[SPOILER WARNING: Spoilers for this week's issue of "Angel & Faith" lie below. And for a look at future Buffy, check out CBR's preview of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9" #9!]
In the world of Dark Horse and Joss Whedon's Buffy The Vampire Slayer, emotions often run high. But the most recent arc of "Buffy Season 9" series "Angel & Faith" explores what would happen if the titular characters could see their defining emotions -- guilt and regret -- taken away in the blink of an eye.
Wrapping this week with issue #9, the "Daddy Issues" arc brought with it the return of demented vampire Drusilla who, with the help of an emotion-sucking Lorophage demon, offered both of the book's heroes a chance to scrub the emotional baggage that came with their past sins and live life in the now. Combine that with Angel's ongoing attempts to piece together the late Rupert Giles' soul and Faith's dealing with the return of her alcoholic father, and the story holds a lot at stake within the larger fabric of Season 9.
To unpack the drama and the danger of the stories at hand, CBR News is back with a new installment of BEHIND BUFFY SEASON 9. This week, writer Christos Gage takes us on a tour of the "Daddy Issues" arc, revealing his full plans for Drusilla's Dark Horse debut, the inspiration for Faith's father Pat, the whereabouts of Angel's son Connor and the secrets both leads are hiding from each other -- and themselves.
Since we last spoke, we've seen a lot of twists in the story of Dru's return, and I wanted to start by talking a bit about the origin recap we got at the beginning of #7. We've talked before about finding that right balance between explaining for people who haven't seen every bit of the "Buffy" and "Angel" series what the background of these characters is while also giving nods to the die hard fans. What did you most want to get across in the scenes of Angel's siring of Dru, and how did that exposition impact Angel as a character throughout the arc?
Christos Gage: As you mentioned, I think it's important to sometimes recap certain things for the benefit of new readers, but I try to do it in such a way that hopefully looks at the familiar events in a new light, so longtime fans feel like they're getting something out of it too. In this case, I wanted to show a bit of Angel's reasoning when he (or rather, Angelus) chose Dru -- why he picked her, in particular, to be the first vampire he sired: The fact that she was good in all the ways Angel's human self, Liam, was bad; her second sight and the potential for good it gave her, which would now be corrupted; and her general beauty, both inner and outer, which he wanted to despoil. Basically, I wanted to show that Angel has a tremendous amount of guilt about Drusilla -- as we saw when he apologized to her in issue #7 -- which both impacts how he relates to her, and perhaps gives some insight on how he feels about others he's hurt, including Giles.
Not just this arc, but this whole book is a balancing act between your two leads. Early on in the story, the focus is very much on Angel as Dru tries to lure him into using the Lorophage demon's abilities. Did the messenger here make the prospect a little more tempting to Angel, do you think?
No, I think Angel likes to flagellate himself too much to ever consider removing the pain he feels over what he's done. He'd also wonder what would make him different from Angelus if he didn't feel bad about doing bad things. In a deeper sense, I'm not sure Angel would know what to do with himself if he didn't feel constant guilt -- and use it to motivate himself.
The other major side of the coin is Faith's reconnecting with her dad and what that does to her. We'll get to the latter actions in a moment, but I know that part of this back story was originally established in one of the Buffy novels, which are a segment of the show's media output we don't hear about often. How did you work to build up a character we'd never "seen" before in Faith's father, and what were the most important considerations you had in regards to what had been previously established on that front?
Actually, I discussed this with Joss back at the Buffyverse writers summit, and he said that aside from establishing Faith's last name as Lehane -- which he contributed -- the novel wasn't canon and I shouldn't worry about it; I should depict Faith's Dad in whatever way I felt was best. So I didn't read it, though I also didn't go out of my way to contradict it either. My approach to her father, Pat, was based on what kind of man I thought would turn Faith into the damaged person we met in the Buffy show, as well as my knowledge of a certain type of person you meet in Massachusetts -- the kind of guy epitomized in popular media by Jeremy Renner's character in the movie "The Town" -- a manipulator who plays on loyalty, friendship and family ties to get people he supposedly cares about to do things that are really, really bad for them. I don't mean to suggest those kinds of people only exist in Massachusetts, they're everywhere -- but the ones you find in my home state have their own particular characteristics, and Pat Lehane has them in spades.
