For over 17 years, “Witchblade” has been the marquee series of the Top Cow Universe, and in that time, Sara Pezzini and the demon-shredding Artifact from which the comic takes its name have been shot at, sliced up, separated and now reborn.
At the hands of writer Tim Seeley and artist Diego Bernard (with covers by John Tyler Christopher), “Witchblade” has gone back to its metal bikini, street fighting roots while retaining the universe-spanning revelations at the heart of Top Cow’s “Artifacts” series. The publisher reached out to new readers for the new creative team on Free Comic Book Day, but the full story of Seeley and Bernard’s run is held in the pages of “Witchblade: Rebirth” — Â a new trade paperback on sale June 6.
To help readers old and new alike get up to speed with the latest Witchblade action, Seeley took some time to go behind the scenes on his first arc providing commentary on the influences and inspirations that drove him to take on Sara’s story. Below, the writer digs into his own history with the book and why he wanted to make the series look and feel as it once did, shows off the Chicago haunts that helped build the feel of the heroine’s new home, and rattles off the wild mix of inspirations that impact the series from ’70s grindhouse fare to legendary anime “Akira” and beyond.
Tim Seeley: The title “Unbalanced Pieces” was inspired by one of my favorite tunes by the band Soulsavers. It felt like the perfect name for a story about Sara realizing something was “off” in her life in a post-“Artifacts” world.
Last May, I went on a trip to Dark Horse in Portland, and then Top Cow in LA. I was sitting in Filip Sablik’s office when [Top Cow President] Matt Hawkins came in and started throwing out some ideas. One thing he said was, “How about jail? We’ve never put Sara in jail.” Though Sara isn’t in the clink for long in my story, the image I got in my head when Matt was talking made it as the first page of my first issue.
Jane “Big Woz” Wosnicki is my attempt at giving Sara a good foil — someone who’d dislike her right off the bat. I figured Sara being a skinny, attractive New Yorker would be all Woz would need to hate her. Add the fact that Sara inadvertently made Woz look bad, and you’re got one big, cranky, Polish cop! If you’ve ever been to Chicago, you know we have lots of those!
“Neo” is an actual club in Chicago, in which I spent many hours as a younger man. The actual club is not nearly as fancy as Diego drew it, but some of the people on display are based on real people.
Full disclosure! Randi Smalls and “The Flesh” are based on a comic concept I was working on that just wasn’t working out. Adding the Witchbalde and Artifacts as part of its history was what made it click for me. I did regret acing ol’ Randi later in the story.
When I was first interviewed about the book, I mentioned I hoped to “bring the sexy back” as “Witchblade,” when I was first reading it as a kid, was notorious for a certain amount of skin and “bad girl” sexiness. That quote, coupled with the fact that I wrote “Hack/Slash” made a whole lot of “Witchblade” readers pretty nervous. The truth is, maybe the sexiest we’ve gotten is this really nice butt by John Tyler Christopher.
The one thing I felt like we didn’t nail design-wise in this series is Cain. There’s a culture gap between me (a Chicagoan) and Diego (a Brazilian) when it comes to American punk rock/goth fashions, and I don’t think I ever accurately communicated what I really wanted Cain to be. I envisioned him as a young Henry Rollins looking guy whose magic show was going to be sort of an old style carnival act mixed with tattoo flash and Coop art. We never quite got there.
Cain’s theater is based on a real place in Chicago where I once saw a really strange magic act called “Geek Magic.”
I’ll be honest, the Biker Witches got a way from me a bit. I wanted them to be sexy, but Diego, off in sunny Brazil, probably had no idea that assless chaps would cause a person to freeze to their motorcycle seat in a Chicago winter.
The art team killed on the design for the “Flesh,” which I think I described as “If the Witchblade were made out of the same stuff as Tetsuo’s mutation in ‘Akira.'”
I never write double page spreads. I have this weird thing about writing to make sure a comic reads for a reasonable amount of time to make it worth the money, and I think most comics completely BLOW that. I read a comic from one of the Big Two last week that took four minutes to read. For $3.99. What the hell?! But, often enough, Diego will take two pages and make them into a spread, and absolutely KILL it, as he did here, without losing any readability.
The name of Esmeralda’s bike is “Cauldron.”
One of the most important things to me in this story was making sure we showed the parallell’s between the “Flesh,” who were out there stealing people’s lives, and Jackie Estacado, The Darkness, who had stolen Sara’s. Full disclosure! Though I had been a Witchblade reader for years, I actually didn’t really like Jackie much until Phil Hester’s run on the book. The “Jackie as druglord story” was a fave.
Head witch Morgan’s appearance was inspired by the actress Christina Lindbergh who starred in cult ’70s flicks like “They Call Her One Eye” and a number of sexploitation films. From reading this commentary, you may have concluded that I am into some weird shit.
When Top Cow first asked me to pitch for “Witchblade,” I think the first idea I had besides “get her back into the metal bikini” was “team up a group of Artifact bearers in the 1800s on a mission that ends with the Chicago Fire.” Teo originally appeared in a “Darkness” one-shot written by Rob Levin. The other two bearers were added by me. I love Letty, by the way.
Letty has one hand. It was customary for slaves who escaped to have a hand removed. If I ever get to tell Letty’s story, I think this’ll figure into her ending up with a hand-shaped gauntlet.
One of the things Rob implied in his “Darkness” story about Teo was that, because he was a contemporary of real life writer HP Lovecraft, he may have inspired some of his literary creations. In an homage I had Diego base some of Teo’s darklings on some of the Mythos’ most famous members, like Cthulhu.
One thing I really wanted to ensure was that the “Ungod” entity didn’t look like the typical Lovecraftian creature. It had to be really foreign. I like what Diego did with what little of the beast we see in this issue.
The “Fountain” is totally based on a fountain my parents had in their garden when we were kids that my dad found at my grandpa’s old farm.
Diego’s creepy illustration of Cain’s psuedo-Darkness mask is so cool. The idea was that if the Flesh was the entity’s approximation of the Witchblade, then this fungus, earth magic would be its version of the Darkness.
HOLY CRAP I love skull-muscle-monster Leon.
A Witchblad-ized motorcycle was something we really wanted to do, and you even get to see it as a cover image by JTC earlier on in the arc. I want this as a toy.
There was no way I was going to write my first Witchblade arc and not involve some crazy monster thing. I actually really like what it says about Sara here that she’s not even a little tempted to take years off her life. While a lot of other superhero and monster fighting heroine types have been known to give into temptation, Sara never gives into it.
“Witchblade: Rebirth” Volume 1 by Tim Seeley, Diego Bernard, Fred Benes and Arif Prianto features a cover by John Tyler Christopher and goes on sale June 6.