by R.C. Samo
If you have not heard of Raven Gregory, pay close attention. He is the executive editor of Zenescope Entertainment. He writes several books, including those of the Grimm Fairy Tales series and has helped broker a deal for a new Grimm Fairy Tales animated series that debuted at the New York Comic Con. Zenescope is one of the fastest growing comic book and entertainment company that does not focus on the super hero genre. Written for a more PG-13 audience, Zenescope, Gregory and the whole host of other writers set out to entertain their fans and put out quality books.
Gregory has proven that with hard work, determination and the desire to improve that fanboys are not just dreams, but doers as well. Gregory has succeeded in living the American dream and should be an example for anyone who is willing to throw their hat in the ring taking on the challenges of making it in an industry that doesn’t always answer the door.
Zenescope Executive Editor, Raven Gregory
And now, with no further adieu, Five Questions for Raven Gregory:
1) You have stated several times that only a few years ago you were struggling as a writer and now only 2 to 3 years later you have elevated your status to editor for Zenescope. What were some of the trials you had to go through in order to live the American Dream and what would you tell those who are currently struggling in attempting to achieve their dreams?
Raven Gregory: It’s been a long road to say the least. I still remember writing everyone in the business in 1999 on how to break into comics and the only person who wrote me back was Renae Geerlings from Top Cow. She took me under her wing and helped me self publish my first series The GIFT. It was hard at the beginning but I was so full of gusto and ready to take on the world that nothing was going to hold me back.
I jumped right into the deep end going on the road with my dad hitting every comic book convention in the country, working a 50 plus hour a week day job and getting to issue seven of the series and realizing that the sales wouldn’t sustain the book. I was praying, begging, hustling, pitching, doing everything I could do to keep the book going. I had pitched it to Crossgen, Arcana, Chaos, Image (3 times) and countless of others and it was always turned down. I was only a month or so from closing down shop and giving up the series when I received an email from Erik Larsen asking me if I’d like to bring the book over to Image Comics. If it wasn’t for him I have no idea how my story would have turned out. He’s a big part of the reason why I still have a career and why THE GIFT lasted as long as it did. Things were looking really good, sales were stronger than ever, my profile as a creator was raised considerably…
Then I got fired from my day job. My ex-wife became addicted to meth and left me to raise our two boys on my own. I was selling off my comic book collection just to pay the bills and (Special thanks to Brian Michael Bendis who Ultimate Spiderman series I collected paid the bills for two months) I really had no idea how I was going to be able to take care of my kids let alone continue writing comics. But I didn’t give up. Somewhere between the beginning of writing comics and losing my day job I realized I couldn’t work a 9 to 5 regular job anymore. That if I was going to survive and take care of my kids I had to make this comic thing work. I hit the cons hard core. Hitting people up for jobs. Hustling my ass off at shows selling my books. Doing everything I could to get someone to give me a chance.
I went to San Diego Comic Con in 2006 with my then 9 year old son Jaylon with a bag pack full of THE GIFT tpb handing them out as submissions to every publisher and editor who would give me the time of day…and not a one hired me or gave me a gig.
Meanwhile, while running the con circuit I met up with Joe Brusha and Ralph Tedesco from Zenescope Entertainment. They were a new company and we were both fans of each others work. One day they posted an announcement about them publishing a Final Destination series and I wrote them immediately and told them I was born to write the series. Unfortunately, they already had a writer attached but offered me the first issue of the SEVEN series.
I had finally gotten my first paying gig.
From there I literary busted my ass for free for almost half a year proving to Zenescope what I was capable of. Bringing in artists I’d met over the years, writing the Return to Wonderland series, and after many moons they brought me on as the Executive Editor and I’ve been with them ever since.
There’s been rough patches here and there since then but there always are. Learning to deal with and overcome obstacles placed in your path is the best advice I can give anyone trying to break into this business. The only 100% truth I know is that the one difference between those who make it and those who don’t are that those who do never gave up.
Wonderland #7 Cover
2) Zenescope has brokered a deal for a ‘Grimm’ animated series, what can you tell us about the coming series, the distribution and which characters will appear first? Will each season focus on a specific fairy tale or will it be intertwined like the books?
RG: I just saw the pilot in NYCC and it was amazing. People new to the Grimm universe and fans alike are in for something truly special. As for the specific details concerning the series itself, distribution, characters, the season, and whatnot I couldn’t really say. Writing and editorial take up so much time as it is that I rarely involve myself in the other departments. But I’m extremely excited to see what’s next.
3) A few of our mutual friends have informed me that you are a divorced father of four (I commend you for that), how do you balance fatherhood and work, especially in having to deal with weekly deadlines, not only as a writer but as an editor as well?
RG: It’s tough but working from home is a big help. My kids are all in school or daycare so my day is mostly focused on editorial and once they go to sleep I try to get as much writing done as possible. The biggest problem I had and still have to this day is making sure I carve out time for them all every week.
Being a writer never stops. It consumes you completely and you never really stop working. So learning to stop and say no more working, this time belongs to them, is something I make sure happens as often as I can.
4) There are have been a lot of talk as of late what constitutes a geek or a nerd. Your style of writing is not the traditional “super hero” stories, but have a much more PG-13 approach to story telling, especially using a majority female cast…what would you considered to be a geek or nerd in comparison to the traditional view of the sub-culture?
RG: It’s not something I really pay attention to be honest. The definition of things like geek and nerd have all fallen away over the years with the exception that the one thing all these people share is that they are passionate about something more so than anything else. I love comics, movies, toys, video games, etc, and at the same time I love going dancing at clubs, being surrounded by beautiful women, hanging out with friends, visitng exotic locales and living life to the fullest. Some of the geekiest people I know in this business are almost perceived as rock stars by their fans and the industry so at some point the comparison just fails.
Wonderland #5 Pps 2 and 3
5) Most of your characters are strong, sexy women. What are the challenges of writing predominately female characters versus writing dominant male characters?
RG: If you know your characters, and I mean really know them whether they are men or women, then the only challenge you face is the waiting. I can’t tell you how many times I’ll be sitting in front of the computer with a characters name on the screen waiting for them to speak in my head. It sounds crazy and it kinda is but writers know what I’m talking about. Sometimes I’ll write a line and it just feels wrong. I’ll look at that line and look and look and finally I’ll delete it and when I least expect it I’ll hear the characters voice saying the perfect line and BAM there it is.
I just finished writing the 7th issue of the Wonderland ongoing series and I was about ready to scream because the characters wouldn’t stop talking. I’m looking at the screen and it’s full of dialogue and I keep thinking damn that’s a lot of text going on a page and then I read it again and see the characterization coming through and it doesn’t seem so bad. But I’m pretty sure my editor is gonna murder me when he sees it:)