Thursday, May 26, 2011

IDW WEEK: Interview With Our Very Own Dan Roth and Pat Shand

In honor of yesterday's release of Angel Yearbook and in celebration of our two favorite fanboys, next up on IDW Week is a fun little interview with Dan (aka Bitsy as he's known around these parts) and Pat. 

Buffyfest: You have both been given such a unique and lucky opportunity. As a fan, what did it feel like the moment you realized you'd be writing one of your favorite characters?

Dan Roth: For a long time I didn’t believe it. I remember sending this jokey thing to Mariah ages ago because I thought it would make her laugh. Imagine my surprise when she told me that she might be able to use it for one of her comics down the line.

Now I’ve got about as much luck as a Joss Whedon character who has just found true love, so I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop, for there not to be room for me in Angel land after all. I felt that way when the Angel Yearbook was approved by Fox and I felt that way through each draft I wrote. It was all too surreal. Me? Writing an Angel story? It couldn’t be.

The moment it became real was when I got my first art back from Stephen Mooney. Man but that blew my mind. There’s nothing quite like seeing something you’ve written turned into art and I don’t know if there are the words for how lucky I was to work with Mooney. He has such a gift for capturing likenesses and he brings that classic, gothic Angel feel to every panel.

Sufficed to say, I was pretty jazzed.

Pat Shand: Well, I've been trying to write for Angel for a loooooong time. I'd been asking Brian about it for a while, and then one day I decided to be Mr. Forward and write a pitch and a first issue script for a Wes/Illyria miniseries called "Whosoever You Be" set in Season Five. I sent that to Mooney, who had posted a blog about wanting to do such a series, but as it happens you have to be kind of established to write for Angel. Which makes sense, I mean if I picked up an issue and saw "Written by Guy Off The Street" in the credits, I'd be all "Huh?"

Anyway, point is that I'd been trying at this for a long time. Might sound cheesy, but I wanted to write for Angel more than anything else. I'd been talking to Dan Roth for a while about our "Yearbook" pitches, and he found out that we were in before I did. I remember I was getting ready to go ice skating with my girlfriend and I got this text from Dan. It said something like, "We're in 'Yearbook'," annnnd I sort of flipped out. Told my girlfriend, there was a lot of screaming and hugging and happiness and celebration. And then I went ice skating and fell on my ass a lot.

Buffyfest: What was it like working behind the scenes alongside your favorite writers and artists?

DR: One of the best parts of this whole process was having Mariah as an editor. Even for this two page story, she dedicated the time to really help me craft the best story I could. Looking back on where the concept started through to how it ultimately turned out, I can tell you I could never have done it without her.

It was also incredibly exciting to share what I’d done with Scott, Brian, and David and having them get it. Here were these guys who inspire me as a writer, treating me like a colleague. I don’t think I could be more grateful.

PS: Would it be ass-kissing to say the best thing ever? If so, I don't care because it's true. I've been talking with Scott Tipton, Mooney, and Brian for a while, but to actually appear in a book with them... those guys are the best writers and artists to ever touch these comics, and it makes me proud to be in there with them and even more proud to know 'em.

Getting pages back from Mooney was heaven. Literally, I actually died for a second when I saw how freakin' scary the monster he drew for my story was. In the original script, I included this beast made entirely of tentacles (Mariah loves squids and octopi, so I figured I'd pander to that in order to get into the book, because I have little to no shame) but after I sent it to Mooney, I looked through all the Angel books he worked on and realized how good he is at creating creatures. So I sent him an e-mail that pretty much said, "To hell with my monster idea, go wild." And he did. Look at that beastie. Creepy, huh?

Brian has always been a giant help for me and such a sweet dude, so one of the first things that I did when I found out I was going to be in "Yearbook" was to send him a message. That guy of all people knows how long I've been trying to get in the book. Scott was great throughout the whole process, too. I originally pitched a different story altogether, and he really helped me condense the original six page idea into two pages. Maybe I'll post that script on my blog, because I do like it. Chris Ryall was also wonderful throughout. He was great about answering questions, and just an overall great guy. Working with the Angel team is something that I think I'll be measuring all of my future writing experiences up against.

Buffyfest: How did you each come up with your stories?

DR: Well, for me it was a matter of coming up with something that would be fun and include little touches of fan service. I knew I wanted to channel the dynamic between Spike and Angel that we saw during the great “Cavemen vs. Astronauts” debate. I also wanted to play with the Illyria and Gunn relationship.

I had this sense that a lot of the Angel Yearbook would be very serious stuff, so I wanted to bring something really light and simple. Having Angel and Spike fight over what they would watch on TV felt like the right fit. It was a chance to show them being completely over the top about something totally ordinary which, to me, is very Spike and Angel. They just can’t help themselves when they’re around each other. It’s what I love best about their relationship.

