Fueled By Death Cast Ep. 3 - RON MARZ

Ron Marz


“You don’t wait for the muse to strike you. Sit down, do your job, get the work done.” - Ron Marz, comic book writer - Green Lantern, Silver Surfer, Ominous Press




Artificial intelligence is the topic on Science this week, and Dustin and Jeff talk about the new language that Google AI has developed to talk to itself, and scientist can't figure out what it is is saying. Is Skynet from the Terminator movies a reality? Plus, imagination and creativity on What Fuels you, and how it is important to create in everyday life. Finally, the end of 2016 is upon us, and there are some big plans in 2017 for The World's Strongest Coffee.


Ron Marz has been working in the comic book industry for a long time and has a lot of writing credits to his name. On this episode he talks about breaking into the comic business and how it is different now. Also he reveals the details behind creating the character Green Lantern Kyle Rayner for DC Comics and other projects he is involved with including Ominous Press and the comic he wrote for Death Wish Coffee, 'Odinforce'.


Jeff: We were able to create this Odinforce book. I was there for a lot of the creation of that process but I wasn't there for what you were doing behind the scenes when you were writing it. Can you talk a little bit about the inception of where this comic came from?

Ron Marz: The whole process was really easy because Death Wish was just a dream to work with in terms of going, "Well you know, do what you want. Just make a cool story." That's actually what Mike and Cain said.

Jeff: Right.

Ron Marz: Those were the only rules. Make a cool story.

Jeff: Yeah.

Ron Marz: Okay we can probably do that. So obviously this is what I've done for 25 years. So it's basically my only job skill. So when they said, "Hey can we do a comic?" Yeah, we can do a comic. So yeah I wrote it but I also kind of put the team together and brought it to fruition because-

Dustin: You're almost like a contractor at that point, huh?

Ron Marz: Yeah. I was one of the whores, and I was also the pimp.

Jeff: Nice. So you're double dippin'.

Ron Marz: But I've done a number of these gigs now where you sort of ... somebody comes to you and says let's create a comic and you kind of have to build the infrastructure of how the comic actually gets done from concept to finished comics in the box delivered to the doorstep. And if you've done it before it's not that big a deal but if you aren't familiar with the business and how this all comes together it's like alchemy. It's like people have no idea how to make this happen.

Jeff: Right.

Ron Marz: And thank God we're gonna keep that information totally secret.

Jeff: Okay. Good.

Ron Marz: But-

Jeff: Pay no attention.

Dustin: Write out your process in deep description, please.

Ron Marz: Well you know really it's like any other business where you ... everybody knows everybody else and so for this, it was ... once the idea was in place to do the comic and we had to assemble the art team, assemble a production guru to pull the whole book together, and then work with a printer to actually get the thing printed. Basically, I just called friends. I called guys that I like to work with and whose work I respect.
So we actually had a different artist attached to it initially. We had an artist in India that I had worked with on the John Carter book for Dynamite and-

Jeff: Really great artist too, yeah.

Ron Marz: Yeah. A guy named Abhishek Malsuni who is terrific and was really into the story. He was really into drawing Vikings cause he had watched the history channel show.

Jeff: I love that show.

Ron Marz: Yeah. I'm like an episode behind now from being in Greece so-

Dustin: What they don't have Vikings in Greece?

Ron Marz: Maybe they do but-

Jeff: [crosstalk 00:03:12] real Vikings in Greece.

Ron Marz: ... I wasn't-

Jeff: Just not the-

Dustin: Just, you know-

Ron Marz: I wasn't watching it.

Jeff: ... made for TV movie.

Dustin: Dress em up and be like do a soap opera for me.

Jeff: Yeah.

Ron Marz: So but he ended up having deadline issues and personal stuff. His mom was in a bus accident and-

Jeff: Yeah, I know.

Ron Marz: ... real life intervened.

Jeff: Yeah.

Ron Marz: So he just wasn't gonna be able to get it done in time for us to hit our printer deadline so I called Rick Leonardi who is ... he's been in the business longer than I have.

Jeff: Yeah.

Ron Marz: It's been ... Rick has drawn X Men, and Batman, and Cloak and Dagger, Night Wing, you name it he's left his mark on it.

Jeff: That's incredible.

Ron Marz: And he's really an artist's artist. He's just one of my favorite people to work with. One of my favorite people period. And he happened to have a hole in his schedule and I said, "Look the deadline's kinda tight cause we blew some deadline with the previous artist. Can you work this in?" And he said, "Yeah." And he was also very into the whole Viking idea of it and was also a fan of the Vikings show. I think that's the fulcrum around all of this.

Jeff: Yes. Nice.

Ron Marz: So at that point, I had written the script, and we had worked out the story, and Death Wish was cool with what we had done. I guess they had decided that it was a cool story cause those were the only parameters.

Jeff: Yeah.

Dustin: Yeah.

Ron Marz: Cause I was like well you know do you want coffee in the story somewhere? Do you want ...

Jeff: Nope.

Dustin: No.

