Turning 100 is a big deal in any industry, but for a company like Top Cow, seeing one of their series reach the #100th issue is a moment to celebrate. Not only is the series enjoying strong reviews, thanks to the work of writer Ron Marz, but there’s a Witchblade film in the works and an anime series doing quite well in Japan (you can see a trailer of the “Witchblade” anime here_. Last week’s “Witchblade” #100 marked a huge turning point in the series, so CBR News sat down with Marz to discuss the future of the book. This is your Spoiler Warning.
As the writer of Top Cow’s first #100 issue, Marz was cognizant of the pressures regarding such a historic event. “The obvious thing is you want a 100th issue to be big,” he said. “That’s the tradition, right? Something major has to happen in the issue, so you have a landmark for reasons beyond the number on the front cover. But I think too often a series will play a landmark issue as an ending, rather than something that will bring readers back in a month. There’s not much sense in doing a landmark issue if the readers get to the last page and go, ‘Cool, guess I can stop reading this now.’ So what we tried to do was give a satisfying conclusion to storylines that have been building since I took over the book, but also lay the groundwork for the next year or so of stories. Jake’s fate is definitely a conclusion, and hopefully the last two pages of issue #100 have enough of a hook to bring people back.”
With Sara losing her good friend Jake at the hands of #100’s big enemy, “Witchblade” seemed to come full circle to its roots. The core focus of the series has often been the cost of heroism, explored through the predicaments Sara Pezzini, the series’ lead, finds herself in as the result of doing the right thing or simply possessing the power to do the right thing. “Those are concepts I’ve tried to be aware of since taking over the book,” admits the scribe. “If there’s no cost to your protagonist, everybody’s happy and the book is incredibly dull. It’s Spider-man with Uncle Ben ever dying. So yes, we deal with the cost of Sara having the Witchblade, both to her and especially to the people around her. The idea of that cost — and just how much of it Sara is willing to pay — is going to play a large part in where the book goes over the next 12 months.”
Additionally, the issue revealed that the Witchblade acts as a sort of spiritual medium, allowing Sara to seek counsel with previous bearers of the Witchblade. “The idea is that each bearer becomes a part of the Witchblade, so it’s something Sara can access,” explained Marz. “I don’t want it to become a crutch or a running gag, but I do like the idea of this succession of women leading back into pre-history, each of them having a story worth telling. We’re currently talking about some ways we can utilize that history a little more. The book says ‘Witchblade’ on the front,” not ‘Sara.'”
There’s a lot of heavy emotional moments in the books, but perhaps none more in your face than Jake’s suicide. Even more surprising to some was Sara’s reaction to the moment – kissing Gleason not too long after it happened. “Sara finally kissing Gleason really comes out of this huge emotional moment she’s just had over Jake’s death,” Marz said. “Sometimes our responses to those situations aren’t what we expect. Not to mention that we’ve been teasing the Sara-Gleason first kiss for a while now, and I wanted to do something that would surprise readers.
“Sara’s going to be carrying around a big ol’ bundle of guilt over Jake. Whether or not his death is her fault, she’s going to view it that way, and be hauling around that baggage. It’s going to color the way she views the Witchblade. It’s another instance of the people around Sara paying the price for her having the Witchblade. So she naturally wonders, ‘Who’s next?’ Is it her new partner, Gleason? Is it the baby she’s carrying?
“And before anybody asks: no, Jake is not coming back.”
Wait. Baby? Yup, that’s right. Lil miss Sara is going to be a mommy…though those things don’t tend to end well for most superheroes. “Maybe it’ll end well, maybe it won’t,” teases the scribe. “I’m sure as hell not telling! We’re going in this direction because you hardly ever see characters in comics get pregnant. Sue Richards comes to mind, and after that .. not much. Obviously Catwoman’s had a baby, but the whole pregnancy was avoided via the One Year Later gap. With Sara, we’re going to play it straight; we’ll actually go through this pregnancy with her. Sara’s a strong character, and this baby is another chance to show that strength. Believe me, my 115-pound wife gave birth to each of our three kids without benefit of any kind of drugs or painkillers, and I’ve never seen anything more impressive in this world. ”
When it comes to female characters and Ron Marz, let’s just say that the writer doesn’t have it easy. Even since the infamous death of a female lead (who he created and introduced) in “Green Lantern,” some have seen fit to label Marz a misogynist. Obviously, the writer (and many of his fans) disagree, as he says, “I think the flak is mostly about one woman who would up dead in a refrigerator, and the whole purpose of that scene was to come up with a memorable death, so I guess that was accomplished. I feel like I’ve written a number of strong women — Sara, Arwyn in ‘Sojourn,’ Ashleigh in ‘Scion,’ to name a few — but if someone wants to view you or your work in a certain way, you’re not going to change their mind. So my personal stake in writing Witchblade is to tell the best story I can every issue, not prove or disprove anything to anybody. As much as possible, I want Sara to seem like a real person, and that includes strengths as well as weaknesses.”
When it comes to strengths, “Witchblade” #100 found itself well-equipped in the art department, with a bevy of guest artists at the helm. Besides the anniversary issue timing, Marz said that other factors played in a role in arranging such a visual feast. “First, Mike Choi is departing as the regular artist on the book, and Adriana Melo is taking over,” explained the “Ion” scribe. “Issue #100 just seemed like the logical place for the transition, so they both contributed. And second, we opened the book with a half-dozen terrific artists as kind of a primer on the Witchblade and its history. Anytime I can figure out a way to open an issue with Marc Silvestri drawing a cave girl and her sabertooth tiger, you’re damn right I’m gonna make that happen. In addition to Marc, we’ve got Witchblade alum Brian Ching, Billy Tan, Keu Cha and Randy Green, along with Chris Gossett. Great pages by everybody.”
Don’t expect Marz to be jumping ship anytime soon. “When a book turns out to be a good fit, I tend to stick around for a while,” he says. “‘Witchblade’ is a good fit, so I plan on writing it for some time. With the fallout from issue #100, we’re really starting on a new chapter now. If anything, I’m feeling recharged.”
And we can’t ignore that last page, now can we? A beautiful blonde woman…who is next in line to wear the Witchblade? “She looks an awful lot like the woman we saw with the Witchblade in Image’s Free Comic Book Day offering, doesn’t she?” he teases. “Stay tuned, we’ll be seeing more of her. Maybe a lot more. Like I mentioned before, it says “Witchblade” on the front of the book, not ‘Sara.'”