Homecoming in the Dark

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Ron Marz returns to the upper echelons of comic books with stints on DC's Green Lantern and Top Cow's "homme fatal" Jackie Estacado, the the current bearer of the Darkness. Green Lantern #176 kicks off Marz' aptly titled "Homecoming?" storyline, while The Darkness #10 pretty much is a stand alone story that allows new readers to explore the dark corners of the Top Cow universe (reportedly, the same goes for Marz' other three Darkness issues).

Broken Frontier talked to Ron to find out what the writer has got in store for both projects. After you've read the interview, head over to Ron Marz' forum our message boards to discuss it with him!

BROKEN FRONTIER: I know you can't really spill the beans on what your Darkness run will be about, so, without revealing too much, can you tell us from what angle you'll be exploring the world of Jackie Estacado?
In the previous issues, Jackie's been a bit a mope, a lot of "woe is me" stuff. While that's an appropriate reaction for a guy who's cursed with a plague of demons, I wanted to get back to Jackie being more proactive and kicking ass, so I put him up against organized crime in Hong Kong . We'll get more of Jackie's sardonic wit and all-around bad-ass factor. But four issues of Jackie going unchallenged wouldn't be much fun, so things definitely don't go as planned once he gets to Hong Kong . I think we billed the arc, which is called "Dragons and Darkness," as "The Sopranos" meets a Hong Kong action flick, with the supernatural thrown in for good measure.

BF: What does Jackie represent to you as a character, other than brawns, balls and good looks?
Jackie is the attractiveness of ... well, if not evil, then certainly the anti-hero. It's why we're fascinated by "The Godfather" and "The Sopranos," even Hannibal Lecter. We don't necessarily agree with or admire these characters, but we want to see what they’re going to do. The villain is often attractive, in the broad sense of the word, or at least intriguing. Maybe Jackie's not a villain, but let's face it: he is a Mob hitman with demons at his command. He sure as hell ain't the hero.

BF: Today's issue #10 will kick off your four-part storyline. Since you're only writing four issues, I can't imagine you'll be able to add a lot to the character's world in just 88 pages. Does that mean that Frank Tieri's short run will continue the story of which you've laid the groundwork?
I'm really not sure what Frank's planning, though in the couple of conversations we've had, I think Frank mentioned he was going to build on the situation he introduced in his previous one-shot with Mark Texiera. My four issues are going to be fairly stand alone, and then Frank comes in and does his bit. My goal was to do a stand-alone story in #10-#13, a story that a new reader can pick up without feeling lost. I believe Top Cow has put a chunk of pages from issue #10 online as a sample of what's to come. 

BF: You've never really written any mobster stories before. Where do you look for inspiration as a writer?
The obvious places first: "The Godfather," "GoodFellas" and "The Sopranos." But there are a lot of sources to draw upon, including movies like "Donnie Brasco," books, newspapers, magazines. I just finished reading a Time article on Joe Massino, who's the head of the Bonanno Family and one of the last big bosses to stand trial. The area in upstate New York in which I grew even had some weekend homes that belonged to Mafia members, so everybody had a story or two about "the neighbors." You get tidbits from everywhere.

BF: When word first got out that you'd be writing a small run on The Darkness, you already hinted at possible future collaborations with Top Cow. Have there been any concrete discussions with them at this point about any project in particular?
Yes and yes. I can tell you this won't be my last Darkness story. And I can tell you I'll be moving to another established title in the Top Cow universe. But I can't tell you more than that.

BF: Next to The Darkness, you've also returned to writing one of your biggest loves in Green Lantern. Have you been following the series since your departure?
I hadn't really read much of the book since I left it, but obviously I've gone back and educated myself. But while I'm not ignoring what's come before, my arc pretty much stands alone. Somebody who hasn't looked at the book for a few years will absolutely be able get up to speed.

