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    John Mahoney, Filip Sablik & Thomas Nachlik Tells Us About Last Mortal

    Last Mortal Top CowTop Cow Month continues with an in-depth look at Last Mortal, the upcoming four-issue series from Top Cow’s Minotaur imprint. Alec King is a screw-up whose life couldn’t get any worse. His best friend is dead, he lives in a shipping container, and he’s ready to end it all. The only problem: after shooting himself in the head, he wakes up–unscathed. Turns out the guy with the worthless life . . . cannot die. So what happens next?

    We chatted with writers John Mahoney and Filip Sablik and artist Thomas Nachlik to get the answers–read on now. Plus, make sure to enter our Last Mortal Contest to enter to win an original panel of artwork by Nachlik!

    TFAW.com: Can you introduce us to Last Mortal?

    John Mahoney: Last Mortal is the story of Alec King, the suicidal immortal. Essentially, the story of a guy who gets involved in a murder plot and, when he botches the job, tries to kill himself before his employers can come after him, only to discover he cannot die.

    Filip Sablik: That sums it up pretty nicely. On a thematic level, Last Mortal is a story of potential redemption. About the kind of guy who is used to always taking the easy way out and now has had his final escape closed off from him. Will Alec pick himself up from the rock bottom of his life and begin to redeem himself? That’s the story we’re telling. All wrapped up in a grounded, noir-revenge story.

    TFAW.com: Where did this idea come from, and how did it evolve?

    Win This Page From Thomas Nachlik
    Win This Panel by Thomas Nachlik!

    JM: The basic premise came straight from the demented minds of two fourteen-year old suburban kids. That is to say, Filip and I created Alec when we were in junior high school.

    FS: Yeah, the idea is one we’ve been kicking around for over fifteen years. The original nugget of the idea, “a suicidal immortal,” is the same as what we came up with back then, but the property and story have evolved tremendously since then. One of the biggest evolutions in the project came when we brought artist Thomas Nachlik on. He has contributed immensely to the look and feel of the book.

    TFAW.com: You two have been friends since the sixth grade–what’s your working relationship like?

    FS: It’s really an extension of our friendship; when we sit down to write an issue it starts as a phone conversation, just throwing around ideas. John typically will do a first pass, usually in a hybrid comic/prose format, and then I’ll come in and break the story down into pages and panels. Since I come from more of an artistic background, John usually leaves the visual pacing of the issue to me. He’s definitely the more poetic of the two of us, so a lot of the more eloquent lines in the book are all him.

    JM: We have an excellent dynamic tension. I over-write everything and drown the pages in dialogue and captions, and then Filip comes along, cuts out all the crap, and makes us look like professionals.

    Last Mortal Top CowFS: Hah!

    TFAW.com: So is your friendship at all like Alec and Brian’s? Who’s Alec, and who’s Brian?

    JM: Over the course of writing and editing this story over the years, many of our personal characteristics have begun to show up in both characters. Since we wrote this book together, there is a little of both of us in each character. I would hope our good characteristics ended up in Alec, and our bad in Brian, but who knows. You should probably ask our wives.

    FS: Don’t ask them, they’d probably say we’re both Brian!

    TFAW.com: At the beginning of the series (Spoiler Alert!) Brian is dead. Will we see flashbacks of their friendship?

    JM: Oh, yes. Throughout the four-issue series we get to see how the boys met, a few key moments from their adolescent years that made them into the men they became, and progressing, of course, to how they ended up living in a shipping container down by the docks.

    FS: That was a key component of the structure of the story. Brian is the one character who knew Alec before we (the reader) are introduced to him in the first issue, so we used him throughout the series to inform the reader about Alec. I’ve always loved the storytelling technique of a dead character continuing to inform and influence the story.

    TFAW.com: Why is Alec such a loser? What’s Brian’s role?

    FS: Brian’s role is basically to be a bad influence on Alec. He’s the devil on Alec’s shoulder and unfortunately, Alec never met an angel to guide him the other way.

    Last Mortal #1 Page 1JM: Brian had a lot to do with Alec ending up in the low place where we find him at the opening of the book. That said, one of Alec’s character flaws is the fact that he makes very bad decisions. These bad decisions are based on him being a bit of a coward. At heart this is a tale of redemption and, over the course of the narrative, a key question will be how Alec goes about learning to be less terrified by life.

    FS: One of the biggest challenges we set for ourselves was introducing readers to a character at his lowest point, but still making him interesting and likeable enough to keep the reader interested in reading about his trials and tribulations. One of the things we did to try and achieve this was show Alec in the past when he was a bit of a less of a loser and also small little scenes where you see a glimmer of the man he could be. Hopefully, we succeeded!

