Renae Geerlings, The Kingpin Of Top Cow, Talks Company Plans

It's a good time to be a Top Cow Comics fan. Doesn't matter if you're a current fan or a lapsed fan, the next year will be full of your favorite characters in all different kinds of adventures, some in mediums beyond comic books, but all designed with you, the fans in mind. The success of "Hunter/Killer" and the milestone issue #100 of "Witchblade" have already propelled Top Cow back into the spotlight, but there are even greater plans afoot at Top Cow HQ. CBR News caught up with Top Cow Editor In Chief Renae Geerlings to learn more about what's in the company's future.

When Marc Silvestri helped to create Image Comics all those years ago (before he broke off with Top Cow), fans who knew him from his X-Men work immediately were drawn to his first project at the rebel company, a series called "Cyberforce." Featuring a group of outcasts with cool powers and good looks, the series was an instant hit with fans and to celebrate its 14th anniversary, the characters will crossover with the X-Men. As Geerlings explained, the "Cyberforce/X-Men" special's origin is appropriately unexpected. "We had actually been planning a 'Witchblade/Punisher' cross-over in November with Ron Marz and Mike Choi," Geerlings told CBR News. "As you may have heard, however, we put Mike on the 'X-23' mini-series as one of our projects with Marvel, and suddenly he was tied up until next spring. Matt Hawkins [Top Cow President] had always wanted to do the 'Cyberforce/X-Men' cross-over. Plus, Ron and Pat Lee were finishing up the first story arc of the new 'Cyberforce' series and it's the 14th anniversary of 'Cyberforce' in November. All the pieces clicked into place!

"At its inception, Cyberforce was an evolution of the X-Men type of team book. People have noted in the past that some of the characters have some similarities. [laughs] This cross-over is something we've wanted to do for a while, to explore the differences between the two worlds. What better way to do that than putting them side by side?

"Trying to introduce two entire teams would be too much for a 22 page story, so we're concentrating on Ripclaw, Wolverine, Cyblade and Psylocke. Sentinels are tracking them, mistakenly thinking that the members of Cyberforce are also mutations instead of cybernetically enhanced. The foursome will have to work together to get out of their predicament."

Those members of Cyberforce have seen some cross-company action recently in "JLA/Cyberforce," their crossover with the DC Comics super team. Meeting Superman, Batman, and the rest of the League was not only fun for readers, it also featured major events for Cyberforce fans. That inclusion of lasting effects helped distinguish it from other inter-company crossovers and you can expect the X-Men crossover to have similar significance. "Ron and I are still working out the details," admitted Geerlings. "Originally, 'Cyberforce' #6 of the regular series was going to lead directly into #7. We changed that issue to have an 'ending' given that this will be a break in that story. So yes, this will be a bridge story into the next arc. I like it when one-shots have some kind of effect on a regular series, but we're still working out the details of this particular story and how it will spin off into the next 'Cyberforce' arc."

The bevy of new projects don't stop with Cyberforce, as the supernatural anti-hero Darkness will be celebrating his 10th anniversary, a notable accomplishment in an industry not usually receptive to new superheroes. A new series of Darkness books will be launched to coincide with the upcoming video game, which will not only enhance the gaming experience, but also help redefine Jackie Estacado's (the Darkness) role in the Top Cow Universe. "We're going to focus back in on Jackie and his world," said Geerlings. "There are future plans to bring Witchblade and The Darkness back together, but these first 'The Darkness' books are more along the tone and content of the video game being released this coming spring. We're even calling them Level 1 through 5. They are not the comic version of the game, but there will be elements pulled from the game's storyline. David Wohl is working with Paul Jenkins to create five great one-offs that will be worked on by different art teams.

"There are some continuity differences between the original series and the video game, so we're ironing out how many of those will make it into the new series, and how it will spin off into the new 'The Darkness' series next year.

"We are currently working on a videogame Prequel book with 2K Games and an artist from Starbreeze, Mattias Snygg (I love that name) that we'll be soliciting in December. Also, an 'Art of the Darknes's book with beautiful unadulterated art, a first look at the long-awaited 'Darkness/Pitt' series by Paul Jenkins and Dale Keown, and 'The Darknes's vol #5 trade paperback."

Geerling told CBR News that the artists contributing to the the Level 1 through 5 books include Eric Basaldua, Mike Choi, Tyler Kirkham, Stjepan Sejic and possibly another issue with Snyg.

When asked how else Top Cow will celebrate this milestone, Geerlings joked, "Well, obviously, party hats and strippers." Of course, if she's not joking, CBR News will gladly cover the party to bring you, the reader, the most complete comic book coverage…yeah, that's it.

Next out of the gate is a new "Tomb Raider" series, featuring Lara Croft, the popular heroine from films and video games. To some, Lara is no more than a TnA character, but throughout their time publishing 'Raider related materials, Top Cow has taken a much different stance, championing the character as a strong female lead. So what makes her stand out? "The dichotomy! She's a font of contradictions," said Geerlings. "She's a rich socialite who is just as comfortable in a Tom Ford gown as she is in dusty hiking boots and shooting at the bad guys. She has all the money in the world and yet the adrenaline thrill of treasure seeking is what she craves. She's book-smart and world-wise. Beautiful and deadly. You can put her in any situation and it's not a far stretch. Writers love to write her, artists love to draw her, women want to be her and men just plain want her. We've only explored the tip of the iceberg with the character."

Finally, there's an all new Top Cow series in the works from Paul Dini, the man who helped bring the various DC Comics animated series to life, and won Emmys for his work on "Batman: The Animated Series." The series is considered by many to be the best adaptation from comics to another medium, and with his success on various comic books, including his current tenure on "Detective Comics," it's natural that Geerlings is excited to collaborate with the scribe. "Ever since Paul worked with us on the 'Witchblade Animated' issue, we've wanted to get something together," she said. "Jim McLauchlin got this ball rolling during his rein and it's something I'm very excited to see through to its fruition. I love Paul. He's a brilliant story-teller and an all-around great guy. So to be able to be in on the development of this property is a real treat for me."

The new series is called "Madam Mirage" and will be a mystery book, which will be a welcome announcement for fans of Dini's layered storytelling. "There are two lead characters, Madame Mirage herself and a young girl named Harper," explained Geerlings. "They are connected, but how they are connected comes out through the series. It will be painted by Kenneth Rocafort, who is an amazingly talented young man. It's going to be a lush, beautiful, action packed story! We wanted to be in business with Paul Dini. That was pretty compelling in itself. Then he pitched us this concept and we were sold!"

It's an exciting time for Geerlings, as she's overseeing one of the biggest years in Top Cow's history, but when asked about what it's like, she laughs and replies, "Coming back from the cons to a full inbox and the piles of pending work on my desk is a little daunting. So maybe ask me next week! No, seriously, we're all so excited about the stuff we have in the pipes. We have amazing creators working with us and great artists. Things are looking rosy. It's taken a lot of work to make these things happen and we have a lot more work to do, but it's paying off and that feels great!"

With so many new companies finding it hard to break into the comic book market, Geerlings feels that Top Cow's characters (and the company by extension) have thrived, "Because they're normal people with great powers suddenly thrust upon them. We like to keep them as human as possible and that makes them easy to relate to. That and they're usually pretty easy on the eyes. It's a visual medium and Top Cow tries to hold higher standards for their artists."

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