You may know Ron Marz from his work on “Witchblade” or “Green Lantern,” but this August, Marz adds a whole new type of book to his resume. “Ani-Max,” an all-ages series from Dynamite Entertainment and Liquid Comics, is the first in an initiative for a new all-ages hero complete with an in-development animated series. The story is a tale as old as time, featuring a normal boy named Max who acquires the power to take on the advantages and characteristics of any animal he comes in contact with. The one-shot will give readers a look at the origins of Ani-Max and how he got his amazing powers. (Think if Vixen and Animal Man had a kid or Beast Boy had a cousin or if the short-lived “Animorphs” television series were still going or…you get the idea.)
Animal-hero related jokes aside, “Ani-Max” is one of the first all-ages book that Ron Marz has put his pen to since “Dragon Prince.” CBR News spoke spoke to Marz about how the book got started at Liquid, the unique rewards of writing an all-ages book and what Ani-Marz would turn into given the chance.
CBR News: Ron, tell us a little bit about Ani-Max and the concept behind it – what’s the core story here and how did you get involved with the project?
Ron Marz: “Ani-Max” was a concept that Sharad Devarajan and Gotham Chopra of Liquid Comics put together, with an eye toward both animation and comics. It’s really a story intended for all ages about a boy named Max who ends up with the power to take on the characteristics of any animal he comes into contact with. It’s definitely an adventure story, but there’s also an underlying environmental message to it.
I had done some editing and writing work for Liquid in its previous incarnation as Virgin Comics. Gotham and Sharad were very stand-up and honorable with me when the plug was pulled on Virgin, and we stayed in touch when Liquid rose from those ashes. Sharad asked if I would be interested in turning the “Ani-Max” concept into a comic, I had a window in my schedule and we put together this issue. It reveals Ani-Max’s origin, which shows him receiving an object called the Animus Stone in the Amazon rainforest, and also shows Max’s first “adventure” once he’s back in the U.S. in more familiar surroundings.
How is “Ani-Max” different from some of the other projects you’ve done in the past? By the same token, how has some of your previous comics writing helped you with this story?
I haven’t done that much material that’s really intended to be for all ages. My “Dragon Prince” book at Top Cow was really one of the first things I did that I consciously wanted to make accessible for kids as well as adults. “Ani-Max” probably skews even a little younger, though I think adult readers will be able to get into it as well, as long as they’re not looking for some grim and gritty storyline. I really don’t find there to be a great deal of difference in doing an all-ages story as opposed to something intended for older audiences. The job is still to tell the best story you can tell.
What is it about “Ani-Max” that you feel will appeal to older comic readers?
I just think it’s a solid concept and story. I don’t believe that older readers are automatically disinterested in stories that feature children in lead roles. Seems like more than a few adults have read the “Harry Potter” books.
Why do you think that this story is well suited to comics?
I believe almost any story can be told in comics. Comics are a medium, not a genre. Obviously, “Ani-Max” has a pretty strong visual component to it, which makes it even more suited to comics. Part of the attraction is seeing the kind of hybrid animal forms Max can take on. The art is done in a style that readers will likely consider “the animated look,” which is actually one of my favorite art styles. I wish more people would see that style and not automatically assume the story is only for kids. It’s a pretty flexible style that’s appropriate for telling a whole range of stories. Jeevan Kang and the rest of the art team have done a really nice job of bringing the story to life.
What for you are some of the challenges of working on a largely unknown and untouched book like “Ani-Max?”
There’s no road map like there is when you come in and take over an established character or concept. But that’s part of the fun, part of the challenge. It’s actually a little more exciting to work with a more wide open playing field, because there’s that much more room for creativity.
It’s something different. I’ve done superheroes, I’ve done science fiction, I’ve done supernatural stuff, I’ve done historical fiction. This is yet another flavor. I’ve always tried to be fairly diverse in terms of what I’m working on, because it’s more interesting for me as a writer. I get to flex different muscles, not just the same ones over and over. Hopefully, people who are picking up “Witchblade” or “Magdalena,” or maybe read my Green Lantern stuff in the past, can pick this up and enjoy it, and then share it with their kids.
According to the solicit, “Ani-Max” is in development as an animated series. Can you give us any details on that and your role, if any, in it?
That end of it is really more Sharad and Gotham’s department, though certainly I’d love to be part of it in terms of the writing as it develops for animation. My job here was to put together a good first issue. If more comes of it, so much the better.
What has been most rewarding about working on this book?
I got to show the artwork to my own kids, and explain the story to them as I was working on it. It was very gratifying to see them get interested and excited, because a lot of what I write is still a few years beyond them.
Finally, if you could change into any animal, what would it be and why?
I’ve always been fascinated by gorillas, which have a pretty classic history in comics anyway. Put me down as a gorilla.