    TFAW.com: Alec being immortal puts a spin on the typical a revenge-noir thriller. Will there be any other supernatural elements?

    JM: We have tried to keep this story as grounded in reality as possible. The only supernatural element you will see is Alec’s immortality.

    FS: That and Thomas Nachlik’s inexplicably awesome design sensibilities.

    TFAW.com: Will we get any clues about Alec’s condition in the four-issue miniseries?

    JM: Yes. But only hints, and hopefully they will be subtle.

    FS: We do have future plans for the series, and part of that is offering up some explanation as to why Alec is immortal. But I’d like to think that why Alec is immortal is less important than what he does with his immortality.

    Last Mortal #1 Page 2TFAW.com: Is Brian really dead?

    JM: Yes.

    TFAW.com: What’s the significance of the dragon emblem on the cover of issue #1 (and #2)?

    JM: The dragon emblem is one of Alec’s tattoos. It is actually an ouroboros, one of humanity’s oldest symbols, representing eternal life. As the story progresses, further meanings will become apparent. That and it is a wicked-cool symbol that Thomas created from a basic description of a tattoo I have on my back.

    FS: If readers look hard enough, we did try to sprinkle in a healthy amount of meta-commentary and dual meanings in the series. The ouroboros is one of those touches.

    TFAW.com: Right now, Last Mortal is slated to be a four-issue miniseries. Do you have plans for Alec after this? Where would he conceivably go, after avenging his friend?

    JM: This four-issue series is meant to be self-contained and be a complete story unto itself.

    FS: But yes, we definitely would love to continue Alec’s story and are working on some plans to do just that.

    TFAW.com: What were your influences and inspirations for this book?

    FS: I think I internalize a lot of my influences. I went to school for art and one of the downsides of that education is I tend to hyper-analyze my drawings after graduating. It’s the curse of education: you know enough to know that you aren’t doing it right. On the writing side, I intentionally try to internalize pieces of information I’ve picked up along the way to keep it more organic and less analytical.

    Last Mortal #1 Page 3JM: My personal hero is Joseph Campbell, whose work influenced much of my take on the Last Mortal. Campbell is credited with writing one of the most influential textbooks of the past century, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, which described the basic pattern in which all heroic epics throughout history have followed. Alec’s story arc is based off the framework that Campbell laid down. Whenever I get stuck with writer’s block, I go back to this book or listen to one of Campbell’s lectures to get me back on track.

    FS: Absolutely, Campbell was definitely a major influence on the series.

    TFAW.com: How did you choose Thomas Nachlik as your artist?

    JM: Filip has a great story about that . . .

    FS: I met Thomas at Wizard World Chicago in 2007. I was doing portfolio reviews at the Top Cow booth and he came up to show his work. He was instantly memorable, not only because of his art, but because he was a Polish artist living in Germany showing his portfolio in Chicago.

    I told him I thought he was fantastic, but his style would probably not be right for a Top Cow project, which is the worst thing you can tell an aspiring professional. It’s the “it’s not you, it’s me” line of portfolio reviews. But I took his samples and they really stuck with me. A couple of weeks later I showed them to John, and we both instantly agreed he’d be perfect for Last Mortal. I dropped him a line and told him I had a personal project I’d love to have him involved in and the rest, as they say, is history.

    TFAW.com: What can you tell us about the Minotaur imprint? What makes something a Minotaur book?

    FS: We’ve been equating it to the independent film arm of a major studio. Top Cow produces the comic equivalents of big summer blockbuster films with big concepts and high production values. Minotaur will be producing more intimate, nuanced and grounded stories. Echoes is still at its core a Top Cow-style story, but the presentation and the scale is a much better fit for Minotaur. The same is true for Last Mortal.

    Last Mortal #1 Page 4TFAW.com: Where does Minotaur fit within Top Cow?

    FS: It’s a separate imprint, so there’s no direct connection other than these are stories we want to tell and share and Minotaur provides the right avenue for it. We’ll be releasing one Minotaur series at a time for the time being to keep the line intentionally boutique. We want to build it slowly so that fans and retailers can learn to trust the line as a place for quality storytelling.

    TFAW.com: What comics are you enjoying right now?

    JM: Fortunately I finished writing this book before I began reading them, or Alec’s story would have turned out very differently, but I am currently reading a lot of Crossed, and anxiously awaiting the next issues of Neonomicon and Echoes.

