COMMENTARY on WONDERLAND: DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE #3
WONDERLAND: Down the Rabbit Hole #3
Written by Raven Gregory & Pat Shand
Art by Gregbo Watson & Yusuf Idris
Colors by Francesca Zambon
Letters by Jim Campbell
Published by Zenescope Entertainment
This was totally Raven. I’ll totally be saying that sentence again whenever I want to blame something on him (even if I wrote it, tehehe), but in this case, I just have to give credit where it’s due. I’ll often get calls from Raven, especially concerning Wonderland, that begin with, “WHAT IF WE (insert crazy and/or brilliant idea here)!?” The first issue was a product of that. Raven called me and said, “WHAT IF WE HAD THE ENTIRE FIRST HALF OF THE ISSUE BE THIS EPIC, TRIPPY BATTLE – ALICE VS. WONDERLAND, BOOM! And then, you know, we’ll have this page of bubbles and then boom, she’s in her therapists office.” He did that again here – he called me and was like, “Dude. Dude. Dude. Rabbit Hole three. The first page? Alice is going home… BUT SHE AND HER FAMILY ARE GOING BACKWARDS.” No one could write this successfully except Raven. No one on this planet. And yet, here it is. Kudos.
PAGE TWO and THREE
This is when Raven and I started getting the feel for what Gregbo is capable of. You’ll see that in the fourth issue, which is mostly double page spreads like this.
Here is when the overlap really begins. I dialogued this page that Raven had laid out in panels. He was way better at the deep ties to the original series, because he wrote it. I’ve read RETURN TO WONDERLAND as a fan before I ever wrote for Zenescope, so while this is a dream come true for sure, I also had to defer a lot to Raven’s intimate knowledge of the universe.
There’s that famous picture again. Bad things tend to happen when Alice looks at that picture.
Has a rabbit ever looked that intimidating? Actually, I just remembered DONNIE DARKO. I fold.
Here was a really hard part of this series. We have to reconcile the core concept of this series (Alice is not insane, but is rather aware that Wonderland is coming for her family, and she has to stop it) with her depiction as an insane white-rabbit loving, almost catatonic woman in RETURN TO WONDERLAND. Writing her is a balancing act, because we’re writing a woman who kind of IS losing it, who has to appear that she’s flly losing it, but in actuality she is fighting with everything she has. I think that is most evident in the white rabbit scenes.
I’ve complimented Raven enough. I am here to say that the conversation on this page got me a call from the creator of these characters, Mr. Gregory himself, raving about how excellent I am. Raven still repeats bits of this conversation to me, months after the script was written. (Bows.)
But really, both of our growing egos aside, this was the moment where I felt at home in this series for the first time. I like the second issue of the book a lot, but I did not feel natural walking in Alice’s shoes until this conversation. It’s drawing this parallel between the various members of her family that shows that, while they’re viewing her as this fragile, broken thing to be either mended or avoided or even to fear, their depression makes all of them interested in her and very… very… curious.
Charles Dodgson. Doesn’t he just ooze douche?
And now we’re really starting to cross over into RETURN TO WONDERLAND territory. I thought that’d make the book harder to write because we’re essentially doing “the scenes in this already very tightly written book that were not there in the first place,” but somehow, this is when I found my footing. Also, check for Raven’s clever reference to Lacie, the piece of herself that Alice left in Wonderland. We had to walk the line by making this new reader friendly while also having those nods to the originals.
I kind of regret making this a splash. Maybe we should have given the last page a bit more room to breathe, split the conversation between that one and this one. Either way, it LOOKS good. I also like to look back, though, and evaluate my own choices so I get better. Oh, wait, never mind, I can just blame Raven! TOTALLY RAVEN.
I loathe cheaters… and yet, I found myself striving to make Lewis sympathetic. In RETURN, he was seen with what looked to be a prostitute. I wanted to humanize him more, and show the struggle of a man dating a dangerously depressed person. I would never make the choices that Lewis made, but I think it’s important that we look into why they were made.
The Alice/Lewis scenes are the heart of this series for me. Lewis got the least page time in RETURN TO WONDERLAND, so I wrote this as sort of a marriage between a sequel to Raven’s ALICE IN WONDERLAND and Lewis’s story in RETURN TO WONDERLAND. Here is Alice trying very, very hard to remind Lewis that she is not what he has been treating her as. She is not gone. She is here, and she loves him, and she wants him.
I hate writing sex scenes because I am always afraid of writing something gratuitous. I think all of the love scenes in RABBIT HOLE are tense, heartbreaking, and plot driven, though, and there is nothing titillating about them. They are uncomfortable to read because they were uncomfortable and very sad to write. I hope and think that translates, because this is not foreplay… this is the deep, cracking sound of two people breaking together…
…and then breaking apart.
