident while driving under the influence. It's been almost 4 months and I still keep expecting her to show up and yell "GOTCHA!" Like it was all some big trick. Even now it doesn't feel real. I got the news from my one of my closest friends, Eric Basaldua, at Wizard World Philly Saturday morning and I can't even begin to describe the sense of loss and hopeless that just hits you knowing that someone you love is now gone...that they're never coming back. I've lost family members over the years, but they were always distant relatives and whatnot. Never someone who I spent time with on a weekly basis. It's one of those things that changes you forever and everyone knows it's coming, but until you go through it you can never truly understand. So I know that somewhere down the line I'll want to deal with it through the writing. Somehow try to make sense of it and figure it out in my own head, but right now it's too fresh. I think a big part of being a writer is that we're wired to feed off our angst and pain and funnel that emotion into the stories we tell, but I can't tell you how much I'd gladly trade all the stories in the world just to see my friend again.

OD: So if a writer feeds off of angst and pain, what does the editor feed off of? How is your job different when you put on your editor hat?

RG: For me it's that moment where everything comes together. When your creative team just takes the ball and runs with it. I've see that happen more times this year than ever before. JUNGLE BOOK, MYTHS & LEGENDS and GRIMM FAIRY TALES are some of the best executed books we've ever put out. The story, the writing, the art, all of it just raising the bar through and through. It's a bit different from writing because you have to be able to step back and give up that control that you're so used to having and let the writer tell their story. Getting out of the way, yet still having an eye on what the story needs or what could make it better, and how best to help your team get there is a delicate balancing act.

OD: Thanks for the time and insight Raven, do you have any parting words?

RG: Just a thanks to the fans. Next year will be ten years I've been doing this and without your support none of this would be possible.

OD: There you have it folks. Zenescope truly does offer something for everyone. Look past the pouty lips and arched backs, inside are some of the best and strongest female characters in comics.

Optimous has successfully blackmailed fellow @$$Hole BottleImp into being his artist on Average Joe. Look for Imp's forced labor on Optimous brain child in mid-2012 from COM.X. Friend Optimous on FaceBook to get Average Joe updates and because ceiling cat says it's the right thing to do.

Editing, compiling, imaging, coding, logos & cat-wrangling by Ambush Bug
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G

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