While CBR TV had the chance to talk with Joss Whedon himself inside a secure location on the floor of Comic-Con International, that wasn’t the only part of our con coverage dedicated to talking all things “Buffy The Vampire Slayer.” On the CBR Yacht, the writers of two pivotal Dark Horse Comics series based on the cult classic TV show came by: “Buffy Season 9’s” Andrew Chambliss and “Angel & Faith’s” Christos Gage.
Together, the pair dove into a mass of questions about shape of “Season 9” as a whole and revealed how they’d soon be pulling their disparate story threads together for the finale for this more personal take on the Buffyverse. Below, you can check out the video and read the transcript as Chambliss and Gage talk up the secret history of Giles, the next major appearance of Spike, the way the series was broken out and how it all leads to “Season 10.”
CBR News: Guys, the “Buffy Season 9” series has been really interesting because I think when Joss Whedon was working on “Season 8” and bringing so many different writers in, it was such an experiment -Â not only in terms of the story and what can be done in comics versus television, but also in terms of interacting with the fans in a way I don’t think “Buffy” ever had before. When “Buffy” was on TV, it had a hardcore fanbase, but the kind of internet culture we have today wasn’t really going with quite that back and forth. At the end of “Season 8,” there was a lot of questions, indignant anger and love for certain things in the series. When you came in, what kinds of discussions did you have early on about how you would keep focus knowing people would be desperate for information and to tell you what’s right and wrong from the start?
Andrew Chambliss: I think the key was the way we started. We had a big writer’s summit, and Christos was there [with] Jane Espenson, Drew Greenberg [and] Zack Whedon at Joss’ house. We kind of all got on the same page and came up with what we wanted the direction of the season to be. I think that because we had at the outset such a solid point of view and where we wanted to take it, we weren’t too concerned about reacting to everything we were reading.
Christos Gage: There was also the knowledge that Joss was going to be getting into “Avengers” in depth really soon, so we kind of had to lock down. We’re both getting to the point now where we’re at issue #18 or 19 of our scripts, and we’re starting to talk to Joss again about ending it and setting up Season 10. But at that time, we knew we had to lock things down for a good long way. So it wasn’t the kind of thing where “Okay, if we see people don’t like this, we’re going to change it.” Not that [Joss] wasn’t involved in approving scripts and things along the way, but essentially it was, “We’ve got to work this out here while we can because once he’s on the set of ‘Avengers’ he’s not going to have a lot of time to talk to us.”
Chambliss: Yeah. I think I remember, one of the last phone calls I had with him, he was down in New Mexico in the middle of pre-production, about to go into production. And I had to be like, “Wait. I need to ask him every question I can.” [Laugher] Because I didn’t want to be in a month like…
Gage: “What is Buffy’s favorite flavor of ice cream? I just want to know this in case it comes up!” And that’s very big in issue #20, the flavor of ice cream.
Tell me a little bit about how you viewed the shape of the project as a whole. We’ve had a lot of smaller arcs and some big moments in “Season 9,” and “Angel & Faith” has gone between four-issue arcs and one-shots. Have you guys gotten a sense of a three-act structure where an inciting incident is there that will make us go back at the end and say “This is what tied it all together”?
Chambliss: I think the thing that I’m always keeping in mind when I’m writing is what Joss said to me about approaching “Season 9”: Try to write it as much like the show as possible, and try to think of each arc as an episode. There are things for the season arc that we’re laying in in the early arcs, but each arc is going to have its own emotional story and its own conclusion – it’s own kind of stand-alone story. And [it will] build to the bigger arc that we’ll get to at the very end in the same way that the show would build a big arc but have these small [stories].
But it’s still more episodic with more solo adventures than something like “Lost” where every little bit takes you closer.
Chambliss: It definitely looks at it in an episodic way and looks at a three or four-issue arc as an episode of television, having a story that concludes an arc that can also lead into the next arc.
Gage: For “Angel & Faith,” it’s a similar thing. It’s not as much modeled after “Angel” the show because it’s a different premise, but you start out doing “cases” for want of a better word. In this case it’s – spoiler alert -Â about finding a way to bring Giles back to life. That’s what Angel’s been trying to do this whole season – make up for this horrible mistake he made. So it’s the search of the week, but at the same time, it is taking you somewhere so that when you get closer to the end of the season, it’s all about the Big Bad and what are we doing. I think one of the things that Joss said in the summit was that in “Season 8” they went huge -Â cosmic, for want of a better word – and this season it’s been more about the people, the characters and a little bit more – not that there aren’t big threats – but more about the people.
