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Image Month: Ron Marz - "The most satisfying, purest experience a creator can have"

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When people hear "Image Comics," most think "creator-owned comics." And rightly so. I'm in the midst of that experience now with Shinku, the modern-day vampire/samurai mash-up that Lee Moder and I co-created and co-own.

It's perhaps the most satisfying, purest experience a creator can have: your concept, that you own, done your way, without any interference. You are the captain of your own ship, for good or ill, risk or reward. All of which is great, though of course you generally do so for free -- there's no up-front payment for your work. You reap the profits, assuming there are any, after the work is published. Which can make it a little tough to pay the mortgage.

But "creator-owned" is not the only Image experience I've had, thanks to my relationship with Top Cow Productions. Most of what I do for top Cow -- publisher of Witchblade and The Darkness, among others -- is work-for-hire. Meaning I write characters that the company owns, and get paid a page rate for doing it. It's the same arrangement offered by Marvel and DC to write, in my case, Silver Surfer or Green Lantern. You're essentially making a living by playing with the company toys, and there's not a thing wrong with that.

But you do have to keep in mind that you are, in fact, playing with the company toys ... especially these days, when a number of those toys are multi-million-dollar film and licensing franchises, owned by corporate entertainment giants. You know (or at least should know) going in that you're sacrificing a certain bit of creative freedom. Sometimes you're little more than a conduit for editorially-directed storytelling. Work-for-hire can feel like work.

           

Except ... that's not true at Top Cow. When they handed me the reins of Witchblade eight years ago, there were no strings attached, no overall direction dictated. The first question was: "What do you want to do?" And it's been that way ever since. Top Cow's brain trust of Marc Silvestri, Matt Hawkins and Filip Sablik has given me the freedom to tell the kind of stories I feel passionate about telling. Nothing was off limits. Nothing was a necessity, other than telling good stories. Have Sara Pezzini get pregnant? Sure. Finally reveal the Witchblade's origin, along with the arcane architecture of the Top Cow mythology? Yes, please. Destroy the entire universe in the largest event series the company has ever attempted? Absolutely.

It's a relationship I feel incredibly fortunate to have. It's the rarest of gifts: the freedom and passion of creator-owned work, but with a paycheck attached. I hope to be playing with these toys for a long time.

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Ron Marz currently writes Shinku for Image Comics and Artifacts for Top Cow. He’s worked on a variety of Top Cow titles but probably left his biggest mark on the company while putting together the longest stint as Witchblade writer in the book’s history.

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