New ‘Magdalena’ Team Talks Millennial Ennui In A Faithless Age [Interview]
Next month sees the release of a brand new volume of The Magdalena from Top Cow, introducing a new bearer of the ancient mantle. Like her predecessors, this new Magdalena is descended from the bloodline of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene, and has been chosen to protect the Catholic Church against monstrous threats.
ComicsAlliance caught up with writers Tini Howard and Ryan Cady and artist Christian DiBari to talk about the decision to introduce a new Magdalena while keeping the previous one around, and the fine line they had to walk to tell a story inspired by on one of the most popular religions in the world.
ComicsAlliance: The Magdalena as a title is one with an inherent legacy aspect, and this issue introduces us to a new candidate. Was it always the plan to introduce a new Magdalena for the new volume?
Tini Howard: I think we struggled with that, because we knew we couldn’t abandon Patience --- not only were we not ready to, but we didn’t feel fans were either. But I don’t remember a time where we weren’t eager about the mentor relationship between the two. I think one of my initial touch points when Ryan and I began talking was Batman Beyond, in the sense of a story that’s still very much about a beloved mentor, while also introducing a new character.
Ryan Cady: Tini hits the nail on the head here --- we’d been pitching a new bearer to Top Cow from the beginning, but early on enough we realized that here was this master-apprentice relationship that hadn’t been explored, despite the legacy nature of the characters. It’d be difficult to let such a beloved character like Patience go, so this way we get to have our cake and eat it, too.
CA: What can you tell us about Maya and where’s she’s coming from as a potential successor to Patience?
TH: Maya is a moody, undeserving slacker who happens to be a member of a holy bloodline with superpowers. And we get to try and watch her feel like she deserves that.
RC: A big thing for me, for Maya, is that she wants this, so badly. She’s not a person who gets this big destiny thrust upon it and rejects it --- looking at her objectively, people might be tempted to say, “She’s not a good fit for this gig,” but it’s not just her holy blood that makes her qualified. Maya’s the kind of person who sees this destiny as life-fulfilling.
CA: With a concept like Magdalena so intrinsically tied into religion and belief, how much thought do you put into making it respectful to those beliefs while still providing an exciting action story?
TH: Well, I’m playing in a sandbox of my own beliefs in a lot of ways. I was raised Catholic, and I’m someone who’s very into witchcraft, now.
I think I was less concerned with being respectful than I was about using the sort of pop culture rules of demonology to confront things about belief. I mean, we’re not into deliberately disrespecting Christian iconography just to be edgy, but at the same time, isn’t the profane a great place to do horror? Nobody I know is more scared of The Exorcist than Catholics. Christianity is a fun playground for stories because it has such a great, built-in antagonist.
RC: I was raised very mainline, WASP-y Christian. Growing up, religion was a comfort against horror; I remember being completely unafraid of The Exorcist when I saw it in middle school because my faith was so strong. My religious beliefs are a bit different now, but I can still completely empathize with characters who fully believe, like Maya’s mother, or character’s who believe but are critical, like Patience herself, or characters who just feel a bit lost --- like Maya.
CA: How much research goes into a character, essentially a superhero, based in Catholicism? What kind of things did you study in preparation for the book.
TH: So yeah, being raised Catholic, I’m really particular that our religion in the book sounds like religion, not like pop demonology. But there’s some pop demonology in there --- actually, the sort of popularity of occultism right now is something we’re having fun with in the book. But we do study. Lots of Keys of Solomon and Aleister Crowley and Catechism. You know, fun stuff!
RC: This has been one of my favorite books to research for. I spent many late nights digging through the Goetia and comparing demon notes with Tini, talking about Princes of Hell, pre-Catholic and medieval Catholic beliefs about Hell, that kind of thing.
CA: One of the demons refers to the present as a “Faithless age” early on, and it seems like we’re at a point in history where everything is somewhat influenced by current events. How much does the state of the world as it stands influence the stories you want to tell with The Magdalena?
TH: We definitely touch on some of Maya’s millennial ennui, for lack of a better term, and the desire to fight, to change, and just wishing someone would give you the power to do that. There are some stories we don’t get to tell in this arc that’ll be very timely, I think. I’m hoping we get there!
RC: I think it goes with the territory for the Magdalena, who’s always been on the frontlines battling demons, to be opposed to the “glorified bean-counters” at the Vatican who have overseen her in the past. In earlier volumes, Patience would always been fighting off this bureaucratic influence, but now that we (in real life) see a Vatican that’s much more focused on the secular world, I think that puts her --- and the concept of the Magdalena, in general --- in new, more independent role.
CA: Christian, The Magdalena comes from a very distinctive style that goes back to the early days of The Darkness and Witchblade. Is that something that’s already an influence, or have you tried to incorporate it into your style more for this run?
Christian DiBari: Somewhat; I was buying the Ron Marz/Nelson Blake series back when it was out in 2011-2012. I really loved how that book was done, Nelson's take on it was very new and refreshing to me. I used a lot of that with Patience's design and action/drama scenes for this series but in my own way. But the tone of this series is much more in my wheelhouse --- it's very dark, very horror, but I think what we're doing fits into that world of what was done before --- this time it's just very gritty.
CA: It’s part of Magdalena’s job description that she’s going to fight some terrifying looking monsters, as she does in the first issue. How do the three of you collaborate to come up with the right demons and monsters, and what sort of work goes into their design?
RC: Tini and I have “wouldn’t it be cool if” moments, for sure, but honestly, Christian and our colorist, Mike Spicer, are the true masterminds. Sometimes he’ll just be like “I want to draw this” and we love it so much we try to fit it in.
CA: Lastly, how much of the larger world are we going to see in The Magdalena? Can you tease any potential crossovers or cameos?
TH: Christian’s already put a few visual in-jokes in the first issue that I thought were totally adorable.
RC: There’re a few things floating around in this first arc, but in a lot of ways we’re trying to keep it accessible to new readers, and people who don’t want to go back and pick up every Universe title Top Cow’s ever put out. That being said, we’re in conversation with editorial and the creatives behind other universe stuff in development, so I’ll tease that it’s a definite possibility.
The Magdalena #1 is released digitally and in comic book stores on March 22. Check out a preview below:
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