Half an hour before the Dark Horse Buffy Season Eight Panel began at this year's Baltimore Comic Con, a line full of eager fans trailed out from the panel room door. After the patient group had been filtered into the room, panelists Georges Jeanty, Jo Chen and Scott Allie—the book's artist, cover artist and editor, respectively—entered the room and sat down for a casual chat with fans about Joss Whedons "Buffy Season 8."
The trio began the panel by telling fans how they got their jobs for the series. Both Jeanty and Chen had never seen a single episode of "Buffy" before signing on to the project. Though Jeanty was initially met with groans, he explained that he was sent seasons six and seven of the show, fell in love with it, and became a "Buffy" fan.
Chen, who began as a manga artist in Taiwan, got her start on "Buffy" after working on "Runways" with Brian K. Vaughan. Chen was introduced to Whedon by Vaughan and that's how things took off. When Chen was pitched on doing covers by Whedon, she thought it sounded like more of an indie comic before a friend relayed how popular "Buffy" was and loaned her some DVDs.
"Joss is very nice, very respectful. He's almost like a fanboy," Chen said.
Allie, who was an editor on the original "Buffy" series, explained that Whedon initially wanted to do a series about Faith, but ended up doing the story of a future slayer that turned in to "Fray."
Whedon, who Jeanty had spoken with a few days prior, told the artist to relay this message to fans: "Tell everybody there, thank you so much for your support. I love you all."
The panel then opened up to fan questions, the first of which asked where is "Season 8" going to end and go into "Season 9?"
For a while the plan was to go to 40 issues Allie explained, but Brad Meltzer's arc—which begins after Jane Espenson's current arc ends—was so complicated that it might have to go an extra issue. Then, they will likely take a break, do some smaller projects and then move on to "Season Nine."
"I would loved to be involved in 'Season Nine' in some way," Jeanty revealed, after Allie mentioned they had been dancing around the issue.
When asked about future plots, Allie said "All we know now is what 'Season Nine' will be. We know what the story for 'Season 9' is. We don't know that we'll do another one after that." Allie explained that it's all up to Whedon if he wanted to continue.
"But hopefully he'll have gotten his team together and just said 'Well, let's just do the movie,'" Jeanty replied.
A fan asked what the artists use for reference when drawing the book. Chen explained she uses the DVDs and hates to look at publicity photos from online.
"For me, the subtleties are the things for this book." Jeanty said before explaining that things like mannerisms and even character heights are crucial factors to how they look in the books.
"When Joss and I picked Georges, we picked him mainly for his style," Allie said. "We picked him because we had a look in mind of what the book would look like. We had this kind of expressive but conventional superhero look. We didn't want it to be a dark, Vertigo-looking thing, we didn't want it to look like an indie comic, we didn't want it to look like a Mignola comic. We had this look and Georges was the perfect guy for that look. But then what we didn't know because the books he had previously worked on were more like straight up superhero books, we didn't realize his impeccable fashion sense."
As personality is key to how the characters in this book look and that was often expressed through their wardrobe on the show, Jeanty asked Whedon for examples of where the characters would shop so he could draw them in the style that suited them. Whedon cited Anthropology as the store that would match Buffy's wardrobe yet and that sent Jeanty digging out catalogs for examples.
"Once you dress them the right way, they tend to act the way you think they would," Jeanty said.
Another fan asked if they would have to wait till the end of "Season 8" for the reveal of Twilight, the big bad of the season. Allie revealed they would not and both Jeanty and Chen have drawn their covers for the issue already.
A three-part question came next. A fan asked if there was a chance of "Dollhouse" comic, if there was going to be a series revealing the past of "Serenity's" Shepherd and if Dark Horse would be getting former Buffy beaus Spike and Angel from IDW, the company which owns the rights to them.
Allie replied with a simple "yes," but expanded on that after the laughter died down. First he explained that Angel and Spike have appeared, but likely wouldn't again.
"'Dollhouse? There's a chance," Allie explained. "When Joss first told me he was going to do the 'Dollhouse' show, I said 'Well, I know you don't want to do comic right away, but whenever you want to do then, we want to do them.' He said, 'Yeah, I just don't really see how it's a comic, but if we're gonna do it, I'll do it with you guys.' And then at San Diego this year, he said 'I know how we can do it as a comic.' And that's where we left it."
Allie then explained that a writer has been hired for the Shepherd story, but they are still looking for an artist. He went to explain that Ron Glass, the actor who portrayed Shepherd Book, asked Whedon to give him some backstory on the character's past because people were always asking him for answers about the shadowed history. Whedon told him that it would be a comic, but that he could reveal these four things, three of which Allie could remember: Book found god in a bowl of soup, one part of him is artificial and he got his name from a dead man. When the artist has been found, Ron Glass will announce the creative team.
When asked about characters that were hardest to draw, Chen shared an interesting tidbit about Fray. As she likes to keep her cover realistic, she asked original "Fray" artist Karl Moline which actresses he thought she most looked like. Moline went with Elizabeth Taylor and Natalie Portman.
About halfway through the panel, when the artists were talking about selling the realism of fantastic situations with their art in the story, Jeanty came dangerously close to revealing the final cliffhanger of November's issue #30 of "Buffy," insisting it had come out this week. After a playful back and forth with Allie, and the audience prompting Jeanty to tell them what he was about to reveal, the artist gave the audience a bit of a teaser but nothing nearly as juicy as they were hoping for.
"There are things that are happening that couldn't be done on the show. I think if you believe enough in the characters and how they are, you can take a character doing something she wouldn't normally be doing and make it look, I guess, authentic. I think if you can make Buffy or whomever believable enough, you can put them in the most extreme situations—that I guess are coming up in issue #30— "
"In November!" Allie chimed in as the audience chuckled at the almost slip up from earlier.
"…that's because you believe in it becomes believable within that universe," Jeanty finished.
A few minutes later, Allie was frantically saying "No" again, much to the eager audience's chagrin, as Chen almost revealed something else while talking about details of an upcoming cover.
At the end of the panel, Allie was pressed for more information about "Season 9."As the current amount of issues would have "Season 8" end in 2010, Allie relayed that after Whedon takes a break and comes back to work on "Season 9" he hopes they'll be able to begin it in 2011 to coincide with Dark Horse's 25th anniversary.
Keep those fingers crossed, slayer fanatics!