Today, Top Cow’s resident scarlet-haired speeder Velocity steps into what could be the last race of her life. In the new miniseries Velocity, this Cyberforce member is standing alone as the one person who can save her teammates and adoptive family from a hidden foe with ties to their own origin.
Spoilers ahoy dear readers, for with Velocity #1 in stores now we sat down with series writer Ron Marz to talk about this break-neck first issue and what’s coming up in the series.
Newsarama: The new Velocity series debuts this week, and I must say – I’m impressed. As someone who read the original Cyberforce miniseries back in the day but missed some of their more recent appearances, I love what you’ve done with the character of Velocity.
Ron Marz: It’s hard not to look good with Kenneth Rocafort drawing the book. I’m doing a fun superhero comic, and I’m trying to recapture that sensibility from those early issues of Cyberforce while also looking at the kind of stuff Mark Waid did with The Flash years ago.
Nrama: I can see that, Ron. You really hearken back to the early days here – while also being new. In this first issue, you debut a new villain who is very tied into Cyberforce’s origin – in a way, he’s became a test subject for the procedure they were put under while working at Cyberdata. Can you tell us about this Erasmus Paine and what’s his deal?
Marz: Erasmus is completely new, and I wanted to do a new villain for a couple of reasons. I feel like Top Cow needs a few more high-class villains, and I also wanted to introduce a villain that had specific ties to Velocity and the other characters. Some of the best villains are those who have a personal connection with the heroes; it makes them more memorable and more formidable for the heroes. Dr. Doom has a relationship with Reed Richards going back to college, and Magneto and Charles Xavier being friends; it’s those kinds of relationships that make their rivalries more meaningful.
With Erasmus, he was a scientist who worked on the procedures which were later used on Cyberforce. Even though the members of Cyberforce have never met them, he knows them quite well. It’s those ties that brought about Erasmus Paine’s seething hatred for them.
Nrama: In addition to establishing a new villain with Erasmus, you also do much to flesh out Velocity.
Marz: Yes, I wanted to put a little more flesh on the bones so to speak. That’s something that’s kind of hard to do when you’re dealing with any character in a team setting, especially when you only have a finite period of time to do it. When you’re writing a team book, having the characters relate to one another is how you establish their characters. But given the number of characters in a team book, each character only has a relatively small number of pages to develop their character. With this Velocity miniseries, we’re able to pull the character out of the team book setting and give her the spotlight. With this, I was able to build her character for the majority of the first issues, which allowed the readers to get inside her head.
Nrama: That’s right – with your use of internal monologue, you really got a unique personality and pattern for her set.
Marz: Internal monologue is one of my favorite ways to showcase a character – especially in a superhero context. That’s how I wrote Green Lantern for seven years, by getting inside his head. There are certain characters that you as a writer shouldn’t be inside their head, however; guys like Batman and Thor work better if you’re removed from their thought processes and just watch their actions. But for characters like Velocity, you want the reader to empathize with them and put them in the same side as her.
Nrama: What made the character of Velocity someone who stuck out to you as some you’d want to write a solo miniseries about?
Marz: Out of all the characters in Cyberforce, she appealed to me the most as a reader. A lot of it is probably due to the visuals; a cute redhead in a great costume is hard to ignore. I think it’s also because she’s the most “human” out of all the team; she doesn’t have claws for hands, or four arms, and doesn’t have the more obvious cybernetic implants that her Cyberforce teammates have. And again, she’s a redhead.
Nrama; Velocity’s not able to stand still and gawk at her, she’s on the run to save her friends in 60 minutes after they were incapacitated by a virus from Erasmus. Can you tell us about that?
Marz: Yes, Erasmus used cyborg versions of Velocity to get close enough to them to infect them with the virus. They’re essentially unconscious and dying, so it’s up to the real Velocity to find them and come up with an antidote for each of them.
Nrama: Any chance you could tell us who she tries to save first? Maybe her sister, Ballistic?
Marz: I could… but I won’t. What I will say is that there is a specific order she’s going to do things that will ultimately make sense. But she has to reach all of her team-mates across the globe and figure out how to save them.MILD SPOILER ALERT Nrama: At the end of the first issue you’ve built in a ticking clock – Velocity’s got 60 minutes to save all her friends in Cyberforce. How is that going to play out over future issues?