    FS: I tend to read a healthy amount of books to keep abreast of what is working and not working in the industry. The Walking Dead, Invincible, Ultimate Spider-Man and Fables are perennial favorites. Most recently, I’ve really enjoyed Tumor, Darwyn Cooke’s Parker adaptations, Nonplayer by Nate Simpson, and Butcher Baker by Joe Casey and Mike Huddleston.

    TFAW.com: What would you two like to do next?

    JM: Filip and I have been talking about a horror book we would like to write together. Hopefully readers will respond to Last Mortal, which would suggest to us that there is an audience for our stuff.

    FS: And of course, more Last Mortal!

    TFAW.com: Thomas, how did you get involved with Last Mortal?

    Last Mortal #1 Page 5Thomas Nachlik: I met Filip at Wizard World Chicago 2007 at a Top Cow portfolio review. He liked my work, but couldn’t offer me anything at Top Cow. He did send me his Forever Man script, though–as the project was called at the beginning. I liked the Vertigo nature of it and got on-board as fast as possible.

    TFAW.com: What can you tell us about the story?

    TN: Personally, I think Last Mortal mainly approaches the question of, is immortality a superpower, built around the story of the naive but intelligent and sensitive Alec King. Mixed with shooting, punching, blood splatter here and there, hot chicks here and there, dirty cops, bad politicians, drugs, and a werewolf mask.

    TFAW.com: Your art is very stark and gritty, which is great for a revenge-noir thriller, but it looks like there will be some supernatural elements as well. How are you approaching them?

    TN: Without spoiling anything, the main supernatural element of the story is that Alec can’t die, even after shooting himself in the head. A “wake up from the dead” scene like this needs an approach that is as realistic as possible, and I usually play it in front of a mirror and try to imagine myself as Alec in this situation. But I don’t think it has anything to do with my artistic style, how I portrait supernatural elements, it’s more a question of the artist’s imagination.

    TFAW.com: What did you keep in mind when you were designing the characters?

    TN: Designing the characters was a combination on satisfying Filip and John and putting my own ideas into the figures. I also use actors for reference, because it helps me to display facial expressions more realistically, which means that basically I was casting a Last Mortal movie while designing the characters. I still remember I used Christian Bale for “Callahan,” the politician–not really his face, but the personality he portrayed in Equilibrium and some other movies.

    Last Mortal #1 Page 6TFAW.com: How does Last Mortal compare to your Pilot Season title, Forever?

    TN: I’m much more emotionally connected to Last Mortal than I was to Forever. I remember doing my first Last Mortal sketches in the late 2007. I went through a rough patch in my life while doing this project, so there’s a lot of myself in Alec King. I even had his haircut for a period of time. 🙂 It was very exciting to work on Forever with Mat Hawkins and Brad Ingelsby, but very down to earth and professional.

    TFAW.com: How did you get involved with comics?

    TN: I drew since I was I little kid, Disney characters mostly. Because I grew up in Poland, where crime and war comics were extremely popular, sooner or later I discovered that it’s not just the drawing itself, but actually telling a story through my art that fascinates me the most. My father, who lived in Germany at this time, sent me Batman and Superman books from time to time, and I got totally hooked on American mainstream books.

    TFAW.com: What were your influences, growing up?

    TN: Polish artists mostly, in my early childhood. But after reading my first Batman and the Outsiders book drawn by Jim Aparo, it was definitely him. Also, I always was and still am very influenced by music.

    TFAW.com: What’s it like working for Top Cow and the Minotaur imprint?

    TN: As far as I know, us and Echoes are the first Minotaur projects, and it feels like . . . being a part of an experiment. I’m excited and scared at the same time. I remember reading Marc Silvestri’s Cyberforce in the ‘90s and being totally blown away by his groundbreaking style, and now I actually am doing another project for Top Cow, that’s just huge.

    TFAW.com: What’s your dream project?

    TN: That’s easy to answer: Batman vs. Punisher.

    TFAW.com: Do you want to continue doing noir?

    TN: I don’t consider my style as being just noir. As the Last Mortal story progressed, my style changed and became more and more grittier and line oriented, which probably is a natural development every artist experiences. As much as black spaces have fascinated me in the past, now it’s line weights that I concentrate on.

    TFAW.com: What comics are you enjoying right now?

    TN: I always read comics because of the art, so I have to say that I enjoy those with the most interesting and complex styles the most, artists like Tomm Coker, Alex Maleev, Ashley Wood, Jock, etc.

    Our thanks to John, Filip, and Thomas for taking the time to answer our questions! Make sure to pre-order Last Mortal now to make sure you get your copies!



