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10 Questions With Ralph Tedesco

ralph tedescoThis September, Zenescope releases Hit List. A new series about an underground crew of professional killers funded by a wealthy entrepreneur. In the first series arc, the collection of assassins attempts to methodically take out members of a dangerous white supremacist gang that deals in human trafficking.

That mention of “human trafficking” caught my eye and I reached out to writer Ralph Tedesco who takes a break from his norm of horror supernatural comics.

Ralph was a good sport to chat and endure our latest round of 10 Questions!

Graphic Policy: How did you get involved in the comic book industry?

Ralph Tedesco: It sort of happened in a random way. I was living in Los Angeles as a struggling actor and screenwriter. But my friend and writing partner, Joe Brusha, was living back in my hometown of Philly. While I was there visiting for a wedding, he brought up the idea of writing a comic book series together and attempting to get it published. Although I was a film and TV buff, I didn’t know much about the comic industry but it sounded intriguing to me. So we just went for it.

GP: Do you read comics growing up? Do you read them now?

RT: I didn’t really read comics too much growing up. I was more into horror and sci-fi novels as a kid. I used to read all my older sister’s books and she was obsessed with Stephen King, so I read a lot of his stuff at probably too young of an age. But when Joe approached me with his idea about writing comics, I did my research and realized comics were more than just superhero stories. Now I read a few titles aside from Zenescope: Walking Dead, Hellblazer, I loved Preacher and Watchmen. You could see that I’m more into darker titles.

HITLIST01AGP: How did the idea for Hit List come up?

RT: Really, it started with just my imagination going during one night of insomnia. It was based on my love for some of the newer TV shows of the last decade or so. The Wire, Sopranos, Dexter, Sons of Anarchy, Breaking Bad – All of these series deal with crime, murder and even politics but in very different ways. And though Hit List is not really like any one of these TV series, I was inspired by elements of each.

GP: The first story arc deals with human trafficking, what drew you to deal with that subject in the first storyline?

RT: It’s one of those crimes that is so despicable yet prevalent in not only other countries but also right here in the U.S. There are several different types of human trafficking and all are disturbing, but in this series, we’re mainly dealing with sex trafficking. And it’s not only kidnapping, it’s forced prostitution of minors. And there are millions of victims worldwide, which is alarming.

GP: You also have white supremacists as the first bad guys. With them and the human trafficking aspect, did you do any research into those worlds?

RT: I researched gangs of all types and ethnicities. Human trafficking doesn’t seem to fit the m.o. of any one gang in particular nor is it limited to just gang dealings. It can be anyone that’s involved in this and that’s what’s scary. The important thing in this story is that it’s believable and that it could happen… As far as choosing a white supremacist gang, that ties into the series as the story unfolds in later issues.

GP: So we’ve only seen teaser art so far which is in the usual Zenescope pin-up HITLIST01Bway. Do you feel there’s any disconnect between that and dealing with exploitation that is human trafficking?

RT: That’s a good question. Some would say that putting attractive girls, wearing what’s deemed as provocative clothing, on the covers of a comic book is exploitative but at the same time, the girls portrayed on the covers of this series are assassins and not the girls being victimized in the story. Second, I don’t buy into the idea that make-believe females wearing “sexy” outfits and are drawn by artists is any more exploitative than real-life models or actors posing in their underwear on the cover of magazines such as Vogue, Cosmopolitan or even People.

GP: What type of storylines can we expect in the future?

RT: This arc covers five issues and will introduce the main players in the ensemble cast. It’s basically the first volume mini-series of hopefully several more. There are 7 or 8 main characters that readers will get to know over the arc. And in between the intense action, each issue will unveil a little more insight into what’s going on. At the same time, it will show multiple sides to most of these characters which will make each of them more interesting to route for… or against.

GP: At San Diego Comic-Con, Zenescope is having a “Hit List” contest that gives attendees a chance to win prizes, can you give us some more details on the game?

RT: Yes, it’s an interactive photo-based game where fans can choose to participate by coming to Zenescope’s booth #2301 and picking up a “Hit List” button. Each participant will pin the button on their shirt during the convention which makes them a “target.” All targets will look for other targets on the convention floor wearing the buttons. The goal is to take a photo of as many targets as possible. The top players who take the most photos will win Zenescope prize packs as will the players who have the most photos taken of them.

GP: What types of hurdles have you met creating comics, and any lessons learned you can share?

RT: Do you have the next 12 hours open? Haha. There have been plenty of hurdles in the past 8 years. Learning how to balance the successes with the failures and realizing the right times to expand our business. We’ve gotten ahead of ourselves in the past only to realize that we moved on some things too quickly and put ourselves in financial crunches and we’ve also waited on other ideas a little too long. We’ve definitely realized how success can breed contempt from others. There have been those along the way who’ve tried to use us and then have attempted to take credit for our success. But on the flip side, we’ve also had some incredible support from friends and family and others we’ve gotten into business with over the years. So in short, it’s been a roller coaster and we’re finally seeing the benefits to being patient and sticking to our plan. It’s been quite the ride.

GP: What advice do you have for someone breaking into the entertainment industry?

RT: Now that answer could really take 12 hours. But, in short, I’d say the cliché answer is still the best answer: Patience and Persistence.

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