Ciaramella Brings the "Magic" Back to IDW for Good

This October, writer Jason Ciaramella picks up the continuing adventures of Dack Fayden for "Magic: The Gathering" #1, the first ongoing series based on the collectible card game from Wizards of the Coast since the property first moved to IDW Publishing two years ago. "Magic: The Gathering" #1 shows fan-favorite hero Dack, who also starred in IDW miniseries "The Spell Thief" and "Path of Vengeance," traveling to the realm of Theros. Theros also serves as the setting for the card game's latest expansion, available this September.

Ciaramella, who is perhaps best-known for writing Joe Hill properties "The Cape" and "Thumbprint," spoke with CBR News about the "Magic" ongoing series, revealing how fan-favorite character Dack fits in, why the card game has kept him hooked for 16 years, what it's like to work with Wizards of the Coast and more.

CBR News: Jason, what's your run on "Magic: The Gathering" going to be about?

Jason Ciaramella: Without giving too much away, Dack finds a piece of an artifact that shows him blurred visions of a mysterious Planeswalker. It also shows him visions of a plane (Theros) that Dack has never seen. Dack travels to Theros in search of the other half of the artifact and gets into all kinds of trouble. That's the short, sweet, unspoilerific outline.

Does this new ongoing have a larger overarching plot or will each arc be completely separate story-wise?

There's a big story that plays over lots of smaller adventures Dack will be on, and we thought the best way to present that would be in the ongoing series format. The ongoing allows for stories that range from a single issue to six issues in length so there's more creative freedom.

How were you brought on to the project?

I'd worked with editor Carlos Guzman on "Godzilla" and when I found out IDW got the license for "Magic," I threw my hat in the ring. Carlos knew I played the game, and I think he could tell by my enthusiasm for the property that I was passionate about it as well.

Why did you decide to use Dack Fayden as your main character?

I like Dack, and I think there's a lot we can do with him. The mix of his curious, tricksie blue side and the violent, unpredictable red side make for a character that's too damn fun to write. I like to think of him as a mix between Jack Sparrow and James Bond: smooth, resourceful, but unpredictable.

Will the events in the book mirror events in the upcoming "Theros" block of cards?

There are some elements of the new set that will be showcased in the story for sure, but it's mostly the setting, and creatures. There's a surprise at the end of the first arc that's tied directly to an upcoming expansion that I can't wait for people to read. When I saw this "surprise" in the material Wizards sent me, I knew I had to work it into the story. It's pure fanboy goodness.

What are your thoughts on Magic as a card game?

I've been playing Magic since 1997. I've said for years that I think it's the greatest game ever designed. In fact, I'll be playing in a Friday Night Magic tournament later on tonight, and the M14 pre-release tournament the day after. It's funny, after 16 years of playing I still totally suck and get my ass handed to me almost every time I play. My poor card-flopping skills have never stopped me from loving the game, though.

What would you say is the state of the Magic community right now in general?

I play as often as I can, which is never as often as I would like. I'm a single dad of two boys, and only one of them is old enough to play, so getting to the game store with just my older son can be a challenge these days. Magic is one of those things that just keeps motoring on. Every time I go to play I'm shocked at how many players there are. It never seems to wane, which I think is a testament to how great the game is.

How are you working with Wizards of the Coast on this project?

I've had a few conference calls with the Theros creative team since this all started. I was immediately impressed by the love and care they have for the worlds they create. They live in the settings and can talk about them like they talk about the towns or cities they grew up in. Anytime you're working with people with that much passion, it pushes you to do your best work. Plus, you know, me being a life-long Wizards of the Coast fanboy and getting to work with them directly is dream come true kind of stuff. I've never signed a non-disclosure contract so fast in my life.

What are you favorite stories and sets from Magics past?

My favorite sets are the original Mirrodin block, and the current Scars of Mirrodin block. I was playing a lot of Magic during those blocks, and I love artifacts and artifact-themed decks. Tempest was the set that was out when I started playing, so that has a special place in my Magic player's heart, too. Favorite story is easy: In the winter of 2010 I was going through a nasty divorce and adjusting to the single parent thing. My older son had turned 10 a few months earlier, and was falling in love with Magic the way I did when I was 19. The game became our outlet, and we played Friday Night Magic every Friday for probably 3 months straight. One particularly stormy Friday night, with about 8 inches of snow on the ground and no other stores in the area open, we took a chance that the local game store would be. It was, and it was packed with Magic players. My son took second place that night and won his first Friday Night Magic prize card. We walked out of the shop around midnight and it was still snowing like hell, but we didn't care. Nothing could have spoiled that moment for either of us.

What's it like working with artist Martin Coccolo on this?

So far I've only seen some preliminary stuff from Martin, but I was a big fan of his from the first series. The guy's a perfect fit for "MTG."

On a different note, your Joe Hill adaptation "Thumbprint" began in June. What's the reception been like so far?

The reviews and fan reaction to the first issue have been amazing. It was a pretty gut-wrenching miniseries to write, and as I finish up this interview, I've also just proofed the final issue which is due out at the end of [September]. Adapting Joe Hill's prose work is always fun... and disturbing.

How is your process for adapting a work like "Thumbprint" different from creating an original story for a property like Magic?

I'd like to say I have more freedom with something like Magic, but even though the story ideas are mine, I'm still working within some pretty strict guidelines. I'm fitting my version of Dack into a world that's been around for almost 20 years, and it all has to be seamless. I love the challenge, though. Every page, and every rewrite is a learning experience.

"Magic: The Gathering" #1 by Jason Ciaramella & Martin Coccolo goes on sale October 2.

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