Ron Marz: Do you want our Viking hoard sitting around a campfire drinking coffee?

Jeff: Yeah.

Ron Marz: They were like no that's lame. That's ... cause I've done gigs before where it's product placement was-

Jeff: Right.

Ron Marz: ... was the reason the thing existed.

Jeff: Ham it up buddy.

Ron Marz: And that's fine. That's totally legit too but that's completely not what Death Wish wanted. They just wanted to be able to hand people the story and have people walk away from it going, "Well that was really ... that was a cool story."
Like when the news of the fact that we had done this comic started to get out there in the comic industry I had dudes calling me up saying, "You got a copy of that for me?"

Jeff: Right.

Ron Marz: "Can you get me that?" Cause everybody wanted to see what Rick did on it.

Jeff: Yeah.

Dustin: Oh that's cool.

Ron Marz: Rick's a guy who is really influential in terms of other artists and everybody wanted to see what he was doing.

Dustin: Yeah.

Ron Marz: And the fact that we actually printed from Rick's darkened pencils rather than having the pencils inked with black India ink gave it sort of a gritty quality and really allowed the audience to see Rick's pencil strokes, to see what he does. Because most comics are penciled and then-

Jeff: Inked.

Ron Marz: ... and then inked with-

Jeff: Right.

Ron Marz: ... black India ink for reproduction. And we just went from Rick's pencils which were darkened and then we put the color over it. So it's got a little bit of a different ... it's got a graphite quality to it that you don't see a lot.

Jeff: Organic?

Ron Marz: Yeah.

Jeff: Is that-

Ron Marz: And it really kinda matches, not to get too deep into the weeds with it, but it really ... the nature of the art matches the time period that we're working in.

Jeff: Right.

Ron Marz: Everything feels really organic. Everything feels kinda real.

Dustin: Yeah.

Jeff: Is that rarer in the comic book industry to go from a darkened pencil, then the ink? Or is it ... do you find that happens more often?

Ron Marz: It's not all that common because a lotta times guys are working digitally now and-

Jeff: Yeah, definitely.

Ron Marz: ... and that's basically your incline so it's ... you'd lose some of that gray tone that you get with darkened pencils. And frankly, not everybody's pencils should be seen. Not everybody's pencils should be darkened cause it's-

Jeff: Yeah because a lot of people are doing it quick and with the idea that the inker's gonna come in-

Ron Marz: Right. Right, right, right. To me it's a ... this allows kind of a glimpse into the process. But like I said not everybody's stuff ... Rick's stuff is very lively. Rick's stuff is very gestural and he's really good at motion, which is a weird thing to say for what is essentially still pictures but there's a life to his pencils.

Dustin: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.

Ron Marz: And sometimes with the wrong inker some of that life gets beaten out of the work.

Jeff: Yeah.

Ron Marz: So for this, we could just show his pencils and we had a really terrific colorist from India named Nanjan Jamberi who did a really lovely job over Rick's pencils and it's a very painterly look to the whole job.

Jeff: Yup.

Dustin: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ron Marz: And I thought it turned out great. We turned it around fast and it turned out great. And then we got Joe Jusko to do the cover.

Jeff: One of my favorites. So cool.

Ron Marz: If you're gonna have Vikings-

Jeff: Yeah.

Ron Marz: If you're gonna have a comic book with Vikings you might as well get Joe Jusko to do the cover.

Jeff: Yeah and it all came together and again like you said before, Ron, it's a lot about the experience of what you had going into it to be able to put these pieces together to create this project. And kinda speaking on that you talked about how you've been in this industry for 25 plus years. How did you get into this industry? Did you start off as a writer to become a comic book writer?

Ron Marz: No. I always knew I was gonna be a writer because I just, I couldn't do anything else.

Jeff: Okay.

Ron Marz: I was like once my dream of being a third baseman for the Mets died about sixth grade.

Jeff: Yeah.

Ron Marz: You know cause I couldn't hit a curveball.

Jeff: That's kind of a prerequisite-

Ron Marz: This is-

Jeff: ... for being a major league baseball player.

Dustin: As a sixth grader though?

Jeff: Yeah a sixth grader.

Dustin: I mean, come on you can put in more practice, right? Just make your weaknesses your strengths.

Ron Marz: I just figured out it wasn't gonna happen so-

Jeff: Yeah.

Ron Marz: But I could always write. In school, I could always write. I would help friends with their book reports and term papers and stuff. So just-

Dustin: What do you think that was? Do you have parents that are particularly good at writing, or-

Ron Marz: No my parents were not directed in that way at all. My Dad was ... I was a late-in-life baby so my Dad actually grew up in the Depression.

Dustin: Wow.

Ron Marz: So he had a whole different outlook. He didn't read books until he retired.

Dustin: Oh wow.

Ron Marz: Didn't read books at all.

Jeff: Right.

Ron Marz: And then sort of-

Dustin: Did he think it was a waste of time or something?

