In November, writers David Tischman and Mariah Huehner begin a season finale-worthy arc on IDW Publishing’s “Angel,” returning a longtime adversary to the fold and at last revealing the true Big Bad. Their arc, titled “The Wolf, the Ram, and the Heart,” begins in issue #39 and runs for six issues. It also represents Angel’s final adventure at IDW, as it was recently revealed that the license and associated characters will return to Dark Horse in late 2011. CBR News spoke with Tischman and Huehner about their arc, their approach to Angel, and things which are not as they seem.
Wolfram & Hart, the law firm run by demonic senior partners that has plagued Angel since his first season on television (and who ultimately sent Los Angeles to Hell during the series’ initial story arc “After the Fall”), return for Tischman and Huehner’s arc, which will close out the vampire hero’s adventures at IDW. “Wolfram & Hart are really the quintessential opposite to Angel. They’re the embodiment of everything that he’s trying to fight and everything that tempts him to be something other than a hero,” Huehner said. “Other than himself, I think W&H are Angel’s most consistent nemeses and you need them to really have an epic ending. As was proven, I think, by both Season 5 and ‘After the Fall.'”
Tischman agreed, noting that Wolfram & Hart were integral part of “Angel’s” run on television. “Look, the reason people read the ‘Angel’ comic books, the reason they love these characters – it’s all because of the ‘Angel’ TV show, which ran over 100 episodes over 5 seasons. When they pick up the comic book, that’s the experience they want to have recreated for them. Forget that this our last arc for a minute,” Tischman said. “Our primary goal with these issues is to tell a great new, original story that recreates that TV experience. To have the characters sound authentic, like you’re hearing the actors who played them in your head. In a new adventure. To have the conflicts and moral dilemmas Angel’s facing stay true to the character, as he was originally created. Wolfram & Hart has always been a big part of all of that.”
The Senior Partners haven’t been a central presence since “After the Fall,” but Los Angeles’ journey to hell and back has continued to reverberate, as the city’s inhabitants remember the events of an infernal year even though the clock turned back at the arc’s climax such that those things “didn’t really happen.” “I’ve always seen it as, these things did happen because there have been consequences. Whether it’s because people remember what ‘didn’t’ happen, or because of such a massive time shift, it was real. It’s just that the human mind can only take so many contradictions,” Huehner said. The new arc will, however, “bring us to a more solid place in that respect.”
“What happens in #39-#44 is very real, and it affects Angel and Connor in very significant ways,” Tischman added. “Especially if you like the Angel-Connor conversation in #38, I think you’re going to like what happens to Connor and how that puts him and Angel in a good place.”
This time around, though, the firm will have an unusual part to play in the six-issue story. “In typical W&H fashion, we find that they aren’t doing what you’d expect. And they’re reaching out to Angel again, only he’s not buying what they’re selling. At first,” Huehner said. “However, things get very weird for Angel in this last arc and he starts to see how even the ‘bad’ guys can have more at stake than it seems.”
Speaking to how this arc will coordinate with “Angel’s” pending move to Dark Horse, Tischman told CBR, “We’ve done some tweaking to make our end dovetail with Dark Horse’s beginning, but I’m not worried about being all ‘matchy-matchy.’ Some of the bigger ideas are presented in a very subtle fashion, and peppered throughout this arc. I’d qualify those ideas as clues to future behavior, rather than spelled out connect-the-dots.” But as to how the various threads related to Wolfram & Hart are tied up by the end, Tischman asked, “Who said W & H gets tied up?”
Some of the prominent supporting cast members will also have a chance to shine. “We do want to have everything that’s going on match up. So that includes the ‘Illyria’ mini, which directly relates to events in this last arc, although it’s not just a way to get from point A to point B in ‘Angel.’ We’re also making sure it lines up with the ‘Spike’ series Brian [Lynch] is doing,” Huehner said. “All of them will stand on their own, but we’re making sure bits and pieces come together so it’s a cohesive ending.”
