Top 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 III, 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?
RM: 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?
RM: 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.
TFAW.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?
Ryan 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.
TFAW.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.
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.
RS: 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.
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