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REFLECTIONS #233: Ron Marz, Part II

by  in Comic News Comment
REFLECTIONS #233: Ron Marz, Part II
FIRST LOOK: The first issue of “Samurai: Heaven and Earth” volume 3, on sale in 2008

Welcome back to the second part of REFLECTIONS’ Ron Marz interview. I missed you terribly while you were gone. Of course, if you are joining us for the first time, you can find the first half of the interview here.

This week, not only does Marz finish up our discussion of his seminal run on Top Cow’s “Witchblade” – a run that has seen the origin of the Witchblade finally revealed, heroine Sara Pezzini pregnant and dating a stable boyfriend (gasp!), and the creation of another bearer– he also teases quite a bit about the third volume of “Samurai: Heaven and Earth,” and gives us a sneak peak at the first cover. Additionally, Marz talks with us about his DC Comics crossover work and finishes up with a heartwarming discussion about Jason Vorhees.

Big Ron Marz fan? Well, he’s doing a big signing this weekend in the Washington, DC and Baltimore area on Saturday, February 23. His schedule is as follows:

11 A.M.-2 P.M.

Cards, Comics, and Collectibles

100 Chartley Drive

Reisterstown, MD

(410) 526-7410

4-7 P.M.

Phoenix Comics

Lansdowne Shopping Center

19340 Promenade Drive

Lansdowne, VA 20176

(703) 437-9530

Robert Taylor: You started writing “Witchblade” nearly four years ago, and you’re contracted to remain with the title until 2010. Did you ever think you would be on the book this long, let alone into 2010?

Ron Marz: Truthfully, it was never a book I intended to write in the first place. It wasn’t on my radar, and I hadn’t read it very much at all.

“Witchblade” volume 1 on sale now

After I had done an arc on “The Darkness,” Top Cow asked me what I wanted to do. I said that I thought Magdelena had a lot of possibilities, and that I’d love to explore her character. And the answer was, “That’s great, how about you do ‘Witchblade’ instead?” So that’s how I ended up with it.

I felt like the job in front of me was to polish up the book and make it viable for a new audience. The first thing that I said, after looking at some issues and getting a sense of where I wanted to go, was, “If you’re looking for stories that are excuses for her clothes to fall off, I’m not the guy to provide those. But if you’re okay with me telling stories that are character first, that will make the readers care about what happens to the characters, I’ll give it a whirl.”

In the past four years, I’ve never been unhappy or disinterested in the book. The directions I can take the book in are myriad enough that I never feel trapped. It’s more about choosing which of the four or five possible directions to pursue.

RT: Tell us about working with series artist Stjepan Sejic.

RM: He’s a rarity, obviously. Artists who can digitally paint a monthly book are few and far between. Hell, Stjepan might be the only one who can do it, right now. I really love the combination of beauty and the grotesque he can achieve, sometimes on the same page. He’s a perfect artist for the kind of stuff we’re doing in “Witchblade,” and I really enjoy collaborating with him. We kick a lot of stuff back and forth via instant messaging. Sometimes I’ll tell him about an idea or a design, and an hour later he’ll send me fully painted sketches.

Stjepan’s really good now, but the thing that I love is he’s always trying to get better, trying to become a better artist, a better storyteller. I have to remind myself that living in Croatia, there’s so much he hasn’t been exposed to in terms of comics, stuff everyone over here takes for granted but he hasn’t seen. He’s coming over for the April convention in New York, and I’m taking him on a shopping spree.

RT: Speaking of books you should definitely get him while in New York, when is volume three of you and Luke Ross’s “Samurai: Heaven and Earth” hitting the stands?

RM: When we do it. [laughs] Luke is busy finishing up the “Indiana Jones” adaptation for Dark Horse. But after he gets that out of the way and finishes up some odds and ends, he’ll get back to “Samurai.” I’m working on the scripts now, and the first issue of the next series should be out later this year.

RT: I hear something about it being about pirates, me harty!

RM: Oh yeah, it’s pirates. It’s pirates both historical and literary. That’s been one of the major juggling acts for me, figuring out how to bring actual, historical pirates and pirates from literature into the same story comfortably. It’s a bit like we did in the first volume, with Louis XIV and the four Musketeers.

RT: Do you have an endgame in mind for “Samurai” yet?

RM: I do have an end in mind, but a big part of it is having enough time in Luke’s schedule to do it. The art is understandably very time-consuming for him. It takes me a week or so to write a script, but it takes Luke six or seven weeks to draw an issue because of the finish he’s bringing to it. As much as we love “Samurai,” we have a few other projects we want to do together as well. So we’re definitely doing volume 3, and I have the story for a volume 4 worked out as well.

RT: Tell us a little about the Virgin Comics titles you are editing and writing.

RM: I’m only writing one thing for them right now, which is an adaptation of a screenplay by Deepak Chopra called “Beyond.” Gotham Chopra, Deepak’s son, is really the guy who brought me into Virgin, and he told me he felt like I was the right guy to do adapt the story into comics form. It was very flattering that he’d entrust me with his father’s work, so I made sure to make room for it in my schedule. It’s a five-issue mini, with the first issue out in May.

I’m also editing three books for Virgin, all in the Shakti line, which are more mythology-based, really grounded in Indian myth and heroic tradition. I edit “Devi,” “Ramayan Reloaded” and “The Sadhu.”

RT: Is it difficult for you to edit the books without putting too much of yourself into them?

