Today marks the release of Angel: Barbary Coast in TPB form. Did you miss it the first time around? Never fear, now is your chance to pick up this beautiful, collected edition of one of the best Angel stories IDW has put out in the last five years. We sat down very quickly with author, David Tischman, so he could give us some insight into how this story came about.
Give us the background: What inspired you to write this particular story, create these original characters, and set the whole thing in Barbary Coast?
DT: The BARBARY COAST is a favorite time in history for me. Or is that too geeky? It had gambling and whores and drinking and opium and violence--all the good stuff that made America great. You get a very white-washed peek at the area on a couple of episodes of WILD WILD WEST. And yes, whoever's out there, I still want to do the WWW comic book. William Shatner also did a short-lived series, "The Barbary Coast." But not enough people know about the area or the period. The Chinese immigrant population at this time is also under-explored. I saw it as a great backdrop for an ANGEL story, in a period where his moral compass was being pushed in different directions. The magic and the exotic foreign nature of the Chinese gave the story the mystic element you need for ANGEL.
What's the story about?
DT: Angel's come to San Francisco seeking a Chinese herbalist named Xin, who he thinks can purge his recently-restored soul of guilt. Xin agrees to help Angel, but he needs Angel to do something for him, first. It's a great way to get a morally-ambiguous Angel to fight on the side of good, at this period. But, of course, Angel hasn't gotten the whole story, and it sets off events that make Angel's life a lot more complicated. Like starting the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906.
What's the underlying meaning of the story and why is it an important point in Angel's history for us to see?
DT: We use a Chinese "fortune-cookie" style of philosophy for comedic effect in BARBARY COAST, but some of those unanswerable questions also makes Angel realize that his life isn't easy. Magic may have restored his soul, presto-chango, but there's no instant cure to fix the guilt and the remorse that soul makes him feel. Because he now "feels" in an emotional way, not just in a sensory way that regular vampires feel. It makes him fully aware of the consequences of his actions. If there is a point of this story, it's that--maybe for the first time--Angel realizes he needs to start living his life in a positive way, as a way of dealing with that guilt (his feelings) and as a way of moving forward. It's that conscious choice that makes Angel a hero, and the character we all love. Like super-heroes, we all aspire to Angel's higher moral ground.
Bonus Question What's up with Angel and dragons?
DT: It's Chinese magic. So you go to the animal symbols that represent the Chinese calendar. Sure, we could've gone with a dog. Or a snake. A tiger probably would've worked, too. But a dragon is so cool and visual, and it breathes fire, which is a big part of the destruction of San Francisco (more damage was done to the city from the series of fires than from the earthquake). The fact that Joss and Brian used a dragon in "After the Fall" was gravy. It made the period story dovetail with something very modern, and a fan favorite. It was a win-win.