Experience "Rapture" On The Road To "Artifacts"

Hell hath no fury like a man of god scorned - a man like Tom Judge, wielder of the Rapture.

Judge is one of the Top Cow Universe's elite Artifact-bearers, a group consisting of Sara Pezzini (Witchblade), Jackie Estacado (The Darkness) and Danielle Baptiste (The Angelus). But there's a major distinction between Judge and the aforementioned bearers - unlike these Earth-dwellers, Judge's current place of residence is the depths of Hell. Of course, that's not to say that he won't have an important role to play when the time comes for "Artifacts," the 13-issue series written by Ron Marz and illustrated by a team of artists including Michael Broussard. CBR News spoke with Marz and Top Cow Publisher Filip Sablik to learn more about Judge and his role in "Artifacts."

"Tom Judge is a defrocked priest, and like a lot of the other characters in the Top Cow Universe, he's somebody with a lot of shades of grey," Marz told CBR of Judge. "He's very much a fallen man and also a guy who paid the ultimate price for his sins and got sent straight to Hell - which is where he currently resides."

Hell wasn't always Judge's home turf. The character was first introduced in the pages of Paul Jenkins' "Universe," medicating himself with booze and prostitutes in an attempt to alleviate the guilt he felt after his priestly advice got several innocent people killed. Eventually, Judge's path changed once he came into possession of the Rapture, a necklace that just so happens to be one of the 13 elite Artifacts. "The idea behind the Rapture is that it grants hope to people," said Sablik. "Because of that, it also has the ability to release souls from hell. So he's a very potentially powerful character in the Top Cow Universe."

"Readers will see Tom and see the Rapture in the first issue of 'Artifacts.' As far as what it is, one of the things that it does is it grants the ability for Tom to turn into this brimstone-inspired beast that can really chew up the scenery in a non-actor sort of way," Marz explained further. "The Rapture itself is rumored to give the ability to release souls from hell - it's an instrument of hope in a lot of ways, which is, curiously enough, Sara Pezzini's daughter's name."

Baby Hope, of course, is Sara Pezzini and Jackie Estacado's infant daughter, and her disappearance is a main plot point in "Artifacts." But Judge has a lot more in common with the story's overarching events than a curious connection between his Artifact's power and Hope's name, as readers learned from Judge's recent Hellish appearance in Marz and Stjepan Sejic's "Angelus" #3. "He lives in a bad neighborhood, as 'Angelus' #3 showed us, and a good deal of that scene in 'Angelus' indicates that Tom has a bit more knowledge about what's coming, about the events that are unfolding that will eventually get paid off in 'Artifacts,'" Marz teased. "As for how he knows that and what he's going to do about it? That's what you have to read 'Artifacts' to find out!"

"One of the things that's intimated in 'Angelus' is that the events leading to 'Artifacts' are finally getting him motivated," added Sablik. "Up until this point, a lot of what Tom has done has been a little self-serving or not particularly effective. He's a character with a lot of potential influence over the Top Cow Universe, but until this point, he hasn't really used it. Now, he's getting off of his butt to become involved. That in itself indicates how big of a deal ['Artifacts'] is."

There are several reasons that both Marz and Sablik feel that the character is compelling, not the least of which is the visual distinction between Tom Judge the man and Tom Judge the Rapture-fueled monster. "When Ron sat down with me and Michael Broussard to say, 'We want your input. What are you most excited about drawing?' The first two words out of Michael's mouth were, 'Tom Judge,'" said Sablik. "I think there's something very visually compelling about the character. The contrast between Tom Judge the man with the Rapture around his neck and then this other form he can take, this kind of Hulk-ish guy who looks like he's from Hell, is pretty cool and, for an artist, very exciting."

Beyond the intriguing visuals of the character, Marz says another reason that Judge is so compelling is his similarity to - wait for it - Tiger Woods. He explained: "Nobody likes someone who wins all the time. That's really part of the American society's character as a whole. Yes, we like winners, but only to a certain point before we have to tear them down, like Tiger Woods. We like nothing better than for that person to be torn down to redeem themselves in our eyes. That's Tom Judge's story in a nutshell. He's a guy who has failed and gets one more chance to put that to right."

Make no mistake, Judge's last chance to put himself back on the right path is coming in "Artifacts" - and it may never come again. "This is, in a lot of ways, Tom's chance for redemption," said Marz. "Here is a man of god who has fallen pretty far off that path. What's interesting to me is the world-weariness that's obvious in his character. For him, it's about trying to redeem himself and, in doing so, redeem the world. This is his lone chance to make good on the things he failed to do before."

"Artifacts" #1, written by Ron Marz and illustrated by Michael Broussard, launches on July 21, 2010. Tune into CBR every week leading up to the issue's release for further insight from Marz and Sablik.

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