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REFLECTIONS: Ron Marz talks “Samurai,” “First Born,” “Ion” & More.

by  in Comic News Comment
REFLECTIONS: Ron Marz talks “Samurai,” “First Born,” “Ion” & More.

REFLECTIONS #204

“The goose that laid the golden egg is going to be dead.” — Ron Marz

Before we get down to business, let me put a little spotlight on a fantastic book that has just been published by The Hero Initiative and Top Cow. It’s called “The Unusual Suspects,” written by Dan Wickline and drawn by a plethora of fantastic artists like David Hedgecock, Nat Jones, Ben Templesmith, Tone Rodriguez and many more. It’s about two guys in a café, talking. Of course there is more to it than that, including fantastic send ups of things in pop culture. It’s a great, rollicking read that I cannot recommend highly enough, and the money for it is going to a great cause in the Hero Initiative. How can you go wrong?

Now back to your regularly scheduled column.

Ron Marz rocks, and so does his writing.

After an uneven start, DC’s “Ion” turned into a great miniseries reuniting Marz with the character that made him famous, Kyle Rayner.

Then there is “Witchblade.” Two years ago I called it the best book of the year, and were I still writing reviews it would continue to be in the top five. In case you didn’t know, Sara is pregnant now and no longer carries the Witchblade.

And then there is the second volume “Samurai: Heaven and Earth,” a book I rank right up there with “Runaways” and “Fallen Angel” as the masterpieces of the new millennium. It’s just as good as ever, and you may find yourself drooling over Luke Ross’ artwork, so get two copies.

Not out buying every Ron Marz comic you can find yet? No worries, just keep reading the interview and you’ll be buying trade paperbacks off Amazon before you finish it.

Story continues below

Robert Taylor: Hey Ron, how’s life?

Ron Marz: It’s the middle of April and we just had 10 inches of snow two days ago, so you tell me.

RT: Aside from the 10 inches, how’s the weather? [laughs]

RM: That sounds dirty. One of us should be blushing. [laughs]

“Ion” #1

RT: Yeah, we should probably move on then. Let’s start with “Ion” since that just wrapped. Did you find it an overall success?

RM: That’s something the readers should answer. I think it sold better than most all of the other One Year Later launches, so at least from a sales point of view it did okay. There are parts of it I like very much, though I wish we could have had a little more closure to it. It definitely served the purpose it needed to in terms of planting a number of seeds that will pay off in other places. That’s just the nature of working in a shared universe. Sometimes your job is to serve the greater universal storyline.

RT: How did it feel going back to Kyle again?

RM: It’s kind of like slipping on the same pair of comfortable jeans after you haven’t worn them for a couple of years. It feels very natural to me to be writing that character.

It’s one of the situations where you end up getting close to a character that really isn’t yours. I had a hand in creating Kyle, but at the end of the day, he belongs to DC.

RT: How did it feel to get a chance to play with the Green Lantern Corps and the other facets of the DCU that you really haven’t gotten the chance to play with since, well, you wiped them out?

RM: It was a lot of fun! I had written the Corps in flashbacks and time travel and dream sequences, but this was a little different. This time it was the real deal, so it was like having my cake and eating it too.

RT: What about all the other little Easter eggs? How many were you and how many were DC?

RM: A number of those Easter eggs were things I was asked to put into the series so they could pay off elsewhere. But the Tangent thing was something I initially suggested. What I originally wanted to do wasn’t possible because of, well, stuff that hasn’t been revealed yet, so we came up with a happy medium. People seemed to be excited about it, and even better than that, they seemed surprised by it. It’s so hard to keep a secret these days, it’s nice when you can throw the audience a curve.

RT: Was it your choice to kill off Kyle’s mom?

“Ion” #5

RM: Maybe once and for all we should get all the Kyle’s mother stuff out on the table.

When I initially came back to “Green Lantern” to finish off Kyle’s run with the “Homecoming” arc, the editorial direction was that Kyle needed to leave behind Earth and head off into space, so that he was where he needed to be for “Rebirth.” I thought there should be a reason for him to do that, and severing the strongest tie that bound him to Earth – his mother – seemed like a pretty good reason.

