Seven years ago Ron Marz took over writing duties on Witchblade with its 80th issue. In that time he has shaken things up in not only the Witchblade title, but the Top Cow Universe, as well. Sara has lost several partners, had a baby, almost killed a good friend, became evil, and has fought countless enemies. More importantly, though, with the help of many talented artists along the way Ron Marz has made Sara Pezzini, the bearer of the Witchblade, actually matter for over 70 issues. He recently made the announcement that he and artist extraordinaire Stjepan Sejic will be leaving the title at its 150th issue. He recently took some time out to talk with us a bit about leaving the title and what Witchblade has meant to him.
Comic Attack: It seems as if everything from the beginning of your run has led up to what you currently have going on in Artifacts and Witchblade. So, was leaving the title at the 150th issue planned from the beginning, or was this a decision you came to over time?
Ron Marz: Initially we were looking at #150 as a good point to conclude our run, but then Stjepan Sejic and I realized we had more stories to tell together. So we toyed with the idea of staying past #150. But then when the opportunity for Stjepan and I to move over to the Artifacts ongoing presented itself, something had to give. We’ll wrap Witchblade, but be able to continue our collaboration. It’s really the best of both worlds.
CA: You’ve put a lot of energy and creativity into Witchblade these past seven years – can you describe what it is you’re feeling leaving the book?
RM: A little wistful, truthfully. It’s a bit like ending a relationship. You know your significant other is moving on, and will be in good hands, but it’s still a little strange to get used to. That’s the reaction I’ve always had upon leaving a book that was a long-term run. When you’ve just been on a book for a year or whatever, it’s easier to move on. But as you said, Witchblade has been an almost daily part of my life for more than seven years. I’ll miss it.
CA: Comic fans are prone to knee jerk reactions when hearing news about major creator overhauls on a title. Were there any wild assumptions about why you were leaving Witchblade that were brought to your attention? My favorite was that you were leaving the title to handle the script treatment for a Witchblade movie.
RM: Really? That’s actually one that I hadn’t heard. I wish it was true! I know the rumor mill starts up pretty quickly when something like this happens, but at least in this case, I was able to make the announcement myself in my column and lay out the real reasons.
CA: Your Witchblade run successfully redefined a title (and character) that had some negativity attached to it in terms of being just another book with a pretty cover. Do you feel as if you’ve taken Sara as far as you could in helping turn things around?
RM: No, I think that’s a battle you have to fight every day. I think there’s still a pretty fair amount of misconception about the book out there, virtually all of it from people who haven’t looked at the book in 10 years, or maybe even ever. The people who actually read the book, and understand what it is now, are the best people to spread the word. That’s been a really satisfying aspect for me, getting feedback from converts to the series who in turn are converting others to it. It’s a word-of-mouth kind of thing, one reader at a time.
CA: You’ve worked with some of the most talented artists in the industry during your time on Witchblade, but I’m wondering what were your thoughts when you first saw your scripts translated by Stephen Sejic’s artwork?
RM: My first thought was, “How the hell is this guy producing painted artwork and banging out a couple of pages a day?” Any time you start a collaboration with a new artist, it’s kind of like going on a first date. You figure out what works, what makes you compatible. With Stjepan it was a matter of harnessing his exuberance and getting it on the page. I will happily work with him for years to come.
CA: Books with ethnic or female leads usually fall by the wayside when compared to those starring white males. Did you feel any pressure to make Sara stand out among the crowd?
RM: The only pressure I felt was to make Sara as real as possible for the readers, with both strengths and weaknesses. I feel like people come back to a book every month when they care about the characters, especially the lead character. When you don’t have brand-name identification and history of an established superhero, you have to go the extra mile to make your lead into a compelling character.
CA: The history of the Witchblade appears to be something you love going back to from time to time. In your current arc, Sara (and possibly Dani?) are going up against Tiamat, who’s got a grudge against them that’s several thousand years old. What made you want to go with the Babylonian goddess of Chaos?
RM: Tiamat was actually Stjepan’s suggestion. I’m a history buff, and so is he, so we love reaching back to previous eras for story pieces. It’s another reason why Stjepan is such a great collaborator. He’s always got a wealth of ideas about where the stories might go and what he wants to draw.
CA: Which arc from your Witchblade run is the one you’d recommend to a new reader?
RM: Start at the beginning, right? I tried to make my first arc on the book completely new-reader friendly, especially my first issue, which was #80. That storyline is collected as Witchblade volume 1, which Top Cow very cleverly sells for $5. It’s become a great way to hook people into the series, giving them six issues for a five bucks.
CA: Do you plan to set up anything for Sara that the new creative team will handle, or is #151 going to be 100% Tim Seeley’s direction for her?
RM: There are some changes in Sara’s life that result from not only my last issue of Witchblade, but also events in the Artifacts series. That said, Tim’s direction is his own. He’s taking the ball and running with it, telling his kinds of stories. That’s as it should be. I didn’t imitate anybody’s work when I came onto the book, and Tim is doing his own thing.
CA: Any closing thoughts on Witchblade and what Sara has meant to you over the years?
RM: I hope, at least to a certain extent, I was able to put my stamp on Sara and on the Witchblade concept as a whole. Any time you leave a book, you want to feel like you’re leaving it in better shape than when you arrived. But I also think Witchblade has put its stamp on me. After Silver Surfer and Green Lantern, I was the “cosmic” guy in some people’s minds. After Witchblade, and some of the other books like Magdalena and Shinku, I’m the “strong women” guy in some people’s minds. It’s all rather simplified, and certainly type-casting, but a lot of what we do is about perception. The important thing is I’m content with the 70-plus issues I wrote.
CA: Thank you for your time and we’re very much looking forward to seeing what you and Sejic have in store for us in the Artifacts ongoing!
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