V.E. Schwab Talks Bones, Knives, and The Steel Prince

Part of a two-page spread in the Steel Prince illustrating the Red London mages sealing off their world.

Last year, V.E. Schwab opened a new doorway into the Shades of Magic world with The Steel Prince, a comic series focusing on the past trials and forging of Maxim Maresh. Four issues, a few stabbings, some badass magic and a decisive battle later, we thought that was all, only to be gleefully surprised with an expansion to twelve issues and the release of the first trade paperback from Titan Comics. Schwab spoke with Wendy when the series was first announced, and now that the first arc has wrapped up, she’s returned to give us a look back on The Steel Prince, as well as offer a few glimpses into its future.

So issue 4 of the single issues of The Steel Prince just released, wrapping up the Arisa arc, and the trade paperback is due out in March. How are you feeling about having the first part of the story out in the world?

As cool as it’s been, seeing the single issues, I’m honestly really excited about the trade paperback. I personally gravitate toward bind-ups, and coming from the world of fiction, and having a readership that has such allegiance to bookstores, I’m glad they’ll be able to get their hands on the full first arc of Steel Prince!

Did you know from the start it would be twelve issues, or did you initially intend for the first four to stand alone? Would you extend beyond twelve issues if given the opportunity?

I hoped it would be. The Steel Prince series was inspired by a very specific bit of conversation in A Conjuring of Light, where an ambassador from another empire lists the three feats that gave Maxim Maresh the reputation as the “Steel Prince”, so it made sense, to give each feat its own arc. I’d love to do more comics in the Shades world, but I think I’d like to shift focus, either in time, or to another London. The world of the books, and now the comics, is one that really changes depending on the protagonist, their abilities, and their world.

Arisa's double-sided flag.

One of the coolest things about a Shades of Magic comic was seeing what the visual parts could do that prose couldn’t, like the amazing images of Arisa’s bone magic. Did you have any visual elements you particularly loved?

I know!! That’s probably my favorite aspect of the entire thing, and it really came down to the details. The magic itself has visually lived in my head while writing the books, but the iconography, such as Arisa’s flag, with it’s open skeleton hand on one side, and its closed fist on the other, those punchy visual pieces, work so much better on the comic page. Plus, getting to SEE her bone magic, an ability which, in the novels, is largely invisible compared to other elements, was just a complete blast.

The Steel Prince volume 1, written by V.E. Schwab, drawn by Andrea Olimpieri. Colored by Enrica Eren Angiolini with assists from Viviana Spinelli, flats in Chapter 4 by Cassandra Peirano, lettering by Rob Steenedited by Amoona Saohin. Published by Titan Comics, 2019.

In your previous interview about The Steel Prince, you mentioned some of your Western comics influences, but I know you’re also a big fan of manga. Are there any particular titles you feel influenced this work? Any you’re enjoying right now?

I come a bit more from the anime than the manga side, with strong allegiances to Cowboy Bebop and Avatar: The Last Airbender, but I was also really captivated by the movement and fight scenes in Bleach, Tokyo Ghoul, D.Gray-man, and Full Metal Alchemist.

What’s something coming up in the next arc that you’re excited to write about? Any secrets you can tell us about?

The Night of Knives refers to a series of trials that the bold–and brazen–take on in Verose in order to prove themselves, and as much as I’ve loved designed the challenges themselves, one of my favorite aspects of the next arc was, now I’ve found some footing, getting to weave in deeper elements, mysteries and reveals that will continue from the second arc into the third. Essentially, getting to play with story and character in a way I’m used to in books, in this new medium.

The Steel Prince trade paperback, containing issues 1 through 4, releases on March 5.  The hardcover re-release of her debut novel, The Near Witch, releases on March 12.

A photograph of V.E. Schwab, a redhaired woman with bird tattoos on her arms, smiling at something to her left.
V.E. Schwab. Photo credit: Jenna Maurice

Victoria “V.E.” Schwab, is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than a dozen books, including the acclaimed Shades of Magic series, This Savage Song, Our Dark Duet, Vicious, Vengeful, The Near Witch, and City of Ghosts. Her work has received critical acclaim, been featured in the New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, Washington Post, and more, has been translated into more than a dozen languages, and has been optioned for television and film. When she’s not haunting Paris streets or trudging up English hillsides, she lives in Edinburgh and is usually tucked in the corner of a coffee shop, dreaming up monsters.

Tia Kalla

Tia Kalla

Longtime writer, temporary office minion, and nerd of all trades, tiakall is a fan of lengthy subordinate clauses and the Oxford comma. She enjoys plants, cats, puns of varying quality, and making cannibal jokes before it was cool.