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Angel & FaithChristos Gage & Rebekah Isaacs - "Angel & Faith" Comic Book - Scifibulletin.com Interview
Monday 5 December 2011, by Webmaster
In August this year writer Christos Gage and artist Rebekah Isaacs joined forces to bring readers the new Angel & Faith series from Dark Horse Comics. Following on from the events of Buffy Season 8 and running alongside Buffy Season 9, the new series sees Angel and Faith living together in London as they struggle with the death of Giles and the loss of all magic in the world.
Interview: Bernice Watson
Sci-Fi Bulletin: Angel and Faith are both characters who carry a certain emotional burden and are both looking to atone for past misdeeds. How does that affect the dynamic between them as partners? Why do you think they work so well as a team?
Christos Gage: I think they work for that very reason. They’ve each walked a mile in each other’s shoes. When Faith hit bottom, Angel was there to help her – he wouldn’t give up on her. Now the roles are reversed.
Rebekah Isaacs: They’re characters who I think would be friends even if they could hang it up in the fight of good vs. evil and just sit around and chill. They’re both dark-humoured, prone to brooding (Angel more often, of course), have trouble feeling accepted and comfortable in the world outside, and at this juncture in their lives, both have an extreme drive to make their previous wrongs right. Of course, that drive could be what gets them both in trouble in different ways, eventually…
Christos, when writing Angel and Faith, how do you balance keeping the characters recognisable from the television series while also allowing them to grow and develop?
CG: It’s hard to explain, it’s more an instinctual thing that comes from getting to know them after watching all the shows. And of course it doesn’t hurt that my editors have years of experience with these characters, so I feel confident they’ll tell me if I stray too far. And, of course, there’s Joss, who knows a thing or two about them and isn’t about to let me ruin his kids!
A lot of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans actually prefer Faith because she’s, in some ways, a more complex character than Buffy. Were you a Faith fan before you started working on Angel & Faith? What do you enjoy most about writing/drawing Faith?
CG: Well, as I’ve said before, until I was offered the job I hadn’t seen any of the shows! But after watching them all, I did indeed become a Faith fan. I think she has an incredible character arc; she’s probably grown more than any other character in the Buffy-verse. The episode in which she takes over Buffy’s body and sees what it’s like to have real friends, people who really love you, and ends up being compelled to save innocent people simply because it’s the right thing to do, is an amazing moment for her. I can certainly relate to someone who’s made mistakes in life and is trying to do better. I think that’s why people like Faith; it’s why I like writing her.
RI: I have to admit she’s grown on me a lot since I started working on the series. I certainly didn’t dislike her, but before I got the job I hadn’t gotten very far into Buffy, and Faith didn’t have quite as much dimension to her character as she does later in that show and in Angel. She was still very much leaning more towards villain than heroine at that point.
After finishing the shows and reading Brian K. Vaughan’s arc of Season 8, which I loved, I had a new appreciation for Faith. And the new things that are revealed about Faith’s past in Season 9 make her even more compelling. The new puzzle pieces are forming a seamless big picture of who Faith is for me, and I think long-time fans of the character will be really fulfilled as well.
Faith is very true to herself and comfortable with her powers whereas Angel is constantly striving to overcome his vampire nature. Is this dichotomy something that you play on when you’re writing them as a team?
CG: Definitely. In the very first arc, Faith is wrestling with the question of whether to use the Mohra blood to forcibly turn Angel human again, because she feels like he will never allow himself any peace as long as he’s a vampire. The difference in the way they feel about their abilities is an important part of their relationship.
Faith now finds herself watching out for a group of young English slayers who have been sort of cut loose and don’t quite know what to do with themselves. In the past Faith has resisted being a role-model but she just keeps getting leadership thrust upon her. How do you see Faith growing into a more adult role? How does her attitude to leadership differ from that of Buffy?
CG: Well, as Alasdair pointed out to Faith in issue #3, it’s Faith herself who has become the adult, simply by doing the responsible thing and looking out for others – whether she was doing it consciously or not, she’s made herself a leader. I think the difference between Faith and Buffy is that Buffy has always been told she is the “Chosen One,” so to some degree she has accepted the mantle of leadership…although one of the key parts of Buffy’s journey in Season 9 is looking past that and trying to figure out what she wants out of life. Faith, on the other hand, has always been treated as the “flawed” Slayer. (To be fair, she did a lot to bring that on herself.) So when people behave toward her as if she was a leader, it kind of throws her.
One of the many great things people are enjoying about this series is the way you have really made the characters your own, is it hard stepping into such an established universe, creatively?
RI: At first it can feel a little restrictive compared to say, superhero comics, because there is a very clearly established visual and aural guideline for how the characters move, act, and sound. But once you get a grasp on that, you can start to extrapolate on it in a way that still stays true to the character. That’s when it gets really fun because you know you’re adding your own small touch to a mythology that so many people care so much about. But it definitely took me a few months to feel like I really “owned” the characters. Luckily I had the excellent editorial team to help me out.
