This week, Universal Monsters Universe wrapped up its review of Zenescope’s five-issue series, Van Helsing vs. Dracula. Liesel Van Helsing is the daughter of Abraham Van Helsing who is killed by Dracula. She is now out to kill Dracula with the help of Hades and Jonathan Harker. While it’s a popular series for the Pennsylvania based comic and entertainment publisher, attention and notoriety has grown with SyFy’s Van Helsing series in development with Kelly Overton of True Blood.
UMU’s Joe has been a fan of Zenescope for quite some time and his relationship with the company and writer Pat Shand extends all the way over to What’cha Reading. You could find his reviews there, along with his Zenescope coverage at this past year’s C2E2 – Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo.
Zenescope has got to be one of the most fan oriented and friendly of publishers and this past week they were gracious enough to show our site a little love across social media such as Facebook and Twitter. As our very own Joe covers their titles, it only made sense to host Universal Monsters Universe first interview with Pat Shand, the writer of a title we’ve been covering called “Van Helsing vs. Dracula.”
After Joe reached out, the immediate response was a gracious “I’m in for that.”
Universal Monsters Universe: Since we last spoke, a lot has been going on with Zenescope’s characters. But before we get to that, for those that may just be joining the Pat Shand/Zenescope conversation, could you tell us a little bit about yourself, Zenescope, and your experience working with such a cool company?
— Pat Shand (@PatShand) April 18, 2016
Pat Shand: Hi! I write comics, novels, and film, I live in New York, and my partner Amy and I have more cats that we can count. I’ve been writing for Zenescope for about as long as I’ve been in the comics industry. I started with IDW’s Angel, and then began writing miniseries and later ongoings for Zenescope, including Robyn Hood, Charmed, Van Helsing, and a bunch of other books.
UMU: From your time on IDW’s ‘Angel’, to your work with Zenescope, were there any ideas or thoughts that you had that carried over? Anything that you wanted to do with Angel and that world that you got to fulfill with Zenescope?
PS: My time on Angel was super short, just a one-off story. However, I did have a LOT of pitches, and yeah, some of that was recycled into other stories. It’s hard to tell what came from where. I know that certain aspects of the last arc of Robyn Hood, where the entire team takes refuge in Helsing’s house, was a kernel of an idea that I wanted to pitch but never got to. Honestly, when I got the Angel gig, I was lucky that IDW even paid attention. I was very green, and they were very kind.
UMU: We’ve seen with Marvel and DC how movies and television are turning to comic books for sources of material/inspiration. How does it feel knowing a company like Zenescope is being linked to a TV show on a well-known cable network like Syfy?
PS: I’m not involved in their TV stuff, but I know that they’ve put a lot of work into getting something off the ground. They had their Grimm Fairy Tales Animated Series pilot a while back, but obviously the goal is to get a series order. I look forward to watching it as a fan.
PS: The first Van Helsing series I wrote was called The Darkness and the Light, and it introduced Liesel Van Helsing and Dracula and really ramped up their conflict, so I knew that a prospective sequel would be the culmination of that. After I wrapped the first series, I took a little break and then pitched Van Helsing vs. Dracula, which was greenlit with very few changes. What did influence my writing a lot, though, was Michele Bandini’s art. When I saw what he could do, I shifted my writing style to feed him more crazy visuals. He’s one of the best artists working in the industry, and it’s only a matter of time before he’s a superstar.
UMU: We have an upcoming wedding between Sam and Marian which is a joyous occasion but also it’s bittersweet because it means the end of your run as writer for Robyn Hood. We also saw the 5-issue run of Van Helsing vs. Dracula come to an end as well. What’s next for Liesel, Robyn and Pat Shand?
PS: Yeah, it worked out so that I was ending all of my major series around the same time. My current miniseries Hellchild picks up a major thread from Van Helsing vs. Dracula, and is also a bit of a spiritual sequel to Robyn Hood. It has characters from both of those books’ casts, while also introducing a brand new character to the shared universe. Her name is Angelica Blackstone, she’s Hades’ daughter, and she very quickly lives up to the book’s title. As for me, I’m finishing up a long run on Grimm Fairy Tales and Charmed: Season Ten, and working on some freelance stuff as well. Most of it is secret, but I can say that I am writing Equilibrium (based on the film) for American Mythology Press and working on comics and novels for Joe Books, as well as a creator-owned story with Margins Publishing.
At Zenescope, I’m preparing for a huge event series while also beginning a brand new Van Helsing comic that pits her up against another iconic monster. And yep, this monster will be familiar to Universal fans, but it’s a whole new take. Start guessing!
Beyond that, I’m currently looking at the second half of 2016 and figuring out my schedule. There is a lot I can do, both at Zenescope and independently, and honestly, I’ve never been more excited about making comics.
