V.E. Schwab returns to the magical world of Red London with a prequel comic series to her bestselling Shades of Magic novels, detailing the rise of the prince who would become King Maxim. We asked her a few questions about diving into the realm of comics-writing.

Shades of Magic vol. 1: The Steel Prince is on shelves now.


Stephen Cook for Comics Bulletin: What drew you back to this world? Why revisit Maxim?

V.E. Schwab: The whole comic series was inspired by a conversation in the third Shades of Magic book, A Conjuring of Light, when an ambassador from another empire tells Maxim that he’s heard of his reputation as the Steel Prince, and then references the three events that gained him that reputation: the Pirate Queen, the Night of Knives, and the Rebel Army. So it was always my goal to tell all three!


CB: Are there any other characters or threadlines you’d like to revisit from the Shades of Magic series?

VS: It’s interesting, moving forward in time for the books, and backward in the comics. I’d certainly like to play a bit in the other Londons, especially because the nature of the story is shaped so much by the nature of the main character’s magical abilities. If the comics were focused on an Antari magician, for instance, they would jump between worlds, as compared to an ordinary magician, who is bound to one. But if I do more, I definitely want to do an arc in White or even Black London.


CB: How is writing for the comic medium different than writing for a novel?

VS: It’s a completely different creative format, but I really enjoy it because I’m a fairly cinematic writer–I always choreograph my scenes and write the dialogue before filling in the rest, so it’s a natural transition for me. Still, thinking in terms of panels on a page, and hard page limits in a comic issue is very hard, and I’m still learning.


CB: What is your favourite thing about writing a comic?

VS: It sounds obvious, but seeing the story translated to a visual medium. I love getting to see the artists’ interpretations of magic. Action scenes I am confident I can write in novel format, but there’s little substitution for the visual power of elemental magic.


CB: Was there a particular scene you knew you wanted to write before you even set out plotting the series? Why?

VS: Not exactly. There are characters I wanted to see brought to life, and moments of magic, but on the whole, I just love getting to see the stories executed in a different format. Every panel, every page, is a gift. There are usually a few moments, but they always come out better than I could have possibly imagined, thanks to my talented artists and colorist.


CB: What’s next for you?

VS: Well, I’ve hinted at it already, but there will be a third arc to the comics to round out Maxim’s evolution into the legendary “Steel Prince” so that’s up next!

About The Author

Stephen Cook is a Canadian journalist moonlighting as an American comics critic.