Ron Marz: No he just didn't have time for it. He worked every day. He worked at IBM. He worked every day and then you come at the end of the day and you have dinner and maybe watch the Yankee game.

Dustin: Wow.

Ron Marz: So that was not ... he just didn't enjoy it. So me, as an adolescent, I had my nose in books all the time. And my Mom would buy me any book I wanted. She would take me to the bookstore-

Dustin: Excellent.

Ron Marz: ... and would stay there or go to the grocery store and shop or something while I was in the bookstore but I don't think she ever rushed me out of a bookstore once in my adolescent life she'd just-

Dustin: That's so cool.

Ron Marz: And my father would be like, "Well why are you buying him all these books?" And she'd be like, "He can get any book he wants." And it obviously paid off cause I'm doing what I'm doing but once my father retired he discovered a love of reading. He discovered, "Oh this is pretty real." Once he had the time to devote to it. So one of the greatest joys in my life later on in my father's retirement years was buying him books.

Dustin: Oh that's cool.

Ron Marz: Cause that's not ... there were never Christmas presents under the tree for my father there were books.

Dustin: Right.

Ron Marz: That was not his thing.

Dustin: What kind of books did you aim for when you went shopping for him?

Ron Marz: He was a big western fan.

Dustin: Oh that's so cool.

Jeff: Wow. Cool.

Ron Marz: So and he grew up with a horse that was eventually, that actually one of his ... he grew up in a big family and one of his brothers actually stole the horse and went off for a ride and it got hit by a truck.

Jeff: Oh my God.

Dustin: Wait ...

Ron Marz: And the horse died and the brother got kind of busted up but-

Dustin: Oh my God.

Jeff: Oh my God.

Ron Marz: So yeah these are like the crazy family stories.

Jeff: Wow.

Dustin: Whoa.

Ron Marz: So my Father was always a horse guy, he loved horses and he sort of loved cowboys and later in life, once he retired, he would go horseback riding all the time and he would read and played golf. He played golf a little bit.

Dustin: Was it around this area where were you [crosstalk 00:12:15]

Ron Marz: I grew up downstate. I grew up in Kingston.

Dustin: Okay cool. Yeah.

Ron Marz: So and he actually grew up in the Kingston area so that's where my family's roots are. Actually when I married my wife she had a horse.

Jeff: Oh.

Ron Marz: And now we have like five horses.

Jeff: Oh wow.

Dustin: Cool.

Ron Marz: So my Father's been gone for almost 20 years. So the thing that ... we just built a barn last year. Built a ... it's still not finished cause the contractor screwed us.

Dustin: I remember hearing about that on Twitter. [crosstalk 00:12:49]

Ron Marz: But the barn, every time I'm in the barn I think of my Dad cause he would ... there would be nothing he would love more than being in that barn with our horses shoveling horse shit cause that was-

Dustin: Felt like a real man.

Ron Marz: Well if you offered him the scent of an expensive perfume or the smell of horse shit he'd take the horse shit every time.

Dustin: Horse shit doesn't smell that bad by the way.

Jeff: [crosstalk 00:13:18] I don't like expensive [crosstalk 00:13:19]

Ron Marz: Horse shit is not bad. Cow shit, cow shit's horrible.

Dustin: Not good.

Jeff: Not good.

Dustin: Not good.

Ron Marz: Methane.

Dustin: Methane not good.

Jeff: But so getting back to you though, you were an avid reader and obviously that led to writing. When did you feel like that was gonna be a career that you wanted to pursue?

Ron Marz: Like I said it just never occurred to me to be anything else so when I was in college my hometown newspaper was the Kingston Freeman and the professor announced that the Freeman was looking for a part-time sports writer and if anybody in journalism class was interested that he would set up an interview and I didn't say a word. But the next day he said, "you know they're still looking for somebody."

Jeff: Ron.

Ron Marz: "It's a pretty good gig." So I went in and I go, "Okay I'll try it out." And I went in and had the interview and basically, they were looking for a warm body.

Jeff: Okay.

Ron Marz: They weren't looking to interview anybody.

Jeff: Right.

Ron Marz: They just needed a warm body.

Jeff: And [crosstalk 00:14:26] to write stories down and kind of-

Ron Marz: So I was a Sophomore in college and was working 20 hours a week at the newspaper.

Jeff: Was that an internship or you getting paid for it?

Ron Marz: No I was getting paid for it.

Jeff: No that's great.

Ron Marz: It was like a real job and I was actually getting real money.

Jeff: [inaudible 00:14:44]

Ron Marz: This was a real job. All my friends were working at Burger King.

Jeff: I was about to say yeah like delivering food or-

Ron Marz: Waitressing at Friendly's.

Jeff: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Ron Marz: My girlfriend was waitressing at Friendly's. And I was making real money.

Dustin: No shit.

Ron Marz: And I was like this is pretty cool. So I just kept the job through college and then when I got outta college they hired me full time and so I was a sports reporter for a few years and then I moved over and became the entertainment editor and did movie reviews and stuff like that.
So it was actually great training, being a journalist was great training for comics because journalism is about writing on deadline and fitting a finite amount of information into a finite space. And that is ultimately what comics is.

