What happens when a group of professional athletes gains super-powers? This is explored in the new book THE PROTECTORS from Ron Marz (WITCHBLADE, ARTIFACTS), Chicago Bears defensive tackle Israel Idonije, and artist Bart Sears (JUSTICE LEAGUE EUROPE, SPIDER-WOMAN). They recently had a large presence at C2E2, and Marz took the time out to have a chat with us about this new project.
ComicVine: How did you and Israel Idonije come together for this project?
Ron Marz: In the same way that so much happens in this business, through mutual friends. Someone who knew Izzy knew someone who knew me, and the introduction was made. I feel like a lot of things that are meant to be just fall into place that way. Certainly in my career, I've found that the things you don't plan on, or work toward, are the ones that end up falling into place.
CV: For those who haven't caught a glimpse of the #0 issue, what's the story of THE PROTECTORS?
RM: The short version is that it's about professional athletes who discover they have abilities far beyond what has made them successful on the playing field. It's a superhero story with the classic trappings of great power balanced against great responsibility. I think what we're trying to do is bring a realistic depiction of sports, both on and off the field, into comics, and marry that to the kind of widescreen superhero action people are used to seeing in something like "The Avengers" or "X-Men." We like to say that "The Protectors" is about sports as much as "Superman" is about newspaper reporters. Sports is the day job for our characters, but we use it as a springboard.
CV: Bart Sears is doing some very nice looking art on the #0 issue, how did Bart get involved?
RM: I called him and said, "You have to draw this." Bart and I have been friends for years, and he was actually out of comics for the most part, and working in video games. But I felt like we needed to get the sports aspect to the story exactly right, and Bart is one of the few people who could do that on the page. So I lured him back in, and could not be happier about it. I love working with him.
CV: During C2E2, we saw some banners for big name Chicago Bears players, like Brian Urlacher. Are they involved or are they characters in the book?
RM: The posters of Urlacher, Julius Peppers and Jay Cutler that Bart drew are actually another venture for Athleta, which is the company that Izzy has founded. We actually expect to be doing more for-sale posters going forward. And it's not out of the question that we'll be seeing some of Izzy's friends make cameo appearances as themselves in the book, lending more authenticity to it.
CV: What's the connection to the Hero Initiative?
RM: We did an exclusive lithograph of Izzy in his number 71 jersey, and a signing session at C2E2 to raise money for Hero Initiative. A number of Izzy's teammates, including Brandon Marshall, Shea McClellin and Corey Wooten showed up as well and signed the litho. Izzy is obviously very oriented to charity and community service, as his Israel Idonije Foundation shows. He's incredibly active in giving back, in Chicago, in Manitoba where he grew up, and even in Africa. He's honestly one of the most generous people I've ever met. When he learned about what Hero Initiative does, he was all for figuring out a way to help. Izzy has been a comic fan all his life, this is not a celebrity discovering comics because they're popular now. So he's giving back to comic creators in need.
CV: When does the first issue come out, and how long will you be a part of this series?
RM: Ideally, we'd like to have issue #1 out in September. We're talking to a few different publishers, looking for the right partner, so that will of course play a part in the timing. As far as my involvement, I'm in this for the long haul. Izzy has been very generous in terms of letting me and Bart take his concepts and his characters and run with them. We both feel very creatively invested in "The Protectors." I would be very satisfied to be writing "The Protectors" #50 or even #100 down the road. There's so much we can do with these characters.
CV: Why should people pick this book up and read it?
RM: Honestly, it's got nothing to do with the fact that an NFL player came up with it, it's really got nothing to do with me writing it or Bart Sears drawing it. I just think it's a damn good book. It reminds me of when I was a kid and I couldn't wait for the next issue of "Uncanny X-Men" or "New Teen Titans." That's the feeling we're going for.
Big thanks to Ron Marz for taking the time out to talk to us about this new project and make sure to check out THE PROTECTORS coming out this September from Athleta comics!