Carey Traverses Time and Space with "Sigil"

At some point, everyone wishes they could have something wondrous and fantastic happen to their mundane existence. Of course, there is the old adage about being careful what you wish for, especially since something wondrous and fantastic can easily become horrific and dangerous. That's the case this March when writer Mike Carey and artist Leonard Kirk reinterpret the classic Crossgen series "Sigil" with a new four-issue miniseries from Marvel Comics. Carey and Kirk's tale plunges an ordinary girl into an extraordinary situation; a war that is being fought across time and space. CBR News spoke with Carey about the project.

The Crossgen line of comics debuted in 2000. It was a diverse line of comics that attracted many fans, Carey included. But in 2004, the upstart publisher filed for bankruptcy. Later that year, Marvel Comics' future owner, the Disney Corporation, acquired Crossgen's library of intellectual properties. When Marvel offered Carey the chance to relaunch "Sigil," one of the original Crossgen titles, he jumped at the chance. "I was a great fan of some of the original Crossgen titles and 'Sigil' was one of them," Carey told CBR News. "It was really exciting to find a line of books predicated around science fiction and fantasy concepts. The interesting thing about the Crossgen line was that it didn't involve the usual superhero iconography. It had a different way of coming at the stories and a different way of unifying the stories."

The original "Sigil" series was a Space Opera set in the far future. It starred Samandahl "Sam" Rey, a former soldier branded with a mysterious mark which endowed him with several powerful abilities. "What was really exciting about the original series was the scope and scale of the concept. It was an idea where once you established the parameters of the Sigil and what it could do, there were any number of variations that you could play," Carey remarked. "For our series we've got a female protagonist, but we've kind of kept the name. She's Samantha Rey and her initial situation is very different than the protagonist of the previous series. Like Samandahl Rey in the original series, by virtue of her possession of the Sigil she's enlisted, whether she likes it or not, in a huge conflict. It's a conflict that goes far beyond anything she's ever experienced in her life. This opening arc doesn't stray into Space Opera territory, although because it is such an open concept and because of the nature of this war that our Sam has to fight in, it can almost become anything. It can take her anywhere; to any time, place or context. We've got a huge number of reveals stacked up, which will exploit some of that freedom."

The new "Sigil" series begins with Sam Rey living a relatively mundane existence on the East Coast of America. "When we first meet Sam there has been some tragedy in her life," Carey explained. "Her mother has died quite recently. So when we first meet her she's trying to come to terms with that. Then things start to happen around her that are related to the Sigil, which she bears as a birth mark. That's a launching off point for a story that takes her to other places very far removed from that very ordinary setting."

At first Sam is unaware of what her mysterious Sigil is capable of, though she'll soon discover that the life of a Sigil bearer is not an easy one. "One of her defining qualities is that she's a very strong person who's never realized that fact. She's somebody who, to some extent, is just drifting through life. She's not engaging with anything. One of the things we see is what happens when someone like that is forced to re-examine their life and to come to terms with a lot of very serious stuff that she really hasn't thought about before," Carey revealed. "You could view the series in Joseph Campbell terms because Sam is definitely receiving a 'Call to Adventure.' Like many of the characters placed in that situation, she doesn't want to hear the call though. She wants to refuse it, but circumstances don't allow her to do that."

Complicating things even further is that Sam is almost completely in the dark about the true nature of the situation she's been thrust into at the beginning of the story. "Initially she's confronted by a lot of people who know far more about who and what she is than she does. Pretty much everybody she meets has more experience and more knowledge than she does and she's got to make up that shortfall," Carey said. "She's got to get a handle on the situation otherwise she's going to die very quickly. She meets people who know how the Sigil works; what it is and what it does. She's on her own to begin with, but she'll be meeting soldiers on both sides of a very, very old war; a war in which she's now been more or less conscripted."

Initially Sam will find the war at the heart of "Sigil" just as mysterious as the power she's been given. "It's definitely a conflict with two sides and it's not humanity versus anything. This is a war that cuts across all divides of race, origin and time," Carey said. "There are human beings fighting on both sides of the war and there are also non-humans fighting on both sides of the war. As to what's at stake? It's not immediately obvious. In this opening miniseries Sam is trying to stop something appalling from happening. She doesn't really have the leisure to question the moral context of her actions. That's something she'll have to face very soon and very urgently."

Sam will meet an eclectic cast of supporting characters in the initial four-issue mini. Some of them will be allies and some of them will be deadly enemies. "There's a guy named Woodvine who will fight alongside Sam -- in fact, he claims he already has, and knows all sorts of things about her that he shouldn't know. He instructs Sam in some of the ways in which the Sigil can be used. He also gives her some grounding in the backdrop of the war," Carey explained. "There is a pretty powerful enemy called October who may or may not have connections to Sam's past. Also, in the real world, there's an adversary of a different kind for Sam: a formidable girl, Sam's own age, named Tamara Wachowski."

In terms of tone, Carey's "Sigil" is an epic adventure story that blends together the trappings of several different genres. "The goal, and this is going right back to the heart of the original Crossgen universe, is to create a story that weaves across genre boundaries and draws strength from many different genres," Carey said. "Sigil is a sci-fi fantasy, a war story and in this opening arc it's also a pirate story. [Laughs] A lot of the action takes place in the late 17th century in the Caribbean."

Since "Sigil" is a series is that allows Carey to go anywhere and tell almost any type of story he's very grateful to have Leonard Kirk as his artistic collaborator on the project. "Obviously Leonard has been fantastic at the action scenes," Carey said. "Also, I think the trappings of the past times in this arc are very vividly realized. Similarly the characters are very, very convincing and engaging. I think in both the detail and broad scope Leonard is definitely bringing his A-game to the project."

If Carey's take on "Sigil" resonates with fans he'd love to tell more stories starring Sam Rey including a possible crossover with "Ruse," another Crossgen series Marvel will publish in March as a four-issue miniseries by writer Mark Waid and artist Mirco Pierfederici. "We have lots of ideas for where to take things and how to build on Sam's story and situation. It's a story that can go anywhere and do anything. The openness is part of the attraction. It's a story with big ideas at its heart, but it's also a story of compelling characters," Carey said. "All of Marvel's Crossgen books will operate in a shared universe, so there are possibilities for crossovers between them. The way the 'Sigil' title works a crossover with 'Ruse' could be very easy and very natural."

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