|"Mystic Arcana: Magik"|
For Sexton, "Mystic Arcana" is a chance to work on a project that's a Reeses's Cup style combination of two of his favorite things - myths and comic books. "I've been lucky enough to have had some of my work in the former field published ('The Tarot of Oz' from Llewellyn Worldwide and 'The Winged Spirit Tarot' from US Games Systems) and this is an opportunity for me to bring some of what I learned about Tarot and magic into my work for Marvel," Sexton told CBR News.
"I pitched a different Magic/Tarot related story idea to Senior VP, David Gabriel," Sexton continued. "He liked the pitch and put me in touch with Editor, Mark Paniccia. Mark had actually learned a little about Tarot from his Uncle who was a Jungian psychologist (Jung advocated the use of Tarot in therapy), so he really responded to some of the ideas. As much as they liked the pitch, they both felt that what I had proposed was too ambitious, especially for my first Marvel project. So, we started to talk about doing something on a smaller scale to introduce some of the concepts and to see what the reaction was from readers. We decided on a four-issue mini-series that kept a lot of stuff from the original proposal - like looking at ways the archetypes of the Tarot sync up with the archetypes of Marvel and examining the fundamental structure of magic in the Marvel Universe. And the four issues naturally connected to the four classic elements, which are symbolized by the Minor Arcana suits of Swords, Discs/Pentacles, Cups and Wands."
Assisting Sexton and Paniccia with their exploration of all things magical in the Marvel Universe is a host of writers and artists. Each issue of the four part series will feature a main story by a different creative team spotlighting a mystical character and an artifact, with a back-up story penned by Sexton starring a young magician named Ian McNee. Sexton's back-up stories serve as the spine of the series and connect each individual issue to a larger story. In addition to authoring the series spine, Sexton contributed a number of ideas and input to "Mystic Arcana." "I also provided rough plots for the main stories," Sexton said. "I already knew what Ian's story needed to be and we wanted the back up story and all of the main stories to interconnect and enhance one another. Since my background is in Tarot and some of the writers were not so familiar with it, I created a basic guide that focused on the Minor Arcana suits and their meanings. When Marco Djurdjevic started to work on the covers, he asked for information about symbols that represented the four elements, so I expanded the guide to include symbols of the elements and seals to protect against various elemental beings. I believe now that the lists of. 'correspondences' (which is what symbolic relationships are called in Wicca and Ritual Magick) are going to be posted online and then published, so be looking for them."
Sexton has also been working with the authors of the individual issues to enhance and add some authenticity to the way magic is depicted in their stories. "For example, 'Mystic Arcana Book III: The Scarlet Witch' is set during Wanda's childhood with the Romanian Gypsies. When the writer, the very talented Jeff Parker, was done with the first draft of his very cool script, I read it over and then showed him some research I had compiled on 'Gypsy Magic,'" Sexton explained. "The research included myths, symbols, pertinent Gypsy vocabulary (their word for the undead is 'mullo'and their word for water spirit/elementals is 'Nivashi.') There was information about Gypsy charms and talismans (though the charm bracelet has become a superficial decorative adornment, the Gypsies created them to be supernatural defensive armor.) I even found some genuine Gypsy spells! My favorite one is a Fertility Charm, which I will share with you now, first in the original Slovak and then, translated into English…
"Ky me ykh som
Ac tu ngr,
Ky me brishind som,
Ac tu pni!"
"Where I am flame
Be thou the coals
Where I am rain
Be thou the water!"
|"Mystic Arcana: Black Knight"|
"During the early '60s, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko established a magic system for Marvel. The early 'Strange Tales' had a completely fabricated mythology of mystic pseudo-deities with crazy names like Valtorr and Agamotto, but they were grounded in authentic aspects of Ritual Magick and Wicca, like invocation and incantation," Sexton continued. "Magic didn't just shoot out of a pointed finger. If a sorcerer wanted power from a Watoomb-type entity, then they'd better beg correctly and the correct method for begging was usually metered and rhymed. This 'Proclamation of Poetic Incantation' applied to Dr. Strange and to everyone else, from the Ancient One to Umar. Small-scale magic could be achieved with the appropriate gesture (which was still visually distinct and memorable), but if you hoped to impress in the 'Big Time,' it was best to express with the 'Big Rhyme.' Now, not so much. The rules have gotten rather mushy, but 'The Magic Gun Syndrome' can be stopped. If a character or a creature manipulates magic in a new and different way, fantastic, but the reader needs to understand how. The magic has to make sense. Not rational sense, but it should have what Jung referred to as 'Mythopoeic' meaning.
