AICN COMICS Q&@: Matt Adler talks with Raven Gregory & Pat Shand about Zenescope's new crossover event UNLEASHED!
@’s by Zenescope’s UNLEASHED Writers
Pat Shand & Raven Gregory!!!
MATT ADLER (MA): Tell us a bit about how the idea for UNLEASHED came about.
PAT SHAND (PS): It was through conversation with Raven. When I wrote the first issue of GRIMM UNIVERSE, Raven took a step back and goes, “Let’s add a really powerful new villain.” I came up with the Being (the unnamed villain behind the events of UNLEASHED) and, shortly after, Raven had the idea of introducing all of the classic monsters back into the Grimm Universe.
RAVEN GREGORY (RG): It really was an amalgamation of events all coming together at the same time. We'd been wanting to do a follow up to the Dream Eater saga but with a much more unique flavor than the normal crossover event. I was talking with Joe Brusha (President/CCO of Zenescope Ent) about why the Grimm Universe wasn't overrun with monsters from the classic four food groups. Occasionally a vampire, werewolf, zombie, or ghost might poke its head out in a story but given the vastness of the universe maybe there was a reason why the earth wasn't being overwhelmed with these nightmare creatures.
That was the initial germ that broke the ground for what would become the Unleashed event. That somehow all these monsters were banished to another realm of sorts. From there the idea of the various Hunters came in to play and how hunting these creatures would shape these characters' personality along with the why each hunter would chose which group of monsters they'd specialize in. But once we brought in the Being and really fleshed out who he was and what he "really" wants is when it all came together.
MA: What are your personal backgrounds in the horror genre? Are you longtime fans?
RG: I grew up on shows like the Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, Tales From the Darkside and Tales From the Crypt. One of the earliest novels I can remember reading was Stephen King's The Stand. When I was in sixth grade my mother's boyfriend at the time gave me a box of his old comics. There were old Hulk, X-Men, Man-Thing, Iron Fist and others comics among the bunch but the ones that really grabbed me were the horror books. House of Secrets, House of Mystery, and my all time fav The Vault of Horror and various EC Comic series. I don't know what it was about those books at the time but whatever it was grabbed me and never let go.
As I got older I kept finding myself gravitating toward the horror genre regardless of what the format. Even after all these years Richard Matheson is still my favorite writer which is ironic considering the first movie I remember seeing as a child was Trilogy of Terror. It wasn't until I was an adult that I'd learn he wrote all the stories for that movie so horror has been with me as long as I can remember. PS: I am – ever since I was a kid. The first book I read on my own was a Goosebumps novel… “The Barking Ghost,” actually. The first comic book I owned was Stephen King’s “Creepshow.” The first TV show I loved was “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” These monsters and what they say about humanity, all of that has been part of my life since my brain has been able to string words into sentences and sentences into larger thoughts.
MA: Do you have a particular favorite kind of monster among the vampires, werewolves, demons and zombies that are populating this event?
PS: I do think that, even with what pop culture has made of them recently, vampires are the most important monsters there are. They are the embodiment of our fear of death and all of our deepest desires. When writing the VAMPIRES: THE ETERNAL series, though, I didn’t really dwell on that. I tried to say something new about vampires. And that’s hard, because everything that has been said has… well, you know, been said. I think I’ve got a pretty fresh take though, but time will tell.
RG: I can't really say I favor one over the rest. Each has that special something that none of the rest can duplicate. I've probably written more zombie tales than any of the rest but more so because of what the story was versus a inclination toward one or the other.
MA: This is a big event, comprising 6 miniseries, for a total of 24 issues. What was it about the story that required that scope?
PS: The characters. We are introducing copious amounts of new characters, and we wanted to give them their own miniseries to shine. While the tie-in spinoff series all have monster names in their titles, they are way more about the core characters we are exploring than the monsters. It’s, as you said, overwhelming in scope, but I think it will work.
RG: It's a very epic story. Not only in the sense of what the story itself is but also because of what comes out of it and how that will set the stage for the future of the Grimm Universe. Nothing less would do it justice.
MA: How did you settle on the creative teams for the different miniseries?
PS: I was initially writing all of them. Then, two days before Raven and I traveled to Philly, where we have our Zenescope Summit, Raven calls me like, “Pat, you should give some of the series over to other writers, because you’ve got other stuff to write during this too.” So I picked Mark L. Miller, who writes THE JUNGLE BOOK for Zenescope to do WEREWOLVES: THE HUNGER, and Troy Brownfield who has done a bunch of different books for us to do ZOMBIES: THE CURSED. Raven had such a solid take on HUNTERS: THE SHADOWLANDS that he kind of claimed that from the start.
RG: I've worked with Pat on a quite a few projects before this and his enthusiasm is positively infectious. No matter what we've thrown his way he always gives his all to tell the best story possible. When he swings for the fences he SWINGS. So when Pat came aboard as our first exclusive writer at the company I wanted to be sure he had a project that gave him an opportunity to just take the ball and run with it and show what he could really do. Not to mention after writing our last event, the Dream Eater saga, there was no way in hell I was going to put myself through the pure undiluted horror that is writing a event again any time soon.
