The best stories are the ones created by fans of the characters - and Boom! Studios has found just that for their new ongoing series based on the iconic Magic: The Gathering card game.
Writer Jed Mackay and artist Ig Guara are going headlong into the Magic world of Ravnica - not just as players, but storytellers in this expansive world.
Three Planeswalkers - Ral Zarek, Vraska, and Kaya - have all survived an assassination attempt, and are now looking for answers. Their path will take them into the mana-rich plane of Zendikar, and uncover a plot to murder ALL planeswalkers - not just them. This, as you can imagine, would rile up their guilds.
Who's behind it? Neither of the creators are saying, and Boom! will only tease the answer by saying "one of the most enigmatic characters in Magic history."
With Magic #1 going on sale this Wednesday April 7, Newsarama spoke with both Jed Mackay and Ig Guara about their Magic: The Gathering fandom, how it led to this new Magic ongoing comic series, and what we can expect going forward.
Newsarama: To jump right in, how did you connect to BOOM! Studios for Magic?
Ig Guara: I was finishing my run on Ghost-Spider when Amanda LaFranco, the editor for the Magic book, contacted me. She was familiar with my work from both Marvel and Image at that point.
Jed MacKay: They just emailed me out of the blue actually. It was in late spring, early summer. Amanda LaFranco just sent me an email saying, 'Hey, we've got the Magic license and we're looking to do a Magic comic. Is that something you're interested in?' And I had a lot of affection for Magic.
I played a lot through the '90s when I was a teen. I was really excited to have a go at it.
Nrama: Ig, were you a fan of Magic: The Gathering before taking the gig?
Guara: Yes! I have been playing Magic for the most part of the last 20 years! Even tried my hand in the competitive scene!
Nrama: Jed, did you dive back into the game, now that you're writing the comic?
MacKay: There was a lot of that actually. I had been out of the game for around 20 years. So, I had to do a lot of Wiki diving and trying to get caught up with it, which I thought would be no problem as I have a lot of experience now working in the superhero universe, which as you know, is pretty extensive continuity. But the Magic continuity turned out to move a lot faster than I thought it did. It was quite the expedition to get caught up.
Nrama: How do you feel like the game has changed since the '90s?
MacKay: It's actually been really interesting tracing that evolution. In the '90s, when I was playing Magic, things were pretty loosey-goosey. Stuff would change in the world from one set to the next. The history was largely expressed as small snippets of flavor texts on cards.
To the point now, where it's actually a really unified world. Where a lot of people are paying attention to the continuity. A lot of people are paying attention to the characters, the things they get up to.
I think it's really interesting to see that evolution from something that was kind of chaotic and anything can go to something that's been very carefully curated to the point where we're working on this now with these characters who have been created and put through their paces over the last 10 years or so.
Nrama: What attracted you to the franchise both in the '90s and now with taking this gig?
MacKay: When I was a kid, it was just the new thing that was interesting. I was always interested in traditional games like role-playing games or miniature war games and moving into collectible card games is just a natural extension of that because it was really interesting. They had great art on the cards.
The world they were putting out there... it was very mysterious and interesting because, as I said, you can only find out about it by the little snippets of flavor text on the cards. You have to put the puzzle pieces together to kind of figure out how they all fit together. So, that was a lot of fun.
Then later when I'm working on the comic, it was an opportunity for me to switch gears. Pretty much all my work has been superhero stuff. While Magic the comic is very superhero adjacent - that you've got your characters with exceptional abilities getting up to adventures. It's still a very different beast working in sort of this multi-versal fantasy as compared to a contemporary superhero universe.
Nrama: And for you Ig, what attracted you to the franchise throughout your 20 years of being a fan?
Guara: First, it was the game itself. Then, I learned about the deep and amazing lore behind the cards, and the incredible art from those!
Nrama: With such a big following and dedicated fan base to an existing franchise, did this make your approach your work differently at all?
MacKay: Well, yes and no. Again, working in superheroes, I know that you can't just go in with a machete and start chopping things down until it looks the way you want it to look. You have to be true to the characters. You have to be faithful to the continuity to a certain degree, and that just translates right over given that there are so many fans of Magic and so many players.
Some new, some going back decades. So, what we've been trying to do is to present a new, exciting, and interesting story in a new, exciting, and interesting medium, while still respecting all the things that made people interested in this in the first place.