So who is the character in the Buffy world that you’ve really dug into writing and enjoyed that you didn’t expect coming in?
Chambliss: For me, I think it was Spike. Just using him as a point of view into Buffy. Especially in an arc where she thought she was pregnant, I never really realized that building his feelings for her would allow me to dig into what Buffy was feeling, and that was kind of a surprise as I was breaking those arcs back and forth with Joss. It came out that Spike was so important to Buffy, but it’s kind of nice that he’s off on his own mini series. And [Christos] is going to play with Spike a bit.
Gage: Yeah, that’s top secret. We’re breaking news here.
Chambliss: Oh. Whoops! [Laughs]
Gage: I don’t know when they’re going to announce it, but he is going to come over to “Angel & Faith.” Top secret! We may have to get this part vetted! For me, I knew I was going to love writing Angel and Faith, and I knew I was going to love writing Giles in the flashbacks. But for me, the real surprise were these two characters -Â Giles’ great aunts. These were characters that were supposed to be in the “Ripper” BBC show that Joss was going to do. They were going to be played by Anthony Stewart Head’s daughters in real life who are actors. And Joss pitched them to me and said, “Here are these characters from the ‘Ripper’ show. If you want them, feel free to use them.” They’re these eternally young, kind of like Paris Hilton if she was magic and used her magic to stay young forever. I brought them in in issue #10, and I was a little worried about writing them because I’m not an eternally young, beautiful girl.
You are inside.
Gage: I know. This may come as a shock to you. But they were so much fun to write, and I know everyone -Â Scott [Allie] and Sierra [Hahn] and Freddie [Lins], the editors at Dark Horse – said “We love seeing these characters. Bring them more in.” And I have a ton of fun writing them. And Harmony was a lot of fun just in the one issue she showed up.
Chambliss: I was a little jealous of that. [Laughter]
There are pieces of the Buffy world – the “Ripper” show is something that fans have wanted to know about for a long time and know about that part of Giles’ life, and with a character like Spike, ever since he showed up in “Season 8” in a ship with giant bug people…it’s like, “What the hell does that mean?” Did either of you as you were working arc-by-arc with Joss get to a point where you said, “Here’s something I discovered from my love of the show that I as a fan want an answer to that I’m pulling into the story”?
Chambliss: There’s something I can’t talk about now that I’ve blown one thing. It’s still in the works now.
Gage: For me, it was probably the flashbacks to Giles’ past. Joss has been really generous. We run things by him all the time, and he just say, “No, go ahead and do that.” Obviously, I’m drawing from the shows. We know that Ripper was a punk rock guy from the late ’70s, and I’ve also done some scenes now that go back into his childhood, his graduation from Watcher school when he was 16 or whatever, and that for me has been really great to add to the canon of that -Â and also because the character has been such a great character, thinking “What would shape this guy as a young person given what we know?”
Chambliss: All right, I have an answer I can safely say. [Laughter] It was nice to be able to go back and do a flashback to Nikki.
Gage: That was great. I loved that.
Chambliss: It just…when it occurred to me, I shot an e-mail off to Scott and Joss. It just seemed like such a great counterpoint to what was going on when Buffy thought she was pregnant to see another Slayer go through the exact same journey and make her own decision. Even though that’s a story that Buffy doesn’t necessarily know, it’s something that reflects nicely on her emotional journey. That was a lot of fun to dig into that, and I think that we’d seen her like twice in the series, and those were very brief flashbacks.
As you guys said, you’re getting to the point now where you’re at least thinking about what the ending of the season will be, and you’re working on that. Is there going to be another writer’s summit to figure the ending out, and if there is, do you think Joss will film an entire film that weekend and make you stars in it?
Chambliss: [Laughs] That may actually happen. We were just talking with Scott Allie this morning about nailing down the date to do that by the end of the summer to make sure we’re all on the same page and ending our respective seasons in satisfying way while also kind of platforming for what we want to do with “Season 10.”
Gage: Exactly. If anything, I think the focus is that we’ve known where we were going in a general sense, but now is the time to nail down specifics – where are we ending on that will lead to “Season 10”?