Nine Questions for Mike Carey About Sigil

Here is the second in our Crossgen relaunch interviews. Mike Carey speaks about Sigil, his writing comfort zone, time travel and pirates

The original Sigil series was a sci-fi epic about a mercenary named Samandahl Rey. This one is a huge departure. From the solicit of issue one:

In the war for forever, time is only an obstacle. Warriors jump from century to century, their battlefields span all of history but have led them to a stalemate. But now a 16 year old girl from present-day South Carolina will turn the tide. The symbol on her chest makes her part of this war, but will she save us or damn all of creation?

Time travel? A teenage girl from Earth? Not what I was expecting from a new Sigil series, but with Carey and Kirk on board, I definitely can’t wait to see what they have planned. On to the questions!

1. So what can you tell us about Sigil? How accessible will Sigil be to new Crossgen readers? How familiar to old Crossgen readers?

It’s completely free-standing, so readers won’t need to have any knowledge of the old series – and we’re certainly not relying on any. The core concept is the same, but nothing else is. Whereas with Ruse, the core concept sort of depends on the characters, we felt that with Sigil it was independent of them. The sigil itself, and how it’s used, is the conceptual centre of the story. So we have a completely new cast of characters that only nods to the old series in some oblique and tangential ways.

This is a time-and-space-traversing sci-fi epic, really – the story of one soldier in an ages-old war, conscripted against her will and without her consent. And then, moving outward from that premise, it’s the story of how one person can be a catalyst for change, even in situations where change seems impossible.

2. Books like Sigil and X-Men seem like a big departure from some of your past work like Lucifer or Hellblazer. How difficult is it to make that transition? Which do you find more satisfying as a writer?

Yeah, there are certainly big differences. Someone else is going to have to comment on how well I handled the transition! But the truth is, I just love the whole spectrum of speculative fiction, from full-on sci-fi through heroic and dark fantasy to horror, dropping in on magic realism along the way. I never feel with X-Men or with Sigil that I’m outside my comfort zone – whereas, say, if I wrote a purely psychological thriller with no supernatural elements, say, I’d feel (initially, anyway) a little daunted.

But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t do it. I think it’s great to push the envelope, at least in a personal sense – to keep doing things you haven’t done before. It’s not always easy to do that. There’s a logic from the publishing side in assigning writers with a known track record for doing EXACTLY this same thing some place else, so you can get typecast without realising it. I’ve been lucky that I’ve worked (and continue to work) with some great editors who were risk-takers and were happy to let me tilt at bizarre windmills. So my resume reads very strangely, and I’m proud of that.

3. Samantha Rey definitely seems in the vein of some of the strong, unique female Crossgen characters like Sephie (Meridian), Arwyn (Sojourn) and Asleigh (Scion), was that an intentional decision?

I wasn’t consciously referencing those characters, but yeah, that was a particular strength of the Crossgen line, and it’s something that I like to do in my own work. You’ll tend to find an emphasis on strong women in a lot of my books, and that goes for heroes and villains alike. Mazikeen, Elaine and Jill Presto in Lucifer, Angie and Gemma and Rosacarnis in Hellblazer, Rogue in X-Men, Juliet in the Castor novels. They’re all very tough and capable and empowered women. Some of them take damage along the way, but they never fold under it. And Sam Rey is cut from that cloth: she may seem a little trodden down when we first met her, but she’s got a lot of inner resources to draw on.

4. How is time travel going to be dealt with in Sigil? Is it going to be like “Back to the Future” where actions have immediate consequences on the future, or more like Doctor Who, where the time steam is a lot more resliant and harder to change?

It’s a tapestry, and some details only become clear when you take a step back. There’s no messing with causality, in the sense of having an event in the past rerwite the futre – but there’s a fairly complex interplay of elements, with characters having relationships that go against the grain of local time. Sam meets people in this story with whom (from THEIR point of view, but not from hers) she’s already got a rich backstory.

5. El Cazador shows up in issue 2!! Will we see any cameos from other Crossgen characters?

Not in this story, no. But Captain Sin is central here – and we thought it was a very cool thing to have Sam jump right into the heart of another Crossgen book. Plus – it’s pirates plus time travel! What’s not to like?

6. Jelene Kevic-Djurjevic’s cover for issue 1 was gorgeous, and Leonard Kirk’s work on Supergirl is one of my all time favorite runs by an artist. They seem like a perfect fit for Sigil. What was it like working with them?

“Is” rather than “was”, because that collaboration isn’t over yet. It’s been inspiring – and yes, they’re a perfect fit. The richness of the atmosphere in the historical scenes, and the totally compelling depiction of the characters, have given me a stupendous momentum to launch off from. And for a book like this, which is defining itself against a strong precursor, that’s vital.

7. Unlike the original Crossgen books, Sigil seems to take place on modern day Earth (at least to start). What was the thinking behind that?

It made sense for Sam’s character once we’d started to flesh her out. She has very mundane problems and concerns, and then suddenly she’s thrust into this other world which exists at right angles to everything she’s ever done or thought or been up to that point. The contrast works well, particularly since we intercut a fair amount between those two lives, and have pay-offs from one part of the story occurring in the other.

8. Will you be working on more Crossgen books in the future?

That’s for editor Nick Lowe to say! I’d certainly like to. It’s a rich vein to mine.

9. Do you have any other projects current or upcoming that you would like to plug? Any X-Men Destiny info you can leak for us?

I can’t say anything about XMD without clearing it with Activision – sorry! Those guys have sweated blood over the game for the last year and a half, and they want to be in control of what gets revealed when, which I can totally understand. We’re starting to see more stuf gettign leaked now, though – and I’ll be happy to talk about it at Comic-Con this Summer.

In the meantime… well, Age of X is kicking into full gear this week with the Alpha issue hitting the stands, and next week we have chapter 1. I’m really proud of how this story has turned out, and excited to see it finally get out into the world. It’s been a huge deal for me, being at the helm for an event like this and dreaming it into existence – with huge and constant and invaluable support and input from Daniel Ketchum in the X-Men office, without whom it would have deflated like an undercooked souffle right there in my hands. As it is… it’s a mutant super-powered souffle on steroids, kicking all kinds of ass. Okay, I admit, I killed the metaphor.

The Leviathan arc on Unwritten is about to wrap up, with more whales than you could shake a stick at, and a huge reveal about the source of Tom’s apparently magical powers.

And I’m signing at Cape and Cowl Comics in Chesterfield this Saturday. From 1.00pm or so. If you live around there, come and say hello…

Once again, a big thanks to Arune Singh, Director of Communications, Publishing & Digital Media for Marvel who helped get these questions answered for me.

And of course, thanks to Mike Carey for taking the time to answer them.

Sigil #1 goes on sale March 2011. BUY IT! Time travel and pirates! Nuff said!

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