Looking For "Darkness" On The Road To "Artifacts"

If you're not afraid of the dark, you clearly haven't met Jackie Estacado.

As the bearer of the Darkness - the primal and ancient force of darkness within the Top Cow Universe - Jackie stands out as one of the single most important figures in the entire Top Cow stable. An antihero in every sense of the word, Estacado will need to tap into his innermost hero if he's to stand a chance at locating his missing daughter Hope in the pages of "Artifacts," the upcoming 13-issue event series from writer Ron Marz and a rotating team of artists including Michael Broussard. CBR News spoke with Marz and Top Cow Publisher Filip Sablik to learn more about Jackie and his role in "Artifacts."

"To my mind, he's a bad guy who's not really a bad guy," Marz surmised of Jackie's character. "He's a murderer and a former drug kingpin and a former hit man. The things that he's done embody all of the worst impulses of humanity, but yet, there's a loyalty to him and a sort of code of honor to him that I think makes him, in a very weird way, kind of a noble character."

"In my mind, he's kind of a classic pirates code character," said Sablik. "You look at characters from Martin Scorsese's movies or Raymond Chandler's novels, and that's the same stock that Jackie comes out of. He's a bad guy but he does have a moral code."

Jackie's particular brand of morality is best exemplified by his refusal to cater to the Darkness force's every malicious whim. "In many ways, Jackie is opposed to the Darkness," the publisher explained. "He uses the Darkness's power, but at the same time, he likes to fuck with the Darkness and vice versa. By his surface definition, he should be a bad guy, but part of what makes him a good guy is that he doesn't give in to the Darkness's will. He travels his own path."

One thing that's important to Jackie, according to Sablik and Marz, is his sense of family. "He's a family man first, because he's an orphan," explained Sablik. "He's a guy who was raised by the mob and they became a surrogate family for him. In a way, Jackie is a guy with daddy issues because of the curse of the Darkness. Every time a Darkness bearer conceives of a son or an heir, they die immediately and the curse is passed to their first-born son - so Jackie never knew his father."

But Jackie was able to break the Darkness curse by fathering baby Hope with Sara Pezzini, the bearer of the Witchblade. The Darkness itself forced Jackie to impregnate Sara in order to tip the universe's balance away from the Angelus, the Darkness's opposing entity. Because it was the Darkness's actions and not Jackie's, the occasional mobster was allowed to survive the incident. But even though he's still alive after parenting Hope, Jackie is far from earning a father of the year award.

"He's the absentee father, and in a lot of ways, he's the unwelcomed absentee father," said Marz. "When he shows up, trouble follows him. Sara has ostensibly told him not to come around anymore. He's not wanted."

Of course, Jackie's distance from Hope has as much to do with his own doubts about being a parent as it does with his relationship to Sara, a New York City police detective. "Jackie is a guy that's more than happy to put his rivals in the ground, and that's obviously pretty diametrically opposed to the kind of person that Sara is," explained Marz. "To me, that's one of the intriguing things about their relationship: if not for the fact that they have this child together and if not for the fact that the Witchblade and the Darkness are bound together, Sara and Jackie would be trying to kill each other."

"She should be putting him in jail, and it's part of what makes their relationship so complicated - she never has," said Sablik. "Part of it is that she sees and maybe hopes that there's something better within Jackie than what he displays on the surface."

Jackie will have the opportunity to show Sara what lies beneath his surface when "Artifacts" begins in July. In the past, Marz and Sablik have identified "Artifacts" as a company-spanning crossover event with Jackie and Sara at the very core of the story, due to the sudden and tragic disappearance of their daughter. "If Jackie was a completely amoral bastard, he'd be a lot better off than he is now, but because he has these personal ties, and especially because of the way he feels about Hope, he's going to be right in the crosshairs," Marz explained of Jackie's predicament. "Just because he's an absentee father doesn't mean he won't be a real handful to deal with in this situation. In a lot of ways, it almost makes him that much worse to deal with, because he feels like he should have been there to protect Hope in the first place."

"And that's a question that will be answered in 'Artifacts' - exactly how absentee has Jackie really been?" Sablik teased. "If you know Jackie, you know he makes an effort to protect what is valuable to him."

"I think he's probably the worst enemy on the planet to have, but in some ways, if he's loyal to you, he's the best friend you could ask for," Marz assessed of Estacado's upcoming journey. "He's the sort of guy who's going to have your back no matter what. All of that kind of loyalty will be put to the test in 'Artifacts.'

"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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