Treasure Chest Comics #15: Ron Marz' Witchblade

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Treasure Chest Comics #15: Ron Marz' Witchblade

Postby Red_Robin » Sep 19th, 2012, 2:51 pm

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Witchblade by Ron Marz (#80-150)
by Dark_Flux


As a child of the 90’s and a big fan of Image Comics, Witchblade is a series that I have followed for many a year now.
Whilst I have always derived enjoyment from the series, it had never been a priority in my reading list. It went through slumps in quality and suffered from a frequent rotation of creative teams over the years. It always provided a fun pastime and featured plenty of action and vibrant art (if a little cheesecake – more on that later), but never presented any real depth.

As time went on and the spectator boom of the 90’s began to die down, sales began to drop. The book, once a top seller (rare for a female lead title) began to be dismissed by many as a simple showcase for TnA focussed artwork. All style and no substance.
Despite my deep nostalgia for that period of comics and my being a long time reader of the series, even I must concede; they were right.

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Witchblade Issue #1 - 1995


Witchblade, first seeing print in 1995 from Top Cow Productions, a partner of Image Comics, was the brainchild of renowned artist and Image co-founder Marc Silvestri and fan favourite artist Michael Turner.
It told the story of NYPD homicide detective Sara Pezzini, who came into the possessin of the titular Witchblade; a mystical gauntlet that held untold powers, passed down through history across multiple female bearers including the likes of Cleopatra and Joan of Arc.

Early stories followed Sara on numerous cases that became increasingly supernatural in nature, as well as dealing with all kinds of threats determined to steal the Witchblade from her. All the while Sara struggled to comprehend and control the sentient gauntlet.

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However it quickly became apparent that the book was more of a showcase for Michael Turners art, never more clear than when the Witchblade was activated and bestowed its bearer with a certain “cheesecake” outfit. (Every time it was utilised Sara’s clothes would be shredded to pieces and replaced with an organic and scaly bikini…)
Despite this (or perhaps because of this) the book was a success and even went on to spawn a spin-off series, an anime and a live action television show.

Enter Ron Marz.

Side note: whilst I have endeavoured to keep this overview as spoiler free as possible the following feature does give a brief description of some of the key events in the story so:

SPOILER WARNING

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In spite of its eventual decline in sales the series did go on to last for over 70 issues with this TnA focused styling. However it soon became apparent that the book was in need of a change and so Top Cow hired writer Ron Marz (then most notable for his work on DC’s Green Lantern) to bring a fresh take to the Witchblade mythos. Whilst others may have seen this as something of a lesser job, Marz had big ideas in mind.

One of the first changes he made was to the books heroine herself. Gone was the somewhat inexperienced and naive Sara Pezzini, replaced by a character much wiser and more mature. No longer was Sara a sassy yet airheaded supermodel playing cops and robbers, here was a tough as nails, take no BS, NYPD detective.

Along with Sara’s new attitude came probably the most obvious cosmetic change to the series; the costume. The Witchblade decided it was no longer practical to prepare Sara for battle by stripping her down to her panties, but instead formed a sleek and scaline battlesuit that would morph and reinforce itself as the situation required. A step up from what was otherwise a pretty blatant attempt at titillation.

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No more arrows to the breasts!


Yet another big change would come to the book and Sara’s life for the series landmark 100th issue, when Marz had Sara discover that she was pregnant (much to her surprise as she hadn’t had sex for over a year at this point). In many comics, pregnancy is often used merely as a plot device and a way to add some short lived shock value. Very rarely does the pregnancy go on to be a status quo altering event and is instead done away with via miscarriage or some thinly disguised reality altering retcon. Unfortunately this often serves to undo a lot of character development that had been achieved through years of storytelling. Not if Ron Marz could help it!



Not only did Sara’s pregnancy change her role within the book, but it resulted in a new protagonist entirely. Believing that being the bearer of the Witchblade would put the life of her child in danger, Sara relinquished her power to newcomer Danielle Baptiste, a character that was somewhat reminiscent of the Sara Pezzini of old, albeit a bit more complex and developed in character despite her naivety.

These events eventually led to Top Cows first ever event book; First Born, in which the true circumstances surrounding Sara’s pregnancy came to light and she gave birth to her daughter; Hope.
Whilst Top Cow books and characters had always existed in the same fictitious universe this had never really been played upon bar a few forgettable crossovers during the early days of the line. Ron Marz’ work at Top Cow is notable not only for the developments he made to Witchblade, but also the concentrated effort he put into drawing the entire publishing line into one cohesive world. The First Born event was the first true showcase of this, including characters from Witchblade, its sister title The Darkness and cult favourite The Magdalena. The events of Fist Born led to Sara raising her daughter with her partner and boyfriend Patrick Gleason and put more focus upon Dani as Witchblade’s lead character.

