Pat Shand is a comics writer whose prolificacy and eclecticism has taken the comics world by storm. Currently, a staff writer for Zenescope Entertainment, his runs on titles such as Robyn Hood, Charmed and Angel are popular with both critics and readers. In the following interview, Shand discusses his love of comics, his background, writing methods, and his latest indie Kickstarter project Destiny NY.
1/ Why the medium of comics?
PAT SHAND: Manuel Preitano and I co-created Destiny, NY together. The very first piece of artwork that I saw from the comic, after sending Manuel nothing more than a basic concept, was a huge, detailed close-up of Logan’s face. While the idea of Logan existed in my mind, and much of my life has been used to build her character, Logan could’ve never existed as she does in a different medium.
I personally love comics, and I’ve talked about this a good amount so I’ll be brief, is that you get the best aspects of prose and film. That is, you have the visual aspect of film but, like prose, the reader controls the pace. There is no other medium like it, and there is so much uncharted territory. I asked the same thing of my social media networks a while back, albeit more general. I posed the question: Why comics? El Anderson (@FemmesinFridges on Twitter) said “Because it is one of the last art-forms which hasn’t explored 1/10th its full potential yet.” How true, and how terrific.
I guess I didn’t really follow through on my promise to be brief.
2/ I really liked how you captured and and stayed consistent with the essence of the 21st century hipsters college student, artist/musician in a millennial magical NYC. What research was involved? Was it difficult to for you to maintain that underlined theme?
Pat Shand I definitely wouldn’t categorize the characters as “hipsters.” I think that’s a word that people call others, you know? I rarely hear anyone claiming “hipster,” so I don’t really want to embrace that term there. I appreciate your thoughts on the aesthetic, though. I was very much thinking St. Marks in New York City when I placed Destiny University geographically.
I live in New York. Not the city, but I visit often. What is sort of strange is that when I initially conceived of Destiny, NY, I was living in San Diego… but I was born in New York and now I’m back, so the idea of going to the city and breathing in the atmosphere and the culture to get a refresher if I get stuck is a lot easier. I think, when I began writing the script back in San Diego, I missed New York. And I remembered the constant existential anxiety of living there, which is much of what the book is about.
3/ What sparked the story of Destiny NY.
Pat Shand A dramatic change in my life, and the self-exploration that followed. I looked at my life and saw a pattern of choices that spoke to me as something that needed to be addressed. That’s all in Destiny, NY from the very first page of the very first chapter.
4/ Why emphasis on LGBTQ?
Pat Shand Because this is our world.
5/ What are the responses to Destiny NY? Please include positive and negative.
Pat Shand I have a lot here I want to talk about. I have given a lot of thought to this next bit, and this kind of piggybacks off of the last answer. A few people reached out to me asking why I, someone who visibly presents as male (beard, I guess?), was telling a story about queer women. Someone even messaged me asking me to convince them why they should support Destiny, NY instead of the next comic by a queer woman. My answer to that was that I’d never, ever ask for someone to support my book instead of another book. Given the choice, if you have to choose, support the book you feel deserves the most support. That is my take. I want to amplify voices, not take away from books that will come after mine.
I was also happy to add, though, that Destiny, NY is a comic by queer women. We (myself and my editor, Shannon Lee) have stories in the graphic novel co-written and drawn by Katie Kuffel, Tanya Everett, and more.
And again, while the question is incredibly valid, it makes me wonder… what about transgender writers who have not come out? Or who are questioning? If a writer who otherwise presents as male is struggling with their identity, the idea of that writer having to prove themselves worthy of the story they want to tell… it’s a lot to grapple with. I simultaneously respect and recognize the necessity for the question, but I wonder about potential fallout given a situation like that last example.
Let me be clear, though. I don’t see any of those questions as a negative at all. It was just a genuine reaction that made me think, that I am still thinking about.
The only real negative critique I got was from someone on Twitter who was very, very against the circle motif we use in the book. During big or touching (sometimes literally) moments, Manuel will have a circle in the art, guiding the eye and adding to the overall layout of the panel. You can see it multiple times in the first chapter. This person on Twitter just hated it, for some reason. You never know the type of critique you’ll get hit with!
