The central characters in my new comic series, Toil and Trouble are the three witches of Shakespeare’s Tragedy of Macbeth. In the play, these women function as supernatural seers delivering two prophecies to Macbeth that inspire Macbeth’s treachery and eventually lead to his downfall. The premise behind the series is to retell the story of Macbeth from the point of view of these three witches to uncover the true motivation behind their role in Macbeth’s fate.

Smertae rough design

Initial Character Sketch by Sarah Stone

In this series of blog posts, we’ll be looking at the design process for the witches and the thoughts that went into both their look and their characterization in the book. In our initial pitch, all of the witches were going to be completely nude as they are supernatural beings with no need for clothes and a lack of clothes would underscore when our “normal” characters can and can’t see them. (Also, while the entertainment industry seems to almost require partial female nudity, there’s something about non-sexual, full-frontal female nudity that still makes many people uncomfortable. We toyed with the idea of nudity to essentially put our audience on an uneasy footing right from the start). This was later changed to help the book get a teen rating and be more appropriate for schools and libraries. So fair warning, there will be some nudity in these posts.

Our lead character is Smertae who in the play is known as the “Third Witch”. Smertae is sort of the middle sister in our trio of witches and looks like she is in her late twenties. All of the witches are tied to an element and Smertae’s is water. We also wanted to play with the idea of the maiden-mother-crone cycle, so Smertae is representative of the mother. Here were my initial character design directions:

Smertae: the main character.

Element: Water

Smertae design

Final Colored Design by Sarah Stone

Type: Mother

Colors: Red Hair, white skin, blue tattoos. Her tattoos should be almost bruised into her skin. Smertae should have slighty rounded features with wild hair. Her hair should always look like beach hair, like it just dried.

Her familiar, Harpier, is a white crab and frequently put upon, fidgeting constantly.

All of the witches are meant to have supernatural elements that set them apart from the mortal characters in the book. They each have tattoos or magical markings with Smertae’s being done in woad, a blue dye made from plants that the Picts were known to paint themselves with. Smertae also has spikes like a crab that pierce her skin and grow when she uses her magic.

When artist Sarah Stone designed the witches, these were her thoughts behind the design:

Smertae: red hair, loose flowing curls, angular but perhaps the most ‘curvy’, middle height of the three sisters. pale hazel or gray eyes. tiger claw necklace “piercings” built into and around spiral tattoos that look like bruises instead of ink. old scars. Her silhouette is broken by small sharp thorns (like the tiger claws), similarly to a crab they come in threes.

Smertae kyla

Art by Kyla Vanderklugt

Later when we added clothes, we researched how the early Picts wore simple dresses and tunics. Sarah wanted to make sure the dress still felt stylish so she added the cutaways on the arms and legs to show off Smertae’s spikes and tattoos. we also thought it gave her a tattered, more realistic look. If you had spikes coming out of your hips, your skirt wouldn’t last very long either.

One of the coolest things about a character design is seeing how other artists interpret it. After Sarah designed the three witches, cover artist Kyla Vanderklugt and interior artists Kelly and Nichole Matthews had to bring that design to life on the page. The strong elements that were important to us from the start (her hair, her spikes, her dress), are all noticeable in every incarnation even as little aspects may change with each artists’s style.

Smertae preview

Art by Kelly and Nichole Matthews

When the series opens, Smertae is returning to Alba (aka Scotland) after years in exile. She will have to come to terms her fellow witches, Cait and Riata, who have very different plans for the fate of their homeland. Smertae confronts the mistakes of her past, even as she battles for the soul of the man she believes should be Scotland’s king.

Stay tuned for future posts about the designs of Cait, Riata, and some of our other characters. Toil and Trouble will be available in stores and digitally on September 2nd and can be pre-ordered at your local comic shop with the form below.


My creator-owned series The Third Witch is now called Toil and Trouble. Same great book written by me with amazing art by Kelly and Nichole Matthews, but with a new title.

If you’ve already pre-ordered Toil and Trouble under its old title, have no fear. The order code is the same, so your request will still go through. For those of you that haven’t ordered Toil and Trouble yet, we have an updated order form just for you. Procrastinators!Toil_and_Trouble_order_form

Click here for a printable version of the pre-order form.

“But Mairghread,” you might be wondering, “what is this comic all about?”

Toil and Trouble is a perspective adaptation of the classic play, Macbeth, by William Shakespeare. This comic series tells the story of Macbeth from the perspective of the three witches who appear early in the play to deliver a prophecy that Macbeth will soon become king of Scotland. In this story, readers follow Smertae, Cait, and Riata, the fates of Scotland, as they battle each other for the soul of Macbeth and the future of their nation. This is a supernatural horror tale that utilizes the comics medium to delve deeper into Shakespeare’s play and tell an entirely new story.

Pre-ordering is a great way to make sure you get the book, but it also tells stores that this will be a popular book. So if you are looking to support books that you enjoy, make sure to pre-order.

