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Jeff Mariotte - About Angel Novels and Comic - Comixfan.com Interview

Monday 7 November 2005, by Webmaster


ANGEL: OLD FRIENDS #4By Gary Miller, Comixfan Staff Writer

A strong ensemble cast. Shadows aplenty. And a whole lotta vampires, one of whom happens to be cursed with a soul and rebelling against the rest. Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt’s Angel aired on the WB network from 1999-2004 and gave viewers a glimpse into a dark, complex world. The show is gone, but Angel and his supporting cast are out to conquer a whole new audience this November, and Jeff Mariotte is the writer who’s bringing everyone back for another go-round.

Jeff Mariotte has been in the comics business since the early 1990s, working as a writer, VP of Marketing, and Senior Editor of Jim Lee’s WildStorm Productions, writing the odd issues of Gen13 and WildC.A.T.s, as well as more regular gigs on series like Jim Lee’s C*23 and Countdown. At Image Comics, he also worked on the vampires-meet-wild-west epic, Desperadoes, and its sequel, alongside current Astonishing X-Men artist John Cassaday. Later, he left WildStorm to become Editor-in-Chief for Idea + Design Works (IDW) Publishing in early 2003, and worked in that capacity until mid-2004, when he left staff to be a freelance writer. At IDW, he has worked on media tie-in series like CSI and The Shield, as well as another vampire-related series, Covert Vampire Operations. Of course, he’s also worked on various novels, and is the latest writer to tackle Joss Whedon’s famous vampire character, Angel, in his own miniseries currently published by IDW. This month heralds the arrival of the newest Angel miniseries, Old Friends, by Mariotte and returning artist David Messina. Recently, Comixfan interviewed Mr. Mariotte about Angel and the special place reserved in his heart for the vampire with a soul and his supporting cast.

Comixfan: What is your background as a writer? As a fan of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Angel television series?

Jeff Mariotte: I’ve written thirty or so novels, either published or soon-to-be, and dozens upon dozens of comic books. My comics have been in various genres: superhero, humor, horror, crime, Western, SF, and probably others I’m not thinking of right now, and have included some licensed properties such as CSI and The Shield in addition to publisher-owned properties and original series like Desperadoes. Most of my novels are based on licensed properties, including comics like Gen13 and 30 Days of Night, TV shows like Buffy, Angel, Las Vegas, Star Trek, Charmed, and Andromeda, literary properties (Conan) and movies (Boogeyman), although I’ve also done some originals. I’ve been nominated twice for Stoker awards from the Horror Writers Association, once for comics and once for an original novel.

Among the TV-related books I’ve done, the show I’ve worked with the most has been Angel. I did more Angel novels than any other writer—I wrote eight Angel solo novels, and I co-wrote a Buffy/Angel crossover trilogy with Nancy Holder (who has been one of the most prolific Buffy writers). With Nancy and Maryelizabeth Hart, I also wrote the first official Angel series companion, Angel: The Casefiles, Volume 1, and the second Buffy companion, The Watcher’s Guide, Volume 2.

I didn’t watch Buffy from the very beginning, but got caught up quickly when I started, and from then on watched every episode as it aired. To write the nonfiction books we had to watch every episode multiple times and analyze them closely. By the time the Angel series started, I had already done the Watcher’s Guide and knew there was potential for novels, so I was watching it from the beginning with an analytical eye—but also as a fan. I always liked Angel better than Buffy because of the crime/private eye elements, that were really up my alley.

Comixfan: How did you come to be involved with the Whedonverse, i.e. the Angel and Buffy novels and now the comic series?

ANGEL: OLD FRIENDS PREVIEWMariotte: My first novel was co-written with Christopher Golden, who, along with Nancy Holder, was one of the original Buffy novelists. When the Buffy editor asked him for a recommendation of someone who could do a book for her in a hurry, he put forth my name. She got in touch and I did the book, which was an adaptation of three Xander-centered episodes and called The Xander Years, Volume 2. She was happy enough with it to let me pitch original novels, and once Angel came along I did so because I thought I could tell some cool stories with that cast.

When Angel went off the air, I was working at IDW Publishing as editor-in-chief. Publisher Ted Adams and I agreed that there was still a market for new Angel stories, and I knew the licensing folks at Fox from all the book work I’d done. I started the ball rolling, but by the time it had rolled all the way I had left IDW to freelance, and Chris Ryall was in my old chair. Chris asked me to do some stories for the comics, and of course I agreed. The first miniseries was Angel: The Curse, and now we’re on Angel: Old Friends.

Comixfan: Speaking of the show’s cancellation: To some fans, the finale of Angel, "Not Fade Away," was as close to perfection as any series finale. Why continue on? Also, what are your thoughts on the series’ final moments?

Mariotte: Yes, it was one of the best series finales, up there with Bob Newhart’s in the top five. But any time there are loose ends like that, a large number of fans want more, want to know what happens next. Simon & Schuster has kept the Buffy novel line going with new novels set after the Buffy series finale, but they dropped the Angel line, so the only place, for now, that fans will get new Angel stories is in the comics.

There has been, however, a small snag in our original plans, as Joss Whedon hasn’t given up the idea of doing new stories with the Angel characters himself. I don’t know what form those would take—TV movies, direct to DVD movies, or something else. But I know the fans will agree that if Joss wants to tell those stories himself, they’re willing to wait for them. These are his characters, and David Greenwalt’s, and I’m as anxious as anyone else to see what they’ll do with them from here.

