COMMENTARY on REALM KNIGHTS #1
REALM KNIGHTS #1
Written by Pat Shand
Art by Butch Mapa
Colors by Kevin Volo
Letters by Jim Campbell
Published by Zenescope Entertainment
Okay, let’s state the obvious here. This is a #1 issue of a brand new series, so obviously it’s something completely new and it’s doing its own thing… but I make it clear from the first page that it’s as much a sequel to GOSTORM as UNLEASHED was. Part of using Neptune, Zeus, and Hades a lot is that I want to put them in big profile books so more people go back to read GODSTORM, but I also think these characters have so many more stories to tell.
Also, for the first time… we see Zeus, Neptune, and Hades’ father, Cronus.
Man, Hades loves “hell” puns.
While the true fun of REALM KNIGHTS is the superheroic action, grounding it all with the government background has been a blast. It gives the threats a more real world sense, which can often be lost when you’re writing a book that has Neptune, Robyn Hood, Captain Hood, Red Riding Hood, and Van Helsing walking around together. The blending of magic and real world, like the Stranger giving the glamoured file over here, helps keep this book from floating too high into fantasy land.
“Agent Fassett” is a shoutout to my former TA and current friend, Ryan Fassett. He is a fantastic writer and, mark my words – he’ll do big things in this industry.
I love Agent Cell’s dreadlocks.
Though we don’t flat out say who the Stranger is, check out the similarity in position and style to the last panel and the panel on Page One when Cronus is reaching to his scythe. Hm…
Part of the fun of REALM KNIGHTS is that I had to think up of very different scenarios for our scattered knights to be in when the government calls on them. Since Britney (Red Riding Hood) and Cross (Captain Hook) were members of the original team and were largely absent during the events of UNLEASHED, I liked the idea that they’d been consistently working as Realm Knights since then, which explains their absence from Sela’s life. They’ve been doing this for over a year now, so they’re actually adjusted and having fun with it.
We introduced the new Realm Knights liaison, in GRIMM FAIRY TALES #86. Her name is Jessica Ciampo – her last name is taken from a friend of mine, Victoria Ciampo. Her role in this miniseries is vastly expanded. Shang, on the other hand, has a limited role. He was very involved in the Realm Knights one-shot, but it just made sense after he spent a year imprisoned by the Being in UNLEASHED that he sit out the major tiffs and take more of an advisor role in this series.
Van Helsing’s house is a thing of beauty. I sometimes wish I rewrote this scene to have Ciampo seek out Helsing and Sela on a BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER-style graveyard mission, but seeing this house that Butch Mapa designed makes me pleased with my choice.
Gotta give a splash page reveal to Helsing, the most high profile addition to the Realm Knights.
God, forget the Victorian house… there is nothing I love more than how Sela is dressed here. I’ve been making an effort to develop these characters’ wardrobes beyond what we see in their costumes, because I think it helps us imagine that these are real people with real lives beyond the stories on the comic page.
Something I had to address immediately is that no matter the threat we create here, his power will be a joke compared to that of the Being. So how do we take care of that, and not make it seem like an anticlimax? I figured address it, crack a joke, and move on.
The unfortunate thing about the timing of REALM KNIGHTS #1 is that we’re seeing Robyn in jail… and we don’t see how she got there. Stay tuned to the remaining issues of ROBYN HOOD: WANTED. It could have lined up better, but it was either keep it as is and have Robyn for the whole series, or have her come in the last issue… and I thought it was important to have her around for the whole shebang. She’s, as far as I’m concerned, a definitive staple of the team at this point.
For two ladies that don’t get along, Robyn and Red sure as hell find each other together a lot.
This argument between Jessica and Shang was to establish two things. When Agent Aranda (named after my bud Brian Aranda), the late liaison from the original REALM KNIGHTS one-shot, promised Robyn a pardon in exchange for her compliance… he was acting totally on his own, without approval from his superiors. Shang knows that, but he doesn’t care – he’s bringing Robyn back on the team because he knows she’s valuable, and also to show Jessica that he is in charge of this, not her. Readers of the one-shot already know that the government isn’t trust-worthy, but this is the first time we’ve seen Shang act on his distrust of their higher ups.
I’d been chomping at the bit to get Robyn and Helsing in the same room together. They have mega chemistry. Sela thinks so too – look at her jealously mean-mugging in the last panel as Helsing and Robyn hit it off.
Robyn and Red continue to bump heads. That doesn’t stop folks on Tumblr from shipping them. The most common Robyn ships are Robyn/Will Scarlet and Robyn/Marian, but I’ve seen a few posts of people shipping Robyn and Red. Someone even called the ship “Red Robyn. Yummmm.”
Another friend reference. Michael Wisnowski, the high ranking agent from the original one-shot, is named after Steve Winowski, one of my best buddies. Steve is way less of a jerk than Wisnowski, though his hair isn’t nearly as suave.
There’s Robyn with her “Macguffin hunt” comment, calling me out on the genre tropes I’m using. I live for the meta.
I may fall back on this a lot, but I love the role call panels. Adds an epic feel to the team, I think.
Not all artists can make their characters act, but look at how Butch illustrates that iffy glance between Jessica and Wisnowski in the last panel. That says it all.
Hades is so Hamlet.
Annnnnd another hell pun. In actuality, though, Hades is one of my favorite characters to write. Right up there with Robyn, Helsing, the Being, and Will Scarlet. He’s devious and snide and he’s angry and just loaded with pathos. I refuse to call him a villain, but man he works as a sympathetic foil.
Thanks for reading. This issue came out last Wednesday, so head to the comic shop if you don’t already have it!
- Pat Shand, 8/27
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
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