MA: How does Sela Mathers factor into this story?
PS: She is one of the leads. It hinges around her as much as it does Van Helsing and the Being.
RG: Sela is always going to be the lead no matter how you look at it. She is the guardian of earth. It's her responsibility to keep the world safe and it's that sense of duty that is going to be tested like never before as this "Being" might be too much for even her incredible powers to stop. That's not hyperbole in any sense of the word. That is fact.
MA: It's been revealed that the monsters are unleashed, so to speak, on an unsuspecting world by an entity known as "The Being". Is this threat something completely new to the Grimm Fairy Tales universe, or does it have connections that longtime readers will recognize?
PS: He’s newish. He debuted in GRIMM UNIVERSE #1, and we sort of take him out of the shadows for the first time in GODSTORM #4. He’s been a presence in our titles, but he’s not a longtime returning character.
RG: But he does have some major connections to characters in the series that long time readers are going to flip for once his origin is fully revealed. The Being is, without a shadow of a doubt, my favorite villain ever to step foot in the Zenescope Universe. By the end of the series he may well be my favorite villain of all time. He's just that good.
MA: What can you tell us about the monster hunters who will be aiding Sela in combating this menace?
RG: Roman is the veteran of the group. He's the werewolf hunter. Old, time tested, and more than a little cynical when it comes to hunting these creatures. He sees the world in a very black and white kind of way with a coldness that separates him from his comrades.
Helsing is our vampire Hunter and the daughter of the legendary Abraham Van Helsing. She is also the hunter closest to Sela. She's standing in the shadow of who her father was and trying to live up to that legacy. But at heart she is an inventor. She enjoys discovering new unique ways to defeat the vampires as much as she does destroying them.
Elijah is the zombie hunter. Not so much because it's what he chose but more so because he was kind of thrown into the mix of all this. He's a runaway slave who finds himself in the wrong place at the very wrong time but because of his talent at destroying these things joins up with the Hunters in attempt to put right a terrible mistake from his past. It's this mistake that drives him.
And last but not least is Masumi. Our Japanese samurai meets the exorcist. She comes from a very long line of warriors who have sworn to protect the world from the evil spirits and demons that threaten to corrupt it and possess it. But it's a following that has led her to lead a very lonely existence as any time she has let herself grow close to anyone else it has always ended with dreadful consequences.
MA: Do you foresee this event having lasting effects on the Grimm Fairy Tales universe?
PS: Very much so. I know this is the thing to say about events, but this changes everything in big ways. Company-wide, none of our series will be the same.
RG: What has been so great about being on the other side of creating an event with Pat is that I'm able to see some of the missteps I made when the Dream Eater saga was developed. Once that event was over, the Dream Eater, because of the type of character he was, was put back up on the shelf. We created this bad ass character but he was only allowed to come out under the most dire of circumstances. So when we started talking about this event one of the most important things we wanted was to make sure all of these new characters had legs and would be around long after the dust has settled. What happens here is truly going to shape events and have vast repercussions for years to come.
MA: Are there any discussions about spin off series coming out of this event?
RG: There are definitely some exciting stories that will be coming out of this that are going to have fans talking.
MA: What is your ultimate goal with this event? Do you see it as a good jumping-on point for those unfamiliar with the Grimm Fairy Tales universe?
PS: It’s funny, that actually is my ultimate goal. A lot of readers who have been reaching out to me about ROBYN HOOD said that it was their first Zenescope book ever. This event is kind of my response to that – we’re broadening the scope and encompassing all of the main players in the Grimm Universe, but also keeping it accessible to new readers. That is essential to every one of these books under the UNLEASHED umbrella.
RG: Exactly. It's very new reader friendly. Especially with the introduction of so many new heroes and villains but still adds another layer to the foundation of mythology that is the Grimm Universe. The fact that Sela, the newly resurrected Shang and the long awaited return of Belinda all play such important roles in the series is a testament to that.
MA: What are you enjoying most about working on this project?
PS: Figuring out all of these characters’ voices. When it hits me, as lame as it is, I feel like I’ve made a new friend. A very creepy new friend.
RG: Watching the evolution of the story unfold. From the initial concept, to bringing each of the various characters to life, to where all this is leading is a story unlike any I've ever had the honor of being apart of before. The world is about to become a very dark place indeed as evil is Unleashed and a shadow falls over the Grimm Universe.
MA: Look for UNLEASHED from Zenescope Entertainment in April!
Matt Adler is a writer/journalist, currently writing for AICN among other outlets. He’s been reading comics for 20 years, writing about them for 8, and spends way, way, too much time thinking about them, which means he really has no choice but to figure out how to make a living out of them. He welcomes all feedback.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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