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Beyond the Mainstream: An Interview With Ron Marz

Posted by Luke Brown On May - 28 - 2008

Ron Marz is one of the most accomplished writers working in comics today. His previous writing credits include titles like SOJOURN for CROSSGEN, SILVER SURFER for MARVEL, SAMURAI: HEAVEN and EARTH for DARK HORSE, and most famously for his seminal run on DC‘s GREEN LANTERN, in which he ushered in a new era for the green guardian.

Now, in addition to working on WITCHBLADE and BROKEN TRINITY for TOP COW, he is also helping introduce American audiences to the world of Indian lore and mythology at VIRGIN COMICS. Mr. Marz took some time out of his busy summer schedule to do an interview with us. Hit the jump for the full scoop.

Click on any picture to view it in Expand-O-Scope, brought to you by Gamervision.com.

How did the collaboration between you and Virgin Comics come about?

I was introduced to the guys from Virgin, principally Gotham Chopra, the Chief Creative Officer, and Sharad Devarajan, the CEO, by one of the guys that I used to work with at CROSSGEN, Frank D’Armata. We just stayed in touch over a year’s time, and ended up putting a package together for me to do work for them, to edit for them and then eventually write for them.

BEYOND is the first book you’re actually writing for them, correct?

Yeah. I did some short back up stories in the first five issues of RAMAYAN RELOADED. But this is the first full-length thing I’ve done.

And with BEYOND you’re adapting a Deepak Chopra story?

Yeah, it’s actually a screenplay Deepak wrote, so I’m translating the screenplay into the comic format. It’s really a matter of preserving as much as I can of what’s there, and deciding on what parts we’re going to trim back on a little bit to fit everything into the comic. For the most part we’ve been able to get all the main points in, it’s just some of the details that we don’t have room for in a 22-page comic. So far I’m really happy with the way it’s come out.

I’ve read through the advance copy and one of the things I was curious about was how much of your own style and voice are you able to put into BEYOND since it is an adaptation?

Truthfully, when I took on the gig I spoke to Gotham about it. Deepak is his dad, and I wanted to make sure that I was as faithful to the material as I could be. I said to Gotham, “Look, I feel like my job is to faithfully translate what your dad wrote.” Gotham’s viewpoint was to do what I had to do to make it work as a comic story. So I’m probably being more faithful to the material than even they expected me to be.
I’m bringing to it more of my visual style than I am the dialogue because I’m trying to preserve as much of Deepak’s dialogue as possible. That’s what my job is. I’m here to serve his story, not the other way around.

Is it intimidating at all to have to adapt such a prominent writer?

Truthfully, not really. This isn’t my first trip to the rodeo. I know how to put together a comic, so that’s not really a huge concern. The only part that I thought was somewhat intimidating was I wanted to make sure I did right by Gotham. We’re friends, and I was very flattered that he trusted me enough to offer this adaptation to me. This wasn’t just some other adaptation, this is his father’s work. If there was any added burden at all, it was because of the personal relationship, not the material.

You’ve worked with a lot of high profile artists in the past. Is there a difference in the way you’re writing the script for BEYOND artist, Edison George, versus someone like Stjepan Sejic on WITCHBLADE?

I try to write a script differently for any artist I work with. I try to write the script toward the artists’ strength, and away from their weaknesses, if there are any. I guess I’m doing what I usually do, which is try to tell the story as visually as possible, and pace it so the story pushes you through the pages, and makes you want to turn the page so you find out what happens next.

For this specific story, the pages are probably a little denser in terms of the panel count than I might do for somebody else. That’s really part of the nature of the story. The story is human interaction and it’s a bit of a mystery. At least for these first few issues, it’s not a story with huge explosions or spaceships blowing up. So visually, I wrote the scripts so they would be tailored to the story, and hopefully tailored to what Edison does.

