Comic book writer Pat Shand has been writing for Zenescope Entertainment for some time now. He has plenty of writing knowledge in that noggin of his and he has a few series on the horizon this summer, so we thought what better time than now to pick his brain for the 6th time (has it been that many?!) and talk comics, obsessions and…Drake?
AiPT!: Mr. Shand, long time no chat. You recently wrapped your last issue of Robyn Hood – a character you created – how does it feel?
Pat Shand: Hi! I know, it has been a while. Honestly, this is probably my favorite place to do interviews, since way back.
And it feels good! Sad, though. I wrote Robyn Hood for the first time in 2012, and now here we are, four years later and I’m done. Robyn as a character has been such a huge part of my life, and in some ways she has been a vessel for me, you know? Obviously I put myself into everything I write, but the amount of me in Robyn Hood is next level. I said in a few previous interviews that writing Robyn and Marian’s story is like writing a diary. And that’s true. I’ll always miss them, their story, those characters being part of my life. But it’s better to leave now than to write the wrong story, to write a story that I don’t believe in, you know?
AiPT!: It looks like you’ve replaced that series with a creator-owned book, Vampire Emmy and the Garbage Girl out in June. Congratulations on that. What’s your elevator pitch for this title?
Pat: Okay, so, Emmy is a vampire who is tired of all of the melodrama and conflict that comes with immortality, so she has decided to kick back for an eternity of Netflix, relaxation, and bloody cheese fries. But her life gets shaken up when the new sanitation worker – Annabelle, who has some killer biceps and exceptionally well-placed tattoos – catches her eye.
Is that elevatory enough? If not, picture me saying it in a really fast voice. Basically, Roberta Ingranata and I loved the romance angle of Robyn Hood and we wanted to do a book that we were super passionate about with no editorial pressure to add action or anything that we didn’t really care to create. Vampire Emmy is that book. It’s starting out as a one-shot, but I know we’d both love to do more.
AiPT!: What’s it like navigating work between three publishers? What’s the workflow like?
Pat: I’m also doing a lot of work for Joe Books, too, so it’s currently “Four that you know of, and other secret ones.” It’s great, though. It’s a lot but it’s great. What has been really interesting to me is seeing how each publisher works. Every one is so different.
Margins, that is probably the most organic work experience I’ve had because the stuff I’ve done there (Anonymously Yours in their Dates anthology and now Vampire Emmy) is all creator-owned, and Cat and Zora who run Margins are both super respectful of that. We work together on notes and stuff, and I feel that there is a genuine shared creative spirit between me and Margins.
American Mythology is a new publisher with some cool licenses, and they’ve been really easy to work with. On Equilibrium, Jason Craig (the artist) and I have been encouraged to do our own thing, which I know is uncommon on licensed properties, so I know that I have been really lucky to have these positive experiences so far.
With Joe Books, I’m doing a bunch of different things. I’m writing their Charmed novels, and obviously writing a novel is wayyyyy different from writing comics. So there’s that. But what’s most different is the collaborative process here. With Charmed, I write the novel for the editors but they have partners in CBS and HarperCollins, so essentially I’ll get these drafts with various rounds of notes. This has been probably my favorite part of freelancing, recently, because I feel like there is such a safety net, you know? When I’m writing comics, because of the fact that I will get to edit the letters months after I write the script, I kind of fear editorial notes, because I know that I will catch whatever I missed in the script. But for novels, I really need those notes because there is no “I’ll wait until I see it over art.” It’s the beginning and the end! I remember on the first Charmed novel, I forgot if it was a Joe Books editor or CBS, but they caught something that I missed on, like, FIVE or six “final edits.” I was so, so relieved when I saw that they’d found my error. So that has been a really enlightening process, and I think seeing their notes has made me a better editor and writer.
Also, I’ve just started writing some Disney Princess comic strips for Joe Books, and that is again a whole new process. Writing single gag strips is probably the hardest writing I’ve ever done, and I’ve been writing since I was six. That excites me.
I’m also working on something else, something huge, that I can’t talk about. Yet. But yeah, to answer your question, each publisher is SO DIFFERENT that it sort of keeps me on my toes and keeps the process interesting.
AiPT!: I’m a big fan of the movie Equilibrium which is a cult classic science fiction flick that has 1984/Farenheit 451 vibe meets The Matrix. What interests you in this world?
Pat: I love the idea of the weaponization of art, and the idea that emotion is dangerous. Because it is. Looking at it logically, removed, the villains here – the Grammaton Clerics – are 100% right. Remove emotion, and you will remove all war and human suffering. However, the problem is that, in the process, you remove everything that makes us us. That moral conundrum, the weighing of who we are versus who we can be, that is valuable to me, which drew me to the project. It’s just three issues to start with, so I’m just about hinting at what we can do here, but I think it’s a fun series. I’d like to do more.
AiPT!: You know this is our sixth interview! You’ve been in the game for some years now. Is there anything you’ve learned about the industry, or about writing in general you wish you know when you got into the game?
Pat: Yeah, absolutely. “Say no” is valuable advice. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I wish I’d changed the very, very first issue of Robyn Hood instead of accepting the plot as is and then revamping the rest of the series. I think new writers get so excited about the chance of publication that they feel as if speaking up to their editor or publisher is offensive. It’s not. I’ve edited writers who I’ve disagreed with before and, after a conversation, I let them do what they want, because that is the right thing to do. I didn’t know that, and I didn’t really allow myself to have a voice early on.
But I don’t really regret anything. I learned because I fucked up. To quote the 6God, which is necessary in every conversation, “Working with the negatives can make for better pictures.” Have you heard Views BTWs? What are your thoughts?