The vast majority of the feedback was just full support. Sharing, commenting, spreading the word. Just love.
6/ Please tell us the specifics of this Kickstarter.
Pat Shand It wrapped up a while ago and made a good deal over its goal of $20,000. We are currently working on the full graphic novel for Destiny, NY: Volume One and will finish it in March 2017. It will be then printed and shipped by May 2017, at which point I’ll take it on tour across the country.
7/ Anything else you’d like to add about Destiny NY?
Pat Shand It means the world to me. The entire first chapter is up for free at http://destinyNY.tumblr.com. It’s the story I’ve always wanted to tell, and the entire team is so passionate about it that we want to give those first 22 pages out at no cost, just so everyone can get a taste of what we’ve done.
8/ How did you break into comics?
Pat Shand I was writing a lot of theatre. Off-off Broadway stuff in New York City. Also some comic book journalism, just reviews on my blogs. I ended up befriending some editors, artists, and writers over at IDW Publishing after pitching for their Angel title multiple times. Finally, they gave me a shot. I’ve had steady work ever since, and I couldn’t be more thankful for that.
9/ Were you a comics lover as a kid? If so, which comics?
Pat Shand I wasn’t. I loved the few comics that I had, like Creepshow which I was far too young to read, but I was way more into novels. Goosebumps, then Harry Potter, then every fantasy I could get my hands on, then YA lit, then Stephen King… all of it. My intention was to become a novelist, and I have my first novel coming out very soon… so hey, I’m getting there. It’s Iron Man: Mutually Assured Destruction from Joe Books and Marvel.
I definitely want to start doing novels based off of my original characters, though. It’s funny, in comics you have licensed work, company-owned work, and creator-owned work, but calling a novel “creator-owned” is unheard of. Maybe because there is such a divide between the licensed authors and the “original” authors. I definitely want to ride the line between those two. I love working on the Marvel novels, and plan on doing many more.
10/ Do you still read comics?
Pat Shand Yes. I am slower with the new comics than I’ve ever been, though, because of my workload. I read everything that Terry Moore and Kieron Gillen do, and I still keep up with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Lumberjanes. Jade Street Protection Services and Kim & Kim are recent favorites.
11/ What are your other influences?
Pat Shand Tegan and Sara. Cats on Instagram. Issa Rae. Candid pictures of President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. Katie Kuffel. Charlamagne from the Breakfast Club. Six Feet Under, Orange is the New Black, just great TV. TV writing, at this point in time, inspires me more than any other stories I’m taking in. There has been this incredible, nuanced, fluid revolution since basically The Sopranos and Buffy the Vampire Slayer that has seen the quality of television soar.
What else? I’m watching a lot of Vlogs right now. A lot of comedy specials. I’m trying to take in new things, experience stories in different ways. For years, I read exclusively novels, and then I just watched all of the TV, and then just comics. Now, I’m trying to do everything. I want to read political texts next.
12/ Initially, did you have difficulty writing for female characters?
Pat Shand No. Whenever I think of a story, since I was little, the lead character is always a woman. I struggle with male leads. I can do it, of course, because writing is about empathy and I believe that a writer has to understand everyone, but the natural choice for me, when creating the person whose eyes I will see the world through, is always a woman.
13/ What are your writing habits?
Pat Shand I write better in the morning. Currently, I am all over the fucking place. Sometimes, I get up and write early, and I feel good. Often, I’ll end up doing management work with my writing business all day and end up having to write from 2AM – 7AM. I’d very much like to stabilize my writing and sleeping habits, but I struggle constantly with it. I’m working on a graphic novel about sleep with Jen Hickman. It’s called Shut Eye. Maybe that will help me exorcise some of my demons.
14/ What advice would you give aspiring comics writers, artists, etc?
Pat Shand Forget about chasing the perfect story. What is most interesting to you, right now? Write or draw that.
15/ What’s your next big project?
