In the wake of SDCC 2009, we at Buffyfest thought now more than ever would be the perfect time to catch up with the fine folks at IDW. We recently spoke with Chris Ryall and Mariah Huehner about all the big news from the con, along with a few things that had yet to be talked about. It was really exciting getting to hear from Mariah since she's the new editor of all the Angel properties at IDW. Without further ado, here's what we discussed:
How did Bill Willingham and Bill Williams get involved in the Angel ongoing?
Mariah: When I’d been at IDW for a little while, and it became apparent that I was something of an obsessive fan, Chris Ryall asked me about Bill Willingham as a possible new writer. I thought it was basically the best idea anyone has ever had, ever. I’ve also known Bill a long time now, I worked on Fables at the beginning of my editorial career, and I’d always hoped we’d get to work together again. So we talked to Bill, who was really enthusiastic about the Angelverse and getting to play in that world, and it just kind of fell together. Due to the fact that Bill is a really busy writer, he mentioned that it would be great if his colleague Bill Williams could help out by writing a parallel story that would eventually be folded into the main arc. We got the Eddie Hope idea and the first script, and knew this was going to be a lot of fun. They both really “get” the characters and have some pretty fantastic ideas of where to take their respective stories.
And what aspects of Angel and Co. do you think Willingham will bring out that we haven't seen so far?
Mariah: The great thing about Angel is that the characters are so layered and the world is so dense, there are still plenty of stories yet to be told. Bill as a writer has a very delicate eye when it comes to character development, so I think we’ll be seeing a lot of subtle explorations, as well as some major shifts. It’s all about consequences in Angel, and our little band has a lot to work out in terms of team dynamic, leadership, and operating under the new pressures of fame. I think we’ll be seeing a lot of tension, a lot of redefining of assumptions, and of course, that trademark Willingham wit.
Willingham's involvement was definitely one of the most exciting pieces of news I heard from SDCC. How will his and Williams' stories weave into one another?
Mariah: Basically, they’ll parallel each other. Each story is taking place at the same time with a similar trajectory. Although they may seem separate at first, the new character of Eddie Hope will turn out to be part of one of the larger story arcs and will eventually be melded into the “main” story. But that’s a ways away. Rather than thinking of them as entirely unrelated, they’re really two parts of the same whole, which will gradually unfold and shed light on a lot of the issues facing the rest of L.A. now that the Fall is over.
Will we see two comics per month once this arc begins? What's the tentative schedule for Angel and Spike books for the next six months?
Mariah: The main Angel storyline will include the Eddie Hope back up, so each monthly issue of Angel will be the same 32 pages. The first issue, #28, will be out in December. As for Spike, I’ll let Chris tackle that one.
Chris: We’ll be talking more about Spike soon enough, but the plan is for that to be a monthly comic as well, launching in January and handled by Brian Lynch and Franco Urru.
Speaking of Brian, now that he is moving on to do a Spike ongoing, do you think we'll ever see him return to write for Angel again?
Chris: He’ll actually return before he’s fully left – his final issue of Angel is 27, in November, but spinning out of that will be the first Angel Annual in December, also by Lynch and Mooney. And beyond that, I don’t think there’s any way we’ll see him stay from the character of Angel forever.
You've brought a lot of talent to the Angel books already, but what other writers and artists would you love to see tell an Angel story?
Mariah: Anyone who really loves these characters. I know, that’s probably too broad. Honestly, with Bill tackling this universe, that’s pretty much my ideal writer. Which is not to say there aren’t a lot of other talented folks who would do a wonderful job with this pantheon. I’d love to see someone like Mike Carey or Brian K. Vaughan take a whack, for instance.
I’ve got kind of eclectic artistic tastes, so I’ve love to see anyone from Guy Davis to P. Craig Russell bring their talent to Angel. And our current team is really doing a fantastic job. Brian Denham is bringing his A game, and David Messina is tackling the Eddie Hope back ups. It’s a nice juxtaposition of styles that compliment each other, without taking over.
And what made you think Scott Lobdell would be the right author for Only Human? Whose idea was it to bring back the Scourge?
Chris: The Scourge was Scott's idea, which was one of the reasons he seemed well-suited to handle this series. He seemed to really grasp the similarities between post-After the Fall Gunn and Illyria that Brian Lynch and Joss had set up, and had some interesting ideas as to how to move their story forward.
How did John Byrne pitch Angel vs. Frankenstein? What version of Frankenstein will this be? Will we continue to see Angelverse characters go toe to toe with Universal Monsters in the future?
Chris: As Byrne was completing his World War I-era Angel story, Blood and Trenches, he mentioned that he'd been kicking around the idea of Angelus running up against Mary Shelley's Frankenstein's monster. Which sounded like a great Halloween tale to me, so we jumped at it and it's now coming out in October. This will be very much Shelley's Frankenstein's monster, so the only tie the creature has is to her version. No movie-era neck bolts here. But the interesting thing is that as this is written, the monster just might end up being the hero of the tale. Angelus was a bit monstrous himself during that time period.
It seems like the Angel cast has really scattered to the wind. Between that and all the different Angel comics coming out in the next few months, how do you keep a cohesive thread to the story when there are so many different books coming out?
Mariah: What’s great is that Willingham’s run will be bringing a lot of old familiar faces back together, as well as introducing some new ones to the fray. It’s always a challenge to keep things streamlined, but that’s part of the fun. There are so many great characters in the series, it would be a shame not to let them branch out on their own once in awhile. But we do know that Tall Dark and Broody needs his friends, so we do our best to balance whatever other stories we’re going to tell with the main arc. It’s a lot like juggling. You just keep the momentum going and make sure nothing drops.
Now that Illyria has crossed over with Fallen Angel, what other IDW properties could you see mixing it up with the Angelverse?
Chris: I actually don't want to see too many of these crossovers (which is good, since neither does Joss Whedon). The Illyria story is one Peter has been wanting to tell for years and it makes sense to the story he's telling in Fallen Angel. So for now, I think this one will have to suffice. Until we can convince anyone else that Ghostbusters/Wesley makes good sense...
Bustin' would totally make even scruffy, crazy, and depressed Wesley feel good! Alright, enough gushing. Now for a biggie: the question of canon keeps coming up with regard to IDW's Angel series; is this just a very vocal minority we're hearing from or does canonicity or the lack thereof affect the sales of the Angel books? If so, how do you deal with something like that?
Mariah: Well, After the Fall is canon, plotted by Joss Whedon himself, so there’s that. IDW has done some non-canon books based on the Angelverse, but other than Betta George (and who doesn’t love a psychic fish!), they haven’t crossed over in any way. I do, as an editor, take canon into careful consideration, though. I have a break down of the entire series by episode, all the characters from majors to minors, and what we like to call a “bible” that outlines all the storylines. It’s as much for us as it is for any writers that come on board, so we’re all speaking the same language. I think we do pretty well, considering the story has spanned five TV seasons and, to date, five collections of the continuing story.
What IDW books do you think Angel readers could get into?
Mariah: All of them! But, more specifically, I’d say Locke & Key, Groom Lake, The Dreamer, Tank Girl…I could go on.
Our thanks to both Mariah and Chris for taking the time to answer all our questions. Don't forget to pick up Fallen Angel and Angel this week. I'll be beardedly vlogging on Friday to give you my full review on both those books and more.