UMU: Freelance stuff is always exciting. And ‘Equilibrium’ is one of my favorite movies. I wasn’t even aware of this. How much of this project could you reveal? Is it an adaptation of the Kurt Wimmer screenplay/film? Or something along the lines of what Palahniuk did with Dark Horse Comics in regards to “Fight Club 2”?
PS: It’s a sequel, yeah. I wouldn’t want to adapt the screenplay. The movie really moves, and it does stuff that wouldn’t work in a comic. And now, we’re going to do some big action pieces in the comic that wouldn’t work as a movie. Still, though, it feels like the next story, you know? Natural progression. Jason Craig is doing the art for that, and he’s a beast. As of now, it’s going to be a three-issue series that debuts in July.
UMU: We’ve also been reading Grimm Tales of Terror, Hellchild and Satan’s Hollow. Could we expect to see more of the monster/horror genre in Zenescope’s future?
PS: Yeah, it seems that they’re going in that directly. I’m not involved in a lot of the stories, like Satan’s Hollow or Deathforce, but I’ve always been a fan of horror, which is why I think we’ve gelled on the books I’ve done there. Van Helsing, especially in this last series, has always been subtly journeying through the various phases of horror cinema, and we’ll see a lot more of that in the next series. The way we choose to terrify ourselves has transformed over time, and it’s different in every culture. I want to really play into that, and examine some of my own fears.
UMU: And maybe this is general, but in regards to different perceptions on horror, do you find that as more of a challenge to find different ways to thrill the audiences and fans reading the titles? Or is it a pretty universal reception that you get to your work such as fan interaction online and at conventions?
PS: No matter what I write, some will like it and some won’t. I don’t go chasing the approval of the masses, because that would muffle my voice, you know? Or at least dilute it. The comics, novels, and films I write, they have to be a true expression of self or they’ll be bullshit, you know? I can’t chase the audience’s whim, because it moves so quickly and might not even exist. All I can do is write the books I want to read.
UMU: Universal Monsters Universe and I would like to thank you for speaking with us. We enjoy all that you and Zenescope have done and are still doing. You already know how much of a fan I am. Now in keeping with the spirit of monsters and the nature of the site, were you a fan of the Universal Monsters? Did you have a favorite?
PS: I’m partial to vampires. They may be overdone right now, but you know what? I just can’t get enough.
UMU: Thank you very much, Pat. We can’t wait to support and follow the rest of your work and Zenescope. For fans looking for a way to stay as up to date as possible, where can they find you?
PS: I’m just about everywhere at @PatShand. I’m super vocal online and very present for readers, to a fault. Come say hi.
*Universal Monsters Universe would like to thank Mr. Pat Shand for spending some time with us. You could also find Mr. Pat Shand on Tumblr at Pat Shand. To find Zenescope, you could check them out at your local comic shop.
**On April 23, Pat announced a new title he is working on with Roberta Ingranata called Vampire Emmy and the Garbage Girl which is set to hit the internet in June!
— Pat Shand (@PatShand) April 23, 2016
***The Pat Shand written “Equilibrium” was selected as a PREVIEWSworld staff pick:
Equilibrium, a 2002 indie movie directed by Kurt Wimmer and starring Christian Bale may have flown under the radar for some but it is now getting a new life from writer Pat Shand (Wonderland) and artist Giancarlo Caracuzzo (Iron Man).
Humanity had just survived our third World War and we had paid a heavy price. Vast swaths of the planet now referred to as the “Nethers” had been laid waste in the conflict and were subsequently abandoned. The city of Libria, determined to not see another world war identified emotion as the source of our conflict and made it illegal. Citizens were required to take a drug called prozium which rendered them emotionless. Material that might invoke an emotional response such as paintings, video games, and comics were banned with a rating of “EC-10”. Possessing EC-10 rated material or going off of the drugs was an offense that carried the punishment of death.
Those death sentences were often carried out by Christian Bale’s character John Preston. As a Grammaton Cleric, Preston was an elite killing machine, a master of a fighting style called gun kata that combines material arts, gun fighting, and probability. Throughout the movie he transforms from an unfeeling executioner to a man struggling to learn the value of emotion, art, and human relationships. Ultimately he turns on his masters and leads the charge against an emotionless society using his two guns to slaughter all that stands in his way from allowing humanity to feel again.
We never got the chance to see what happened after John Preston’s rage brought the fascist society in Equilibrium to its knees. There was no sequel. Was the revolution successful? Did John find his redemption for allowing his wife to be executed for feeling emotions? At long last in Equilibrium: The Half-Light #1 we will finally have the answers that we have waited for.
—Matthew Demory (found on PREVIEWSworld)
Publisher: American Mythology
Item Code: MAY161060
Release Date: 07/27/16
(Joe Grodensky – @joegrodensky)