The last time CBR News readers heard from writer Ron Marz, he recounted his controversial (and high-selling) run on DC Comics' "Green Lantern" series. Since then, he's finished his work at Crossgen Comics and has returned to the freelance life, with work on "Green Lantern," "Star Wars," "The Darkness" and more to come. Marz took some time out of his busy schedule to chat with CBR News about what it's like to be in the spotlight again. "I am? Hang on, let me go look outside the front door for throngs of groupies. ... Nope, nobody there.
"I guess what I'm saying is 'spotlight' is a pretty relative term in this business. It's really a lot of sitting in a room by yourself, wrestling with the work. And it's really the work that's important, not any perceived spotlight or sense of notoriety."
But don't think that just because Marz is free to write anything he wants now, not that he had a small output at Crossgen, that he's going to become the next Brian Bendis and produce multiple comics every week. "No worries there," laughs Marz. "I really don't know how guys like Bendis and Robert Kirkman churn out as much stuff as they do. I've got three kids, three horses, two dogs and a decent chunk of land to take care of. There just aren't enough hours in the day. You'll see a little bit more work from me out there than when I was at CrossGen, because I'm no longer dealing with any of the other duties that took up some of my time there. But I know there's only so much work I can do and maintain a level of care and quality. I don't want to cross that line."
Easily his biggest project now, DC Comics' "Green Lantern" series has seen a re-invigoration in sales due in large part to Marz's return to the series. After turning the titular hero with the power ring into an entirely new character, many fans seemed to have developed a grudge with the scribe, but if those grudges remain, it isn't showing in the sales. "Sales went up, so I guess that's an indication that interest in the book has gone up. A lot of the feedback I've received personally has taken the form of people telling me that Kyle feels 'right' to them again, or that they're reading the book and caring about Kyle for the first time in a few years. All of which is very flattering and appreciated. Obviously the other side of the coin is there are people who hate what I did on 'Green Lantern' the first time around, so naturally they hate what I'm doing now. You have to take all of it with a grain of salt and write the stories you think are good ones."
While previous writer Ben Raab kept the action quotient high, Marz has shifted the focus to exploring the relationships of the characters in "Green Lantern" and while he's torn down a few, it isn't for shock: he's writing a story that he feels is organic. "I'm telling the story that feels right to me. It was my preference to return Kyle to Earth for this arc, because it had been so long since he'd been home, and because I felt like a more earthbound story would have more emotional and dramatic resonance. I'm putting Kyle through the emotional wringer because I think it's more interesting than a simple punch-up, and because it seems like a natural situation considering what's happened with him lately. I'm also working within some parameters DC needs me to work within, clearing the decks a little for what's to come in 'Rebirth.' In a lot of ways I'm picking up the ball from point A and delivering it to point B, with a fair amount of latitude in between."
A lot will happen to Kyle Rayner- though it's all but confirmed he won't die as some fans expected- but Marz isn't giving too much away, resisting CBR's bribes with a strength of will befitting a "Green Lantern" writer. "You know, in this day and age, when everybody's reading solicitations and looking at covers for books that won't be out for months, I don't think I need to tease you. There are way too many spoilers out there as it is. Doesn't anybody like to be surprised anymore? This is anything that hasn't been revealed before, but you'll get to see Kyle and John Stewart beat the hell out of each other in #178. And Kyle's throw down with Major Force in the last two issues should be pretty memorable."
Fans are already abuzz about the return of Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern whom Marz took to the dark side in "Green Lantern #50" over ten years ago, and even Marz is looking forward to it. "I think it's a wise decision on DC's part, especially in terms of generating sales and interest. Kyle has been the only Green Lantern, or at least the predominant one, for a decade. It's time for a change, and Green Lantern is one of the few franchise-type characters where you can have actual change, rather than the illusion of change. You know things are always going to be pretty status quo with Batman and Superman, but GL is a little different.
"I think this is something DC has been planning for a while, so no, I didn't have any input. As I've said before, creators don't decide this kind of stuff, the company does. But if it had solely been my decision, I'd have made the same call. You have to do something to keep the books from getting stale. I've spoken with Geoff Johns and I know a fair bit of what's planned. It's definitely going to be good stuff, and I'm looking forward to it. I'll be plunking my money down on the counter for it every month."
You could almost call Marz "Cosmic Ron" with all the work he's done in outer space- such as Marvel Comics' "Silver Surfer"- and the nickname is even more appropriate when you learn that Marz is working on Dark Horse Comics' "Star Wars: Empire" series. "I've been a fan of the franchise since I was a kid, and I've been fortunate enough to have written some previous Star Wars material -- the Darth Maul mini-series, a couple of Darth Vader stories in 'Star Wars Tales,' Jango Fett and Zam Wessel one-shots," explains Marz. "When I left CrossGen, the offer to take on 'Star Wars: Empire' was waiting for me, and I'm very grateful for it.
"I'll hopefully be writing the book on pretty much a monthly basis, with the exception of a few fill-ins here and there. I get to write the classic characters. I get to put words in Han Solo's mouth. How cool is that?"
