DF Interview: Ron Marz teams with NFL’s Israel Idonije for a touchdown with The Protectors
By Byron Brewer
The Protectors, a sports-themed superhero comic by writer Ron Marz, artist Bart Sears and plotted by the NFL’s own Israel Idonije, was recently launched in a most unusual way: as a motion comic through Madefire.
To find out the details of this unusual project, Dynamic Forces threw a forward pass to Marz. Here’s word of the interception, with hopefully no flag on the play.
Dynamic Forces: First, Ron, what does it feel like to be working with former Chicago Bear Israel Idonije? Are you a football fan? Are you a BEARS fan? Lol
Ron Marz: I'm a huge football fan, but I have to admit I'm a true blue New York Giants fan. But obviously I have a soft spot in my heart for the Bears, I root for them every week ... unless they happen to be playing the Giants. Israel is basically a real-life superhero. He's huge, he's in amazing shape, he looks like what you expect a superhero to look like. But more important than all of that, he acts like a superhero. His foundation is always engaged in charity efforts, he's always doing good deeds in the community. Without exaggeration, he's one of the best people I've ever met. Just being around him makes you want to be a better person.
DF: How did you come to be on this project?
Ron Marz: Israel and I were brought together by a mutual friend. Izzy asked me if I could help turn his ideas and characters into a comic, and everything grew from there. Izzy had worked out the concepts and characters for The Protectors, so the next step was to translate everything into a cohesive story. I brought in my friend Bart Sears to draw it, Bart brought in Mark Pennington and Neeraj Menon to ink and color, respectively. One of the real joys of making comics is when you can work with your friends.
DF: The first “season” of this comic, The Protectors, is rolling out in an unusual way. Tell us about that and how the decision was reached for this form of distribution.
Ron Marz: The Protectors is being released via the Madefire app, produced as one of their Motion Books. We were drawn to Madefire because they don't really do motion comics, the Motion Books process is akin to taking the individual panels and adding music, special effects and camera movement. So often motion comics come off at awkward, limited animation. What Madefire does is not that, it's smooth and very inviting to read, while not losing the essential sequential quality of comics. The initial Protectors storyline is going to be released over 15 weekly episodes, so there will be a new episode every Wednesday on Madefire. The first episode is free, and ensuing episodes are only 99 cents.
DF: Tell us about the concept behind The Protectors.
Ron Marz: The simplest way to describe the concept is it's a big superhero story, just like Avengers or Justice League. These are big, fun superhero stories with a diverse cast. The extra layer is that the heroes are all professional athletes who discover they've been gifted with these amazing abilities. It's not a story about sports, but sports are part of the background. But we wanted to make sure that the sports aspects would be believable when we depict them, which has not happened very often in comics. That's why Bart is the perfect choice to draw the series. He makes you believe the reality of a football game in the snow, as well as superheroes fighting an alien menace.
DF: Who are your protagonists?
Ron Marz: In the opening story, we're introduced to five athletes who become Earth's Protectors. There's Isaac Chike, a football player; Douglass Larter, a basketball player; Danielle Peters, a soccer player; Miguel Monteiro, a baseball player; and Gerard Rioux, a hockey goalie. These five have their powers unlocked, and then have to decide if they're up to the responsibility being place upon them. We very much wanted to capture the heroic feel of classic team books like The Avengers and the Claremont-Byrne X-Men or the Wolfman-Perez New Teen Titans. I wanted to capture some of the magic that I felt when I read those books as a kid.
DF: Who are The Dissenters?
Ron Marz: Short version: the bad guys. The Dissenters are a faction from an immortal alien race who have come to Earth with the intention of enslaving humanity. The Dissenters have infiltrated the highest echelons of political, religious and media empires, because those are the easiest ways to control humanity. But don't be fooled into thinking this is all backdoor machinations. We've got big brawls and widescreen action.
DF: Tell us more about the artists – Bart Sears, Mark Pennington and Neeraj Menon – and what they bring to this unique table.
Ron Marz: I've known Bart for more than 20 years, he's one of my best friends in or out of the business. When this project came about, he was the first name I thought of because I knew he could pull off the superhero visuals, as well as the sports visuals. Bart is known for drawing powerful, muscular figures, which is a perfect fit for the project. Mark has been inking Bart for years, and they have almost a shorthand working relationship. Mark knows what Bart wants on the page. Neeraj is based in India and he's frankly one of the best colorists in comics already. His palette is not quite like anybody else's, he has a unique color sense that really pops in the Motion Book app.
DF: Ron, what can we expect from this series going forward?
Ron Marz: We've got the first story arc entirely done, so you can expect a new episode every week for the next 15 weeks. We're trying to do a superhero story that will appeal to hardcover superhero fans, as well as people who have never read a comic, but went to see The Avengers in theaters. This is the ground floor of what we hope will be a long-running series. We're going to get you to care about these characters, whether they're wearing superhero costumes, sports uniforms, or jeans and a T-shirt. Come for the spectacle, stay for the characters.
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Ron Marz for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. A new installment of The Protectors is available each Wednesday on the Madefire app!
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You can also grab a copy of JOHN CARTER: WARLORD OF MARS #1 written by Ron Marz.