Ralph Tedesco, along with Joe Brusha, founded Zenescope Entertainment back in 2005 with the idea of doing dark revisions on the classic fairy tales of our youth… which if you look at the original source material were pretty damn dark in the first place. Their series, Grimm Fairy Tales caught on quickly and grew into a bit of a juggernaut with spin-offs into the wildly popular Return To Wonderland series, along with trips to Neverland and Oz. Now the original GFT series is hurtling towards it's 100th issue and I got a chance to chat with Ralph about the last nine years and where they are going next.
RALPH TEDESCO: We came up with the idea back in late 2003. This was also well before you saw Hollywood doing all the darker fairy tale reinventions. Growing up we were both big fans of Twilight Zone, Tales From the Crypt, and Creepshow, so we thought it could be cool if we self-published a comic book series with similar concepts to those.
We started kicking around the idea of taking the original tales of the Brothers Grimm, which were dark and twisted to begin with, and infusing them with a sort of "Tales From the Crypt" tone. And that's essentially how the series was created.
BC: The early issues read as almost EC style horror tales with Sela and her book being the through line while later issues have created a more cohesive heroic universe. Was the genre shift always planned out or was that more of an organic move as the series progressed?
RT: Early on Grimm was definitely told in that Vault of Horror style, then by issue ten or so we began realizing that this was set up to evolve into something even more interesting and epic than just one shot re-inventions of fairy tales. We knew we'd eventually need a better hook and it was obvious that this was becoming Sela's story. It made sense for us to just start with her and build it out. Looking back now at the evolution of GFT, it's a little bit crazy to think of all the different twists and turns this series has had.
BC: The series has branched out into multiple worlds including Neverland, Wonderland and Oz. How are all these realms tied together? And are there realms we haven't seen yet?
RT: The fourth realm is MYST, but that's been revealed already. There's also the INFERNO which is not one of the four realms but is an active part of the Grimm Universe. Right now there are only four realms that surround Earth. But in the upcoming REALM WAR series, you'll see those four realms actually come together in one series.
BC: You are currently involved in a line-wide event called Age Of Darkness, which started with Quest #1 in November of last year and jumped into the Grimm series with issue #93. What is Age of Darkness?
RT: Age of Darkness is a way we branded many of our recent Grimm Fairy Tales issues leading up to the major events that go down in issue #100. Many of our titles live within a shared universe but many of those titles are also stand-alone and can be read independently of the main Grimm Fairy Tale title.
But the Age of Darkness branding is simply a way for readers to know which titles and issues in the Grimm Universe also contain some clues and information leading into Grimm #100 and also the subsequent 12 issue Realm War: Age of Darkness series beginning in July.
For fans, the main thing to know is there are four "Age of Darkness" issues that you'll really want to read leading up to #100 (which hits shelves July 16th). Those are the Grimm Fairy Tales 2014 Annual (which has a May 14th release date), the Grimm Fairy Tales Realm Knights Age of Darkness one-shot , the Grimm Fairy Tales 2014 Giant Sized Edition, and Grimm Fairy Tales #99 which all have a July 2nd release date.
BC: This is all building to Grimm Fairy Tales #100. What are your plans for the anniversary issue and how will it affect the rest of your publishing line?
RT: Grimm Fairy Tales #100 is the epic climax of all that has been going on in the Age of Darkness storyline. Once issue 100 comes out in July, fans will want to jump immediately into Realm War #1. Realm War will be a 12 issue series that will immediately continue where Grimm #100 leaves off.
RT: It feels pretty damn good. I remember being told seven or eight years ago by a couple people in this industry that Zenescope was a flash in the pan and would be gone within 12 months. So yeah, it's nice to have been able to carve out a piece of the pie in a very competitive industry.
BC: What is the status of the Grimm Fairy Tales animated series? There was a lot of positive buzz off of the pilot, will we be seeing more of it in the near future?
RT: We continue to screen the pilot at most conventions we attend. It was a joint effort between Zenescope, Schneppzone, and Titmouse Studios. The pilot was adapted from Grimm Fairy Tales #3 and directed by the talented Jon Schnepp (Metalocalypse). It's fun, epic, violent, and provocative and in many ways a homage to the Heavy Metal cartoon of the 80s.
We've gotten almost entirely positive feedback from the conventions. The issue really is just finding a studio or network who believes in it enough to want to make more. In the meantime, we're looking for creative ways to fund more episodes ourselves.
RT: The future is really bright! The Realm War series is a way for fans to continue the Age of Darkness story over the next year. Meanwhile, Grimm Fairy Tales #101 new will be a great jumping on point for new readers looking to begin the series without any confusion. The events of issue #101 will begin in a different reality than those occurring simultaneously in the Realm War series. And readers can choose to pick up either or both series without feeling like they've missed something. But for those who choose to read both, the mystery of the separate story lines will definitely pay off at the end of Realm War.