In April, fans of Top Cow Productions will learn a thing of two about Patience. The cloak-wearing, spear-wielding heroine is resurfacing in the Top Cow Universe in a major way thanks to “Magdalena,” the character’s new ongoing series written by Ron Marz and illustrated by Nelson Blake II. As a concept that comes equipped with a considerable amount of rich mythology, Marz told CBR News that he couldn’t be more excited about finally tackling an ongoing “Magdalena” series.
“The high concept is that every generation has a Magdalena and they’re all descended from the family of Christ, in a relatively direct line from Christ and Mary Magdalene,” Marz described of the premise. “Like ‘Witchblade’ and ‘The Darkness,’ it’s a cyclical concept. Someone has that role down through the ages. The current Magdalena is a woman named Patience who was really thrust into the role when the previous one ended up dead. In her current story, she’s broken away from the Catholic Church and is no longer at their beck and call. That’s where we pick up with ‘Magdalena’ #1.”
While the new “Magdalena” series isn’t pushing the reset button on the character, Marz said that it’s designed to welcome new readers that are completely unaware of the concepts history. “Any book that says number one on it should be accessible to anybody that hasn’t read the character and isn’t familiar with the universe,” he stated. “To me, a big part of a comic book writer’s job is to find ways to smoothly convey information to the readers. A lot of times in comics, it becomes this horribly didactic passage of two or three pages where you want to pull your eyes out of your head because it’s very obvious that the story has stopped and now it’s time for an information download. I try like hell that when we have to do that, it’s threaded through the story in such a way that it doesn’t seem obvious and it doesn’t stop the story from moving forward. In ‘Magdalena’ #1, which we actually have extra pages for in order to get in everything that we wanted to, we’ll encapsulate the concept and history of the Magdalena and introduce all of the pertinent players – most especially Patience, obviously -Â and we’ll take off on the first storyline, which will take up the first six issues of the series.”
Marz described the current Magdalena as a woman that wasn’t necessarily prepared to wield the Spear of Destiny, one of the Top Cow Universe’s many Artifacts. Now more of a seasoned veteran, Patience has started to question her relationship to the Catholic Church. “She’s kind of pulled into the role of the Magdalena somewhat unprepared, and she’s gone through the realization that maybe the Church doesn’t value her for who she is; she simply fulfills a role for them,” he explained. “In a lot of ways, she’s come to the conclusion that she’s merely a pawn for the Church. When she doesn’t come back from a mission at some point, they’ll just dress somebody else up in the clothes. Because of that, she basically told the church to go screw itself. She’s gone rogue from their service, and that’s where we pick her up.”
But Patience can only stay away from the Church for so long. In the series’ opening story arc, the hero’s former employers are eager to retain her services. “There’s a threat that’s involved that the Church feels like only she can deal with,” Marz described. “If some guys you don’t trust come to you and say, ‘You have to deal with this threat or really bad things are going to happen,’ it’s not an easy choice. You don’t know whether or not you should swallow your pride and go back to work for the guys you feel used you, or maybe they’re lying and you should just keep walking. That’s a lot of the character stuff that goes on in the first arc. Patience is trying to figure out who she can trust and what, ultimately, is the best role for her to serve.”
The Magdalena’s tumultuous relationship with the Church is at the forefront of the series’ first storyline, but Patience will be reunited with another familiar face as well – Kristof, her former mentor. “We’re bringing back Kristof, who was a regular component of the previous ‘Magdalena’ miniseries,” said Marz. “He’s very much a foil for Magdalena, and while it’s not a straight romantic relationship between the two of them, there is some tension between them. That will play out over a number of issues and arcs.”
While Marz and Top Cow have planned on pursuing a “Magdalena” series for quite some time, finding the perfect interior artist was not an easy task – but that situation resolved itself when they turned to Nelson Blake II, one of Top Cow’s studio artists. “Nelson, in some ways, is the nerdy girl who takes her glasses off,” joked Marz. “We knew that we were going to do this ‘Magdalena’ series for quite a while. It’s been percolating for a couple of years now. We looked around quite a bit for who we thought would be the right guy to draw the series. We didn’t want it to be a situation where it comes to a point that you have to start drawing the damn thing and you just throw it at some [artist]. We wanted to be sure that we had the right guy. We looked at literally dozens of choices, we kicked names around and explored some different guys, and eventually we realized that the right guy had been under our nose the whole time.
“There are guys who get better in little increments, then there are guys like Nelson who just take leaps and bounds,” he continued in praise of his collaborator. “In fairly short order, it became obvious that the guy we need to be working with was sitting in the studio ten feet away. I really liked his ‘Pilot Season’ stuff, and that was what cemented in my mind that he was the right guy, long before that book went off to press. It seems to be a project that he’s jumping into with both feet – I don’t think it’s just an assignment for him. He’s made up his mind that this is the project that people are going to notice him on.”
Marz said that Blake’s “Magdalena” output is benefiting tremendously from the artist’s behind-the-scenes work. “He’s really putting a huge amount of work into every aspect of it, not just the pages in the story, but doing character sketches and figuring out how, for instance, someone fights with a spear,” explained the writer. “He’s not just drawing a fight scene – he’s researched and gotten to the point in his mind where he understands how someone fights with a spear. It’s not just generic. He’s put research into figuring out how somebody wearing a cloak moves around in an action sequence, how the cloak moves and how you can use it to your advantage in an action sequence. There’s a huge amount of work that he’s done behind the scenes that readers will never even see that, to me, improves the whole thing immeasurably.”
Blake isn’t the only illustrator contributing to “Magdalena,” as acclaimed artist Ryan Sook is on board as the regular cover artist. “I did a story with Ryan in ‘First Born: Aftermath,’ which is actually one of my favorite stories ever,” said Marz. “We explored Patience’s sense of isolation and almost betrayal by the church. To me, that story is kind of a touchstone for where she is and how she’s feeling right now. I’m hoping at some point that we’ll get that story out there again because it’s one of my favorite pieces. It’s a little gem that not everyone has discovered yet, and it’s what really led us to having Ryan as our regular cover artist on ‘Magdalena.’ I think Ryan is absolutely one of the top three or four guys working in comics – everything he does blows me away. The fact that he was willing to set aside enough time in his schedule each month to do our covers means a whole lot to me. I’m very proud of his involvement.”
Ultimately, of all the characters that Top Cow has to offer, from Sara Pezzini in “Witchblade” to Danielle Baptiste in “Angelus,” Marz feels that Magdalena is the strongest concept of them all. “It’s the concept that has attracted me the most since I’ve started working for [Top Cow], at least,” he said. “I feel that a big part of what makes Magdalena a really intriguing concept is the Church’s involvement … She’s essentially the Catholic Church’s monster hunter, much like how Van Helsing was supposed to be the Church’s monster hunter.
“Though that movie kind of sucked,” he laughed.
“Magdalena” #1, written by Ron Marz and illustrated by Nelson Blake II with a cover from Ryan Sook, hits comic book stores on April 28, 2010.