Founded in 2005 by Joe Brusha and Ralph Tedesco, Philadelphia indie comics publisher Zenescope, has managed to grow its sales using a mix of classic-but-twisted fairy tales, horror, a bit of girlie cheesecake and a growing list of film and TV properties as well. Now the house is moving into larger offices and Zenescope has announced deals with the Discovery Channel and the Animal Planet cable TV networks to create a series of graphic novels based on their programing.
Launched as part of Zenescope’s kids and YA imprint, Silver Dragon, the company is publishing 2 graphic novels for the Discovery Channel (one will focus on Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Predators) to be released later this year and another for the Animal Planet on Sharks that will come out in 2011. Jennifer Bermel, Zenescope’s director of licensing & specialty sales, said that company pitched the series to the two networks and that the Silver Dragon line will focus on both original and licensed properties aimed at ‘tweens and young adults. While these are their latest licensing projects, Zenescope is also publishing a graphic novel trade paperback collection based on Charmed, the former WB TV series, in the fall of 2010. The house has also published comics based on the film thrillers Se7en and Final Destination (New Line Cinema) and has a number of titles in film development. "With Charmed, and the Discovery Channel books under our Silver Dragon Books imprint, we expect to bring even more new readers to the medium," Brusha said.
"We've just celebrated our five year anniversary and while it's been a fun and relatively successful," Brusha explained, "we've definitely faced some adversity and had our struggles. Comic book publishing is a tough business and there are a lot of potential pitfalls that can sink a publisher. I think, I hope, we've finally gotten to the point where we have an established and dedicated fan base that we can build on."
“When we started we didn’t have licensing deals and we were looking for something that would appeal to a wide audience,” he said referring to the public domain fairy tales. The formula seems to have worked. Zenescope recently published the 50th issue of the Grimm Fairy Tales periodical series.And the series has been collected into 7 trade paperback editions so far (with first printings of 10,000 copies) with two more on the way. "Our goal from the beginning has been to help bring comics and graphic novels to mainstream readers," Brusha said. "Our Grimm Fairy Tales and Wonderland series are currently selling well in the book channels, which I think is a different customer than the one that is buying their books at a comic shop."
The company is “coming off a strong 8 month period," Brusha said, as well as a strong showing at last month’s BookExpo America that he said will result in increased orders from Barnes & Noble and Borders Books and Music. The house has just moved from an 1800 square foot office to a 5,000 square foot space (Zenescope does some direct shipping of books and merchandise from its offices) and Brusha said the company is looking to add at least 2 employees (an editor and a marketing person) to its staff of 7.
Brusha said in the future Zenescope planned to increase its profile in the library market and is in talks to partner with companies to produce video and board games. "Looking to the future," Brusha said, "we have plans to expand our line with projects that will appeal to both seasoned comic book fans and readers who are just starting to discover comic books and graphic novels."