Jeff: Yeah.

Ron Marz: Monthly comics. You-

Dustin: Saying a lot with very little.

Ron Marz: Well you have a deadline, you have 20 or 22 pages or whatever the length of the book is. It used to be 22 now most books are 20.

Jeff: Thank you ads.

Dustin: Is that what it is?

Jeff: Yeah, totally.

Ron Marz: But you guys don't know the difference it's like ... when comics went from 22 to 20 nobody knew cause nobody's counting the pages.

Dustin: Jeff knew.

Jeff: I kinda knew.

Ron Marz: So it was really good training for me. You don't wait for the muse to strike you.

Jeff: Right.

Ron Marz: Sit down, do your job, get the work done.

Jeff: That's great. That's great advice.

Ron Marz: And it was really ... and it was also great training for knowing style, knowing punctuation, knowing grammar. It was all really necessary stuff so even now when I would do my columns on CBR or any sort of prose writing I know that stuff backward and forwards because it was drilled into me at the newspaper. And I read stuff from other people who have ... where's the comic? Does the comic go inside the quotes, or outside?

Dustin: Right.

Ron Marz: So it was hugely beneficial for me. And then while I was a journalist I ended up being friends with a number of artists in the area where I grew up including Bernie Wrightson and Jim Starlin. And Jim one day ... I edited Jim's first novel. He wrote a prose novel and I copy-edited it for him. And he said, "Geeze you're pretty good at this." And, yeah, obviously Jim knew I was working at the newspaper. And he said, "Did you ever think about writing comics?" Well yeah.
So I co-wrote my first few jobs with Jim and he took me by the hand down to Marvel comics and-

Jeff: And just for the listeners out there can you explain Jim Starlin a little? You're dropping a name that for people who might not be into comics might not understand.

Ron Marz: But they've seen Jim's creations.

Jeff: Yeah.

Dustin: Yes, undoubtedly. Yeah.

Ron Marz: Jim is a writer/artist who has been working in comics in the 70s and he's one of the sorts of grandmasters of the medium.

Jeff: Yes.

Ron Marz: He created Thanos.

Jeff: Yes.

Ron Marz: Who is the big villain in the Avengers movies.

Jeff: In the Avengers movies coming up very soon, yes.

Ron Marz: He created Drax the Destroyer.

Jeff: Yes.

Ron Marz: Who is in Guardian's of the Galaxy, he created Gamora who is in Guardian's of the Galaxy. So a huge amount of the Marvel cinematic universe depends on the stuff that Jim has done.

Jeff: Yes.

Ron Marz: So Jim was then and still is one of my best friends and-

Jeff: And he kind of just brought you into the industry.

Ron Marz: He said, "Hey you wanna do this?" And I said, "Sure let's try it." And obviously, that was a life-changing moment. But Jim brought a bunch of people into comics.

Jeff: Yeah.

Ron Marz: He's a generous, wonderful person and-

Jeff: Comics would not be the same without that man.

Ron Marz: ... and that's kind of how comics work is that you help the generation behind you. You give a hand when you can. And so Jim just told Marvel, "Hi this guy's gonna co-write some Silver Surfer with me." And that was my on-the-job training. I co-wrote a few issues with Jim where he basically gave me the skeleton of the story and then I would write the script. And I think my first solo gig was a backup story in a Silver Surfer annual that was actually supposed to be written and drawn by a guy named Jim Sherman who was an artist that did a lotta work in the 70s and 80s. Worked on Legion of Superheros and a number of other titles. And Sherman got lost down in the Yucatan.

Jeff: Oh no.

Ron Marz: And Marvel couldn't find him.

Jeff: Oh no.

Dustin: Oh wow.

Ron Marz: And he was supposed to do this gig and he disappeared. And I was not surprised cause I had actually been in the Yucatan with Starlin and Sherman a few years before and got up to all sorts of mischief.

Dustin: Why is the Yucatan at thing?

Ron Marz: Because you can-

Jeff: All comics come from the Yucatan. No, I'm just kidding.

Ron Marz: ... at that point, you could go down to the Yucatan and live like a king for a hundred bucks a month.

Dustin: It's not that way anymore?

Ron Marz: No because the cruise ships have found Cancun and Tulum and all that. But he was like off backpacking with his girlfriend and stuff.

Jeff: They found him, right?

Ron Marz: Oh yeah.

Jeff: I just wanted to [crosstalk 00:20:12]

Ron Marz: Yes.

Jeff: [crosstalk 00:20:12] that story. Yes.

Ron Marz: Surrounded by ... he eventually surfaced but in the meantime they needed 20 pages filled.

Jeff: Right.

Ron Marz: And they were like, "Hey, you. Do you wanna do this?" And so that was my first solo writing. It was like the fourth script I had ever written but it was my-

Jeff: Wow.

Ron Marz: ... first solo one. And they liked the story well enough and it got a good enough response that the work kept coming after that and I've been doing it ever since.

