Witchblade is an American comic book series published by Top Cow Productions, from 1995 to 2015. It centers around Sara Pezzini, a detective and the current wielder of the Witchblade. This supernatural, sentient weapon has bonded to various women through history, such as Cleopatra and Joan of Arc. While Sara struggles to master the powerful weapon and fend off those who would use it for evil, she also tries to maintain a personal life. Pezzini and her weapon first appeared in the one-shot Cyblade/Shi #1 (1995), which featured a crossover between two previously established heroines.
The Witchblade itself is an ancient, conscious, and intelligent weapon with supernatural origins. It is one of thirteen artifacts of such a type (of which five have been named so far), and the offspring of The Darkness and the Angelus (the darkness and the light, respectively). The Witchblade is a masculine aspect, designed to balance with a female wielder, but an unworthy user who tries to wield it will lose her arm. When a worthy host is found, it forms a symbiotic relationship with her, allowing her to hear it. When activated, it expands over the user's body, shredding clothes and replacing them with armor in direct proportion to the immediate threat. It can also form weapons, like swords, darts, and grapples, and it can be used in such diverse situations as picking locks or healing injuries. It can reanimate the dead, show the user scenes of great trauma, and allow the user to experience memories of past users.
In the First Born miniseries, the Witchblade split into two parts, one wielded by Sara and the other by her "understudy" Danielle Baptiste. This later turned out to be a really bad idea, and Sara is currently wielding the reunified Witchblade. Danielle went on to serve as the host of the Angelus.
As of issue #150 of the series, following the general reorganization of her universe following the Artifacts plot, Sara quit the NYPD following a (frankly long overdue) investigation by Internal Affairs, and moved to Chicago to pursue a career as a private investigator. This followed a switch in writers, as Ron Marz left the book after several years and was replaced by Hack/Slash's Tim Seeley.
Marz later returned to the monthly Witchblade book, in a new arc that finds Sara, two years later, as the new sheriff of a small town in upstate New York. This status quo would endure until the main book finally ended with issue #185, as part of a new publishing initiative from Top Cow that phased out its ongoing series.
An all-ages spin-off comic series, Switch, was announced in 2014 (the book was originally called Twitch but the title was changed to prevent confusion with Spawn spin-off Sam and Twitch). Created by Stjepan Sejic, long-running Witchblade artist who also created Death Vigil and Sunstone, this Alternate Universe story casts Mary Parker, a snarky teenage nerd, as the chosen Witchblade bearer.
In 2017, the first issue of a new "Witchblade" series was published, penned by Caitlin Kittredge and drawn by Roberta Ingranata. It follows Alex Underwood, a former war corresponsal with PTSD now working in the Witness Aid Program. After being gunned down on a rooftop working a case, the Witchblade chooses her as a host.
Witchblade provides examples of:
- Ambiguously Bi: Sara and Lara Croft of all people.
- Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Cleopatra and Joan of Arc, among others, also wielded the Witchblade.
- Breast Plate:
- Witchblade was the ultimate example of this trope throughout the '90s. Recent artists have made attempts at giving Sarah armor with more coverage.
- If you like to know, it now looks like a semi-form-fitting silver and gold bio-mess that fully covers everything, more like the Darkness's armor rather than a metal thong.
- Lampshaded in the new Artifacts arc: "What about you?" "I'm wearing ARMOR, not a bikini. What do YOU think?" Especially ironic coming from someone who essentially did wear a bikini for the better part of a decade (and still does on the occasional cover).
- There's also the fact that it is capable of shifting instantly to respond to threats. This includes being able to form a bullet-deflecting helmet in the time between the bullet being fired and it reaching Sara.
- Clothing Damage: For better or for worse, the series was famous for this. However, the Witchblade didn't always outright tear Sara's clothes to shreds like most think. Sara's clothes were normally torn because of the intense battles she fought. The Witchblade would only outright tear clothes unfit for fighting like dresses. Later artists would just run with the idea and have the Witchblade downright leave Sara naked. Then Ron Marz took over and did away with it.
- Combo Platter Powers: The precise abilities conferred by the Witchblade differ wildly between the individual user, and are further influenced by the wielder's experience with it. The Witchblade's precise abilities are thus all over the map, but usually include instantly-generated armor for the user, superhuman strength, and augmented speed.
- Covers Always Lie: The stereotypical "costume" for Sara is nudity, with her forearms, calves, breasts, and genitals covered by a sort of chitinous exoskeleton made from the Witchblade itself. Even early in the book's run, it was way more common for that outfit to show up on the cover than in the book, when the exoskeleton more frequently appeared over the top of whatever Sara happened to be wearing at the time. Even in the latter half of Witchblade's run, when Sara began using the Witchblade to generate suits of full-coverage armor, the covers still routinely depicted her in the old insect bikini.
- With many other Top Cow Productions series, most notably The Darkness, for obvious reasons.
- Also with the Tomb Raider comics, for other sort of obvious reasons.
