By Jim Beard
Marvel Comics has something magical up its sleeve: MYSTIC ARCANA.
The House of Ideas will leave no stone unturned to bring to you the craftiest characters and spellbinding stories in the Marvel Universe. In the vein of the wild and woolly genre revitalization Annihilation, Marvel's looking into its crystal ball to bring you mystical mages, scandalous sorcerers and fantastic flights of high-flying fantasy in MYSTIC ARCANA. And they've tapped Louise Simonson, Roy Thomas, Jeff Parker, C.B. Cebulski and David Sexton to do it.
Each book in the series will deliver a 22-page main story, complimented by a 10-page back-up tale. Each of the primary stories revolve around the introduction of one of a select group of mystical implements, quite literally the four pillars of the universe, and the involvement of a character from Marvel's rich, magical past. The shorter companion tales make up what is being described as the spine of MYSTIC ARCANA, and detail the efforts of Dr. Strange adversary, sorcerer Ian McNee, to collect arcane implements.
"Ian has been influenced by a great power to find these objects and use them to attempt to save a corrupt magician named Heka-Nut," explains editor Mark Paniccia. "What makes the event unique is the fact that we're not only focusing on Marvel's magical characters, but also the realm in which they operate, much like ANNHILATION did with the cosmic characters. We're exploring and revealing things about magical objects and heroes that expand and enhance Marvel's already extant magic community."
"By series end, we'll have two very powerful sorcerers in the Marvel Universe."
Writers Louise Simonson, Roy Thomas, Jeff Parker, and C.B. Cebulski are set to open the grimoires on these tales, persuading readers to believe that magic is definitely all around us. MYSTIC ARCANA is the brainchild of writer/artist David Sexton, who will also be creating some very special complementary items for this exciting event from his encyclopedic knowledge of Marvel's magical characters, including May's MARVEL MAGIC HANDBOOK.
"In the back of my mind," says Sexton. "I am really hoping MYSTIC ARCANA can also start rebuilding or redefining the structure of Marvel Magic because I think some important details have been lost or forgotten over the years. During their remarkable run on STRANGE TALES, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko established a very eloquent and equitable set of rules that applied to Dr. Strange, Mordo, even Dormammu. Marvel Magic used simplified components of Ritual Magick (like Incantation and Ceremony) to draw power from Stan's freshly imagined extra-dimensional pseudo-deities like Agamotto, Valtorr and Cyttorak.
"Some of Stan's incantations were truly poetic and his ornate alliterative images were always provocative! The Flames of the Faltine…the Moons of Munipoor…the Winds of Watoomb! Wow!"
The introductory book, MYSTIC ARCANA: MAGIK, is what Louise Simonson calls "an untold tale involving Magik and the Egyptian sorceress Ashake," who is Ororo's--Storm of the X-Men--ancestress and was introduced during Simonson' own run on NEW MUTANTS, specifically in issue #32.
The famous writer of comics and novels was quick to feel the allure of the project. "It's been a while since I've done any mainstream comics, but when editor Mark Paniccia sent me David's rough plot for the series I thought it would be fun, particularly since Magik was always one of my favorites."
Magik was Illyana Rasputin, the younger sister of steely hero Colossus, and made her debut in 1983's MAGIK miniseries. Wielding her supernatural "soulsword", Magik fought alongside the New Mutants until her much-mourned and seeming demise.
"Okay, I know I…uh…removed her from the New Mutants," confesses Simonson. "But I never expected that removal to be so permanent. I was sure she'd come back. I set it up so I or somebody else could bring her back."
"Sheesh!" she laughs. "I never intended the teenage Illyana to be actually dead. It's comics, people!"
The MYSTIC ARCANA event provides Simonson with the perfect stage to set her and Magik's comeback. "Between an intriguing project, an interesting format, the chance to once again write one of my favorite characters, a VERY enthusiastic and interested main writer and a very skilled editor…of course I was interested."
Next, legendary writer/editor Roy Thomas, the man hand-picked by Stan Lee to continue to expand the Marvel Universe in the mid to late '60s, will be handling a character in MYSTIC ARCANA: BLACK KNIGHT that is extremely near and dear to his heart.
"I've been asked to write an issue starring the original Arthurian Black Knight," says Thomas proudly. A character created by Stan Lee and artist Joe Maneely in 1955, the chivalrous Black Knight and his ebony blade so impressed the young Thomas that after establishing himself at Marvel he, as he says, "developed the modern-day heroic Black Knight whose origins sprang directly from Stan and Joe's Pendragonian paladin."
"Since he's a favorite of mine, I'm wildly enthusiastic about the possibilities," adds Thomas. "I'm also flattered to be working with Louise Simonson and the rest of MYSTIC ARCANA team."
Then comes MYSTIC ARCANA: SCARLET WITCH, written by AGENTS OF ATLAS scribe Jeff Parker, which conjures up everyone's favorite crimson-hued hex hurler. "This is a real treat to be part of," confesses Parker. "In the book, we're meeting Wanda Maximoff as a pre-teen, very much immersed in gypsy life and about to embark on the path to one day becoming the Scarlet Witch.
"We'll also be seeing other occult characters from past stories, and I think it's important to remind people that the Marvel Universe has a rich magical history. It's not just Dr. Strange!"
The series coda comes in the form of MYSTIC ARCANA: SISTER GRIMM. Writer C.B. Cebulski delivers a performance that will pique the interest of fans of one's of Marvel's newer team sensations.
"Editors Mark Paniccia and Nate Cosby know of the love I have for Marvel's magical characters and that I always wanted to take a stab at one of them," says Cebulski. "It's no secret that I'm a little biased towards RUNAWAYS, and Brian Vaughan has always been open to other writers using his kids and expanding their role in the greater Marvel Universe. So I had an idea for a Sister Grimm tale that paints her more into the larger overall magical picture at Marvel."
Like a master prestidigitator, Cebulski captures your attention with a flash, yet also diverts it. "I love the amazing Marko Djurdjevic cover for MYSTIC ARCANA: SISTER GRIMM! But I'm also so psyched about the chance to work with the artist on the book, someone I know and love. Sorry, but Mark and Nate have cast a spell of silence over me, preventing me from uttering the names of my collaborators!"
Djurdjevic will be illuminating covers for the entire MYSTIC ARCANA event, of which series-originator Sexton says "Whoah! Amazing." More details, including interior artists and release dates, will be materializing soon on Marvel.com! Stay in your seats, the best and most magical is yet to come! For now, attune your aura to our New York Comic Con coverage