THOUGHTS ON COMICS: Ravine Volume One
Stjepan Sejic is among my favorite artists in comics, and certainly (along with Artgerm) the artist I’m always most excited to see creating a cover for one of mine. Now, in Ravine, we get the treat of a book fully created, drawn, and co-written by Sejic. This first volume, from page one to the conclusion (and hell, even the appendix), is as beautiful as the cover. The writing is smart, delicately plotted, and expert in the way it delves out kernels of a very expansive mythology. What interests me most, though, is the character-driven nature of the story. Sejic’s art captures an incredible range of emotion here, working along with his script (co-written by industry giant Ron Marz) to deliver a wholly original high fantasy work.
I can’t wait for Volume Two. And more Lynn. While the whole thing is an astonishing achievement, I’m still reeling from how much that character rocks. Ginger power!
COMMENTARY on GRIMM FAIRY TALES #88
GRIMM FAIRY TALES #88
Written by Pat Shand
Art by Lalit Kumar Sharma
Colors by Rohvel Yumul
Letters by Jim Campbell
Published by Zenescope Entertainment
This is a very, very different flavor for me. I normally write very dialogue-driven books, so I think my previous two issues (“The Phoenix” arc, which in retrospect I should have pitched as three to pace the character development with the eponymous phoenix a bit more deliberately, though I’m still proud of the book for sure) had the same feel as, say, an issue of Robyn Hood or Realm Knights. With this one, my last issue on GRIMM FAIRY TALES before an arc penned by Troy Brownfield started up, I wanted to embrace the horror anthology feel of the series. That’s what made me love the book before I was involved with Zenescope, and while I think the strength of the GFT line now certainly rests in the mythology and the shared universe, I thought this was a cool opportunity to use primarily third-person narration to tell the tale of the Dark Queen’s resurrection.
When Joe and I first worked on the plot, I was trying to see how I could make this work on a deeper level to me. I want each of my books to say something beyond “Would it be cool IF…” I started thinking about the Dark Queen, who had been brought back wrong. She was once beautiful, and now she’s a horrific monster. There was a certain brutal dichotomy there, between the Dark Queen and her new dwelling place, Las Vegas. Vegas is pretty on the outside, with its blinding shiny lights and energy and music and neon whatever-the-fuck, but it’s got a dark and seedy soul… it’s got a monster inside, both figurative and now literally. I tried to use this issue to delve a bit into the all too human desire to wear masks to hide who we truly are.
Quick little recap of the resurrection. This could have easily been seen as a “part three” to the Phoenix story, because it continues right out of it, but I thought it was important to make it stand alone. The Dark Queen is going to be a big threat going forward, and I’m pleased that people can pick up this issue without any prior knowledge whatsoever.
I used the word “performed” twice in a sentence here. Balls.
Just want to slow down the writerly commentary for a moment to gawk a bit. Wow. Lalit’s art is like nothing I’ve ever seen in a comic before. It’s creepy, it’s strange, it’s loose in parts and tight in others – I think it’s some of the best and most creative linework we’ve had. I hope he comes back for more.
Malec has a bit of a temper. I realized that this character, he has bodyguards – but what does he really need them for? He’s living with Cindy, Morrigan, and a bunch of monsters. These human bodyguards wouldn’t be able to stop anything that could get past the rest of the house – so hey, I figure Malec uses them as punching bags.
Love the expression on the severed head. The panelization here is brilliant, too. The long, long panels doesn’t always work, but I love it here. Wish I could say it were my idea, but that’s Lalit getting creative with page design.
I was stoked to be the one who got to tell the old school Grimm Fairy Tales style origin of Lucinda, the Dark Queen. I love the way horror and dark fantasy danced together in the early issues of the series, and I hope I was able to successfully tap into that feel.
I think there’s something empowering about a princess who rejects her parent’s wishes for her. Even if she chooses evil, she’s choosing. And that’s an aspect that I love about the GFT ladies. Even when they’re evil, their motivation is incredibly strong and their choices drive them. I knew Lucinda was going to be one of the major, major Big Bads going forward, so I thought it would be cool to have a character that very willingly chose this life, unlike a lot of our villains who either have an ax to grind or were dragged into darkness against their will.
