Talking 'War of the Witchblades' with General Ron Marz

A new villain introduced in 'War of the Witchblades'
A new villain introduced in 'War of the Witchblades'
Cover to 'Witchblade #126'

Pop quiz time.

Recently in the pages of its eponymous Top Cow comic book series, the mystical weapon/artifact the Witchblade was split between two bearers, where traditionally it's had just one. And next month in the pages of Witchblade #125, a six-part story arc called "War of the Witchblades" begins…

So what do you suppose the story arc is about?

Yup, it's pretty straightforward – it's Sara Pezzini vs. Danielle Baptiste in a steel-cage grudge-match (or is that steel-armored cat fight?) for the unified title. But that doesn't mean there won't be any twists and turns along the way, or that it's easy to predict the winner. We recently spoke with series writer Ron Marz to handicap the fight's odds and to set the stage for readers, whether you're a long-time Witchblade reader or someone thinking about giving it a try…

Newsarama: So Ron, Top Cow has you’ve made it pretty clear what the main plot point of War of the Witchblades is - Dani vs. Sara for all the marbles. So before we try to pry what we can outta you about what pits them against one another, let’s lay some groundwork…

Cover to 'Witchblade #126'
Cover to 'Witchblade #126'
Cover to 'Witchblade #126'

Ron Marz: For anyone who hasn't been with us the last couple years, the condensed version is that New York City Police Detective Sara Pezzini was once the sole bearer of the Witchblade. But for the past couple of years, the Witchblade has been split between Sara and Danielle Baptiste, an aspiring dancer who is also the daughter of Sara's police captain. That's been a fairly happy arrangement, with each wielding essentially half of the Witchblade, until recently, when a rift developed between Sara and Dani. That rift is pretty prominently displayed in Witchblade #124, which goes on sale this week.

NRAMA: Okay, taking one step further back, can you quickly talk about the most important elements that drive the Witchblade universe, their current status quo and how that may or may not factor into this storyline?

RM: The backstory of the Witchblade itself is that it was created to balance the two main components of the universe, the Dark and the Light, as embodied by the Darkness and the Angelus. That's a central tenet of the Top Cow Universe, so there's really a trinity of powers with the Darkness, the Angelus, and the Witchblade as a balancing force between them. The current host of the Darkness is, of course, Jackie Estacado. The most recent host of the Angelus was killed in last year's Broken Trinity crossover, so the Angelus is currently without a host, which is an element that will play a part in the War of the Witchblades storyline.

A new villain introduced in 'War of the Witchblades'
A new villain introduced in 'War of the Witchblades'
A new villain introduced in 'War of the Witchblades'

NRAMA: And how about specifically Sara and Dani? What sort of relationship exists between these characters, at least before this storyline begins?

RM: Until recently, they were more like sisters. Now they're more like sisters who hate each other.

NRAMA: Without revealing too much about what could possibly change their relationship to that degree, may we assume it has something to do with the fact the Witchblade was never meant to be split?

RM: Things between Sara and Dani really start to come apart in #124, seemingly spurred by Sara being forced to compromise her ethics as a detective to protect Dani. But the real cause is deeper than that, and readers who have been paying attention have picked up on it. When the Witchblade was split, it was split along its Dark and Light components. Dani ended up with the Light half, which has more of a silver sheen to it, while Sara has the Dark half, so her Witchblade has a more black and foreboding look. That split is also reflected in the characters' personalities, which Dani being more trusting and Sara becoming more violent and prone to anger.

The Witchblade is also referred to as The Balance in the series, in that it's supposed to maintain peace between eternal enemies the Darkness and Angelus. Now that the Witchblade is literally out of balance, everything else is upset as well. So while Sara and Dani are the main players, the stakes are much greater than just the two of them.

