You can't keep a good character down. After years in publishing purgatory, Top Cow's Necromancer is returning in fine form in the pages of this month's Witchblade #137.
Necromancer was originally introduced back in 2005 with a miniseries by writer Joshua Ortega and superstar artist Francis Manapul. In the series, a teenage girl named Abby van Alstine is taken into a supernatural subculture and given powers she barely knows how to control. She's forced to learn about her new self and this new world she's fallen into, while trying to live through her own teenage years.
In the years since that 2005 miniseries, Necromancer has had sporadic appearances over the years with the most recent being a one-shot Pilot Season book over two years ago. Regardless of her intermittent appearances, a sizeable contingent of comic fans have taken a liking to the character. After years of hiatus, Necromancer is returning to the Top Cow universe in a big way – first with a guest appearance in July 28th's Witchblade #137 and then as a player in Top Cow's big event miniseries Artifacts. But before we get too far, first things first: her return in the pages of Witchblade #137 this month.Witchblade is being illustrated by Stjepan Sejic and written by Ron Marz. As of late, Marz has become the principal writer for Top Cow, writing both this series and various miniseries, including the aforementioned Artifacts miniseries. In this issue of Witchblade coming out July 28th, Witchblade sees in Abby van Alstine, the Necroamncer, an important ally in the ongoing struggles that consume the Top Cow universe.
Newsarama: In this upcoming issue of Witchblade, the Necromancer is finally returning to the pages of the Top Cow universe. Ron, what can you tell us about Abby's return?
Ron Marz: In some ways, her appearance in Witchblade #137 acts as a precursor to Necromancer's involvement in the Artifacts miniseries. We're using the opportunity of the Witchblade series to bring Abby van Alstine back into the Top Cow universe proper in a very obvious way. I figured that having a guest appearance in Witchblade is the most high-profile way to bring her back.
That was the underlying purpose of it all, but obviously our overriding concern with this issue – and any issue – was to tell a great story with both characters. We're in the process of putting a couple pieces in place for the later issues of Artifacts.
Nrama: So this is a prequel to Artifacts?
Marz: Not really. Witchblade #137 stands on its own in terms of introducing Abby to Sarah and the rest of the Top Cow universe, but some things that happen in this issue will be followed up upon in Artifacts.
Nrama: Necromancer has been stalking the fringes of the Top Cow universe going back several years. Her last appearance was in an issue of Pilot Season a couple years back. Since this is your first time writing the character, what's your appraisal of Necromancer as a character?
Marz: I'm really drawn to the more supernatural/horror side of things, period, because that's what I'm doing for Top Cow at the moment. What I liked about Necromancer is that she's a teenage girl who actually acts like a teenage girl.
I tend to be drawn to characters who end up being thrown in the deep end of the pool – put in situations beyond their control. What happened to Abby in the Necromancer miniseries was that she was put into a world she didn't even know existed, much less knowledgeable on how to deal with it.
Nrama: I know it’s really early on, but I know there’s some big Necromancer fans out there reading – will you be touching on earlier Necromancer stories, like the recent Pilot Season issue or the 2005 miniseries?
Marz: It's still the same character from her previous appearances, but for people who haven't ever read Necromancer before then her appearance in Witchblade #137 will certainly introduce the character and the concept – they don't need to do any back-reading. For someone who's just been reading Witchblade, this will be a seamless introduction as well.
Nrama: How about those hardcore fans of Abby?
Marz: For Necromancer fans, I'm very aware of the strong following she has and I feel a real sense of responsibility to stay true to the character and the concept. When they read Witchblade #137, it's going to feel like the next step for the character. We're doing some major things in terms of the character, but we're not changing who she is. We're kind of taking her to the next level, and will continue that in Artifacts.
Nrama: You seem to be doing some full-scale world-building here, making sense of characters all over the place in the Top Cow U. Editorially, what brought about the idea to bring Necromancer into the mix here?
Marz: It's a real organic process. It's not like we sit down and say "We need to introduce six new characters into the universe and connect them to our established characters". There's no big chalkboard where we sketch our arcane continuity questions.
Nrama: So how does it all start --- I mean, coming up with a story for Top Cow?
Marz: To me, the number #1 job is to tell the best story we can. While I'm always mindful that the story should stand on its own, I also want the stories to have a sense of cohesion and not a haphazard, "making it up as we go" feel to it. When it comes to bringing new – or in this case old – characters into the fold, we determine that by the natural ties that each character has and just develop it.
It's essentially similar to what I did a number of years ago, coming up with a coherent origin for Witchblade which tied in to the Angelus and the Darkness. The pieces were there long before I came aboard, but the over connections hadn't been made.
Nrama: I assume part of the job is doing a lot of reading of what came before you – and what's going on concurrently in other Top Cow titles, like The Darkness that Phil Hester is writing.
Marz: I look for things that seem logical – things that are the underpinnings of the character. I tend not to come into a book and say "Everything you know is wrong!" I'm not the type to reveal that Sara Pezzini was a skrull for the last five years. We're playing fair with both the new readers and the faithful readers we already have. Both camps should get something out of this.
I don't approach what I'm doing here as universe building; I approach this as storytelling. If some of those stories build a more coherent universe, so much the better.