Mysterious SEE THROUGH fabric that causes comic book nipples to vanish!

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

The sweet, sweet art of Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose-- created by Jim Balent, master draftsman of the female body

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?

There's more fun to be had in the Zenescope Universe than multiple editions of the same comics!

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.

A Zenescope collection that doesn't suffer from "variant-itis"

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.

Another distinctive title

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

One of many

Return to Wonderland Hardcover Cover B

Let's do it again

Return to Wonderland Trade Paperback  A

... And again...

Return to Wonderland Trade Paperback Cover B

... And again.


Tales from Wonderland Volume 1 Trade Paperback

Alice in another harrowing pickle

Tales from Wonderland Volume 2 Trade Paperback

Alice bending over

Beyond Wonderland Hardcover

Oops! She's bending over again! (The better for you to see her cleavage, My Dear!)

Escape from Wonderland Hardcover

This is not the end!


Tales from Wonderland Volume 3 Trade Paperback

Soon to confuse me at a comic shop near you

  1. Locusmortis says:

    I tried some of those Grimm Fairy Tales comics but inside the nice covers is general dull writing and art that goes from the average to appalling. This seems to be their modus operandi, get a smokin cheesecake cover from the likes of J.Scott Campbell or E-Bas and then fill the inside with a staff writer and an artist they picked up from the side of the freeway somewhere. I’d buy a book of their cover art but not one of their normal books tbh.

    I like Jim Balents art a lot and the early Tarot stuff was funny and breezy but its went a bit porny. This Haunted Vagina issue sounds like a so bad its good issue though http://www.the-isb.com/?p=980

    • Insideman says:

      I agree LM– that the Zenescope writing and art is inconsistent. But it is not all bad. Yet it can easily be bad. It’s weird: sometimes it is the writing. sometimes the art– sometimes both… Occasionally neither.

      One of their worst graphic novels is The Piper. Starts off good– then basically reads like a movie treatment the rest of the way through.

      I also understand your “side of the freeway” comment about the artists… My only problem with your statement is that a lot of big publishersMarvel included– seem to be using these same types of artists. Due to all the numerous books being published– they seem to be willing to give try-outs to people who can barely draw. I am fine with that. I have seen “baby sparks” in artists that eventually blossom into “super star” status.

      But I don’t expect to PAY FULL FARE for these tryouts… Whatever happened to companies putting these artists in try-out one-shots or “B” and “C” series?

      Yet Marvel has no compunction to slap them on something like X-Men Legacy because they know it is basically an “artist proof”, “writer proof” comic that people will buy regardless of who is doing it. So fans are stuck paying $3.99 for art that is NOT as good as some of the art in some of the Zenescope comics.

      This is both a disservice to the emerging artists and the fans.

      • Locusmortiis says:

        I’ve seen some of the art for the Wonderland series and it looks better than the regular GFT issues thats for sure. I also bought #1 of Science Fiction Fantasy or something like that recently and the story was a mix of a rejected Twilight Zone episode mixed with a bit of slasher fiction and the art was just extremely sloppy. I don’t mind when artists take some liberties with anatomy, even the greats did that, but this stuff was egregious…dislocated hips and shoulders, stupidly elongated legs and very poorly drawn faces, if nothing else the artist should at least be able to consistenly draw the same face well….particularly when theres only 3 characters in a 40 page book.

        Another company who disappoints these days is Dynamite. I used to get a lot of their stuff, for example Mel Rubi was outstanding on the first 20 or so issues of Red Sonja then they got in Walter Geovanni was not as good then a bunch of others that were meh not to mention Brian Wood on writing chores around #35 who utterly fucking killed my interest in that book with his horrible “reimagining”.

        Battlestar Galactica was another series I had huge interest in but they got a guy in called Nigel Raynor who couldn’t even draw a straight line properly. The very least you expect from a BSG comic is that the Galactica, Vipers and Raiders would look like they do on the show and not like some indistinct brownish boxy lumps floating in the backround like giant metal turds. Then we come to Project Superpowers with gorgeous Alex Ross covers and wishy-washy interior art. Like you said, it seems so many pencillers are just not ready but are being pushed nonetheless.

        I don’t think theres vastly more books being produced, I think one of the things is that most artists now can barely handle 1 book a month whereas up to the early 90’s many artists could handle 1 1/2 to 2 books a month also some artists would do breakdowns on lots of books that excellent inkers would finish. Nowadays I’d struggle to name any great inkers amongst the new generation, certainly none of the calibre of Tom Palmer, Terry Austin, Dick Giordano, Klaus Janson….even Scott Williams. Just as a random example I picked last years Dark Reign Elektra mini series with art by Clay Mann and Mark Pennington and for a start the anatomy is horrible, the backgrounds are vague and imprecise (almost Colleta-esque) and some of the panels seem more like roughs than finished art and thats just from a random book!

        Now it seems like many artists are so slow that the companies need more artists to cover the load and thus more poor artists get regular work. I mean, how does Neil Edwards get high profile books?, I don’t want to pick on artists but the guy just is not good enough. Also Joe Bennett on Teen Titans, Howard Porter on Doc Savage, Ron Frenz…I’m sorry I should like his art but I don’t and the list could go on.

        And theres so many foreign artists now, some great, some good and some indifferent but something I do notice especially among the young Spanish and Italian artists is that so many of them are obviously influenced heavily by the Marvel and DC style which I think kills their own styles as artists. In the 70’s and 80’s you had the likes of Maroto, Garcia-Lopez, Gonzalez, Ezquerra, Redondo and the like coming in and influencing american artists and broadening the scope of american comic art. Now instead of new artists coming in to spread new ideas into the American scene….its Marvel and DC taking Marvel and DC influenced artists to work on Marvel and DC comics and its become a big self-referential circle-jerk that fosters mediocre art.

        Things need to change.

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