CG: I don’t want to make it sound like it’s easy, because it’s not, but the idea of working with established characters is something anyone who comes from the world of writing for TV is used to. My wife and I wrote for Law & Order SVU and Numbers and in both cases we were working with established, pre-existing characters. The same is true with Marvel and DC heroes. You have to be true to the characters as they exist, but at the same time think of new ways to explore who they are and see them develop… such as bringing in Faith’s father in our second arc, and seeing how that affects her.
Angel & Faith has a much darker feel than Buffy Season 9: it’s almost gothic noir at times. To what extent does the location, London, change the dynamic of this story from that of Buffy?
Christos Gage: Joss very much wanted London to be a character in the series. I’ve tried to make that happen as best I can, seeing as it’s been about 25 years since I’ve seen it! Fortunately, Rebekah just went, so that helps a lot.
Rebekah Isaacs: London is such an amazing, densely layered city that oozes with atmosphere. Just a few silhouettes of chimneyed rooftops alone is enough to lend a panel an eerie noir vibe. Obviously it’s a modern city and not every inch of the city is like that, but there’s still a lot of it! And even in the newer construction areas there are just so many nooks and areas shadows can hide in a night scene – perfect for a story that involves demon fight clubs and nefarious supernatural goings-on. I’m just striving to include as much of that as I can, and it’s an ongoing process to get my backgrounds up to snuff with reality. The photo reference I got on my trip this autumn has been invaluable. I wish I’d had it from the start of the series!
Angel’s goal is to find a way to bring back Giles but when Buffy was brought back at the beginning of Season 6 of the television series she was actually rather dismayed. Is this something that you see being raised in the story?
CG: Yes, definitely. I can’t say more without getting into spoiler territory.
Christos, your dialogue, particularly for Faith, is absolutely spot on. How much time did you spend watching the TV show before starting to script this series? Do you refer back to the show as you write?
CG: I watched all episodes of both Buffy and Angel over the course of about a year, so hopefully the voices are a bit instinctive at this point. I generally don’t refer back to the show nowadays unless I need to reference a specific episode or I’m bringing in a character I’m not used to writing. For example, when I wrote Harmony and Clem in issue #5, I watched several episodes with them over again so I could really get used to how they talk.
Rebekah, you’ve done an amazing job of capturing the look and body language of the characters. Is it more difficult work from an actor’s likeness than drawing directly from your own imagination? Did you spend a lot of time watching the shows to get it just right?
RI: Only at first, but once I got the general features down for the two main actors it wasn’t too difficult any more. When we introduce new characters, though, such as Drusilla in this next arc, there’s always a bit of a new learning curve for the first few pages or so. I did study the shows quite a bit at first, but haven’t much lately. I find I have a good register of others’ facial expressions, and I’m one of those people who unconsciously will mimic the other person’s expressions in a conversation (sometimes with awkward results) – but I think it helps with building a mental catalogue of how an actor emotes.
Rebekah, the Buffy universe has always been a melting pot of horror, comedy and drama, which is something you really capture in all your panels. When you’re designing the pages how do you plan all the little details that make the art so rich?
RI: I just try to keep the pages interesting for me to draw, with fun details, or a certain type of architecture I’ve been wanting to take a stab at, and I find that that translates to a page that’s interesting to read. I actually try to not plan too much beyond the basic compositions – if I have to sketch, draw, and ink the exact same lines they start to get boring, and that makes for a bland, static, or rushed page.
Faith has grown and changed an awful lot as a character since her introduction to the Buffy universe in Season 3. How do you see her continuing to change in the future?
CG: Answering that would give away what we’ve got in store!
It’s hard to imagine that Angel can really come back from what he did as Twilight even if he does bring Giles back from the dead. To what extent is his determination and desperation fuelled by the knowledge that his actions are very possibly unforgiveable?
CG: That’s kind of always been the case. I think the difference now is that he’s atoning not for what he did as Angelus but for what he did as himself…even when he wasn’t in control of himself as Twilight, he entered into that situation by choice, unlike when Darla sired him. I think his focus on Giles comes from the feeling that he killed a man who gave him every chance and forgave some horrible things, like Angelus killing Jenny Calendar. Angel feels like Giles is his ultimate victim, and if he can just bring him back, it’s a sign, however small, that his presence on Earth is not irredeemably and inevitably a bad thing.
The title, Live Through This, implies a level of powerlessness and a situation that just has to be endured. Buffy’s destruction of The Seed has left the magical community in an almost post-apocalyptic state and Angel is personally struggling to come to terms with his own part in those events. How do these events inform Angel & Faith?
CG: I think Season 9 is informed a great deal by the events of Season 8. Hopefully we can look ahead at the same time, though. Great upheaval almost always forces people to grow and change. For me “Live Through This” refers both to having to live through a traumatic event or series of events, as well as they idea of finding a reason to live …for instance, Angel’s reason for living, right now, is to bring Giles back. That’s what he’s living through, when he probably feels like he’d rather lie down and die.
In the case of a crossover between Buffy Season 9 and Angel & Faith, what would you enjoy most about the opportunity to use most of the original cast together?
CG: Getting to write the characters I don’t normally, like Xander and Spike and Buffy. All Joss’ characters have such distinctive voices, each one’s an adventure in themselves!
RI: Definitely Spike! (No offence to my boy Angel, I love them both equally but for different reasons of course!)