AiPT: I listened to a few tracks yesterday. I usually despise Drake but not bad. What do you think?
Pat: Despise Drake?! I feel like we’re speaking for the first time. To me, he’s beyond comparison to anyone else in his genre, and maybe modern music.
AiPT: I think it’s how he sounds. It’s kind of annoying to my ears! I mean…that Rihanna song he just did. Yuck!!
Pat: It’s not my favorite of his, but I’m a huge fan. To me, he, more than any other creator is the voice of this generation.
AiPT: Psshh everyone knows it’s really Katy Perry or Lehna Dunham!
Pat: I love Lena.
AiPT: It’s funny I’ve had many convos about the show Girls on HBO and if it’s our Dazed and Confused. Many folks disagree as they say that show is about rich brats and not the common person. Would you say Drake is similar? He grew up as a child actor — he certainly wasn’t poor right?
Pat: I disagree with both of those statements. Girls falls into the same trappings as literally every other show about New York City, which is the “How could this person afford this apartment in NYC?” The answer is that they can’t. It’s fiction, and we have I think never seen a realistic NYC apartment on film, because it would be a literal closet. I honestly think the reason that people skewer Girls and not literally every/any other show with the same failings is because the show runner is a vocal woman. There is a huge element of privilege in the show, though, but it’s very much about that. In the first episode, when Hannah’s parents tell her that they’re not paying for her anymore, they’re not depicted as villains — rather, the very subject of the first episode IS Hannah’s privilege. I think that the show gets a lot of criticism for things that it is actively satirizing.
With Drake, I think people assume he grew up rich because he played a supporting character on a Canadian TV show. Take a look at that sentence. That’s wild. Now, in context of Drake’s lyrics: “I was on TV making 50 racks a year. After helping mama out that shit would disappear. I am not a man, I can’t do this on my own.” It’s really interesting, society’s obsession with making Drake seem as if he was this guy who had it all and just decided to rap, when that’s clearly not the case. I think also that Drake carries the bravado, the can’t-fuck-with-me ethos of battle rap, so listeners feel as if they have to question him based on that. If you really listen to Drake, though, and you come away with “He was just some rich kid,” I think that is reductive and disingenuous. I think the people that think that really don’t listen to him like that.
Pat: I would love to. Ian McGinty and I planned eleven issues of Suckers, but we only got five. And it didn’t even go to print. It’s wild to me that we’re sitting on this and that it’s not being printed, because to me Ian is a superstar right now. I still consider myself lucky to have worked with him, and I want to figure out a way to keep doing so. We’re friends and we talk, and I’m really in awe of how he has evolved as a creator, especially this last year or so.
Family Pets, you know, Sarah and I have talked about it. That one was really good for us in a couple of different ways, but it also feels complete. I’ve been thinking about Sarah’s work a lot and I miss seeing her art show up in my inbox. I’ve been trying to think if I can find another idea that is worth her time, because I don’t want to force anything. I value her and her work so much, and I think the collaboration has to be right, which is why I haven’t really let myself write a Family Pets sequel yet. I don’t know if it’s the right move. I want to see Sarah create something new, hopefully with me soon. I do believe that Master of None actually does a great job with depicting struggling young people living in New York, and certainly paints a more accurate picture of New York’s diversity. That show was terrific, as, I’m finding out, everything Aziz Ansari does.
AiPT!: Back in January 2013 I asked you what you were obsessed with at the time. You said:
Pat Shand: I love the VlogBrothers a lot. Fruit Ninja. Reading wise, I’m really digging Game of Thrones, Scott Snyder’s Batman, and Whispers by Josh Luna when I’m able to find it.
Well, Scott Snyder just finished his run and Game of Thrones is coming ever closer to the end. Care to reflect on the endings of both and what are you obsessed with now?
Pat: Wow, that’s so funny. I’ve fallen off a LOT of those. With Game of Thrones, I was talking about the book. I was in the middle of reading that first one, and I enjoyed it, but honestly I didn’t stick with it. I got to the end and I didn’t really feel the push to continue. It was good writing and all of that, but the idea of reading four or five HUGE tomes of a series that isn’t complete, I don’t know – I didn’t want to hop on the waiting train. I hate when I see people bugging George about writing more of those books. Let the man live.
For Snyder’s Batman, I’m behind, but I think it’s one of the definitive modern superhero stories. That and the Fraction/Aja/Wu Hawkeye. I’m in awe of Scott as a creator, and I love that he and Greg took big daring leaps with Batman, and that he seems to have told the exact story he wanted to tell. It’s something to be proud of, and I’ve honestly never enjoyed Batman more than I have on Scott and Greg’s run.
What am I obsessed with now? Comics-wise, I’m not really studying the industry as much as I used to, but Cry Havoc is probably the best book out right now. That, The Wicked + The Divine, Lumberjanes, Rachel Rising – those are the books that excite me every single month. I’m watching both The Sopranos (first time) and Six Feet Under (third time), and both of them are tearing my mind and heart apart and rebuilding them. I’ve had Drake’s Views on repeat since he dropped it this Friday, and it gets better each time. I’m obsessed with Katie Kuffel’s beautiful and mesmerizing Pearls album, and I want everyone to hear it. I’m on a big Tegan and Sara kick because they’re my favorite, and I’m seeing them in New York for an intimate show before they drop their new album, Love You to Death. I’m very, very excited for Captain America: Civil War. I’m excited and really scared about my new and unannounced project. It’s big, iconic, and intimidating. I’m finding more inspiration in things that are not comic books recently. My obsessions are scattered, but they burn bright.