Shelf Life: Taking Off the Witchblade

Thu, June 2nd, 2011 at 1:58pm PDT

Comic Books
Ron Marz, Columnist

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EXCLUSIVE: Series artist Stepjan Sejic's variant cover for his and Ron Marz's final issue of "Witchblade"

Issue #150 of "Witchblade" will be my last on the title. When #150 ships later this year, it will be my 71st consecutive issue of "Witchblade," in addition to various specials and minis that have spun out of the series. Stjepan Sejic, my artistic partner on the series since issue #116, will also be departing.

Stjepan and I will be moving over to another Top Cow project together. Can't tell you what that project is yet -- it's a secret! -- but it's something old and something new, and we're both looking forward to it quite a bit. I'll also be chipping in on Stjepan's epic fantasy, "Ravine," which contains some of his most stunning artwork ever. So this is by no means the end of our collaboration.

The reason I'm stepping away from "Witchblade" really boils down to this: something had to go. There are just too many things on my plate, and in the interest of making my deadlines and keeping my sanity, I needed to let go of a book. I'm staying on the "Magdalena" monthly. That's a book I've wanted to write for, literally, years, and I'm committed to it for the long term. The schedule on "Magdalena" has gotten snarled since last year's launch -- the reasons why, the effect on sales and the ways to fix it will be the basis of a future column. But we're banking issues and will be back on a regular schedule.

I'll be doing the aforementioned "secret" Top Cow project with Stjepan. I'm continuing my creator-owned Image book "Shinku," the first issue of which just came out yesterday (so you still have time to run right out to your local comic shop and grab a copy). And I'll be making time for other projects, including more creator-owned work. So I'm not going to be twiddling my thumbs without a monthly dose of "Witchblade" to write.

But lately I've had too many days that begin with me at my desk before 9 a.m. and end with me wrapping up after 2 a.m. Too many lunches and dinners eaten at that same desk. Too many missed school concerts and swim meets. Not enough time to get back into the gym, or even go for a bike ride to maintain some modicum of exercise. It's worrisome to have deadlines stacked so precariously that they tumble down like dominoes at the first hint of a day lost to illness, or a family emergency, or even just wanting to spend time with your kids. That produces stomach acid, rather than your best work. I've said it before; writing comics is a dream job -- my dream, and maybe a dream for a lot of you reading this. But it's still a grind when you're putting in that many hours every day, most often seven days a week.

After discussing it with Top Cow publisher Filip Sablik, handing the reins of "Witchblade" to another team was the logical choice. The obvious choice, really. But that doesn't mean it's easy to walk away from a book -- from a character -- that's been an almost daily part of my life since 2004. It's a little like ending a relationship. I'm not exactly going through the Kubler-Ross stages, but it's an adjustment.

EXCLUSIVE: Michael Broussard's cover for "Witchblade" #150

"Witchblade" was one of the first gigs I was offered upon pulling the ripcord and exiting the good ship CrossGen as it was taking on water. At the time, I'd honestly never read an entire issue of it. When I took on the assignment, it was with the intention of rehabilitating the T&A reputation it had garnered and putting the focus on what I thought was a pretty interesting lead character in Sara Pezzini, rather than on what she was or wasn't wearing. I found that it was literally a one-reader-at-a-time process. Ingrained perceptions, especially those of people who don't actually read the book, are hard to change.

But I think I was able to introduce some new readers to Sara, and move her forward as a character. We gave her a new assignment in the police department, a new partner and boyfriend, a new apartment, and a daughter. We gave the Witchblade itself a complete origin, and placed it within a larger context of 13 Artifacts that are integral to the fate of the universe.

Seventy-plus issues feels like a good run, even if it doesn't feel like a complete run to me right now. Issue #150 will put a cap on what Stjepan and I have to say about "Witchblade." I'm pretty sure I have more stories to tell -- more stories about the Witchblade, more stories about Sara. But it's better to leave before the well is dry than to stay too long, and only realize in retrospect that you had nothing worthwhile left to say.

I feel a slight twinge at walking away from a book with the kind of name recognition that "Witchblade" has. Certainly it's not the Q Score of, say, Batman or Spider-Man, but thanks to the television series and the anime, as well as the comic, there's a broader awareness of "Witchblade" than I would've expected. Certainly a broader awareness than something like "Magdalena" (or "Shinku") can claim at this point. But that's part of the enticing challenge of those books, a chance to build a concept into something recognizable.

There's also the worry of leaving an established book for something with less of a track record. "Witchblade" has been around for 15 years. The current "Magdalena" volume has been around for six issues. Top Cow and Image are as committed to the series as I am, but it's ultimately vulnerable to the same factors as any other book: If the sales aren't there, it eventually goes away. At that point, maybe I do have a hole in my schedule. If you take that as a veiled request to follow me over to "Magdalena" and "Shinku" -- you're right.

Last time around, I wrote about feeling an emotional attachment to Kyle Rayner, the Green Lantern I helped create. I feel a bit of the same for Sara Pezzini. I didn't create Sara, but hopefully I fleshed her out a bit and made her a little more real for readers. If nothing else, I've spent the last seven years with her. That's my longest relationship with a woman other than my wife. And I've enjoyed spending that time with Sara, even if it often meant making her suffer some truly unpleasant experiences. I'm going to genuinely miss Sara. I hope she'll miss me a little bit too.

Marz will continue to write "Magdalena" for Top Cow, as well as his and artist Lee Moder's new series, "Shinku"

Ron Marz has been writing comics for two decades, and thinks it's pretty much the best job ever. His current work includes "Artifacts," "Witchblade" and "Magdalena" for Top Cow, and his upcoming creator-owned title, "Shinku," for Image, set to debut in June, 2011. Follow him on Twitter (@ronmarz) and his website, ronmarz.com

TAGS:  magdalena, shelf life, shinku, ron marz, witchblade, stjepan sejic

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