Behind the Veil

Posted on Monday, July 6th, 2015 Tamiyo, Ace Reporter
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Posted in mtg

Swamp, Innistrad – I’m sitting in the home of Liliana Vess, the infamous planeswalker. There are no black cats, no demonic blood runes. The furniture is pedestrian with a bit of Ravnican flair. A single print hangs on the wall, a Meloku original, the table and chairs a dark Llanowar pine. Liliana hands me a mug of tea and pulls a strand of long black hair away from her eyes, “I like to think that, overall, I had a positive effect.”

She is, of course, referring to the long and tangled history of Sexy Necromancy. How did something so innocent as animating dead bodies take on such a hyper-sexualized aesthetic? And how does the queen of exanimate action, increasingly shunned by her own subculture, fit into the Multiverse today?

How did you get your start in necromancy back before it was sensual?

“I think it all started with Animate and Raise Dead. I remember hearing about them in church. My parents didn’t really talk culture beyond Avacyn’s annoying brand of glam so it was actually my Preacher that brought them to my attention. The whole slippery slope argument: if we let people animate dead bodies, what’s next? Artifacts? Lands? But try and find me one teenager who wouldn’t want to resurrect a corpse to slay their enemies; it comes naturally with the frustrations you feel then. It drew me in. Then came Hell’s Caretaker, Dance of the Dead, and the whole cult of personality around Lim-Dûl. It got main-stream. I dabbled and of course my parents didn’t like it but they were divorced so they weren’t exactly providing me with a stable home environment. I was doing magic at the time with the whole wholesome white mage thing. Healing Salve, Martyrdom, people called me Becky. But somewhere down the line, reanimation got racier.”

What was the state of necromancy like when you joined it and what was the erotic turning point for you?

“It was under the non-knee-high, non-stilettoed boot-heel of conservative culture. No pentagrams, no demons. But boobies were fine so already things were pushing towards Adult wizardry. Mainly a lot of guys sitting in basements trying to look sensual. But if I had to identify a particular moment, it would be when I saw Coffin Queen. I was all locked up in my own preconceived notions of life and death and titties and here comes this woman who uses her sexuality as a weapon, you know besides the armies of the dead.”

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It was around that time that Liliana’s spark ignited, but that only made her burn out faster. Traveling around the Multiverse, Liliana’s trademark black heels and boob window became synonymous with come-hither hocus pocus.

How did people react to your unique take on zombification?

“There was the usual outcry that you’d expect. White and green mages who of course forgot about Elvish Ranger and Serra Angel. Support from some really nice guys like Deathrite Shaman and even Scavenging Ooze, who I didn’t consider Mature but with the internet things have opened up a lot. I even remember Squire said something like, ‘I geese that all these kids care aboute is nipples and skulls, and I gesse that that’s the Dominaria we leeve in nowe.’ I put that on my fridge. It was exciting.”

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But at a certain point, things began to fall apart.

“That’s the real tragedy of art isn’t it? People always want a bigger zombie and a hotter spell. You can’t keep up; no one can. I was performing huge revivals weekly, little Chainer was on the way, Sorin had totally checked out. I had just done Sex and Drugs with Chandra and was becoming very aware of how I perform for mortals. I had put myself in service to my fans, when I should have killed them and made them serve me. When that specter of fear comes over you, you just have to put your foot down and say, ‘I have to make this abomination for myself.’ It really is okay to let things go.”

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How do you think people view your work in retrospect?

“My earlier work seems to be my most popular. People seemed to be confused by Liliana Vess because it just sort of came out of nowhere. But with Liliana of the Veil, then people knew that necromancy was going to be steamy. I think I’m the most fond of Liliana of the Dark Realms though. That started with a concept, ‘What if instead of reanimating one dead body, I reanimated all dead bodies?’ It was so much fun to work on and Nicol Bolas is a wonderful producer.”

You seem to have slowed down in recent years in part due to Sexy Necromancy’s popularity waning.

“You get derivatives like that Markov’s Servant girl; all Sexy, no Necromancy. It just comes across as desperate. And I’m very public on my stance that vampires aren’t even undead. They’re a disease or something right? And everyone is ramping into those Eldrazi things.”

“But I’m being too harsh; I’m very grateful for all the pain and suffering and despair I’ve been able to cause. I have enough stored away to work on the classics that I love, the Megrims and the Snuff Outs. I think that midnight loving will always have a place; wherever a boy thinks that a girl should be a pair of gray boobs, I’ll be there to support him. I’m just ready to put this all behind me and live forever.”

Do you have any comment on your relationship with Garruk?

“Who is that? What did you say? Garrook? Geruk?”

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