September 13th, 2011 | by RUTH BROWN Arts & Books | Posted In: Comics

Still Slaying After All These Years

10 minutes with Buffy comics editor Scott Allie

buffyImage courtesy Dark Horse comics
Cult sci-fi television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer may have ended its seven-season run in 2007, but the Buffyverse lives on—in Milwaukie, OR.

Milwuakie-based Dark Horse comics has been continuing the story of ass-kicking Buffy Summers and her gang of variously magical, demonic and undead misfit friends in two-dimensional form, under the guidance of series creator Joss Whedon (also responsible for Buffy spin-off Angel, space Western Firefly and Dollhouse), since the show’s end.

The ninth “season” of
Buffy debuts tomorrow, and Portland-based co-editor Scott Allie, along with artist Georges Jeanty, will be out signing copies and answering questions to celebrate.

WW caught up with Allie over the phone to talk über fans, vampires and serial killers.

WARNING: There are some spoilers towards the end and Allie seemed pretty sure his life would be in serious danger if hardcore fans weren’t forewarned. Shield your eyes!

WW: For those not playing along at home, what’s been happening in the Buffy world since the show ended?
Scott Allie: In a nutshell, at the end of the show, Buffy was left with a huge group of potential slayers. She turned them into an army, and she found herself at odds with certain parts of the US military, demons all over the world and she found herself in the middle of a big war. It turned out that Angel [her on-again-off-again boyfriend and on-again-off-again evil vampire] was the figurehead that was running this big mission against her…. He got carried away while sort of possessed by this entity, he killed [Buffy's former mentor and high school librarian] Giles, forcing Buffy to end all magic in the world. So the world is cut off from all the magical realms, and anyone who draws power from the magical realms has lost the ability to do so, including her best friend, Willow. So that’s where we pick up season nine.

I can’t believe you guys killed Giles. Did you cop a lot of flack for that?
Nothing but! Actually no, the fans weren’t too bad about that. It wasn’t so much flack as genuine grieving we got from the fans. The big Whedon fan website [Whedonesque], the day that that comic came out, they closed the website, and just put up one screen that said: “Mourning a loss in the family”. The fans responded the way you’d want them to when that happened.

Does that put a lot of pressure on you, knowing how emotionally invested readers are in these characters?
More so than anything else I’ve ever worked on. I work on Hellboy, I work on some Star Wars stuff, I work on a lot of different things that have deep fan bases, but the emotional investment from the Buffy fans, that is unique.

Is that something that goes through the writers’ heads, even the artists’ heads, as you’re putting the comics together?
It’s funny, we actually kept Giles’ death a secret from our artists for a while, because we knew he was going to lose his mind, and he kind of did…. One of the artists, Georges [Jeanty], wasn’t a Buffy or a Whedon fan before I reached out to him, and he’s really immersed himself in that fan base, and he’s really emotionally connected to the material now. Both he and I, when we first started working on the projects, we didn’t have that fandom element. But we’ve both kind of grown into it.

What attracted you to it in the first place then?
Well the thing that made me want to work on it in the first place was simply the word “vampire.” I just love horror comics and wanted a chance to do more. Then I started working on it, and it was the writing, it was always the writing. The way the characters grow and change and the emotional connection between the characters.

One of my favorite little quips that Joss throws out about his own writing is he loves to cause his kids pain. And the pain that he causes his characters just keeps the story at such a dramatic high pitch that you don’t always see in genre fiction—especially long-form serialized genre fiction, where you have to keep the characters viable year in and year out. The way that people normally do that is to not change them at all. And Joss causes them pain, which causes them to change, which changes the status quo and keeps the stuff more interesting than a lot of other genre fiction, I think. And that’s what’s gotten me as hooked into it as I am and invested as I am: the pain and changes the characters go through.

Image courtesy Dark Horse comics

 

So Whedon is still involved in the making of all the comics?
Yeah. He’s really slammed with the making of this Avengers movie, but we had a writers retreat at his house in February, I think, where all the writers that were definitely and potentially going to be involved in season nine got together at his house, including us editors, and we spent a day at the house breaking down all the ideas we knew we wanted to do, and extending that over a couple of years, defining the degrees to which Buffy and the Angel titles would be intertwined, and just brainstorming ideas. So as we’ve gone forward, the writers have been writing outlines and kicking them past Joss, and Joss has been giving notes on scripts. He’s mostly involved on scripts, and to a lesser degree, covers, but the scripts he’s pretty hands on with still.

Does doing this story in comic form allow more creativity than television—not having to worry about special effects budgets and stunts?
Yes, absolutely, but there’s a good side and a bad side to that, and I think season eight explored both sides. We made the story so big and broad and big budget and cast of thousands, that we got away from a lot of the personal stuff. We did exactly what you’re suggesting, and it took us too far away from what the story is about. So with season nine, we’re scaling it back, we’re still going to have a lot of stuff that would be difficult to pull off on a TV show, but the focus is going to be smaller.

What other TV shows would you like to turn into a comic?
Dexter. I love that show, and actually Showtime approached us about doing a comic at one point, and I was like, “Eh, serial killer, it’s kind of played out I don’t really like that idea.” But I hadn’t seen the show. So they sent me the DVDs, I watched it, I loved it from the opening scene. There was a visual style to the show from the get-go that relied on color really heavily, in a kind of expressionistic way that’s easier to do in comics than it is on TV. On TV, everyone just expects things to be the color that they are, and Dexter played around with color a lot and it’s nice in comics. The voiceover narration is a little bit weird on a TV show; they did it beautifully, but it’s a really natural thing in comics, so the narration would be a great translation. And I just thought so much about that character would translate into a great comic anti-hero. I was very eager to jump at the offer, but it turned out the rights were very complicated and so we couldn’t pull it together.

Finally—and I know you guys are careful about handing out spoilers—but what can readers expect from this upcoming season of Buffy?
Well there was a zinger at the end of [comic] Angel #1, where—and this is a spoiler for anyone who hasn’t read the comic yet, but it’s been out two weeks—at the end of Angel #1, Angel announces that he’s going to try to bring Giles back. In Buffy #1, that comes out; there is also a zinger right at the end, it’s not quite as substantial, but it also jumps out at you. The two stories are going to take really different roles. Buffy is trying to learn how to be an adult, and figure out her place in the world as an adult, and how that conflicts with being a slayer.

GO: Scott Allie and Georges Jeanty will be signing and holding a Q&A at Things From Another World, along with free food, free beer and free “Buffy swag bags” with each purchase of Buffy 9#1 ($2.99). 4133 NE Sandy Blvd., 284-4693. 7 pm. Free. All ages.  

 
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