If you’re a comic book reader you fall into three camps: You’ve attempted to write comics and that ended for a plethora of reasons; you enjoy comics and wish you could write them but don’t have the talent; or, you write them. It’s that simple. Adventures in Poor Taste sat down with Patrick Shand, comic book writer and overall swell guy, to discuss how he broke in, what made him love comics and his new book coming out at Zenescope in September.
Editors Note: Check out another interview we had with Pat and editor at Zenescope Entertainment Matt Rogers by clicking here.
AiPT: First off, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions. What made you want to become a writer and more specifically write comics?
Pat Shand: The short version is “Goosebumps books made me want to write.” R.L. Stine forever!
Slightly less short is that I’ve been writing since I could read. My mom would read me books before I knew how to say “I” and my dad would make up “stories from the mind” and incorporate all the stuff I was into, like Ninja Turtles and Jaws. In a way, I was co-writing epic licensed crossovers at age four!
At age six, reading Goosebumps books gave me clarity. From the first book, I knew there was nothing I’d rather do than to tell stories. I would write two page tales on my mom’s old typewriter, essentially crafting really bad sequels to my favorite books and movies. Writing is as natural to me as eating and sleeping—maybe even more so than the latter.
I loved comics as a kid, but had a lapse as a teenager. I got back into comics when IDW started putting out their Angel title, which reintroduced me to the medium. I became a big fan of that book, and it made me wonder why I stopped reading funny books. Fittingly, Angel was also the first comic book that I wrote for.
The medium is just the most powerful form of storytelling around. It marries text and image in a way that is very much like film, but the reader is able to tackle it at their own pace. I love all forms of storytelling, but I truly believe that the highest art form is the graphic medium.
AiPT: I was a huge fan of Goosebumps! I remember reading some of them in one sitting and thinking I was some kind of genius. I used to collect the damn things too. I think the last one I bought was the “choose your own adventure” Goosebumps. Totally made me lose faith. What I loved though, was how they were short enough to capture a moment like comics sometimes can.
Pat Shand: For sure. There’s definitely something to that comparison.
AiPT: How did you get the writing gig on Angel with IDW?
Pat Shand: Pitching my ass off! And, really, making nice. I loved the comic, so I started a blog where I’d review the Angel and the Buffy comics. I became friends with the creators, especially writers Brian Lynch and Scott Tipton, and longtime artist Stephen Mooney. There was a book that Mooney wanted to do that he didn’t have a writer for, so I took his basic concept (a Wesley/Illyria adventure set in Season Five) and wrote the hell out of a pitch. Put everything I had into it. I thought it turned out awesome, and he liked it too, so he went to the IDW folks with it. But Angel was their biggest title, and I was a no name, so it was very understandably a “no.”
I kept pitching, though, and when Chris Ryall and Mariaha Huehner were doing the final Angel comic, Angel: Yearbook, which celebrated their entire time of publishing Angel, they accepted one of my scripts in there. So I’m in that book with all of the creators who’d been doing the best Angel comics all those years. It’s an accomplishment I’ll be proud of forever.
AiPT: I’ve converted a few folks over to the comic-side and I’ve said something similar, about how comics deliver the prose of a novel with the imagery of the film. Which is probably why a lot of folks are using it as a stepping stone to film. Make an original graphic novel, shop that around and then get a film deal. Do you think that cheapens the medium in any way, these books that appear to be little packages to deliver to movie producers?
Pat Shand: No, not really, it doesn’t. And here’s why—if you’re dealing with good creators, the initial product will be good as well. It’s about the people who are making the book, not why the book is made. Because, say if Ralph or Raven came to me and they were like, “I have this great property, and we’re going to try to pitch it as a movie. Do you want to write the comic?” my first thought would still be, “Well, I’ll make it a kick ass comic, then.” My second would be, “And hope like hell we get a movie deal!” of course, but I still, perhaps naively, believe that most people in this industry care about story.
AiPT: Did you always want to write comic books?
Pat Shand: Loooooong time. I have these terrible homemade comics I made at age eleven or twelve. They’re called Wishstones, and it’s a very bad (and shockingly long-running) Dragonball Z rip-off that featured me and my friends as these muscle-bound characters having adventures on the world. And powering up. A looooot of powering up.
So yeah, it’s a dream come true to get to do this for a living. While Robyn Hood won’t have any pseudo-Super Saiyans locked in combat, it will certainly have the enthusiasm and heart that I put into my very first comics.
Better art, though.
Robyn Hood hits comic shelves in September. Cover by Stjepan Sejic
AiPT: Speaking of Robyn Hood, I’ve seen some of the preview material for the book and I have to say it’s an exciting property to play around with. I asked a fantasy author once what his elevator pitch would be for his new book and he didn’t know what I meant by “elevator pitch” so I’ll rephrase. What would your 60 second pitch be for the series?
Pat Shand: Veronica Mars meets Game of Thrones by way of Kill Bill. I’ve started saying that a lot now, but I think it makes a big lot of sense considering the tone of the book.
That is one gnarly eye. Cover by Eric Basaldua.
AiPT: How much research did you do in order to write this series?
Pat Shand: It’s interesting. I did a fair amount, and I had lunch with my good friend and former professor of Medieval Literature, Jeff Massey. He gave me some great advice, and also this wonderful tome on Robin Hood with all of his notes. I was, though, pretty familiar with the source material, the Robyn Hode ballads, from the start. I was an English major and took more Medieval Lit classes than anything else, so Robyn Hode, Beowulf, and The Canterbury Tales are in my blood.