The Lewis/Alice dichotomy is especially at work here. The voice in Alice’s head is speaking to her, but the words it is saying also apply directly to Lewis.
Faceless Alice terrifies me.
Who hasn’t been scared of being grabbed by something in the tub or in a pool? I think it is one of those base, irrational, human fears. I probably owe mine to that horrific episode of ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK? Maybe this will ruin some other reader’s psyche. Hope so.
Thanks for reading. ZOMBIES: THE CURSED #2, written by Troy Brownfield from a plot by me and Raven, is also out today.
- Pat Shand, 8/7
COMMENTARY on UNLEASHED PART FOUR
UNLEASHED PART FOUR (Grimm Universe #5)
Written by Pat Shand
Letters by Jim Campbell
Published by Zenescope Entertainment
- MAIN STORY
Art by Butch Mapa
Colors by Jason Embury
- “HAUNTED” BACK-UP STORY
Art by Ricardo Osnaya
Colors by Rohvel Yumul
UNLEASHED is a complicated beast. It’s an event with six series… one main UNLEASHED series that takes place in all of Zenescope Grimm Fairy Tales titles, and five tie-in spin-off series (Vampires: The Eternal, Werewolves: The Hunger, Demons: The Unseen, Zombies: The Cursed, and Hunters: The Shadowlands). When Raven and I were plotting this beast, we wanted to make sure that you could perfectly understand the UNLEASHED storyline no matter which of the tie-ins you read. You should be able to approach each book and get the whole story. While having read the entire crossover paints the biggest picture, each of the pieces should be clear – at least that’s what we attempted. I think, by the end of this all, we’ll have mostly pulled that off. That sort of extends to the beginning of this issue. The main story will be divided into two trades, with #0-3 in Volume One and #4-6 in Volume Two. I wanted to start this comic and just give a very fluid recap to what happened in the first three issues. Just the essentials… because we’re about to get into some pretty weird stuff.
The Keepers are interesting characters. Besides the Innocent, who appeared to Sela and Belinda in THE DREAM EATER SAGA, we’ve kept these characters mostly cloaked. Raven revealed that Love is actually Alice Liddle, and in the last installment of UNLEASHED, I revealed that Hate is Venus while also taking off the Maker’s hood. These characters are essentially the avatars for the word they represent – the sort of gods of the Grimm Universe. I was hesitant to bring back Venus after just killing her in Godstorm #4 this January, especially because I also resurrected Belinda in UNLEASHED, but I can’t think of a character more appropriate for the avatar of Hate than the fallen goddess of love. Plus, with no arms, she’s got the Venus de Milo thing going on, and that’s too cool not to use.
UNLEASHED is a story about faith, but we tried to keep it from getting too too religious. I edited this script twice after it went into production to make sure readers didn’t think we were saying “the Maker is, flat out, GOD.” He IS the Maker, and he is a creator of life, but as an agnostic, I didn’t think it was my place to give this overarching universe a be all end all god.
And here we are. The origin of the Being. We’ve been building toward this since the Greek gods first appeared, and now we’re getting to the meat of things. The Being’s motivation is still cloudy, but now we know where he came from.
A lot of people have been surprised at the outright emotion the Being has expressed. It’s ironic because he’s literally invading the world, allowing millions of people to die, but when he’s about to kill Heather Angelos in #1… he pauses and apologizes to her for what he has to do to her. A lot of that stems from this – when the Being tries his hand at creation and fails, you can see the rage and sorrow in his face. He’s been carrying that with him, stewing in it, and it’s come to define him. Look at that last panel. When the Being threatens to kill Sela in #1, he tells her that he’ll mourn her. He’s not lying.
(text blocked out)
Butch just nailed this page. The last sequence of panels, where the Maker lies to the Being, knowing what it means… the emotion on the faces is perfection. Such great storytelling.
The Being is every bit as powerful and intelligent as the Maker… so he catches on rather quickly. But it’s too late for him.
Here’s where we really explain the mythology of the Shadowlands. The Maker created this pocket of space to use as a prison, and sealed it with his blood – the blood of a god. He thought that only the Keepers would ever been seen as deities, but then the humans began to worship the Greeks… and it’s the power of that worship that elevated them to gods. So their souls now, to Zeus’s dismay, also function as keys to the Shadowlands.
I might do the montage splash page too much, but each artist has pulled it off so wonderful and brilliantly.
Also, though it’s a small panel, I can now say that Robyn appears in Unleashed! See if you can find her here.
The Keepers dialogue bubbles never have tails… but we’ve also never had such elongated scenes with them. I almost wanted to say give the bubbles tails so we know who is speaking, but letterer Jim Campbell did a wonderful job laying out the bubbles so we can tell who is saying what.
