Ron Marz is well known to comics fans through his acclaimed work on The Silver Surfer, Green Lantern, DC vs Marvel, Star Wars, and other titles. He recently took the time to answer some questions for Collector Syndicate regarding his work as a writer and editor, the state of the industry during the COVID-19 crisis, his upcoming Kyle Rayner GL story, and more.
Gary Govel: Were you a comics reader growing up, and if so, were there any characters/series/creators that you were particularly interested in?
Ron Marz: I think I followed the pattern of most comics readers in that era, reading them from a young age until I was 12 or 13, and then falling out of the habit as I discovered other things. I was a big fan of Avengers and X-Men and Spider-Man. Then at the end of high school I rediscovered comics with the mid 1980s boom that brought Dark Knight and Watchmen, and then four or five years later I was writing them.
GG: How did you get your start writing comics?
RM: I owe my entire career to Jim Starlin, who was the one that suggested I give it a try. Jim and I were friends, and still are, of course. I was fresh out of college and working at a daily newspaper, and copy-edited Jim’s first prose novel for him. He liked what I did well enough to feel like I had a chance at writing comics. He showed me the format, showed me the ropes, and offered me the chance to co-write some issues with him to learn the process. So I wrote a few Silver Surfer issues with Jim, then got a chance to write some Surfer issues solo, and took over the writing on the book when Jim left to do Infinity Gauntlet. I’ve literally been writing comics ever since.
GG: As a new comics writer, what was that experience like for you jumping into an event tie-in right away, and following Jim Starlin as writer on the Silver Surfer?
RM: Well, obviously Jim was the one who showed me how to do this so the transition was pretty comfortable. I certainly didn’t know it was supposed to be tricky, in terms of writing in and around a big event like Infinity Gauntlet. It was some of my first work, obviously, so I was just learning on the job, and of course excited to be doing it. I had Jim to give me some guidance for how to work my stories in Surfer in and around the events of Infinity Gauntlet. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was getting a tremendous education in how you write in a shared universe. It was the best possible thing I could have had put in front of me early in my career.
GG: Do you have a favorite issue or run of comics that you have worked on?
RM: That’s really an impossible question to answer. For most runs that you work on, you end up with things you’re fond of, and things that didn’t work out quite as planned. That’s the nature of the business. I can say that I’ve enjoyed virtually everything I’ve worked on, even the stuff that in retrospect didn’t work as well as I would’ve liked. Every job is a learning experience. I always differentiate between working on someone else’s characters, like Silver Surfer or Green Lantern, and doing creator-own work. Certainly, the creator-own stuff ends up being nearer and dearer to you because you literally built something from nothing. It’s like raising a child. If I had to pick one creator-own project above the others, my favorite would probably still be Samurai: Heaven and Earth, which was a book I did for Dark Horse.
GG: Tell us a little about Ominous Press and your role with the company?
RM: I’m a partner in Ominous Press, which is the publishing company I’m part of with Bart Sears, Andy Smith, and Sean HusVar. I’m also the Editor- in-Chief and lead writer, so I’ve written a number of our titles, including Dread Gods, Demi-God, and Beasts of the Black Hand. So I’m responsible for both creating content, and serving as the editor for the content we bring in, like Jim Starlin’s new Dreadstar graphic novel, Dreadstar Returns.
GG: What experiences as a writer have shaped your role as an editor, and how does working as an editor influence your writing?
RM: I’m very glad to have worked both sides of the table, so to speak. As a writer, it helps to understand the editor’s needs, and as an editor, it’s important to understand the creative team’s needs. Knowing what each of those roles entails, I think, helps me balance whichever job I’m doing. I think I’m a better editor because I’m a writer, and have worked with artists for decades. I think I’m a better writer because I’ve been an editor and understand what goes into making a whole project come together.
GG: Does the role of an editor change depending on whether the book is company owned, a licensed property, or creator owned?
RM: In one sense, it doesn’t change at all, because the editor’s job is always to help the creative team tell the best story possible. But realistically, working on a company-owned property, or a licensed property, means the editor has an extra layer of responsibility to make sure the properties are being handled properly. There’s no real rule book for how you do that, it’s a matter of knowing the craft, and then to great extent, hiring the right people execute the story.
