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Christos Gage - "Angel & Faith" Comic Book - Examiner.com Interview
mercredi 13 juin 2012, par Webmaster
This Thursday, Things From Another World’s new Portland location will welcome writer Christos Gage as he signs copies of Vol 1 : Live Through This, the first trade paperback collection of his Dark Horse comic series Angel & Faith. The title, which spins off the popular Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic, follows the adventures of the titular vampire and rogue vampire slayer in London. Drawn primarily by Rebekah Issacs (DV8 : Gods and Monsters, Magus), Angel & Faith will run for twenty-five issues.
Gage has written for the screen as well as comics, penning scripts for comic book film Paradox and TV series Law & Order : SVU among others. In addition to Angel & Faith, he is also the current writer on Avengers Academy and X-Men Legacy.
The writer took time to answer some questions about his supernatural series, the Marvel front line, and his writing process.
What attracted you to the Angel & Faith job in the first place, and how did it come about ? Were you already acquainted with Joss Whedon from your work on Astonishing X-Men ?
Astonishing X-Men was really the only thing I knew Joss from, as I hadn’t seen his shows before ! I’d met him once, when I randomly sat across from him on a train back to L.A. from the San Diego Comic-Con in 2007 or so, and we talked comics the whole time – I thought his run on Astonishing was amazing, and it turned out we grew up loving a lot of the same stuff. When [Dark Horse editor] Scott Allie approached me at the first C2E2 show to ask if I’d be interesting in writing an Angel book (Faith wasn’t yet firmly set as co-star, that was Joss’ idea) I was intrigued because I knew his influences were similar to mine, which led me to believe I’d really enjoy the Buffyverse. So I saw it as, worst case scenario, a chance to buy some cool DVD box sets and write them off on my taxes. Now, of course, having watched them all, I totally see why these characters and stories mean so much to people – they’re wonderful, the best kind of modern mythology…characters you feel are as real as your best friends. I’ve consciously held off watching Firefly or Dollhouse because I know when I do I’ll want to write them too, and right now I don’t have time.
What kind of research did you do for Angel & Faith when you took the job - were you a fan already ? Did you receive any notes from Whedon before starting ?
I was not a fan, actually. I had never seen an episode of Buffy or Angel. I watched all the shows and read all the comics over the course of about nine months or so. During that time, we did a lot of development work and Joss was very involved…we had a Buffyverse writer summit at his house at the beginning of 2011 with Jane Espenson, Drew Greenberg, Andrew Chambliss, Zack Whedon, and Scott and Sierra from Dark Horse. There were also several Angel & Faith-specific conference calls at various times. Joss knew that once he started shooting Avengers in earnest, it would be a lot tougher for him to keep a day-to-day handle on the comics, so he wanted to make sure everything was right before we dove in. He’s still involved (unless Scott’s perpetuating a huge scam on me), but thanks to the early work we did, we haven’t had to keep bugging him with “How about this ?” emails right at the exact time he was shooting an alien invasion of New York or attending the Moscow premiere or whatever.
One of the coolest things for me was that Joss shared with us some of the ideas and characters he would have used in the Ripper TV series he was developing with the BBC, and encouraged us to use them if it worked. The characters of Giles’ eternally-young great-aunts, Lavinia and Sophronia Fairweather, just debuted in Angel & Faith #10 and they are among the most fun for me to write. If I recall correctly, they would have been played by Anthony Stewart Head’s real life daughters in the show.
What are your favorite qualities of the characters Angel and Faith ?
I’m a sucker for damaged characters seeking redemption, especially when that goal is pretty close to impossible. I mean, what could Angel ever do that would make up for a century of mass murder ? But he keeps trying anyway. I dig that. Faith has less of a hill to climb, but can she ever really make up for killing that innocent old professor in the Buffy show ? And even if she could, she keeps shooting herself in the foot. These are my favorite kinds of characters to write. I think they fit together perfectly.
Angel & Faith is scheduled for 25 issues. How does having a finite run change the way you structure your story ?
It’s structured somewhat like a season of a TV show. You know you have a larger arc for the season, and it helps to know where you’re going. But you also want each piece of the story – each issue, or story arc – to stand on its own, as each episode of a TV show should. The shows themselves are excellent examples of how to do this…a Buffy episode about the ghosts of doomed lovers haunting Sunnydale High tells that story completely within the hour, while at the same time tying into and furthering the larger tale of Buffy and Angel’s own doomed romance. Joss is a master at it.
Do you think that Angel & Faith is a title that readers can pick up without needing to have read the eight previous Buffy seasons ?
I hope so. Ideally in each issue, and certainly in each collected volume, there should be enough basic information conveyed for people to understand the story. Being only a recent convert myself, I try to be sensitive to people who might be intimidated at the thought of having to commit to twelve seasons of television and a couple seasons of comics before cracking open this month’s issue. The idea is that after reading it they’ll WANT to go back and check out all that stuff, but we don’t want to be impenetrable.
