We had a chance to chat with Zenescope editor-in-chief Ralph Tedesco, and talked about the company’s TV shows, board game, action figures, and upcoming comics.
We know there are some projects to adapt Zenescope properties into other media. What’s going on with the TV deal right now?
There are two things in development. One is a Grimm Fairy Tales animated pilot. We’re funded through Kickstarter.com, so basically that’s funded by fans and friends and family who pledged to the Kickstarter campaign. We raised $180,000 to film this pilot that we’ll hopefully then sell to a network. We’re in production on the pilot right now which will be completed in October.
The other is a live action pilot that we have sold the rights to Lionsgate for, for our Return to Wonderland, Beyond Wonderland, and Escape from Wonderland trilogy. We had a bit of a bidding war for the property rights between different studios, but Lionsgate stood out from the rest. We are now in development for that with the producer Brian Robbins who produced Smallville. Joe [Brusha] and I are also co-executive producing that as well. So hopefully we’ll be able to get that onto a network, or on a cable network next year.
That’s live action?
Wonderland is live action, while Grimm Fairy Tales is animation.
What’s the target demographic for the live action show?
It really depends. Right now, we’re leaning for it to be a little bit darker, in the vein of a Walking Dead--a little bit more cable-oriented than network; that’s how we see this right now. That doesn’t mean we couldn’t soften it up a little bit for network television if need be, but right now we’re leaning toward a little darker, a little edgier content staying as true to the comic as possible.
We settled on a writer--but I can’t tell you who it is yet because the deal’s not completed--and then we would start pitching to networks.
Is that a half-hour or an hour?
It’ll be an hour-long show.
Do you know if anyone else has funded a TV pilot on Kickstarter?
To my knowledge, no. I know there’ve been film projects funded through Kickstarter, but I don’t know if there’ve been any specifically meant for TV. We are also looking at possibly doing this as an anthologyeventually, but to fund a pilot episode just to start is probably a pretty new thing. I know to date we’re the highest funded animated property project for film or TV on Kickstarter.
This will be a half-hour and a younger demo?
No, it’s actually set up to be a little darker as well and a little bit in the vein of Heavy Metal. There’s going to be a non-edited, non-censored version of it, with cursing, some partial nudity--the whole nine yards. If and when we’re able to pitch it to a TV network, we’ll be able to soften it up a little bit and edit out the adult oriented stuff.
This will be an adult animated half-hour?
Yes, that’s what we’re looking at.
How about the Wonderland board game--is that out now?
The board game just came out. We have it in stock. It’s been selling well so far and we’re hoping sales will continue to grow especially with the Wonderland pilot coming in.
What channels did you sell through?
We went through Diamond. We have been selling it at conventions and our Website as well.
So you didn’t sell it through the hobby game distributors as well?
Not yet. I think it’s something we’re looking into right now, actually.
Who designed the board game?
5th Planet Games. They used to be called To Be Continued, but now they’re called 5th Planet.
What are the ages, how many players, retail price?
15 and up; 2 to 6 players; $39.95.
We heard there are action figures. What’s going on with that?
Those are being designed by CS Moore Studios. I know we’re distributing through Diamond as well. I don’t know if we have other distributors lined up yet.
Do you know when they’re going to be out?
Some have already hit. The Alice figure debuted at San Diego Comic Con.
Are you selling these, or is Moore?
We’re both selling them, actually.
And these are single figures, not assortments?
Right. Single action figures with different points of articulation depending on what the figure is. We’ve done alternate versions of the figures and there’s more to come.
This fall we have a lot of cool stuff coming out. We have Sleepy Hollow, for Halloween, which is a four-part Grimm Fairy Tales spin-off miniseries. It takes the Sleepy Hollow mythology and brings it to modern day. It takes place in Tarrytown, New York, which is where the original Sleepy Hollow legend is from. Issue #1 will be releasing in October.