    Have you been curious about Last Mortal? What would you do if you discovered you were immortal? Post your brainstorms below to enter our Last Mortal Contest and enter to win a panel of original art from Thomas Nachlik!

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    Hill, Levin & Shasteen Talk About Netherworld

    Netherworld Top CowWe’re kicking off Top Cow Month with an in-depth interview with the creators of the upcoming supernatural crime-noir thriller: Netherworld. In this five-part series, debuting April 13, you’ll meet Ray: a former cop turned private eye and junkie, haunted by his past in a city with no sun and no hope. Hired to find a girl named Madeline, Ray soon finds himself thrust into the city’s twisted underbelly, where he’ll unveil Netherworld‘s darkest secrets and come face-to-face with his past.

    Pull up a chair and stay awhile as writers Bryan Edward Hill and Rob Levin and artist Tony Shasteen take us inside the gritty landscape of Netherworld!

    TFAW.com: Bryan and Rob, can you set up Netherworld for us?

    Bryan Edward Hill & Rob Levin: Netherworld is about a guy named Ray, who’s basically a bounty hunter, who is tasked with finding a girl named Madeline and delivering her to a specific place at a specific time. Normally he’s chasing down much worse folks, so he doesn’t really want to get involved. But when a second person hires him for the same job, he figures he better look into it. As luck would have it, Madeline is much more than just a girl a couple different people are looking for. I can’t say exactly why she’s so important to the story, but there’s a lot riding on Ray keeping her out of harm’s way. And the city where the book is set lends itself to all sorts of trouble.

    TFAW.com: What can you tell us about Ray and Madeline?

    B&R: Ray and Madeline are both built in the noir tradition. There’s a lot of gray areas, and they each have a past, to say the least. When we start the story, Ray’s pretty broken as a man and as a human being. He’s just trying to get through the days with enough cash in his pocket that he can keep self-medicating. Madeline’s a tough, street-wise kid, but with an emphasis on the kid part. She’s only 18, and even though she can walk the walk, she’s very much playing in a grown-up world, and she may not understand the ramifications of that. As mentioned, this city is a very dangerous place. Ray’s used to that sort of thing. In fact, he craves violence. Madeline’s not Ray, and when it hits the fan, she’s definitely going to be tested.

    Netherworld Top CowTFAW.com: It looks like an interesting fusion of the supernatural and the classic crime noir story. What was your inspiration?

    B&R: The story itself came from Heroes and Villains Entertainment, the same guys behind Tracker and Epoch. They came to us with the idea and allowed us to add a few things and flesh out the world a bit. If they had specific influences that led them to the story it’s hard to say, but they’ve been very receptive to what we’ve brought to the story.

    On the noir end, it’s hard to narrow down our influences. There’s the obvious Hammett/Chandler/Cain influence any time you do anything in the hardboiled school, but because we’re writing today, we have to be influenced by modern crime writers like George Pelecanos and Duane Swierczynski and many others. The supernatural side is more heavily influenced by John Carpenter and some of those other ’80s action/horror films. With the city playing such a huge role, there’s also a very distinct Blade Runner/Sin City influence as well. It’s important to note that we’re not just riffing on stuff we like. This isn’t Sucker Punch (which may be great, but seems like 30 things pulled from other movies and video games). We’re simply using those influences to tell an original story, with the occasional nod here and there. But there’s no recycling of tropes for the sake of winking at the reader.

    TFAW.com: How does Netherworld fit into the Top Cow universe–not just in continuity (if at all), but as a title?

    B&R: If Top Cow has a formula, it’s strong characters the audience can identify with, interesting visuals, somewhat grounded worlds, and typically stellar art. It exists in its own universe outside of the main TCU, and we’ve definitely had talks with the guys at HVE about what comes next for the world of Netherworld beyond this initial tale. When they create a concept, there’s a lot work that goes into worldbuilding. This story is just the beginning for this particular world.

    Netherworld #1 Page 1TFAW.com: How did you two start writing together?

    Levin: We met via The Magdalena artist Nelson Blake II at Comic-Con a few years back, and really hit it off. Bryan pitched and we hit it off. Bryan sent me an amazing pitch for a book, 7 Days From Hell (which I later came to co-write), and I needed to read some actual writing to see if Bryan knew how to do more than pitch. I read a book he had done with NB2, and then everything else Bryan would send me. He quickly became one of my favorite writers, and for some strange reason he was interested in collaborating with me outside of just having me edit stuff. When I transitioned from editing to freelance writing, we had already started baking up a few concepts, and now we do a decent amount of work together in addition to solo projects.

