In the concluding episode of "Angel's" fifth and final season, the titular character and what remained of his supporting cast had just assassinated every last member of the Circle of the Black Thorne, and the full weight of the Senior Partners' wrath was bearing down upon them in the prelude to a battle that none of our heroes believed they could survive. Despite the odds, Angel creator Joss Whedon and his fellow writers always intended for the character to have a life beyond Season 5, and thanks to IDW Publishing, writer Brian Lynch and artist Franco Urru, fans will finally get to see more of the continuing adventures of Angel and company in the pages of "Angel: After the Fall." CBR News sat down with Brian Lynch to find out what's in store for the vampire formerly known as Angelus.
Lynch is a longtime Whedon fan and jumped on the Buffy-verse bandwagon in the middle of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer's" first season. Before landing the gig writing "Angel: After the Fall," Lynch penned two IDW miniseries featuring that other vampire with a soul, Spike. Interestingly, some of Lynch's earliest comics work was a comic strip called "Monkey Man" on Kevin's Smith's moviepoopshoot.com, and as fate would have it, IDW Editor-in-Chief Chris Ryall was Lynch's editor at the time.
"[Ryall] eventually left, but he always remembered that a lot of the jokes in 'Monkey Man' were Buffy and Spike related," Brian Lynch told CBR News. "And when he got the [Spike] license, he said, 'Do you have any ideas?'" Lynch had already been developing a sci-fi series set in an asylum for supernatural problems, so he just plugged Spike into that story and "Spike: Asylum" was born. From there, Lynch went on to write "Spike: Shadow Puppets," in which Spike travels to Japan to combat the Japanese division of the wee little puppet men that plagued Angel in the fifth season episode "Smile Time."
It was then, Lynch revealed, that the genesis of "Angel: After the Fall" was inextricably linked to the very restaurant where he and this reporter were conducting our interview. Lynch lives a scant few blocks away and is a fixture at the famous West Hollywood restaurant in question. The place has no dearth of celebrity patrons, and while eating breakfast there on the day before "Spike: Asylum" #1 hit stands, Lynch had a fateful encounter with Joss Whedon himself.
"I was sitting right there at the corner table, really early in the morning waiting for my friends, and [Whedon] walked out and walked by," Lynch explained. In what he described as a "machine gun" delivery, the star-struck Lynch rattled off a deferential greeting to the creator of the Buffy-verse, and informed him of the imminent release of "Spike: Asylum" #1. "And Joss was like, 'Okay, yeah, can't wait to read it, that's great,'" Lynch said. "And then he ran, because I was overexcited."
After three weeks had passed with no word, Lynch was convinced his exuberance had frightened Whedon off -- until Chris Ryall received an e-mail from Whedon himself saying Lynch had "hit a home run." More than that, "Spike: Asylum" convinced Whedon that the time to revisit Angel's story was finally at hand, and that Brian Lynch was the man to write it.
One of the things that attracted Whedon to Lynch's writing was Lynch's penchant for capturing the voices of the Buffy-verse characters. "When I started writing 'Spike: Asylum,' I just watched all his episodes; you get a feel for it pretty quick," Lynch said. "The biggest thing with Spike specifically was you don't want to overdo the British."
Fans of Whedon know that his work is eminently quotable, and Lynch admits to making the occasional "Angel" reference in everyday conversation. So you can imagine Lynch's surprise when he heard that Whedon had been quoting "Spike: Asylum" to fellow "Angel" showrunner Tim Minear. "I was like, 'Joss Whedon quoted something I wrote, that's the greatest thing in the world,'" Lynch said.
Over the course of a long breakfast which Lynch described as "the best breakfast ever," Whedon laid out where he and the other "Angel" writers had planned to take the series had it returned for a sixth season. "He told me all those ideas, including ideas that they weren't going to try, but he always kind of liked, in case I wanted to grab little pieces from it," Lynch said.
After their initial meeting, Lynch and Whedon exchanged many an e-mail, fine-tuning what was to become the plot of "Angel: After the Fall." The first set of notes Lynch received from Whedon read, "I think it's really well done, and I think this would be entertaining. But it's safe, and I don't want you to play safe." With that in mind, Lynch went back to the drawing board and crafted a story that could only be told in a comic book.
Lynch is cagey about who survives the battle in the alleyway. Obviously the title character survives, and leaving Angel alive was a calculated move by the Senior Partners. "Wolfram and Hart sent all of Los Angeles to Hell as punishment for trying to rise up against them," Lynch said. "You can kill Angel, and you really didn't win, because Angel's never out for himself, he wants to defend everybody, so they literally sent everybody to Hell. So the opening is Angel trying to get over the fact that he ruined everybody's life who he was trying to save, and the reasons why he steps up and how he steps up. He has to take an entire city back, and fight against not just Wolfram and Hart, because once they go to Hell, there's bigger things than Wolfram and Hart."
Lynch said that some of Angel's friends have drifted away from him as a result of his involvement Los Angeles' current plight, and that, on the other side of the spectrum, living in hell makes for strange bedfellows.
As for the fateful battle to which the final moments of "Angel" Season 5 were building, Lynch confirmed that fans will get the opportunity to see Angel, Spike, Gunn and Illyria get down and dirty in the alley, but not for the first few issues. "I actually thought the first issue was going to be the fight, because when Joss told me he wanted me to do the series, I was like, 'Oh, my God, I get to write that battle that I always wanted to see.'" However, Whedon advised the writer that more interesting than the battle itself is the effect it has on the characters. "And he's right, because it would have just been 22 pages of swords and people dying, whereas it's much cooler to see people you care about in peril and distraught."
