Shockwaves rocked the Buffy universe in August 2010 when it was announced that Angel, then at IDW Publishing, would return to Dark Horse Comics, home of Joss Whedon’s other properties, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Serenity, and Dollhouse. Some fans of IDW’s interpretation were wary, especially when they discovered that Angel would be paired with Slayer Faith Lehane instead of original show characters like Gunn, Illyria, and Connor–and after the events of Buffy Season 8, everyone was wondering how Angel could possibly come back from killing fan-favorite Giles.
Fortunately, the creative team of writer Christos Gage (Avengers Academy) and artist Rebekah Isaacs (DV8) knocked it out of the park when Angel & Faith debuted in August 2011. Focusing on the close-yet-sometimes prickly relationship between Angel and Faith, relocating them to England, and giving Angel a shocking goal (bringing Giles back to life), Angel & Faith has been an action-packed exploration of two fascinating characters grappling with redemption, responsibility, and hope.
We caught up with Gage and Isaacs as part of Dark Horse Month. Check out our interview, below, and enjoy an exclusive three-page preview of Angel & Faith #4!
TFAW.com: We interviewed you both shortly after you were announced as the writer and artist for Angel & Faith. How do you feel after getting several issues under your belts?
Christos Gage: I feel better about each issue than the last. The downside is I feel like I didn’t do a very good job on the first few. I think I hit more of a comfort zone with #5. I think Rebekah started great and has only gotten better, and Dan (our colorist) has been aces from the word go. I’m really happy people seem to like it.
Rebekah Isaacs: Much less anxious about my two greatest worries at the time: likenesses and whether I’d be accepted by fans. Everyone I’ve met or heard from has been so welcoming and enthusiastic! I love meeting Buffy/Angel fans at cons now and hearing their viewpoints on the storyline.
TFAW.com: What’s surprised you the most about taking on Angel & Faith?
RI: How many hardcore Faith fans there are out there! It’s great that we got to do this series because she’s a character that hasn’t really gotten her due until now. I love that we’ve been able to make those fans that have been waiting for a starring role for Faith since “No Future For You” happy.
CG: Honestly? That there haven’t been more people angry at me. I got a lot of warnings–mostly from the Whedonites themselves–that they are a passionate bunch. It was actually really sweet; it’s like they were saying, “Listen, I may be cursing you out later but please don’t take it personally.” But so far everyone’s seemed pretty pleased with the book and they’re being very kind to me.
TFAW.com: Christos, as you know, Angel has a lot of very dedicated, very vocal fans–many of whom weren’t happy about the prospect of an Angel comic without Gunn, Illyria, and the other regulars from the TV show and IDW comics. Do you think you’ve won them over?
CG: I don’t know, I hope so. As I’ve said before, Joss called dibs on Illyria pretty quick in the story summit; he has plans for her. And you will see various supporting characters pop up from time to time–Harmony, Clem, Drusilla, Connor. But this was always going to be a very Angel and Faith-focused book. I think the readers understand that, given where they are right now, their journey does not call for a big ensemble cast. And that Season 10 may well be a whole different thing.
TFAW.com: One thing that strikes me about your writing is how spot-on Angel and Faith’s voices are–they’re recognizable right off the bat without being overly hammy or catchphrase-y. How do you achieve that?
CG: Thanks! I just watch the shows. When you absorb 12 years of TV in a year or so, it leaves an impression, especially when the voices are as distinctive as Joss’ characters tend to be. I also have to give credit to editorial; they’ve had a lot of experience with these characters, and Scott will always tell me when Faith gets a little too talky, for instance, which is a risk when you take someone who’s mostly been a supporting character and make them a lead.
I’m flattered that people think I’m doing a good job and wish I could better articulate how I approach it; I guess it’s just something I’m used to. My wife and I have written TV before, and in TV, unless you create the show, your job is to identify and be true to voices someone else established. That’s all I’m doing here; it’s no different than doing it for Law & Order: SVU, for example. You pay close attention to what’s been done and try to do be true to it. I guess it’s a lot like, say, if your best friend said something that didn’t sound like them, you’d know it. If I write a line that doesn’t sound like Angel, it’s usually pretty glaring.
