The Resurrection of 'Mystic': An Interview With Writer G. Willow Wilson and Editor Jeanine Schaefer

First it started with Mark Waid on Ruse, now Marvel is digging into the Crossgen vaults to unearth Mystic with writer G. Willow Wilson (Air, Cairo, Vixen: Return of the Lion), artist David Lopez (Hawkeye and Mockingbird, Catwoman), with colors by Nathan Fairbairn with Mystic #1 launching in August.

Here's the synopsis from Marvel:

The fate of a world powered by the combination of mystic arts and technology rests in the hands of two seemingly ordinary orphan girls. The impoverished slums of Hyperion are no place for two young girls to grow up, but when the duo dares to delve into the Noble Arts, their world is turned upside down! With new, incredible powers granted by the magical technology once forbidden to them, one girl will take up the massive burden of saving the world and the other will direct all her efforts to tearing it apart! Two friends are about to enter the fight of their lives filled with magic and mayhem and only one will come out on top! The line is drawn this August, only in MYSTIC #1!

Read on to find out what Wilson and the series' editor Jeanine Schaefer had to say about the return of Mystic, bring in new fans and getting outside of the superhero loop.

MTV Geek: Why was Mystic an appealing title to resurrect from the Crossgen line?

Jeanine Schaefer: I read and loved Mystic when it was originally published, and I was really interested in getting a not just a fantasy-type book off the ground, but a book with a female friendship at its core. And I’m so glad this took off! Getting scripts and art in is a total highlight of every day for me!

Geek: Willow, How were you approached for the project? For you, what was the appeal of working on the book?

G. Willow Wilson: Word of the Mystic revival reached me via Jeanine, who’d been working on some broad conceptual outlines for the miniseries and was looking for somebody to write it. I was very flattered that she asked me. The idea that Marvel wanted to do a book like this was very intriguing—fantasy is not their usual fare. That was a big draw, along with the fact that the book features two female leads.

Geek: As a non-superhero title outside of the 616, how have you gone about getting potential readers psyched for Mystic?

Jeanine: Because we have an amazing creative team on the book, and the world is so fully formed, the best strategy to me was just getting some of the work out there in advance. We’ve shown some of David’s designs, and done a six page preview, and after each of these I hear great things from people who can’t wait to pick it up.

Geek: To what extent is this a title which can bring in new comic readers?

GWW: I think there’s great potential to draw in new readers. This is a perfect book for anybody who usually reads manga or fantasy novels or watches anime, and has previously stayed away from mainstream comics. I bet this will be a gateway drug for a lot of new addicts.

JS: I totally agree with Willow – the art style and the genre make it appealing for non-superhero comics readers. But you can also pick this book up cold – no knowledge of the characters or even of comics at all is necessary. It was one of the reasons Marvel was so keen to do these series, to reach out to people who were just waiting to be sucked in.

It’s honestly one of the reasons Willow was perfect for this project. Her voice and point of view is appealing to a wide range of readers, because she starts at the ground-level, layering on the fantastic as she goes.

Geek: What led to the decision to depart from the original Crossgen concept? Were there elements that you chose to keep?

GWW: Jeanine wanted to keep the barest bones of the original concept and build an entirely new world around them, which was fine with me. Aside from the relationship between the two main characters, almost everything is different. It felt like a really high-concept, ambitious revival a la Sandman or Swamp Thing, which was very exciting to consider.

Geek: Could you tell us a little about the Giselle and Genevieve and some of the circumstances of the story?

GWW: Giselle and Genevieve are a pair of orphans working as laundresses at Limpet Hall, a miserable, Oliver Twist-esque home for girls. Genevieve daydreams about becoming a royal apprentice at the palace and studying the Noble Arts, a kind of alchemical magic-meets-science that powers the mystical technology of the world of Verne. Giselle, who is a lot scrappier and more down-to-earth, tries to convince her that this is an impossible goal. But a series of events occur that change her mind, with a twist that should keep readers intrigued.

Geek: Who are some of the other characters to look out for in this world?

GWW: There’s Master Alexander, a wise, shrewd old sage who teaches the Noble Arts at the palace. Artist David Lopez has rendered him as this amazing-looking Indian guru in fantasy garb. Another great character is Felice, a beautiful and extremely nasty aristocrat who becomes Giselle’s rival. Plus, you know, slavering robot dogs, giant mechanical homunculi, and aether-powered hammerhead sharks.

Geek: [Willow] What are some of the “rules” of magic in this world?

GWW: Well you won’t find anybody waving wands and chanting expecto patronum in this series. The Noble Arts are based on mathematics, geomancy, astronomy, metallurgy--it’s more a mystic science than traditional magic. I was inspired by the alchemists and “men of learning” of the Middle Ages, who tried to turn lead into gold and reanimate the dead and whatnot. They didn’t draw a hard line between science and magic, and neither do we in this series.

Geek: How did David Lopez get involved with Mystic and what did he bring to the book in your mind?

JS: I’ve been working with David on various projects over the years, and when this project got the greenlight I called him immediately. He imbues his characters with so much life, and he really excels at world-building–-you could walk around in the world he’s envisioned, right down to using the map he created as a guide, it’s pretty awe-inspiring when the designs come in.

As for the finished product, it’s a modern take on old-school animation. He’s been working with the same inker and colorist for a while, too, Alvaro Lopez and Nathan Fairbairn, and all three of them complement each other so well. I can’t say enough about the entire creative team, it’s an editor’s dream to be working with such a cohesive group (not to mention I’m enjoying being able to nerd out with them about Game of Thrones, since it’s awesome and totally relevant to what we’re doing. Research!)

Geek: Willow, what has the collaboration with David been like?

GWW: The man’s a genius. He’s fleshed out the world of Verne in more detail and with more finesse than I could have imagined. I feel like he does half my job for me.

Geek: [Willow] How did you and David approach the look of Giselle and Genevieve and their world?

GWW: Both girls had to draw the eye of the reader, but in their own unique ways—Genevieve had to be very dreamy and princess-y, whereas Giselle had to be lean and scruffy. David really nailed those differences in his character designs. David also drew detailed backgrounds that tell you more in a single image than I could do in a page of dialogue. And a ton of credit is due to our frighteningly talented colorist Nathan Fairbain, who came up with an entirely new and very cinematic style. You have never seen a book colored this way before, I guarantee it.

Geek: Can we expect Amanda Conner’s covers on future issues or do you have other artists lined up?

JS: It’s Amanda all the way! Her covers perfectly capture the spirit of the book. She reads the scripts when they come in so she can key into the big moments in each issue, reflecting that on the covers.

Geek: What else are you working on now?

GWW: I just finished my first prose novel, Alif the Unseen, which I think comics readers will love. It comes out next spring. It’s about a hacktivist in a fictional Arab country who gets into a lot of trouble with the government, some jinn, and a girl. I began working on it about a year before the Arab Spring, having no idea that so many of the fictional political events I had woven into the story would actually come to pass.

Geek: Are there any particular teases you’d like to leave our readers with for upcoming issues?

GWW: There’s a great twist at the end of the first issue, the moral of which is never make plans...

Mystic #1 will be available on August 3, from Marvel.

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