“Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8” has, in many ways, enjoyed privileged status among licensed comic book series. Created to be a direct continuation of the television series with heavy input from Joss Whedon, who also wrote several issues and arcs, Dark Horse's latest incarnation of “Buffy” retains the magic and wit of the original while effectively adapting to the advantages and constraints of its new medium. Since launching in 2007, the series has also been fortunate enough to maintain a consistent visual style, with Georges Jeanty providing the art for nearly every issue, working from scripts by comic book writers Brian K. Vaughn, Jeph Loeb, and Brad Meltzer, along with Jane Espenson and Joss Whedon himself.
“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” concluded its television run in 2002, with Buffy leading a team of Slayers-in-Training in a final battle against the First Evil. Willow's magic granted all of the Slayers-in-Training, along with any other woman who held the potential to become one, the full scope of Buffy's slayer-strength. The gang was eventually victorious, although their home town of Sunnydale sunk into the Hellmouth. Dark Horse's Season 8 opened with the Slayers, now a fully-functioning pseudo-military organization, operating out of a castle in Scotland, with bases situated throughout the world. Soon, various threats and intrigues began to manifest themselves, and at the center of it all is Twilight, a masked man with ties to Buffy's past. (Twilight's identity was ultimately revealed in this article on CBR.)
Recently, Buffy seems to have manifested a new set of superpowers, including flight, as the series enters its final two story arcs, the Brad Meltzer-penned “Twilight” beginning this week followed by Joss Whedon's finale.
With issue #32 in stores this week, marching briskly toward the series conclusion in #40, CBR News spoke with Jeanty about his work on the series.
CBR News: First, how did you get set up as the "Buffy Season 8" artist?
Georges Jeanty: Would you believe that I had nothing to do with it?
Really. I was doing a project for Wildstorm at the time ["The American Way"]and that was an eight-issue story that was really overwhelming me because I was so committed to it. It's a story about the first black hero in the 1960s, so you can imagine shifting over to a little blond ex-cheerleader was the farthest thing from my mind. I got an e-mail from Dark Horse editor Scott Allie, who I had never met before--he sent me an e-mail introducing himself and saying he and Joss would like to know if I was interested in doing this Buffy book they were going to relaunch. I was like, what? I had heard of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” but I had never seen an episode and wasn't much interested in the character. What really got me was that Scott said Joss really wanted me to do the book. I thought, now, that's just so heavy handed! Of course I'd heard of Joss Whedon and knew him by reputation, but to use his name to get me to do a book for Dark Horse? That was just low. Scott went on to tell me that Joss really did want me on the book and he wasn't just blowing smoke. Disbelieving, I told Scott if Joss wants me then let him ask, thinking I'd called his bluff.
The very next e-mail was from Joss.
Very red faced, I told Mr. Whedon what a big fan I was of his work and would love the opportunity to collaborate with him on a book!
The rest is history.
I'm always curious to hear how artists feel about likenesses for licensed series. Are there any characters that gave you a bit of trouble? Given that the show has been off the air for a few years now and the comic has become its own thing, are likenesses as vital to Buffy as they might be to a current television series?
This is an involved question because there isn't one answer to it. “Buffy Season 8” is based on established characters that were played by actors; that being the case, the characters in the comic should resemble the actors as much as the artist's talent allows. I'm a big fan of books that are based on licensed properties having the characters look like they do on TV or film. I have committed myself to making the characters resemble their TV counterparts as much as possible, but I'm not a slave to it. Joss was very strict at the beginning of this project. He said, “I want Buffy to look like Buffy, but she doesn't have to look like Sarah Michelle Gellar.” That made sense to me. Buffy should look like Buffy. I've taken to drawing the characters first in the scene and then looking over the dozens of photos I have to try and make it as similar to the actor as possible, that goes for all the established characters. Let's not kid each other, fans are reading this book because they want that fix they got when they watched the show. If the story is doing its job, then it's up to me with the art to make that story sing.
The new villain Twilight was introduced early on, as was a skinless version of Warren. Were you primarily responsible for deciding what these guys would look like? Would you say it's a particular challenge to draw a guy without skin for panel after panel, or is it not such a big deal?
Warren was easy since he was in season 6 all skinless for a minute. I didn't have to research too much to get that likeness, which is funny. I was in Paris doing a Buffy show and a few of the fans said they were going to a night club to see this band Common Rotation and Adam Bush [who played Warren] was one of the members. I got to talk to him for a while and told him about his involvement in “Season 8.” It was a little unsettling that I was looking at Adam as we were sitting in this dingy little bar after his set, and wondering just what he'd look like without his skin. That turned out to be a very surreal evening.
