Interview - NYCC 2012 - Pat Shand

Pat Shand is a name that's quickly becoming one of the household variety. He's becoming a bigger deal over at Zenescope and in comics as general, working on the launch of two new titles for the publisher: Godstorm and Robyn Hood. He was gracious enough to take some time out of the insanity at the Zenescope booth during NYCC for his signing (alongside cosplay extraordinaire Jessica Nigri). Read on for for his thoughts on Zeus, Robyn and being an English major.

Omnicomic: I wanted to start by talking about Godstorm. Where did the idea behind it come from? That is, putting Greek gods in modern times and forcing them to adapt.

Pat Shand: I’d say Ralph and Joe (laughter).

They’re my editors and Venus debuted in a backup story in an old Grimm Fairy Tales comic. We really released them into the universe full on in the annual, which I was fortunate enough to write. Upon writing it, I was writing the build-up and thought what lucky bastard would be able to write the climax and Raven told me it was me.

I’m fortunate to be writing these characters because I love them. I was an English major in college and we get to have Zeus, Venus and Neptune in the same world as Alice in Wonderland.

Omnicomic: And no offense to English majors, but I think you’re making them happy in proving their degree is worth something.

Shand: Ha. Yeah.

Omnicomic: Zeus is the centerpiece of Greek mythology and it looks like he’s the center of the story in Godstorm. Is everything going to revolve around and gravitate towards him, or will it go with the ebb and flow based on the characters?

Shand: That’s a great question. He is a centerpiece in the zero issue, but as far as the actual series goes he takes a backseat in issues 1-3. He appears in issues 1 and 2, but the main character is named Julian and he is a bodyguard for a gangster.

It’s really about Julian’s self-discovery. Godstorm is a gangster thriller at heart. I pitch it as The Wire meets Dragonball Z. It’s a gangster thriller where everyone has superpowers. You have Zeus’ lightning and just crazy battles. It’s about Julian discovering who he is, how he’s linked to Greek myth and how he’s linked to Zeus in a way that he might not like.

Omnicomic: In the world of Godstorm do the humans acknowledge the existence of the gods? Or is something of a secret to the world at large?

Shand: It’s a secret for now.

You’ll see in Bad Girls #3, which is part of the overall Grimm Fairy Tales universe, that the President knows about Highborns and people from Myst. And the gods are really just powerful Highborns. So in a way they do, but they don’t necessarily know that Zeus is among them.

Omnicomic: Godstorm is currently a four-issue series. Are their plans to do more volumes or just continue to weave the characters into the Grimm Fairy Tales universe overall?

Shand: I’d say I’d like both. For now, I have more stories and they have other titles with the characters.

For instance, we have the first issue of Grimm Universe that has Neptune, Heather and Hades as the central characters. I set up a Hades plot that goes unresolved, so I hope for more, but it will definitely be part of the overall universe.

Omnicomic: For Robyn Hood, where did you characterization of her come from? It seems your Robyn Hood is a lot more rebellious than the one of legend.

Shand: Ha. It’s funny. I’ve seen some people say they love her and some people say she is just badass period. For me, at her heart she’s a character who doesn’t want to be normal. She doesn’t really want to hate anyone else, but people have a tendency to mess with her.

She kind of came to me fully formed. I had her voice in my head and her voice was very Buffy Summers meets Veronica Mars. I don’t intend for her to be just a rebel and her softer side will come out as the series goes on. She just hasn’t really caught a break yet and hasn’t had a chance to show that side.

And I’m not saying she’ll suddenly change and say “oh, here is my heart,” but she’ll definitely show more depth as the series goes on.

Omnicomic: And there is the one scene in the first issue where she gives the homeless man outside the convenience store some money when kind of emphasizes the character’s ties to the original Robin Hood.

Shand: Thank you. That’s right.

Omnicomic: How much do you plan to ground your Robyn Hood in the Robin Hood canon? For instance, will we see characters like Sheriff of Nottingham, Littlejohn and Friar Tuck? Will she rob from the rich and give to the poor? How will you reconcile the two characters?

Shand: I’d say yes to all those questions but one, but then that no will become a yes in later series. I’m not going to say what yet!

Again, as an English major, I love those stories and, in fact, the chapter titles are based on the actual original ballads. They didn’t show up in the actual issue because we decided they sort of brought out some of the arc. The first one was “Test of Robin Hood” and the fifth one is the “Death of Robin Hood.”

Spoilers: she doesn’t die. We have her as a main character in the Zenescope universe and want to keep her around.

