comScore The Mary Sue Interview: Mairghread Scott Talks The Third Witch | The Mary Sue

[UPDATED] The Mary Sue Interview: Mairghread Scott Talks Scotland, Shakespeare, and Her Latest Creator-Owned Project, The Third Witch

Main Cover by Kyla Vanderklugt.

Main Cover by Kyla Vanderklugt.


[UPDATED 6/24 at 2:56PM] – Archaia has announced their artists on The Third Witch. Well, actually, a pair of artists! From their Marketing Manager, Mel Caylo:

Twin sisters Kelly & Nichole Matthews will be taking on the art duties on The Third Witch.

You may know the talented Maighread Scott from her work on IDW’s Transformers, creating the character Windblade, or for her recent work on Gail Simone’s Swords of Sorrow series for Dynamite. But Scott isn’t all robots and pulp. She’s got an awesome-looking new limited series coming out with Archaia called The Third Witch. Here’s the info:

The Third Witch #1 (of 6)
Publisher: Archaia, an imprint of BOOM! Studios
Author: Mairghread Scott
Cover Artists:
Main Cover: Kyla Vanderklugt
BOOM! 10 Years Incentive Cover: Sonny Liew
Incentive Cover: Haemi Jang
Format: 32 pages, full color
On sale: 9/2/15

What’s to Love: Throw out your textbooks, this is not the Macbeth you remember. Mairghread Scott (Transformers: Windblade) has reinvented Shakespeare’s famous tragedy, but this time the power is in the hands of the three witches. These ladies aren’t all “double, double, toil and trouble.” They’re the power controlling kings and the fate of Scotland.

What It Is: The three fates—Riata, Cait, and Smertae—have always been guiding and protecting Scotland unseen, indirectly controlling the line of kings according to the old religion. When there is a disagreement in the sisterhood, Riata and Smertae will use men as pawns, and Smertae will direct Macbeth to a crown he was never meant to have.

The Mary Sue got to chat with Scott about The Third Witch – what inspired it, and what we can expect when we pick it up!

Teresa Jusino (TMS): Tell us a little about what inspired this project. Why Macbeth? Why from the witches’ perspective? And why as a comic?

Mairghread Scott: Why not? Macbeth has deception, murder, intrigue, horror and an underlying supernatural force in these witches that have never been fully explored. The Third Witch is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s play Macbeth told from the perspective of the witches (Smertae, Riata and Cait) who start the whole play off by telling Macbeth he shall become king, which leads to a whole lot of trouble for everyone. But the thing I always wondered was, why do they do it? Macbeth is one of my favorite Shakespearean plays, but while the three Witches play this pivotal role, there’s no clear explanation given for why they are investing so much time and energy in destroying this man. The Third Witch seeks to answer that question.

Our story focuses, not on Macbeth, but on the witch Smertae, (who is literally called “Third Witch” in the play). An eternal guardian spirit, Smertae and her two sisters are charged with protecting and guiding Scotland. Part of that means using prophesy to pick its next ruler. But, for the first time, the witches disagree over who is supposed to follow King Duncan when he dies. Riata thinks Duncan’s son, Malcolm, is destined to be king. But Smertae disagrees. In fact, she breaks tradition, turns on her sisters and decides to do everything in her power to make Macbeth king. Setting The Third Witch from their point of view lets us explore a whole different side of Macbeth and by making this story a comic, we can show all the horrifying consequences of this Battle of the Fates which are talked about, but never shown, in the play. Earthquakes, murder, animals eating each other, magic…we tackle it all in The Third Witch. This isn’t a dry recitation, it’s a horrifying cage match between two supernatural forces for the fate of a man’s soul and the nation he rules.

Seriously, the inspiration board I made for this book is terrifying. Nightmares for weeks.

TMS: Obviously, with a project like this, people are familiar with the original source material, and there are certain major events – certainly in the life of Macbeth – that you’d probably stick to. What can you tell us about the divergences? How will we get to know the witches, and will they have stories and lives beyond their concerns re: Macbeth and Ancient Scotland?

Scott: You don’t have to have to know Macbeth to read The Third Witch, but we try to reward those that have. Nearly everything that happens in the play is maintained in the book, but every event now has a different meaning because you’re seeing it from Smertae’s point of view. There are also a lot of unanswered questions in the play that we delve really deeply into. For example, Lady Macbeth said she had a child, but we never hear about Macbeth’s heir. What happened to her kid? My hope is that you could read this story by itself and enjoy it. That you can read the play and see something new in it and that you can be inspired to explore the actual history we touch on throughout.

l-r:  Smertae, Cait, Riata, Banquo, and Macbeth. Character designs by Sarah Stone and Kyla Vanderklugt

l-r: Smertae, Cait, Riata, Banquo, and Macbeth. Character designs by Sarah Stone and Kyla Vanderklugt

TMS: Smertae, Riata, and Cait are beautiful names! Where did they come from? How did you choose them?

Scott: I really wanted everything in this book to offer you the chance to explore, without feeling obligated. If you want to just feel the story along with Smertae, that’s great, but if you want to delve deeper (and Shakespeare fans usually do) I wanted to reward you. Like these names. Each witch is named after a Pictish “kingdom” or tribe that once existed in Scotland (Cait is sometimes spelled “Cat” and Riata comes from “Dal Riata” if you want to learn more). But that’s just the start. We touch on everything from the Antonine Wall, Doggerland’s sinking into the sea, Celtic myth and early medieval life to make our world feel as real as possible. There’s even another character hidden in the pages if you really look closely. While I’ve always tried to write comics people want to read, The Third Witch is meant to be something you can reread over and over.

TMS: Why are TMS readers going to love these witches? Or, if not love them, why will they fascinate us? What is it about their story that’s worth telling?

Scott: Even though they are magical forces of nature, Smertae and her sisters are also real women. Everything about them is complicated and messy and something you probably did/thought/said/regretted yourself. The witches’ magic isn’t just poetry about disgusting ingredients, it’s primal and visceral, and always costs them something. Smertae and her sisters aren’t cartoon villains looking for world domination; these are women fighting for their survival. They’ve been charged with protecting a land that no longer remembers them and a people that no longer believe what they do. As the world modernizes and people adopt Christianity, their way of life is dying out. In many ways, they are trying not to be left behind and I think that’s a very deep fear in all of us. We want the world to make sense, for justice to be served, for wrongs to be righted. But life is not that easy. What’s unique about The Third Witch is that we ask “How much are you willing to pay for it?” and I think that’s a question that will keep you up at night.

TMS: And lastly, what can you tell us about the plan for this comic? Is there a chance for these characters to return in a non-Macbeth-related story? Do you already have another story set in Scotland in mind? Or could these witches potentially be elsewhere/anywhere?

Scott: This is a six-issue mini-series that we’ll be collecting in trade. Like Macbeth, it’s got a fairly definitive ending, but since we know what that is, we can plan for it. The Third Witch may not be an ongoing, but it’s going to be a hell of a ride. As far as other stories with these characters…I’d definitely be open to it, but it took me almost ten years, half a library and an international research trip to make this book. My focus right now is to make sure you love it as much as I do.

The Third Witch will be appearing in next week’s issue of Previews on June 24th, and will be available in stores September 2nd! 

In a statement from BOOM! Studios, artist Kyla Vanderklugt has had to bow out of The Third Witch to take a medical leave of absence. The publisher is finalizing a new artist now and expects to meet its planned September debut. We’ll update you when we learn who the new artist is.

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