PS: With a looooot of brain juice.

When I met Dan for the first time at NYC, I believe it went something like this.

DAN: Aren't you Pat's Hand?

PAT: Um, what? Who are you, cheekbone man, stay away!

DAN: You are excellent and not at all chubby and you should pitch for ANGEL: YEARBOOK.

PAT: That is correct.

DR: Yes, that is exactly what happened.  Fear my cheekbones!

PS: I'd talked to Ryall about "Yearbook" at NYCC, but for some reason I thought it had already been drawn and was ready for print. I don't know, I'm weird. And thankfully wrong. Dan told me he was pitching for the book, so I ethically and not at all forwardly (forwardly?) used my scheduled interview with Mariah Huehner to ask if I could pitch for the book. She was totally receptive to it and so nice, so as soon as the interview was over I started cooking up a story idea. My first pitch was the story of Gunn and Illyria's return to the gang after their road trip. I tried to do the whole "squeeze an epic into two pages" thing, but like Dan said... doesn't really work. I still like what I did with that first story, but I'm glad that Mariah asked for more pitches. She said that the concept was a bit too similar to Brian's story, which I think is a damn good reason to get turned down.

Anyway, I ended up pitching a few more ideas, which consisted of these:

A short about Angel’s love for the only main character that has been around as long as he has… Los Angeles.

Angel does something special to mark the anniversary of Doyle’s passing. In doing so, he pays tribute to the other characters we have lost (Cordy, Fred, Wes). Connor follows Angel, noticing him, watching… but he says nothing. A quite moment of reflection between father and son.

During “After the Fall” Harmony opens up a hair salon in Hell. Groosalugg, Angel, and other cast members visit. Funny, light, odd.

Angel and Spike break up a vampire party, commenting on how lame modern day vamps have become.

Mariah went with the first one, and I'm glad. I love how it came out, and was grateful that I was able to use the concept to squeeze everything I could out of this verse. I got to use Angel to kill a giant monster, I threw a Spike line in there, had a bit of a sweet moment, and even ruined a purse. I'm so very greedy. I want it all.

Buffyfest: Finally, you're obviously both into comics, what was the biggest challenge writing one? Did seeing the other side soften any usual criticism you have of the writers?

DR: The biggest challenge was working within the confines of two pages. A man gets a crack at the Whedonverse, he wants it to be epic. You just can’t do epic in two pages. Well, I can’t, at any rate.

Was I ever overwhelmingly critical of the writers? Not publicly, I don’t think. So keep that in mind, readers! I wasn’t a critic. So when I ask if you like my story, just smile and nod.

PS: I think that if any people in the Buffy fandom know me, it might be from how vehemently I defend the Angel comics. I've loved this series from jump, so there's not much criticism to soften. When I didn't like something, even if I voiced it, I think that the writer in me always went about it in a respectful way. I've wanted to write since I read my first Goosebumps book at the round-headed age of seven, so I don't think you'll catch me trolling around about a writer anytime soon. Except Dan, that guy is such a jerk. SCREW DAN ROTH!

DR: Agree.  Sometimes I mix multiple plaids and think I'm being fashionable which is the third listed dictionary definition of "unlovable".  Look it up in your Funk and Wagnalls sometime.

PS: But really, I love Dan Roth. He comes to my plays and makes me laugh.

DR: Don't be fooled.  I charge him for this service.

PS: The biggest challenge... I'll totally agree with Dan. Ideally, I'd have forty-four issues and many, many miniseries to tell my ANGEL tale. But I had two pages, so there was a loooot to squeeze in there. But as I said before... greedy. Another big challenge was just the idea of writing these iconic characters that have literally changed the lives of some of the people who watch these shows and read these comics. It was hard, it was rewarding, and such a big honor.

- Thanks guys and congrats!


Stephen Mooney said...

It was an honour and a privilege to work with both of these guys. The stories were concise and well-written, with two strong core concepts. At the end of the day 4 years ago I was just a massive Angel fan lobbying Chris to let me play in the same sandbox, so I can totally dig where these guys were coming from. And it's gotta be said, fair play to Chris and Mariah for letting(nay; encouraging) such a thing happen. What other fandom would have the chutzpah and the downright chops to initiate and execute such a venture?
Angel bloody rocks.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say how much I loved the Angel Yearbook. Congrats to Dan and Pat, awesome work. I'm not often on the internet b/c the negativity on it depresses me, but I have LOVED Angel's run at IDW more than any other comic. IDW has shown an incredibly amount of love and respect for the title, and I am sad to see it go out of the company. Good work, guys!