Toil and Trouble will be available on September 2nd. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be posting some cool behind the scenes looks at the characters, art and writing process, so stay tuned.

Thank You,

Comic Con colorsHello! We are just a few days away from San Diego Comic Con 2015. Below is my full schedule for all 4 days with panels and signings. Come by and say hi!

Thursday July 9th

  • Editing Comics: The Boom! Studios Way
    1pm in Room 28DE

BOOM! Studios creators James Tynion IV (The Woods,Memetic), Frank J. Barbiere(Broken World, Black Market), Mairghread Scott (The Third Witch, Lantern City), and Curt Pires (The Fiction), along with BOOM! Studios editor-in-chief Matt Gagnon and editor Eric Harburn, as they share some of the editing secrets of one of the comic book industry’s leading independent publishers and discuss editing do’s and don’ts.

  • 3pm-3:45pm Combiner Wars signing at the Hasbro booth #3213
  • Nerdstrong: Getting Fit for Cosplay, Geekdom, and Life
    4pm in Room14A

Andrew Deutsch (Nerdstrong partner, head coach), Marla Hudnall (Nerdstrong partner, coach), Christy Black (Nerdstrong coach, Healthy Is the New Skinny), Kimi Balcomb (Nerdstrong coach, Golden Lasso Cosplay), Andrew Seely (Nerdstrong coach, gaming director), Mairghread Scott (Nerdstrong member, writer Transformers: Robots in Disguise, Swords of Sorrow), and Mel Caylo (Nerdstrong member, marketing manager at BOOM! Studios) discuss fitness, body image, and confidence in a geek world. Moderated by Blair Herter (Nerdstrong Partner, TV host).

Friday July 10th

  • Push Boundaries Forward: Gender, Diversity, and Representation in Comic Books
    10am in Room 4

The face of comics is changing. A diverse panel examine what indie/web publishing has been doing right, how mainstream comics can catch up, and what creators and fans can do to be heard. Moderator Amy Chu (Girl’s Night Out) leads panelists Mairghread Scott(The Third Witch, Lantern City), IDW Publishing editor Sarah Gaydos, Derek Charm (The Powerpuff Girls: Super Smash-Up!), Dr. Andrea Letamendi (The Arkham Sessions podcast), Christian Beranek (Validation), and BOOM! Studios brand communications manager Christine Dinh in a sincere, thoughtful discussion on the topic of gender, diversity, and representation in mainstream comics.

  • VictorionWomen of Transformers
    1:30pm in Room 8

From Windblade and Arcee to Strongarm and the brand-new Combiner making her debut at SDCC, female Transformers characters have finally gotten their due; but behind the page and in fandom, even bigger changes have been happening. Panelists include Transformers comics writers Mairghread Scott and Georgia Ball, artists Corin Howell and Sara Pitre-Durocher, Hasbro’s Sarah Carroll, and special guests.

  • 3:00 pm-4:00 pm Women of Transformers signing at the Hasbro booth #3213

Saturday July 11th

  • Boom! Studios celebrates 10 Years and Pushes Comics Forward
    12:30 in Room 24ABC

2015 marks the 10th year of publishing for BOOM! Studios, a multiple Eisner Award-winning top 10 comic publisher. BOOM! is looking ahead to the next 10 years and how everyone can push comics forward. Moderated by BOOM! president of publishing and marketing Filip Sablik and featuring editor-in-chief Matt Gagnon, Mark Waid (Strange Fruit, Irredeemable), Asaf Hanuka (The Realist), Mairghread Scott (The Third WitchLantern City), and James Tynion IV (The Woods, Memetic, UFOlogy), panelists highlight the changes in the industry and what they want to see in comics.

  • IDW and Hasbro: Transformers, Jem, Ponies, and More
    2:30pm in Room 24ABC

IDW editors John Barber and Bobby Curnow, along with Michael Kelly (Hasbro’s senior director, global publishing), present a comprehensive overview of all things IDW and Hasbro; Transformers, My Little Pony, Jem, G.I. JOE, Dungeons & Dragons. Get the inside scoop on the latest news and announcements. Featuring writer Mairghread Scott, artist Agnes Garbowska, and more special guests.

  • 5:00pm – 6:00pm Signing at IDW booth #2743

Sunday July 12th

  • Push Fun Forward: All Ages Comics Have Arrived
    1pm in Room 24ABC

All-ages comics are important now more than ever in helping to bring in new and lapsed readers, from practically every demographic. BOOM! Studios associate editor Whitney Leopard leads a discussion on the significance of all-ages comics, from what they have achieved thus far to what lies ahead, with creators Mairghread Scott(Transformers: Windblade), Thom Zahler (My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic), Aron Steinke (The Zoo Box), Ian McGinty(Munchkin), and Dave Roman (Astronaut Academy).

Hope to see you there!