Will Salmon chats to the man who's been creating the visuals for the Buffy Season Eight comic
How did you land the job on Buffy Season Eight?
“I was working for another company and out of nowhere I got an email from Scott Allie, the editor of the Buffy comic. He proceeds to tell me how much he likes my work and that Joss Whedon wants me to draw the new Buffy book. I wrote back to Scott saying, ‘If that’s true then have Joss e-mail me’. The very next email was, ‘Hi, this is Joss...’”
Were you a fan of the show beforehand?
“Never saw an episode. When I got the gig Dark Horse sent me seasons six and seven. I became rabid! I went out and got the rest, and all of Angel and loved them. I even got Veronica Mars because everyone was saying it was a worthy successor to Buffy . I was committed!?”
You’re drawing a lot of actors in this book. Which is more important – a photo-realistic likeness, or capturing the essence of the character they play?
“Joss was very specific about this. When I got the job he said he didn’t want everything photo-realistic and sometimes stiff. He wanted the book to feel like a comic. He understands how much this medium is just as valid as any other. If you’re doing your job right, you can move people just as much as if you were watching it on TV. I’ve always felt the best compliments about Season Eight have been when people have said how much an issue moved them.”
“It’s the hardest part of the book. When I draw superhero comics I can do what I like. Drawing Buffy takes me about 30% longer because I’m constantly referring to photos! It’s gotten easier over the years, but I still struggle with the likenesses.”
I’m particularly interested in the villain, Twilight. Did you have a clear vision of how he should look?
“I had no idea. Joss said he should have a wrestler mask and a trench coat, and that was it. From there I started drawing designs of different types of masks and such. The Twilight emblem was something he wanted the character to have but it didn’t have to be anywhere specific. I was fully prepared to go back and forth with Joss about this for weeks; the character wasn’t going to be seen for months and I wanted to get it right. But after a few days Joss looked at one design and said, ‘That's it!’ It was the shortest turn around I ever had for a character design. I was very proud of myself for getting it right so soon.”
Speaking of Twilight, how did you react when you found out that his secret identity had leaked prematurely? It must have been gutting...
“It was! I was so gutted. Disappointing doesn’t even begin to describe it. For three years everyone involved kept this really big secret, understanding that it would have a huge pay off. Someone e-mailed me asking if it was true [that the secret had leaked], and that’s how I found out. From there it snowballed.
Did Dark Horse have a plan to limit the damage?
“They were caught off guard. I’m told they had a meeting and Joss was contacted and steps were taken, but I wasn’t involved in that part at all. I was reading on the Internet as information was available. It was weird how at the beginning there was nothing, and after it leaked, it was like a rainstorm; a trickle at first and then a torrent of email.”
Did you know from the start that it was Angel behind the mask?
“?I did! That’s what made the premature reveal so frustrating! We were tending our garden, carefully nurturing this Angel fruit and mere months before maturation it gets picked! I really do feel, had things gone the way they should have, it would have been on everyone's list of ‘shocking moments of 2010’!”
How did you find drawing the battle scenes in the later issues?
“You don’t know the half of it! Think Lord Of The Rings with all those epic battles! I have drawn certain spreads that have made my hand hurt because they have so many characters on them.”
Do you have any input into the direction of the stories?
“?I don’t have much say in the direction, but I am always suggesting ways of telling the story and making it better. Comics are a collaboration. The writer and I have to work together to tell the best story possible.”
We’re coming up to the end of season eight. Can you give me any hints about what we can expect in the last few issues?
“Everything comes to a head. We will find out what the Twilight symbol means and just how important Buffy and Angel are to each other on a cosmic level.”
Are we talking more epic battles, or personal confrontations?
“Big battles. Cataclysmic events! Angels will weep! The end of season eight could set the stage for Buffy season nine…??”
Will you be involved in that?
“I would love to be involved in some way. Hopefully we'll get together and talk about that soon. Season nine will be very different from all of the Buffy stuff we've seen so far. It should be interesting!”
What are your favourite memories of working on Buffy ?
“There are so many. I have loved being on this book the whole time. Seriously. It has allowed me to work with some amazing writers who all came to the book not because of it's popularity, but because they had a love for the characters. Being a fan myself, it was a joy to get to work with a lot of the writers from the series, and it has been a blast meeting the fans. I count myself among good company, but most of all, it has been an honour working with Joss Whedon. He has been extremely giving.”