On the other hand, I didn't want him to be an evil, mustache-twirling bad guy. He's genuinely trying to stay sober. He genuinely wants to have a relationship with Faith. But he's weak, and selfish, and he also sees Faith's power as a quick and easy way to get out from under the problems he's created for himself -- never mind what that does to her. You could hook him up to a lie detector and he'd swear he was doing all this for the benefit of his little girl, and he'd pass with flying colors, because he's such a con artist, he's even conned himself into believing it. But being around him doesn't benefit her at all. It's bad for her -- very bad.
One other small element from issue #7 I can't ignore is a reference to Angel's son Connor. At this point, what can you tell us about where he's ended up and whether or not we'll see him -- or any other cast members from Angel's show -- in the future of this comic?
SPOILER ALERT! (Although nothing that hasn't been revealed in solicits.) Connor is showing up in our next big arc, "Family Reunion," which runs from #11 to #14. We'll learn all about what he's up to now. And there will indeed be another character from the "Angel" TV series showing up, in addition to Willow, whose quest to restore magic brings her to our heroes -- and takes them all to Quor-Toth, the helliest of all hell dimensions, where Connor grew up! Now how, I ask, could you miss that?
Issue #8 gets us into the thick of the Faith/Dad relationship, but before we do that, we also catch up with Nadira and the Slayers who are looking to settle the score with Pearl and Nash. Obviously, part of what we're looking at here is the long term plot for the series, but in what other ways, was it important to let Faith bounce off of Nadira before her dad's troubles came home to roost?
It was important because Nadira is another character, like Angel, who is driven by her pain, and clings to it as a motivating force in her life. And it's clearly really bad for her -- it's causing her to lash out at her friends, get violent towards innocent people, and generally be miserable. One of the reasons Faith goes to Dru and agrees to take the Lorophage demon's "cure," aside from the devastating pain her father caused her, is the fact that she sees these people around her who can't let go of their pain -- in fact adamantly refuse to -- and it's totally screwing up their lives. She doesn't want to end up like them, and at that precise low point, she's willing to grasp at a solution part of her has to know comes with strings attached.
Faith's father is a hard character to pin down. In some ways, his predicament and his point of view are extremely sympathetic. On the other hand, the way he treats Faith is strongly, if unwittingly, abusive. What did you find was the best way to split that difference on the page? What does having a character we want to succeed do to change the impact of the story on Faith?
I read somewhere that mental/emotional abuse is harder for kids to get over than physical abuse. Because if their parent is hitting them, beating them up, once they get help, it's easier to identify that as wrong. I didn't want Pat to be the cliched angry drunk who hit his kid, as horrible as that is. I don't think that would have produced the Faith we met back in the "Buffy" series. So I looked at the Mayor, and worked back from there. If Faith was so drawn to this man, he probably seemed on the surface to be very different from her real Dad, everything Pat wasn't -- conventional, fatherly, the proverbial "Father Knows Best" figure who loves his daughter and wants what's best for her. But at his core, he'd probably be just like her real Dad -- using Faith, getting her to do things that are harmful to both her and others, but benefit him. It doesn't mean he doesn't care about her -- it'd probably be easier if that was the case. He genuinely loves her. He just loves himself more. Yes, Pat is in a predicament that's unfortunate, and he wants something that's worthwhile. But unlike Faith -- who asked Angel for help and served time in prison -- he's not willing to do the hard work necessary to get there. He wants a quick and easy solution, regardless of what that does to Faith. And at the end of issue #8, damaged again by him, she goes looking for the exact same thing.
This week's issue #9 wraps everything up on both character fronts when Faith is (temporarily) relieved of her emotional trauma. And it seems great! However, when Angel points out that the trauma has its benefits as well as its curses, the thing I kept wondering was whether he really felt this way all along or whether he discovered that benefit as he articulated it to Faith?
I think he knew it all along -- but for me, the real question is what isn't he telling her. He's articulating a good and noble justification for holding on to his guilt, but the genius of Joss' characters is that they are multilayered. Much like the way Willow keeps talking about how important it is for the good of Earth to bring magic back, while brushing past the fact that she, herself, really, really wants the power again, there could be something Angel's not admitting to himself about why he holds so tightly to the trauma. Does it give him reassurance that he and Angelus are completely different people? "Well, I feel bad about it, so I'm not like him." Does it give him an identity -- the tortured soul seeking redemption -- while allowing him to not look too closely at himself, at some of the things he might not want to acknowledge? That's the subtext I find interesting.
With the defeat of the Lorophage demon, we also get your final word on Dru for the time being -- namely that she's back to being crazy but significantly different in how she views her relationships with Angel. Obviously, these are threads that will impact the "Drusilla" miniseries whenever that gets to hit the stands, but are you interested in picking up on this thread at some point as well?