Artist Stjepan Sejic's design for Sara during 'War of the Witchblades'
Artist Stjepan Sejic's design for Sara during 'War of the Witchblades'
Artist Stjepan Sejic's design for Sara during 'War of the Witchblades' -

NRAMA: When Dani was introduced into the Witchblade mythos, was this always the intent? Was War of the Witchblades inevitable from the start and did you already have the seeds for this storyline in mind?

RM: Yeah, this was always where we headed. Anytime you're doing an ongoing monthly, you have to make sure the characters and situations don't become stale. That's especially true on a title that's been around for more than a hundred issues, as Witchblade has. So splitting the Witchblade and adding a new and less experienced bearer into the mix let us do some different things, and pointed us toward telling this story. One of the real benefits of knowing you're going to be writing a title for an extended period is you can do stuff like this, and plant seeds you're going to pay off two years later.

NRAMA: So as promised how about handicapping the odds of whoever will wind up with the Witchblade after all this? Can you make talk about each character and weigh the pros and cons of each character “winning” the war?

RM: Well, I guess the easiest answer is to say that the odds for who ends up with the Witchblade are about 50-50 between Sara and Dani. But that's not entirely the case, because no one ever said the Sara and Dani were the only choices here. We'll have some other characters in the storyline who might be viable choices, include Sara's sister Julie, who is being reintroduced in this arc, as well as Finch, a dance student whom Dani has befriended. As far as Sara is concerned, we've seen that her personality has definitely taken a darker turn, so if she wins, we could be dealing with a character who is more villain than hero. If Dani wins, she's obviously less experienced and much more vulnerable.

A rough for Dani's look during 'War of the Witchblades'
A rough for Dani's look during 'War of the Witchblades'
A rough sketch for Dani's look during 'War of the Witchblades'

NRAMA: Did we hear you right, is it possible neither “wins”?

RM: Very possible. Have you been looking at my notes?

NRAMA: We plead the 5th…

How about the fate of the loser or losers? Can you say if both Sara and Dani will still have roles in Witchblade, or the Top Cow Universe, after this story arc?

RM: I'm not sure there's a way to answer that without giving away too much. I can say that somebody will have the Witchblade at the end of the whole thing, and we'll have set the stage a little differently for the Top Cow Universe going forward.

NRAMA: Now we're not sure if you’re in position to speak on the topic, but Top Cow announced the Witchblade feature film last year. If you can give us an update, great, but it not, can you at least talk about if any of the plans for the movie in any way drive what’s happening in the comics?

RM: Michael Rymer, of Battlestar Galactica fame, is attached as director. I've had some unofficial discussions with one of the special effects houses that's up for effects gig, giving some feedback on their approach. Beyond that, someone like Top Cow President Matt Hawkins is in a lot better position to give an update, because he's involved in this stuff on a regular basis. The direction the movie is taking is not driving what we're doing in the comics, though obviously both stay true to the concept of a woman wielding a powerful supernatural artifact.

Artist Stjepan Sejic's design for Sara during 'War of the Witchblades'
Artist Stjepan Sejic's design for Sara during 'War of the Witchblades'
Artist Stjepan Sejic's design for Sara during 'War of the Witchblades'

NRAMA: So a desire to leave one Witchblade standing isn't related to mirroring or complimenting the film?

RM: Not really. As I said, the plan to get back one bearer was in place from the moment we split the Witchblade a couple of years ago. This is just part of the ongoing evolution of the series.

NRAMA: Okay, time for a last word, anything else you want readers to know about the storyline we haven’t touched on yet?

RM: We didn't mention Stjepan Sejic's kick-ass artwork, which will grace every issue of the six-issue storyline from #125 to #130. Stjepan and I are committed to the series until at least issue #150, and pretty likely beyond that, because we have a bunch of stories we want to tell.

It's also probably worth mentioning that I took care to make sure that issue #125 serves as a ground-floor read, so it's a good jump-on point for new readers. I know that a series with 125 issues might seem intimidating to someone who hasn't read it before, but I think you've got to make things accessible. If you're not welcoming new readers, then all you're doing is preaching to the choir.

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