Every day on cable TV, new series and specials appear featuring shaky, night vision-driven camera work, teams of professional ghost chasers and supposed real looks into the unknown world of beyond the grave. Hoping to capitalize on the craze are the publishers of Zenescope Entertainment, out to teach the average fan how to track the supernatural with November's new series "Monster Hunters Survival Guide."
"There's all these monster shows out there, and it's been in the consciousness of people," Zenescope President Joe Brusha told CBR News of the illustrated prose series. "There are thousands of Bigfoot sightings every year, and you've got 'Monster Quest' and 'Destination Truth.' So the genesis for this book was about trying to show folks how to go out and find a monster and hunt it. These shows show you how people do it, but they don't really get behind it and explain what you'd want to do. That's where the idea came from: to form a guide that tells you what you need to do to find Bigfoot or go kill a vampire."
Penned by purported monster hunting expert JP Russ, the series kicks off with a 48-page issue focusing on the undead with covers by Greg Horn and Talent Caldwell. "Joe's been very open to me taking this as far as I can – looking at ever monster in creation, consolidating everything about them that we can in terms of the mythology and the real facts behind it all," Russ explained, noting that the guide series won't necessarily serve as a call to violence for curious. "'Monsters' is a relative term because a vampire is not the same kind of monster as, say, the Loch Ness Monster. And not all monsters are necessarily evil in my view of monster hunting. Hunting may be attacking monsters, but it may also mean collecting monsters."
The nature of the series will keep the scope of the unseen creatures in question wide while focusing in on specific kinds of new species, creatures and specimens in each issue. "It's going to be a little different than the comics that are out there now," Brusha said. "What we've done is section this into the different categories of monsters. The first issue focuses on the undead – vampires, ghosts, zombies, mummies. They're all things that come back from the dead. Another category is going to be cryptids – Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster and so on. Then we've got fantasy creatures like demons, mermaids and unicorns that haven't been seen as much but people have claimed to see them."
Russ added that his intent in preparing the prose (to be illustrated throughout the "Survival Guide" by Zenescope's stable of artists) is not only to give tips and tricks for tracking down monsters but also cull from his knowledge on the ins and outs of those creatures to create a stronger picture of how they exist. "Each issue is going to have its own focal point where we'll break down for you the different monsters that fit into that category. There's almost like an Encyclopedic element to this on top of the survival guide."
Fan buy-in on the concepts at play in "Monster Hunters' Survival Guide" for either fun or actual adventuring may vary from reader to reader, but Brusha sees the project overall as the next step in Zenescope's slow build into a company with a multitude of properties outside its long-running "Grimm Fairy Tales" series (whose 50th issue hit earlier this month). The company president sees this new projects as appealing to comic book fans and a broader audience.
"When we look at a property in terms of our original IP, we look at how well it's going to do in trade and in the book market as a book," Brusha said. "That's the basis for every project we come out with: Is this able to be collected as a trade and stay in print for a long time and be evergreen? With this project, you look back to 30 years ago where you had 'In Search Of' and 20 years ago with 'Unsolved Mysteries.' Every generation seems to have these monster hunting ideas and mysteries, so we think this can stay evergreen and be in the fan consciousness."
Russ agreed that while not a traditional comic book, the elements in play in "Monster Hunters' Survival Guide" will draw out readers familiar with the company's past work as well as new fans following the real life TV trend. "I think this project as it's evolving is a natural progression of what Zenescope does with the regular comic books and takes it in a new direction. It stays true to the core of what the company does but branches it out."