- In issue #92, Sara goes on a vision quest through the lives of past wielders of the Witchblade. The final "wielder" she encounters is the goddess Dawn, who claims to be Sara's mother ("I'm mother to you and so many others...").
- Unusually for comic book crossovers, the events of the Marvel crossover Unholy Union are apparently canon, at least in the Top Cow universe. (Dani refers to it in passing during First Born.)
- Also featured in Invincible fighting against the invasion of the evil Invincible duplicates that attacked that Earth. She was beaten badly.
- She's even had crossover issues with Wolverine and the Punisher, where she fought against the latter before letting him continue his business and disguised herself as the newly-wed wife of the former.
- She has even crossed paths with DCs Justice League of America. In the comic, she is an old friend of Barbara Gordon and seeks help to rid herself of the Witchblade. The crossover is notable for some of the female members including Wonder Woman baring the Witchblade.
- Cursed with Awesome: Sara has never wanted anything other than to be a good cop, just like her father was. The Witchblade has saved her life multiple times, gives her healing powers and general bullet resistance, and has habitually put her into conflict with forces that she would be happier not knowing about, and which she struggled to have to explain to the rest of the NYPD.
- Dark Is Not Evil: Kinda. The Darkness user is a lot nicer nowadays (thanks to the game), but the Darkness itself is an ass.
- Subverted between "First Born" and "War of the Witchblades," where Sarah reclaims half of the Witchblade from Dani after Hope is born. Only, it's the half that is the Darkness-lite, and it starts to drive her literally crazy, leading to the aforementioned war.
- Excalibur: Excalibur shows up as a male counterpart to the Witchblade.
- Fanservice: At an average rate of 3.8 panels per page.
- Gothic Punk: Played with. New York City is shiny on the surface, but with a chewy evil center.
- Hardboiled Detective: Sara is a female version of this trope. She started off as a homicide detective for the NYPD but was often a problem child of the force because of her Cowboy Cop tendencies that ended up getting her partner Lee killed. She eventually became a private detective to become a greater example of the trope.
- Healing Hands: One of Sara's abilities as a wielder lets her heal other people. It's suggested that not every wielder has been able to do so.
- Heroic Host: Sara for the Witchblade.
- Hybrid Power: The Witchblade itself is a living weapon that has been used by females, and some males, over the generations. It was the offspring of the Darkness and Angelus. It has the power to create a blade, fire energy beams, create wings for flight, and can cover the host in body armor, most of the time. It also doesn't have any of its parents' weaknesses; The Darkness can't function in light, while the Angelus can't fight in the dark.
- Leprechaun: Encountered (and stomped on) in Medieval Spawn/Witchblade #2 (not one issue of each, a single crossover).
- Light Is Not Good: The Angelus. Lawful, yes. Nice, no.
- Subverted in "War of the Witchblades" and its aftermath: Dani's half of the Witchblade was the half spawned from the Angelus, while Sarah's "dark" half drove her mad and needed to be stopped; Dani also becomes the new Angelus, and seems to be aiming to try and keep subverting this trope.
- Magic Pants: Inexperienced users of the Witchblade tend to find their clothes shredded during a transformation (see Clothing Damage, above), while more experienced users can make it transform their own clothes instead. The result tends to be varying degrees of Stripperiffic regardless.
- Mundane Utility:
- Being a superstrong cosmic warrior comes in darn handy for moving furniture.
- Sara always has a corkscrew when she needs one.
- '90s Anti-Hero: Sara. She wants to desperately wants to be a hero like the figures of "Starsky and Hutch" that she admired in her youth and rid the world of people she sees as bad, but her own flaws and hangups keeps putting her in trouble. When she gained the Witchblade, she now had the power to shred bad guys into confetti but still had the issues.
- Not Wearing Tights: Or much of anything at all, really...
- Off with His Head!: In Tales of the Witchblade #6, Cecilia's lover Gerald gets beheaded. Samantha, the Witchblade of that era, was not fast enough to save him despite standing near him and the executioner.
- Only the Chosen May Wield: The Witchblade will eat your arm if you're not a worthy user (or if you're a man unless you are Ian Nottingham or Gerald Irons who have both been wielders of the Witchblade).
- Sexy Surfacing Shot: In issue #93, there's a full-page shot of bikini-clad Sarah climbing out of the pool after a swim.
- Shapeshifter Baggage: Just where does the Witchblade get the extra mass to change from its bracelet configuration to a full suit of armor?
- Fridge Brilliance: the Witchblade is powered by both halves of Creation.
- Stripperiffic: And how! The Magdalena deserves special mention. She's the distant granddaughter of Christ and Mary Magdaline, and is raised and commanded by the Catholic Church itself. She used to dress like this.◊
- Wham Shot: At the end of part two of Absolute Corruption it shows part of the Witchblade on the arm of Katarina Godliffe.
- Yin-Yang Bomb: Witchblade has elements of both the Darkness and Angelus, therefore acting as a balance keeper between the two. The above trope was the result of the Darkness being sick of the balance.