Fans of Joss Whedon’s hip horror world centering on Buffy the Vampire Slayer have already embarked on the 12-issue saga that is “Season 11.” But even though this year’s canonical continuation of the cult TV series is shorter than seasons past, the Dark Horse world isn’t done with “Buffy” alone. This week sees the debut of “Angel Season 11” – the latest chapter in the afterlife of the Whedonverse’s leading vampire.
While previous years of the comics have seen the “Buffy” and “Angel” series (whatever form they may take) work closely together to tell a sprawling story, Season 11 sees “Angel” going solo in more ways than one.
Under the guidance of writer Corinna Bechko and artist Geraldo Borges, the series will embark on its own 12-issue journey in parallel with “Buffy Season 11.” The book takes Angel out of previous trappings like Los Angeles and London and actually out of the 21st Century as a whole. Instead, the story focuses on the goddess Illyria transporting Angel back through his own past as an aristocratic vampire…and on the path to confronting a Big Bad villain all his own.
CBR spoke with Bechko about her first foray into the Whedonverse, and got an exclusive, expanded look inside this week’s #1. Below, the writer digs into the ways in which she’ll connect her “Season 11” to all past iterations of Angel on the screen and on the page, the way the vampire with a heart will finally overcome his dark side and why historical horror fiction is the right frontier for the future of the franchise.
CBR: Corinna, comic fans will know a lot of your work both at Dark Horse and across the business, but since the Whedonverse is such a unique and specific story space, I wanted to start with your own experience there as a fan. What’s your background as a Buffy/Angel follower? How much of a crash course did you have to put yourself through when you got the gig?
Corinna Bechko: I immediately read every “Buffy” and “Angel” comic Dark Horse had ever produced, and set about watching “Angel” in order from the start. I needed everything to be fresh in my mind, and the result was that Angel’s world seemed very full and multi-layered to me by the time I was done. It’s funny how immersing yourself in something can alter your feel for it in contrast to what you half-remember from impressions gathered years earlier.
Of course, this world is also an idiosyncratic one – the Buffy books like all of Joss’ work have a very specific tone to them. What’s it been like balancing your own writing style with the voice of these shows/comics as you’ve gotten underway?
When I write for myself, it’s a very different experience compared to working in someone else’s universe. In a situation like this, my job is to erase myself as much as possible and to not impose my personal style too much. Of course, I can’t help but be me, but I try to capture the voice and tone of the original as closely as possible while still bringing something new to it.
Generally speaking, the core Buffy series, which is always about the Scooby gang fighting against Monster X in Y phase of their lives, but “Angel” as a concept has been a little more fluid. Last year, we saw his status quo shift to the “Angel & Faith” series, but he’s solo now. How would you describe your book in comparison to past iterations of the character?
I think that Angel is all about how his past impacts his future to an extent not seen in “Buffy.” He can’t ever escape what he is, often to his determent, but sometimes to his good fortune as well. Season 11 will explore this theme more deeply, and in the course of that, we will see some familiar faces. Close readers who paid a lot of attention to the show will spot references, of course, and will hopefully be pleased by the implications.
At his core, Angel has always been a character fighting against his darker impulses, and that idea has really taken on new dimensions since the Dark Horse series started up. How do you hope to explore this internal dynamic over the course of “Season 11”?
I think that Angel is a complex enough character that his fight has become something nuanced. He doesn’t have to like the dark things he’s done, but he can and does learn from them, and then he often turns that knowledge to good advantage. Over the course of this season, I hope he learns that he can trust himself more and that even some of his worst impulses can be made to bear fruit that benefits the light instead of the darkness.
From what I’ve seen, artist Geraldo Borges seems to not just be working to provide a strong likeness for the characters fans already know, but it feels that as a storyteller he’s working on some unique page compositions. What’s your experience working with him so far, and what are you trying to tailor to his style in your scripts?
I’m so lucky to be working with Geraldo! His art really captures both the energy and the pathos of Angel’s character in a much more holistic way than by simply producing his likeness. I will admit that I threw some rather hallucinogenic sequences his way and was thrilled to see how beautifully wild and otherworldly they turned out.
Getting into the story, we know that this series involves time travel to Angel’s own past – a period of Buffy history that’s been talked about a lot but rarely seen. What’s the biggest draw for you in writing in this period both from a history standpoint and for what it says about Angel as a character?
I like writing stories set in the past since that often involves a lot of fun research, but in this case, it requires not only delving into real-world facts, but a close study of the history portrayed in the shows and comics. I do think I have it pretty easy because the real challenge is for the artist who has to do a lot of extra work in order to get the clothes, food, ships, houses, etc. correct. Hopefully, the end product will result in Angel getting to know himself a bit better. Angel often has a harder time forgiving himself than he does anyone else.
We know that in the main “Buffy” book, the team is working with the “short season” format (at least compared to previous seasons) of 12 issues. Will you run take a similar approach, or are you structuring this run differently?
Season 11 will have 12 issues in it, portioned into three natural arcs.
One big tease for the story is that Angel is investigating a potential future Big Bad. What can you say about the nature of this threat and any wider connection it will have with what’s going on “Buffy Season 11”?
By design, there won’t be any crossover between “Buffy Season 11” and “Angel Season 11.” Both will be complete unto themselves, so the reader can enjoy them in any order they like. As to the threat, it’s something very unique to Angel’s situation, so only he can solve the riddle and keep the world safe from a potentially devastating future.
Ultimately, what’s the aspect of this series you find the most rewarding creatively? And what about working with this character in this world is most challenging?
It is always enjoyable to delve into different historical contexts, and here I get to do it not once, but several times. It’s also a challenge though because Angel has such a complex and lengthy history. It’s important to get all the little details correct because he deserves no less from me!
“Angel Season 11” #1 arrives this Wednesday from Dark Horse Comics.