RM: I try to put as little of myself as possible into the process. I don’t feel like it’s my role to inject myself into somebody else’s work. That’s not an editor’s job. I’ve had editors who basically want you to tell their story, and it’s never a happy process. I think the editor’s role is to help the creative talent tell their story better.

Virgin brought me on because they wanted to bring up the level of the books in the Shakti line. Hopefully it’s been a learning process for everybody. I’ve been trying to pass on what I’ve learned about storytelling, both in script and art. It really deals with every aspect that goes into a comic – writing, line art, coloring, lettering, covers. I’m pleased with the progress, but there’s always more to improve upon.

It’s been a really cool experience so far. I could never give up writing, but the editing allows me to pass on what I’ve learned in the last 15 years. That variety keeps things interesting for me.

RT: How has it been working with Virgin Comics?

RM: They’ve absolutely a pleasure to work for. They’re very hands-off in terms of letting me run the books I’m in charge of. I just pop into the Virgin offices in New York once in a while. I can do everything right from home. I’m working with creative teams that are in India, so it’s all e-mail and a weekly phone conference. The most rewarding thing for me is that I can see where the skills of the writers, Saurav Mohapatra and Shamik Dasgupta, are now, as compared to a year ago. In no way am I patting myself on the back for it, the credit goes to them for learning as much as they have in the year. Now these are books that I would go out and buy if I wasn’t editing them.

It’s very different stuff. One of the things that attracted me to the material, and one of the reasons I agreed to the job, is that conceptually, these are not the same-old, same-old. “Devi” is probably the one that most closely resembles a superhero book. It’s got a huge amount of Indian mythology in it, and it’s culturally very different from Batman and Superman, but it’s still about a hero protecting a city.

RT: Let’s talk a bit about your DC Comics work, as you have worked on both of their recent major crossovers, albeit in an ancillary way, with your one shots “Countdown: The Search for Ray Palmer” and “Sinestro Corps Special.”

RM: I was really just a hired gun on both of those. That’s the nature of the big company crossover; you get your piece of the puzzle and hope that you have done the job in the best way that you can. They were both fun. There’s always a certain amount of communication that has to go on between you and the editors and the other writers so that all the pieces fit together in the end.

Marz’s “Tales of the Sinestro Corps: Ion” will be collected in June’s “Tales of the Sinestro Corps” hardcover

I was a bit more involved in the Sinestro Corps stuff than I was with the “Countdown” material because I was seeing [“Green Lantern” writer] Geoff Johns’ scripts and we had a few phone conferences. It was a chance to go back and write Kyle [Raynor] again, which is like putting on a comfortable old sweatshirt for me.

RT: Now how did you get involved with “Friday the 13th”?

RM: [Editor] Ben Abrenathy at Wildstorm called one day and told me they were getting the license for the New Line horror properties, and asked if I’d be interested. Ben is great guy and a terrific editor, so any excuse to work with him is good enough for me. “Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” don’t do much for me, but I thought “Friday the 13th” had some possibilities. I eventually came up with an idea I liked well enough, and that’s the one we went with.  

RT: Are you a big fan of the film series?

RM: I think I’m more a fan of the concept than the overall movie series. There’s a creepy, campfire ghost story feel that I like. You know, kind of like the classic hook-handed killer on Lovers Lane. A hulking brute in a hockey mask at a summer camp has that same vibe.

RT: What’s your favorite movie of the lot?

“Friday the 13th: Bad Land” #1 on sale now

RM: The first one. I think it’s the first movie I actually took a girl to. I must’ve been in junior high, I guess. Obviously the theater had some pretty lax policies about underage kids seeing R-rated movies.

RT: And your least favorite movie of the lot?

RM: Um … all the rest of them? I don’t know, the ones that strayed from the core concept. I don’t need to see Jason in space, or in hell, or on a cruise ship, and neither do you.

RT: What are your thoughts about the planned re-launch by Michael Bay’s production company?

RM: Seems like the franchise has been around long enough that it could use a reboot. I’ll be happy to have anything chase the torture porn off the screen.

RT: What made you split your “Friday the 13th: Bad Land” book into two horror stories, one historical and one in the present?

RM: I like history, and I like the concept that evil is cyclical, the feeling that it happened before, it’ll happen again. I wanted to do something different from the first mini that Wildstorm published. That was definitely classic “Friday the 13th,” a really nice job by [writers] Justin [Gray] and Jimmy [Palmiotti] and the art team. There was no sense in doing the “kids at summer camp” take, because it had already been done very well. So I went in the opposite direction. 

RT: And setting it during the winter is also very offbeat from what fans expect. Where did that come from?

“Friday the 13th: Bad Land” #2 on sale now

RM: What’s scarier than being lost in the woods? Being lost in the woods in a blizzard. You can get a real sense of isolation with that kind of setting. Plus, blood looks great splattered on snow. 

RT: What was most difficult about altering a slasher movie style for comics? What came easily?

RM: I just wrote the best story I could. I didn’t worry about following any slasher movie ethic, other than setting up enough characters that I could knock them off one by one, and have the readers guessing who would be next. I also knew I wanted to present Jason almost as a force of nature. He would come in and do his thing, silent and unstoppable.

RT: Would you like to return to that more horror-centric genre anytime soon?

RM: Definitely. I’ve got a couple of creator-owned ideas that you could comfortable classify as horror, and at some point I’ll get around to them.

Now discuss this story in CBR’s Image Comics forum.



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