Here we explain a bit of the Keeper mythology I got into before, and answer the questions of how Venus and Alice are alive HERE… and how they helped created the Realms, if they died on Earth fairy recently. It’s a little bit of a cheat, but I think we’re safe – in bringing back Venus and Alice, we are giving Hate and Love some weight that could pay off the next time we see them. And Raven has been using Love in Wonderland, so I’m pumped to see where he takes that.
The Being has been keeping Shang in that chair for… if the timeline is right, over a YEAR now. He must need a shower at this point.
The Being’s connection to the Maker is so strong that he can sense the Maker on the planet. Be aware, though – the Maker and the Being are never in the same physical space in this issue.
When the Being tells the Maker that he has missed him for too long, when I was writing it, that was honesty. He wants to see his father as much as he wants to take his vengeance.
If the Innocent seems a bit bitter here, it’s not without reason. She’s been involving herself in the lives of Sela and the others in a bunch of different titles, attempting to help them, to save the world, while the Maker has just sat by. All the Maker did was raise Shang from the dead, hoping he’d guide Sela… but clearly, the Innocent doesn’t think that’s enough.
And now, we’re getting a bit X-Men-esque. The Maker has punged the Being into their shared mindspace, so their consciousness can duke it out. We had a lot of debate over this at the writer’s summit – I forget who, but someone thought it was a bit too unreal. I totally see that, but I think Butch was able to make it work and really sell the emotion of this war between these two beings that essentially share a spark that no other creature in creation has ever had.
Is it just me, or does the Maker look like a pissed off dad here? I think the Being just took his Corvette for a joy ride.
But really… can you die in a dream (space)?
My favorite stuff to write the Being say is when he’s just incredulous that people think he’s evil. It’s indicative of his warped sense of reality, but also his longterm plan… which won’t be revealed in this issue, of course.
I wanted to really tread the line here – the attacks that the Being is throwing at the Maker are as much creations of the Maker’s fears as they are the Being’s will. They are both mentally throwing everything at the other.
I may have teared up a bit when the Being screams at his father, “How could you do that to me?” It’s so human, and a little childish – at this point, we’re trying to subvert the idea of what a Grimm Universe villain is at every turn. He is not what you expect…
Wanted to make it clear, here, that the Maker isn’t dead. One draft of the previous page had his head explode, and even though it’s a vision, I thought it was too much. I made sure to have him speak a lot here, so he doesn’t appear to be even mortally wounded. His entire objective was to weaken the Being – but he does, indeed, have a role to play in the next issue.
PAGE TWENTY-TWO and TWENTY-THREE
One of my favorite shock endings. The Maker was distracting the Being so Sela, Belinda, Samantha, and the hunters could take him down with their best shot.
Bet no one saw that coming this early, huh?
Sela’s looking mighty evil in the ad for the next issue…
Might be the Angel fan in me, but I love the classic monster-chases-civilian opener. I’d been dying to write a Belinda solo series since the first time I wrote for Zenescope, and this short gave me a little taste of that.
Fun production story. The issue originally didn’t have this story at all. I’d intended this issue to be a shorter comic than the rest of the series, so we could price it at $3.99 and advertise it as a jumping on point. Everyone else thought, correctly, that the structure of UNLEASHED was a lot in the first place, and that keeping each of the main series priced similarly would work better. So I was tasked with creating a new short story… even though #4 leads directly into #5. So I wrote this little Belinda tale that takes place BEFORE the main action of this issue. It’s set back when Sela, Belinda, and Helsing were researching the Being in UNLEASHED #2. I think it works rather well as a fun little character driven capper to this mythos-building issue.
Belinda’s got this delicious guilt on her shoulders. It’s not like she’s a redeemed hero at this point. In the Grimm Universe timeline, she was out there killing people and ruining lives two, three years ago. The people she’s hurt and still around, and having her surrounded by them, having to live with that, is something this character will be facing every time I write her.
Belinda was always a fan favorite, and while UNLEASHED was absolutely the right place to bring her back, we also resurrected her in the middle of a series that introduces a giant new and exciting cast, and the buzz has really focused a lot on Helsing. I’d like to see some fan reaction to Belinda’s new role in the Grimm Universe.
Whoa, there’s a throwback. Who remembers the sorcerer Belinda worked for in THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE issue? That was centuries ago in the Grimm timeline, but it still haunts her.
As Belinda is being haunted by her victims here, all I can do is think, “Hey, that dude kinda looks like Roman.”
Been trying to get Baba Yaga into this series for a while. I originally had her show up in VAMPIRES: THE ETERNAL #2 instead of Masumi, but it didn’t feel organic so I cut it. As soon as I decided to focus this short on Belinda, I knew I had the perfect role for her. Question is, is she true friend or temptress? At this point, no one knows. I’m still waiting for Baba to whisper her secrets…
At this point, Belinda is now fully relying on Sela, her one time mortal enemy, to guide her on her path to redemption. That, readers… is a slippery slope.
-Pat Shand, 8/31