Open Your Mouth: Issue #35

Thu, February 12th, 2004 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
J. Torres, Columnist

A NEW PATH

As part of Patrick Scherberger's "prize package" for winning last year's Comic Book Idol competition, he was given the chance to work with Ron Marz on a short story for "The Path," which at the time was an ongoing series. Not long after Comic Book Idol wrapped, CrossGen began to cut back on its monthly output and "The Path" was among titles cancelled. As we approached the New Year, it seemed less and less likely that Scherberger was going to have his first story published in the near future. And many fans expressed their disappointment that the winner they helped choose was not going to get what was promised to him. But Ron Marz and CrossGen were determined to award the Comic Book Idol his top prize and, as they bring one story to an end, another one seems to be just beginning.

I spoke to Scherberger and Marz about Comic Book Idol, collaborating on "The Path", and where they both go from here…

TORRES: Take us back to Comic Book Idol, what was it like being a part of all that, Patrick?

SCHERBERGER: CBI was a lot of fun, especially all of the drama that seemed to follow every round. I still love all of the wonderful conspiracy theory's that filled up message boards, and some of the reactions to them. It really was good TV. It was a bit strange to be a part of it, though. I was used to talking to editors at cons and such, but here was a forum where everyone was actively encouraged to lend their voice to the fray. And there I'd sit reading each post and neglecting work, sleep, and family just to see what everyone thought.

TORRES: Did you expect to win?

SCHERBERGER: I actually never expected to make it past round four. I couldn't figure out which character to use, so I kept bouncing around characters and tossing pages until about 8 or 9 hours before the deadline when I settled on the Punisher. I just figured that rushing it would show up in my art, and it would come back to haunt me. But a deadline's a deadline, and I just got lucky enough to make it to the final round.

TORRES: What did it feel like to win such a coveted title?

SCHERBERGER: Winning itself was pretty surreal and didn't sink in until I started getting emails and phone calls for everyone to start work on my prizes. I still have a hard time believing I won.

TORRES: Ron, what was your experience like as a judge during Comic Book Idol?

MARZ: I really had a hell of a lot of fun being a judge. I'd wear a big helmet and keep repeating, "I am the Law!" It did cause me to keep some late nights, especially in the earlier rounds when there were so many contestants still alive. You get a little bleary-eyed writing that many critiques after midnight. But it was refreshing for me to see such enthusiasm on the part of the artists. Nobody got paid a dime, they were doing it because they love it.

TORRES: Looking back six months later, was it worth all the trouble? Did we accomplish anything with the contest?

MARZ: The contest got people excited about comics, no small accomplishment. And I think it more than likely launched a career or two.

TORRES: How has all of this changed your life, Patrick? Is what you expected following the contest? Was it all worth it for you?

SCHERBERGER: It was definitely worth it, but I never really had any expectations after the contest. I just figured I'd take things as they came. The only big change after CBI is that I draw a lot more now than I did before the contest. Perhaps it's that becoming a comic artist seems like more of a possibility than before, but all I can do is keep trying to better and hope things work out.

TORRES: Take us behind the scenes at CrossGen, if you will, Ron. I know that the back-up story almost didn't happen. What did you do to make it happen?

MARZ: Well, with "The Path" coming to an end, it would have been easy for this story to get lost between the cracks, especially with me having left staff at CrossGen. There was a deadline crunch to get the issue finished and out to the printer on time, so everybody pitched in to make sure it was done. Patrick had a lot of late nights penciling the story, but there were other people like Wil Quintana, Jason Keith and Dave Lanphear who went above and beyond the call. And Mark Pennington, who's illustrating "The Path" now, made sure everything came together. CrossGen made a promise to Patrick, and we all wanted to make sure that it was seen through properly.

TORRES: Patrick, what it was like working with Ron on the short story for "The Path" #22?

SCHERBERGER: Ron and everyone at CrossGen were very supportive and easy to work with. Once everything was worked out it was easy sailing, deadlines and all.

TORRES: What did you learn in terms of the creative process, making comics, working with a writer?

SCHERBERGER: I have a lot more appreciation for the amount of work that goes into comics now that I've seen the other side of the fence. It still amazes me how many people are involved in the process, even for something as simple as a six page story.

TORRES: What did you learn from this in terms of the business side of comics?

