Tom Judge has his work cut out for him. The star of Top Cow Productions' "Artifacts" ongoing series written by Ron Marz and drawn by Stjepan Sejic has seen the writing on the wall for some time, but now it's time to convince his fellow well-meaning Artifacts-bearers that they're living in a world created by one of the most dangerous people around: The Darkness wielder Jackie Estacado.
The news will put the characters on the same level as the readers who saw the events leading into Top Cow's Rebirth of "Witchblade," "Artifacts" and "The Darkness." Back in the pages of "Artifacts" #13 when Sara Pezzini sacrificed her and Jackie's daughter Hope to save all of creation, at that same time, Jackie took advantage of the situation, and rebuilt the universe as he saw fit. This led to a rewriting of history that brought Jackie's once-dead sweetheart Jenny Romano back to the land of the living as well as Jackie and Sara's daughter Hope. In the new reality, Jackie and Jenny got married and had their own version of Hope.
While the rest of the characters didn't notice a change in things post-Rebirth, Tom Judge did and has been trying to figure out what happened to the world ever since. Now that Jackie has unleashed some ancient supernatural forces that threaten the very fabric of reality, it's up to Tom to not only gather his fellow Artifact-bearers, but also explain to them the threat they face, something that certain characters -- especially Sara Pezzini -- will most likely not take too kindly too.
Such a story cannot be contained in just one book, so Top Cow decided to do their first crossover since the Rebirth, the weekly "Progeny." It kicked off February 27 in "Artifacts" #25 and continued in "Witchblade" #164, with "The Darkness #111 providing the third chapter and the conclusion in "Artifacts" #26 on sale March 20. With so much going on, from Tom Judge's mission and the threat of villain who literally created this world -- plus the introduction of new artist Marco Turini with "Artifacts" #26, CBR News just had to talk to Ron Marz.
CBR News: How far back does the idea of the "Progeny" crossover go? Was it in place going into Rebirth or did it come about more gradually?
Ron Marz: We knew that once we had finished the initial 13-issues story for "Artifacts" that we had threads that were going to have to be paid off at some point in the future which is one of the main reasons we continued "Artifacts" as a monthly series in the first place; we had more stories to tell. How "Progeny" came about was needing to touch on some of those storylines, but also there was an organic part of it as well as storylines in all three titles, but in particular "The Darkness," started to evolve we saw other places we could take the characters.
From reading the first two parts of "Progeny," I got a sense that you guys were really going for a mixture of each issue being able to stand on its own and also act as part of this continuing story. Was that a goal from the beginning?
That was certainly the notion. If at all possible, when you do a crossover, it should work as individual issues in and of themselves, but also tie in to the greater story. It's honestly not the easiest thing to do because you're essentially serving two masters. But, I think because we kept "Progeny" to four issues and we kept it fairly concise, we had a little more latitude for the issues to stand by themselves. That's always the notion you go in with, but maybe it's not always successful. In this case we were really able to walk that line between issues being able to stand on their own as well as being part of their own respective series but tying together to make the crossover story happen.
How has working on "Progeny" differed from some of the other crossovers you've worked on?
The difference between "Progeny" and something like "Artifacts" or "First Born" was that I was basically writing the whole thing for those crossovers, so the coordination to maintain a direction. With this one it was obviously me, David Hine and Tim Seeley all kind of pulling resources to pull the story off. It was a different experience but it was absolutely a good experience. Those guys are pros, know what they're doing and we've coordinated stuff before so it was not challenging in that respect. It was what we do and everyone brings their own thing to the party and we sort it all out.
From a planning perspective, how did you guys get together and talk about the story? Was it in person, over phone or mostly via e-mail?
["The Darkness" writer] David Hine really took the lead in typing up some notes and getting a skeleton framed out. Then David, Tim and I along with [Top Cow President/Chief Operating Officer] Matt Hawkins sat down in New York at the con there for a couple of hours and thrashed out more details. Then we swapped e-mails and stuff like that for the rest of it.
Part of the plot revolves around Tom Judge revealing the truth about the new universe to some of his fellow Artifact bearers. What kind of effects will this have on things?
Yeah. Without giving too much away, those pigeons are coming home to roost at some point and not terribly comfortably for everyone involved.
The heroes are literally fighting the guy that designed the universe -- how can they possibly hope to stand a chance of winning?
He's got a bit of an overwhelming advantage, but, you know, if the heroes have an overwhelming advantage, that's not a very good story. That's really the question: how are they actually going to defeat Jackie and by the time we get to the fourth part of this it's hopefully an answer that nobody really sees coming.
As much as the story is going back and typing up loose ends from "Artifacts" would you say it's also introducing new ones for the Top Cow Universe moving forward?
Particularly for "Artifacts" there's going to be a slightly different direction, not necessarily a different cast, but kind of a new operating paradigm. More than that I shouldn't say because I don't want to spoil it. It sort of allows us to restate the purpose of what we're doing with "Artifacts" in particular and certainly for the other books as well. We want the readers to have a sense that this is all leading somewhere.
What kind of timetable would you say you three are working on to get to wherever "Progeny" is leading up to?
There will be some interesting stuff happening in the second half of the year starting in the late summer and then some pretty cool stuff that I think will attract peoples' attention.
"Progeny" sees the departure of series artist and your "Ravine" collaborator Stjepan Sejic with "Artifacts" #25, and then #26 kicks off Marco Turini's run on the title. How was that transition?
All credit to Marco, it was a tall order for him. He's coming in to the middle of a crossover with a bunch of characters that he hasn't drawn before. He's based in Italy so he's working with English as a second language. All the odds were stacked against him and he still came through with flying colors. We'll have Marco on the book for a bit after this.
Progeny began in "Artifacts" #25 and continued in "Witchblade #164, both on sale now. It continues in "The Darkness" #111 on March 13 and concludes March 20 with "Artifacts" #26.