Jeff: And you have spanned a career of ... both big ones, both Marvel and DC. I mean you brought up Silver Surfer but you are most known for your work on Green Lantern as well and the 90s wonderful DC Marvel crossover that you had a hand in as well that was fun. But throughout all these years and all the jobs, you've gotten with comics what fuels you to keep going in comics? Cause the way you describe it is it's not something necessarily that you just fell into but it wasn't something that you started off being like, "I'm going to be a comic book writer." You kind of were like, "I'm gonna be a writer." And you kinda went into comics. What's kept you there? What fuels you to keep doing that?

Ron Marz: I want my kids to eat.

Jeff: No I mean that's commendable, yeah.

Ron Marz: But I love comics and I love that you can tell stories with pictures.

Jeff: Yeah.

Ron Marz: There are obviously a lot of ways to tell your story. You can write plays, you can write novels, you can write movies. But comics are still really kind of a pure way of telling your story because you can do it with just a few people. And I've always been a ... from early teenage years I was a big art fan. Like discovering Fran Frazetta at-

Jeff: Oh yeah.

Ron Marz: ... thirteen or whatever was pretty life-changing.

Jeff: Yeah.

Ron Marz: Cause that's just-

Jeff: Blows your mind.

Ron Marz: ... that's the coolest stuff in the world.

Jeff: Yeah.

Ron Marz: And seeing ... I saw Star Wars when I was eleven years old and that was life-changing and you're like, "That's a whole new world that I've never been exposed to." And you go out and-

Jeff: Are you excited for Rogue One?

Ron Marz: Oh yeah.

Jeff: Yeah.

Ron Marz: Yeah.

Jeff: Yeah.

Ron Marz: When Force Awakens came out I was an eleven-year-old kid again.

Jeff: Yeah, me too totally.

Ron Marz: I was an eleven-year-old kid weeping in the audience cause-

Jeff: Me too.

Ron Marz: So that stuff that ... so that's a lot of the stuff that I, at that magic age of eleven, twelve, thirteen, Frazetta, Star Wars, Edgar Rice Burrows, Tolkien, Robert E. Howard, like all of that stuff had a huge influence on me and still does. And I think in a lot of ways the stuff that you discover at that age is what stays with you for the rest of your life. In a lot of ways, I'm just repeating all of that. Like the fact that the Death Wish Vikings find Loki and I mean look that's-

Jeff: Spoiler.

Ron Marz: ... that's all about the fact that I was reading Walt Simonson's Thor run when I was in high school and it's just like the best comics ever.

Jeff: Yeah.

Ron Marz: It all ... the stuff you consume at that age, and other ages too, but I think especially at that age keeps coming back out.

Dustin: That initial causation of wonderment.

Ron Marz: Yeah I think you're-

Jeff: Yeah that first thing that makes you go, "Oh cool."

Ron Marz: You're not quite a child at that point but you're not quite an adult and you're sort of ... the stuff that you discover at that age is full of wonder. And in a lot of ways, that's still what I'm doing. Like 25 years later in comics that's what I'm doing because I love the fact that I can make up stories and I see the stories in my head and I can't draw to save my life. When you say-

Jeff: I hear you.

Ron Marz: ... to somebody, "I do comics." "Oh, do you draw?"

Jeff: Right.

Ron Marz: "I can't draw to save my life."

Jeff: That's the first thing always. Yeah.

Ron Marz: At all. But I can see it. I can see what I want in my head and I can describe that in a script to an artist. That's still the best part of my job is when the art comes back from ... like what's been in my head-

Jeff: And you get to see it.

Ron Marz: ... is now turned into something real and concrete. That's still priceless. That's still the moment in this process where you can't put any price tag on it cause it's just the coolest thing.

Jeff: That's awesome.

Dustin: You're taking something that has never existed before, that's what I like about writing music is-

Jeff: Yeah.

Dustin: ... you're making something that until this point had never existed before.

Ron Marz: Never existed. Yeah, and you're talking elements-

Dustin: Yeah.

Ron Marz: ... that are out there.

Dustin: Right.

Ron Marz: But you're putting it in a salad that didn't exist before. And even when you do ... you're working for Marvel or DC and you're playing with their toys it's still something doing different but it's one step more when you're creating your own stuff and it's just your thing and it didn't exist at all before you brought it into being.

Dustin: Yeah.

Ron Marz: That's fun.

Dustin: Yeah.

Ron Marz: That's better ... that's my job.

Jeff: Yeah.

Dustin: It's like ... I don't know how to say it. Maybe this is a bit too strong of a statement but our imaginations make us gods-

Jeff: Yeah.

Dustin: ... of new worlds-

Jeff: Yeah.

Ron Marz: Oh yeah you can-

Dustin: ... that never existed before.

Ron Marz: Yeah it's you are the deity. You are the one who makes this all happen.

Jeff: I feel like this is gonna blow into a Westworld conversation real soon.

Ron Marz: Don't spoil me on the last episode.