AiPT: Is it going to be the same vein as some of the other Zenescope adaptations where the material has ties to the original work or are we talking a complete reboot?
Pat Shand: There are definitely ties to the original, as well as outright references. The title to the first issue is the title of the first Robyn Hode ballad. That kind of stuff. The original ballads are very much a part of the overall structure of the Robin Hood legend, but I’m taking what is still relevant for this character and building a brand new structure with these lovely old pieces.
AiPT: I have to say it’s a pretty cool idea to expand on and adapt Grimm Fairy Tales into new stories. I am a big believer in the study of myth and archetypes to help a writer build and create.
Do you have any favorite fairy tales you’d love to write for Zenescope?
Pat Shand: I do. I have a bunch of stories I’d like to do, but I’ll keep those close to the chest until I know what I’m working on next.
AiPT: I noticed the Grimm Fairy Tales: 2012 Annual released this week had four artists listed on pencils. What’s your relationship like with the artist on a book you’ve written and in this case what was it like writing for four different artists?
Pat Shand: That story was sort of an exception to the rule, because while the artists strived to maintain a similar look, having four different artists made sense stylistically because the tale is about Venus visiting four of her fellow gods. So we’ve got flashback scenes for almost each of those gods, and having different artists for those characters really help evoke how different each of them are from each other.
As far as the writing, unless I personally know the artist, I pretty much write the script the same. If I’m doing something creator owned and I get to know the artist, we’ll develop a shorthand. I’m doing this vampire comedy project with Ian McGinty, who is just this fantastic artist, and we’ve become friends over the course of working on the book. For him, I’ll write a panel like, “Chad gives John a ‘what-the-hell?’ look” where, with an artist I’m unfamiliar with, I would give a longer, more detailed description.
AIPT: I have to ask this because I’m a big fan of the show 1,000 Ways to Die, and lo and behold, you wrote a 1,000 Ways to Die comic for Zenescope. What was the process in writing something based on actual events?
Pat Shand: With that, the outlines came directly from Spike TV. I was allowed to put my own spin on it, though. In the graphic novel, we had two characters, a detective and a coroner, who would provide an epilogue after each story. That allowed me to sort of comment on the ridiculousness of the deaths, and do some more of those awesome puns that 1,000 Ways to Die loves so much. Spike TV was really cool about letting me have fun with those characters and some tweaks to the story, as long as I kept it true to the essence of what they had in the plot. I’d love to work with Spike TV on any of their properties anytime.
Here’s Pat scaring himself shitless whilst reading his book.
AIPT: That’s interesting, were the outlines based on episodes or written in any kind of TV centric way?
Pat Shand: The outlines were written as TV scripts. We had some new deaths, but we also had comic book takes on episodes that had been produced.
AIPT: I have to say I would have found it daunting to have to follow Ron Perlman even if he only narrated the show.
Pat Shand: I kind of can’t picture Ron Perlman as not Hellboy.
Cover for Patrick’s latest work for Zenescope.
AIPT: Do you have an exclusive contract with Zenescope? I’m curious, if you could write for the big two which would be your first choice and which book would you love to write?
Pat Shand: I do not. It may seem that way because of the amount of books I write for them and, going forward, it’s going to seem that way even more, because I just love the Grimm Fairy Tales universe the way that a fan does, and I’m eager to write the hell out of anything they let me. And I think that is what makes successful comics in general, when you’re a fan of what you’re creating. And I’m a big Zenescope fan.
That said, I’ve got comics coming out from other places as well. I did a thing or two with Big Dog Ink that I can’t talk about yet, and I’ve got a handful of creator owned projects in development that haven’t found homes yet.
For the Big Two, I have hardcore love for both of them individually. I think I’d most love to do Thor for Marvel, but I have this dream of doing a Supergirl, Spoiler, and Star Girl team book over at DC. That’d be fun as hell.
And Batman, of course. Everyone wants to write Batman. Especially now, since Scott Snyder is doing such a great job creating the best Batman myths of our time.
AiPT: As a big Zenescope fan, could you speak to the depiction of women on the covers? Some folks have responded to my reviews of some of their books as if they didn’t contain stories but were written just to show off breasts. My reviews say otherwise. Do you feel they take away from the quality of the finished work or the perception of the finished work and therefore your writing?
Pat Shand: The cheesecake covers are a part of what Zenescope does, and I’d agree with you in thinking that they don’t take away from the finished product. The story is the story is the story, you know? When I’m scripting Robyn Hood, or a Grimm issue, I tell the story that makes sense for the characters and rings true for me as a writer. While I certainly don’t shy away from the cheesecake elements, because that would be dishonest considering the covers, character is first and foremost for me. Look at Power Girl (pre-New 52) and Hack/Slash – those are both titles that have cheesecake elements but deliver on story and character fronts. They’re just damn good comics, and I’m going to bring the same attention to character, story, and theme in all the books that I do.
And hell, I’m happy as hell every time I get an EBas cover. That dude is just a brilliant designer and a great artist; same with Mike Debalfo and many of the other Zenescope mainstays.
AiPT: They definitely produce some beautiful covers week to week. Thanks for taking the time to speak with me Pat.
If you’d like to learn more about Pat, follow his blog at patrickshand.tumblr.com.