TFAW.com: I’m really loving the relationship between Angel and Faith right now. How do you feel about them as a duo?
CG: I think they’re great. These are two people who have been through a lot, and helped each other through a lot. They’re flawed, they’ve hurt people, they’ve hurt themselves . . . they’ve hit rock bottom, and they’ve worked hard to come back. And their roles in the relationship have almost come full circle–with Faith now the strong one–which I think is very cool.
TFAW.com: I’m sure many, many readers are wondering: are they going to become a romantic duo? Do you see that in their future?
CG: I’m gonna resort to the ever popular “keep reading!” But I do want to say that I really dig the fact that these are two attractive young heterosexual people of the opposite sex and yet their relationship is very deep, meaningful and complex while not having anything to do with sex and/or romance. Not to say that it couldn’t at some point, but even if it went there, that wouldn’t be the sum total of the relationship. Which I think shows how strong they are as characters . . . it’s not about “will they or won’t they.” There’s so much more to them.
TFAW.com: Faith’s in a really interesting place right now–in many ways, she has a lot of the things Buffy used to have: the support of Giles (in the form of most of his worldly possessions), a mentor relationship with the other Slayers, and a close relationship with Angel. Do you think Faith sees it that way?
CG: I think Faith sees it much less that way than other people might. She’s just now coming to grips with the idea of being the responsible one. But ultimately she’s not Buffy, and things are not going to unfold for Faith the way they would for her; Faith will make different choices, for good or ill.
TFAW.com: She’s also balancing a lot of lies and secrets–with the best of intentions, of course. Is this part of her growing up? Is it a mistake?
CG: Faith has always been someone who wouldn’t hesitate to play a little fast and loose with the truth. She’s a lot better than she used to be–as you mention, she wouldn’t lie to hurt people any more, or purely out of self-interest; it’s to help or protect others. But all lies create the potential for complications, and some may well be coming.
TFAW.com: Can Nadira and the other Slayers ever forgive Angel? What could he do to redeem himself in their eyes?
CG: That’s a good question. A very good question. Stay tuned.
TFAW.com: What about in his own eyes? Does Angel consider himself beyond redemption? What’s your opinion?
CG: I think Angel said at one point in his show that nothing he ever does can make up for what he did as Angelus . . . some acts are so horrible you can’t atone for them. So clearly, in that sense, Angel feels he is beyond redemption; I think he accepted that and planned to spend the rest of his existence doing good as a way to not erase, but maybe counterbalance the evil he had done. What’s different now is that he is trying to atone for things he did as Angel. He didn’t choose to be made a vampire; he did choose to be Twilight, even if he wasn’t always in total control of himself.
That’s why he’s so obsessive about bringing Giles back . . . it’s a microcosm of the wrong he’s done as Angel. For me, I think he is redeemable. Nothing will ever erase his wrongs, but if he dedicates himself to doing the right thing long enough, I think the scales can be balanced . . . they probably already have been. I think he’s a good man. But good luck convincing Angel of that.
TFAW.com: The huge game changer in the Buffy universe has been the destruction of magic, which keeps resulting in unexpected repercussions over and over again. How on earth can Angel think that NOW’S the right time to bring Giles back–something that was considered impossible before the Seed was destroyed?
CG: Well, Giles wasn’t dead before the Seed was destroyed. Angel just can’t live with the fact that he killed Giles . . . this man who meant everything to the woman he loves, this man who forgave him even after Angelus killed Jenny Calendar, who Giles loved. It doesn’t matter what’s going on in the world, Angel is going to try to bring him back, come hell or high water . . . or both. Is he thinking calmly and rationally? No. Does he have any reason at all to think he can actually do it? Yes . . . and wait until you see what that is.
TFAW.com: Rebekah, I’m loving your art more and more with each issue! How are you enjoying the job?