Jeff: No, no, no, no. No, no.

Ron Marz: We were in Greece for that and we still haven't seen it.

Jeff: That's a whole other conversation. I do wanna talk about the creator-owned stuff but just before that you kinda touched on this creation process. Even working with Marvel, like how you put it, working with the toys that Marvel and DC have into play. But the joy that you have from creating. One of the things you're most known for is creating an actual character in Green Lantern, Kyle Rayner and is the idea behind creating a character when you're working for a big company like Marvel or DC comics is that coming from down on high or is that you purposely giving that creation of life?

Ron Marz: It's different for different situations.

Jeff: Correct.

Ron Marz: But for Kyle it was DC ... I was working at Marvel, that's where I started my career, and I did Surfer, and Thor, and some other odds and ends. And DC called me ... I had done a little bit of Green Lantern work for them on short stories and things. And DC called me to say we'd like you to take over Green Lantern. And I was like, "Cool."

Jeff: Yeah, right?

Ron Marz: That rocks. That Hal Jordan costume was pretty cool and I saw him on Super Friends when I was a kid-

Jeff: Yeah, yeah totally.

Ron Marz: And then they were like, "Oh yeah, well here's what's gonna happen." So that's when they dropped the other shoe of-

Jeff: So they had the idea?

Ron Marz: They had the idea that Hal was gonna be removed as the main character. And they gave me literally like a page and a half of notes that sort of described what they generally wanted in the story and it ended up becoming known as Emerald Twilight-

Dustin: Emerald Twilight, yeah.

Ron Marz: ... which was my first three Green Lantern issues. And then the last line of those notes was, "And a new green lantern is created."

Jeff: Oh my God. That's literally what they left you with?

Ron Marz: And that was it.

Jeff: Wow.

Ron Marz: That was as much direction as we were given. So I said, "Well does it have to be somebody from Earth or can it be an alien?" And they were like, "No we'd like the main character to be human." And I was like, "Well can it be a man, or can it be a woman?" And they said, "Well we'd like to keep a male lead." But that was it. That was the only-

Jeff: Wow.

Ron Marz: ... that was the only direction that we were given. And we were kind of left to our own devices to just make it up. Now I'm sure if we had come up with something crazy, or-

Jeff: Right.

Ron Marz: ... completely unacceptable to them they would have reeled us back in but Kyle kinda came into being pretty much as ... he was envisioned as you ended up seeing him in the comic. So we got to make up a new Green Lantern, a new iconic character for the DC Universe in terms of those Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern are really the mainstays.

Jeff: Totally. The Justice League right there.

Ron Marz: So I got to make up a completely new guy and so I got the best of both worlds. I got the whole Green Lantern mythology-

Jeff: Right.

Ron Marz: ... and the whole larger DC Universe to play in but I got to make up my own guy and I wasn't saddled with 30 years of continuity.

Jeff: Right.

Ron Marz: So it was really the absolute best situation you could have. And DC really let us do what we wanted with it. I don't think you would get that kind of freedom now because everything's much more editorially controlled-

Jeff: Totally.

Ron Marz: ... and sort of corporately directed because this stuff is worth a hell of a lot more money than it was back then with things too-

Jeff: A lot more investment.

Ron Marz: Yeah I mean thanks to crossing over into other media this is [crosstalk 00:29:58] these are multi-billion dollar franchises now.

Jeff: And speaking of movies in 2020 we are getting the Green Lantern core so fingers crossed that Kyle appears in that.

Ron Marz: That would be nice.

Dustin: How cool is it to see some of these creations that you've had now become real-life people on the big screen here?

Ron Marz: Yeah it's cool. Kyle ended up being on the Superman animated show.

Jeff: Heck yeah, heck yeah.

Ron Marz: And there was plenty of action figures and all that kind of stuff and it's cool, and it's gratifying, but also you keep it in perspective and you just go ... well for one, you don't own it-

Jeff: Yeah, right.

Ron Marz: ... it's DC's baby and ultimately when push comes to shove that's the way it's gonna be. Once I left Green Lantern, I wrote Green Lantern for a little over seven years-

Jeff: Wow.

Ron Marz: Once I left the book it was hard for me to read the book.

Jeff: Cause it's not your story anymore? Yeah.

Ron Marz: Well it's like watching somebody else raise your kids.

Jeff: Weird?

Ron Marz: Even though it's not really your kid.

Jeff: Yeah.

Ron Marz: It's still a little weird. It's like you've sent your kid off to a foster family. And even though a lot of the people that came on after me, did a really nice job it's still not quite what you would've done so you're ... you have mixed emotions.

Jeff: Yeah.

Ron Marz: So it's easier to just distance yourself from it completely because even though Daryl Banks and I, Daryl was the artist that co-created Kyle with me, even though it was our baby ultimately it's not our baby.

Jeff: Yeah.

Dustin: Your baby was on lease.

Jeff: Yeah.

Ron Marz: Yeah. And I'm totally thankful for the opportunity and the time we had with him but to ... you have to be an adult and sort of surrender ... you surrender your baby after a certain point and somebody else takes over.

