It's beginning to seem that every major convention involves an announcement of Ron Marz on a new comic book from a major publisher. The writer, who perhaps achieved his greatest fame during his historic tenure on DC Comics' "Green Lantern," may not have attended Comic-Con International in San Diego, but he was all over the place. Top Cow found fans responding enthusiastically to Marz's work on "Witchblade" #100 (another historic moment from Marz) and Dark Horse Comics announced two new projects from Marz, namely "Pantheon City" and a sequel to "Samurai: Heaven & Earth." We caught up with the writer to learn about both books, and Marz was happy to spill the beans, starting with "Pantheon City," a four-issue series arriving later this year.
"It's a near-future science-fiction story, set in the first city designed by artificial intelligence and built by automation, all under the supervision of the world's leading robotics company, the Pantheon Corporation," he explained. "But don't worry, this isn't the comics version of Architectural Digest, which would frankly be pretty damn boring. The story revolves around the city designing and building what is essentially a 'protector' in the form of a robot.
"It's not officially scheduled yet, since we'd like to build up a head of steam and get some issues in the can. Clement Sauve is doing interiors and covers, and I have to say I'm really thrilled with what he's doing so far. It's just phenomenal stuff."
From his work at DC to his work at the now defunct Crossgen, Marz has become known for the diverse array of original characters in his series, and "Pantheon City" will be no different. In addition to the above-mentioned robot, we'll also meet a young woman named Sam, who gets thrown into the mix. "Sam is a new arrival in Pantheon City, looking for the kind of fresh start in life that the city offers," explained Marz. "But there's an underside to Pantheon that's a little more dangerous than the bright, sunny picture that the Pantheon Corporation paints. There's a supporting cast around Sam, and we'll also meet some of the people from the Pantheon Corporation, especially its elderly chairman."
Believe it or not, "Pantheon City" actually began ten years ago, with Marz and a different artist on the book. But life, as it is wont to do, threw a curveball Marz's way and plans changed in the ensuing years, even though the core idea remained the same. "Truthfully, I don't think there's been a lot of sci-fi in comics in the recent past, especially if you remove licensed stuff like 'Star Wars' from the equation," says the writer of what still makes the series stand out. "You look at the racks, and it's a lot of super-hero stuff set in the here and now. So hopefully 'Pantheon City' is a little bit different flavor."
A big part of that flavor comes from artist Clement Sauve, who became involved with the book because, quite frankly, he's the man for Marz. The scribe merely had to ask the artist if he was in and the rest is history. "I always think one of the biggest hurdles on any project is matching the right artist to the right material," said Marz of waiting for Sauve's schedule to open up. "You can have an incredibly talented artist, but if the project isn't the right fit for the artist, the whole thing is less than it could be. With Clem, I can't think of a more perfect book for him than 'Pantheon City.' A lot of comics take place in a pre-existing environment, most of the time a version of the world that's right outside your window. But Clem designed the city and characters from the ground up, and I think he's really created something special. His sensibilities with tech and architecture are amazing."
There's potential for a sequel if sales warrant it, and Marz implores readers to pre-order the book when it becomes available, because, "The number one reason would be so that Dark Horse doesn't throw me and Clem out on our ears! Seriously, it's a leap of faith when a publisher takes on a creator-owned title. We think we've got a good book here, but it's gratifying when the sales bear out that leap of faith. And, of course, if sales warrant it, we've got more stories to tell in Pantheon City."
And Marz has more stories to tell with the sequel to "Samurai: Heaven & Earth," his critically acclaimed series from 2005, which he jokes "We imaginatively titled: 'Samurai: Heaven and Earth, Volume 2,'" and continues, "The creativity goes into the story, not the title, apparently. We're continuing from the end of the first mini, which concluded with Shiro setting off after his kidnapped love, Yoshiko, who is in the hands of the Spaniard, Don Miguel. Shiro was reunited with Yoshiko in the first volume, only to lose her again. This time the trail will take him across the Mediterranean and into Egypt."
Fans of the first volume will be pleased to know that the book is still very much a love story, with lots of sword fights for good measure, even with the location change from Egypt to Versailles. So who returns? "Shiro, Yoshiko and Don Miguel, obviously, as well as Safwah ibn Badr al Din, the Arab slave trader," revealed Marz. "Everybody else will be new, thanks to the new locales.
"Also, Luke Ross returns as artist, again working in the 'finished pencil' style he used on the first mini, as well as his 'Jonah Hex' issues. Our colorist from volume 1, Jason Keith, has signed exclusive with Marvel, so Rob Schwager is now our color guy. Rob's another CrossGen alum, and was actually the colorist for quite a few years on my Green Lantern run, in addition to coloring Luke on 'Jonah Hex,' so we kept it in the family. Luke and Rob have a great rapport, and the stuff they're producing is looking great."
Since working on his earlier samurai themed work, such as "The Path" at Crossgen, Marz admits he's learned a big lesson, specifically, "I've learned that I need to learn more. The tradition of samurai stories is so rich, there's always more to read, more to research. Anytime I'm in a bookstore and see something that might come in handy, I pick up one for me and one for Luke. Writing this kind of story, you come to appreciate how brilliant something like 'Lone Wolf and Cub' really is."
While Marz can see a specific end in mind for "Samuari," he has a number of stories he'd like to tell in that universe, and in others, as evidenced by his full slate of upcoming books. "More 'Ion,' more 'Witchblade,' more 'Cyberforce,' and I'm doing another creator-owned series with Desperado that will be published through Image," he reveals. "That one's called 'Russian Sunset,' with a Serbian artist named Mirko Colak, an espionage/crime book that's definitely a mature readers title. First issue on that should be out in November."