One of the Buffyverse's biggest draws is back in more ways than one. Earlier today, news broke that Dark Horse Comics will be welcoming actress Juliet Landau to write a new series starring Drusilla – the twisted vampire she played for years on "Buffy The Vampire Slayer."
Meanwhile, Dru just made her – somehow sane – return to the world of the comics in last month's issue of "Angel & Faith" which opens new questions as to how the breaking of the Seed has impacted her, what her plans are for her former sire and how her return will throw a wrench in Angel's plans to resurrect Giles.
Before issue #7 hits this week, CBR News invited "Angel & Faith" writer Christos Gage and editor Scott Allie for a new installment of our regular BEHIND BUFFY SEASON 9 column to look behind where the series has been so far and what lies ahead from the secret past of Giles to Drusilla's plan to the chilling effects of the Lorophage demon and more.
And be sure to check out our exclusive cover to May's issue #10 while you wait for a full interview with Landau later this week on CBR!
CBR News: To start, let's talk about the feel of the book as a whole. "Angel & Faith" has grown to remind me of the "Angel" TV show in some ways as it deals with the demon underground of London and other kinds of street-level stuff. Did you want to add a bit of that flavor into the proceedings since this was the first time you were doing an ongoing that wasn't a direct continuation of a show with the whole cast and everything?
Christos Gage: Speaking for myself, I think Joss had mentioned having a noir-ish feel to the book, which is where I think what you're talking about comes from. I've always liked that sort of feel. The book that Scott read that made him feel like I'd be a good fit for this was "Area 10" – a Vertigo graphic novel I did with Chris Samnee. That had elements to it similar to this.
Scott Allie: The "Angel" TV show evolved in a different way than "Buffy" did. "Buffy evolved in a straight line where as I think "Angel" jumped around a bit more and was a different show every year in a different way of "Buffy." I think it was all about finding a noir-type world with Angel and building that world around him. So the idea here would that this would be another iteration of that. You take the same character, you put him in London, and you give him a new supporting cast. There was definitely an attempt for this to be a sensible evolution out of the TV show while still contrasting what's going on in the "Buffy Season 9" series. Looking at this in a kind of post-modern way, putting him back in that detective role felt right.
When Joss and I were scripting the last few issues of "Season 8," we were talking a lot about how we would launch "Season 9," and he had a particular way he wanted the Angel book to work. But he didn't know exactly how he wanted to execute it. He said, "We've got to find somebody who can some up with the right approach." And after reading "Area 10," I though Chris was the right guy.
Chris, once you got started how did the fact that the book has two main characters impact how you approached this?
Gage: Well, everyone felt from the start that we didn't want this to be "Angel and Faith as Batman and Robin." We didn't want Faith to be the sidekick always reacting to Angel. We wanted her to be a co-lead as it were. That's something we talked about in terms of her continuing her work with the Slayers. That works particularly well since Buffy has had a falling out with the remaining Slayers, and they tend to resent her for destroying the Seed and making it so no new Slayers would be called. I talked a lot about how Faith was the one character in the Buffyverse who has grown the most since her first appearance. Xander has grown a lot, but to me, Faith started further back with more baggage and problems. Now we're at a time when in one of these issues, a girl looks at Faith and says, "What do we do? You're supposed to be the grown-up." [Laughs] It's like, "Are you kidding me?" But she really is in a lot of ways.
In many ways she's grown up in this relationship with Angel. She's the one saying, "We need to be careful with how we think about bringing Giles back from the dead." That was something that was almost impossible when there was magic in this world, and he's just rushing in headlong. So it wasn't a challenge for me to make Faith a strong character. She already was a strong character. The biggest challenge for me was in keeping Angel a bit of an unreliable narrator, as it were. I want fans to root for him, but I want them to be as uncomfortable with his plan to resurrect Giles as some of the others are. But I still don't want to make him unlikable or someone you root against. That's been a real tightrope walk. No one seems to hate him so far.
Allie: It depends on what message board you look on.
Gage: Well, they hate you for what you did, Scott.
Allie: [Laughs] I wrote that issue! One of the things that Joss weighed in on is what Chris is talking about. He was worried that we might make Angel irredeemable again. And I think one of the things that works about the setup of this series is that right from issue #1, we set up the premise that Angel's goal is to bring Giles back. With that as such a big scheme and a crazy idea, it did set up a dynamic where it felt like Faith would just be reacting to his terrible idea. That was one of the things that got a lot of early conversation early on so Chris would give Faith a strong enough reason to exist all her own.
Issue #6 started a brand new arc, so what's most important for each of them in this story? We know we're going to meet Faith's father, but we also get a lot about Giles' father and the Council of Watchers. How does that all come together?
Gage: I know for me, I always said from the start that I want Giles to be the third most important character in this book, even though he's dead. We know he kept Watcher diaries, and now they're using those diaries to find menaces that need to be dealt with – and Angel's using it to find a way to bring him back. But one of the ways I'm really enjoying the book as a device is that it allows us to look into Giles' past. One thing I'd love about the show as when they'd flash to Angel's past. They never did that with Giles!
