Ominous Tidings with Ron Marz
I have had the succinct pleasure of interviewing many great writers during my run with Boroughcon. These interviews have ranged from masters of the industry to rising stars who are still making their mark. But it is not until now that I have had the opportunity to interview someone who has truly been an inspiration to me. Someone who I have been reading the works of since I first became interested in comics. This writer has created my all-time favorite character in Kyle Rayner and has produced comics that I still find myself rereading whenever I need a creative spark. I speak of the venerable Ron Marz. Mr. Marz has far too many accomplishments in the industry to name them all, but here are just some highlights. He was handed the reigns of Silver Surfer by Jim Starlin (a legend) and went on to write much of the Silver Surfer: The Infinity Gauntlet crossover issues. Following that iconic stint, Mr. Marz demonstrated his mastery again when he wrote the memorable Emerald Twilight storyline. It was under Marz’s genius that Hal Jordan succumbed to his demons and became the villainous Parallax. He then developed Kyle Rayner, who is one of the most beloved legacy characters ever created in the industry. Marz has also written amazing runs on Scion and Sojourn for Crossgen comics. Later, his work on Witchblade, with Stjepan Sejic, revitalized the character and helped make Witchblade one of the longest running indie comics ever produced. Marz’s work exists in the rarified air of which most writers can only dream. Now, Marz is the Editor-in-Chief, and lead writer, for Ominous Press.
You may be asking now, “What is Ominous Press?”. Good question. Ominous Press was a company founded by Bart Sears, about twenty years ago. At the time, the company published three titles. The company’s first attempt was short-lived as Sears moved on to work with Crossgen. Now the company has returned with Sears again at the helm. The company will exist as an imprint of IDW Publishing. IDW has a great reputation for turning licensed properties into comics and has often found itself in third or fourth place in monthly comic book sales.
Once I stopped geeking-out, I was able to articulate a few questions for Mr. Marz.
You are the Editor-in-Chief of Ominous Press, what lessons have you learned from your years with DC and Marvel in dealing with your EICs that you will apply to Ominous?
RM: I think it’s really lessons learned from working with various editors throughout my career, in addition to doing editorial gigs myself on a number of projects. I’d like to think I have some insight, because I’ve been on both sides of the desk — I’ve had experience as both a creator and an editor. All of that has taught me that an editor’s job should be the help the creative team tell their story better, rather than forcing the creative team to tell your story. A good editor has to understand all facets of putting together a comic, and enough confidence in the members of the creative team to let them do their jobs. The best scenario is when an editor doesn’t have to do much of anything except watch. if you just hire the right creators, that’s what often happens.
What lessons have you taken away from your time at CrossGen? What things did they get right? What things did they get wrong?
RM: Creatively, there were a lot of pluses at CrossGen. The creative teams very much took ownership of their titles, we were responsible for the books from start to finish. I feel like I personally learned the process of putting together a complete book, because we were essentially our own editors. It was hugely helpful in gaining a skill set that I still use. The creative teams worked together in the same office space, so I think we all got a better understanding of what everybody else did. Not every book worked at CrossGen, but I think the biggest failure was on the business side. We expanded far too quickly, put out far too many titles, despite warnings from some of us on staff to not do so. We cannibalized our own sales, and the funding that was supposed to sustain us for five years was much sooner. It was hubris, it was too much, too soon. That’s certainly a lesson I still carry with me.
Why is IDW the right company to partner with? Were there interactions with the representatives of IDW in the past that developed from previous relationships?
RM: I already had a great relationship with IDW from doing projects there, especially with David Hedgecock, who is now Editor-in-Chief. We all had lunch last year at the convention in San Diego, and there was mutual interest in making this partnership happen. Everything fell into place in the following months, and we’re very happy with the relationship. We have the benefits of being aligned with a top publisher, but we have the autonomy to do the books as we want.
What are your future plans going forward with Ominous Press? Will you be increasing titles? Will these titles be by seasoned pros or will there be open submissions?
RM: “Dread Gods” is the first release, a four-issue mini starting in July, by me and Tom Raney. That’s followed by “Giantkillers,” written and drawn by Bart Sears, which is also four-issue mini. That’s followed by another four-issue mini, “Demi-God,” by me and Andy Smith. The intention is to rotate these series as minis, so we can stay ahead of the deadline curve, and so we’re not putting out too much material at once. We’d like to do other material in the future, maybe even expand into some creator-owned books. But that’s all pretty far down the road. Right now, and for the foreseeable future, we’re going to concentrate on these books, get them out on a monthly schedule, and hopefully build our audience organically. We need to lay a proper foundation before we can even think about adding on.
Tell me about “Dread Gods”. What inspired the creation of their comic?
RM: Bart Sears created the framework for “Dread Gods,” then very trustingly turned it over to me and Tom Raney, and told us to run with it. “Dread Gods” has a lot of different ingredients. There’s a heroic fantasy component, a post-apocalyptic science-fiction component, and a very human component. I don’t think I’ve ever written anything with quite this mix of elements, so it’s exciting for me to be doing something new. The short version is that beings who believe themselves to be gods in a bucolic fantasy landscape ultimately find out they’re monsters imprisoned in a grim future.
How will you make these gods relatable to your readers?
RM: It’s honestly no different from the way I deal with any characters — humans or gods or anything in between. You want the reader to care about the characters, to empathize or at least understand their struggles. Our characters might be gods or monsters, but they still have motivations that are familiar to readers. They want their freedom, they want to be loved, they want revenge.
Tell me about “Demi-God”. Are there particular myths that you are drawing from?
RM: Hercules is really a touchstone for “Demi-God,” both the heroic deeds and the fact that he’s kind of a jerk. He’s actually a really fun character to write, because I can indulge in making him a blowhard. There’s big action, and some outrageous, funny stuff when we break the fourth wall. Our elevator pitch is “Thor meets Deadpool.”
You describe the protagonist of “Demi-God” as being “fame-seeking”. Is he then a true hero? Which lessons will the protagonist learn as his story progresses?
RM: There’s still a core of goodness and heroism in Jason, our lead character, but he has to work to get to it. The allure of fame and fortune is too much for him to pass up, as I think it would be for a lot a people. So it’s very much a story of someone in the process of becoming a hero, of maturing enough to take on the mantle that’s been placed upon him. Though, obviously, he’s going to screw up along the way, and there’s going to be collateral damage. Stores of someone becoming a hero, of wrestling with that burden, are almost always more interesting than stories of someone being a hero.
Will these titles be part of an interlocking universe? Is there long term plans to branch these titles off into other titles?
RM: Yes, there’s an Ominous Universe, but the titles work completely separately. We want to reward readers who are invested in all the titles, but we’re not going to penalize anyone who is reading only one title. There are subtle threads that connect the different worlds and stories, and they will become more apparent as we go. But the connections are not going to be barriers to readers. Every series is going to be a ground-floor read, accessible to everyone.
What can readers look forward to from Ominous Press?
RM: Every month, we’re going to give you stories we love. We hope you’ll love them too.