Interview: Ron Marz on Image/Top Cow’s Artifacts

Artifacts #1 cover A

Artifacts #1 cover A

In his career in comics, Ron Marz has written such books as Marvel’s Silver Surfer, DC’s Green Lantern and Ion, Dark Horse’s Star Wars: Darth Maul, and CrossGen’s Mystic and Scion. Recently, he has written a number of Top Cow titles, which are published by Image, including Witchblade, First Born, Angelus, and Magdalena. This month he begins Artifacts, a series that will change the Top Cow Universe. Westfield’s Roger Ash recently spoke with Ron about this series.

Westfield: What can you tell people about the Artifacts series?

Ron Marz: This is the one we’ve been pointing to for three or four years, maybe even five years, in terms of setting up a lot of the mechanics and back story that will be paid off in Artifacts. That said, Artifacts is absolutely a ground-floor read. If this is gonna be somebody’s first-ever Top Cow book, it’s gonna be completely understandable and completely accessible. I truthfully think some of the larger events that have gone on in comics the last few years haven’t been terribly accessible to people who aren’t already faithfully reading the publisher’s whole line. I was very determined to make sure that when this thing comes out, it works for somebody who has been following my Witchblade run for the last five years, and it also works for somebody who has never picked up a Top Cow book before.

Westfield: What can you tell us about the story in the series?

Marz: It’s the payoff of what we’ve been doing the past few years in terms of establishing the 13 supernatural artifacts that affect the destiny of the characters and really the entire Top Cow Universe. We’re going to be revealing what all 13 of those artifacts are, because not all of them have been revealed yet. We’ve mostly seen the more well-known ones like the Witchblade, Darkness, the Angelus, the Spear of Destiny that Magdalena has. Artifacts brings together all 13 artifacts, which are collectively going to decide the destiny of the Top Cow Universe. The short version is, when you bring all 13 artifacts together, something really bad happens. You’ll just have to read it to find out what the something really bad is.

Westfield: Will this involve all of the characters from the Top Cow Universe?

Artifacts #1 cover B

Artifacts #1 cover B

Marz: Yeah. It’s a crossover in that we have a pretty large cast and a pretty wide range of characters. Most of them have been seen before, but a few of whom are going to be new and introduced in the series. The story is more concentrated on the supernatural side of the Top Cow Universe, which includes Witchblade and Darkness and Magdalena, than the tech side which is more like Cyberforce and Hunter-Killer. That said, there are places for Cyberforce and Hunter-Killer in the story, so we’ll definitely get them in there as well.

Westfield: Will this tie into the ongoing series – Witchblade and Darkness and such – as well?

Marz: There will be reflections of this story in the monthlies, but for the main part we’re going to keep Artifacts pretty self-contained. There will be reflections in the monthlies where it makes sense or where it’s completely necessary. If a character undergoes a major change in Artifacts, it will be reflected in the monthlies, obviously. But if somebody wants to come in and just read Artifacts, it’s a complete story in and of itself. And if somebody, for some unknown, crazy reason wants to just read Witchblade and not Artifacts, they’ll get a pretty complete story in Witchblade as well. I firmly believe that if you do a crossover, you shouldn’t hold a gun to the audience’s head and make them read an infinite number of tie-in issues and spin-offs and one-shots. To me that’s not playing fair with the readers, hooking them in with a big, important storyline and then using them as a cash cow.

Westfield: Since there are so many characters in the story, are there ones that you haven’t written before that you’re finding yourself enjoying writing?

Artifacts #1 cover C

Artifacts #1 cover C

Marz: I’ve written most of them before in one form or another. I’m obviously most familiar with writing Sara ,who has the Witchblade, because that’s been one of my gigs for the last five or six years now. I’ve also written Jackie (the Darkness) a number of times, so I’m pretty comfortable with him as well. The thing that I find more interesting is bringing some different characters into the mix and seeing how they all play off of each other. How Magdalena reacts to Jackie Estacado. How Sara might react to being around Tom Judge, who is a defrocked priest who’s been in Hell for the last six or seven years in terms of Top Cow continuity. To me, that’s always one of the allures of a crossover. You get to put characters next to each other who don’t normally take those positions. I should add this: all that said, the real crux of the story comes down to the relationship between Sara and Jackie who are, to my mind, the real lead characters in the Top Cow Universe and who obviously have a shared history in that they have a daughter together. That family dynamic is what’s at the heart of Artifacts. Yes, it’s the epic storyline that we’ve been looking to pay off for a number of years, but it’s also very much a character-driven story with those characters at the heart of it.

Westfield: You’re working with artist Michael Broussard on the book. What can you say about working with him.

Marz: It’s really interesting for me to be working with Michael again because I wrote Michael’s first solo job, which was Unholy Union, a Marvel/Top Cow crossover four years ago or something like that. At that point, I was like “Where the hell did this guy come from?” It’s pretty rare that an artist shows up for his first solo gig pretty much fully formed, really having exceptional talent. There’s usually a growth curve, but Michael blew onto the scene full grown. And he’s just gotten better since then. It’s an interesting thing for me to compare the Michael of three or four years ago to the Michael of now. Both of them are pretty damn good, but the one I’m working with now is really just a joy. He’s making the pictures in my head look even better on the page.

Westfield: Are there any other projects you’re working on that you’d like to mention?

Velocity #3

Velocity #3

Marz: How long have you got? [laughter] At the moment, I’m continuing with Witchblade and Magdalena, the number one issue of which came out just a few weeks ago. I’m towards the end of the Angelus miniseries which, to a certain extent, feeds into Artifacts. I’m also doing a Velocity miniseries with Kenneth Rocafort which pays off on the promise of the first Pilot Season that Top Cow did. That’s just more fun than I should be allowed to have and get paid for it. Kenneth is an amazing talent. He loves the character. I love the character. So far the thing is just coming out wonderfully. And there are various and sundry other things down the road, but I guess we don’t need to take up space with them.

Westfield: Any closing comments?

Marz: I realize that there’s certainly a segment of the audience that absolutely has event fatigue from following the big Marvel and DC events for the last few years. I certainly understand throwing up your arms and saying, “OK, I’ve had enough!” But I really hope that readers give Artifacts a chance. It’s going to be self-contained, and it will have pretty severe ramifications, whereas a lot of times event stories end up back where they started. This one will allow us to evolve the Top Cow Universe, pretty drastically for some of the characters. That’s one of the real allures for me of working there is that we can make permanent changes to the characters. It’s not just the illusion of change, they allow me to bring real evolution to the books.


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