Marz and Smith on WITCHBLADE #143
Just because the Witchblade's away, doesn't mean evil won't come out to play.Imagine a man locked in a jail cell in upstate New York. The locks are tight, the bars strong, the handcuffs totally locked. So why is there screaming and blood coming from inside the Sheriff's Department? It's a mystery that would be a challenge even for the bearer of the Witchblade — so what will this mean for her all-too-human partner, Detective Patrick Gleason? Ron Marz and Matthew Dow Smith know the answer, as the conclusion of their two-part story is scheduled to be released March 23 with Witchblade #143. We caught up with the book's creators to discuss Gleason's appeal, how Smith ended up on board with the title, and what might be in store for Sara Pezzini's main squeeze. Newsarama: Ron, Matt, just to start us off, how did you guys decide to team up for this book? Matt, I know you've said that you wouldn't ordinarily associate yourself with Witchblade of all characters... Ron Marz: Obviously Matt and I have known each other for years ever since we worked on The Path at CrossGen. We each moved back from Florida at separate times, but wound up in the same area in upstate New York so we see each other fairly often. I knew Matt had an opening in his schedule and we were looking for someone to draw a couple of Witchblade issues, so we could skip Stjepan Sejic ahead a few issues. It was a natural fit since I’ve been anxious to work with Matt again. Matthew Dow Smith: Well, we’ve been talking about teaming up again ever since The Path, so when a hole appeared in my schedule, I leapt at the chance to do another project together. Though I have to admit, I was suffering from a lot of pre-conceived notions about Witchblade. I’ve always thought of it as ‘that book with a half-dressed woman running around in it’, which isn’t something I’m particularly known for drawing, but as it turns out, that’s not really what Witchblade is all about. Nrama: And now that you have delved into the world of the Witchblade, Matt, what do you think is the appeal of this world? Smith: Well, having someone like Sara as your star certainly helps. She’s an incredibly interesting character – beautiful and smart, but complicated. But for me, it’s that mixture of darkness and light, which Ron pulls of so well. He’s built up an entire world filled with angels and demons battling it out, but somehow manages to keep it all grounded in the real world. Nrama: All right, back to the real reason I wanted to talk with you guys — this particular story. Ron, I understand that Detective Patrick Gleason — the partner and significant other of Sara Pezzini, our titular character — is going to be without his better half in this book. What made you decide to take that approach, and how do you feel it changes the mix for this book? Marz:: I’ve actually been wanting to do a story that put the spotlight on Gleason for a while now, but the timing hadn’t worked out thus far. With Matt coming in for two issues it felt like a good opportunity to tell a solo story. I always had in mind to set Gleason’s story upstate from Manhattan, and it made sense for Matt and I to do that story since that’s where we both live. Nrama: Now, as far as this new rookie that Gleason is teaming up with — can you guys tell us a little bit about what this character is like, and how you two approached the actual creation of this person? Marz: The sheriff’s deputy in the story ends up being somewhat of a partner for Gleason, as well as a possible love interest, or at least a temptation. She’s part of a sheriff’s department that certainly isn’t as sophisticated as the NYPD, especially in terms of accepting women into the department. My wife was actually a police reporter for a newspaper for a number of years, so I’m familiar with how departments like this tend to work. I gave Matt a general description of Kate, and he’s the one who brought her to life. I definitely wanted a different physical type than Sara. Smith: One of the nice things about working with Ron is that he likes to talk the whole story through with you and really work out the characters and how they’re going to interact. So I had a pretty good idea of who Kate was before I ever had the final script, which gave me a chance to really work out how she and Gleason were going to play off each other. There’s a subtle (and at times, not so subtle) romantic tension between the two of them, which is a lot of fun to draw. Normally, characters in comic books only interact by punching each other, so it’s an interesting challenge to draw a story where two people are actually talking to each other. Nrama: Getting to a little bit of the story for a second — this seems to be a bit of a locked-room murder mystery, and I'm curious how you guys approached it. First off, from a character perspective, Ron, how might Gleason — a regular guy — attack this supernatural mystery differently than he would with Sara, who is naturally attuned to this sort of thing? Marz: I actually had a different sort of story in mind initially. Matt and I met for dinner at the beginning of the whole process and this is what came out of it, with both of us throwing ideas into the pot. I’m really happy with the way the concept came together. Part of the purpose behind this storyline is to show off Gleason’s character a bit more, and let him take the lead role, since most of the time that falls to Sara and the Witchblade. This puts Gleason in the hero’s role, but he’s just a regular guy, he’s not armed with a supernatural artifact. Nrama: Design-wise, Matt, how do you feel that this upstate prison story plays to your strengths? What kinds of tricks were you excited to pull for this story? Smith: Shadows, lots and lots of shadows. Actually, I think Ron managed to take all of my strengths – shadows, people talking to each other, old buildings – and mash them together into a story that made sense and was exciting, all while adding to Gleason’s character. He really spoils an artist. For example, there’s a built-in reason for there being so many shadows in this story, which gave me lots of room to do the kind of spooky lighting I’m known for as an artist. And I really tried to step it up on these two issues by using models and reference photos for nearly every shot, which I hope gives the whole thing an interesting visual look and keeps it grounded in reality. Nrama: Finally, gents, just to wrap up — if there are people who aren't sold on this storyline, what would you tell them to get on board? Marz: Well, I think Matt’s art and Nathan Fairbairn’s colors are reason enough to buy these two issues. But you also don’t need to know anything about Sara or the Witchblade or any other aspects of the series frankly, to get into these issues. They work as a complete standalone ghost story. Smith: And did we mention it’s got ghosts in it? Creepy, creepy ghosts.
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