How does your experience as a screenwriter affect the way you write comic scripts ?
It probably predisposed me to being spare, to understanding the importance of economy in storytelling, and the old “show don’t tell” maxim. I hear that for novelists it can be more of a difficult transition. I know when I first started I had to keep reminding myself to take advantage of the freedom of comics…it’s not any more difficult, logistically speaking, for two people to discuss their love life in a spaceship than in their living room. I mean, you don’t do crazy things just to do it, but if it gets you a more visually gripping scene, why not set that birthday party in the Andromeda Galaxy ?
Following on that, how much detail do you provide to your artists ?
Just what they need, I hope. In film school screenwriters were taught not to try to direct the movie for the director, and I carry that over to the artist. I describe what’s important for the artist to put in each panel, and leave exactly how they do it to them. They’re the experts on making things look visually awesome, why not let them do what they do best ? I know there are writers, like Alan Moore, who will literally describe everything in the panel and how it’s composed. And Joss himself, being a director, in his comic scripts will sometimes call shots – two-shot, medium close up, etc. I’m not Alan Moore or Joss Whedon. I’m gonna let the people with the talent do the heavy lifting. With Rebekah, I probably give her even less detail than usual because we work so well together (at least from my perspective, it may be miserable for her !) and I trust her so much I get very spare indeed. I know that in most cases she will just read the dialogue and compose the perfect scene for what’s being said. Plus her creature designs are amazing.
This is your first series with Dark Horse - how has it been working with the Portland-based publisher ?
It’s been great. I give Scott a hard time because I had approached him at Comic-Con a couple times in the past and he kind of blew me off…not surprisingly, given how busy everyone is at Comic-Con, and the fact that Scott doesn’t follow many superhero comics so he didn’t really know my work. He finally was exposed to it when he read my original graphic novel Area 10 from Vertigo, which was more of a crime/horror thing. Now whenever he wants to talk about doing something else I’m all, “Oh, NOW you’ll talk to me ?”
In issue 10 you reunited with the artist of Area 10, Chris Samnee (also from Portland) - was it easy to get back into the same rhythm with him ?
Yeah, it was wonderful. We just kind of picked up where we left off. He’s another one where you give him some basic guidance and let him go to town, because he’s so brilliant. We had so much fun with issue #10. It was quite different tonally than Area 10, despite the horror/noir trappings, but I knew he’d knock it out of the park, and he did.
You’re currently writing both Avengers Academy and X-Men Legacy, and have previously written for various Avengers and X-Men titles. Do you feel like a man without a country, writing on both sides of the Avengers vs. X-Men conflict ? Do you have an affinity for either side ?
It’s not as tough as people think. As a writer you have to be able to get into your characters’ heads, and that includes the villains. So you have to be able to put yourself in Dr. Doom’s shoes, for example, and see that the reason he wants to conquer the world is because things really would be better for everyone if he was in charge ! A more nuanced situation like Avengers vs. X-Men, where it’s essentially a question of two different belief systems (as to how dangerous the Phoenix is) coming into play - that’s easy. I can see both sides equally.
How do you merge such a universe-spanning event like Avengers vs. X-Men into your existing titles - are there guidelines, a timeline to match up to the main title ?
Generally you know these things are coming for a while, so it’s easy to plan for it. And if you don’t want to tie in you don’t have to – for example, X-Factor isn’t, I don’t think. But the way things are planned out nowadays, with summits and email chains and just the fact that you see other creators at shows and talk – you have a pretty good idea what’s coming, so it’s a matter of putting in the work so the event furthers what you’re doing in your book rather than derailing it, which is a problem I think we saw a lot in the nineties, when books would tie into events they weren’t suited to just for the hope of a sales boost. I mean, from my perspective. I wasn’t there. It may just have been harder to coordinate in the days before email, now that I think about it.
What do you have on the horizon in your many arenas ? IMDB notes that you’re attached to Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama - can you comment on that ?
Rama was one of the first things my wife (and frequent screenwriting partner) Ruth and I wrote, for Morgan Freeman’s company. It was a while ago, and I’m honestly not sure of the current status of the project. Even then, I know the intention was for it to be an all-CGI environment, except for the actors. And even with how far the technology’s come, I’m guessing that’s a pretty complicated thing to do. I hope it happens some day…it could be really cool !
As for what I’m working on now, there’s the First X-Men miniseries for Marvel where I got to team with one of my heroes, the legendary Neal Adams. There’s a top secret video game. My original graphic novel for Top Cow, Sunset, comes out this summer. Ruth and I are collaborating on an OGN for Oni Press that’s a historical epic, The Lion of Rora. And a second season of my project for Avatar Press, Absolution, should be out in 2013. Then, of course, there are the usual irons in the fire in Hollywood, but these things are better not discussed until they’re closer to reality.
Gage will be at the event at the Portland Things From Another World from 7-10 p.m., with free food and beer (21 and over) provided. Copies of Angel & Faith Vol 1 : Live Through This will be available at the event, one week before its official release date.
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