Thursday, October 7, 2010

Buffyfest Interview with Dark Horse Editor Sierra Hahn

We've been dying to interview Sierra Hahn, Dark Horse editor extraordinaire, for quite awhile, but as you'll see below she's a very busy bee, juggling a lot of titles both Whedonverse and beyond. So we finally had the chance and it definitely stood up to the hype! There is a great energy and passion in her answers to our queries. It's always nice to know that the creatives are just as enthusiastic as the fans.

Buffyfest: Let’s start off with an introduction. You've worked in comics for a while, starting at Vertigo before moving to Dark Horse. How did you get into comics in the first place?

Sierra Hahn: I started reading comics as a kid, probably around five or six years old. My oldest brother has always been a comics fan and I would accompany him to the comics shop every week. While he was picking up Watchmen, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and X-men, I was clamoring for DC Comics' Amethyst, and Marvel’s Ewoks. My interest in comics petered out over time until my big brother introduced me to Vertigo Comics' Y: The Last Man and 100 Bullets—two series that I still love, love, love—and suddenly I was adding comics into my regular reading habits. I had been missing a lot of great comics over the years and some catching up to do.

After I completed my undergraduate degree in English, I applied to a publishing crash course at Columbia University. Best decision ever, and it got me in the door at DC Comics where I met Karen Berger (editor of the original Amethyst and head of Vertigo). We talked comics, and she suggested I apply for an available job doing publicity. I applied, got the job, and spent an amazing couple of years promoting some of my favorite comics. But my heart was in editing, and I eventually made the leap to Dark Horse to explore a different side of the industry.

Buffyfest: What titles do you edit at Dark Horse? What are you working on at this moment?

SH: I edit the Dr. Horrible comics and Terminator both with Zack Whedon as writer. I worked with Janet and Alex Evanovich on a unique project called Troublemaker where we took characters from two of Janet's best-selling novels and continued their adventure in comics format. I'm also editing a graphic novel about a real life police detective who pursued a serial killer from the Pacific Northwest—the Green River Killer—for twenty years. It's written by Jeff Jensen, an entertainment reporter for Entertainment Weekly, whose father was that detective. It's been an incredible project to be involved with—part autobiography, part true crime... It's a very unique and special book.

On a lighter note I've been working with the incredible Jill Thompson to bring her Scary Godmother stories back to print. And I work closely with Scott Allie on Buffy(one of the reasons I couldn't pass up the job at Dark Horse), and other Joss Whedon books like Serenity, and Sugarshock.

Buffyfest: Can you tell us a little bit about your specific role in the “Whedonverse” division?

SH: My duties vary quite a bit. Most of the time (along with assistant editor Freddye Lins) I'm pestering writers and artist to hit their deadlines. Sometimes I provide notes on scripts and artwork. I write a lot of the promotional copy—the text on back covers or in catalogs. Going into Season 9 and having the Angel titles, I'm offering input on writers and artists that would be great for the line books. This general role I play with any of the Joss-related titles with the expection of Dr. Horrible, which became my darling over the last year.

Buffyfest: How has your experience been working on the Whedon titles? Have you had much interaction with the fandom?

SH: I love working on Buffy. I love working with Joss, and all of the wonderful writers from the show. I've learned a lot from everyone who has worked on the series thus far—what makes a great story, and how to have characters that shine and are distinctive, how to make a reader feel like he or she is a part of the journey.

I haven't had much interaction with Buffy fans except at San Diego Comic Con during Joss' signings and panels. Over the past few years I’ve had some involvement with the Portland Browncoats’ annual “Can’t Stop the Serenity” event, which is always a fantastic affair.

Buffyfest: Were you a fan of Whedon's shows before they were revived in comic form?

SH: When I was in high school my family had a satellite dish that aired Buffy at 5 PM. As a result I would bail on all of my after school activities and time with friends to rush home and watch Buffy. I loved the show before it even aired. My whole family would tease me about watching the show—they thought the premise was pretty goofy, but then, over time, my two older brothers started watching, my parents started watching, my brother's girlfriend starting watching... and everyone became very loyal right up until the end. I'm still recruiting Buffy fans.

Buffyfest: If you had to pick between all of Joss Whedon’s works, which story would be your favorite and why?

SH: I don't think I have a favorite. Some stories I have a stronger affinity for than others. That said, I've been re-reading Fray and it's an awesome book. I absolutely love that character, that world, and how it really feels like a fully formed Joss story—that (even though it took awhile to get done) he was very present in the make up of that story. It’s funny, smart, tragic, and action packed—all the makings of a Joss story at its best.

Buffyfest: What about a favorite character?

SH: Guh...! What a painful question! I have so much love for so many characters for so many reasons. But... if I really think on it... it's gotta be Buffy. She's my girl. She's strong, smart, sexy, funny, totally flawed and human in the midst of all her superness.

Buffyfest: Which season of Buffy(besides season 8) is your favorite?

SH: Season Two. You’ve got Spike and Dru, Ms. Calendar, Oz, and Buffy and Angel falling in love. There’s so much drama and tension. It was a very moving Season. The characters and what makes them unique really started to take shape effectively establishing who they would eventually become.