Marz: There’s going to be a clock on every page – it starts on the last page of the first issue with the timer at 59:33. So that literal ticking clock is part of the mechanics of the story. On each page a little bit of time will slip by, right into issue #4. So with this, you’ll have a minute-by-minute account of Velocity trying to save her teammates as well as herself.
Nrama: In this issue Velocity is able to escape from Erasmus by use of a new power she gained in the recent Cyberforce/Hunter-Killer miniseries. Can you explain that little nugget?
Marz: In issue #5 of that crossover that writer Mark Waid did with Kenneth, Velocity was infected by an ultra-sapien technoderm which will become an ongoing facet of Velocity. It’s something she can keep under control if she wants to, but she can also let loose with it. What its doing to her long-term is still a mystery though.
Nrama: This isn’t your first time writing a speedster – you did some great issues of Green Lantern with the Flash, including that “Fast Friends” storyarc. Can you talk to us in general about writing speedsters, and what makes Velocity unique?
Marz: While I’m a big fan of the Flash and Quicksilver, they’re not necessarily ones I can sit down and write easily. It’s probably because my brain doesn’t work quite like that - - the way Mark Waid and Geoff Johns have been able to do; they seem to have a real comfortable time writing the whole speedster thing. For me, I kind of look at it and think “Okay, she can run fast… but what else can she do?” I think Velocity is more than just her speed powers.
Ultimately you want your speedster to do something beyond running fast – because that gets kind of dull. Part of the challenge here is doing something different with speed powers, and in Velocity #2 we’re going to show what speed can do for a character beyond just winning a footrace.
Nrama: Early on in the first issues of Cyberforce, Marc really brought the idea home that these refugees from Cyberdata were a family of sorts. If that’s the case, what’s Velocity – the kid sister who saves their asses?
Marz: I think she certainly started out as the kid sister, but I don’t know If she still fills that role. She’s grown up a bit since they first got together; she’s not the wide-eyed innocent so much anymore. But she’s far from the hardened exterior that the others have developed over-time. Her sister Ballistic is basically a crackshot assassin. Cyblade is essentially a superspy, and Rip Claw is literally a guy who rips people apart with his claws. There’s quite a bit of dark characterization with a lot of the other characters, so in contrast Velocity is a bit brighter and sunnier with her outlook.
Nrama: You came onto this book after Joe Casey, who wrote the initial Pilot Season book, stepped away from the project. Can you tell us about coming on board?
Marz: Yes, the Pilot Season one-shot was done by a different creative team and the story they wanted to tell didn’t mesh with the direction Top Cow wanted to go in. I think the easiest and most professional thing to do is to chalk it up to creative differences.
So when the writer’s spot on the Velocity miniseries opened up, Top Cow Publisher Filip Sablik asked if I’d be interested in taking it on. I jumped at the chance because I liked the character, and also because I haven’t had the opportunity to write anything that’s straight-up superhero in a while. It’s a chance to have some fun.
And as we were ramping up to do the book, artist Kenneth Rocafort’s schedule cleared up and Filip called me and said “How would you feel about Kenneth working on the book?” I’m not an idiot, so that was music to my ears. Truthfully, after what Kenneth has done with the first issue I couldn’t imagine anyone else drawing this book.
Nrama: Although you’ve become the main writer for the Top Cow line in recent years, this is your first real jaunt into the tech side of things with Cyberforce. Can you tell us about getting into this side of the Top Cow world, and writing these characters?
Marz: Sure. I had actually done a six-issue Cyberforce miniseries a couple years ago that would qualify this as my second trip into the tech side of the Top Cow U, but that series didn’t turn out the way people wanted.
Nrama: I stand corrected. I’ll have to go check that out.So now that you know the lay of the land, what’s it like to work on this more tech side of things with Velocity as opposed to the supernatural Witchblade?
Marz: One of the things I find really intriguing about the Top Cow U is its dual personality; there’s the supernatural side with Witchblade and The Darkness, and then there’s the tech side here with Velocity and Cyberforce. Even though they are both part of the same universe, they’re two parts that are pretty distinct from one another. I feel like for the most part they’re good on their own – they don’t tend to crossover a lot. Keeping them generally separate like this makes it that much more specially when they do crossover.
So to me I don’t approach it differently than the supernatural side of Top Cow, other than that these stories are a little more sci-fi/superhero while the supernatural stuff is more horror/noir oriented. Whichever half I’m writing, I’m always looking to tell the best stories while remaining true to the characters.