TOP COW'S ANGELS FROM MARZ
by Don E. Smith Jr.
For whatever reason, I kept a healthy distance from the Top Cow Universe for a number of years, but at the beginning of 2010, I stumbled upon Top Cow's Angelus #1 and that has forever changed my opinion of them.
Upon my discovery, I said in a review, "While I will admit, I was unfamiliar with the series, I was really glad I picked this issue up….With that said, my favorite art has currently been in DC's Justice League: Cry for Justice mini-series, but after seeing Angelus, I am sorry to say, Angelus kicked Cry for Justice's tail!...Between this, Supergod and Irredeemable I have nothing but hope for the super hero genre in the Indie categories."
Angelus writer Ron Marz, who has been doing for Top Cow what writer Geoff Johns has been doing for DC Comics, was kind enough to discuss his time with Top Cow via telephone.
He spoke with us at CosmicBookNews.com about what Top Cow fans can expect with the upcoming maxi-series Artifacts.
Cosmic Book News: Have you been pleased with the response with Angelus?
RON MARZ: Yeah, I just found out issue #1 sold out, so that was a nice bit of news. This series is something we've been building toward for a while, so it's gratifying to have it doing fairly well.
Cosmic Book News: What have you thought of Stjepan Sejic as the artist on Angelus and Witchblade?
RON MARZ: He's really the perfect choice for this kind of stuff. He's a digital painter, so his speed allows us to do this epic supernatural/fantasy stuff on a monthly basis. I can give him double-page spreads and these big eye-candy visuals, and he'll knock them out of the park. But I can also give him real character-driven acting, and he nails that stuff as well.
Any book is really only the sum of its creative parts, and Stjepan is a great collaborator.
Cosmic Book News: Now what goes in determining if Angelus makes it as a regular book?
RON MARZ: Ultimately, like anything else, sales. We have this six-issue series that has a definite beginning, middle and end. After we wrap this up, we'll take a deep breath and see where things are.
Releasing a new title, something that's not a Marvel or DC book, is an uphill battle. The Big Two publish so many titles; you really have to work that much harder to get the audience's attention. Putting out a comic, any comic where the publisher is paying professional rates, is an expensive proposition. You have to get the sales to a point where the publisher isn't bleeding money.
Cosmic Book News: With the costs of publishing, do you think the electronic reader will be the future of comic books?
RON MARZ: For single issues, it makes a lot of financial sense. It cuts out the cost of printing and distribution, which amounts to thousands of dollars to create a product that goes into a niche marketplace, one that the audience has to seek out. The single-issue comic is really a format that's outlived its usefulness. They'll still be around, but more and more, the wider audience is looking for collections, not singles.
If publishers can find a way to monetize the content, it makes a lot more sense to publish singles on the web, and then collected editions in hard copies. The hardcore fans are going to want their single issues, but I think there are a lot more people who are going to be comfortable reading comics on their iPhone, or iPad, or laptop. Content and format will start adjusting to those new delivery vehicles.
Cosmic Book News: Now jumping back to the Angelus story, it seems there are similarities between reinventing Green Lantern and Witchblade. Basically the main character was replaced with someone else, but when the main character returns, the replacement goes on to their own series. Do you see that?
RON MARZ: Sure, from the outside, it looks like history repeating itself. But the scenarios were a little different in that DC Editorial had decided to move Hal Jordan off stage and introduce a new Green Lantern. They asked me to come in and execute the story, and then come up with the new GL, who was obviously Kyle Rayner. Looking back on it now, I'm shocked they just told me, "Go ahead and make up the new character." It was an amazing opportunity. That sort of creative freedom isn't terribly common these days.
With Witchblade, taking the Witchblade away from Sara Pezzini and giving it to Dani Baptiste was my idea, and it was always intended to be temporary. We wanted to bring Dani in and build her up. We introduced her in Witchblade #100, and I knew back then that she was going to eventually be the Angelus. But we played in straight, and really convinced people that Sara was not going to regain the Witchblade. I know we lost readers because people got pissed. It's nice that people care about the characters, but they do get a little militant and emotional about it.
Cosmic Book News: This is like the story of the soap opera actor who is cheating on his wife on the show, he has random old women yelling at him over it.
RON MARZ: Yeah, some people get so invested in the story they follow month after month, and I can understand the passion, but it can go a little too far. You shouldn't care more about people who are not real versus people who are real.
Cosmic Book News: Well, let me turn that concept around, can you enjoy stories?
I have met some writers who read comics or watch movies and know the tricks of the trade.
RON MARZ: I have to say, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, and sometimes it can take away from the experience. I don't have the same relationship as the average reader will have with a book or a comic book or even watching movie. I can't turn off my brain and not analyze the storytelling, how the whole thing is put together. So it's harder to enjoy something.
On the other hand when something is really good, and it just wraps me up in the story, that's the best. If it pulls me in, it's really working. Comics like Brubaker's Captain America or Jonah Hex at DC work for me like that.
Cosmic Book News: Speaking of DC and Marvel, I hear rumblings that Top Cow will be doing a big crossover?
RON MARZ: This summer we'll be launching Artifacts which is a 13-issue series that will be Top Cow's maxi-series, like DC's Crisis or Marvel's Secret Wars. It's going to pull in all aspects of the Top Cow Universe. Lots of payoffs for longtime readers, but very much a ground-floor, introductory read for people who haven't been following along.
The crossover will be based around Sara Pezzini and Jackie Estacado, the characters who are really the twin pillars of the Top Cow Universe. They have a connection, considering Jackie is the father of Sara's daughter. Very literally, strange bedfellows.
Cosmic Book News: When can fans expect to see the start of it?
RON MARZ: We have an Artifacts prelude that will be given out on Free Comic Book Day, and then issue #1 is out in July.
Cosmic Book News: How far out do you have this planned out?
RON MARZ: I'm writing it now and nailing down the details. With a project like the size of Artifacts, you have to do a lot of coordination and have all your ducks in a row.
Cosmic Book News: Is it easier to write characters like Witchblade and Darkness who do not have the corporate baggage say Superman or Batman have?
RON MARZ: Sure, I certainly have more latitude. The powers-that-be at Top Cow give me a lot of rope. It's easier if you don't have to worry about selling bed sheets and lunch boxes. We can be edgier and push the envelope a bit.
Cosmic Book News: It sounds like Top Cow has great faith in you.
RON MARZ: Well, it's been a very prosperous relationship so far. Top Cow has been great with letting me run with the story. We stay in contact with e-mails and phone calls and instant messages, but one of the nice aspects of working with them is they don't micro-manage the story. They allow me to write and tell the story organically.
Cosmic Book News: Are you concerned about new readers stepping into the Top Cow Universe?
RON MARZ: I'm a huge proponent of making stories accessible for new readers. The reader should not be required to bring storyline upon storyline of knowledge into reading the book. It's not fair to the reader and it cuts down on the audience.
Sure, it's easier to write for longtime readers, or "preach to the converted." But if you write Legion of Super Heroes only for "Legion of Super Heroes" readers, you're never going to attract a new audience. It's a fruitless exercise. I want something I write to be accessible to everybody who picks it up.
Cosmic Book News: Thanks again for this, Ron!
RON MARZ: Thank you, it's been a pleasure.
For more information on Top Cow Productions, Inc., visit www.topcow.com