Buffyfest: As for Season 8, which arc was your favorite to work on? Which was the most challenging?

SH: My favorite arc to work on thus far... probably Brian K. Vaughan's No Future For You. It's the first storyline I worked on after moving from DC Comics to Dark Horse, and I had a preexisting relationship with Vaughan as one of his publicists at Vertigo. I also really dug a story focused on Faith and Giles. Vaughan did a fantastic job capturing the sensibilities of those characters. The most challenging arc has gotta be the current one—Last Gleaming. I don't know if anyone has heard but Joss is in charge of making a really important movie AND he's trying to wrap up Season Eight. Daunting. But what's really cool about every single person involved with this series is that they rally, big time, to do their best and get the book to out on time. It's challenging, but it's exciting too. I'm dying to read issue #40.

Buffyfest: Buffy Season 8 has introduced a lot of women and girls into the comic book world. Why do you think it is a great medium for girls?

SH: Comics are a great medium for everyone who enjoys a great story. Comic books are varied across the board tackling every theme and topic imaginable. Just like regular ol' books or movies or our lives. There is something for everyone.

Buffyfest: On the other hand, there’s been some criticism of Season 8 saying the feminist message has been lost. What's your take?

SH: Each season of Buffy—be it on TV or in comics—has followed this heroine into fantastic and also awful situations. The writers of Buffy have made choices for the cast of characters that I don't always agree with. I’ve been outright pissed and disgusted or just sad. But I see these choices as Buffy's. She's especially compelling to me because she's imperfect. The girl can FLY and yet she's still driven by irrational, spur of the moment decisions that she'll suffer the consequences for. These "flaws" make her wonderfully relatable. Human. They are her choices. And even if I don't always agree with said choices, I'm still eager to find out where they will land her. Will she grow? Will she recover? Will she crumble? Will the people who love her forgive her? Again? Will she become more cold, distant—a soldier with the weight of the world on her back? She's allowed to be flawed, and she'll always try and make up for it. That's one thing I can count on, and it brings me back. Buffy's empowering even if she's making bad choices—self destructive or otherwise. Most of the time she's saving the world and trying to make sure everyone is provided for to the detriment of her self. I find her empowering because of all of those things—being a strong, fearless woman, and human when she's something other worldly altogether.

Buffyfest: The now infamous Twilight-gate cover leak must have been a hard day at the office. Can you describe the climate at Dark Horse that day?

SH: The cover leak was awful. We were pretty deflated by the whole experience. It had been this incredibly exciting secret that had been kept under wrap for years, and then suddenly the news was out, and we had to do some damage control. There was no great way to come out of that situation gracefully. And then… you’re on the next thing, trying to keep the book coming out on time and hoping there are still some secrets remaining by the very end.

Buffyfest: Now that the word is out that Angel is moving over to Dark Horse, everyone is getting excited for the expanded world that will be Buffy Season 9. How involved are you in this early stage? Will you be choosing artists, etc?

SH: I'll be offering input on artists and writers for the various titles. I'm a tad opinionated, and I want these new books to kick ass and continue to raise the bar and give fans a unique and fulfilling experience. Scott and I are working closely—and certainly with Joss—to figure what to do with Season Nine and any titles coming out of the Angel license. I'm really looking forward to getting more immersed in this world.

Buffyfest: Speaking of Angel, he is a very controversial character in the Buffyverse. What’s your take on him?

SH: I like Angel. I especially liked him when I was fifteen years old and first watching the show . . . ahem. As I've grown older my feelings toward Angel have changed from swoony to thinking he's charming but a bit of a goober. And goober is a good thing! It's endearing! But honestly when I go back and watch episodes of the show there are moments between Buffy and Angel that still totally move me. It's some of the best writing.

Buffyfest: Recently, at Dragon Con, both Scott Allie and Georges Jeanty gave some ominous comments about the upcoming Buffy Issue # 39. If you could give one word to explain your feelings about the events of that issue, what would it be?

SH: ill.

Buffyfest: Uh, oh. For the last question, let's move on to something lighter. What’s got your interest these days? Any comics that you think are a must read for any Buffy fan?

SH: I’ve been plowing through a lot of novels lately—most recently Zadie Smith’s On Beauty and the massive Justin Cronin post-apocalyptic vampire insanity The Passage. As far as comics that Buffy fans might enjoy… Y: The Last Man is still a favorite. It’s politically savvy and timeless. The characters are hilarious and compelling. Lately, I’ve really been enjoying Gabrielle Bell’s work—brilliantly written, and darkly humorous slice of life stories, which she writes and draws herself. I’m also biased when it comes to recommending The Guild comics written by Felicia Day (creator of the hit web show of the same name). The comics (published by Dark Horse) are quirky, fun, and totally relatable. Anything with Zack Whedon’s name on it is sure to win my favor. Yeah… we work together, but the kid is a blast to work with, and an incredible talent. He’s really adapted well to the comics medium. Everyone has to pick up Zack’s first endeavor into the world of Serenity with The Shepherd’s Tale out in November. Tear jerker!

Thanks, Sierra!

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