Dustin: What was the hardest to give up?

Ron Marz: I don't know. I had been in the business for a while at that point and you sort of go, oh okay, you get it.

Jeff: Yeah.

Ron Marz: I think the things that I regret when you move away from a character or a book mostly it's just I regret that I'm not working with that particular creative team anymore.

Jeff: Oh.

Ron Marz: Like I'm not working with ... I was not working with Daryl Banks anymore-

Jeff: Yeah.

Ron Marz: ... on a monthly basis cause the people that you work with and that you end up clicking with, become like family.

Jeff: Yeah.

Ron Marz: Because you deal with them almost every day.

Dustin: Yup.

Ron Marz: And really my best friends in the world are in comics.

Dustin: Yeah.

Ron Marz: And a lot of em live in ... halfway across the country or halfway across the world. And you don't ... you see them once or twice a year but you end up developing really strong bonds because you create something together and you work together on a daily basis really. You might not be in touch every day but you write the script and the artist is drawing your stuff every day and you're getting pages maybe not every day but on a fairly regular basis. It's kinda like a marriage and once that goes away, because you've left onto separate projects, there's a little bit of angst involved.

Dustin: Yeah.

Jeff: Yeah. And the other side of this argument, obviously, is you were talking a lot about working for the major two but the other side is the creator-owned side of comics where you basically own what you're creating. And I know that you are working on stuff right now, right now, in fact, you're probably going to podcast and go work on it. And I'd love for you to talk a little bit about that because it's pretty exciting.

Ron Marz: Well as a writer in this business you can afford to do creator-owned stuff, and do company-owned stuff and generally what that means is the company owned stuff pays the bills and the creator-owned stuff is stuff that you're either not getting a page rate for, or you're getting a lesser page rate. So as a writer you can kinda balance the two, as an artist it's much harder because you've only got time to do one project a month.

Jeff: Right.

Ron Marz: But I've tried to, over the last number of years, tried to balance doing creator-owned things and doing company owned things. And I've done a number of things. I did a book called Samurai Heaven and Earth, which was like a historical adventure, at Dark Horse. A book called Shinku which is a modern-day Samurai vampire hunter at-

Dustin: Ooo.

Jeff: Yeah you'd love that.

Dustin: That's right up my alley.

Jeff: You'd love that.

Ron Marz: I'll get you copies of that.

Dustin: Oh man.

Ron Marz: If you have to pick one or the other I think most creators would tell you they wanna do creator-owned because it's yours. Nobody tells you what to do. Nobody says you have to have Super Girl in this issue cause it's a crossover and her sales need a bump. You're very much the Gods of your own universe. You can do whatever you want. And that's hugely satisfying. And I've talked to some creators who feel like that's like working without a net too. It's a little scarier cause there are no parameters.

Jeff: Right.

Ron Marz: You're just left to your own devices. But I think that's great man. I don't want parameters so I don't have to have them. So there's always some sort of creator-owned thing going on. And at the moment I am the Editor in Chief of Ominous Press which is-

Jeff: So exciting.

Ron Marz: ... which is a company that existed in the 90s for a couple of years, in the mid-90s. And it was founded by my buddy Bart Sears who I've been friends with for 20 years.

Dustin: I love Bart.

Jeff: We love Bart, seriously.

Ron Marz: And he's worked on a bunch of stuff at Marvel and DC.

Jeff: Yeah.

Ron Marz: But he had Ominous Press in the 90s to tell sort of heroic adventure and fantasy stories, and big dudes with swords.

Jeff: Yeah, totally.

Dustin: Love it.

Ron Marz: And when the market tanked in the mid-90s, the speculator bubble burst in the comic market, and-

Jeff: Yeah Marvel almost went bankrupt.

Ron Marz: Marvel did go bankrupt.

Jeff: Or they did go bankrupt, yeah. Yeah.

Ron Marz: So it was the mid-90s to 200 were like a really grim time in comics and a lotta small publishers and a lot of comic book shops actually went outta business. Just completely tanked. And one of them was Ominous Press. They put out a few books, did pretty well, and then the market just dropped out from under everybody.
So we restarted Ominous Press last year, or we decided last year we were going to start it and then this year we've actually started to do stuff. So I'm the Editor in Chief and I'm writing two of the titles. We're doing three titles so I'm writing a book called Demi-God-

Dustin: That one looks the coolest.

Ron Marz: Andy Smith is drawing. Which is sort of like what if Deadpool met Thor and was kind of a douche?

Jeff: Yeah.

Dustin: Yup. That's totally the tagline for the book too.

Ron Marz: So Andy Smith is drawing that. And I'm doing a book called Prometheus which is drawn by Tom Ranney-

Dustin: Yeah.

Ron Marz: ... which is just amazing looking.

Dustin: Yeah. It is.