Pat Shand I’m juggling a lot right now. I have Iron Man: Mutually Assured Destruction and Avengers: The Serpent Society, both novels, coming out in late 2016/early 2017. I’m currently heavy into Destiny, NY. On the comics front, I’m writing Van Helsing vs. the Mummy of Amun-Ra, a six-issue miniseries and finishing up on Hellchild: The Unholy. There is other stuff that I can’t talk about. Some novels, original and licensed, and some comics as well.
16/ What future do your foresee for the comics medium?
Pat Shand More indie powerhouse publishers like Aftershock and Black Mask are going to rise. I think there is a big future for romance in comics, too. That is an untapped market. Too many people turn their nose up at romance fiction because they don’t understand it, and they look down on it. Fuck that. Comics will move toward romance.
17/ Congratulations on your engagement. Would you like to talk about that? What influence does your fiancée have on your writing in general. Is she your muse? Is there such a thing as a muse?
Pat Shand Thank you! Amy is the love of my life. She is smart, and strong, and hilarious, and beautiful in every way. She is the best part of my life. I wouldn’t call her my muse. She is an inspiration, but she is an artist herself. She is a sculptor (like Logan) and creates art dolls. Clonsters. She sells them at her Etsy store: https://www.etsy.com/shop/Clonsters
I think that men have a history of calling the women in their life their “muse,” and I understand the poetry behind it, but I don’t call Amy my muse. Amy is a creator. She is so much more than any single word that I or anyone else could assign to her.
18/ Anything you’d like to add regarding comics, work habits or personal life?
Pat Shand Make room for love, at all times.
19/ If you were to interview yourself, what questions would you ask?
Pat Shand I’d think about what the really hard questions were. And then I’d ask half of those, and half complete filler questions. I’d ask a lot of questions about cooking and cats. I’d ask for top fives, but not regarding comics – if you follow my social media, you’ll see I’m a ranker, to a fault. I’d ask, maybe, for me to explain a few things I’ve purposely left unexplained elsewhere.
20/ What projects are you proud of the most?
Pat Shand Destiny, NY and Vampire Emmy. Robyn Hood, too, but I often see parts of that as “What could have been.” Though, really, maybe I wouldn’t change a goddamn thing. It got me here, huh?
21/ In your opinion, what are your strengths and weaknesses?
Pat Shand Weaknesses… plot. I don’t think about it. Or, I rarely think about it. It isn’t interesting to me, but there are certain works that would benefit from a more purposeful structure. I do, though, always prefer, as a consumer of content, character-driven stories. But I do want to switch it up, you know? This new Van Helsing series, which is launching in January, I want that to be more of a mystery than I’ve ever done before.
22/ With the unexpected political paradigm shift, how does it affect the medium and you directly and indirectly?
Pat Shand The hateful rhetoric has already affected my fiancee, a queer woman, who woke up crying when I had to tell her that Donald Trump had won the election. She was stunned by the numbers, and said to me, “I had no idea that so many of my fellow Americans hated me.” Even if Trump follows through on none of his policies, he has given a platform to hateful voices. His election has told people who have gravitated toward his vitriolic rhetoric that they have backing, that they won’t be in danger if they act on their hated toward women, toward the LGBTQ community, toward people of color.
Policy-wise, my health insurance will be affected. This is where the medium comes into play. Most comic book creators don’t have insurance through their publishers. I’d go as far as to say 85% don’t have insurance through their publishers. Many of us depend on Obamacare. I have prescriptions that I pay thousands of dollars for every year, and it would be a complete nightmare if I lost my insurance. And I know it’s worse for many out there. I know Trump has recently said that he will guarantee protection of people with pre-existing conditions, and even if that is true… even if he follows through on exactly zero of the hateful policies on which he ran his campaign, he has already done immense damage to the culture of this country by empowering those who wish to tear down the progressive voices in this country.
23/ What other mediums would you like to explore?
Pat Shand I want to get back into theater and, like I mentioned, writing novels beyond my licensed and Marvel work. I’m currently developing a webseries with Amy called Bi-Coastal. That’ll be for 2017. 2017 will be the year of change.
Interview by Lee A. Gooden