    TFAW.com: What does your process look like? Does one of you work on characters while the other focuses on plot, for example?

    B&R: There’s nothing hard and fast in terms of how we get to the finish line. A lot of phone calls, a lot of emails. We usually work from a larger outline or treatment to begin with, then we pass stuff back and forth. We occasionally split things up, but for the most part one of us does a draft, the other revises, and we share until it’s right. So much of the work is done in the initial outline stage when you’re breaking the story, that even if one of us did all the scripting (which has never happened), it would still feel like a Hill/Levin project.

    TFAW.com: You’ve also collaborated on a previous Top Cow title, Broken Trinity: Pandora’s Box. What was that experience like?

    Netherworld #1 Page 2B&R: Not too shabby. It was definitely interesting writing something that needed to dovetail into a bigger event (Artifacts), but for most of the series Top Cow let us tell this wacky tale about globe-trotting people fighting destiny who also turn into mythological creatures. On paper the series could have really sucked, but we tried to make it a story we’d want to read, and the response to it was overwhelmingly positive. It’s nice when you intend for a project to do X or Y, and then it does exactly that for you. BT:PB was the first published thing we actually wrote together, so it was also good in terms of feeling out how our process would work.

    TFAW.com: How does Netherworld compare to Pandora’s Box?

    B&R: They’re really different, in most ways, so there’s not a lot of comparison between the two. But our approach to both, which is always to tell a great story anchored by interesting characters, has been basically the same. Pandora’s Box was this big, sprawling adventure story, and Netherworld is a little tighter and more focused. The style and the action, both in general and artistically, are also pretty different.

    TFAW.com: What are people going to find surprising about Netherworld?

    B&R: That would be telling, wouldn’t it? We have plenty of surprises in store, including a doozy we get to early in the second issue, but it’s a little early to spoil them before the first issue hits.

    For anyone who has never read a Top Cow book, they’re going to be very surprised at how far the company’s publishing line has come from the early days of Cyberforce and Witchblade. That shift happened years ago, but a lot of people are just now learning it.

    Netherworld #1 Page 3TFAW.com: What’s it like working with artist Tony Shasteen?

    B&R: Tony’s amazing. He’s a dynamic artist who knows his way around a high-contrast, noir-inspired story, but that’s not all we love about him. When Tony draws a character, it’s a real person. They look like living, breathing people. When they react, it feels real. He puts so much life into every character on the page, it allows us to tell a character-driven story and not just have it fall flat on its face. Plus, when he puts these characters through the ringer, you can literally feel their pain.

    TFAW.com: Right now Netherworld is a five-issue miniseries. Is it a finite story, or do you have ideas for more chapters?

    B&R: This story has a definite beginning and end, but there’s room for to play in this world for sure. You know the expression, “There’s a thousand stories in the naked city?” It holds weight here. When the curtain falls on this miniseries, there are characters and locations that people may want to see more of. We do our best to try and show as much of the world as we can, but there’s much more than we have the space to showcase here.

    TFAW.com: What other comics are you two reading right now, Top Cow and otherwise?

    B&R: The stuff Ron Marz and Phil Hester are doing at Top Cow is always top-notch, and Genius was a great Pilot [Season story] a couple years back. Echoes is stellar as well. Beyond that, it’s hard to really stay totally current with our workload. Everything Jason Aaron touches is pretty much gold, and we read a lot of Vertigo stuff, and plenty of Hellboy, which actually helped inform our approach to Netherworld in a couple ways.

    Netherworld #1 Page 4TFAW.com: Tony, what attracted you to Netherworld as a project?

    Tony Shasteen: Well, there were quite a few different aspects of the project that I found appealing. Right off the bat, I’ve always loved the books that Top Cow publishes. Their character-driven stories tend to lean towards the darker side, and that appeals to me. Netherworld is right there with them.

    TFAW.com: Did you have to adapt your style to fit a supernatural crime noir story?

    TS: I didn’t have to adapt my style too much at all. I use a lot of heavy shadows in my work, and that seemed to fit with the noir look. From the beginning of the project we always used Blade Runner as the springboard for the look. This is nothing out of the ordinary, really. Blade Runner has always been an inspiration for so many artists and writers, but it seems to really hit home for this project. That said, nobody will look at this project and see any part of Blade Runner. It was one inspiration. It was a starting point. This book is grounded in a modern reality, with a lot of supernatural twists.

    TFAW.com: What are you focusing on, in terms of visuals?