With two issues remaining in the current creative team of Bill Willingham and Emma Casagrandes’ run – #37 in September and #38 in October – many details about Tischman and Huehner’s arc cannot yet be revealed. But both oncoming writers said that what’s going on now in the series will fluidly set up the series finale. “Everything comes together in issue #38 and sets up what’s to come. Team Angel is not going to look the same or behave the same way after everything that’s happened,” Huehner said. “The Whedonverse has always used consequences as a means to explore characters, and that’s very important to this arc. Connor will have discovered some incredibly important things about himself as the child of two vampires, Spike heads off to Las Vegas, and Illyria is about to make some significant character leaps. The latter is really important to me because I feel like she’s been sort of drifting for awhile and we’re working hard to give her an arc that really matters.”
“To be blunt, some of the choices Bill made didn’t sit well with the fans. At the time. But when you see what we’re doing, I think you’ll see that Bill was laying down some awesome story points,” Tischman added. “And when you see #39 – really, the end of #38 – you’ll see how those ideas (and which ones) have developed. Mariah and I are working a great, original, very dramatic and action-heavy story, something we’d been talking about for a while. Something that takes Angel back to his roots in a completely surprising way. But I also think long-time readers will be a little surprised at how well we’ve been able to use the seeds Bill planted to ground this new story even deeper in the IDW ‘Angel’ mythology.”
Tischman’s previous “Angel” miniseries, “Barbary Coast,” took a look at the character at a very different point in his life, set in San Francisco at the turn of the twentieth century, where Angel sought a “cure” for his newly-restored soul. “I love working in period, but if you know Angel you know Angel – it’s really that simple – whether he’s running around 1906 San Francisco or driving the PCH in 2011 Los Angeles,” Tischman said. “If you liked ‘Barbary Coast,’ and I hope you did (PLUG: the collection is in stores in September), you’re going to really dig ‘The Wolf, the Ram, and the Heart.'”
Huehner also has considerable experience with “Angel,” having edited the line for nearly two years. Asked how this familiarity with this universe might influence her ideas and writing on “The Wolf, the Ram, and the Heart,” Huehner said, “a lot of it is just being immersed in it all the time. There’s always something to do on ‘Angel’ every day of the week for me. So I’m always having to consider story points, plot threads, character arcs, whether I’m in the office or at home.”
“It makes it a challenge, in the sense that you can’t get complacent and think you’ve thought of everything. But the fact that they do feel like old friends at this point does make finding ways to tie it all together easier,” she continued. “The important thing to remember about the comics is that they aren’t and can’t be the show. Totally different medium. But they can ‘feel’ like it in the core relationships, in the emotional nuances. That’s more important than anything else, really.”
Tischman and Huehner are also currently collaborating on IDW’s big vampire series “True Blood,” the second issue of which is in stores now. Asked whether the writers had worked out a good system for collaboration between “True Blood” and “Angel,” Huehner said, “I like to think so, but I might drive David crazy and not know it. He’s too kind to tell me if I do.
“But yes, I think we’ve got a very good system down at this point. I’d describe it as mutually encouraging. If either of us get stuck on something, the other can offer support and usually a few ways out of it. We ask each other a lot of questions, why would so and so do this, does this ‘sound’ right? Etc. It’s a good way of having checks and balances, and I think it makes us both better writers. Although really, David doesn’t need my help in that regard.”
Tischman concurred, saying, “Mariah and I started this co-writing thing on ‘True Blood,’ and it’s been a lot of fun. We very quickly settled into a very productive rhythm. We do what we do, and if we hit a stumbling block on something, it’s okay to say ‘I’m stuck on this, can you fix it?’ We each bring a piece to the table that makes the end product better. We’re not shy about our opinions, but we’re we’re not precious about it, and we’re also both so polite it’s kind of funny when we do disagree.”
Huehner is also co-writing an “Illyria” miniseries with Scott Tipton, which will launch in November, concurrently with the final “Angel” arc. “The Illyria story takes place parallel to the main Angel book for a bit, and it does influence events directly in this last storyline, without making it feel like it only exists to do so,” Huehner said. “It’s mostly a story about Illyria, getting into her head, understanding her and who she is and what she’ll become, and gives her a meaningful arc. She won’t be exactly the same at the end of it and that will become very important for Angel as well.
“It’s important to me that, as this winds down, characters get to have not only important moments for themselves, but for Angel as well. Let’s face it, none of them would be here it wasn’t for him. They don’t exist just for him, of course, but it should matter. And I think it will.”