Zenescope Co-Founder Ralph Tedesco Talks Virtual Conventions

2020 has left many indie companies wondering how to reach their audiences without physical, in-person conventions. Major conventions like San Diego Comic-Con have gone virtual while publishers are also taking their presentations to fans digitally. Pennsylvania-based comics publisher Zenescope has stood out among publishers as far as the sheer amount of virtual conventions and events they're doing. The company's VP of Film & Television, Ralph Tedesco, spoke exclusively to Bleeding Cool about the company's plans for their upcoming slate of virtual content.

Preview of the new exclusive cover by Sun Khamunaki. Credit: Zenescope
Preview of the new exclusive cover by Sun Khamunaki. Credit: Zenescope

Theo Dwyer: For a company like Zenescope that has a dedicated fanbase but also the ambition to grow, what goes into planning these virtual conventions?

Ralph Tedesco: To be honest, it can get hectic. From planning them and thinking of different types of programming to executing them with as few mistakes as possible is definitely a challenge. But it's a fun challenge. That being said, we're continuously trying to evolve with each one we do since we started these back in March. The biggest challenge is not to get stale, so we're always trying to think of interesting and unique new panels and interviews that not only our hardcore fans will enjoy, but that will appeal to those who haven't ever picked up on of our books. The main thing we try to bring to the table is an overall sense of fun, inclusivity, and sheer silliness. We know we have products that people love to collect, and that also have very high resale value for collectors, and that's awesome. But we also want fans to know that we have great books that are well-reviewed and well-received. The main thing with these events is not taking ourselves too seriously. We just want fans to be able to watch and hang out with friends for a few hours and feel as though they're visiting the Zenescope booth at an actual comic con.

Theo: Zenescope Virtual Horror Con is set to go live in October. What can fans expect from this event?

Ralph: Every month brings a new theme. It's a lot of fun to come up with the themes and how to execute them. October is naturally a horror theme month, so we'll simply be leaning into that. Our sales staff – Jason & Chris – will dress up in horror-themed costumes each day. The products we're offering will also be heavy on the Halloween themes. Little do non-Zenescope readers know, we publish more than fairy tales, and we put out a lot of horror titles. We'll definitely be offering those up for sale. We also have a couple of surprise interviews we're scheduling now, with some guests known for their ties to horror comics and movies. Lastly, we're also holding a Halloween Cosplay Contest on October 17th, where eight finalists will compete for a chance to win some Bose Headphones and passes to a 2021 Comic Con.

Theo: I watched your Cosplay Con last month and saw you talk about Movie Club Happy Hour. The first film you're watching is Creepshow, which seems perfect for the season. Is this going to be a commentary over the movie or a post-watch discussion?

Ralph: Good Question. It's the latter. October 23rd is our inaugural Movie Club Happy Hour event. It's going to be a monthly happy hour where we'll re-watch a classic sci-fi or horror movie beforehand, then get together to discuss. It's basically a book club for movies. This month, all of our panelists – and anyone who wants to hang out to watch the virtual stream – is tasked with re-watching 1982's Creepshow prior to the event. The panelists will then get together and discuss the movie live on the stream. Viewers will also be able to comment in real-time. We'll have Zenescope creators and also special guests making up the panel each month.

Theo: You previously announced that some Clerks actors will join you for a future Movie Club Happy Hour. Who else can viewers expect to guest on this show?

Ralph: Yes! This month our friends Brian O'Halloran and Marilyn Ghigliotti from CLERKS will join us, which is going to be awesome! Then aside from yours truly, we'll have my Zenescope co-founder, Joe Brusha, and also artist Sun Khamunaki on the panel. We'll probably announce one or two other guests over the coming weeks.

Theo: Will there be any comics or merch tying into these events?

Ralph: Yes, in fact. Sun will be unveiling her amazing Creepshow homage cover, which is a mashup of a Zenescope character and the original Creepshow movie poster. This will be a limited edition comic that fans can purchase after the happy hour is finished. And just because it's you, Theo, I'll send you a Black & White partial early sneak peek of it.

Theo: Thanks, Ralph.

And here's that full Sun Khamunaki preview cover.

Courtesy of Ralph Tedesco, a preview of the new exclusive cover by Sun Khamunaki. Credit: Zenescope
Courtesy of Ralph Tedesco, a preview of the new exclusive cover by Sun Khamunaki. Credit: Zenescope

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About Theo Dwyer

Theo Dwyer writes about comics, film, and games.
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