I’ve been really pleased with what he’s turning in. It’s just great looking stuff. The density of the pages, again in terms of the panel count and what we have to get onto each page to make everything fit has really dovetailed nicely with his style. He can put six or seven panels on a page and it doesn’t seem terribly crowded. The way he lays out a page, and the way he approaches the storytelling, still gives all the art a lot of room to breathe.

One of the more difficult things, at least in America, is to get audiences to try something out of the superhero norm. Since it’s something people are going to be unfamiliar with, what is it about this book that’s going to make people want to pick it up?

As with anything that isn’t a superhero that’s been around for forty or fifty years, you cast your property out on the waters and hope it survives. The American market is what it is, to an extent at this point. It’s not really built to embrace new stuff. And it really seems that things like BEYOND or the other VIRGIN titles, or even new superhero books from MARVEL and DC, for the most part don’t end up having long lives. The market is really set up to embrace the same stuff that’s been around for forty years. I don’t think that’s the healthiest state of the market to be in. You put the books out on the stands, and you hope they find an audience.

I think the single-issue audience that shows up in the shops every Wednesday, hopefully we can get them to take a peek at the book and take it home. Probably just as large of an audience is the crowd that’s going to wait for the trade. I think you see more people reading esoteric material in trades than you do in single issues. All that said, I think BEYOND is a story that people would get into if they’re willing to give a story that doesn’t have a bunch of spandex in it a chance. It’s a mystery, a family drama, there’s a lot of layers to the story and like any mystery, you’re going to have to read to the end of it to see how it all turns out.

So without giving too much away, what can readers expect from BEYOND in the coming months?

The short version of the story is an American businessman, named Michael Morton, is in India with his family, ostensibly for a family vacation, but he ends up devoting most of his time and energy to business matters. He’s somewhat distant from his family, and the family dynamic isn’t quite as healthy as it should be. I think that reflects what goes on in a lot of families. People end up growing apart because of their involvement in work and other things, and it takes the focus away from what’s really important, which is that family bond.

What ends up happening in this first issue is his wife mysteriously disappears. She’s just vanishes from a city street. The rest of the story is about Michael and his son, Ty, who’s a typical American teenager who’s not real keen on his father to begin with. The story involves them trying to find Michael’s wife. Her absence throws the family into turmoil. It ends up being an adventure story. It ends up being a story about relationships, and finding out what’s important in your life, or finding what things should be important in your life. Hopefully it works on two levels.

Lastly, it’s been said that every comic is somebody’s first. One of the things I always like to know when talking to creators is which of their works they want to be someone’s first.

Oh man, I’ve been doing this long enough that it’s probably a long list. Excluding BEYOND from the list since that’s the one we’re talking about, if one of my comics was going to be a first for someone I’d want it to be the first issue of SAMURAI: HEAVEN and EARTH, which is a creator-owned book that I do at DARK HORSE. That’s really the truest reflection of the kind of story I want to tell. When you do a creator-owned book, you’re not serving forty-year old continuity. You’re not being forced into some big-deal cosmic crossover, or anything like that. When you do your own book, you can tell the story exactly the way you want to tell it. Of anything that I’ve written so far, that’s the one I would hand people.

Ron Marz will be appearing at this week’s Wizard World Philadelphia, signing for both TOP COW and the HERO Initiative. If you can’t make it, check out some of his work the next time you’re in the shop. SAMURAI: HEAVEN and EARTH is available in trade from DARK HORSE COMICS.
BROKEN TRINITY begins in June, from TOP COW. WITCHBLADE comes out monthly, also from TOP COW. BEYOND #1 is out today from VIRGIN COMICS. Check out the trailer below and our sneak peek here.



1 Response so far
  1. Ron Marz On Writing BEYOND « Virgin Comics Blog Said,

    [...] Russ Manning Award Ron Marz On Writing BEYOND May 30, 2008 In an interview with thequarterbin, acclaimed comics writer Ron Marz discusses his approach to adapting Deepak Chopra’s Beyond, [...]

    Posted on May 30th, 2008 at 7:44 AM

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