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More events would soon follow, such as the mini-event War of The Witchblades and Broken Trinity, in which Marz started to tie the nature of both the Witchblade and the Darkness (as well as the Darkness’ immortal enemy the Angelus and the Magdalena’s Spear of Destiny) to a much wider mythology that eventually led to the yearlong event; Artifacts, a series that was so successful that it became a (still) ongoing series also penned by Marz.

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This shared universe and juggling of events serves to demonstrate one of Marz’ chief strengths from his work on Witchblade, which is how well he planned out his tale. The story is not directed by fan reaction or editorial mandate, but is simply Marz telling the story he wanted told just as he wanted it telling. The plot is coherent and smoothly follows through, from Sara’s pregnancy to the War of the Witchblades to Artifacts and beyond. It ceases to feel like story “arcs” and rather becomes one complete narrative. This is complimented by well written characters that act and react in ways that seem natural and convincing. Sara and Patricks relationship becomes strained throughout her pregnancy. Dani worries about her future career path which is complicated further by her debut as the new Witchblade bearer. Sara doubts her readiness to be a mother and the occasional sex scene is never included for titillation, but rather seems a natural progression for two people reaching a certain stage in their relationship. When asked in an interview about what the secret to writing female characters is, Marz replied simply; “I don’t write female characters, I write characters”, and this seems wholly appropriate for his work on Witchblade in which each character becomes a person rather than a puppet simply filling in a role.

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Finally, I would be remiss to end this overview of Ron Marz’ run on Witchblade without mentioning the work of artist Stjepan Sejic who partnered with Marz for the majority of the run (and is his current partner on Artifacts.) His work is, in a word, amazing. The fact that the guy can produce such high quality and detailed digital paintings for a monthly title is quite frankly witchcraft. Whilst Sejic really shines when rendering battle scenes or huge mystical beasts, dragons and demons of all variety, he also exceeds in the more mundane dialogue exchanges in which his characters appear expressive and well designed. There really isn’t much I can say beyond that. Just look at this:

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So in conclusion, Ron Marz not only managed to change Witchblade from what was long written off as a TnA focused superhero title, into a much more character driven, supernatural police drama pretty much single handed, but he also brought true development to the Top Cow universe as a whole. Whilst some of these developments may appear to have been done away with in the current run of the book following Top Cow Rebirth initiative, his work stands as a testament to the anecdote that “there are no bad characters, only bad stories”.
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Re: Treasure Chest Comics #15: Ron Marz' Witchblade

Postby Benji » Dec 9th, 2012, 6:14 pm

Well done Darkflux :) I'll try reading this all when I have time
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Re: Treasure Chest Comics #15: Ron Marz' Witchblade

Postby TFDutchman » Dec 10th, 2012, 9:05 am

Great work. I've never read into the Witchblade series, but it definitely sounds interesting.

Just great to see the return of TCC.
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Re: Treasure Chest Comics #15: Ron Marz' Witchblade

Postby Harvey Bullock » Dec 10th, 2012, 3:48 pm

This was a great read, and I must say I've never even heard of witchblade, but the premise definitely has me intrigued. Once again, great job DarkFlux! :D
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Re: Treasure Chest Comics #15: Ron Marz' Witchblade

Postby BobGun » Dec 11th, 2012, 5:37 pm

Congrats DarkFlux!

TCC is one of the best parts of this site, and it's good to see it back!...

...not that it ever left...
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Re: Treasure Chest Comics #15: Ron Marz' Witchblade

Postby LiAm_SOLLO- » Dec 12th, 2012, 4:45 am

Great work Dark_Flux, haven't heard of this before but I will now read it :)
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Re: Treasure Chest Comics #15: Ron Marz' Witchblade

Postby TheJester » Dec 13th, 2012, 5:54 pm

Congrats once again DarkFlux; I'm going to have to check out this TV series...
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Re: Treasure Chest Comics #15: Ron Marz' Witchblade

Postby CreedMorganna » Dec 16th, 2012, 9:35 am

Good job Darkflux I'll give witchblade a chance. I once tried to read it but found it overtly TnA based but I'll give it a renewed chance now.
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