Twilight I had a little more input with. Joss told me what he was wanting. Someone who wore a mask and a trench coat. From there I came up with several designs (which can be found in my “Buffy Sketch book” #2, available on my website at www.kabalounge.com! Shameless plug!) and while I was all ready to go back and forth with Joss about Twilight's look for a while, it only took a few designs and Joss said “that's it, that's Twilight.” One thing about Joss, he knows what he wants when he see it.
Throughout the series, you've worked with Buffy TV alumni Joss Whedon and Jane Espenson, comics writers like Brian K. Vaughn and Jeph Loeb, and now Brad Meltzer. What has it been like working with these big names, and have you found anything particular about their different styles?
Well, the one thing I've fond about all those writers that have graced the book, which might not seem obvious at first, is that they are all Buffy fans. Really. I've talked to all those guys when they were doing their story's and all of them mentioned how much this was a project of love than pay. As far as writing, I think there is a commonality with professional writers in that they treat whatever project they're doing with honesty. I never got the impression reading the scripts that they were writing a “comic book” so they didn't dumb it down. All of the script were well thought out and felt like teleplays. You could have filmed any one of those storys.
Was there any scene or issue you especially enjoyed drawing?
I love it all. I know that sounds like a cheat but I do. I have become such a Buffy fan since this started that I'm giddy when I get a new script and read about what the scoobies are doing next! And as you've mentioned, there has been a cornucopia of talented writers that I have effectively become spoiled! I loved all the issues I've done. I will say that I enjoyed the Faith arc tremendously but I think that's because I'm such a Faith fan.
Before the cat was out of the bag, so to speak, CBR ran the fake cover you did with Barack Obama revealed as Twilight. What's your side of the story as to how that came about?
You know, after you work with people for a while--and in this case, it's been a couple of years that editor Scott Allie and I have been working together--when it came time to do the cover where Twilight was to be revealed, Brad Metzler had mentioned doing the parody of the “Amazing Spider-Man” cover where Hobgoblin is unmasked, which I was all for, and I got to thinking that the one question I have been asked most (besides “what's it like working with Joss Whedon”) was who is Twilight? Drawing the cover I thought it would be funny to “reveal” Twilight on the cover and--who is he? None other than our President Barack Obama!
Ha Ha! It was a joke that I figured just the editorial staff would see, and when Scotty saw it he said, “you know all these comics have been coming out with Obama as a character, even his dog has a book. This would be really funny if we 'leaked' our mock cover to the press.” He wanted to see just what the reaction would be and more so, if anyone would believe it was the truth. I wonder if anyone seeing the cover thought Obama's in a Buffy book?
As we gear up for the final few issues of Season 8, what were some of your favorite moments? Are there any concrete discussions about a Season 9 just now?
This has been an incredible ride! Like a great roller coaster.There have been twists and turns and loop-d-loops, and the biggest loops are still to come! I have had the most amazing time working on this book. Where else would I have gotten the chance to work so many distinguished writers? I wouldn't trade it for anything, and it's made me a die hard Buffy fan in the process. Some of the highlights speak for themselves, like Xander losing yet another girlfriend? Dawn becoming a Giant?! Buffy sleeping with a woman?! It has been an amazing Season!
My favorite moments are always when I get a new script, because I know I'm one out of like 4 or 5 people to read this latest script. I love it. I'm glad Faith had a chance to shine and develop as a character more. I love that Xander is more in control of his future. I would love to see more of Giles's path. Where he is at this point in his life, that sort of thing. Or just where was Willow between season 7 and 8? I'm so happy that Joss has chosen to keep Andrew around and make him a Watcher!
I tell people that if you loved the TV show you're going to love the comic. It really has taken theses characters that we love so much and allowed them to grow from where we last saw them standing at the edge of a now sunken Sunnydale. It seems that 7 years and a spinoff hasn't been enough for people. They still crave more. As for season 9, I know Joss wants to do one and I would love to be involved in it in some way, but Season 9 wouldn't start to hit the stands until 2011, that's such a long way away, ask me a again when it gets a little closer. One thing I can say I am grateful to Joss and company for bringing Buffy into my life, as any true fan will tell you, once you've immersed yourself into the show it's impossible to come out unchanged! That little blond cheerleader has a way of getting under your skin... sorry Warren.