They do all tie in to the original legend. Obviously, she’s different than the original character, but it’s important to keep the connection to the original. It’s the same with Godstorm. I actually went into Godstorm hoping to reconcile the fact that we have Zeus and Neptune, where it should be Zeus and Poseidon.

I wrote this in the annual, where Venus is called Aphrodite. I love that consistency of character, but we hope to make it consistent with the legend, but also new for modern audiences because she is a high school girl. She’s not going to be speaking like a character on BBC.

Omnicomic: As an English major, did you feel any pressure in dealing with Zeus and Robyn Hood that “I need to make this match?” Or was it more that you just went to town with the characters knowing there were preconceptions about them regardless?

Shand: I’d say less pressure and more relations with them.

Omnicomic: It’s clear that Robyn does fit into the grander scheme of things at Zenescope, but how exactly? That is, will she be as important as a character like Sela or more of a second-tier character?

Shand: It’s not only how she’ll play into the main title. If I were to write the main title, I wouldn’t integrate her right away. Her story is still progressing and when the series leaves off she’s in a place that she wouldn’t want to hang with Sela and vice versa.

She doesn’t fit into the universe naturally right now, but she will maybe one day. As far as now, she’s got a lot to go through before she can become a hero along the lines of Sela or Brittany.

Brittany plays a role in Bad Girls and she’s going to have her own somewhat starring role in Grimm Universe #2 which highlights individual characters. I’d say that Robyn has some way to go though.

Omnicomic: Aside from Robyn Hood and Godstorm is there naything else you‘re working on that you can talk about?

Shand: Yes and no.

At the show right now we have exclusives for Grimm Fairy Tales Giant Size #12. It’s a fifty-page story that follows Blake and Holden (the White Knight and the dwarf) through all the realms. They go from Myst to Wonderland to Neverland to Oz.

It’s our first, giant step into Oz. We showed Oz in Dreameater, but here we spend a little while in Oz. It’s a big book, both physically and content-wise. Fans of the old characters who haven’t been around in a while, this is a good book to pick up.

I also did the holiday edition with Raven and Dirk Manning, who’s a Shadowline writer, which comes out in December, which makes it a holiday edition.

Omnicomic: From a broader industry standpoint, where do you fall on the digital/print divide? Do you have a preference or think either is good or bad?

Shand: I don’t think ether is good or bad. If anyone picks up a book of mine, whether it’s in store or online, they’re reading my book. Personally, as a reader, I prefer the pages to turn manually. I prefer that cardboard smell of comics and I wouldn’t want to stop anyone from loving the physicality of books.

We just put out the Alice hardcover and who’s going to pick that up and say I wish it was on the iPad? If someone wants to have that in addition to the book, who am I to say buy the book. I have digital books.

Omnicomic: If there was one character (Zenescope or not), who would it be and why?

Shand: Ok. I have two answers.

I love Callie and that’s a great character. Raven knows I love her and if an annual opens up I’m going to go for it. He was goofing around with me and said maybe I’ll just give you issue 6 to write. And I said no, this is yours.

It’s kind of a balance of what characters I want to play with and what characters can be written by someone else. Caliie is tied to Raven. If someone came along and started to write Robyn, I’d ask what was going on.

I have written Sela in small doses and I’d like to write more of her. Oh, Belinda! Belinda!

I love Belinda. You should buy Giant Sized!

Omnicomic: Robert Kirkman and The Walking Dead are all over the place. Do you think the Hollywoodization of comics is good or bad for the industry?

Shand: I think it’s neither. I think it’s excellent for comics.

I think the only negative is someone making a comic just to make a movie. When you read a comic you can see that. From what I’ve seen, we would never write a book thinking this will be a movie, so we’ll rush it. If we want to do a movie, we’ll make the book awesome, so people will say it should be made a movie.

That’s never the end goal. It’s an awesome possibility and something to strive toward. As long as the industry keeps that in mind and with the dawn of creator-owned books, I don't think that is going to be the mindset, not here and largely not elsewhere.

Omnicomic: What’s you convention schedule like after this?

Shand: I’m doing Austin and I may be doing New Orleans. I know I’m going to Austin with Stephen Haberman. I’m going to follow Zenescope wherever they want me to go.

Omnicomic: It seems that you’re being primed for a larger role in creating the Zenescope universe. Is that a fair assessment?

Shand: Considering books I can’t talk about, I’m going to say yes.

Omnicomic: Is there anything else you want to plug while you have the floor?

Shand: Yes. We have Grimm Universe #1 out, Godstorm #0 & #1 and Robyn Hood #1.

Grimm Universe #1 is a harder sell because it’s a series of one-shots. If you want to try a series of stories that start and end in the same book give it a try. A lot of cool things going on, so check Zenescope out.