Zenescope Entertainment continues to build a universe around it's flagship Grimm Fairy Tales title, and now the company that brought a twisted vision of Wonderland and a gender-swapped Robyn Hood to comics is unleashing some classic monsters into their universe for a major Summer 2013 event.Unleashed will see the creature known only as "The Being" opening up the Grimm Universe to a whole host of monsters. With Vampires, Demons, Zombies, and Werewolves suddenly - ahem - unleashed upon this world, it will be up to series star Sela and a whole host of new monster-hunting badasses to take them down and save this world where fairy tales are real - though not quite how you may remember them. Starting in April with a zero issue to catch people up to speed, the story will flow through the Unleashed series weaving in and out of other Grimm books through September, as well as five tie-in series: Hunters: The Shadowlands running five issues from May through September, Vampires: The Eternal running three issues from April through June, Demons: The Unseen running three issues from June to August, Werewolves: The Hunger running three issues from May through July, and Zombies: The Cursed running three issues from July through September. Behind it all is Patrick Shand, writer of the aforementioned Robyn Hood and other titles for Zenescope, who is taking on both the main Unleashed series, as well as the Vampires tie-in. Shand gave us exclusive details on how this big event will work, what the tie-ins are there for, who some of the new characters are, and why this is the perfect time to jump into Zenescope's playground. Newsarama: So Pat, You are taking on the position of "showrunner" of sorts for Zenescope's next major event comic, writing the main title – how does preparation change for you when you're looking at an event with all these lead-in series versus just writing your own standalone book?
Patrick Shand: It’s a lot more work. When Raven and I were first planning the outline, we already knew the shape of it. From the first day we talked about it, we had the main Unleashed title, the four monster miniseries, and the Hunters prequel. Back then, the idea was for me to write it all. Which was crazy, especially considering I’m still writing my regular non-tie-in books while the crossover is going on.
It’s a juggling act, though, because I have to make these stories cohesively work together while also working as their own individual stories. With Robyn Hood, we had a lot of first time readers and I think that both our main Unleashed title as well as each of the tie-in miniseries have the opportunity to do the same.Nrama: This is pretty unique for an event book, with all the tie-ins being billed as "lead-ins" to the main title, but coming out concurrently with it – will you be working closely with the other writers? Does that mean you have to wait to start Unleashed until you have at least the plots from the other teams? How will the tie-ins operate in respect to Unleashed?
Shand: The plots were all hammered out before we hired the other writers. Raven and I have been plotting this together since September, and then we went down to the Zenescope office last month to smooth it all out with Ralph and Joe. The other titles are lead-ins in some ways… like Hunters: The Shadowlands is a direct prequel to everything we’re doing in the series, while most of the other ones take place during the early parts of Unleashed. It’s not like the Secret Invasion type tie-ins, though, where each book shows how a different character is reacting to the big event. This is more like individual stories set in this new, scarier version of the Grimm Universe that we’ve introduced.
I did make sure, though, that I was two issues deep in the regular Unleashed series before talking to the other writers about their books. Each of the other miniseries has new characters that play a part in Unleashed, so I had to establish their voice in Unleashed #0 and #1 so we wouldn’t have the same character sounding different from book to book.
Nrama: And by the way, can you talk about any of the other writers or creative teams on those books yet?
Shand: Raven Gregory is writing Hunters, Mark L. Miller (Jungle Book) is writing Werewolves: The Hunger, and Troy Brownfield (Myths & Legends) is writing Zombies: The Cursed.Nrama: Let's get into the story of Unleashed! You have vampires, zombies, demons, and werewolves – what you couldn't pick just one? Why use all these major monster tropes at once?
Shand: ‘Cause I’m greedy.
The idea, though, is that the Being (our major villain for this series) has done something that has unleashed (sorry, had to do it) all of these creatures. There is a reason we haven’t been seeing them in the other GFT books, and this is it. This is the big plot stuff of Unleashed, and it’ll provide a lot of awesome action and gives us the opportunity to do some real character exploration of the new characters in the tie-in minis.
