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SYFY WIRE Interviews

The Magicians' Lev Grossman manifests details on his new graphic novel, Alice's Story

By Jeff Spry
Alice's Story Hero

Fevered fans of SYFY's The Magicians, adapted from bestselling author Lev Grossman's genre-bending novels, can further immerse themselves in the fantasy franchise's diverse universe this week with a new hardcover graphic novel, The Magicians: Alice's Story.

This deluxe release explores the first book's lore from the perspective of one of its most alluring characters, Alice Quinn, and promises new insights, secrets, and a richer backstory that will act as a companion piece to the TV show's upcoming adventures. Boom! Studios will premiere this 208-page offering on July 16.

Carefully overseen by Grossman and stylishly written by Lilah Sturges (Lumberjanes, Jack of Fables), The Magicians: Alice's Story is the first of several planned original projects set within the property's rich and intriguing realms, all of which serve to deepen the show's mythology. Artist Pius Bak (Night Owl Society) provides the accessible, cartoon-style interior art all contained within a striking cover by Steve Morris (Buffy the Vampire Slayer).

Alice's Story Cover

In Alice's Story, readers will be treated to a fresh version of Alice's fateful journey as she enrolls in Brakebills College and explores her latent wizardry while meeting new friends, finding the mystical land of Fillory, and confronting challenges and troubling issues from her complicated past. SYFY WIRE spoke to Grossman about the graphic novel adaptation's genesis, his involvement in its evolution with Boom! Studios, early inspirations for The Magicians, and how this engaging literary iteration will offer vivid new details into Alice's multi-faceted history.

Alice's Story Slice 3

How did this project first emerge and land at Boom! Studios?

Well, it evolved from the books in parallel with the TV show. It took three years of legal wrangling to free up the rights to do a comic book, which were legally entangled in several different ways.

Every once in a while I get obsessed with something and I was obsessed with getting a comic made from The Magicians that would hew closely to the books. It took a hell of a lot of pushing to make that happen. And then it finally did and we ended up with Boom!, which turned out to be a really good thing because they knew exactly how to do it.

Can you take us on a quick tour of the plotline and what readers can anticipate?

I had imagined this as a straightforward adaptation. That is not how Lilah Sturges saw it. She said she'd do it, but she wanted to do it from Alice's point of view. And initially, I didn't get it. But it turned out to be the making of the entire project because it tells the story of The Magicians and these teenagers who go to a school for magic and get into a whole lot of trouble.

It shows it off from a fresh point of view and it feels like a new story. It includes stuff that fans really love from the books and a bunch of new stuff too that came straight out of Lilah's imagination. It was a weirdly easy collaboration, and the same is true with the artist, Pius.

What was your level of involvement and guidance in the formation of this graphic novel?

Oh, I pretty much breathed down everybody's neck constantly. (Laughs) As you can imagine, I'm very protective of The Magicians and have a huge amount of emotional investment in it. After Lilah and Pius got started, every draft they did passed under my nose. I read it, reviewed it, and nothing went on without my getting my sticky, interfering fingers on it.

Alice's Story Slice B

Why do you believe a graphic novel, as opposed to a monthly comic series, was a better vehicle for a deeper exploration of The Magicians' mythology?

Well, it could have gone either way. It was Boom!'s call, and it makes a certain amount of sense. The novel isn't structured in [the] episodic way that a comic series is, and it makes sense for people to just slurp it up in one book rather than spread it out.

Were you a comics guy growing up and what titles influenced the formation of The Magicians?

This is one of the reasons I wanted to do The Magicians as a comic in the first place, was that the novels were so inspired by comic books, starting with Doctor Strange, which was an obsession of mine as a kid. There's a lot of Doctor Strange-y stuff going on in the books, certainly the physical sense of how magic works and looks and feels. But then as big, or bigger, is Alan Moore's Watchmen and Miracle Man. Those books were huge obsessions of mine and the way they interrogated their genres and asked questions of them and undercut their basic assumptions, but did it in a way that was incredibly loving and exciting.

I love the way Watchmen deconstructed the genre and yet elevated the genre at the same time. My fondest hope was to do something like that in fantasy. Just about every move in The Magicians, sooner or later, comes out of the Alan Moore playbook for how to write interesting genre stuff. I longed to see these scenes I'd written in panels as comics. It's unbelievably thrilling that I finally can.

Alice's Story Slice A

What are your impressions of Pius Bak's final artwork for Alice's Story?

The way Pius draws, his characters are not idealized like superheroes are — they look very much like individuals. He's got this wonderful, accessible style but it's not cleft chins and muscles and things like that. It does have a slightly cartoon style and I wanted something like that.

My fear was that they'd try to do something really grungy and artsy in a way that people would look at and think was cool, but would put down again. I wanted something beautiful that would pull people in and that's what Pius does. I got super lucky. This is the comic I wanted to see!

Boom! Studios' The Magicians: Alice's Story is available July 16.