When Top Cow announced that Ron Marz and Stjepan Sejic were leaving Witchblade after a run that rejuvenated not just the book, but the Top Cow Universe line of comics, fans were pretty upset. Luckily, they didn't have to be upset for long, as the duo continues their team-up with a new ongoing series: Artifacts.
Artifacts, of course is currently a series that crosses over the Top Cow Universe, bringing together the 13 mystical Artifacts that imbue their bearers with wild power. But when that first big story ends in #13, #14 will carry on with Marz, Sejic, and the bearer of the Rapture, Tom Judge.
For more on the enigmatic Judge, the now-ongoing series, and what (and who) to expect, we spoke with the writer.
Newsarama: Wait wait wait. Ron, how can the big world-spanning event comic suddenly become an ongoing?
Ron Marz: For the only reason that should matter – we have more stories to tell. The original story very much concludes with issue #13. We’ve been making the point that nothing would be the same at the end of the Artifacts storyline, and that’s very much true when we get to the end of #13. There will be a new status quo in the Top Cow Universe, so we’re going to start exploring what’s been created.
Editorially, the decision was made to continue the series numbering with #14, rather than start over with a new #1, because we want the readers to feel like we’re playing fair with them. But #14 will very much be a ground-floor read that tells the audience everything they need to know.
Nrama: Tom Judge is the cover image for Artifacts #14, and the only listed character in the solicitation. Is he the main character for the foreseeable future, or will the book live up to its plural and be rotating a bit through the different bearers?
Marz: Tom will serve as a point-of-view character for readers, a way for readers to plug into the story and explore this new world. Tilly Grimes will be present as well, serving as Tom’s partner. So those two characters will be central to the ongoing story, but a lot of other characters will move in and out of the book. We’ll see The Darkness and Witchblade regularly, as well as other characters from both the supernatural and superhero sides of the Top Cow Universe. I don’t want to be overly specific about which characters at this point, because some characters will be changed after Artifacts #13, and some characters won’t make it out of Artifacts alive.
Nrama: You and Stjepan have been working together for some time now. What's different about how you write for him now versus when you two first sat down to collaborate?
Marz: Obviously we know each other quite a bit better now, and have developed a working rhythm over that time. Stjepan knows my storytelling, I know his. It’s very much a collaborative process, and we can now work in shorthand since we’re so familiar with each other. He kind of knows what I mean without me saying it, and I kind of know what he’s going to do before he does it.
Nrama: How much does this new ongoing story spin directly from Artifacts #13? If someone hasn't been reading the big crossover but are big fans of the team of you and Stjepan, can they jump in here?
Marz: Absolutely. I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t make #14 as accessible as possible, as accessible as any issue that would have a #1 on the cover. Issue #14 represents another entry point for this story and for the Top Cow Universe in general.
Nrama: His name is Judge, he's a former priest, and he carries the Rapture; is this character as obvious as he sounds? For the unfamiliar, what makes Tom Judge a badass?
Marz: I hope none of the characters are obvious, in that sense. I try to write all the characters so that they’re as three-dimensional as possible, rather than cardboard cutouts or clichés. To me, Tom’s an interesting character because he’s a fallen priest, he’s a sinner who’s trying to redeem not only himself, but everybody around him. One of the aspects of the Rapture is that it brings hope. I’m intrigued by someone who has been hopeless now being in a position to bring hope to others.
Nrama: After featuring primarily strong women in your writing for some time now, what is it like switching over to a main male character? Is that something you're even really conscious of?
Marz: It really doesn’t strike me as any different. A character’s gender is just one aspect that makes up a character. I try to write individuals who happen to be men or women. I don’t ever sit down and tell myself, “Now I’m going to write a strong female.” Every character has strengths and weaknesses. What makes a character interesting is how those strengths and weaknesses assert themselves.
Nrama: If this book is "the ongoing saga of the Top Cow Universe itself," how closely intertwined will it be to the existing TCU ongoings of Darkness, Witchblade, and Magdalena?
Marz: Any of the books can be read independently of the others. We’re not doing lockstep continuity that demands you read every book or be lost. But each of the books will reflect the others when important. I know what Tim Seeley is doing on Witchblade and the new team is doing on The Darkness, and I’m obviously writing Magdalena, so it’s fairly easy to make sure we’re not contradicting each other. To me, that’s the way comics should work – the books work individually if that’s what you’re looking for, but they also work together if you’re reading all of them.
Nrama: Was there any specific character in Artifacts that surprised you in either how they turned out or just in how much fun you had writing them? (and yes, if Tom Judge is your answer, you can say that haha)
Marz: My usual answer for this is Tom Judge, because I’d never written the character before and didn’t really have much of a handle on him. I especially like the dynamic between Tom and Tilly because they’re more than friends, but less than lovers. Their relationship is kind of a gray area that I intend to explore. I think ultimately most people read books because they care about the characters. It’s pretty obvious the audience cares about Sara and Jackie, they’re really the twin pillars of the Top Cow Universe. I want to make Tom and Tilly and Magdalena characters that people care about just as much.
Nrama: Is there anything crazy that you're having Stjepan draw for the first time, even after all this time working together, that you can tease for us?
Marz: Witchblade is a more crime-and-noir-driven title. Stjepan got his chances to do the kind of epic storytelling he really enjoys in Witchblade, but our run was definitely more of a street-level storytelling. Artifacts will give a chance to Stjepan to work on a more grand scale with regularity. He’s so good at the epic stuff, I’m definitely going to be putting more of that in front of him.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!