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Relighting the Cyber-fire

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Back in 1993, Marc Silvestri launched Cyberforce, the inaugural title of his still-green-behind-the-ears company, Top Cow. Considered to be a blatant X-Men rip-off by many, the series lasted for 35 issues before being cancelled due to poor sales, something most of the original Image titles had to deal with.

Yet, Cyberforce is rising up from the this Wednesday, thanks to a revamped Cyberforce #1 by the creative team of Ron Marz and Pat Lee. With Ripclaw having turned evil, the series doesn’t start off amid the best of circumstances and the remaining members of the original team find themselves in disarray.  You better take a look at their names—Stryker, Cyblade, Heatwave, Ballistic, Velocity, Impact—because, according to Marz, not all of them will be around when the first arc is completed.

Read on to find out what else Marz had to say about helming his first team book in many, many years…

BROKEN FRONTIER: You’ve launched new series, stepped in on existing ones, but Cyberforce is basically your first big time ‘revival’ attempt. In that way, it must be different from any project you’ve tackled before…

RON MARZ: You know, I never actually thought about it in those terms before, about it being a revival, though I guess that's an apt description. But I'm really not approaching the material differently than I would with anything else. The overall formula is the same no matter what book you're working on. You start with the characters, figure out who they are and what makes them tick, so you can turn them into real people the readers will care about.  

BF: Like Cyberforce, many of the founding-father Image titles are on their way up again: the upcoming WildCats by Lee and Morrison, Spawn getting a new creative team in David Hine and Philip Tan, the recent Shadowhawk relaunch… How come they’re back all of a sudden? Has anything changed about the climate in the comics industry that made these revamps possible?

RM: Everything old is new again. Comics are like any other entertainment medium, things run in cycles, they fall in and out of favor. I think a big reason is that enough time has passed that people who were caught up in the initial Image wave, and books like Spawn of WildCATS, are now old enough that they're looking back fondly at that material. So the time seems ripe to bring back some of those books. Who knew that something like Transformers would make a big comeback a few years ago, or that Conan would be hot again? That nostalgia factor, or whatever you want to call it, can be enough to get people to pick up a book. But you have to make it a good book to keep them coming back. 

BF: When exactly did you get involved on Cyberforce? Was doing the book an idea you had been toying around with for some time?

RM: Once I'd started my run on Witchblade, and that seemed to be going well, Top Cow asked me what else I wanted to get my hands on. My answer, obviously, was Cyberforce. Part of the interest was me wanting to write a team book, which is something I haven't had a chance to do very much in my career. And part of it was the opportunity, or maybe challenge is a better word, of taking a book that's lain fallow for a while and trying to return it to prominence. 

BF: On art, Pat Lee sure is a great fit, giving the book a bit of an eastern feel, while at the same time preserving that dynamic, action-packed look Marc Silvestri gave the team when he first launched it in the early nineties.

RM: Pat was an interesting choice. The easiest thing, certainly, would've been to go out and find somebody to draw like Marc Silvestri, and just go down the same path as before. But I'm glad we didn't do that. As much as I like Marc's work, if this book is going to have any life of its own, we needed to step away from imitating the previous incarnation. From what I understand, Pat was a big Cyberforce fan during the book's first run, so he's definitely bringing enthusiasm to the project. I honestly think this is the best work Pat's done in his career.  

BF: Speaking of the book’s first run, how much will the ‘comeback version’ differ from the earlier incarnation? Since we’re dealing with cybernetically enhanced characters here, I take it this will still have “action” spelled all over it…

RM: We won't have whole issues of the characters just sitting around talking to each other, I can tell you that. This first arc is six issues, but it's not "written for the arc," if you know what I'm saying. Something happens in every issue, there's some kind of action or visual excitement in every issue. There's a balance between action and character stuff, so if you're looking for 22 pages of talking heads, you're gonna have to go somewhere else.

BF: What about the characters? People who’ve read the Image Tenth Anniversary hardcover know that Ripclaw, arguable the most popular Cyberforce member, has turned rogue. That by itself must have a very big impact on everyone else. 

RM: Ripclaw turning "evil" is really the starting point of the first arc in Cyberforce. That's the instigating event that brings the team back together. So initially we're dealing with a lot of the same characters, but they're not all going to survive the first arc. When we get to the second arc, we'll be adding some new characters to the mix, which should bring a little bit of a different dynamic to the team. 

BF: Throughout your career, you’ve mostly worked on titles starring one lead character like Green Lantern, Sojourn, Scion and, most recently, Witchblade. Does it take a whole different approach to make a team book work?

RM: It's a knife that cuts both ways, really. A team book certainly takes more juggling, because you want each character to get enough screen time, especially in the first few issues when everything's being established. So in that sense, the plotting and pacing are a little tougher, just because there are more pieces to deal with. But, it also gives you a variety of directions and storylines. If you're running out of ideas for one character, you just pick another one. You don't have that option on a solo book.

BF: All in all, have you come to consider Top Cow as a second home somewhat? The Image imprint sure has found a new lease on life with you writing several projects for them. How much has Top Cow changed since you started working for them well over a year ago?

RM: It's been a nice partnership so far, and I'm very happy with it. Top Cow has given me, arguably, the two highest profile properties in the company and trusted me to run with them. Jim McLauchlin was the one who brought me in, but I don't expect any big changes even though he's no longer the editor-in-chief. Renae Geerlings is in that seat now, and the transition has been completely smooth. Top Cow is doing something that very few smaller publishers seem to get -- they're concentrating on producing a limited number of books per month, and on making those books as good as possible. Places like CrossGen, Speakeasy and Alias would've done well to take notes. 

BF: Is the fact that you’re happy with how things are at Top Cow that you’re one of the sole upper-tier writers out there that hasn’t signed an exclusive company with either of the Big Two?

RM: There's obviously an attraction to exclusives, especially in terms of security and especially benefits. Health insurance is a difficult proposition if you're a freelancer, thanks to the health-care system in this country being so horribly broken. I've been exclusive to DC in the past, and obviously CrossGen was an exclusive situation. But there's also something to be said for playing for the field, being able to do different projects for different publishers. I have a contract with Top Cow for 24 issues a year, so there's a level of security, I'm getting to play with the toys at DC, I'm doing creator-owned material at Dark Horse. It's a nice mix. But by the same token, if the right exclusive came along, I'd definitely give it a serious look.

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