    TS: I’m going for a gritty realism. I usually try my best to make a book as realistic as possible without pulling the reader out of the story. This one pushes the gritty aspect a little more. From time to time there are flashbacks where we start to piece together parts of Ray’s life. In those instances I push the grit as far as possible. If I could Xerox the page and crumble it up I would, but that may be going too far. I needed to have a visual storytelling device to help the reader understand they aren’t in the continuity of the story anymore.

    Netherworld #1 Page 5TFAW.com: How has your working style meshed with Bryan Edward Hill and Rob Levin?

    TS: Bryan and Rob have a dedication to storytelling. They work and rework a story until they get it right. I wouldn’t dare rush them and end up with a sub-par book. That’s just hamstringing ourselves from the start. Rob and Bryan are right there with notes from layouts to finished pages, and that’s a good thing.

    TFAW.com: How did you break into comics?

    TS: Haha! I think I’m still breaking in! I don’t have one of those stories where I met such-and-such an editor and he gave me my big break. I spent the first 15 years of my career as a graphic designer. I enjoyed it, but illustration was always my passion. I’d give myself illustration jobs whenever possible. At some point I made the decision that I wanted to illustrate full-time. The commercial illustration industry had been drying up for years at that point, but comics was thriving. I’ve always been a fan of comics, and if comics was the last bastion of illustration, that’s where I wanted to be.

    I initially tried to get into the industry by doing cover work. I loved sequential work, but I didn’t think I could pull off a book with my realistic style. Then I made a road trip to Wizard World Chicago in 2002, I believe. I pushed my portfolio in front of anyone that would look at it. One of those guys was Marc Silvestri. He politely looked through my portfolio of covers samples, complimented it, and then said “This is great, now show me what you can do with sequential work.”

    That was the proverbial fire under the old ass. I went home and started working. At the next convention I had my sequential samples. I believe they’re still up on my site. I did a batch of Wolverine, and Abe Sapien pages. They were far too realistic and stiff, but it was a start. I did my first book, The O.C.T. for Image, in that style. Over the next few years I picked up more and more work, and began to refine my style. I did the last major graphic design work in the summer of 2008, so I guess I broke in then! Breaking in is hard, but staying in is just as hard if not harder.

    The short answer: I’m really stubborn, and I worked my fingers to the bone for the better part of a decade.

    TFAW.com: How did you become involved with Top Cow?

    TS: Like any contacts, it’s a bit like playing connect the dots. Back when I was in Gaijin Studios, and Rob was an editor at Top Cow, he hired me to do a True Blood short story. Rob is originally an Atlanta guy with long ties with the Atlanta comics community, and specifically Gaijin. The True Blood pages didn’t see the light of day, but that was my first work with those guys. Come to think of it, that was my first non-creator-owned paid sequential work! I kept in contact with them from then on. I went off to work on a few books, and then Ron Marz and I spoke about working together last spring. That led to a Witchblade book with Ron, followed by Netherworld with Rob. I hope to be working with these guys for a long time!

    TFAW.com: One fantastic project I saw from you, The Talisman, was an adaptation of the Stephen King and Peter Straub novel. What are the differences, as an artist, between working on adapted and original work?

    TS: Thank you! The biggest difference with adapted work from a popular novel is the built-in audience. There’s already this huge fan base that read the book and have visualized the whole world for themselves. So you’re competing, visually anyway, with what’s in the fans’ imaginations. You have to be very accurate and authentic to the story, because if you sway at all, they’ll call you on it. With original work, you get somewhat of a pass. It’s new material. You’re letting the fans know what this world looks like in broad strokes, and they can fill in the gaps.

    In the beginning, the hardest part of any project, adaptation or not, is the character designs. When you read a novel or a script you have a picture of a character in your head. Your job as an artist is to get that character down on paper as closely as possible to what the writers imagined, or at least find a happy middle ground.

    TFAW.com: What other types of projects would you like to work on in the future?

    TS: I love so many genres it’s hard to say, but I would really like to sink my teeth into a good sci-fi book. I have a realistic style, so people tend to not look at me as a guy that can handle anything other than a reality-grounded story. I love those books, but a good sci-fi book would give me the freedom to create a world. That would be a ton of fun!

    TFAW.com: What’s your favorite comic right now that you’re not working on?

    TS: I’m a big fan of Hellboy, B.P.R.D, D.M.Z., and Northlanders, but one book that I have to pick up as soon as it drops is Walking Dead. I’m a sucker for any post-apocalyptic book, but Kirkman has a knack for really developing characters and making you feel you have a connection with them. I never miss it.

