Filip Sablik: Rebirthing The Top Cow Universe

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Top Cow fans have had plenty of reasons to be cheerful these last couple of weeks at BF. We’ve already served you Inside Looks on Witchblade #151 and Artifacts #13, dropped an early peek at the Cow’s revised trade dress for its 'Rebirth' comic and graphic novels. And we’ve given our two thumbs up for Witchblade’s new direction.

So, what’s left for us to do, you ask? How about an interview with Top Cow publisher Filip Sablik? Cool? Cool.

*Spoiler alert if you haven't read Artifacts #13 or #14*

BROKEN FRONTIER: Filip, what the @*$& went down in Artifacts #13? How exactly did the Top Cow universe get reset?

FILIP SABLIK: Well, some of what happened has been left intentionally vague. Part of the fun of the story we're telling is creating some additional questions and answering them as we move forward.

What I can say definitely did happen is that the Top Cow universe as readers have known it for twenty years was destroyed when the Survivor brought together all thirteen Artifacts and the Codex (Hope Pezzini). Jackie Estacado seemingly killed the Survivor at the moment of destruction and so he, Sara Pezzini and Hope found themselves in what looked like a null state between universes. Sara believed that the only way to reset things the way as they were was to kill her daughter, who held within her the potential "DNA" for the next universe yet unformed. Jackie didn't believe that was an acceptable loss and reached out to stop her…

What we saw next was the REBIRTH of the Top Cow universe, where some things seemed similar and other things looked quite different. The reasons for the changes, the extent of the changes, and what it all means for the various Artifact bearers remains to be seen!

BF: How will the fallout affect the Top Cow universe long term, beyond setting up a new status quo for your core titles?

SABLIK: I think you got a hint of that [in the story], specifically with Tom Judge, who will be the lead character in Artifacts moving forward, and Jackie Estacado.

Tom seems a bit confused as to his situation and more importantly, he's not wearing the Rapture... his former sidekick/companion Tilly is. Jackie's situation is even more impacted, namely in that, his true love Jenny Romano seems to be alive and married to Jackie. What's more, Hope appears to be older and his daughter with Jenny. I like to describe the changes as George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life, sometimes the smallest changes in the past can ripple out in into big changes in the present.

BF: Why did you guys feel such a tabula rasa moment was necessary at this point in Top Cow’s history?”

SABLIK: I don't know that the moment was necessary, it simply was an organic outgrowth of the stories we were telling. One of the fantastic things about the Top Cow universe is that we can actually change things. Typically what happens in superhero comics is you have this big event that promises to change things in a big way, but ultimately fails to deliver, because superhero comics (particularly big corporate ones) are about the illusion of change.

You can't change anything because those characters need to remain viable for licensing and merchandise. That's less of an issue for us as a smaller boutique publisher, so actually instituting change seemed like the right amount of counter programming for a big Top Cow event.

BF: Did you leave much of the planning of what was changed and what remained intact over to Ron Marz? Or did you, Matt, and/or Marc have a big hand in going back and forth with him over ideas?

SABLIK: Marc, Matt, myself and Phil Smith (our former managing editor) were absolutely involved in the planning process for Artifacts. We met weekly for about a year before the first issue came out to discuss ideas, themes, and the structure of the Top Cow universe. But once the writing process began, the ball was pretty much entirely in Ron's court.

BF: Tom Judge will be carrying the torch, as you said, in Artifacts going forward. But what about all of the other characters (Magdalena, Aphrodite IX, etc.) that were shown on that double-page spread in issue #13? When will we learn how their world has changed?

SABLIK: Tom will act as a sort of point-of-view character for our reader as we explore the REBIRTH universe. Over time, all of the Artifact bearers will appear in the Artifacts ongoing series. I can say that issue #14 will feature not only Tom, but appearances by Dani Baptiste and Jackie Estacado. How's that?

BF: Since David Hine is taking over on The Darkness come #101, this gives him a new way to approach Jackie. Can you hint at what tricks David will pull out of his bag?

SABLIK: Some really, really sick and twisted ones! David will really be building on the ending of Artifacts #13, specifically Jackie's new life with Jenny and Hope. His family life and what that does to a guy who has only ever wanted a family will be a central point for David and Jeremy Haun's run on The Darkness.

Without spoiling anything, some of the stuff David has written is the stuff that nightmares are made of. These ideas haunt my dreams...

BF: Is David on board for the long term, like Phil Hester was?

SABLIK: Yes! All three new creative teams – Ron and Stjepan Sejic on Artifacts, Tim Seeley and Diego Bernard on Witchblade, and David and Jeremy on The Darkness – have committed to long term runs on each series. Consistent creative teams is another way Top Cow distinguishes ourselves from other publishers.

BF: Looks like readers have a lot of interesting twists and turns to look forward to! Before we leave you, I’m curious: how were the Holidays celebrated in the Top Cow office? Did you guys throw a little party, enjoy some good food, …?

SABLIK: We were relatively low key this year, because we were all hustling to make sure Witchblade #150 and 151 and Artifacts #12 and 13 made their street dates. We did celebrate two ways though, the first was with the Pilot Season voting launch party at Meltdown Comics, where everyone at the company and a lot of the creators and local friends came out for comics, beer, and burritos (provided by Chipotle).

My birthday is right before the holidays, so my annual birthday party has become a bit of a de facto holiday party as well. For that, we met up at a local bar where we had a private room in the back with Rock Band 3 set up. So, some good food, plenty of drinks, and some rocking out is how we closed out the year. And obviously, we’re ready to rock on in 2012!

For more on Top Cow, visit www.topcow.com.

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