Mike Carey Mixes SIGIL with EL CAZADOR in CrossGen Revival

Mike Carey Mixes SIGIL with EL CAZADOR

After Disney acquired Marvel Comics in August 2009, Marvel publishing CrossGen properties in one form or another seemed like an inevitability, given that Disney had already owned CrossGen’s assets, purchasing them in 2004 based on their interest in J.M.DeMatteis and Mike Ploog’s series Abadazad.

Yet it wasn’t until an entire year later, at Comic-Con International: San Diego in July 2010, that Marvel began to announce plans for the long-dormant titles, showing a teaser image featuring CrossGen’s “sigil” logo. More was teased a couple of months later at New York Comic Con, until the official December announcement that both Ruse and Sigil would be returning, as four-issue miniseries under Marvel’s newly formed CrossGen imprint. In the case of Sigil, it's almost a complete reimagination of the concept, and also incorporates elements of CrossGen's popular yet short-lived pirate series, El Cazador.

With Sigil #1 in stores this week, Newsrama talked to series writer Mike Carey about his own history as a CrossGen fan, the Battlestar Galactica-esque gender switch he made with the main characters, how this reimagined series relates to the original series, working with artist Leonard Kirk, and where this series might lead in the future.


Newsarama: Mike, the first thing I’m curious about in regards to Sigil is, prior to coming on board the comic, were you a reader of the original CrossGen comics?

Mike Carey: I wasn’t a religious follower of them, but I read a number of them with great pleasure. I’ve always loved sci-fi and fantasy, and it saddens me that sometimes it’s hard for sci-fi and fantasy comic books to succeed in the British and American markets, with a few glorious exceptions such as Transmetropolitan, Ex Machina, some of the 2000 AD strips… There’s a long history of sci-fi and fantasy not quite finding a mass audience in the comic book context, and it excited me that the CrossGen universe was so much predicated on those kind of tropes, those kinds of stories, those kinds of milieus.


Nrama: Yeah, I think that’s a part of why Marvel was interested in reviving the concepts — that they represented several different genres beyond superheroes. And it seems that within Sigil, there’s more than one genre at play even within the series — a fantasy/sci-fi element, but also a pirate fiction story, correct?

Carey: That’s the first thing we decided to do: “let’s make this an El Cazador story, as well as a Sigil story;” El Cazador being the CrossGen pirate book created by Chuck Dixon and Steve Epting. It’s an incredibly open concept, the Sigil. The Sigil warriors can, by definition, move backwards and forwards in time, they can pretty much go anywhere in space. It’s a framework that allows you to play with the settings and the tropes of many different genres. So, yeah, this is a pirate story, it’s a time travel story, and it’s a coming-of-age story.


Nrama: And the original El Cazador series only had six issues, so it definitely seems like there’s a lot of untapped potential there.

Carey: Yeah, that’s exactly right. It was very popular, very successful. Even in that brief run, it already spawned a spinoff which was a one-off that told the backstory of one of the characters, Blackjack Tom. But yeah, CrossGen at that time was already in financial problems, and the series sort of went the way of all flesh.

Nrama: Obviously your version of Sigil is nearly completely different than the original, which was more of a space opera. What led you to the direction that you ended up going?

Carey: We did talk about something that was more faithful to the original. We were kicking around all kinds of ideas. But at a certain point, one concept just took over — the idea of this young girl suddenly discovering that she has this almost limitless power, that she then has to sort of move in a universe where everyone else who has that power also has the experience and the training that goes with it, and she’s totally clueless. She just discovers this heritage to everyone’s surprise, most of all her own.


It seemed like a situation that would be a lot of fun to explore, and would allow us to explain what the Sigil is very effectively in a short space of time, because it is only a four-issue mini. So that became the front-runner of the ideas that we were talking about.

Nrama: It also seems like a way of grounding things a bit, by having this ordinary girl having extraordinary things happen to her.

Carey: Yeah, that’s true. There are real-world underpinnings to the story as well as the broad fantasy concepts. Sam is running into problems in both of those worlds, and they both matter.

Nrama: You’ve kept the name of the main character of the original Sigil series and changed genders.

Carey: Yes, and everything else. [Laughs.] It’s only the name that’s kept, really, as kind of a salute to the original series. The mechanics of the sigil are similar in some ways to the way it worked in the original series. But Sam as a character doesn’t really owe that much to the original Sam Rey.


Nrama: And this is another female lead for you — we’ve talked a lot in the past of your fondness for using Rogue over in X-Men Legacy; strong female characters definitely seem like something you’re consistently drawn to.

Carey: It’s true. I don’t know why it’s true. I like strong female protagonists. I’ve just succeeded in getting Frenzy onto the core cast of Legacy , which makes me ridiculously happy, I just like that character for some reason. I like strong women, I like dangerous women. It’s probably deep-seated and a little bit pathological, but there it is.

Nrama: The end result seems positive, so it’s all good.

Carey: [Laughs.] Thank you!

Nrama: The concept of the “Sigil” is what tied the original CrossGen comics together, albeit sometimes loosely. Is this series being looked at potentially similarly, leading into more CrossGen comics coming along the way?

Carey: We’re definitely flying a kite. I think Marvel would love to expand this, and to actually get a line going. Certainly as far as Sam’s story goes, although there’s a resolution in this mini, we’ve left it open for there to be more adventures. We’ve got a lot of places we could go with it, a lot of ideas for developing the story and elaborating on her character arc.


Nrama: And Leonard Kirk is on art for all four issues?

Carey: Yes! God, he’s doing such beautiful, beautiful work. I was just looking at some pages for issue #2 that take place on the Red Harvest, which is the other ship in the story. My jaw was on the ground, it’s so beautiful, and so authentic. It feels real. I’m very happy to have him on board.

Nrama: Mike, any final thoughts you’d like to share on Sigil?

Carey: The modern Californian setting that we establish in the first issue, it doesn’t go away once Sam makes her jump into the past. Those real-world concepts continue to be important, and in some very unexpected ways. Some of the tragedies in Sam’s past turn out to be directly relevant to what she’s doing when she time-jumps to 200 years earlier.

Nrama: That definitely seems like a little bit different take, to have that contemporary real-world tie in there, whereas the original CrossGen titles seemed to be more strictly fantasy based.

Carey: And I love that. They created some amazing worlds, some amazing alternative timelines, and so on. It was all very cool. We’re doing something different, but we hope we’re doing something that is still true to the spirit of the original.

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