SCHERBERGER: I learned that comics happen in their own time, and if it's meant to be it'll happen. I just have to be patient. Everyone had other projects and schedules to keep, so the fact that they could find the time and resources to help me along was really appreciated. Nobody had to do this for me. It was just nice that they could with everything that happened.

TORRES: Ron, you've worked some big name artists, seasoned vets, etc. What was it like working with an "amateur?"

MARZ: I've been lucky to work with a lot of great artists, but I don't know that I've ever worked with anybody as eager to please as Patrick. He really wanted to make his pages perfect. There was a lot of back and forth between the two of us, and I'd sometimes ask for tweaks in Patrick's layouts or pencils. I wanted to offer advice, but not be overbearing. Ultimately, I wanted it to be Patrick's story.

TORRES: What can you tell us about the story?

MARZ: The story itself was a surprise in that it didn't turn out to be the story I intended to write. I had a different, more downbeat ending in mind, but when I got into it, the story told me to go in another direction. I tried to give Patrick a range of stuff to draw: a cinematic series of shots on page 1, a big spread on 2 & 3 so he could show off, lots of character bits between the monk and the samurai. And he did all of them well. He even pulled off some subtle storytelling stuff on the last two pages that I didn't ask for. All in all, it's a damn fine job for his first printed story. I'm sure it won't be Patrick's last, and I'd be happy to work with him again.

TORRES: What happens to "The Path" from here?

MARZ: "The Path" ends with issue #23. I think Mark Pennington and I have come up with a way to bring the story to a satisfying conclusion, despite not having the number of issues we'd hoped for. There are readers who have invested time and money in the series, and they deserve a proper ending. After that, Obo-san begins a different journey as he joins his fellow Sigil-Bearers against an alien invasion in the six-issue Negation War.

TORRES: What happens to Ron Marz from here?

MARZ: Looks like I'll be a busy little writer. I've got my final "Green Lantern" arc; an arc on "The Darkness" starting with issue #10, followed by another Top Cow project or two; the monthly "Star Wars: Empire" book; a project for Wildstorm; and a few other things that I'm supposed to keep my yap shut about for now. There are also some creator-owned proposals sitting on my desk, so as soon as I and the artists involved get those into shape, hopefully we'll be able to get those off the ground.

TORRES: You seem to be doing just fine all things considered.

MARZ: I get to stay home and make up stories every day. Pretty good job.

TORRES: What's next for you, Patrick?

SCHERBERGER: I'm not really sure what's next. I suppose I'll get a few more portfolios together and see what happens. Otherwise I'm going to spend a little more quality time with my wife and try to continue improving my art until I can finally make a living drawing comics.

TORRES: One last question: Should there be another Comic Book Idol?

SCHERBERGER: Yes!

MARZ: Of course there should be another Comic Book Idol! Otherwise it's column after column about how cool "Teen Titans Go" is, and how clever the writing is. I mean, really, who wants to read that?

"The Path" #22 is in stores now.

Related Links:

www.crossgen.com
www.darkhorse.com
www.topcow.com

Reader Reaction

The response to last week's article by Erick Hogan celebrating Black History Month has been quite good and mostly positive. Some people wrote in to say that they felt the column only skimmed the surface and wished it included more characters and information, like this email from Wayne C. Brooks of Fort Washington, Maryland:

"Thank you for a great article. But you failed to mention DC's first black hero: John (Green Lantern) Stewart... John Stewart is definitely no token. He brings leadership, experience, and nobility to the legend of the Green Lantern as well as to the Justice League… John stands tall right along the ranks of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman…"

Although it was subtitled "A Brief History of the African America Superhero", we did include some links to suggested further reading online, and here's another great link:

http://www.zipcon.net/~tkc/allnegro.html

That Web page reprints a piece (originally published in "Comic Buyer's Guide") about Orrin C. Evans and the story of "All-Negro Comics." I certainly learned a thing or two from the article, and isn't that what celebrations like Black History Month are all about? Thanks to reader Jamie Coville of Kingston, Ontario for sending us the link.

Overall, readers seemed to appreciate Erick's contribution to OYM and Black History Month. Thanks again, Erick. I look forward to your future writing.

Next week: Steven McNiven on Marvel Knights' "4" and more.

Meanwhile, drop by the Open Your Mouth forum to discuss this week's interview, next week's release of "The Path," and rumors of a certain contest returning to CBR in the coming weeks…

Thank you for your attention.

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