I can't promise Dru will return this season in the pages of "Angel & Faith," but the aftermath of this encounter will certainly continue to impact Angel -- and Faith.
Faith's line of "Cry me a river" at the thought of their pursuers being in pain seemed to be a defining moment for her in this arc -- really indicative of who she is now in relation to who she's been. To you, what defines Faith today as opposed to the character she was for so long on the original "Buffy" series?
I think that line was a dig at herself as much as Drusilla's followers -- sort of chastising them, and herself, for getting so crushed by their pain they'd try for such an easy way out. But you're right, it also embodies who she's become versus who she used to be. Back in the day, she was consumed by her pain, denied it, and instead lashed out at others -- Buffy, Angel, whoever was at hand. She let herself be used by people like the Mayor. She was always running -- mostly from herself -- and lying, again, to herself as much as anyone. But she hit bottom, picked herself up -- with Angel's help -- and did the hard work, and now she's faced up to both what she's done and who she is.
That's why the incident with her Dad shook her up so much -- she felt like she went right back to the broken person she used to be. But she got past that, as hard as it was, and reclaimed herself, which Drusilla's followers are unable or unwilling to do. Of course, one doesn't go through something like that and just brush it aside. Faith is not the person she once was -- as I've said before, she's come further than anyone else in the Buffyverse. But she's also far from perfect. Keep an eye on her in the next storyline and see if you can tell when she's still feeling the effects of "Daddy Issues."
We wrap the arc with Angel and Faith on the same page about his plan to resurrect Giles...or did we? Faith seems confident that she's put together Angel's whole scheme, but I can't quite get a read on whether or not he's still hiding something from her. What's the next step in that journey?
Well, Angel chose not to mention what Dru referred to in one of the earlier issues -- that Giles' persona is taking shape inside Angel, and that two minds in one body -- three, if you count Angelus -- is too many. Did he leave it out because Angel is confident it's not going to be a problem -- or is he downplaying the risks? Faith has definitely made a decision to support Angel in his quest. But that doesn't mean it's smooth sailing from here on out.
Next up, we'll get to see your latest collaboration with Chris Samnee in another stand-alone issue. Now that you're far along in the process of seeing his pages come in, what is it about that issue that you think will make it stand out not just as a part of the ongoing series but in comparison to the last big one-off?
Well, anyone who's seen Chris' work knows he's one of the great talents of the current generation of comics artists. (Not to sell our regular artist, Rebekah Isaacs, short -- I definitely think she's another of the brightest stars. I'm a very lucky writer!) You look at the excitement with which fans greeted the news of Chris drawing "Daredevil," and it's clear he has an ardent fan base. What I think will be fun for them about "Angel & Faith" #10 is that they will get to see Chris go nuts drawing monster/horror material, which is something he doesn't ordinarily get to do. I've said before that Rebekah is an amazingly brilliant designer of demons and monsters, and I knew Chris would be too, so I continued my tradition on this book of providing just very basic guidelines -- "a giant living pile of mucus" or "a huge, fat, gross dude" -- and letting the artist work their magic. Chris delivered beyond expectations. You can see how much fun he's having on the pages full of flailing axes and claws and giant snakes.
But what's less obvious, though potentially more important, is Chris' character work. In this story, like the last one-off, there's a lot of humor. But this time around, there's some poignancy too, as we look back to Giles' childhood and see the moment when his connection to magic revealed itself, and his life changed forever. I knew it would take a skilled artist to pull off that tonal dance, and Chris did it beautifully. As you know, Chris and I worked together early in his career on the Vertigo Crime graphic novel "Area 10," and I knew then he was something special. From the time I started on this book, I lobbied to Scott to bring him in for a guest spot, so we could put the band back together. I think this was the perfect issue to do it, and I hope the readers agree. I also have to mention that this issue introduces some new regular characters, ones that weren't created by me -- they were originally going to be part of Joss' "Ripper" TV show. He very generously told me to feel free to use them, and this turned out to be the ideal place to bring them in. They have a connection to Giles that you'll learn about in the issue. Also, in flashback, we'll see Giles' Dad again, as well as his grandmother Edna, who we previously saw in the Whedon-written "Tales of The Vampires" as a young girl. Here you'll meet her as a mature, but still totally badass, woman. Oh yes, all that in one issue -- at no extra charge! Is that service, or what?