Guara: I do try to be respectful, not only because of the huge following, but also because of my own love of the game and its lore. Of course, some things have to be adapted, not all that work for card art can work on comics, but I do that being a fan, so people can rest assured I will always try my best!
Nrama: What was the writing process of adapting a card game into a comic book?
MacKay: It was interesting because the thing with Magic is that you're sort of spoiled by choice. There are so many different settings, these planes across the multiverses, there's so many different characters to focus on.
Early on, it was really a question of honing in on - here's the couple of handful of characters I want to focus on for the first couple of arcs. And we had to go back and forth a lot between myself and Boom! until we settled on a specific direction. It took a little bit of work to narrow it all down, but at the same time, it's really exciting to have all these opportunities out there and there's so much potential for things to bring into stories, for places to tell stories, for characters to tell stories about that I'm really excited to keep going on this.
Nrama: What was your collaboration like with each other?
Guara: Really great. I am really enjoying the way he is conducting the story, and especially the characters. He is able to make them feel alive and believable. I am looking forward with interest to where he is going to take us, and especially how he will do it.
MacKay: Ig is just a real machine. He doesn't really need a lot of direction. He just gets a script, and he's been a Magic fan for a long time - he's never really had a lapse. He's very well situated to get this done. I would have a hard time thinking of someone who would have a better foundation for this. So yeah, outside of me writing the script, it doesn't really need a whole lot from me.
Nrama: What's been your favorite element from Magic to draw thus far?
Guara: It must be a tie between the Planeswalkers we are working with (Kaya, Vraska, and Ral) and the guild elements from Ravnica.
Nrama: Were there any original ideas you were able to bring to the comic that aren't part of the game?
MacKay: Yes and no. One of the things that Wizards was really interested in was signposting that this is a separate story from that of the card game. By that I mean, from the point that this book starts, we're not beholden to whatever stories are happening in the card game.
Something that happened to one character in the storyline of the card game something different is going to happen to them in this comic. So, we're taking established ideas and established characters and trying to put them through new stories, new paces - having them challenge threats that they've never seen before in either continuity.
We are working kind of in the great unknown at this point in time. Some ideas that I've had we're putting in. Some new ways to link the characters and the creatures of Magic into the story that I'm really excited about. So yeah, that's kind of where we're at with that.
Guara: Some little things here and there, but people will have to read to see.
Nrama: Was there a specific element from the game (character, setting, etc.) that you knew needed to be part of the book?
MacKay: It was Ravnica actually where the citywide plane, which is often a very central plane in the extended Magic story. We kind of needed to start there because that's a really popular, really exciting place for the card game. From there, we basically picked out the characters that we thought would be interesting to put in here. I had characters I liked, and just sort of brought them in.
We have Kaya, we have Ral, we have Vraska - all three are Planeswalkers I really like. Also, all three of our characters have a very unique position in Ravnica. And by leveraging those established identities, I think it opens up a lot of interesting story ideas for us.
Nrama: Any bucket list characters/elements to add into the comic one day?
MacKay: I keep trying to bring characters from the '90s era of the card game in, but it never meets with real popular claims. So, I don't know if I'm going to be able to get to that.
Guara: Yes! I would love to visit Innistrad and work with the werewolves, work with Liliana, Garruk, and Vivien Reid. And also visit Ixalan and its dinosaurs!
Nrama: Ig, do you have a set amount of issues you'd like to stay on the book for?
Guara: For as long as I can, and they allow me! [laughs]
Nrama: Why do you think people who love the game will enjoy this comic?
MacKay: Because we're taking the things that they love and we're showing them how they work in a different medium and setting. I know there have been Magic comics in the past and there will be Magic comics in the future, but I think this is going to be something that people will be excited to see, something familiar, but also be excited to see something new.
Guara: It's a comic made from people who also love, play, and respect the game, so we will try to respect what makes Magic: The Gathering lore great, but also trying to add to it so it works in a new medium! I think it will be good for both old and new fans alike!
Nrama: We've seen other franchises like Power Rangers get multiple spin-offs. Do you see spin-off opportunities with Magic?
MacKay: I hope so. I am personally focusing on the main story, but with the idea that we want this book to be a real flagship.
This is a big property, it's a huge license, and there are so many stories that can be told in this world. I think this is something, we're starting here with Magic #1, and we're running this main series, but I'd love to see this be like a mothership and have other series spin off it or move off on their own. Perhaps, following tangents and following ideas from the main series that I think could be really interesting.
Obviously, that's something that has to come in the future, but I think we're situated in a great spot to do that.