I have been a fan of Zenescope’s from the beginning. Even though the content in their books is often wildly uneven– I’ve always had a soft spot (maybe the opposite is true) for their Bad Girl approach to these children’s fables… The
main focus of their Grimm Fairy Tales series. Besides Zenescope, only one other publisher– Broadsword Comics– where owner and supreme art talent Jim Balent created and has consistently published Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose for years– seems interested in keeping this once hot comics genre alive.
So when upstart Zenescope appeared from nowhere and attacked the Bad Girl genre with a lust I hadn’t seen since the 90’s– it was both a surprise and a pleasure.
I have no problem admitting that I have enjoyed their hardcovers and trade paperbacks despite many problems with story structure, continuity and production… But then again, I also freely admit to looking at and enjoying the pictures in Playboy first– and only reading the articles if I find the interest (or the time) later.
Plus, overdosing all week on comic books stories featuring steroid pumped heroes can become very tiring… So I welcome the chance to kick back for an hour or two a couple of times a year and look at a buxom woman attempt to teach some equally attractive ne’er-do-wells a few grim “lessons” via some old childhood tales. I also appreciate that Zenescope decided to go back to the darker roots that birthed these fables– as many were written hundreds of years ago to frighten small children into unquestioning obedience. Nobody’s going to mistake Little Red Riding Hood or Hansel & Gretel for romance classics or secret odes to rebellion… Right?
Oddly, it wasn’t Zenescope’s Grimm Fairy Tales series that first caught my attention. It was their Alice in Wonderland story continuation called Return to Wonderland. Created long before the latest crapfest Alice in Wonderland film was in development, I was all for this series too… As the Wonderland books seemed much more continuity conscious than a lot of the other Zenescope efforts. With Wonderland, I got my cute ladies and a seemingly well thought out story in one package. It was interesting and it was something different that I wasn’t used to seeing within the confines of Bad Girl comics.
And I was as happy as can be… Until the company started bringing out Volume after Volume of the exact same material– reprinting the same books OVER and OVER in completely different editions and trade dress (book designs). The different editions also came out far enough apart, that I actually bought the SAME BOOK– 3 times!
This is a sad admission from someone who takes pride in the care he normally uses when determining which books to buy every Wednesday. I purchase a lot of stuff each week– so it is vitally important to my mental well-being that I NOT order duplicates of books I already have in my collection.
I do not have unlimited funds for my addictions. I also do not return books that I have mistakenly bought extra copies of. I only return books that arrive damaged. I simply feel my comic book retailer is not responsible for my moments of ineptitude… So why should I put them through the hassle of processing a return?
They didn’t do anything wrong. And while I know they would take back every one of the redundant tomes I order… I find it much easier to just give them away or sell them on eBay. Since I am not a comic book retailer by trade or by choice… You can understand how little I enjoy the thought of putting books up for sale on eBay… Preferring to leave that activity to the worthy professionals who do it every day.
As we amble our way toward the graphic examples below(why waste wonderful art?)… Please understand that I “get” the idea of variant covers. I understand that they often cause completists to buy duplicates (even if we’re discussing expensive hardcovers) or one cover may appeal to someone when another cover does not– triggering a sale that might otherwise not have happened.
What I don’t get– and what I’ll never understand… Is how dissimilar all these Wonderland covers are… Yet how they almost all look the same. Weird, huh?
And before you say, “All Spider-Man covers look the same”… You’re right. Under the aegis of Joey Q the “pin-up” covers on every Marvel comic sort of all seem to run together… Just like these Wonderland hardcover and trade paperback covers do.
The BIG difference? I can discern one Spider-Man logo from another.
It is the familiarity in tone and theme on almost every book cover that makes the whole process so damn confusing. You used to be able look at a comic cover for a book you had already read and know instantly what story was inside. Not now. How many damn covers of Alice bent over do I need to see (and buy) before I throw in the towel?
In my case, the answer was 3. Buying 3 of the same book– just with different covers– made me finally hang up on the Wonderland series of hardcover and trade paperback collections. The titles are so similar, the logos so much alike… I really don’t blame myself for buying them over and over. Yes, I know if I had paid more attention it absolutely never would have happened. But there is only so much effort you can put into your hobby every week before it ceases to become a hobby and transforms into an unhealthy obsession.
I guess I wanted (and needed) a more distinctive design for each series.. A more distinct logo for each book definitely. Maybe numbering the books like they did for their Grimm Fairy Tales editions. (Zenescope, you should also know putting the words Grimm Fairy Tales above the various non-distinct Wonderland logos is also confusing.) It absolutely wouldn’t hurt for you to stop changing the covers every time you print a new edition of each book as well.
In the end, I don’t know if you meant to confuse me or not Zenescope. Maybe you did– hoping I would do exactly what I did do and buy extra unwanted copies. But as I have written on this Blog before– if you make it too hard or too confusing for me to buy your books properly… Guess what? I’ll just stop buying books from your company.
Luckily, Zenescope was smart enough to number the Grimm Fairy Tales volumes so I can still buy those… And their other titles like 1001 Arabian Nights: Adventures of Sinbad and The Piper are distinct enough so I knew what I was getting into when I clicked the “buy” button.
In the end, I cannot believe this article has led me to this conclusion: I am actually advocating that Zenescope rebrand the entire Wonderland book series again. One last time so they can get it right.
Maybe then, after I’ve had another year or so to cool off– I might (emphasis on “might”) just buy them all one last time and attempt to read them in order again. In the meantime, you can easily stop this confusing crap from happening to other fans by redesigning the entire line while I cool off.
Just a thought. And before you say, “Why not just read the comics! That ought to be easy right?” If you’ve never looked, 90’s Marvel doesn’t have any advantage on variant happy Zenescope. These folks pump out several different covers for seemingly every single comic they publish.
With the frustrating idea of numerous Zenescope editions firmly in mind, here are ALL the cover for all the different editions that the company currently shows for the Wonderland Book Series on their website. Please note that I truly believe there have been more. These are just the ones I can find. Obviously the multiple cover edition ploy has been working– because they continue to do it every chance they get:
Return to Wonderland Hardcover Cover A
Return to Wonderland Hardcover Cover B
Return to Wonderland Trade Paperback A
Return to Wonderland Trade Paperback Cover B
ADDING TO THE PILE…
Tales from Wonderland Volume 1 Trade Paperback
Tales from Wonderland Volume 2 Trade Paperback
Beyond Wonderland Hardcover
Escape from Wonderland Hardcover
AND COMING SOON…
Tales from Wonderland Volume 3 Trade Paperback