Independently, the editor, Peter Tomasi, came to the same conclusion, and suggested the idea of killing off Kyle’s mom. So, we essentially had come to the same conclusion and went forward with the idea. But at the last minute, for reasons that probably wouldn’t be professional of me to get into, the decision came down that Kyle’s mom needed to live. So, we had to do some quick revisions and mom got a reprieve. The only part I wasn’t crazy about was that it made Kyle look like he couldn’t be bothered to check on her condition before he headed for space, but the timing was such that it couldn’t be helped.

RT: If she would have died, would she have been torn apart in that oven?

RM: Well, you can draw your own conclusions, my past history being what it is. [laughs]

Her death in “Ion” was really dictated by upcoming events in the DCU, all of which will become clear in a couple months. There is a reason for it, and a purpose that is going to be served, and there is a murderer who will ultimately be revealed. Like I said, sometimes your job is to serve the greater universal storyline.

RT: What happened with the art? Greg Tocchini was there and then gone and then back and then disappeared again for the last two issues.

RM: Sometimes real life intervenes. During the run, Greg’s grandfather died, which obviously took him away from the drawing board. But when he came back, the loss was really affecting him, and he didn’t feel like he was able to put his heart and soul into drawing. Greg asked to be let off of the last two issues, and Fernando Pasarin came in and did a terrific job on the final two issues.

I certainly plan on working with Greg again in the future.

RT: You and I have talked before about how certain artists really mesh with your storytelling style, people like Luke Ross, Jim Cheung and Mike Choi, and I think Greg is one of them.

“Ion” #10

RM: Greg’s an amazing artist, especially for how young he is. He’s really gifted with a lot of natural ability. This was just a situation where life intervened. I think sometimes fans forget that creators have real lives, and at times things don’t go exactly as planned. We have illnesses and deaths in the family just like everybody else.

RT: Are you going to be involved in any of the follow-ups to the Easter eggs or anything like that?

RM: Kyle’s immediate future lies in “Countdown” and the Sinestro Corps storyline that is going to be in “Green Lantern,” both of which are in perfectly capable hands. But we have kicked around some ideas for me to get my hands on the character again down the road.

RT: Anything else you are working on from DC?

RM: I just turned something in something for Wildstorm, but I’m not sure I’m supposed to talk about it.

RT: Not even a hint?

RM: Well, it involves a hockey mask.

RT: Let’s talk “Witchblade,” which is still phenomenally good. Any plans of stopping anytime soon?

RM: No, I’m in it for the long haul. I feel like we’re just ramping up now, so I can’t stop. I put all this stuff into motion, with Sara being pregnant and handing the blade to a new bearer, so I have to stick around to fix it.

RT: When did you start contemplating the big crossover and making her pregnant?

Cover to “First Born: First Look” coming from Top Cow in June.

RM: You say “making her pregnant” as if I had something to do with it! You know, personally.

RT: It hasn’t been revealed who the father is yet; I’m just keeping it real.

RM: You’re going to get me in a lot of trouble. I’ve already got three kids. If I have to support another mouth, I’ll have to pick up one more book to write!

I think the idea of Sara being pregnant started after we had wrapped up issue #92, which was the anniversary issue that finally told the origin of the Witchblade. Once I had told that story, and we were leading up to #100, I wanted to get something else going in the book, something that would be different and exciting, not just more of the same with Sara being a cop and having the Witchblade and chasing monsters and demons and serial killers.

There’s nothing wrong with those stories, but comics can be awfully cyclical if you don’t do something different. The Fantastic Four always fight Doctor Doom. Batman always throws the Joker’s ass back into Arkham after he kills a half dozen people. It’s a very cyclical genre, and I wanted to take the Witchblade story in a direction that hadn’t been explored before.

Having Sara be pregnant, and having a mystery about who the father might be, is really driving the book this year. Plus, pregnancy is hardly ever done in comics. The baby dies, or the baby is magically aged to a teenager like they do on a soap opera. Very few books have the main character give birth, and then have that child be part of the story, which is what we intend to do.

Of course, it all sounds good in theory. Now I just have to pull it off.

RT: Do you know who the father is or are you still juggling ideas?

RM: No, I know who the father is. I just had to talk everyone at Top Cow into it.

RT: How hard was that?

RM: Not terribly. Usually if I put this stuff in an email and no one objects to it vehemently in the first 24 hours, I’m pretty safe. Seriously, they’ve been great about letting me run with ideas, and this one grew into the crossover.

RT: Tell us about the crossover.