Which means that The Curse and Old Friends don’t "officially" tell the story of what happens after the finale. We’re keeping things a little vague, and losing certain elements that would specifically set the stories in the post-finale time period. If you read between the lines a little, you can see when I think they’re set and what I think the results of the final apocalyptic battle are, but we’re not going to go back into that alley and show the fight, for instance.

Comixfan: What’s the setup for this Angel mini? Does it hinge on the end of the previous miniseries, The Curse?

Mariotte: Not at all, and one needn’t have read The Curse to pick up Old Friends. It begins with Angel taking some R&R time at an isolated mountain cabin, needing a break from the city and his friends to contemplate his future. But that wouldn’t make a very exciting story, so in no time he’s drawn back to L.A., because of reports that a very familiar individual is committing horrible murders. He’s not there for long before, as I said, he learns that things aren’t always what they seem.

Comixfan: How soon after Angel’s final episode does Old Friends occur?

Mariotte: As mentioned above, that’s purposely vague. I have heard from people who really wanted me to tell the story of the fight in the alley, but to me that’s not all that interesting—yes, it’s an epic battle, but we’ve seen Angel fight epic battles before. I wanted to move away from that, to look at the aftermath, at Angel and whatever friends are left as they explore their new roles in a new world. But given the realities of working with licensed properties—and I’ve done enough of that to know what it’s like, and not to have a problem with it—the timeframe is not as specific as that.

ANGEL: OLD FRIENDS PREVIEWComixfan: Whom can Angel fans expect to see in this new miniseries? Old faces, as the title implies? New?

Mariotte: The whole point of Old Friends is that we’ll see familiar faces throughout the miniseries. Not all at once, and fans might have to wait an issue or three to see a favorite, but they’ll pretty much all be there, in one way or another.

Of course, one thing Angel learns quickly in this miniseries is that nothing is really as it seems. So when you think you’ve spotted someone, you might be wrong...

Comixfan: How did you come to work with the Angel series’ artist, David Messina?

Mariotte: [IDW Editor-in-Chief] Chris [Ryall] and the IDW gang found David. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the story of how and where. But he’s a huge fan of the series, and it’s really fun to see him recreate certain moments from it.

Comixfan: Have you had much input from/communication with/feedback from people from Mutant Enemy [the production company behind Buffy and Angel], or from Joss Whedon himself?

Mariotte: The way it works is that we hear from the licensing department at Fox. They, in turn, work with Joss and Mutant Enemy, so notes and feedback we get are filtered through them. I know that Joss and ME are very involved in this project, and certain decisions have been left up to him, which was, for example, why we went with The Curse first instead of Old Friends. On the rare occasions that I see Joss, it’s usually briefly and we have other things to talk about.

Comixfan: In your Angel stories, do you feel plot or character is more important, or are they equally important? Why?

Mariotte: I’ll go with character here. I think it’s the characters that drew viewers week after week, and especially the characters who have inspired such a dedicated following even now that the show’s been gone for quite a while. The plots were sometimes brilliant, sometimes just good, but the characters shone always. When I’m writing, it’s important for me to hear their voices in my head, and if I can’t then I have to go back and fix something.

Comixfan: The elements of Angel’s success, as with Buffy’s, are various. What aspects do you enjoy playing up in yourAngel stories—the historical, the horror-centric, the action-oriented, or the romantic aspects?

ANGEL: OLD FRIENDS #4Mariotte: In the beginning, as mentioned above, it was the crime and horror elements—the opportunity to do books that worked both as horror novels and private eye books. I really played that up in the book Angel: Hollywood Noir, in which Angel and friends met up with the ghost of a 1950s L.A. private dick who was out to solve his last case. Eventually the show moved away from the PI trappings, and I did so as well, focusing on the horror aspect, as with the haunted house novel Angel: Haunted.

In the comics, I’ve taken Angel in a different direction, although one that Joss has said he was interested in exploring—Angel as superhero. There are still horrific elements, vampires and monsters and demons galore, but the stories are closer to superhero stories than to straight horror.

Comixfan: In your mind, what is the main appeal of the characters in Angel’s cast?

Mariotte: It’s just a brilliant combination of characters about whom any number of exciting stories can be written. There are enough different characters so that any viewer or reader can find someone to identify with, and the interaction between them is endlessly entertaining. Beyond that, they’re all tied up in really important work, trying to "help the helpless," save humanity, and redeem Angel.

Comixfan: Who’s your favorite character in the Angel canon?

Mariotte: My favorite character to write is Cordelia. She would say anything to anybody, usually in an entertaining way, and it’s fun to come up with dialogue and situations for her. I’m also partial to Wesley. Oh, and Lorne. And Spike. And that guy named Angel. And...

Comixfan: Let’s say someone reading this interview isn’t familiar with Angel. What would you tell him/her to encourage them to pick up Angel: Old Friends?

Mariotte: But they read English? Kidding... I guess I would point out that Angel’s saga is a rich one, full of action and adventure, romance and redemption, asking the question of whether we can really atone for the wrongs we’ve done to others. And also, vampires and monsters. What’s not to love?

Comixfan: Lastly: if there’s one thing you hope fans react to about your work on Angel, what would it be?

Mariotte: I hope they like seeing new stories about beloved characters, and recognize that even though David and I are getting paid to do these, we’re as much fans as anyone else. We love the stories Joss and David and the rest of the writing/producing crew came up with, and we’re honored to get the chance to tell our own.

Comixfan: And on that note, I’d like to thank Jeff for being a good sport. Angel: Old Friends hits stores this month!