Whether it’s “Buffy Season 10” or “Superior Spider-Man,” writer Christos Gage has a lot going on — but he’s got a little assistance when it comes to crafting the adventures of Buffy Summers and the gang. Original “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” actor Nicholas Brendon will return to co-write issues of the series with Gage following his successful recent co-writing of “Buffy Season 10.”
Gage joined CBR executive producer Jonah Weiland at the CBR Speakeasy in Los Angeles to discuss Brendon’s return to the series, breaking into comics ten years ago, the major benefits of co-writing — whether it’s with Brendon, his wife Ruth, or Dan Slott on “Superior Spider-Man” — and much more. Plus, he chats about his love of football and driving his ’68 Camero through rough Massachusetts winters growing up.
On breaking into comics through work in TV and film: I sent my first submission into Marvel in the 1980s, so I was probably 14. Got a letter back saying, in the nicest possible way, “This pretty much sucks. You’re not ready yet.” I sent in some stuff to DC and Image in the early ’90s when I was in college. Got some encouraging words back, but didn’t follow it up because — I don’t know why. I went to film school, and out of film school, my wife Ruth and I started co-writing together. About six months out of film school, sold a pitch for a movie to Warner Bros. We got paid, got into the writer’s guild — the script is sitting on a shelf, as many of them do. But I started doing some movies, did a movie called “The Breed,” did a movie by myself called “Teenage Caveman” … We wrote a number of screenplays that didn’t get produced, and then got into TV: “Law and Order: SVU,” “Numbers” — and then got into comics. At the time, it was more backing into it. There was much more of a hierarchy. If you were a movie writer, you didn’t do TV unless you couldn’t get work in movies anymore. If you did live-action TV, you didn’t do animation unless you couldn’t get work in live-action anymore. If you wrote TV, you didn’t write comics because it was a step down. Then, there were guys like Kevin Smith and Joss Whedon right around the time I was in film school that said, “The hell with that. I love all these different types of writing and I’m going to do them all.” After a while people were like, “Yeah, me too!” But at the time, it was a bit unusual.
It worked in my favor because at the time it was Kevin Smith and Joss and that was about it, and at the time, if you had any credits in Hollywood you could say, “I’d like to write some comics,” and they’d say, “Wow! Come on in!” Now it’s like, “And, you’ve won how many Oscars? One? Come back when it’s two.”
On Nicholas Brendon’s return to “Buffy Season 10”: We had fun, and we wanted to keep doing it. There were good opportunities for him to do it. We did issues 3-5 together, we’re doing 7 and then 11 and 12. … We live close to each other, so we get together and talk. I think it works — I feel in co-writing situations, what you don’t want are two people who are good at the exact same things and approach it the exact same way. Then, you’re just duplicating it and there’s no point. You want a situation where the skills complement each other, so the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. That’s the case with me and my wife, that’s the case with me and Dan Slott, me and Mike Costa — and it’s definitely the case with me and Nicky. He’s a trained actor, his experience is as an actor, and he approaches things from that point of view. I was trained as a writer. In #3, he goes to visit Dracula, riffing off the thing that Drew Goddard set up in “Season 8,” Dracula and Xander have a man crush relationship. Dracula is trying to convince Xander to come back and be his manservant. They just finished their regular Tuesday Night Orgy, and boy is it sad you missed it! He’s faking it, he’s lying, and I wanted to get across that he was lying and I didn’t know how to do it without being clunky. Nicky was like, “Just keep repeating the word orgy.” We met later and he said, “I see you keep having people repeat stuff when they’re lying.” “Yeah, it’s a great trick! It works!” I love that because you come out being a better solo writer for having been in the co-writing situation.
On what he’s learned co-writing with his wife and co-writing with Dan Slott: Ruth thinks very visually, almost like a director. I tend to approach thing more for dialogue, and I can’t tell you what we were just working on, but she came up with a moment in a battle scene that was so visual and brilliant and brutal that I was like, “Oh my God!” and then I was a little scared. … I think she would make an excellent director. She pushes me to think in a visual way. … Dan is a bundle of energy. When we talk about Spider-Man stories, for example, he does the voice of Jonah Jameson — the growling, “Parker!” He does the voice of the Thing. But the big difference between me and Dan is that he is very plot-focused and I’m more script-focused. I do outlines because you have to, they’re important. I hate doing them. I love writing the script. He can write the plots no problem, he hates writing the scripts. It’s like Jack Spratt and his wife, we’re each better at the other thing. It’s overly simplistic to say he plots and I script, because he writes lines and from time-to-time, I’ll bring in a plot element, but generally, that’s how it works.
On his Patriots season tickets, held despite the cold Massachusetts winters: Ruth and I are bi-coastal, but when we spend time back east, it’s in North Carolina, where she’s from. We spent a winter in Massachusetts a couple years ago and there was literally a blizzard every week. … Never again will I spend a winter in Massachusetts. So, it’s Carolina or L.A. for me. I have Patriot season tickets, and I go to a couple of games every year, but the rest of the time, I give them to family or friends.