    Thank you Bryan, Rob, and Tony for taking the time to introduce us to Netherworld! Make sure to pick up issue #1 April 13.



    Are you excited to read Netherworld? What’s your favorite Top Cow title? Post your comments below!

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    Get to Know Top Cow in April During Top Cow Month

    Top Cow Month

    Top Cow Month is here! This April, get to know the creators and titles of this fantasy-horror publisher.

    Founded in 1992 by artist Marc Silvestri as part of Image Comics, Top Cow is home to such popular titles as Witchblade, Angelus, and The Darkness. Its new mega-series, Artifacts, brings together Top Cow’s most intriguing characters and is an excellent gateway read to this exciting studio!

    We’ll be highlighting both classic series and new ones, like Netherworld and Last Mortal, all month long.



    What’s your favorite Top Cow comic? Post your comments below!

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    Ron Marz, Nelson Blake II & Ryan Sook Talk About Magdalena

    Magdalena Comics Top CowTop Cow’s Magdalena series follows a line of female warriors who can see into the human heart and give them the chance to redeem themselves–or feel the wrath of her Spear of Destiny! Descended from Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene, the Magdalena is the protector of the Catholic Church and defender of the innocent!

    Although the character of Magdalena has been around since 1998, her ongoing series, starring the newest Magdalena, Patience, just debuted this year. We recently had the chance to speak with her creative team, writer Ron Marz, artist Nelson Blake II, and cover artist Ryan Sook, and pick their brains about Magdalena’s past, present, and future!

    TFAW.com: Hi guys, thanks for telling us more about Magdalena! Ron, can you catch our readers up on the history of Magdalena?

    Ron Marz: There’s a Magdalena selected in each generation, a descendant of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. So each Magdalena literally has the blood of Christ running through her veins. The line of Magdalenas has served as the Catholic Church’s monster hunters and enforcers for more than a thousand years. It’s not a job that engenders a long life expectancy, unfortunately. Patience is the current Magdalena, but issue #1 seemed to hint there’s someone else waiting in the wings.

    TFAW.com: What can you tell us about Patience, the current Magdalena?

    Magdalena #3RM: Patience is still relatively new to the job. Her upbringing was cloistered, because she was raised in an orphanage, so she hasn’t experienced much of the world. She’s constantly being pulled between her duty to the Church–some might even say her destiny–and the secular world. She’s already turned her back on the Church once, but at the moment there’s an uneasy truce between her and Cardinal Innocent, who holds sway over the Magdalena initiative.

    TFAW.com: Previous Magdalenas have been related by blood–mothers passing the mantle to daughters, etc. Is Patience connected to any previous holders of the Spear of Destiny?

    RM: We haven’t revealed that one way or the other yet. Since Patience was raised in an orphanage, we don’t know who her parents are yet. But it’s something that’s going to come up in future stories.

    TFAW.com: How is Patience different than past Magdalenas like Sisters Rosalie and Mariella?

    RM: She’s considerably less willing to buy into the Church hierarchy. Obviously the Catholic Church is a patriarchal power structure, with women given very little in terms of authority or power. So here’s this blatantly sexist organization that expects her to serve obediently, even though she’s the one with the innate ability. It’s a thorny relationship.

    TFAW.com: What is her relationship with her mentor, Kristof, going to be like?

    Magdalena #3RM: Kristof serves the Church, but also sees it for what it is. There might come a point at which he has to choose between the Church and a Magdalena. For now, he and Patience are essentially partners. He has the experience, but she’s the one with the power and the Spear of Destiny.

    TFAW.com: Patience seems very independent, and wary about working “for” the Church, preferring to work “with” it. Why, and how long is the Church going to tolerate this attitude?

    RM: The Church will tolerate it as long as she’s serving their purposes. If she defies them . . . things are apt to get messy.

    TFAW.com: Can you tell us anything about the upcoming movie?

    RM: I know the basic storyline of the film, and it’s one of those ideas that makes you smack yourself in the head and go, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

    TFAW.com: Is this story arc a prequel to the movie?

    RM: No. What I’m doing is separate from the movie storyline, even though Patience is the main character in both. The movie is telling the best movie story it can; I’m telling the best comic story I can. Though I think the movie storyline would make a great comic at some point.

    TFAW.com: Nelson, what do you concentrate on visually with Magdalena, both the book and the character?

    Nelson Blake II: The main two elements in Magdalena that I focus on are action and the relationship between Magdalena and her quest. So visually, I try to have everything reflect those two dynamics. Everything having to do with Kristof or the Church represents her internal struggle, and everything having to do with monsters or people represent her external struggle.

