Before he was the heroic but tormented vampire with a soul, and after his days as one of Europe’s most ruthless bloodsuckers, Angel was simply a vamp with a curse who would do anything to shake it off. In “Angel: Barbary Coast,” a three-issue miniseries debuting in April from IDW Publishing, Angel finds himself in turn-of-the-twentieth-century San Francisco in search of a man who might just hold the secret to curing the gypsy curse – and getting rid of that pesky soul once and for all. As with all things Angel, though, things are not quite so straightforward. CBR News spoke with writer David Tischman about the series, which features Franco Urru on art.
“‘Barbary Coast’ is set in 1906, so Angel’s really only been in America a short time. And he’s still dealing with this whole ‘soul’ thing. He’s not happy about it, and he’d do anything to get rid of it,” Tischman said of the series’ set-up. “If there’s one thing I know, it’s guilt – not a pleasant thing. So this is not Angel the good guy, or even Angel the tortured vampire – this is a pissed-off Angel who’s doing what he needs to do to get what he needs. That’s what attracted me to this story, and he’s been fun to write because of that.”
As to why Angel makes the journey to the Bay Area, Tischman said, “There’s always been a large Asian population in San Francisco, and Angel comes to town looking for a specific healer, a Chinese Medicine man named Xin. He’s heard Xin can do amazing things with spells and potions and elixirs – and he’s hoping Xin can do something to get rid of the Gypsy’s curse.”
The setting itself will play a significant role in “Angel: Barbary Coast,” as the city of San Francisco finds itself in a crisis not entirely dissimilar to Angel’s. “I’ve been wanting to do some kind of Barbary Coast story for a while. Basically, it was the 19th century red light district in San Francisco, and it was a hard and nasty place. Bars, gambling, whores – the really fun stuff,” Tischman explained. “Herbert Asbury, who wrote ‘Gangs of New York,’ wrote a great history of the area. But by the turn of the century, the Gold Rush was over and San Francisco was tired of the vice. If the city was going to survive, something had to change. The Earthquake and the fires destroyed much of the city, and that was the death knell for the Barbary Coast.
“I mention that because the way the city’s changing is really a metaphor for what’s going on with Angel. Angelus would’ve loved the Barbary Coast. Angel, like the city, is having a hard time figuring out how to create a new future.”
As to how Angel, his familiar cast, and his penchant for adventure may play into “Barbary Coast,” Tischman said, “I’m really happy with this story. It’s three issues, and each issues ramps up the action and the stakes (no pun intended), and we’re able to use vampires in cool ways. I don’t want to give too much away, but the fact that we’re in San Francisco in 1906 is a good indication where this story is going – but I think the way we get there is unexpected and fun, and very much in keeping with who Angel is, and the kind of problems he gets into.
“There are demons in the story, but no familiar faces – not in the traditional sense. We do have a bartender named Lynch, who I named after Brian Lynch, who’s a friend and who’s done his share of cool-ass Angel stories. Enrico Caruso, the great opera singer, he has a cameo, too. And everyone knows Franco Urru, our artist. These pages are unbelievable. Franco worked really hard and gives us amazing period detail on every page. It’s really great work. I will say this: If you look really close, you’ll see a thread of a major player in the Angel universe, but I’m not telling.”
Tischman has worked on a solid mix of creator-owned projects, most recently “Red Herring” at Wildstorm, and established or licensed properties, such as the current “Luke McBain” minseries published by 12 Gauge, which was developed with country musician Trace Adkins. “I don’t like to be tied down; I like to jump around,” the writer said of his eclectic workload. “I like different genres. Each book is different, and that’s the way I like it. A lot of guys get pinned down. ‘Oh, he only does superheroes.’ Or, ‘he only does crime.’ I have a lot of different interests and I’m fortunate ,because comics lets me play in a bunch of different sand boxes. I tend to work from themes, what interests me and how does that play out in comics. Or, I get a chance to work on a great character – whether that’s Angel or Captain Kirk – and I get turned on by real-world problems or issues that could affect them.”