Louise Simonson - Where has the "Magik" gone?

When the powers-that-be at the House of Ideas set out to craft "Mystic Arcana," a series which purports to do as much for Marvel's magic users as "Annihilation" did for the company's cosmic characters, it was only logical that Colossus' late sister Illyana Rasputin (AKA Magik) would make an appearance. And who better to pen that tale than Louise Simonson. Simonson took a minute to chat with CBR News about this untold tale in the life of Illyana Rasputin.

It's been a long odyssey for Magik. At the ripe young age of six, Illyana was abducted by the demons Belasco and S'ym, and taken to the demon dimension known as Limbo. During the seven years she spent in Limbo, Illyana was trained in the ways of black magic by Beslasco himself. And after returning to Earth and inadvertently causing the X-Men event known as Inferno, Magik contracted and succumbed to the mutant plague called the Legacy Virus. It was Simonson, in fact (who was writing several X-books at the time, including "X-Factor" and "New Mutants"), who can be credited with both Inferno and Illyana's death. But the author never intended for Illyana to stay dead.

"I always loved Illyana," Simonson began. "That's why I made her the star of the New Mutants portion of Inferno. Illyana is, after all, a riveting archetypal heroine. An innocent child, thrust into a terrible, magical realm, who not only survives, but conquers by becoming more powerful than its strongest demons!"

Simonson took a cue from the story of Illyana's adolescence in Limbo (as chronicled by writer Chris Claremont in the "Magik" mini-series) when she set about telling tales of the young mutant upon her return to her home dimension. "Illyana is thrust back on Earth with a skill-set and attitudes that helped her survive her sojourn in the hellish Limbo, but aren't necessarily appropriate to present day Earth," Simonson said. "Her efforts to reconcile her two existences made for interesting stories, and produced the same conflicts that, eventually, tore her apart. "

"Supposedly, at the conclusion of the Inferno crossover, she died heroically and her younger, innocent self was retrieved from her armor," Simonson said. "And I know most folks thought the real Illyana was dead. But I was sure somebody would figure out very soon that she had to be still alive and in Limbo! That she had thrust an earlier version of her self into her armor, saving her own innocent self and exiling the evil self she had become to Limbo eternally. Heck, the existence of multiple Illyanas from different times (part of Limbo's magic) had already been clearly established in 'New Mutants' continuity. I'm amazed the character was left in Limbo (literally and figuratively) all these years."

One version of Illyana appeared in the "House of M" miniseries, and that Magik will play an important role in the "Quest for Magik" story arc in "New X-Men." But this turn of events was news to Simonson. "Until I started this project, I didn't know she was coming back. Don't know how they're bringing her back even, if they're doing what I might have done - returning her from self-exile by the need to counter a magical threat to Earth - or if they're doing something entirely different."

"Mystic Arcana: Magik" does not deal with Magik's return, but rather fills in a gap in an old issue of "New Mutants." "The story takes place between panels from a time travel adventure in 'New Mutants' #32, 'To the Ends of The Earth,'" Simonson explained. "As readers may remember, Illyana controls stepping discs that allow her to teleport in time as well in space. In 'Mutants' #32, she and Dani [Moonstar] slip in time to Pharoahnic Egypt where they meet the sorceress Ashake, a progenitor of Ororo of the X-Men."

"In 'Mystic Arcana,' we learn that the slip was not accidental, or a major screw-up as Illyana had assumed, but a ploy by the evil sorcerer Heka-Nut to acquire and use [Magik's] power for his own ends," Simonson continued. "Ashake initially saves the girls from the minions of Heka-Nut, then both are drawn into conflict with him. The story has everything an Egyptian story should have: a lost tomb, a hidden treasure, an immortal sorcerer, mummies and Egyptian gods and chimeras. Plus a bonus jaunt to Limbo."

It had been quite a few years since Simonson had tried her hand at writing mainstream comics, but when Marvel editor Mark Paniccia approached her with David Sexton's proposal for the "Mystic Arcana" series, Simonson couldn't pass up the opportunity to write Illyana again. "They felt I was a natural because I'd written Magik in the past," Simonson said. "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, how could I say no? To make things even better, there was a perfect break in 'New Mutants' #32 on page 18, a night that was unaccounted for, in which to tell the story I wanted to tell."

Since the mission statement of "Mystic Arcana" is to put a finer point on the logistics of magic in the Marvel Universe, Simonson took a moment to characterize the mystic arts as they'll appear in the "Magik" issue. "Ashake embodies an ancient form of white magic," Simonson said. "Her power, though hereditary, must be honed by effort and relies on her interaction with her gods. The story points to her as the inventor of the Tarot."

"Illyana's magik is darker and even more hard-won," Simonson continued. "Her attitudes are modern, the result of a torturous self-actualization, and she approached her magik from the dark side, though she tries to harness this dark power for good. And she relies on herself alone."

Each of the four "Mystic Arcana" issues will have a 10-page backup story written by series-creator David Sexton, focusing on a quest by Dr. Strange nemesis Ian McNee for four magical artifacts. "The Magik backup takes place on another plane," Simonson said. "It's lyrical and abstract and I think our stories play off each other perfectly." In the Magik issue, McNee is in search of the Sword of Bone, an artifact which features prominently in the main story by Simonson.

"Each story is stand-alone," Simonson said, of the series as a whole. "But each will be tied into a through-story by Ian's efforts to acquire the particular artifact introduced in the main story." Simonson did go so far as to say that Ashake and the immortal sorcerer Heka-Nut will be part of "Mystic Arcana's" final conflict.

Simonson was brimming over with praise for collaborator Steven Scott. "Steven Scott is a really good, very dedicated artist," Simonson said. "I've talked to him on the phone and get to see his work in rough, then final form and it's always exciting to see how he's visualized the story.  He's very intelligent, he really thinks the story elements through, and this makes him a great story-teller. His Illyana has charm and determination and he's done some nice, creepy monsters. I'd love to work with him again sometime."

In addition to "Mystic Arcana: Magik," Simonson has a number of books being released in the coming year, including a coffee table book called "DC Comics Covergirls" (spotlighting comics covers featuring the women of the DC universe), and children's book called "Extreme Monsters #4: Battling Bigfoot." "'Children of Olympus #1: Dust of Medusa,' another kids book from Actionopolis, should also be out this year sometime," Simonson said. "Jon Bogdanove, who I worked with on 'Power Pack' and 'Superman: Man of Steel,' is illustrating." The author also has another children's book in the works, as well as a few comics projects.

Look for "Mystic Arcana: Magik" on stands this June

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