BF: Your storyline is called "Homecoming". After all that you, and Kyle, have been through, does it still feel pretty much like a homecoming to you?
Actually, it's called "Homecoming?" with a question mark, which is a bit of a clue as to how the experience goes for Kyle. But for me personally, it's been great. I didn't realize how much I would enjoy coming back to the book and the character. I've had a great deal of fun doing it.

BF: If I'm correct, the deal that Brandon Peterson would be providing the covers to “Homecoming?”. No disrespect to Luke  Ross, but why didn't you try and get him to do the interiors as well?
We actually did talk a bit about Brandon doing interiors, but he was already committed to projects at Marvel and eventually signed an exclusive there. Brandon and I had some discussions about DC projects, but ultimately Marvel was a better fit for him. I'm just pleased he's still able to contribute covers, because they're stunning. Between the covers and Luke's interiors, the book's worth the price of admission for the art alone.

BF: Speaking of Luke Ross, even with a sneak peek of Green Lantern #176 up at DC's website, you keep teasing us with "you ain't seen nothing yet!" remarks. Why do you keep on insisting that Luke will absolutely blow readers away?
Because I've seen the artwork. Luke's well into issue #179 at this point and each ensuing issue gets better. There's great character stuff in the first couple of issues, great action in the next couple. To my eye, this is the best the book has looked in years. Luke and I intend to keep working together for a long time.

BF: There are still people out there who dislike you because of your first GL run. Will “Homecoming?” be the kind of story that makes them like Ron Marz, or do you 'fear' they'll be pissed off even more?
If they didn't like me before, they p rob ably won't like me now. And really, that's not my concern. My job is to tell the best story I can. 

BF: Anyway, is “Homecoming?” scheduled to be the final storyline before the much-rumored Green Lantern revamp will become an official reality?
To tell you the truth, I have some awareness of what's coming down the road for GL, but I really don't know every last detail. And it's not necessary for me to know the details. I'm doing a six-issue arc, so that's what I'm concentrating on. But frankly, I wouldn't reveal anything anyway. It's not my place to reveal it. DC has plans and DC will decide when to release the information. There are far too many creators running their mouths and making "announcements" on the internet as it is.

BF: In your forum on our Creator's Lounge, you've expressed your disdain of decompressed storytelling and the apparent 'dialogue era of comics' that has dawned upon us. Have some writers themselves evolved to "uneventful storytellers", or - as I assume - can it be that writers don't really want to write that way, but have to because editorial tells them to?
I very seriously doubt it's an editorial edict. I know I've never been given that sort of direction by an editor. I think the culprits are lazy and sometimes inexperienced writers who don't seem to grasp that this is a visual medium. I can't tell you how many pencilers I've talked to who are pulling their hair out because all they get to draw is somebody having a conversation. Are editors pointing writers in the direction of arcs that are more easily collected into trades? Yes, it's an obvious publishing need. But I think the heavy dialogue and storytelling decompression comes from the writers. I also think the pendulum is starting to swing back the other way just a little. Readers have sent a message that they want their super-heroes to act like super-heroes once in a while. It's not an accident the X-Men are back in their costumes.

BF: Do you think we'll eventually get to the point where stories are told in graphic novel format only, or do you hope there'll again come a time where there's a lot of action inside the stories, while the talking is being done in captions again?
I think the monthly format is a teat the American comic industry will never been fully weaned from. Too much of the industry's economics are based on the monthly format. It keeps a steady cash flow to the publishers, to the retailers, to the creative talent. You do see original graphic novels from DC, and from some independent publishers, but it's an expensive, risky proposition. It's a lot safer to serialize your story, then collect, so you can count on two revenue streams from the same material. It's an economic reality that won't change unless the overall comics market turns itself around in a substantial way.
Just like the "all dialogue" comic doesn't make full use of the possibilities of this medium, neither does the "all action, all posing" comic that was the hallmark of a lot of early Image material. The formula should be pretty simple: character + action = comic.  

- Frederik Hautain

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