Image Comics’ Top Cow Productions has been a force in the industry since it was founded 25 years ago. Recently, Comics Bulletin’s Dan Gehen caught up with Top Cow editor and writer Ryan Cady to discuss his current series, MAGDALENA, as well as the future of the imprint.
Daniel Gehen for Comics Bulletin (CB): How did you find yourself working at Top Cow?
Ryan Cady (RC): I was going to college in Southern California, and I was desperate to intern at a comic company – I knew I wanted to write comics, but I needed a foot in the door, some experience, etc. After all the resume-sending and emails and interviews, I ended up at Top Cow. When the internship ended, they had room to keep me on.
CB: What makes Top Cow unique from the other Image studios?
RC: I think the obvious answer is the shared Universe. Yes, some of the other Image books have crossed over and connected, but Top Cow has this vast canon that’s up there with the Marvel and DC universes (granted, about 60 years younger, but still). But I think more importantly is that Matt [Hawkins] and Marc [Silvestri] have seen their imprint through some of the biggest shakeups in the industry. They know their history, but they always keep one foot in the future, I guess.
CB: What inspired this new direction for the Magdalena?
RC: Honestly, as long as I’ve been associated with Top Cow, I’ve always wanted to do a new Magdalena run with a new bearer. And for me, that meant HORROR. I was always mildly disappointed with how, in spite of Top Cow having this supernatural, very dark universe, lots of creators never took it in a horror direction. Thankfully, Tini and Christian were on the same page, so we just kind of dug into our Goetia and Crowley and got our occultism on.
CB: What challenges does taking on an established character like Patience present?
RC: Shockingly, comic fans tend be a bit precious about their favorite characters. 😉
I kid. I love Patience so much, I always have, and we always wanted to do right by the character as well as by some of the previous creators who’d made her what she was. But that meant letting her actually grow and progress, and so we’ve always been walking this tightrope between showing real growth and making sure established fans don’t feel let down because it’s a different story.
CB: Patience has been Magdalena for a long time. Why go for a “passing of the torch” story rather than make it another of her adventures?
RC: It just seems like the obvious next step for her – for all of the Top Cow Universe characters, really. I know we all love them, and I don’t want them to GO anywhere, but all of the Artifacts are built on legacy, and passing down. The Magdalena is a sisterhood, and I think that legacy is fascinating. The learning and the teaching is where we see these people really get dynamic.
CB: How was the character Maya developed?
RC: Well, like I said, for years I’d been occasionally pitching around the office that I wanted to let Patience pass on the Spear, and when Matt finally gave me the go ahead to pitch, I connected with Tini and we started brainstorming. We knew we wanted to play with someone raised in the Catholic tradition who wasn’t religious (sort of the opposite of what Patience was in her origin story), and we just kind of kicked around people that we knew and liked who fit that mold, what their personalities were like, etc. There’s a lot of my childhood friends in Maya, a lot of Tini’s and Christian’s, and certainly their goth cred and my love for Southern California kind of bled all over the book. In a good way, I hope!
CB: With Magdalena being a faith-based character and the world is becoming increasingly secular, will the book touch on this changing cultural dynamic?
RC: In our earlier pitches, this was much more overt in the comic’s story. As we trimmed the fat, it became clear that we didn’t NEED to have characters yammer on and wax philosophy about a changing world, because that changing world was the catalyst for everything that happened. Patience isn’t working with the Church, because the Church is secularizing. Marchosias the Duke of Hell and Weyer Blackwood work with a magick that’s all about belief, and it’s stronger in a world where people aren’t putting their faith in something intangible. And for Maya, of course, who viewed her Catholicism as purely cultural, not something real, the events of the book are a total shakeup.
CB: What is your process for co-writing the story with Tini Howard and collaboration with artist Christian Dibari?
RC: Early on, Tini and I would just have long skype calls and email exchanges, planning things out and editing pitches on shared Google docs. Once we got Christian on board, he started sketching out designs for characters, aesthetic, etc. His character work was fundamental to making the story what it was, definitely. We have this Facebook group chat called “Team Maya,” and we all still talk to each other in it almost every day. And by the end, collaborating between Tini and I was so fluid that we’d just share one script doc and edit it over the course of a couple weeks.
CB: Aside from Magdalena, the Top Cow Universe is rather dormant. Are there any plans to relaunch any other titles?
RC: Well, Matt’s been public about some of the Cyberforce/Aphrodite IX stuff that’s coming out. I don’t have the authority to talk about some of the other stuff that’s brewing, but there’s a few projects in the works. I think longtime universe fans will be quite pleased. I really wish I could reveal more but it’s not my place!
CB: You’ve also got Warframe in the works alongside Matt Hawkins. What’s the creative process for this like?
RC: A lot of my first published work was co-writing with Matt, so doing this series is pretty streamlined, especially since the licensor is involved and they have a lot of story elements they want included. Basically they gave us some things they wanted, and Matt and I had a meeting and went over some outlines and pitches, and we just launched right into it. It’s been a blast – I get to write about robot space ninjas, what could be more fun?
CB: As someone unfamiliar with the Warframe games, will this be accessible to the uninitiated?
RC: Completely! I had played very little of the game before Top Cow got the license, and of course I caught up, but the story is very much “set in the universe” but a clear story experience. And there’s a free “convention edition” of the first issue that’s circling around some of the next couple cons that Top Cow is at, which is a great primer to see what kind of tale we’re crafting here.
CB: I’m not sure if you can answer this… but in January, it was announced that NBC would be working on a development of a Witchblade television series – is that project still progressing.
RC: Ha! I wish I could tell you. I haven’t actually been an in-office Top Cow employee since last August, and while I’m still pretty involved, I don’t get invited into the Hollywood meetings. Options and developments like that tend to be pretty “hurry up and wait,” so it wouldn’t surprise me if we hear some news soon.