There’s No Place Like OZ: Anthony Spay Interview
Zenescope Entertainment recently announced their plans for their newest Grimm Fairy Tales comic book spinoff entitled OZ. Fans of Zenescope’s comics have been anxiously awaiting the company’s re-imagining of this iconic story since they started planting the seeds over the past two years.
|OZ #1 Cover B|
This July those seeds will come to fruition when Zenescope Entertainment’s OZ lands on the shelves of local comic book shops everywhere. Comic Frontline was lucky enough to have the chance to chat with Zenescope Entertainment’s Art Director/ Staff Artist Anthony Spay, who handled the designs of this epic
land of OZ.
Comic Frontline: First I would like to thank you for taking the time out of your day for this interview. Can you tell our readers a little about yourself?
Anthony Spay: My name is Anthony Spay. I am currently the Art Director/ Staff Artist for Zenescope Entertainment. As Art Director, I am in charge of finding new talent to work on our books, designing new characters for our stories, and proofing and editing the pages that come in. For the Staff Artist part of my job description, I do any page corrections that are needed, and pencil about 40 covers a year.
I’ve been reading comic books as far back as I remember, so working in the industry is something that has always been a dream of mine. I also like watching sports, puppies, and long walks on the beach.
CF: When did you start drawing?
AS: I've been drawing from as far back as I can remember. Art and specifically drawing comics was always a hobby for me. As far as seriously pursuing it as a career, I was a bit of a late bloomer; I didn't really start focusing all of my energy on it until after I graduated from college and had been working in the 'real world' for a couple of years.
|OZ #1 Cover A|
CF: What was your first big break?
AS: Although I had done some professional work for magazines and some smaller publishers, I consider Zenescope hiring me as a freelance penciler my first “big break”. They gave me a shot to work on some interiors about four years ago, which led into me eventually becoming the Art Director/ Staff Artist for them two years ago.
|Queen Of Hearts|
CF: What is your favorite character that you designed?
AS: My favorite (non-OZ related) Zenescope character that I designed is the (second) Queen of Hearts from Wonderland. We have an action figure coming out based on the character, and I think it will be really cool to own an action figure of a character that I designed.
|Emerald City King|
CF: What did you think when you were asked to design OZ?
AS: I was excited and ready to go. They are great, great characters to play with. And honestly, people within the company are just as excited about the series as everyone else, so it's pretty easy to be inspired and motivated for this project.
|Emerald City King|
CF: The Wizard of Oz is so visually iconic were you nervous at all?
AS: A little bit- but I really enjoy the character design part of the job, and think that I have developed a pretty good Idea of what our writers are looking for when they come up with these characters. Particularly on Joe Brusha’s projects, I feel like I usually have a good sense of what he is going for with a character, as we have a fairly similar taste in comics. And I have been coming up with crazy characters my whole life, so it is more of an exciting challenge, rather than something to be nervous about.
The one thing that did make me nervous was the sheer scope of it. I have designed a lot of things for Zenescope, but usually there were some previous books to use as inspiration, or some basis in our established universe of characters to work off of. We had a few early designs for some characters from way back before I started with the company, but that was about it. This will be the first time I have gotten to start from scratch, and come up with the look of everything.
CF: Did you feel any pressure because that world is so beloved by people all over the world?
AS: Absolutely; The Wizard of Oz is one of the most iconic stories of our time. Oz fans are pretty tough whenever a new version is released. It is a delicate balance between staying loyal to what people know and want to see, and re-imagining the whole thing. As a fan and a comic book reader myself, I just tried to go with what I would want to see. I'm a bit of a traditionalist- I don’t want to make things unrecognizably different. I used how we treated the Wonderland series as a guideline- There is an interesting, fresh take on it and reinterpretations of what already existed, but you still feel like it’s the place you know. That's what I'm going for with the characters in OZ- You’ll see the four main characters together and know “That’s OZ”, but at the same time, know it is Zenescope’s take on them.
CF: Which character is visually the most similar and the most different from what we know?
AS: I'd say the Scarecrow is the most similar. But really, I don't know how many different ways you can really go with that, without becoming too similar to other, non-Oz Scarecrow characters in comic books. There's straw and there's some rags and clothing to keep the straw in... Don't get me wrong, he's definitely a little darker and different from the classic version, but I didn't want to change things just for the sake of changing them.
The munchkins might just be the most different. And no, they are not tall, they are still very short. But they have a whole different feel to them; they aren't the friendly, singing munchkins you might be used to…
CF: What character or other part of OZ did you have the most fun designing?
AS: My favorite character that I designed for OZ is the Tin Man - who is also the first character that I designed for OZ. As soon as Joe mentioned the idea behind him, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I love the look; he is just someone that you don't want to mess with.
CF: What is next for you?
AS: Right now I am working on a ton of covers, which is great; I love doing covers, and I think we have some really cool ones coming up. I'm drawing some for the OZ series, and I have a couple of sets of connecting covers coming out for our Unleashed event and our upcoming Realm Knights miniseries. I also recently wrote my first issue, Grimm Universe #4, so there will hopefully be more to come as far as writing is concerned. My next big goal is to both write and draw a project; it's just a matter of finding the time to do it!
I’ll like to thank Anthony Spay once again for taking time out of his busy schedule for this interview. Don’t forget to check out OZ this July from Zenescope Entertainment.
Are you excited about OZ? What are you most looking forward to seeing? Let us know what you think about in the comments and follow us on Twitter