We also have a new series coming out this month called Godstorm, which is another Grimm Fairy Tales spin-off title. It takes the Greek and Roman mythology and sort of combines the two and modernizes it. There are gods and goddesses who have lived on Earth for hundreds of years in human form, and some of them are perfectly content with their human form, while others aren’t. So there’s an uprising and a division between the two sides. Venus, the goddess of beauty, is one who decides to recruit other gods and goddesses to return to the glory days of old and reclaim their stake as gods on Earth. So she’s trying to recruit some different deities while there are others who stand against her, like Poseidon and even Zeus, possibly. We haven’t revealed yet where Zeus stands. It’s a modern day telling of the god and goddess mythology. So that’s another big title we’re really excited about.
Robin Hood is coming out this fall as well. We’re debuting issue #1 at New York Comic Con. Robin Hood again is a modern day telling of the Robin Hood mythology, but in our version Robin is a female protagonist. It follows her path as she learns that she has this ability [and] discovering who she really is and her power. That’s another Grimm Fairy Tales spin-off title and that will be five issues.
Next year in 2013 we will have an Oz series. We don’t have an exact release month yet, but we’re hopefully looking at second quarter 2013.
Are you going to do the core story or some of the other Baum stuff or your own thing with Oz?
The Oz thing will incorporate the characters we mainly know from The Wizard of Oz--Dorothy, Tin Man and The Lion, etc., but we’ll put our own updated twist on it and make it darker, a little more provocative. It will tie in directly with our current universe, which we’ve been hinting at for a couple of years now. Joe’s been working really hard at creating the mythology behind that. We’ll be co-creating the story there. We haven’t settled on a writer for that series yet, whether it’s Joe and I or we bring somebody else into it.
Can you talk about the concept of using classic mythology characters from fairy tales and other stories? That seems to be a popular thing now--we’re seeing it more frequently. Why do you think that is and where do you see Zenescope’s place in the range of different people taking different approaches to the classic characters?
Well, I’d like to think that we started the trend, but we clearly probably didn’t. We’ve been doing it with our comics since 2006 when we came out with our first issue of Grimm Fairy Tales: Red Riding Hood. I think it’s something that we’ve always been intrigued by. Coming up with retellings of classic literature, retellings of fairy tales, fables has always been interesting. It’s been fun to be able to take public domain characters and make them your own. It has been done before, obviously--League of Extraordinary Gentlemen did it years before we did it. I always loved that concept as well.
The fairy tale thing we started doing back in 2006 and we never knew that this would become such a big idea where now you’re seeing TV shows like Once Upon a Time and Grimm on the air. You’re seeing it done in film all the time now where when we first came out with this series it was, for an independent company, a very big hit for us. Joe and I would be out in Los Angeles pitching this idea and telling Hollywood producers, "Hey, this is the next big thing and let’s do this" and getting a lot of "How would you do this? How would you reinvent fairy tales and make them dark and twisted?" and the next thing you know it seems to be everywhere. It’s a good thing for us and I think it’s going to keep going for a while now with the success you’re seeing with these TV shows.
How is your approach unique or different from all the other stuff that’s out there?
I’d like to think that Joe and I always thought outside the box, even in terms of taking a mythology to another level. I think we’ve created a whole new universe of characters, so not only do we have characters that you’ve heard of such as Cinderella, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, or Alice in Wonderland, the list goes on and on. So, not only do you have those characters, but we’re introducing brand new characters within that mythology and inventing new characters and reinventing new characters and adding to our universe.
I think what appeals to a lot of fans is that we do have this Grimm universe that we’ve created and our characters, although some of them are known and public domain, are very different from what we grew up reading about. Some of them are also brand new. And the idea that we were able to modernize some of these characters, delve into the past of some of these characters, so we not only cross storylines and stories, but we cross different periods of time. So the universe is vast and it’s all interwoven. I think that allows readers to really delve into the material and feel that they are part of that universe and I think that is what we do well.