Pushing the mask metaphor a bit further here.
It’s not mentioned here, but the city that Lucinda’s parents ruled was called Inigo. Little Princess Bride love there.
Lucinda is very much unlike the Dude, in her lack of abidingness.
PAGE TWELVE & THIRTEEN
As drawn by Lalit, the Dark Queen here has one of the coolest capes in comics. It is impractical as all get-out garment-wise, but man. Who wouldn’t bow to someone in that scary of a cape?
Much like the whole city/monster, monster/woman thing I’ve got going on, there’s some subtext boiling beneath the surface of this page. Malec could have sent anyone to call for Lucinda to come down, but he chose to send one of his beautiful human mistresses. The Dark Queen is this horrific monster and Malec is bitter about her anger toward him, but he’s not voicing it toward her. Instead, he sends something very beautiful, very young, and very not Lucinda.
I’ll let the readers imagine what Lucinda whispered to the mistress that has her looking so destroyed.
PAGE SIXTEEN & SEVENTEEN
This is by far and away the most gruesome scene I ever wrote. An entire double page spread devoted to showing highborns, falsebloods, and mythological creatures on platforms with barbed wire nooses around their necks…
PAGE EIGHTEEN & NINETEEN
…And then a whole ‘nother DPS to drop them to their deaths. Even Cindy, who is a known gorehound, looks shocked on this page. The narration here is perhaps my favorite bit I’ve written, because I’m shit at poetry but those three captions could be a solid poem on their own. I mean, a poem that’s also totally fucked, but a solid poem nonetheless.
Yeah, I need Lalit on another book. This was a dark and scary one to write, and he just made it so much freakier. Love it.
That. Freaking. Staff.
A big thing we’ve been trying to do is reestablish the Dark Horde as a major threat. Malec had the horde flee during the Dream Eater Saga and it seemed he was doing so in Unleashed, but I subverted that last arc to show that no, he’s merely moving them off the grid to focus on resurrecting Lucinda. It went a long way, I think, to redeem Malec as a villain in the reader’s eyes, and I didn’t want to subvert that, but Lucinda definitely disses him big here. She thinks she knows the best way to reestablish the Horde, and hell – from what she’s saying toward the end, maybe she’s right.
Man, looking back, I almost forgot how fun this issue was to write. I wrote it on super crunch time while I was at Phoenix Comic Con, staying at Raven’s house… and yet, I think it’s probably the strongest of my three issue run on the title. Hope to hop back on soon, because the Dark Horde is always great to write.
Thanks for reading!
-Pat Shand, 8/30
THOUGHTS ON COMICS: Sweet Tooth Volume Three
With the third installment of this already stellar series, the plot threats that have been simmering for the first two volumes hit the boiling point. Jeff Lemire writes with great restraint and illustrates with true, startling originality. If it weren’t 1AM, I’d be on my way to the comic shop to buy the remaining three volumes.
Sweet Tooth is painfully good.
COMMENTARY on WONDERLAND #13
Written by Raven Gregory & Pat Shand
Art by Antonio Bifulco
Colors by Leonardo Paciarotti
Letters by Jim Campbell
Published by Zenescope Entertainment
Raven was originally going to take back the reigns of the ongoing series here, but I came on and scripted two more issues under his guidance to close out the #11-14 arc. This first page is all Raven though, and I think it may be the first step in our attempt to add more physical mythology to the land of Wonderland itself. Also, this is the first and probably only time we’ll see the original Queen of Diamonds. Next time we’ll see her, much like Queen of Hearts, someone new will have filled the role.
One of the biggest things I was looking forward to with writing Wonderland was Jim’s insane lettering on this title. The Jabberwocky, Spades, and Hearts have some of the most creative lettering I’ve seen in comics, and Jim makes it sing.
