Sunday, December 27, 2009

Top Cow talks about what lies ahead in 2010

At the beginning of this month, Ron Marz talked to Newsarama about the new mini-series coming out this week, Angelus, which showcases Dani Baptiste and the new direction her life is headed. However, Angelus is merely the start of a larger epic. Shipping in February, Broken Trinity: Pandora's Box tells the next chapter, centering around some familiar faces. Then comes the big event in April: Artifacts, which will take the Top Cow universe to a place it's never been before.

Newsarama talked to Top Cow scribe Ron Marz and publisher Filip Sablik to give us some insight on things to come with the upcoming events, starting with a quick sum up of Angelus:

"The story is definitely balanced between Dani's personal lilfe and her role as the Angelus. There's a lot going on in Dani's life during the series," said Marz. "She moves back to New Orleans, she has to sort out whether she's going to be in a relationship with another woman. And all of that is going on while she adjusts to her role as the Angelus, which includes a coup attempt by those who serve her, as well as a conflict with the Darkness, in the person of Jackie Estacado."

"One of the things Ron and I talked about when we were working on "War of the Witchblades" is that in a way, that story was the birth of a new hero in Dani becoming the Angelus," publisher Filip Salbik replied. "It was the origin story, if you will. In my mind, the Angelus limited series is Dani's 'Year One', the events that will define her as a hero and a character."

So, with that series in the works, Top Cow is about to unleash a new chapter in the "Broken Trinity" saga. Marz and Sablik explain it as something more than a standard Witchblade adventure.

"Broken Trinity: Pandora's Box is being written by Rob Levin and Bryan Edward Hill, who I like to think of as the "I Spy" team of the 21st century, except without the tennis pro cover," Marz joked. "It's very much set in the real world, like a globe-hopping big-budget action movie. It continues the stories of Finn and Glori, the characters we introduced in the "Broken Trinity" event I wrote last year. So Finn, who can become a frost giant, and Glori, who can transform into a dragon, are the fantasy elements, but they're placed in the real world. I think that's a really intriguing contrast."

Sablik went on to saying, "Yeah, I would describe Broken Trinity: Pandora's Box as more of a globe-hopping big-budget action movie. In tone and spirit, it takes inspiration from things like "Alias", "Indiana Jones", "James Bond", and "Tomb Raider". There are certainly supernatural, mystical elements to the series but it fills a very different space than Witchblade and The Darkness.

Marz explains that Artifacts was first talked about two years ago, and has been on the horizon for a while, but they're getting down to the nitty-gritty. "Issue #1 will be out in July, which sounds like it's far away, but it's really right around the corner in terms of publishing."

One of the big questions was about readers being able to understand the full story of Artifacts if they decide not to read Angelus or Pandora's Box. Marz has stated that Artifacts won't be like most crossovers where there are 3 dozen threads or anything like that, so Artifacts will be self-contained.

"Yeah, Artifacts will be a ground-floor read. Noobs will get everything they need to know within the story. So if someone is not reading Angelus or Broken Trinity, or heaven forbid even Witchblade and The Darkness, the story in Artifacts will still be completely accessible," said Marz. "The story is going to very literally redefine the Top Cow Universe, so part of my job early on is to establish who's who and what's what in the Top Cow Universe. You have to show the readers what's at stake in order for them to care."

"That's definitely one of the key things Ron and I talked about very early on when we began discussing the structure of Artifacts. We really want to make this the kind of event that if you've never read a Top Cow title, but you've been curious, you can walk into our biggest storyline to date and immediately be immersed," Sablik added. "It will hopefully make you want to go back and read the issues of Witchblade or The Darkness or other series that led into it, but it won't be necessary to understand what's going on in the series. My favorite part of the story Ron has come up with is that it has a very human element at its core. Even if you care nothing about the large Universe ramifications with the Artifacts, I think you'll be able to enjoy the journey the main characters go on."

Now, Top Cow has been around for a while now, but never has done this sort of "ultimate crossover event" and marketing this event is no easy task. "I've been amassing blackmail photos of all of the top one thousand direct market retailers for the last 3 years and it's finally time to make use of them. I'm kidding, of course," Sablik jokes. "We are going to be putting the full weight of our marketing behind this event series. You can actually already see teaser ads our monthly comics in the last month or two. The main thing will be building the excitement over the course of the next six months, releasing little bits of information a little bit at a time without spoiling the story. One of the other things we'll be doing is building towards the series in titles like Witchblade and The Darkness as well as limited series like Angelus and Broken Trinity: Pandora's Box. All of this hopefully will crescendo into a fever pitch around Comic-Con next year.

He goes on to say, "It is the must read title for 2010 in Top Cow. And I think I can say it's a must read for us because we've never done something like this before. And of course, there are difficulties in trying to pull something like this off."

Though, Sablik is confident in his team. "Fortunately, we have Ron Marz at the helm. Not only does he have experience in world building and writing sweeping epics like this, but he's also been the driving writing force in the Top Cow Universe for the last five years or so. We have other writers like Phil Hester, Rob Levin, and Bryan Edward Hill essentially acting as support for Ron and these are guys that Ron knows and already has relationships with. Marc Silvestri is providing his insight as well and adding to the big ideas at play here."

Sablik feels comfortable moving foward with this project for numerous reasons, but one stands out, "This isn't something we're doing because we need to fix continuity problems or capitalize on a trend. This story is a natural outgrowth of where the story of the Top Cow Universe has been going. It has evolved from the stories that Ron and Phil and others have been telling."

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