Two of the covers to “Witchblade” #100

RM: It’s cleverly titled “First Born.” Obviously the crossover is very in vogue. It’s really what is driving Marvel and DC right now. The Marvel universe changed a great deal because of “Civil War,” and the DC universe is evolving because of “Crisis” and “52” and “Countdown.”

With “First Born,” the idea was to do the series that brought in a number of elements from the Top Cow universe, but keep it lean and mean and stay away from a 35-part epic. We want to keep it very character-based, and have the payoff set up the Top Cow universe for the next year or so.

RT: Speaking as a fan, we all thank you.

RM: Your wallets thank me.

“First Born” is just three issues, so it’s really a modest investment of time and money. The three corresponding issues of Witchblade, #110-#112, tie into “First Born” and they augment the story, but they’re not absolutely integral. Obviously I hope people get the “Witchblade” issues as well – we’re going to have some kick-ass art teams on those issues, including Matt Haley and Kevin Nowlan on issue #110. But if somebody just wants to read “First Born,” they’ll get the whole story in three issues. It’s a complete meal – appetizer, entrée and dessert – with some stunning painted artwork by Stjepan Sejic.

RT: How much of the plot can you slip out?

RM: I can tell you that it involved the birth of Sara’s baby. Or was that obvious from the title? The story really revolves around the Witchblade and the Darkness, which are really the two driving forces behind what Top Cow is doing right now.

The Witchblade itself is supposed to be a balance between the opposing forces of the universe: the Angelus and the Darkness. They are the yin and yang of the universe, always in opposition to each other, but kept at bay by the Witchblade. Now that Sara is pregnant, though, maybe the Witchblade won’t be able to keep that balance – he says cryptically.

The story has Sara, the new bearer Dani, Jackie Estcado, who is the Darkness. Magdalena plays a prominent role, and we’ll also see Hunter/Killer, Cyberforce and a few other characters in cameo roles role. We want them all in there, but we didn’t want it so jam-packed with guest stars that we lose the spine of the story.

Art from “Ramayan 3392 A.D. Reloaded” by Oeming and Starlin.

RT: Since we are on crossovers, how’d you like DC and Marvel’s respective crossovers.

RM: I’m not sure I buy the end of “Civil War.” Endings are tough, especially one that has so much anticipation built up around it, but to just have somebody say, “I give up” runs the risk of disappointing the audience.

I do think the book was gorgeous, and it set the bar pretty high for what crossovers can look like.

RT: I’m not a fan of late books, but if they would have brought in another artist, they would have ruined it.

RM: Steve, Dex and Morry’s work was of such a high quality. Trying to match it would’ve been very tough.

The biggest difference between the two was that “Civil War” let you step into the Marvel universe right now, where “Infinite Crisis” was much more concerned with the past and the history and continuity of the DC Universe. I’m not saying either approach is right or wrong, but it was interesting that both crossovers hit at about the same time, and had such different ideas about how to tell their stories.

Even though creators shuttle back and forth between Marvel and DC with regularity, the two universes still have a fairly different feel in how they are put together. It’s kind of the accumulated history and character mindsets of the big-gun characters. Even after all this time, there are still palpable differences.

The medium is a pendulum just like everything else. For five or ten years ago, we didn’t have any crossovers because it was played out, the audience was sick of them. Now everyone is doing crossovers. In another five years, no one is going to be doing crossovers because we as an industry will overdo them to death. The goose that laid the golden the egg is going to be dead, and we’ll have to find a new goose.

Art from the upcoming “Pantheon City.”

It’s like zombie books. Five years ago, nothing. Today, everybody’s doing zombies. Five years from now, it’ll be “Walking Dead” and nothing else.

RT: Back to you, since it’s your interview. Let’s talk “Samurai.” After eight issues over two miniseries, it’s just as good as issue #1, which is shocking and amazing. I think it’s the best thing you’ve ever written.

RM: I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever written, too. This is the book that comes out exactly the way I want it to, in every aspect.

It definitely has something to do with the fact that it’s a creator-owned series, and that it’s the vision Luke Ross and I have for the series. We aren’t serving any needs other than what we bring to the story. There are no overall universe seeds to be planted, no guest stars, no crossovers.

RT: So Shiro is not going to get a sigil?

RM: No sigil, no magic ring, no radioactive spiders. When you can just tell your story, without any other distractions, that’s a wonderful experience.

RT: How was scripting volume 2 different from volume 1?