Ron Marz: And that's kind of Greek Gods meet Matrix kind of a story where there's a game that this post-apocalyptic society plugs into every day to kind of keep them docile and in the game the characters are these wondrous God-like creations but the reality is they're basically these monsters that have been grown in vats that are plugged into the game. And they eventually wake up from their slumber and realize that they're not Gods in an idyllic world, they're monsters in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

Dustin: Crazy.

Jeff: Whoa.

Ron Marz: And the story really jumps off from there which is if you thought you were a God and you turned out you were a monster what do you do?

Jeff: Wow.

Dustin: That's deep.

Ron Marz: Yeah it's a really ... it works on a couple of different levels and I think Tom Ranney is a guy that I've ... he actually drew one of my first Silver Surfer issues. So we've both been in the business that long.

Jeff: Yeah.

Ron Marz: And when we started talking about this, restarting the company, and what titles we were gonna do we started talking about Prometheus and I was like, "Well Tom's the guy."

Jeff: The guy.

Ron Marz: Tom's the right one to do this and a lot of comics is about that. It's about creative casting. It's about putting not just the right artist on a book but putting the right team together because if one link in the chain doesn't work properly the whole thing can fall apart.
So I'm doing those two books. Bart Sears is writing and drawing a book called Giant Killers that I'm editing. And by June/July of next year, we'll actually launch all of the titles through a publishing partner that has yet to be announced but is-

Jeff: Very cool.

Ron Marz: ... we're in the process of signing the contracts so-

Jeff: But right now you can go to ominouspress.com I believe, right? And you can sign up for a lot of the teasers that you have out?

Ron Marz: Yeah. Ominouspress.com has a number of books for sale, but it's also got teaser material. We did a world premier issue that gives a taste of each of the three series. And then we've been going back and reprinting the material that Ominous published initially in the 90s as a four-issue miniseries called Legendary. And I was uncomfortable just reprinting stuff that was 20 years old.

Dustin: Right.

Ron Marz: And a lot of it is reprinted. Some of it is new stuff. Some of its stuff that was intended for print back in '95. It never saw the light of day cause the bottom dropped out. That is being seen for the first time. And then the fourth issue of the Legendary series is actually completely new material to tie off those storylines that were started 20 years ago. So the four Legendary issues ... I think the fourth one should be out by ... the third one's out now. The fourth one should be out by end of January when ... that one actually has a cool Jim Starlin cover on it.

Dustin: So cool.

Jeff: That is so cool.

Ron Marz: Everything comes back around.

Jeff: That is awesome.

Ron Marz: So we felt like we owed it to the readership that started with these books 20 years ago to kinda pay off that storyline and then we'll start fresh middle of this coming year. I'm a part owner of the company along with Bart, and Andy, and our publisher Sean Husvar who was involved in Ominous back then too. So it's very much creator-owned material and it's some of the most fun you can have doing comics cause you're working with your friends.

Jeff: That sounds like a family again, like you said. Yeah.

Ron Marz: You're working with your friends and you're doing ... it's like when we were kids and you wanted to put on a play in the backyard and well Dad'll make the sets and Mom'll make the costumes.

Jeff: That's awesome.

Ron Marz: You're just doing the stuff on your own, making all the decisions and at the end of the day what you have is exactly what you want. There are no compromises to be made other than the ones that deadlines demand and it's just ... that's just comics in general. So it's been ... we just ... we had everybody together in New Jersey a couple weeks ago and it was ... we kinda had to step back and go, "Wow we've actually accomplished quite a lot in just a year." So and now things should really start to ramp up as we get our publishing deal set and start to get this stuff out into the world.

Jeff: That's awesome.

Dustin: I'm so pumped.

Jeff: Well we'll definitely be looking for that. Finally is there anything for you personally that you can plug that's coming up in the near future that people can look for? Outside of Ominous Press, obviously.

Ron Marz: Half of the stuff that I'm doing hasn't been announced.

Jeff: Oh yeah, that is the nature of the beast is, yeah.

Ron Marz: That's the nature of comics is you gotta keep your mouth shut or the-

Dustin: No, you don't have to do anything man.

Ron Marz: The corporate ninjas come and find you.

Jeff: Right, exactly.

Dustin: Come on we're just a small little podcast, they'll never find out. We won't tell anybody.

Ron Marz: I can hint at stuff. So I can say that I'm doing some work for a company called Magic Leap in Florida. It is a, I guess most people would call it a virtual reality company but it's really a mixed reality.

Jeff: Cool.

Ron Marz: And so I've been working with them for a couple of years and working on things that we're just stockpiling and eventually, I think in 2017, you'll start to see that and that's kind of world-shaping technology.

Jeff: Magic Leap.

Ron Marz: If you Google Magic Leap you'll find some articles that'll blow your hair back.

Jeff: Thank you so much for being a guest on our Fueled by Death Cast Mr. Ron Marz. It was a pleasure, as always, to talk to you.

Dustin: And more than that thank you for being a friend of the company. I always love seeing you here man. I always love it when you come by. It's always like, "Oh Uncle Ron's here."

Ron Marz: It's just cool to hang out with you guys.