Marvel's Illyana Rasputin had a rough upbringing - being stolen and brought up in Limbo will do that to you. But in this week's What If? Magik one-shot, Marvel imagines a different path for the teen witch - where she doesn't join the X-Men or New Mutants, but instead blazes her own trail.
Picking up directly after the 1983 Magik limited series, What If? Magik's Leah Williams and Filipe Andrade push a darker childhood for the one-time Darkchylde that is intended to be "savage yet tender."
Williams spoke with Newsarama about What If? Magik - one of two one-shots alongside X-Men Black: Emma Frost she is writing - to discuss mutantkind's resident warlock and how her bizarre origin is made even more nuanced in this alt-history take.
Newsarama: Leah, the old What If? issues had titles that gave a clue to what the issue is about. What would that question be for this alt-history take on Magik?
Leah Williams: “What if Illyana never joined the New Mutants?”
Nrama: Magik has had several different interpretations - what source material, be it old Magik stories or other works, did you center on to find your take on Illyana here?
Williams: It comes most directly from the Magik miniseries that came out in 1983, but I also drew a bit of inspiration from that cheekiness and playful bloodlust Brian Michael Bendis shows her with in his run of Uncanny, and the inner turmoil against herself that we see in numerous Illyana stories.
This is a young Illyana, far younger than we’ve seen her recently so I also drew inspiration from the way Matthew Rosenberg writes her in New Mutants: Dead Souls, but just rewound it a bit to make it ring true for her in earlier years - the assuredness, the inner conflict, the vulnerability. I love the way he portrayed Illyana with all of these complex things, simultaneously, in that mini-series and wanted to respect the same nuance I see in her too - but make it greener.
Nrama: So what is she up against here?
Williams: Her childhood.
Nrama: What time period does this take place in specifically in terms of comics chronology?
Williams: It’s just after the Magik mini, and just before she joins the New Mutants. She’s fifteen years old and has just come out of Limbo, but no time at all has passed on Earth.
Nrama: Any chance we get an appearance from S'ym here?
Williams: Nope! Only because we pick up our story right after she’s just gotten out of Limbo and has already defeated S’ym.
Nrama: For this you're working with Filipe Andrade, who to me has a bit of that Bret Blevins sinewy quality like we saw in Magik's “Inferno” stories for New Mutants. Is there anything specific you tailored in your script to what Filipe can do?
Williams: Yes, quite a lot - especially the gorgeous double page spread on pages 10-11.
I wanted to script the opportunity for him to really go wild there and along with Chris O’Halloran’s colors; we ended up with something truly spectacular. I have heard from a good source inside Marvel* that two very important people inside the proofreading office have both made this gorgeous spread their desktop backgrounds. The whole book is unbelievably gorgeous thanks to Chris and Filipe, but the double page spread is almost like fine art unencumbered by plot. (But there’s plot too, which makes it even better!)
*My source is the same very important proofreaders (VIPs) who told me so themselves!
Nrama: Last question… What are your big goals for What If? Magik?
Williams: A loving spotlight for the sorcerer mutant who grew up in Limbo, and one that doesn’t downplay how severe the consequences of such a childhood would be. And: to create an origin story in twenty pages that is both savage yet tender, like Illyana is.