"Witchblade" Makeover: Filip Sablik talks New Trades

"Witchblade" has been one of Top Cow's flagship titles since the beginning, and in the past year the title character has headlined a major Top Cow crossover event, starred in a popular Anime and is even slated for an adaptation to the big screen. For those unfamiliar with the series, the Witchblade is a powerful, sentient gauntlet that can only be wielded by women, and has, in fact, belonged to some of history's most prominent members of the fairer sex, including Cleopatra and Joan of Arc. The Witchblade's current wielder is New York City cop Sara Pezzini, who, since coming into possession of the artifact, has struggled to come to terms with her role in the Witchblade's legacy. In the coming year, Top Cow is re-branding the franchise to make it more accessible to new readers. The upcoming releases feature new trade dress, a new logo, and a new low price. CBR News sat down with Filip Sablik, Top Cow's newly appointed Publisher, to get the details on "Witchblade's" new look.

One of the major reasons for the re-branding is to make "Witchblade" more new-reader friendly. "We've seen interest in 'Witchblade' rising in the last year, thanks to the 'Witchblade' Anime, 'First Born,' and talk of a 'Witchblade' feature film," Sablik said. "Matt Hawkins, Rob Levin, and I wanted to create an easy, clear jumping on point for new fans or fans of other comics that were curious about 'Witchblade' and we wanted that jumping on point to be the beginning of Ron Marz's run."

Sablik was quick to add that the decision to spotlight Marz's run was in no way meant to denigrate the work of the writers who preceded. "Ron has defined what I would call the modern era of 'Witchblade," Sablik explained. "His evolution of the character and the series has been pivotal. While the earlier work by David Wohl, Christina Z and Michael Turner is great in its own right, it's not really the same tone as the current series." Sablik reasoned that if you were trying to introduce a new reader to, say, "The Fantastic Four," you'd be more likely to suggest the more contemporary runs by Mark Waid or Mark Millar than you would the Stan Lee originals, and that the same is true of "Witchblade."

In the old trade numbering, Marz's run didn't being until volume 10. "We realized the average fan wasn't going to start with the 10th volume of a trade series," Sablik said. "So we're re-branding the trades by putting the previous editions out of print and starting anew with a new 'Witchblade' Volume 1 in January 2008, which collects the first six issues by Ron Marz and Mike Choi ("Witchblade" #80-85). It's a great starting point and an accurate representation of what the title is today." Later in 2008, the 25 issues that preceded Marz's run will be re-released in trades labeled "Witchblade Origins."

The new trades feature, among other things, a new "Witchblade" logo. (See CBR's interview with new-logo designer Todd Klein). "We have brand new fully painted covers by Stjepan Sejic, who will be the new ongoing artist from 'Witchblade' #116 (out in March) to issue #150," Sablik added. "I believe this will make him the definitive, longest running 'Witchblade' artist."

Sablik said there was a "book market sensibility" to the new trade dress. "Phil Smith, our managing editor, spearheaded the design process and did a phenomenal job," Sablik said. The focus of the trade dress is on the series title, the creators, and giving fans a clear, concise summary of that they're getting. Plus they look pretty." Ron Marz, Phil Hester and Ian Edginton provide introductions for the first three volumes. "Plus lots of little minor tweaks and refining from the previous printings to make these trades the best and most attractive package we can make them."

The new "Witchblade" volume 1, collecting the first six issues of Marz's run, hits stands in mid January. As an added incentive for readers to give "Witchblade" a try, the first trade is priced at the low price of $4.99 (in the direct market). "We know it's a little crazy to price a full color, high quality six issue trade at five bucks, but we wanted to get rid of any and all excuses as to why you might not try 'Witchblade,'" Sablik said. "We're convinced if you give it a shot, you'll be hooked."

"We also decided to thank our direct market partners (the hard working comic shop owners) by giving them the low introductory price exclusively," Sablik continued. "The book market will receive the same trade, but priced at the more standard $9.99." Only the first printing of the new trade will feature the $4.99 cover price, subsequent editions will sell for $9.99.

The seven issue second volume is scheduled for release in February, with the 8 issue third volume hitting stands the following month. Both are priced at $14.99. A fourth and fifth new trade collection are tentatively scheduled for release in May and July respectively.

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