The past couple of days have been a whirlwind of Whedonverse comic news. Yesterday, we caught up with Dark Horse about their recent reacquisition of the Angel title. Today we spoke with IDW's Chris Ryall and Mariah Huehner to get their take on what's happened. Check it out:
Buffyfest: Let's start at the beginning, the business end of things. How does the world of licensing work? How did IDW passing the Angel license to Dark Horse happen?
Chris Ryall: Well, there’s the usual licensing world, which works one way, but this one worked a bit differently. When the universe’s creator is still actively involved in the property, it does change the rules a bit. So as it turns out, Joss getting back involved in Buffy Season 8 was the probably the real catalyst.
Now, it’s a strange thing, this – I would never want to keep the characters out of the hands of their creator. So in that respect, I understand and can live with it. It’s not a license I wanted to see leave, but all things considered, it’s one license for a company that puts out 40-50 titles a month, and we won’t go wanting for vampire comics with new projects like True Blood. The simple gist of it is, Joss called his characters home. I would’ve liked to continue on, but I understand from that aspect.
Buffyfest: How did you find out about this development? How long have you known?
Chris Ryall: I found out about it in a discussion with our Fox rep. And I’ve known for a little while now, and been working on this side the best way to make this work. This isn’t a small thing, so there’s a lot that needs to get figured out before we were ready to have the news get out publicly. We do a good amount of Angel-related comics, so many freelancers and jobs are potentially affected by this so it’s important to me to do right by everyone.
Buffyfest: A few weeks ago, you, Scott Allie, Mariah Huehner, & Brian Lynch all had a conference call. Since you knew what was happening at that time, did you all outline what would happen in the coinciding stories in that call?
Chris Ryall: We’d been talking about ways to integrate some story points for a while now, and this was more of that, yep.
Mariah Huehner: Not all of it, but a lot. We've got some really fun ideas to play with, and Brian's stuff is obviously amazing. I have no idea how he does it, but he can take pretty much take anything and run with it and make it both hilarious and touching. I'm looking forward to what he does. As for Angel, that one is a lot trickier. But we're working really hard to make sure we tell a story fans of IDW's stories feel closure with, while not conflicting with Buffy Season 8.
Buffyfest: What about original characters like Beta George that were created at IDW, will they be fair game now at Dark Horse?
Chris Ryall: Typically, any characters created in a licensed comic are the licensor’s property. It remains to be seen if that’s the case here. Which is why we’ll be killing all of them in Angel 44…
Buffyfest: Scott said he got a call from you once this was all accidentally leaked in the back of the Riley one-shot. How did that conversation go?
Chris Ryall: I think I liked making it as much as Scott liked taking it.
Buffyfest: Brian Lynch told us that after the mess of the "Twilight-gate" cover leak, that he convinced Joss to let him use Willow in return. After this recent gaff, what will IDW be getting out of Dark Horse this time? Buffy, perhaps?
Chris Ryall: I think we’re getting Zac Whedon this time around. And Scott swore he’d cut all his hair off at the NYC con this October in penance. Make sure to remind him when you see him there. And bring scissors.
Mariah Huehner: Personally, I'd love to get to use Clem. Remember him? I think he needs to find a nice girl to settle down with. And a kitten farm.
Buffyfest: We heard you're having a joint interview with Scott Allie later today. Where can we find it and what will it entail?
Chris Ryall: It’s being done for Comic Book Resources. I assume it’ll run as soon as they can transcribe Scott and I talking over each other and edit out all the profanity.
Buffyfest: Is there anything you want to say to all the fans that have been loyal to IDW and the Angel franchise?
Chris Ryall: Couple things: one is that we’re still here – some of the posts have taken on a sort of “wake” feel, but we’ve still got lots more Angel and Spike to come. And I also want everyone to know that the deal does allow us to keep all our Angel collections in print for years to come, which is rare in these kinds of instances.
But also, the main thing, is just that I appreciate the support. I love the way the fans have been so passionate and vocal and supportive and called us on things they don’t like (well, that last part, “love” might not be the right word). The fans have made this an incredibly gratifying experience from the start, and I’ve formed some good friendships with people across the world because of this license. The Angel comics started about the same time as I did, so it’s hard to see it leave. So ultimately, what I want to say is thanks.
A secondary thing I’d like is for them all to transfer their loyalty from Angel comics to our True Blood comics next year…
Mariah Huehner: Don't worry! Our books aren't going anywhere for awhile and we're working really hard to give our Angel series an ending we (and hopefully the fans) can be proud of. While we are working to make things line up, we aren't just writing this story to match up with Buffy. It's its own animal. I also think Dark Horse will be doing some great stuff with these characters (and no, I have no idea about specifics) and I'm looking forward to reading what they do.
On a personal note: It's been an incredible privilege for me to get work on this series for the past year. I never thought I'd get to work on something created by Joss Whedon and, while it may sound a bit fangirly, I've loved it and I love this world of characters. Interacting with people who care so passionately about it has been a lot of fun, too. When a story really connects with people they have strong opinions and I think it's great that this is a story world that encourages that.
Buffyfest: What are you most proud of in your 5 years creating for the Whedonverse?
Chris Ryall: So many things, and so many great creators, but to name one thing, I’d point to working with Brian Lynch and Joss on “After the Fall.” It’s a story I’d wanted to tell from the start, and only with Joss. Brian and Franco being a part of it made it even better. But really, it’s all been an extreme sense of pride and accomplishment from start to next year’s finish.
Buffyfest: A lot of people are worried about Brian Lynch's Spike mini-series. Can you elaborate on the fate of that title?
Chris Ryall: Well, it’ll end when Angel ends. But until then, it’s going to be fantastic.
Mariah Huehner: Well, Spike will be moving with Angel in late 2011, but Brian's series will be "canon" and lead up to his bug ship story in Season 8. And that's not all. So, fans needn't worry. They're going to get 8 amazing issues of Spike that'll show him as the hero he is.
Buffyfest: Many fans love your Angel historicals. Besides Angel vs. Frankenstein, is there any chance for more of those type of stories before the character moves to Dark Horse?
Chris Ryall: There are some flashes back to Spike’s past in that upcoming book but no other full flashback issues/series planned.
Buffyfest: Is there anything you want to tease that will be coming up in the final arc?
Chris Ryall: Wolfram & Hart! Giant alien bugs! Willow! Illyria turning into…! Also, everybody upon everybody dies.
Mariah Huehner: Wolfram & Hart! Okay, not much a tease anymore, but the full extent of what they're doing and why they come back into Angel's life is going to unfold over the last arc. Are they good guys, kind of? Maybe! We're also going to see L.A. in a way we never have before...not even when it Hell A. And Angel has some pretty big character leaps, too, along with more of an exploration of his relationship with Connor and where everyone is headed as a group.
Buffyfest: Finally, since everyone knows Scott Allie HATES Spike, do you think Spike will be dusted and dead forever in Scott's first issue?
Chris Ryall: Scott Allie would never let Spike off so easily.