Comic-Con@Home: The Top Cow Panel: The Darkness 25th Anniversary

A man with long black hair wearing a deadly suit of tight armour steps forward, clawed hand raised

Top Cow Panel: Darkness 25th Anniversary: It has been 25 years since Top Cow Productions unleashed the medium’s most prolific, anti-hero indie franchises in the modern age at comic book stores worldwide: The Darkness. Don’t miss Top Cow legends Marc Silvestri (founder, CEO) and Matt Hawkins (president, COO), along with Marguerite Bennett (writer, Witchblade) and other surprise guests discussing their upcoming top-secret projects! You don’t want to miss this panel especially if you’re a Sara Pezzini and Jackie Estacado fan.

Host Henry Barajas opened the 29th annual Top Cow panel with Marc Silvestri and Matt Hawkins who, having done the math, reported that he had been to a total of 22 of these panels, while Silvestri was the only one who’d been to all 29. Lightly lamenting the switch to virtual for these two years, Silvestri pointed out that he has not missed a San Diego Comic Con since 1988. The conversation involved some more math and nostalgia before bringing in Marguerite Bennett.

While also working with the Mother of Dragons on Mother of Madness, Bennett is reimagining Sara Pezzini in a new Witchblade series. “I don’t know what I’m more excited about, seeing your version of Sara as a person or Sara as the wielder of the Witchblade,” said Silvestri. Silvestri and Hawkins stressed the importance of honouring the legacy of and love for an iconic character that has been around for so long, while still making them accessible to a new audience. “Once you create something and put it out there, you are no longer the sole owner,” said Silvestri, speaking of the responsibility creators have to the fans, while balancing the reimagined approach to the character.

Bennett spoke about her plans for the character and the exploration during the first story arc, not of power corrupting, but of power revealing. As a tool meant to bring justice to a world that is out of balance and that only comes to women, Bennett asks the question “Does the woman wield the blade or does the blade wield the woman?” Exploring the agency of the character and the iconic weapon, the story will dive into Sara’s quest into the death of her father. Along the way, she will meet other wielders and learn how they have come to terms with their experiences in a story that promises horror, eroticism, adventure, and mystery. Fans got a glimpse of the new Witchblade series in an exclusive Kickstarter ½ issue.
The face of a woman with long blond hair. She's holding gauntleted her right hand up over the right side of her face.

Up next was Josh George, artist of A Man Among Ye, a story about the pirate Anne Bonny. This was George’s first opportunity to meet everyone outside of email communications, so there was some banter about Florida origins and the inspirations for George’s work as a comics illustrator (spoiler alert: he, like many others, grew up collecting Silvestri’s comics). George spoke about the research he did for A Man Among Ye, which included purchasing a pirate cutlass and studying costuming of the time period. A stickler for research, this impressed Hawkins who praised the attention to detail in George’s work. The book is written by Stephanie Phillips who, like Hawkins, included additional information about the history of Bonny and piracy, which prompted Hawkins to learn more. “It’s a fun trick to pull off,” said Silvestri, speaking about the opportunity to entertain readers while also giving them more to learn.

Read our interview with Phillips here and check out our review of the first issue.

Redheaded pirate Anne Bonny stands bares her sword amid a bunch of brawling men on the cover of A Man Among Ye

Syphon’s Patrick Meaney and Jeffrey Edwards were up next. Edwards talked about meeting Silvestri briefly at a convention and receiving a portfolio review from Hawkins, who said that he had been very impressed by it and still has it. Hawkins added to the story by sharing his own behind-the-scenes experience discussing Edwards’ skills with other editors who had reviewed his work at the time. Meaney went into detail about the book, which you can learn more about in our creator interview.

A person kneels down in a swirling pool of blood in an alley, reaching down to touch his reflection

When the meet and greet was over, Barajas turned the focus on Hawkins and Silvestri themselves and the projects they are working on, and how they have been managing during the pandemic. Hawkins gave some insight into what we’ll see from future issues of his book, Swing, and the crossover elements that take place with Linda and Stjepan Šejić’s books. Hawkins says he’s getting used to being known as a romance writer, which he finds amusing.

Hawkins touched on the EP1T0ME team up which will include St. Mercy, written by John Zuur Platten and illustrated by Atilio Rojo. Top Cow has already worked with the gaming company before on the most excellent The Darkness games.

After talking up some of the other upcoming books, the trio finally discussed The Darkness, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Like the new Witchblade, the Kickstarter campaign will offer an exclusive #½ issue. Silvestri is looking forward to reintroducing Jackie Estacado and retelling his story in a fresh way that, like with the new Witchblade, will both respect original fans and welcome new readers. Silvestri will be writing and doing covers and is excited to be drawing a character that is special to him and having fun with the darklings and exploring the rage and inappropriate commentary that manifests through the Darkness abilities and the irreverent darklings.

The Darkness #1 25th Anniversary Edition, cover by Marc Silvestri (Top Cow, November 2020)

Hawkins noted that it’s not often you get to see a creator come back and re-envision their own character. This is a testament to the legacy of Image Comics and independent comics in general and isn’t something you would see happen at the Big 2.

Finally, everyone was brought back in to the panel — kudos to the production team and organizers on the smooth transitions — where Silvestri expressed his gratitude for bringing their talent to the Top Cow family and, as a creator and fan himself, his excitement for what’s to come.

Wendy Browne

Wendy Browne

Publisher, mother, geek, executive assistant sith, gamer, writer, lazy succubus, blogger, bibliophile. Not necessarily in that order.