That said, the events of the alley battle will be chronicled in a one-shot entitled "First Night," tentatively scheduled for release after "Angel: After the Fall" #5. In addition to the core cast, "First Night" also focuses on characters who don't factor into the main thrust of "Angel: After the Fall" itself. And though the specifics of the battle will remain a mystery for a time, Lynch assured CBR News that readers will know the fate of all four characters who were directly involved in the conflict by the end of issue #2.
Will everyone who we saw die in the fifth season of "Angel" stay dead? Yes, and no. In the Buffy-verse, death is almost as much of a revolving door as it is in superhero comics. Wesley Wyndam-Pryce was one of the many characters who met their end in the final season of "Angel," and Lynch said fans have been sharply divided on the subject of whether or not his character should return. Lynch said that Wesley definitely factors into "After the Fall," but he was quick to add that that doesn't necessarily imply that Wesley will return to the land of the living.
In a lot of ways, fans are just as sharply divided on the subject of "Angel: After the Fall's" very existence. A large contingent of "Angel" fans believe that Angel steeling himself for a battle he knows he cannot win was the perfect ending for his character and the series, so for them idea of Angel's continued adventures is a dubious prospect at best.
"I was one of the people who thought it was a perfect ending," Lynch admitted. "I think they all died. I think that was the point." But when Whedon approached him about writing "Angel: After the Fall," the writer quickly changed his tune. "I said, 'Maybe they didn't all die, maybe I was wrong, because it would be really boring if they all died and they had a comic following it.'"
Angel's estranged son, Connor, who took a back seat for the majority of the show's final season, will have a much larger role in "Angel: After the Fall," despite the fact that he was initially the character that Lynch had the hardest time wrapping his mind around. "I didn't love Connor on the show," Lynch confessed. "But you know when I really liked him was the last season when he came back and he was well adjusted."
Still, Lynch was still at a loss as to how to incorporate Connor into "After the Fall." It was Whedon who eventually hit upon the character arc that Connor would follow in the series. "Joss said, 'Connor's a young kid, he's got powers, he doesn't have any of the bad things, he's not a vampire, so maybe he would enjoy it, and maybe he would be the closest thing to a superhero hell has,'" Lynch recounted. "And that's exactly who he is." Thus, Connor went from the character Lynch had the most trouble with to the character he enjoys writing most. "I actually want to do a book called 'Son of Angel' because I really like writing him now."
One beloved character that did make it out of the final episode of "Angel" unscathed was Lorne, the demon lounge singer. But after carrying out one last task on Angel's behalf (the murder of one-time Wolfram & Hart lawyer Lindsey McDonald), Lorne washed his hands of the vampire with a soul. Nevertheless, Lorne will make an appearance in "After the Fall," just not right away. "He comes in later, and we kind of see where he has set up his camp," Lynch said. "He's trying to make the best of the worst situation, and he's paired with someone you maybe wouldn't expect him to be paired with."
Lynch's other Buffy-verse stories, "Asylum" and "Shadow Puppets," were originally conceived as taking place after the series finale of "Angel," but Fox had other ideas. Lynch's original scripts made oblique references to things that went on during the alley battle and beyond, but Fox insisted that all such lines be removed. Fans of "Angel" would be hard pressed not to remember the penultimate line of the final episode, when Angel says of the onrushing horde, "Well, personally, I kind of want to slay the dragon." In an early draft of "Spike: Asylum," Spike was going to cop to stealing Angel's thunder by running ahead and slaying the dragon before Angel had the chance, but that was one of several lines that Fox unceremoniously vetoed.
"And thank God," Lynch said. "Because now the dragon is one of the leads." That Angel should train the dragon instead of killing him was an idea that Whedon brought to the table, and an idea that Lynch latched onto right away.
Angel soaring over a Hell-infested Los Angeles atop a giant dragon is just one way Lynch took advantage of the comics medium' nigh-limitless budget for special effects. Artist Franco Urru, who's providing pencils for "After the Fall," also worked with Lynch on both Spike projects. It was artist Frank Mecina who originally recommended Urru for "Spike: Asylum," as Mecina had drawn several "Angel" stories for IDW, and Urru was his mentor.
"[Urru] sent some pictures of Spike and some other comics he had done, and we kind matched," Lynch said. "I'm so excited that he got brought in on 'After the Fall. He's an Italian man, who's very good looking, and just the sweetest guy." Lynch went on to say that Urru's level of emotional investment in the pages he draws is unprecedented. One of Spike's fellow inmates in "Spike: Asylum" was a flying, telepathic fish, and Urru took it particularly hard when the fish's number was up. "Franco just couldn't draw that page, he was so sad when he was drawing the death scene of a fish. Whedon, too, was a fan of the fish from "Spike: Asylum," so much so that he suggested the fish make a return appearance in "After the Fall." Apparently rumors of the fish's death were greatly exaggerated.
Lynch is also working on another comics project called "Everybody's Dead," based on one of his original screenplays. Lynch had optioned the horror comedy to the now defunct Artisan Entertainment, but now that the rights have reverted to him, the writer is pursuing the story as a comics project with artist Dave Crosland. Lynch is also writing a number of projects for the big screen, including Fox's "The Sims" (based on the video game of the same name) and the DreamWorks' "Shrek" spin-off "Puss in Boots." Lynch was writing the film at the same time he was working on "Angel: After the Fall," and admitted to the occasional bout of confusion. "There were literally two parts in 'Puss in Boots' where instead of 'sword' it said 'stake,' because I was so tired."
The first issue of "Angel: After the Fall" hits stands on November 21.
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