Believe in Magic: Ortega Returns to "Necromancer"

Top Cow's Pilot Season initiative consists of five one-shots pairing top industry creators with under-utilized Top Cow characters. When all is said and done, fans will have the opportunity to vote on which character(s) they'd like to see get their own ongoing series.

Pilot Season continues this month with "Necromancer: Pilot Season" #1 by Joshua Ortega and Jonboy Meyers. As part of our continuing coverage, CBR News caught up with comics writer and novelist Joshua Ortega to get the details on "Necromancer: Pilot Season" #1.

Interestingly, "Necromancer's" Abigail Van Alstine has the distinction of being the only character to have her Pilot Season issue penned by her original creator. Back in 2005, Ortega began Abby's tale in the pages of Top Cow's "The Necromancer," a coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of a magical epic. The studio had already been developing "The Necromancer" when Top Cow's Marc Silvestri approached Ortega about writing the original series.

"They had a rough idea of what they wanted, but it never got to the fleshed-out stages," Joshua Ortega told CBR News. "Marc Silvestri called me up one day and asked me, 'Do you like magic? Not Vegas magic, but witchcraft, sorcery, that kind of stuff.'" Ortega had always had a soft spot for stories involving magic, and learning that artist Francis Manapul was attached to "The Necromancer" sealed the deal. "It's been a great experience, easily one of my favorite stories I've ever worked on."

Originally conceived of as a 50-odd issue maxiseries, publishing delays and other factors contributed to the original project's demise after a mere six issues. But before he left, Ortega made a promise to Marc Silverstri and Matt Hawkins that one day he'd make sure to see Abby's story through to its eventual conclusion. Once Top Cow selected "Necromancer's" Abby van Alstine to be one of the Pilot Season headliners, Ortega was their first and only choice to pen her issue.

"It's roughly a 50-issue story in its entirety, though I am writing in self-contained 6-issue arcs," Ortega explained. "'Sandman' was a huge influence on me, and I thought Neil [Gaiman] did a brilliant job with that format, individual arcs that link up to a greater whole."

In the chronology of the story, only a few weeks have passed between the sixth and final issues of "Necromancer" Book 1 and the Pilot Season issue, and features all of the major players from the first series with the exception of Deacon McCabe, Colonel Aldritch and the Church of Mali. "The issue is entitled 'About a Girl,' and it's exactly that: Who is Abigail van Alstine, and how did she reach this point in her life?" Ortega said. "How is she dealing with the many tragedies that occurred during Book 1, and how is she adjusting to life in the City of Angels and her newfound role as one of the few Necromancers in the Hierarchy? The title of the issue also refers to the main plot that runs throughout the story, when Abby discovers the shocking and unsettling truth about a baby girl and the demons that haunt her parents."

Ortega said he wrote the issue to be new-reader friendly while at the same time appealing to fans of the original series, and that it will be a stand-alone story, but with a "cool twist" at the end. "A horror-fantasy story that also features some good superhero action, albeit with a magical twist," he said.

Ortega intends for "Necromancer: Pilot Season" #1 to bridge the gap between "Necromancer" books 1 and 2. "Yes, there will be a Book 2 at some point, but how well 'Necromancer' does in Pilot Season will determine how fast readers get to read Book 2," Ortega said. "If Top Cow and readers are ready for the whole story, I'm ready to tell it. It's an epic tale, I think people will be pretty amazed at everything that happens by the end of Abby's story. But rest assured, at some point or another, we'll at least do one more Book. We at least have to let readers know what Abby's connection is to Mali…"

Ortega is lobbying for his issue of Pilot Season to get fans' votes, but no more or less than he does for any of his projects. "I'm always doing that on some level," Ortega said. "I enjoy talking about projects I'm excited about, whether they're mine or a friend's, so it's kind of a given that I'll be talking about this book and letting people know. I think you've gotta be willing to promote and market your work in this day and age, it's just a reality of the artistic/entertainment marketplace. Arguably, art and commerce should never have mixed, but hey, that's where we're at now, so you make it work."

"Necromancer" Book 1 artist Francis Manapul handpicked Jonboy Meyers to be his successor for the Pilot Season project. "Jonboy is a really nice guy who's open to collaborating, and he also brings a cool, dynamic style to the book that's similar to Francis in some ways, but definitely unique in others," Ortega said. "I think fans will enjoy his work on the book."

"Necromancer" isn't the only project on Ortega's horizon. In the coming weeks, "Savage Tales" #4 hits stands, featuring a Red Sonja story by Ortega, as well as the fifth issue of the hugely popular "Frank Frazetta's Death Dealer." "I'm also wrapping up work on 'Battlestar Galactica: The Cyclon War' with author Eric (HALO) Nylund," Ortega said.

The writer has a number of other comics projects in the works including a collaboration with artist Darick Robertson and has been lending his talents to a number of X-Box games as well. "When the announcement is made on the new game I'm working on, people are gonna flip," remarked Ortega. "It's an amazing gig, and I'm working with some amazingly talented people

"Necromancer: Pilot Season" #1 hits stands October 31.

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