    Magdalena #3TFAW.com: Have you made any changes to her costume to reflect Patience’s personality?

    NB: Yes actually. I started off heavily sticking close to the Ryan Sook model with just some deconstruction of the functionality of the costume. But as I went on with the series, I constantly try to improve. Of course, nothing too jarring for the audience. Just because you set something in issue #1, it doesn’t mean you’re locked in. Also, the interaction with the rest of the creative team (Sal Regla and Dave McCaig) helps me to make adjustments accordingly moving forward.

    TFAW.com: Have you done any research into Catholic relics or imagery for this title?

    NB: I didn’t have to; I went to Catholic school for 10 years.

    TFAW.com: You also did a Pilot Season book for Top Cow last year called Murderer, which will be collected in a trade this year. What was that like?

    NB: Murderer was fun. That was my first full-length project with Sal. It was exciting to work with an inker who approached the work in a way that produced the kind of results I hope for when I pencil. It was also fun to work with Robert Kirkman; I’m a fan of his stories. And I learned a lot working with Marc Silvestri on the project as well. Aside from a great story, the people I got to work with made it a rewarding experience.

    TFAW.com: Ryan, how do you approach your Magdalena covers?

    Magdalena #3Ryan Sook: Well, usually I kick around some ideas with Ron Marz and/or the editors on the book to see what concepts might be good for the issue. Then I do a handful of quick doodles and find the one that seems to work best and give it a little color before sending it to the guys for approval. If they like the sketch, I just go to work drawing the final cover.

    TFAW.com: What has been your favorite cover so far with this series?

    RS: Issue #2 where Maggie is kneeling on top of the just-defeated monster in a lake of lava is probably my favorite cover in the series so far.

    TFAW.com: What’s your favorite part of Magdalena’s costume to draw?

    RS: My favorite part of her costume is her cloak and the skirt that hangs from her belt. I love drawing drapery and her hood and cape feel like they have a real weight to them. They also work well as compositional elements.

    TFAW.com: What do each of you like best about working on Magdalena?

    RM: Great concept, great design, great creative team.

    NB: For me, number one was that it’s a female lead character, which I enjoy doing. Secondly, it’s supernatural in nature so that also is a lot of fun for me because I grew up with supernatural, horror and European/heavy metal comics.

    RS: A chance to draw something that allows for a real use of a classical art approach to drawing, as opposed to modern illustration methods.

    Magdalena #3TFAW.com: What’s the most difficult part?

    RM: The same as most creative endeavors–keeping the quality as high as possible, but doing it on a timely basis. Comics are essentially creativity on demand.

    RS: The armor. Definitely the armor.

    NB: I would say, originally, the most difficult part was getting each character to look the way I wanted them to look in my head on to paper.

    TFAW.com: Madgalena has had several crossovers over the years with characters like Daredevil and Vampirella–what other characters would you like to see her interact with?

    RM: Beyond the Top Cow Universe, Batman seems like an obvious choice to me. Two great capes go great together.

    NB: Hellboy.

    TFAW.com: What’s the most interesting part of working with Top Cow and Image Comics?

    RM: Top Cow gives me an amazing amount of freedom with their characters. They let me be creative and innovative, instead of treading water. That’s a great gift.

    NB: I can mainly speak for Top Cow, who I work with directly. The absolute best thing is that everyone really wants the books to be good. There’s a collaborative nature where each person’s input is considered, from the editor to the printer to the artist. That sets the tone for the entire team.

    Magdalena #3RS: They allow me a lot of liberty to handle their characters the way I think will work best as an artist. The restrictions of established for 70-year-old characters are not there.

    TFAW.com: What do you have coming up that you’re excited about?

    RM: In addition to Magdalena, I have Witchblade, Artifacts, Velocity and the last couple issues of Angelus for Top Cow. Beyond that, Phil Hester and I are doing a Firebreather vs. Dragon Prince project that will be out in November, and then my creator-owned book Shinku with artist Lee Moder will be debuting in the spring of 2011.

    NB: Mostly more Magdalena. I’m excited for this arc to wrap up, and I’m excited to start on the next story arc. Magdalena is a book that I’m enjoying and I anticipate working on this for a long time. I don’t see myself jumping on any other project any time soon other than minor side projects.

    Magdalena #3 is out September 1–pre-order before then to save 20%! You can check out our entire stock of Magdalena comics right here.

    Are you a fan of Magdalena? Post your comments below!

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