RM: No real difference. Volume 2 has a lot of sand, volume 1 had French rococo architecture. My scripts for “Samurai” are a little different than I write for my other books. Luke and I are so much on the same page in terms of storytelling, I don’t have to break down every detail in the panels. It’s going to turn out that way anyway.

RT: That’s kind of scary.

RM: Unusual, at least. Luke is on another continent, speaking another language, and yet we’re completely of the same mind in how the pages turn out. My brother from another mother, you know?

Art from “Pantheon City.”

RT: What else is coming up in this volume?

RM: Some sex, some blood. Actually, a lot of blood. Things are heading toward a confrontation between Shiro and the desert warriors who have Yoshiko. Issue #4 is due out the first week of May, and then we wrap up this volume with issue #5.

RT: Obviously you’re spending more time with Yoshiko, and devoted an entire issue to her where she got the main villain from the first miniseries killed off. Is this a gradual progression for her character or did you have it planned for awhile?

RM: You haven’t read issue #4 yet, right? I’m just saying don’t assume that Don Miguel is killed off yet. I wouldn’t let a villain like him die – at least off camera. Stick around.

As for Yoshiko, we didn’t want her to just be a cipher. We toyed with the idea of opening the second volume with an issue just devoted to her, but ultimately decided to reestablish Shiro and his quest with the first issue. So. we saved her solo issue for deeper into the series. We wanted to flesh her out more, so that she would be more than a damsel in distress. We want the reader to understand who she is, and why Shiro would follow her halfway around the world to get her back. The reader needs to believe in their undying love for the story to work.

RT: Speaking of undying love, I really don’t want the story to end with volume 2. What’s up with volume 3? See what I did there, with the segue? Pretty cool, no?

RM: Yeah, you’re just like the guy on “Inside the Actors Studio.”

I can’t announce anything on volume 3 yet, but … Arrrrr, there be more story to tell, matey.

RT: What else do you have percolating?

RM: My next creator-owned project is “Pantheon City,” with art by Clement Sauve and color by Steph Peru. The first “Pantheon” story is is in Dark Horse’s Free Comic Book Day comic, and it looks great, if I do say so. Clem and Steph kick much ass. It’s a near-future science-fiction story, about a city built by artificial intelligence. It’ll be a four-issue mini later in the year.

I’m also doing some editorial stuff for Virgin. I took on their Shakti line, which is “Devi,” “Sadhu” and “Ramayan 3392 A.D.” We’re relaunching “Sadhu” and “Ramayan” with #1 issues this summer.

I’m really enjoying the gig because it gives me a little break from writing. I get to be involved creatively, but somebody else does the heavy lifting.

Art from “Pantheon City.”

I’ll be doing some writing for Virgin as well. I’ll have backup stories in the first five issues of “Ramayan 3392 A.D. Reloaded,” short character pieces that will flesh of some of the cast. Each one will be drawn by a different artist. The first two will be by Mike Oeming and Jim Starlin, respectively, with a few other guys waiting to be announced. These books aren’t superhero stories, but it’s definitely heroic fiction.

RT: Lightning round time!

RM: It’s not like we haven’t done this two or three times before.

RT: I’m just asking you the new questions I’ve added since our last one.

RM: Cool, then I don’t have to tell you what my favorite superhero movie is.

RT: What is your biggest strength as a writer?

RM: I think it’s probably my ability to figure out how to tell a story visually. That’s a huge part of the job and a part some writers just don’t get. If you don’t give the artist some room to work and some interesting stuff to draw, the poor bastard is going to sit at his board 10 or 12 hours a day cursing your name. If the script isn’t exciting visually, you aren’t going to get the best out of the artist.

RT: Biggest weakness as a writer?

RM: Probably my endings. You put so much work into the set up, but you want the ending to top it. Sometimes it doesn’t work out that way.

RT: Let’s say you had a weekly comic book series where you had to collaborate with three other writers. Who would they be?

RM: Ooh, save the hard one for last. See, if you pick guys who are better than you, you look like the ugly girl at the prom. But if you pick guys who are worse than you, you look like the tall guy at the midget convention. Neither one is exactly desirable.

It’s not about picking the best guys, it’s about who you would work best with. So I’d choose guys whose work I like, and whose story ethic is compatible with mine. And since I already know I work well with them, I’d pick Tony Bedard, Chuck Dixon and Jim Starlin. I’d want Ian Edginton involved, too, but he might not want to work with us Yanks, since he just picked up a couple of Eisner nominations.

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