Nearly one year ago on January 4, 2012, the Top Cow universe was remade and reborn in the pages of Artifacts #13. And now, as that fateful decision by Jackie Estacado, wielder of the Darkness, nears its one year anniversary, Witchblade – who bore Darkness’ child and had those memories wiped clean – is beginning to remember.. and she’s not happy. And it’s all coming to a head in Artifacts.Since the Top Cow universe was reborn, the Artifacts series has taken on the entirety of this new Top Cow era by storm with former priest turned FBI agent Tom Judge and his partner Tilly Grimes look into the various magical Artifacts. And as both the Darkness and Witchblade are bearers of the two most powerful Artifacts, when they cross paths Judge is right there with them. Writing Artifacts since day one was been veteran comics writer and Top Cow stalwart Ron Marz. Marz, who formerly wrote The Witchblade as well as most of the event series the publisher has done in the past few years, is continuing on here with longtime collaborator Stejan Sejic. We spoke with Marz about the build-up to Artifacts #25, the growth of Tom Judge, and what it’s coming up in 2013 for the series at Top Cow as a whole.
Newsarama: Ron, this week’s Artifacts #23 culminates a long-awaited arc that delves into Tom Judge’s past as a priest and his lapsed faith. Can you get us up to speed?
Ron Marz: Tom really serves as the spine for the overall Artifacts series, he's our lead character, as much as anybody is. The story brings together Tom's past as a priest and his present as an FBI investigator, as he's called in to bring his skills to bear on a ritual murder. I wanted to dig into Tom's faith, or lack of it, when he's confronted by an overtly religious aspect of the crime: a demonic possession.Nrama: Skipping ahead a bit here, I can’t help but ask about Artifacts #25 coming up early next year. 25 is a special milestone in comics, and I here your story is literally bursting at the seams.
Marz: Artifacts #25 is the start of a crossover called “Progeny” that will run through Witchblade #164, Darkness #111 and then finishes in Artifacts #26. This story very much deals with the fallout from the original Artifacts events that set up the "Rebirth" universe. Jackie re-created the universe, bringing back his former love Jenny as his wife, and taking his daughter with Sara Pezzini, the Witchblade bearer, as their own. It's taken a while for Sara to figure out what happened, but once she does ... well, saying that she's not happy is a massive understatement. So it's a very character-driven, personal storyline, but it has ramifications across the entire universe. The story won't feature every Artifact bearer, but we'll have quite a few of them.Nrama: Also coming up in this series is the arrival of Magdalena, fresh of her recent series you penned. How does Magdalena fit in with Artifacts and the “Rebirth” Top Cow universe? Marz: It's no secret that Magdalena is just about my favorite character in the Top Cow stable, so I'm really pleased to be writing her again. We haven't really seen Magdalena in the post-"Rebirth" Top Cow universe, so the storyline really serves as her reintroduction. Obviously the Spear of Destiny is one of the prime Artifacts, so Magdalena is very much an integral part of what we want to do with Artifacts.
Nrama: And how will the very Catholic Magdalena react to the lapsed Catholic, to say the least, in Tom Judge?
Marz: Right. There's so much story to be mined with the two characters, Magdalena series artist Nelson Blake 2nd and I will be reuniting for a Magdalena/Tom Judge mini-series next year.
Nrama: That’s excellent news. Magdalena’s ties to the Catholic Church is well known, but Tom Judge is also a former man of the cloth. How does Tom Judge see Magdalena as a person, and vice-versa?
Marz: That's something I'm really having a good time exploring, because Tom's faith led him in one direction, while Magdalena's led her in another. She still serves the Catholic Church, though she certainly doesn't trust the men who are in charge of it, while Tom has walked away from the Church entirely. The upcoming Artifacts storyline is not specifically about religion, but there's some rich character material to be mined there.Nrama: I’m doing all this talking about Tom Judge, but not mentioning the other main character in this series – Tilly Grimes. Can you explain for the stragglers how she factors into the series?
Marz: Tilly is essentially Tom's partner as he's called in on these FBI investigations. But she was part of the Artifacts storyline from the beginning, so she's aware of everything that's going on. Tilly has an arcane gift with numbers. Mathematical equations are almost like magical spells to her. And, there's a sexual-tension thing going on with her and Tom. I'd actually love to do a solo issue with Tilly as soon as we get a chance.
Nrama: Stepping back for the big picture before we let you go, Artifiacts is about to enter its third year with these issues – so what’s it like charting this book and exploring the wide range of the Top Cow U that The Darkness and Witchblade titles were never able to?
Marz: The real plus is that I have a smorgasbord in front of me. I can explore all the corners of the Top Cow Universe, and bring in a bunch of different characters. It gives me a lot of different toys to play with. The variety is really attractive to me, because we can do something epic and earthshaking for an arc, and then follow it up with some smaller, more character-driven stories. It's really the best of both worlds for me as a writer.