This August, Death is coming to Zenescope’s Grimm Fairy Tales universe – and it’s taking the shapely form of a goddess known as Keres.
In a five-issue series titled Grimm Fairy Tales: No Tomorrow, frequent GFT writer Raven Gregory returns to the Grimm Universe to tell a story of Keres, Death incarnate, and a man who mounts a one-man war on the concept and the character herself. And it’s a story rooted in the writer’s own experiences dealing with the death of his ex-wife and also a close friend.
Grimm Fairy Tales: No Tomorrow hits stands in August and is illustrated by J.G. Miranda, whom Newsarama has several exclusive pages from. For more, we talked with Gregory about this dark and personal story.
Newsarama: Raven, Death has been a character in comics in many forms at DC, Marvel, Image and elsewhere – how would you describe your vision of Death here, named Keres?
Raven Gregory: Wait. There are other Deaths? You'll have to excuse me. Keres must be made aware of this. These pretenders will be dealt with accordingly. :)
But as for Keres herself, the best way to describe her is you have this entity, this being, who has spent nearly an eternity being hated for who and what she is. An individual that has performed this "duty" for century after century completely alone and completely abandoned by any and everyone that she might ever find companionship with. So while she might be very evil she's also a very lonely "death" to say the least...and she's not taking that loneliness very well.
Nrama: Is this the same death that appeared previously in Beyond Wonderland and new Wonderland series Through the Looking Glass?
Gregory: Yes. Her history within the Grimm Universe is something that will be further revealed in the Wonderland ongoing and Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass series later this year as she plays a major role in many of the happenings that have been going on behind the scenes in that particular realm.
If the battle between good and evil in the Grimm Fairy Tales universe was to be likened to a chess game then Keres is the voice whispering in both players ears.
Nrama: What brings Keres to Earth here and now in Grimm Fairy Tales: No Tomorrow?
Gregory: Given the kinds of conditions she's been forced to exist under, you're dealing with an extremely powerful being very much on the brink of insanity and a "death" figure walking the thin line between insanity and sanity is not good for mankind to say the least.
Nrama: In a weird twist on this, Death is the hunter – but also the hunted. Can you tell us about Patrick Clay, a normal family guy, now out to kill Keres, Death incarnate?
Gregory: Patrick is our "every man" who finds himself, by strange circumstance, thrust into a world where he is forced to question everything he once thought was true. He finds himself face-to-face with the knowledge that "death" is not a thing that happens on accident. That there's this entity that has been essentially fucking with him and those close to him his whole life. Upon learning that truth he sets out to find "death" and deal with her once and for all.
Nrama: The subtitle of this series, “No Tomorrow,” is pretty grim. What does that refer to?
Gregory: The phrase "No Tomorrow" ties in closely with the subject of mortality that is one of the major themes of the book. Whether the idea of not being promised tomorrow, or losing someone you love and wishing tomorrow would never come, it all plays into dealing with the loss of something you believe is promised but truly never is.
Nrama: This series was partially inspired by the tragic death of a close friend back in June of 2012. Then, horribly, three days after the year anniversary of your friend’s passing your ex-wife, Kourtney, the mother of your four children, was killed in a hit-and-run accident where the person responsible has yet to be caught. Can you talk about dealing with that and then turning it, in part, into a comic book?
Gregory: It hasn't been easy. Everything, even answering this one (It has literally taken close to a week to write this answer) question, is like moving mountains. Like there's this immense weight that never goes away and it's just so damn hard to do anything. It's like this giant wound that you want to heal but something is always waiting right around the corner to rip it right open all over again and once that happens all you can do is curl up in a ball and wait for the storm to pass.
And you go a little crazy. I've never lost someone so close to me. Never experienced the things I've experienced this last month. It changes everything. The way you view life in general. The way you write. The way you look at movies, or listen to music. The way you are and act around family and friends. You start trying to appreciate every single moment you have with those you love because it's so fucking true...no one is promised tomorrow and you never know when someone is going to go away forever.
You become much more sensitive to everything and your brain kinda breaks. There's the part of me that's mourning and can barely move or breathe, another part trying to be strong and be there for my kids, then there's the writer part of me that's taking note of every tear, experience, emotion, and hurt and cataloguing it.
Then there's the crazy, not really crazy, but how your brain deals with the trauma of something like this. I can hear Kourtney sometimes and I'd be lying if I said I didn't talk back. But I can hear her telling me to get up off my ass and get the story done. That we didn't struggle and go through so much shit over the years just for me to give up and throw it all away now. I can hear her as clear as if she was on the phone right now. And every time I write a good line I can hear her taking credit for it. She was my muse my whole life and she's my muse still.
I remember when I finished the first script a few weeks ago, I called my friend and frequent collaborator, Pat Shand (Unleashed, Robyn Hood), and sent it to him to read and he asked me how it came out. I told him it came out "too good" and he didn't understand what I meant until he read it. He summed it up perfectly. He told me it was the best thing I'd ever written and with every fiber of my being I wish it wasn't. I wish I didn't have this experience to pull from. I wish the story wasn't this good because if someone likes it I know why and the why is the worst thing a person could ever go through. But it's this very thing that makes a writer a writer.
When I first came up with the idea last year I hadn't experienced loss of any real sense. Then my friend Tricia died in a car accident and I had to step away from the story. I had outlined it all prior to our annual Zenescope story summit but I still felt too close to it to start writing the script so I kept waiting. I decided I wouldn't start writing it until at least a year had passed and then Kourtney was killed and everything became this haze. Like time stood still and nothing made sense and the last thing I wanted to do was write anything.
But it no longer was about whether or not I "wanted" to tell the story...it became I HAD to tell the story. I had to do it for her because if she was still her I'd still be writing for her in some way or another. So each morning I force myself to get up, I go to the gym, I smoke my cigarettes, I do whatever it takes to deal, and then I sit down and write...
I write for her.
Nrama: Zenescope is promoting this as the scariest book they’ve ever done, even surpassing the prequel to Se7en they did in 2007. Aside from your personal connection to this story, what would you say to that claim?
Gregory: Before all this tragedy occurred in my life, and I was working up the story, I did a massive amount of research to prepare to write this. Some of the things...wait...that's not right...ALL of the things I found and learned about were some of the most terrifying things I've ever heard. I owe much of it to Matt Hawkins Think Tank comic (great series by the way) which has a vast amount of scientific research that he discusses in more length at the end of each issue. So I wanted to do something similar to that but focused more on the history of life and death in this world. The diseases, the natural disasters, the man-made weapons of mass destruction, famine, religions and their origins, the idea of faith and what waits for us after death, prophecies about the end of the world and how long people have been saying the word was going to end as well as the limits our planet can sustain population wise without us expending every resource...I immersed myself in all that knowledge and came out the other side unable to sleep it's so heavy.
But it's a comic, it's a story meant to entertain and emotionally move you, but there's so much "truth" in this story that it's by far the scariest thing I've ever been exposed to or written.
Nrama: You’ve been one of the primary writers of the various Grimm Fairy Tales titles for Zenescope – how does No Tomorrow fit within the Grimm Universe?
Gregory: While there are quite a few Easter eggs in the series and Keres does play a major role in the regular Grimm Universe, I tried to approach this story similar to a Elseworlds, What If?-type story. This story is taking place long after the battle between the forces of good and evil has come to an end. It's not about big battles and big fights scenes. It's about one man fighting against the most terrifying thing in the world. Something no one can beat but he doesn't care. He's going to kill death. No matter what it takes.