While Marz isn't about to step in the middle of a Star Trek/Star Wars debate, he does admit that he was infected with the "Star Wars" tick at an early age. "Yeah, I was just the right age, 11, when 'Star Wars' hit in 1977. I still have very vivid memories of standing in line to see it. So it was a big part of my childhood, one that's stayed with me. 'Star Wars' made a huge impression on a lot of people my age, because it was so new and so well-realized. You really believed in that world up there on the screen. It's the first movie I can remember just starting at with my mouth open, right from the first shot of that endless Star Destroyer flying right over you."
Joining Marz in his "Star Wars" dream job is a diverse array of pencillers and he explains why there'll be so many artistic interpretations of the SW universe during his tenure. "'Empire' has always used a rotating cast of artists, which makes complete sense because of the picaresque nature of the series. Rather than a long, ongoing storyline, 'Empire' tends to tell smaller stories -- stand-alone issues, or arcs of a few issues. So I get the opportunity to work with an array of artists. Thus far I've worked with Brian Ching, Tomas Giorello, Jeff Johnson and Adriana Melo, all of whom have turned in great work. It's also comforting to know that my buddy Mike Atiyeh is the regular colorist on the book, which really pulls everything together.
"Jeff and I have worked together before, obviously, and we've got something coming up together right after he finishes his 'Empire' issues (#24 and #25). Adriana is working on #26 and #27, and her stuff is just incredible."
After a plethora of novels, animated series, comics and everything else under the sun, some might wonder what is left to say about the original Star Wars characters. "Well, that's the trick, isn't it?" says Marz. "I'm dealing with the 'classic' timeline, which has been pretty well mined by the movies, novels and other comics. So I have to find some open spaces in which to tell stories. But once I had the details of the continuity, it's not that big a deal. It's not that much different than working within the Marvel or DC Universes. If anything, the Star Wars expanded universe makes more sense, because the timeline doesn't contain the reboots or gaffes you find in comic-book universes.
"The more difficult part has been figuring out how to write engaging stories about characters who have had so much of their lives chronicled already. My intention, when I came on the book, was to write about the main characters -- Luke, Leia, Han, etc. -- rather than 'the third Stormtrooper on the left.' But I figured out pretty quickly that you can't have much of a character turn or revelation with the main characters. It's all been told before. But you can do some dramatic things with the third Stormtrooper on the left. So the best model is to feature the icon characters in the story, but also include some new or secondary characters with whom you can do the character growth or turn. I give a lot of the credit to my editor, Randy Stradley, for leading me to that realization."
Veering back into superhero territory, Marz has begun a short run on Top Cow's "Darkness" and you'll see him on the sister book, "Witchblade." "'The Darkness' is anything but a super-hero book, at least the way I'm approaching it," contends Marz. "My four issues (#10-#13) are a crime story with supernatural elements. Yes, there's a guy who can summon demons from the shadows, but it's a lot more 'realistic' story than something involving a guy with a power ring. It was different for me to write, essentially, a bad guy as the main character. Not to mention great fun.
"And yeah, I'm tackling 'Witchblade' on a monthly basis starting with issue #80 in, I believe, October. I know a lot of people think of it as a pin-up book, but I want to make it a book in which you care about the characters no matter what they are ... or aren't ... wearing. Issue #80 is going to be a ground-floor read, and sets up everything you need to know about the concept and characters. It's the place to 'jump on' 'Witchblade,' so to speak."
CrossGen Comics has been in the news for a lot of reasons lately, one of them being ex-employees speaking up against the company, but you'll not see Marz join that choir. "There are definitely people who have taken a pretty serious financial hit due to non-payment, though they're generally not the ones making the biggest public commotion. I'm owed a decent chunk of money as well. But I haven't been making an issue of it publicly because it's not very professional.
"I tend to think it's best to take the high road. Obviously things haven't gone well for the company as a whole. When fans have asked me what went wrong, I've given my general opinion, but a great deal of what went down should remain private, as far as I'm concerned. It doesn't serve anyone to be picking at scabs. I don't regret my time there. I learned a lot, worked on some good books with terrifically talented people, and made some good friends. So I don't regret my time there at all, only the way it ended. At this point, pointing fingers serves no purpose. I've moved on."
Perhaps one should call this the year of Marz, because his slate of projects is huge and you'll get a tease of them at this year's Comic-Con International in San Diego. "Once the 'GL' and 'Darkness' arcs wrap up, I'll be steady on 'Star Wars: Empire' and 'Witchblade.' Beyond that, I'm really excited to be doing a pair of creator-owned projects, both of which will be announced at San Diego. So both of those are very much dream projects, and hopefully they'll be successful enough to continue beyond their initial mini-series. I'm also launching something for Devil's Due, which I think will be announced at San Diego as well.
"I've got a few other irons in the fire, including something for Wildstorm, and a few more creator-owned ideas I'd like to get to. It's a nice mix, and I feel fortunate that I'm working in a number of different genres. Overall, I couldn't be happier to be back to freelance."