RI: It’s been amazing. Every issue new designs and set pieces to sink my teeth into–my favorites have been the demon fight club, Kurth, and Alastair’s house. I was so excited to find out I’d be drawing Drusilla, and I love Victorian clothing, so it was really fun to design a dress for her first scene. (Although Steve painted her in such a lovely gown for #7 that I had to copy it for her second change of clothes in that issue.) There’s always something surprising and challenging to keep me on my toes artistically in every issue.
TFAW.com: What’s the most difficult aspect of drawing Angel & Faith?
RI: I never thought I’d say this back in April, but the likenesses are no longer the biggest challenge. Lately it’s been making the environments rich and detailed enough to feel realistic, especially with the London street scenes. I found out there’s a huge Buffy fanbase in the UK and I wanna make ’em proud! When I visited London a few months ago I took tons of photo reference all around the city and I’ve been using it religiously. It’s time-consuming, but so worth it. Even if readers have never been to London, having unique details in backgrounds makes the whole experience feel more genuine.
TFAW.com: How often do you use references for likenesses now?
RI: I’ll sometimes pull up reference for covers, but for interiors I try to avoid it entirely now. I find it screws with my head after drawing the faces from memory for so long; I focus too much on the details and not enough on the big picture. I’m certainly still conscious of the eternal need for improvement, though. When I watch an episode, pass by our DVD shelves, or see a screencap online I take a second and examine it really closely and try to take away one feature that I can draw a little different to make it more accurate next time. It’s definitely easier for me now, but it’s ultimately up to the readers whether I’m getting it right!
TFAW.com: Any other characters/actors from the television show that you’re–ahem–practicing drawing right now?
RI: I’ve drawn about a dozen pages of Dru now, and I’m getting geared up to draw another major player from Angel’s life soon!
TFAW.com: The new “big bads,” Nash and Pearl, are gorgeous–and terrifying! How did you come up with the design for them?
RI: I was only told their powers and that they should look otherworldly or alien-like. I’m a huge Bowie fan and I immediately thought of the Thin White Duke era and his look in The Man Who Fell to Earth. For Pearl I used Lady Gaga and Karen O. from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs as a starting point. I have a weakness for clothes that I could never pull off myself, so I love designing outfits for these spoiled psychopaths who’ve styled themselves as demon royalty.
TFAW.com: There are a lot of fight scenes for you to draw in Angel & Faith. I really enjoy the sense of motion I get from your pages–how do you create that?
RI: Good karma and lots of desperate prayers before drawing them, I guess! I like to cheat a little by giving everyone hair and clothes that move with them. If only I could give Angel his old Angelus hair back . . .
TFAW.com: What’s been more difficult: drawing a comic set in another country, or drawing the demons?
RI: Definitely drawing a foreign country. When you live in a city, I think you get a sixth sense for how it feels; even if a scene is 90% right, there might be some essence that’s missing that only a native would pick up on. It’s like how a New Yorker can always tell when a movie’s set in NYC but shot in Toronto. Because I’ve never lived in London, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to convey that mood perfectly, but it’s been fun to try! Getting reference firsthand has been invaluable, though. I’d be totally lost if it was still just me and Google Images.
TFAW.com: What’s your process like for creating covers?
RI: I’ll email the editorial team and Chris, and they’ll suggest one or two concepts they’d like to see that tie into the issue. Sometimes it’s deliberately vague if the issue is still being revised, or we don’t want to reveal spoilers, but lately I’ve been drawing specific scenes. I’ll do three to five tiny sketches from those concepts, and they’ll vote on which one they like best. I get pencils revised before moving to inks because I’ll often think of new elements to add after the sketch stage.
TFAW.com: How have you liked working with Dark Horse?
RI: They’ve been so incredible. I think the only person who knows this universe better than these guys is Joss himself!
Our thanks to Christos and Rebekah for giving us some extra insight into Angel & Faith! You can find all of their Angel & Faith comics right here at TFAW and save 10-20%.
Are you a fan of Angel & Faith? What do you think about Angel trying to bring back Giles? Post your comments below.