"Nico from 'Runaways' is a perfect example. Her magic weapon, The Staff of One, is activated by succinct and constantly changing incantations, so Nico's creativity is challenged and she can only summon the Staff by sacrificing blood. Now interestingly the Tarot's Minor Arcana suit of Wands or 'staves' represent fire and deals with creative energy. Fire and Sacrifice are closely linked in mythic stories; as are Fire and Blood (especially as it pertains to passion, i.e. 'his blood burned.') So, either consciously or unconsciously, Brian K. Vaughan has created a new myth that resonates beautifully with the old myths.
"Also, in a recent Daredevil story, Joe Quesada created a magic based group called The Santerians. As I was reading the stories, I kept thinking how rich and authentic the magical details were. I could tell that Mr. Quesada had done lots of research into the Santerian belief system. Afterwards I learned that the characters and Santeria were personally tied to his Latin American heritage and that he felt passionately about this project. On some level, I felt that, just by reading the stories."
|"Mystic Arcana: Scarlet Witch"|
Ian has grown up in some ways since his last appearance but still has much to learn. "Ian is talented, self-assured and smart. He can also be cocky, self-obsessed and a smart ass," Sexton said. "He has learned a lot about magic and about himself since his last appearance, but he is still immature in some ways. He has issues with authority and is not likely to accept a thing as true just because someone tells him that's the way it is
"I loved 'Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell' by Susanna Clarke. I loved the interplay between the two title characters and I started to think it might be interesting if there was another voice in the Marvel Universe with ideas about magic," Sexton continued. "Dr. Strange is the man. He knows how things work. He has personally met most of the entities that Ian has only recently learned to summon. That kind of certainty can get a little dull. Maybe Ian will stir things up."
In Sexton's back up story in "Mystic Arcana," Ian searches for artifacts that could cause a big stir in the mystical corners of the Marvel Universe. "Ian has a dream/vision that starts him on a quest to retrieve four mystic items that are connected to the Elements and to Tarot and to Marvel," Sexton explained. "Together the items are known as The Cornerstones of Creation."
|"Mystic Arcana: Sister Grimm"|
Ian's journey will be fraught with challenges and dangers. "As I was doing some research on Egyptian Magic I came across a ritual that marked the passage of an apprentice Magician into the deeper levels of the occult," Sexton said. "It's called 'The Ritual of the Sphinx' and it resonated with several of the themes of 'Mystic Arcana' The ritual challenges the neophytes, 'To Know, To Dare, To Will, To Keep Silent!' The first issue of 'Mystic Arcana' is subtitled 'Air' and in the Tarot's Minor Arcana air/swords represent the mind and the Intellect, so I had already decided Ian would face a cerebral challenge from a Sphinx-like creature in the form of a Riddle Game. I thought it was cool that my first story corresponded with the 'Ritual of the Sphinx,' so I let it inspire some of Ian's other obstacles. As far as the adversaries, Morgan le Fey, Llyra, Damballah and Modred the Mystic are some of the malevolent mystics that menace Mr. McNee."
He may be facing an array of adversaries, but Ian won't be facing them alone. "The quests take up a lot of room, but I do manage to introduce one supporting character for Ian," Sexton said. "His name is Mr. White. Ian is part owner of a magic and curio shop and Mr. White is his business partner."
Bringing to life Ian's quest is Sexton's collaborative partner on the back up story, artist Eric Nguyen. "I just got his thumbnails for the first issue and just the thumbnails looked great!" Sexton stated. "I can't wait to see the finished pages."
Readers intrigued by Sexton's exploration of all things arcane in the Marvel U might also be interested in two magical handbooks that the author is writing. "The first is 'The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: Magic.' I worked with Jeff Christiansen and his crew on the book. Those guys do such a great job on the Handbooks and this one follows in the fine tradition with a special emphasis on magic. It provides info on several characters and items that will play a part in 'The Mystic Arcana' series including Ian McNee, Modred the Mystic, Ashake and many others. It comes out in May.
|Ian McNee by Eric Nguyen|
"Ian has been in possession of this special Tarot for some time. He has studied it and has learned a great deal from it, but now the deck appears to be "broken." The card depictions are in a constant state of flux. If you were to draw the devil three times in a day, the card might show you three different Devils or the face on the Queen of Wands might morph into another face right before your eyes and then morph back. So Ian is noting the irregularities in his 'files' and the notes are inspiring thoughts and theories regarding magic."
Sexton is having a great time with "Mystic Arcana" and would love to tell further tales of the mystical Marvel Universe. He said, "I have consulted the Tarot and I see this is in the cards."