As of now, I can honestly say, this is the page where I just buckled in as Raven took me on an insane person’s drive. To this day, I have no idea what the voices are that warn the Jabberwocky away from Lory. This is Raven playing his long game.
And here’s where I take the stage. The protagonist of this issue, Charlie, is looking very Morgan Freeman here… and let’s be real, from his dialogue, he’s intended to be read with Freeman’s voice. It’s been said that Morgan Freeman’s voice makes everything in this world a bit better, and I think that might be true of this issue as well.
It’s never revealed why Charlie calls his bus Bonnie, but a scene later in the book will spell it out to the attentive reader.
This may be one of the most text-heavy pages I’ve ever written. This issue has a slow and deliberate pace, and it’s tone is different than the rest of the series for a reason – Calie and Violet are a young mother and daughter, so they have a more hectic, youthful energy. This issue, however, reads almost like prose because of Charlie’s manner of speech and word choice. Very different, but I hope fans took to it. It’s not often you pick up a Wonderland book and read an issue about a 50+ year old man’s struggle at his job as the A-story, and that’s kind of the point. This arc, which I’m still amazed Raven let me steer, is all about breaking through the norm of what you expect in a Wonderland story and, in a larger sense, a comic book.
The red hair and hearts glasses may be Lory’s batshit-craziest transformation.
The mirror motif (rearview, windows, Lory’s entrance into Wonderland) continues. The bit at the end where Charlie speaks of the disappearances is the first time that we’ve tied the events of #11 and #12 into the overall arc. They were certainly standalone issues, but the shape of the arc is beginning to form right here.
Who doesn’t love a creepy little kid? (Me.)
I once read a quote by, of all people, Russell Brand – who is actually fucking brilliant, mind. The quote was: “We all have an essential self, but if you spend every day chopping up meat on a slab, and selling it by the pound, soon you’ll find you’ve become a butcher. And if you don’t want to become a butcher (and why would you?), you’re going to have to cut right through to the bare bones of your own character in the hope of finding out who you really are. Which bloody hurts.” Reading that made me reflect deeply on myself, my choices, and the things with which I build my life and my story. Charlie’s “essential self” here is that he is a bus driver – he’s okay with being defined by that, by being the shepherd that leads others to their destinations. We’re just not sure yet if that’s because of his own loss of direction or because of a genuine interest in other people. To me, and my interpretation is just that – an interpretation… I think it may be both.
Kid in panel two has a spinner on top of his hat. So nineties. What an absolute boss.
Charlie finds beauty in the small moments, because he needs to. He needs to dream about people when awake, because of the reveal of what he truly dreams about on the net page.
“All of my dreams are bad” might be the saddest sentence I’ve ever written. Charlie is a grown man, and a very mature one at that – but this sentiment seems almost childish in its phrasing.
In text shout out to Sheldon, Wonderland artist for the first two volumes.
And now, the mirror motif pays off. Charlie’s darkest impulses are reflected back at him. It’s absolutely an onslaught against him from Wonderland, as the Queen of Spades has chosen him to be one of her own, but none of these are lies. Charlie is horrified and begins to go into a state of shock here because he sees that, yes, his bitterness toward those who have wronged him has made him capable of sickening things.
One of Antonio’s best pages, I think. Charlie’s agony here is hard to look at.
And the elusive Lory bird…
Back to Wonderland. We reveal the new Queen of Diamonds, and she will be very, very significant in another series.
Two effects I love here; the playing cards floating through the background really make this page standout. I’m also glad we physically get to see Lory transform here, so we show how easily this character shifts from body to body.
Annnnnd of course, everyone is playing everyone. The card symbolism, along with the dueling soldier toys, is indicative of how the Queens, Lory, and the Jabberwocky (whom I pseudo-affectionately call “Jabby” in scripts sometimes, likely to Raven’s dismay) are all keeping their hands in the game for Wonderland very close to the chest.
Thanks for reading. This issue came out two weeks ago, so if you’re reading this without having read the issue, I think we may have to see other people.
- Pat Shand, 8/27