WWP: Top Cow and Marvel Join for "Unholy Union"

Marvel Comics and Top Cow Productions have joined forces to create "Unholy Union," an all out fight comic starring Top Cow flagship characters Witchblade and the Darkness and Marvel favorites Dr. Strange, Ghost Rider and the incredible Hulk. Written by Ron Marz with art by "The Darkness" series artist Michael Broussard, "Unholy Union" is an over-sized one-shot fans are sure to enjoy. CBR News spoke with writer Ron Marz about this summer's clash of titans.

"Unholy Union" promo art

First, how did "Unholy Union" come about? I know Marvel and Top Cow have a partnership of sorts, but how did this project with its diverse set of characters get settled upon?

It usually doesn't happen this way, but in this case, I got to pick. On the Top Cow end, we knew we wanted to include both Witchblade and Darkness, so Matt Hawkins at Top Cow asked me to come up with a list of who I wanted to use from the Marvel side. Then it just became a matter of who I wanted and who made sense for a one-shot story. It was nice to approach it in that manner, instead of, "Here, this is what you get, make it work." Marvel has been great through the whole process.

Ghost Rider made sense to me because The Darkness is an anti-hero who would logically attract the spirit of vengeance. The Hulk has already encountered the Darkness. Plus, let's face it, it's cool when the Hulk busts up a lot stuff. And I love Doctor Strange, so I was damn well gonna find a way to get him in there.

Secondly, introduce our audience to the story in "Unholy Union." What have you cooked up here?

Well, like the Witchblade-Punisher book that just came out, I wanted to avoid the cliché of "the heroes fight, then they team up." And since this is a one-and-done story, it had to be something where we could get in, tell the story, and get out. Ghost Rider comes after Jackie Estacado, intending to kick his ass for all the stuff he's done as the Darkness and as a mobster. Everyone else gets pulled into their conflict, which takes place in the streets of Manhattan. It's still a lot to squeeze into a single issue, but Michael Broussard has done a terrific job of getting everything in there and still delivering the big bang for your buck visually. It's really beautiful work. This is one of Michael's first jobs ever, but you sure as hell can't tell. It's that good. He draws a kick-ass Doctor Strange, by the way.

Both the Top Cow and Marvel Universes have undergone some pretty major changes in the past years. You've taken "Witchblade" in entirely unexpected and exciting directions. Marvel's had a few wars. When you consider the Darkness and Witchblade, plus the Marvel characters in this book -- Hulk, Dr. Strange and Ghost Rider -- where are these characters in terms of their own books? Is this the same Sara and Dani we're familiar with from the current storylines? Is this the same Hulk who's made his way back to earth?

It's always problematic to figure out the specific "when" in crossovers, since at any given time there's likely to be some wrinkle or continuity ???. We ended up going with more inconic versions of Ghost Rider, Hulk and Doc Strange, rather than syncing up to the exact version that's on the stands this week. So this will be Hulk in torn purple pants, rather than a gladiator outfit. But he'll still be generally pissed off, which is how we like the Hulk. For the Witchblade and The Darkness, we're going with what's current. Sara is pregnant and no longer has the Witchblade, which is now in Dani's possession. The biggest reason for that is we show a few story threads in Unholy Union will have some impact on the upcoming First Born storyline. In some ways, Unholy Union is the first taste of what's to come in First Born.

I've also read that this issue contains a preview for "First Born." Is the preview part of the story, or something separate?

Both, actually. As I said, there's a story element in Unholy Union that's will be carried through to First Born. It's not a situation where we're holding a gun to the reader's head and saying, "You must read THIS in order to read THAT !" It's an appetizer, not the main course, but it does play a part in teasing First Born. It's subtle enough that it won't interfere with your enjoyment of Unholy Union or First Born if you read one and not the other. But taken together, it shows a bit larger picture. The last page of Unholy Union contains some characters that we haven't made public, and that scene points toward the First Born storyline as well.

The issue will also have a separate preview package for First Born, showing off some of Stjepan Sejic's painted artwork, probably both finished pages and his sketchbook stuff. We tried to pack in as much as possible.

What was it about this project that attracted you to the book? How much freedom were you given in crafting your story?

I've always enjoyed writing crossovers, and I've been fortunate enough to do a quite a few of them. By their nature, they should be big summer blockbuster-type stories. That's what Unholy Union is. I mean, where else do you get the chance to write Ghost Rider and the Darkness beating the hell out of each, while the Hulk comes smashing through a wall, looking to squash them both? I was given the freedom to have fun, and hopefully the readers will as well.

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