Witchblade #150: Ron Marz, Filip Sablik & Matt Hawkins Reflect on Sara Pezzini's Success

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It was a long time coming, but this week, Top Cow finally released the landmark Witchblade #150, an issue that not only sets the stage for Sara Pezzini’s adventures to come, but also sees her bid adieu to the person responsible for breathing life into her over the last six years: Ron Marz. His partner in crime, artist Stjepan Sejic is also leaving the title, as next month, the new creative team of writer Tim Seeley and artists Diego Barnard and Fred Benes take over.

Broken Frontier checks in with Marz to find out what his favorite moments of his run were. Top Cow’s Filip Sablik and Matt Hawkins also join in to share their take on why the character continues to be so popular.

(If you want to find out more about the new direction starting in next month’s Witchblade #151, read our interview with new series writer Tim Seeley in The Frontiersman #28.)

BROKEN FRONTIER: Witchblade can be called one of the very few characters to survive the ‘bad girl’ craze of the mid Nineties. What does that say about the concept and Sara Pezzini?

RON MARZ: Obviously there's a lot more to the concept and to Sara's character than what she is or isn't wearing. Longevity is the real mark of a compelling concept. You can tell a lot of different kinds of story involving the Witchblade concept and cast. That's why Witchblade is still around, and all the rest of that stuff is in the quarter bin.

FILIP SABLIK: It's a testament to the strength of the character Marc, Michael, David, and Brian created all those years ago. Forget just surviving the so-called "bad girl" craze of the mid-nineties, name another female comic character that has sustained a continuously published, stand alone comic series on her own. The only other one I can think of is Wonder Woman and she's been through multiple series re-launches in the the sixteen years Witchblade has been published. Witchblade endures because Sara Pezzini is an incredibly strong, rich female character and the mythos of Witchblade provides a wellspring of story possibilities.

It's the reason that a guy like Ron Marz can write 70 issues of the series without getting bored, why Gonzo wanted to adapt it into an anime series, why it worked as a cable TV series, and why a guy like Tim Seeley is excited about coming in and putting his mark on the series.

BF: Going back to the very first installments of Witchblade, when did you guys realize you had a gem on your hands?

MATT HAWKINS: Buzz on the title was strong before the first issue ever hit.  By the time we got to issue 8 and the launch of The Darkness and the Family Ties cross-over it was cemented as something with legs.  A lot of projects launch strong and slowly decline, Witchblade took off and actually grew in sales over that first year.

BF: Yes, it’s an inevitable question, but would Witchblade be where it’s at without those early stories by David, Christina Z. and, of course, Michael Turner?

Those early stories made Sara really who she is, even to today. They were certainly more a product of that time and arguable more cheesecake, but Sara was always a tough as nails, no nonsense woman who didn't need the men in her life to bail her out.  

In this modern era, where there are so many strong women characters on TV and other media, it is more commonplace, but at the time the "bad girls" were much more pinup models.  Witchblade had a great story and a great central character and that's why people liked her.

BF: Filip, when you joined Top Cow, was Witchblade the character that appealed to you the most from a fan’s point of view?

SABLIK: Honestly, not really. I've been very candid that coming into Top Cow I was much more likely to read a Vertigo title or an independently published title from Oni Press or self-published title than Witchblade. That being said, I had always been a huge fan of Marc's, particularly as a teenager and really respected what he and Matt had built with Top Cow. I loved Midnight Nation, Wanted and Rising Stars, but it'd been years since I read any of the Top Cow Universe titles. When I got the job as VP of Marketing & Sales, I quickly dove into catching up on all of our properties and Witchblade, as the flagship title was one of the first ones, I picked up.

I started with the Ron Marz run because I'd really enjoyed his work on Sojourn over at Crossgen. I was blown away within the first two trades at how rich and grounded the series was and it quickly became one of my favorite series in Top Cow's line. I think that's a pretty common story when I talk to newer fans, they come into Witchblade with pre-conceived notions of what it's like because of the era it debuted in and how stunning and sexy Michael Turner's art was, but are quickly surprised by what they find.

BF: What are your three favorite Witchblade moments over the past 150 issues?

HAWKINS: Witchblade #1 where we meet Sara for the first time. Witchblade #110-112, which crossed over into First Born, loved that storyline and to date it's still my favorite crossover event series we have done. Witchblade #140 featuring my son's monster designs (it was a proud papa moment).

SABLIK: Witchblade #92 where Ron unveiled the true origin of the Witchblade. Witchblade #137 which was the Julie Pezzini eulogy issue. And Witchblade #8, the conclusion of the first story arc, particularly the final showdown between Sara and Kenneth Irons.


BF: And for you, Ron, what were the favorite moments of your run?

MARZ: I think if I had to pick one issue, it would be #92, where we finally revealed the Witchblade's origin and had about a dozen great artists contributing to the story. I've always liked the big-deal issues that feel special, and I think we did that with #92, and told an important at the same time.

But more than anything, what I'll take away from Witchblade is the collaboration with the artists I worked with, especially Stjepan Sejic, Mike Choi and Adriana Melo.

BF: Did you reach out to a lot of talent to become the new creative team? What made you settle on Tim Seeley, Diego Bernard and Fred Benes?

SABLIK: Tim was recommended to us by Eric Stephenson, who'd been working with him on Hack/Slash over at Image Central. I knew Tim from the convention circuit and we had an initial conversation about him pitching to be the new ongoing writer. We had some broad strokes of where things were going to go after Artifacts #13 and Tim came back with some really fresh, great ideas. We met in Los Angeles to follow up and really synched up, so Tim had a good idea of what we were looking for.

Diego and Fred were one of the teams we had try out for the book and Diego turned around the first beautiful three pages from Witchblade #151 over a weekend. He had some great competition, so ultimately it came down to Marc saying, "This is the guy." Marc has a much better track record than I do of picking future superstar artists, so I knew better than to argue!

BF: Are there any new developments to report on the Witchblade movie that’s currently in production for a 2013 release?

HAWKINS: It is still in early development so nothing new really to report.  We are working hard to try and work with a writing team that gets it and delivers a script worthy of our majestic flagship character.

Witchblade #150 is on sale now in comic shops everywhere.

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