It’s a lot of badass action and is definitely the most fun I’ve ever had writing. We’ve got these big, sweeping moments, but it’s all very much grounded by the character arcs and what these characters are going through.
Nrama: The Being is a pretty ambiguous name for your big bad. What can you tell readers about this character early on, and will they learn more about him in the lead=in series before your main story?Shand: “The Being” isn’t really his name, exactly. In his first appearance in Grimm Universe #1, a character says something to the effect of “What manner of being are you?” And that’s all we’ve called him internally ever since, because he doesn’t have a name. He was never given one, and that in itself is incredibly important to who this creature is.
He appears in some of the other minis, but those aren’t going to be bogged down by stuff like “Find THIS issue to see what the Being was really up to in Unleashed #3!” The minis focus mostly on the monsters and the time lost monster hunters, who are being unleashed (sorry again, I can’t help it) with them. We’ve got Van Helsing, daughter of the famed vampire hunter; Elijah, a man who has never tasted freedom and is going to fight until he can grasp it; Roman, a badass and morally ambiguous werewolf hunter who does whatever it takes to get the kill; and Masumi, the mysterious Japanese warrior. All these characters have been swimming in my and Raven’s heads for the past few months, so it’s pretty surreal and exciting to be able to talk about this.
Nrama: Now this is firmly in the Grimm universe, right? Does that mean we'll be seeing recognizable characters from the GFT books?
Shand: Yep. Just because we’ve got a big cast of noobs doesn’t mean that this is going to be something that leaves normal fans of Grimm Fairy Tales confused or left wanting. No, Sela from GFT is our lead character in this. The other lead is Belinda, the former villain from GFT who I resurrected in October in Giant Size Grimm Fairy Tales. This is as much a culmination of what all of those characters are going through as it is a new chapter.
Also, though, I have to reiterate – this is a brand new initiative. A new beginning. Folks can read any of these books and get a complete story.Nrama: Where the last crossover focused mostly on established characters going up against the Dream Eater, this one seems to be introducing a lot of new ones. What's the benefit of that approach for an event book?
Shand: It builds on the universe. While there is obvious benefit to creating all these new properties, I wouldn’t be involved if I didn’t believe that each of these characters had a story that needed to be told. That I, personally, needed to tell.
Nrama: For those who haven't entered the Grimm universe yet, how will Unleashed and its tie-ins work as an introduction to Zenescope's fantasy world? Is it something that can be used as an entry point?
Shand: Yes yes yes. It’s funny, a lot of people picked up Robyn Hood #1 and expressed that they thought we were all about cheesecake until they actually gave the issue a shot. I want Unleashed to function the same way. I want people to pick it up, and think they’re getting this big blockbuster event book. Which, yeah, it is that, but I think by the time we get to the end, everyone who takes this ride will be shocked by the shape it takes.
Nrama: Of the classic monster types, do you have a favorite? Do you find that favorite changing as you develop this story?Shand: Vampires. That’s the miniseries I knew I wanted to keep. I have a take on it that I think is a fun comic but also speaks to me on a human level. It’s also just the fact that I really love the two leads of that book, Samira the vampire queen and Van Helsing. Both characters are a blast to write.
Nrama: Anything else you can hint at or tease, or anything we didn't cover that you want to tell fans?
Shand: Sure! A few things. This isn’t an official tie-in, because we have enough of those, but anyone who wants a sneak peek at what we’re doing in Unleashed… pop into your comic shop in February when our oversized issue, THE BEST OF ZENESCOPE comes out. It reprints some cool stories, but I just wrote a six page back-up comic for it. It takes place right before Unleashed #0, and teases readers while also showing a bit of what the Being can do.
Besides that, I’ll just reiterate that this is something completely new for us. From this point on, nothing in the Grimm Universe will ever be the same. If any readers have been curious about any of our books, I think this is a pretty cool place to jump in on.