When Dark Horse Comics announced earlier this month that the planned “Drusilla” miniseries — a tie-in to the popular “Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 9” ongoing — would be delayed from release indefinitely, many followers of Joss Whedon’s universe of horror adventure felt the pain. But someone else felt the gap strongly too: “Buffy” editor Scott Allie.
To help keep the world of “Season 9” growing strong, Allie and the Dark Horse team announced on Thursday’s pre-C2E2 Diamond Retailer summit that two more tie-in series would launch before year’s end: the five-issue “Spike” story by Victor Gischler and Paul Lee with covers by former IDW “Angel” cover artist Jenny Frison and Steve Morris launching in August and a “Willow” series by Jeff Parker and Brian Ching with covers by David Mack and “Buffy” fan-favorite Megan Lara to follow. CBR News caught up with Allie in advance of the Chicago show for insight into what fans can expect when “Buffy” books go weekly late in the summer.
“We’ve been working on these, and we moved up the announcement a bit to deal with the fact that Dru is gone for now. We felt we needed to do something positive for the fans after we had to do something that I’ve never done before — pull a title after the first issue has been solicited,” he said. “This will be the extent of ‘Season 9’ — a total of five titles.”
Spike, of course, only recently rejoined Buffy and the Scooby Gang after a run on his own at IDW Publishing. Though Allie said he’d be spinning off solo again for reasons people might not understand until they read the upcoming tenth issue of “Buffy Season 9,” which he is writing. “In issue #10, Buffy and Spike say goodbye for a little while. The miniseries picks up shortly thereafter. It fits neatly into the flow of the season, and it’s not a flashback,” the editor said of how his last Buffy writing gig for a while leads in. “In my issue #10, there’s a moment I’m really happy with where Spike’s dialogue to Buffy when they’re saying goodbye reflects my current understanding of the character. He’s sort of revising his attitude towards Buffy a little bit right now.
“It’s interesting because some of the real diehard Spike fans feel like we’re behind the times on this — that Spike got over Buffy. I don’t know if he’s really over Buffy, but I feel like there’s an opportunity for Spike’s feelings about Buffy to evolve a little bit. It’s not for him to create this huge distance between them, but just for him to take a new swipe at it. I think in the past his love for Buffy hasn’t always been the most positive thing for him. That can really drag a guy down.”
From there, the question of who to take the vampire over the next part of his journey came about, and Allie said Gischler had a serendipitous start. “Victor and I have been talking for a little while about doing some books and talking about some creator-owned stuff we could do. But he also had expressed that he was a fan of the Whedon-verse. I’ve read a bunch of his stuff now, but in particular it was the ‘Punisher On The Bayou’ trade that I read, and similar to [‘Angel & Faith’ writer] Chris Gage, it just took one really good book to make an impression on me and make me say, ‘Okay, I’ve got to work with this guy.’ The Punisher book made me think he could bring a fresh perspective to Whedon’s stuff. [Gischler] has a great voice and a really good understanding of story, and we knew roughly what we wanted to do with Spike, and he felt like the guy for it. He’s been really fun to work with so far.”
Allie added that he was excited to bring on Frison as a cover artist for this series as “I think this is the first time we’ve had somebody who worked on the IDW books come to work on the Dark Horse books. We at Dark Horse are all big fans of Jenny, and we liked her IDW ‘Angel’ covers quite a bit.”
Overall, creative synergy was a big piece of the puzzle for Allie in making “Spike” work the way it had to. “We’ve had a great round of phone calls with the new writers to the line and the established writers,” he said. “It was kind of like a mobile summit like the one we had from before ‘Season 9’ started with Joss and Andrew [Chambliss]. Now occasionally we all get together on the phone to refresh and touch base. So starting these new books, we had a chance to get the new people on the phone and throw ideas around. In small ways, there are things Victor is doing in this story that come from Joss or Chris or Andrew or Sierra [Hahn, my assistant] or me. We all talked about where we felt like Spike was at.”
On the “Willow” front, the editor promised that the series will pay off many unanswered questions about where the character has been since the destruction of The Seed which removed magic from the world. “Willow was the only character where we knew we were going to do a ‘Willow’ series ever since we started ‘Season 9,'” Allie said. “Willow’s got a particular journey she’s got to take that we couldn’t do in ‘Buffy’ because it would detract from Buddy’s story too much. As it turned out, Chris [Gage] had a great idea for how part of that story can be placed in ‘Angel & Faith’ and so that story will start in issue #11 through #14.”
Creatively, this is actually a return to the Buffy-verse for Jeff Parker who drew a story for 2003’s “Tales of the Vampires” anthology series. But, as Allie noted, “He’s never done a big thing for us. We recently announced that we’re doing a print collection of his webcomic ‘Bucko,’ but Jeff hasn’t done enough for Dark Horse yet — it’s great to have him writing a pretty significant series for us at the same time he has a webcomic graphic novel coming out. I’ve been buddies with Jeff for a long time, and our kids go to school together [here in Portland] so I see him at birthday parties and stuff. To work with him, it’s an interesting extension.”
On the art side for “Willow,” Brian Ching moves over from Dark Horse’s “Star Wars” line of comics. “We felt like he would bring something a little different to the Whedon line. And for him, it’s the first time he’s dealing with likenesses in a major way, which I’m sure can not be fun,” Allie said. “One of the super cool things about ‘Willow’ is that we have some liberty in how we present her basically because Allison Hannigan is super cool.”
Overall, Allie said the goal for tie-in series like “Spike” and “Willow” is to fit seamlessly into the fabric of “Season 9” on the whole. “We want these books to tie significantly to what’s going on in the season. There’s no reason to do them unless they do,” he said. “So Victor and Andrew need to be at an understanding as to where the characters are at, or similarly, Willow will show up in ‘Angel & Faith’ for a little while so Chris had to be on the same page with where Andrew Chambliss had her, and we’ve got to make sure that remains smooth [into the ‘Willow’ series]. That can be difficult because a lot is in flux.”
The editor also noted that the large collaboration has also brought in a few familiar faces from Buffy’s past. “Jane Espenson and Drew Greenberg are coming on to write a ‘Buffy’ story arc soon, and we had to make sure they were really caught up on where Buffy is at and where the Scoobies are at — which is sort of nowhere — in order to make their issues synch up properly with where they fall in the series. They had a very specific story they wanted to tell, and we had to alter it to fit it into ‘Season 9.’ That involved input from Andrew and from me and Sierra, and it makes it fun. It’s a fun, collaborative process.
“There was a lot of conversation,” Allie concluded. “It’s fun to try and work out the logistics of how this stuff works — particularly with characters who move from one title to another. With Willow, she’s in ‘Buffy’ until issue #5 where she disappears, then she’s missing until she pops back up in ‘Angel & Faith’ and then after a few months, Andrew needs her back in a particular issue of ‘Buffy’ so we had to make sure we fit the ‘Willow’ series in at the right moment. I’m sure this is what Marvel editors’ days are full of, but not me.”
“Spike” #1 by Victor Gischler and Paul Lee debuts in August, and “Willow” #1 by Jeff Parker and Brian Ching bows in November.