GG: You have written multiple company crossover books/series. What are the opportunities and challenges with those types of assignments?
RM: Crossovers are some of the most fun you can have writing comics. You definitely have to make sure you’re giving those characters proper treatment, and I think you do that by sticking to the core of what makes those characters work. Crossovers are a great opportunity as a writer, because you’re usually doing a story that’s never been done before. The characters are meeting for the first time ever, so there’s a lot of responsibility on your shoulders to get it right.
GG: COVID-19 has affected the world of comics in a number of ways, notably cancellation of shows, halted distribution of new comics, temporary or permanent closures of stores, and more. What lasting changes and impacts do you think the industry might see as the result?
RM: Well, we’re still figuring out how this is all going to work and how the comic and convention industries are going to bounce back. I think it’s going to be a long road back to any sense of normalcy. For comics, one of the real challenges is we have one distributor who is responsible for getting all the comics into all the shops every week.
When Diamond decided it was not going to distribute to comic shops in the worst days of the pandemic, there was no way to get books into people’s hands, other than digitally. So I think one of the ripple effects of this situation will be more books being released only digitally with maybe a print collection afterwards, rather than single issues.
I think there is also going to be a surge in original graphic novels coming out, of telling a much larger chunk of story than in a single issue. It seems like the audience is trending in that direction as we become more and more of a binge culture. An original graphic novel is the equivalent to releasing an entire season of a television series on Netflix. You’re giving the audience everything at once.
For conventions, I think this might result in smaller, more regional shows regaining some prominence, because they have a more moderate audience in terms of size. Putting on a huge show like San Diego or New York is going to be a real challenge as long as we’re waiting for a COVID vaccine.
GG: Ominous Press will be publishing a new Kickstarter backed Dreadstar graphic novel written and penciled by series creator Jim Starlin. As Editor in Chief of Ominous Press, what has your role on that project been, and what has it been like working with Jim on it?
RM: Ominous did a three-volume Omnibus set of all of Jim’s Dreadstar work, which turned out great and was very successful. Jim had another Dreadstar story in mind and had worked his hand back into drawing shape after an accident a few years ago, so the next natural step was for us to publish the aptly-titled Dreadstar Returns. My role as editor on this one is mostly drooling over the pages as Jim completes them. Jim Starlin certainly doesn’t need me looking over his shoulder, advising him how to tell his story. For this one, I’m a member of the audience like everyone else, I just get to read it sooner than everybody.
GG: You recently did a Q&A session with some fans via Zoom to benefit the Hero Initiative. How did you become involved in the Hero Initiative and how did that session go?
RM: I’ve actually been involved with Hero Initiative since it was founded almost twenty years ago. It’s obviously a very worthy organization, which raises funds so that it can come to the aid of both current and former comics creators. Hero Initiative has covered medical expenses, living expenses, even utility bills for creators who find themselves in a rough patch. Comics as an industry doesn’t take care of its elders very well, and Hero Initiative exists in order to step into that breech, quite literally keeping people alive in some cases. I contribute to Hero Initiative whenever I can, everything from a donation bucket on my table at a convention to offering up help whenever I can.
With conventions shuttered for the foreseeable future, a segment of Hero Initiative’s fundraising ability was eliminated. The Zoom sessions, which are an ongoing initiative, with any number of creators, are a way for fundraising to continue, and for fans to interact with creators in a small audience, only four or five people. I really enjoyed my session, it’s always interesting to find out what people are curious about. Comics are a close community, and we really do take care of our own.
GG: A new Green Lantern project by you and Darryl Banks was recently announced. How did that come to be, and what can fans expect from it?
RM: Darryl and I are doing a Kyle Rayner story in the Green Lantern 80th Anniversary Special, which is due out later in June. It’s the first time Darryl and I have done a Kyle story in a while, so it was a pleasure to reunite, especially for such a landmark issue. DC invited us to have a story in the project, and obviously we were very enthusiastic about it. I have to say, I think Darryl’s art is better than ever. This is one of his best looking Green Lantern jobs ever, and I’m really excited for people to read it.
Thanks to Ron for spending some time with us. For more info visit:
Ron Marz on Twitter:
… and www.ronmarz.com