So with this particular arc, it's called "Daddy Issues" because you've got Faith's father coming into the picture. You've got Drusilla coming in with Angel who was her sire. And then you've got the flashback to Giles' relationship with his father, and it's the first time that character's been shown. I have to admit, at first I had him as much of a colder character like Wesley's dad, but Joss stepped in after reading the outline and said, "I don't want him to be like Wesley's father. We've had a lot of cold fathers in the Buffyverse. Can we find a different way to play him?" And then I thought of him being from that World War II generation. He's very loving, but at the same time, he's got that attitude of "Keep Calm And Carry On." Duty comes first for him. He loves his son, but there's a duty that has to be fulfilled and a legacy to be fulfilled. So he says, "This is our birthright, son" and in a very Baby Boomer sort of way, we get this scene in #6 where Giles says, "I reject you and everything you stand for." To me, that's a lot more poignant if the father is a sympathetic character rather than a dick.
Allie: We knew that Giles rebelled. The premise of his whole character was that he had a rebellion. But to have a have a better father to rebel against shows a lot more about Giles than if he was just mad at his father for being a jerk.
Gage: And Giles' father will be seen again in issue #10 where we'll spend even more time with him.
At the end of the issue, we get a hint that there's more of Giles' story to follow from this event. Will that be something we'll see in issue #10?
Gage: Actually in issue #10 you get little boy Giles. I think he's about ten years old in that one. We're not going to do a linear thing. What was interesting about this issue was that people went, "Oh, is this where we see Giles become Ripper?" No. It wasn't a sudden, abrupt thing. I don't think I'm letting the cat out of the bag when I say that we do want to show Giles as Ripper. How could you not when you're doing flashbacks? But that was the beginning of his journey. We know from the show that he did go to Oxford and then dropped out. So in our first issue of the series, we saw Giles at the age he was right before he died. Now we've seen him as a teenager, and next is him as a little boy. We'll also see him as an early 20s punk magic dude and beyond, so hopefully you'll get a complete picture of Giles before he came into "Buffy." But it's not a biography. It's more that we'll see pieces of it that relate to the present day story we're telling.
The Lorophage demon is that thread that connects past and present here, and he's a creepy looking dude. What's his significance for the story with Dru moving forward?
Gage: There are some plot-related reasons for him, but what I wanted to do was explore past traumas. One of the great things that Joss did and does in his storytelling is that he finds threats that are somehow related to the journey the characters are going through. So for example, if Buffy is feeling like people are ignoring her, she'll get cursed and start to disappear. It's always something like that. So I wanted to create a character like that – a demon who feeds off trauma and brings it to the 'fore. As far as the visual, this is where Rebekah Isaacs is our secret weapon. I've gotten to the point where I don't need to say anything to her to design these. I think for this one I just said, "Needle fingers and a proboscis. Go nuts." And she went and designed this creepy ass character. It's something that send shivers up your spine. I'm writing an arc right now with a lot of demons in it, and I've been saying, "Do whatever you do." The name here is because the suffix "phage" is Greek for "to eat" and "Loro" stands for pain. So it's a pain-eating demon.
We also get a flashback here to a very specific moment in Faith's past on the show. How do you decide where and when to do these callouts, and how do you make them worthwhile for all the readers?
Allie: This is all Chris. Everybody on a project like this knows that a good way to reconnect with the readers is to remind them where it all came from. Everyone is motivated to keep rewatching and keeping those shows alive. Rebekah is like a diehard Joss fan, and so I know for her it's fun whenever Chris calls something out.
Gage: I watched 12 years of "Angel" and "Buffy" within the space of a year, and I'm a continuity nerd. So whenever an opportunity comes up to do this stuff, I see no reason not to put it in. But for the new reader – and this is something I picked up working with Tom Brevoort at Marvel – you've got to make sure to remember that every issue could be somebody's first. We do a little flashback panel here that makes the people who love the show go, "Cool! I remember that." But new readers will go, "I get it. She killed somebody thinking they were a vampire when they weren't." And that gives Rebekah a chance to draw Buffy too. It's a win-win all around, so you'll see more of it in issue #7 with the moment where Angelus first lays eyes on Drusilla when she was a normal person.
Gage: For me, the point was "Let's not just bring Drusilla back to bring her back." One of the things we've been exploring with Angel is not a madness per se, but when he becomes Angelus it's the dark side coming out and a loss of control. With Faith, she's got that temper that overtakes her. The fun part is messing with that. Now Angel is the one where people are saying, "Is this guy crazy?" and Drusilla is the sane one. She's got these followers, and she's not siring or killing people. She's following Harmony's rules. So it's a matter of "Let's take this familiar character and view them in a new light to see what that reveals about all our characters." And again, I try to follow Joss' example there. He did that a lot in the shows.
What does Drusilla represent for both Angel and Faith in their place in the book right now?
Gage: For him, she represents a sin already committed – taking this girl who in many ways was the opposite of what he was as a human being since she was a good and devout person, and then destroying that. She represents that sin, so it's always difficult for him to deal with her. And what he's trying to do in resurrecting Giles is another way of him making up for his past. So him dealing with past sins will continue to be an issue for him.
With Faith, I'm trying to think of what I can say since we're waiting for her father to come back. Since I'm wary of spoilers, I'll just say that the past coming back to haunt them is going to be a major issue for everyone.