The Magicians' Lev Grossman Explains Why Comics Are the Natural Home of Spellcraft

Ready your spells, Lev Grossman’s wild fantasy universe is set to expand once more. Outside of the television adaptation, the comics medium has already welcomed The Magicians stories—but Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy is now opening its doors as a new comic from Grossman, Lilah Sturges, and Pius Bak is released this week.

The previous graphic novel from Boom Studios (and also by Sturges and Bak) was called The Magicians: Alice’s Story and detailed the events of the original story from an alternate perspective. The latest comic, in stores tomorrow, is not-so-coincidentally called The Magicians and continues the story after the novels with a whole new set of characters instead—namely hedge witches.


io9 invited Grossman to our studio at New York Comic Con recently to talk about translating his work into the comics medium and allowing others to play in his universe. You can watch part of our chat above (more to come) as well as read the transcription below. And if you’d like a preview of the new comic, we’ve got that for you as well.


Lev Grossman: One of the things that I love about fantasy is, I love the magic, but the magic is always, if it’s on TV or in the movies, it always goes by so fast, and in books you know, you’re trying to get a mental picture of what’s going on, but it’s always a little fuzzy. Nothing quite does it like comics.

io9: Hey everyone, I’m Jill Pantozzi, Deputy Editor of io9, and I am here with author of The Magicians, Lev Grossman. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Grossman: It’s good to be here.

io9: Yeah, so you’ve got a lot going on now. The Magicians’ world is expanding into comics. We already had one out, and now we’re doing a new one. The Magicians sort of continuing the story of Brakebills. Tell us a little bit about that.


Grossman: When we did the graphic novel, there was some uncertainty as to whether we should continue the story, or whether we should go back over it in comics form. The difference was split by Lilah Sturges, who wrote it. She did the same story of The Magicians, but she did it from a different perspective, Alice’s perspective. We all agreed that we thought it had gone really well, so we wanted to do more. Lilah kicked over the traces and just went all-new set of characters. There was so much that we hadn’t done in that world and we kind of lit out to go and do it.

io9: Can you tell us a little bit about the new cast of characters? Obviously this is not, you know, the people we know and love already, this is a new group of hedge witches coming into the school.


Grossman: Brakebills is very, it’s very buttoned-down. The hedge witches are much more even diverse than the people in Brakebills, they have all kinds of backgrounds and they have, they come culturally from different places. There is a huge culture clash between the hedge witches and Brakebills. It sort of drills down in a whole kind of set of issues and tensions that the books always kind of hinted at, but never really focused on.

io9: Can you hint at anything or anyone that we’ll be seeing besides these new characters in the series?


Grossman: Hmm, let’s see. You would be surprised. She is—she’s got a lot to say. So, so far, there aren’t actually that many people from the old regime turning up. She’s holding them back. I mean, they’re kind of like, you know, face cards that you can play, but you don’t wanna lead with your face cards. Maybe you do, what game are we playing?


io9: [laughts] What is it actually like working with her and allowing another creative into the world that you built?

Grossman: She’s like a dream to work with. I look at her scripts, I look at how she relates to Pius on the page, you know directing him or not. The way she times certain reveals so that when you turn the page, you get to see the big exciting splash. I didn’t even pick. They picked Lilah and kinda forcibly match-made us. She has such an instinctive feel for voice. It’s tricky writing some of these characters, because of the conceit of the world, they’re supposed to all be like super-smart, she writes smart characters very, very well. They’re always a step ahead of you, and they’re so verbal, and so funny, and so mean. And everything she touches is just so, so good. I’m a fan.


io9: What is it about the comics medium itself that drew you to, you know, allowing that sort of expansion? Obviously there was a TV adaptation too, but now the comics.

Grossman: You realize when you go from books to comics that can cheat all the time in books because if you don’t feel like describing something, you just leave it out. You don’t have that option in comics. You see the whole thing. I always loved about Doctor Strange that when he did magic, it was there on the page, frozen in this panel, and you could just look at it until you’d had your fill. And I loved the idea of going back and doing magic, doing The Magicians as a comic, because that was an effect that I’d always tried to create on the page, but you know, nothing quite does it like comics.


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Deputy Editor, io9. Loves cats.

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Parliamentarian of Crows

Is this going to be SyFy Magicians, where things are kind of silly and melodramatic, and very fit Canadians are banging all the time?

Or is this going to be the novels Magicians, where adulthood is a giant fucking disappointment, even if you know magic, and love between two people is an impossible dream?

I mean, they each have their charms, but they’re very different properties, even if they’re nominally about the same world and same characters.