Interview - Ralph Tedesco (Zenescope)

It's almost impossible to walk into a comic book store and not notice a rather sultry looking Alice (of Alice in Wonderland fame) staring at you with a sexy look in her eyes. You immediately race to grab the issue thinking it'll be an animated Playboy, but as you read you realize "hey, this is pretty decent writing." I wonder who wrote this you may ask yourself next. That man would be Ralph Tedesco, a founder/VP/writer over at Zenescope Publishers. Omnicomic spoke with him at NY Comic Con about Grimm Fairy Tales and Sinbad, as well as two new books on the horizon in Salem's Daughter and Stingers.

Omnicomic: We wanted to talk to you about some of the new stuff from Zenescope, but to start with how did you get into comics?

Ralph Tedesco: Honestly, I wasn't a big comic book fan at first. Joe, my business partner, was more of the comic guy. I was living in LA as an actor where Joe and I were screenwriting partners and we noticed that living in LA wasn’t the easiest thing in the world. So I was home visiting and we had an idea. He was saying that comics were getting big again so we should just get something published out there. Then it could be made into a film, and I thought it was a cool concept. Let's publish a book.

It was kind of we didn't know what we were getting into at the time...if we knew what we were getting into we may have never done it. We had the idea for Grimm Fairy Tales. You take the fairy tales and make it for adults (Disney did it for kids). We were huge fans of fairy tales so we decided to make it so they could stand alone with a great character. Now we're at 36 issues and it’s gotten a bit more complicated storywise.

Omnicomic: Does everyone at Zenescope kind of go to town on what they want to do?

Tedesco: It depends. With the Wonderland stuff the creative team has been working together on it from the start. They've been on the book together for a year and a half now and they work really well together. It’s a very give and take approach to that series especially. Certain books we'll let the artist do their really just depends on the issue. Grimm Fairy Tales we're a little looser on. We used to write every issue (Joe and I), but now we'll sort of delegate it. Raven often works as an editor as well, so he's a go between sometimes.

Omnicomic: Can you tell us about Salem's Daughter?

Tedesco: Salem's Daughter we wrote around the time we started to write GFT. I wrote the first three or four issues and it was something Joe and I were talking about, developing a period thing that was stylistically cool. We like to write heroines. We do sexy covers, but that doesn't mean that we do purely sexy content. If you have good content behind a sexy cover then it sells. We're not doing porn just because we have a sexy cover, but it helps sell the book. And for a small publisher it really helps, and our fans seem to dig it.

I had this idea with the Salem Witch Trials, but I didn't want to go that far. So how do we do it so she has this lineage of the witches? The heroine has visions and she doesn't know why, but you find out that she has these powers and she hooks up with this gunslinger whose out for revenge and redemption. Its kind of fun how we're doing it. And there's this big overall storyline, kind of an X-Files meets that time period. That old west time, however it’s on the east coast. You don't see much taking place in the late 19th century that isn't the wild wild west. We have American mythologies and hauntings we can work with, which is cool.

Omnicomic: Do you feel like you're developing a new style with the book?

Tedesco: Well we're doing issues 0 through 4 initially, but it'll be an ongoing series. It’s similar in a lot of ways to what we've done but it’s also different. I feel like my writing style is what it is and I've tried different things. GFT has become sort of regimented because we know what we're doing with it. Salem's Daughter is kind of fun right now because there's nothing set just yet. We know where the story is going to end, but everything else is kind of up in the air.

Omnicomic: How do you approach a book with the historic aspect to it, such as Sinbad?

Tedesco: Sinbad was simple. Our niche right now is reinventing public domain characters and Sinbad is a good story that was never done very well we thought. We're fans of the movies, but we wanted to reinvent the character to be something different. Like let's make him cool, badass and fun. Then we went to Dan Duquesne (he's written for IDW with 30 Days of Night) and we just kind of let him run with Sinbad.

He's just having a blast. Him writing that series was so much fun for him. I'll read his scripts and I think they're really good books. We're getting some good numbers on them, but we're hoping more people pick them up because this is a fun book. Dan does a great job on Sinbad. My input was make Sinbad a badass.

And include hot girls. Make sure to write that.

Omnicomic: What's your favorite part about writing?

Tedesco: Well, comics writing is a similar process to screenwriting. Which I didn't know until I started doing it. But what's cool about is that its still writing and I enjoy it. I'm only writing things that I want to see or read myself, and we hope that other people get it. We never really try to fit into a mold or anything like "this will make a great film, let's do this."

Omnicomic: Can you tell us anything about Stingers?

Tedesco: OK. Stingers is different than other stuff we've done. It’s our Aliens meets The Thing book. We're huge fans of those movies. So one day Joe and I were having a brainstorm and I suggested just doing an alien thing like 28 Days Later. Like combine an alien thing with a zombie thing, but focus less on the zombies.

Stingers is about this bounty hunter that hates life and society who has tracked down a bounty in a smaller Jersey Town right before the summer season. So it’s dead down there, but the next week it'll be insane. He tracks these two guys down while this alien race from wherever is planning to colonize a planet. These aliens get these alien stingers coded with their alien DNA that they send out in a pod seeking a planet. This pod crashes in this small Jersey town; the stingers are released and inject alien DNA into people. The person becomes a host, a sort of half-human, half-alien. And it’s not like you can get infected (a stinger has to hit and embed in you), but once the incubation is done the new alien can further colonize.

So you have to stop them before they get the stinger in. But there's not that many people in the town. I don't want to give away plot, but let's just say there's a big plot twist. The bounty hunter has to save the day and he has to battle something big. It’s a fun, cool and different book and that's what makes the series different from our other stuff.

Omnicomic: The entire pods are set to explode and whoever gets hit with the stinger is a host?

Tedesco: Well the stingers are like robotic and organic. So when the pod crashes these stingers come out and they're flying through town seeking people. There is one thing. There is one stinger that is rigged differently than the others that was "reprogrammed" by one of the aliens who didn't agree with the plans. And he might sting someone in the book that we become fond of. It’s only a five issue miniseries, but the idea is an eventual trilogy. Hopefully it’s well received.

Omnicomic: When can we expect to see them in stores?

Tedesco: Salem's Daughter will hit stores in March and Stingers will hit in April. They should both be monthly. Salem's Daughter is already generating some buzz and I hope that Stingers picks up as well. I'm having a lot of fun with that one.

Omnicomic: One last question for you. A lot of your books have this horror aspect, and we want to know what keeps you up at night?

Ralph Tedesco: You know what's weird. Can I just mention this? I have a lot of weird dreams…this is going to be embarrassing. I have these dreams that I'm battling zombies a lot, but what's cool is that I'm a badass in my own dream. If I was in my dream and I was running like a little girl I would think I would do the same thing in real life. But if I'm kicking zombies asses in my dreams, I would step up and kill some zombies in real life.

That being said, that wasn't the question. What scares me is a good ghost story. Like Poltergeist.

When I was don't see that many horror movies anymore. I love Halloween, but that's not something that ever scared me. Candyman creeped me out...that was screwed up. I saw that when I was like 13, and I remember that I didn't want to look in a mirror for a while. We're actually doing something like that with the Beyond Wonderland Annual, a cool ghost story. If you're not familiar with the book you should freaking read it. We did the annual that focuses on the house where a crazy, messed up family lives.

Omnicomic: Thanks so much for the time.

Ralph Tedesco: My pleasure guys.