This week, BOOM! Studios launched MAGIC, a new “record-setting” ongoing series from writer Jed MacKay (Black Cat) and artist Ig Guara (Ghost-Spider) based on the iconic trading card game that started it all, Magic: The Gathering.
We had the chance to chat with MacKay and Guara about all things MAGIC, including how the book came to be, adapting the art and lore from the cards, and what it’s like to release a MTG project when gathering isn’t an option.
Read our review to issue #1 right now.
AIPT: How did you get approached to work on MAGIC? Was it something you pitched, was it pitched to you?
Jed MacKay: It came as a bolt from the blue, actually — I got an email from Amanda [LaFranco, associate editor at BOOM! Studios] asking if I’d be interested in taking on the MAGIC book that BOOM! was putting together, and as I had a lot of affection for the property I got right on it!
Ig Guara: I was finishing my run on Ghost-Spider when Amanda contacted me. She was familiar with my work from both Marvel and Image at that point. When I realized what the project was about, I jumped in without looking back!
AIPT: How did you first get introduced to Magic: The Gathering?
JM: I think my friends and I got onto it from hanging out with some older kids who were into it, probably someone’s cousin or something. Eventually we started getting our own cards and rapidly falling into our favorite playstyle niches. It was a pretty exciting thing- the art, the story, the mechanics, the collecting, the trading, every part of it was just what we were looking for.
IG: I have been playing Magic for the most part of the last 20 years! Even tried my foot on the competitive scene! I started in my teens as a player, after getting one of the old starter packs that came with the “little” rulebooks.
AIPT: This first issue is centered around Kaya, Ral, and Vraska, three Planeswalkers who are also Guildmasters on Ravnica. What was it about these characters and this Plane that made you want to center the story around them?
JM: Ral, Kaya and Vraska were characters that leapt out to me right away- they have in common being Guildmasters and Planeswalkers (both being pretty big deals), but at the same time have wildly different personalities and priorities. Throwing the three together creates an interesting group to follow- not quite a team, but rather three people who want the same thing, even if they don’t particularly like each other at this point.
IG: Well, those are Jed’s choices, but I can easily see why he would choose them, all three are very interesting characters with great backstories, and that represent very prominent and cool aspects of what Magic is.
AIPT: There are ten guilds on Ravnica, one for every two-color combo. Do you have a Guild you identify with? Preferred color / color combo? Do you try to experiment with all different strategies?
JM: I don’t know if identify is the right word, but there are Guilds that are particular favourites. The Dimir, Orzhov, Izzet, and Golgari are all favourites to some extent- a blue/black combo is always a winner for me and I like psychic spies, so there’s the Dimir. The Orzhov have probably one of the most interesting niches in Ravnica, and I find black/white combo characters to be particularly interesting, the Golgari as the gross underdogs always appeal, and who doesn’t love mad scientists?
IG: I’ve been a Golgari player for as long as I can remember, even outside the guild identities, I gravitate towards the so-called “rock” grinding strategies, like Jund and Sultai.
AIPT: Do you have a prized card or piece of Magic: The Gathering gear?
JM: I fell out of playing many years ago, but I still have all my old cards. I was going through some of them on Twitter earlier, but I’m always surprised when cards that I picked up for $2.50 a piece are now going for actual money. Looking at some of the odds and ends in my blue deck, I could easily sell a handful of cards and more than recoup the money I spent as a kid. [Laughs]
AIPT: Magic: The Gathering is known for its incredible card art that are like paintings. And action takes place in the minds of the players. What was your process for translating that into your own style? Into something comics fans and Magic fans can enjoy?
JM: This is something more in Ig’s territory, but I’ve been really fascinated in how it has played out over the course of putting this book together. As time has gone on, the art has become more elaborate and sophisticated, and the challenge of taking those elaborate designs and translating them into something that works as comic art rather than standalone pieces is something that Ig has really mastered.
IG: 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. There is a difference between making illustrations and comic pages, translating some of those things into a storytelling form. I think fans from both worlds will see that we are making a good job adapting Magic to a different media.
AIPT: Magic: The Gathering’s story is mostly told in card art, mechanics and flavor text. What was it like bringing those elements together and fleshing them out to tell a longer form story?
JM: It presents interesting challenges, but also interesting opportunities. In some places, we use the mechanics as a guide for the story, and in other places we defy them a bit- it’s part and parcel of telling a story. What’s been really interesting to me throughout this process is how much more easily available the story is these days. Online resources are a wealth of information on the game’s almost 30-year history, which in my day, was presented as a set of tantalizing hints spread across an entire card set. It allows us to draw on that history and weave it into a very present story, borrowing some of that richness as a foundation for our book.
IG: For me, it’s all about keeping the consistency in mood and themes. There are some things that make Magic, well, Magic, and I am trying to capture that into the comic page.
AIPT: In a year where the core of the MTG experience, getting together with friends for a Commander night, draft or at a game store for Friday Night Magic, simply cannot happen, what does it feel like to be releasing a Magic comic?
JM: It’s been a tough year for traditional games- RPGs, wargames, CCGs, all of which rely on face to face interaction with other players. What’s been interesting is seeing how people’s passion for the games they love shows through and how they find new ways to play with their friends with technology. Our Magic comic is kind of an extension of that- something built collaboratively by people around the globe based on a love of the property and the art form of comics, and I hope it’s something that fans enjoy and respond to.
IG: Maybe we can’t meet in person but we kept playing through Zoom, online meeting, Arena and MTGO. Magic: The Gathering helped many people go through those times, and the game is as popular as ever, which I think speaks to the power of the game and the brand! Now we have an opportunity to tell some new stories about this universe, and I think it will be great.
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