CCI: Angel on the Rise

IDW Publishing's Angel panel got off to an early start at Comic-Con International, quickly introducing its guests and greeting fans. In attendance were actress Juliet Landau (Drusilla on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel," co-writer "Angel" #24/25); Chris Ryall, IDW Editor-In-Chief; Scott Lobdell ("Angel: Only Human"); Peter David ("Fallen Angel"); Brian Lynch ("Angel: After the Fall"); Scott Tipton ("Angel: Auld Lang Syne"); Bill Willingham ("Fables") and Bill Williams (upcoming "Angel").

The panel began by jumping into Landau's "Angel" co-writing stint on issues #24 and #25, which featured art by Franco Urru and Nick Runge. Landau not only contributed the story, but also took new photos to portray an updated Drusilla in the comic book. When asked where her idea for the story in those issues came about, Landau recalled a pretty instant inspiration. "Basically I think the moment I first spoke with you guys, I literally put down the phone and the story just came to me. It was kind of an immediate thing," said Landau.

"I thought [Landau] was going to need a lot more guidance in writing, it was really impressive, it was really her show, I kind of, for the first ten minutes helped out and then she just took over," said Lynch.

Next the panel focused on Peter David's "Fallen Angel" series, which he's crossed over with former Hellboss Illyria, a character from Joss Whedon's "Angel" franchise. David's new series, "Fallen Angel: Reborn," features artwork by J.K. Woodward, guest stars Illyria and will run for four issues. "I'll be perfectly candid, we were thinking what can we do to introduce 'Fallen Angel,'" said David, "I realized that Illyria would be the absolute perfect fit [for the series]."

David also explained the relatively simple process which led to the permission to have the character cross paths. "It involved me walking up to Joss [Whedon] and saying, 'Hey Joss, I'd like to use Illyria' and Joss saying, 'Yeah, okay," said David.

The story takes place during the fifth season of "Angel," directly after the episode "Time Bomb." David said the story is essentially about a depowered Illyria trying to regain demonic powers that were stolen from her in her previous continuity. "I deliberately designed the series so that if you're new to 'Fallen Angel,' the story is told from the point of view of Illyria, so that as she discovers new things, so do you."

David especially complimented Woodward's art, which he credited with giving the book's big sequences the weight of Hollywood special effects. "Every issue of 'Fallen Angel' has a special effects budget of $350 million," said David.

Previously published by DC Comics, the character created by David and David Lopez is now published by IDW with David retaining the rights to the character. This transition has made it possible for IDW to reprint the original series in new collections, which will be released in 2010.

The slideshow transitioned to a cover image for "Angel" #26 and #27, which featured a picture of an Angel action figure on a G.I. Joe-style blister card. The two-issue story by Brian Lynch and Stephen Mooney recaps the events of Angel's most recent adventures saving Los Angeles from Hell. Since so many screenwriters live in L.A., an action movie director with Michael Bay-like style decides to make a movie celebrating Angel's heroism. To parody the adaptation style rampant in Hollywood, Angel is cast as a kind of Nic Cage and Spike is altered into a blonde female. Angel and Spike go to a Comic-Con-style event to see the movie premier and everyone in costume becomes what they're dressed as - including Spike, who is dressed as Angel, making for a comedic issue full of role reversals.

To follow up, the December "Angel Annual" will be a straight comic book adaptation of the fictional Angel film, which IDW joked would be drawn in IMAX.

A Spike standalone series was also announced for 2010, by Lynch and Urru that features Spike wreaking havoc in L.A. with a pyrokinetic fan.

An adaptation of the Angel episode "A Hole In the World" will be released later this year, which Tipton rationalized as a fun new experience for fans. "There's just something cool about seeing [favorite shows] in comic form, I remember the Star Wars comics I had as a kid, I read them again and again even though I'd see the movies a dozen times," said Tipton.

Then came the big reveal of the two writers taking over the series starting with issue number #28 - Bill Willingham and Bill Williams. The writers will team with artists Brian Denham and David Messina. "[IDW] just picked up the phone out of the blue and asked if I'd be interested," said Willingham.

Willingham's stories will feature Angel's son Conner taking over for the main protagonist with an army of demons at his disposal. "We're going to have some fun with Angel and pick up where Brian and the others left off. No big changes, well, we're kicking Angel off the book, but no big changes," said Willingham to laughter.

"Angel's" main storyline will be complimented by backup stories from Williams. Williams' story will follow the adventures of Eddie Hope, a human left with demon powers after the rest of L.A. had them removed. "When Hell took over L.A. snapped back to normal, everything was back to normal mostly, and thanks to the events of the story, Eddie knows the worst 100 people in Las Angeles so he's taking them out - it's a revenge thing," said Williams.

The panel turned back to Landau, who Frison complimented as a natural comic book talent. "One of the best things about working with her is that the voice of Drusilla is the most authentic you can find in comics," said Frison.

The panel was asked who their favorite characters to write dialogue for were and most agreed their favorites were Angel and Spike, but others included Wesley, even though he died at the end of the show's fifth season. "We take from the fact that Hell is a huge bureaucracy - a bureaucracy of evil, but still a place where things can fall through the cracks," said Willingham.

One character who won't be seeing its own limited series anytime soon is Doyle, who was portrayed by the late Glenn Quinn, who passed away in 2002. When asked about the character, the panel agreed that they wouldn't be printing any appearances out of respect for the actor.

A fan asked Peter David what the best part of taking a character from someone else's series and incorporating them into his own continuity. "The best part is bringing in new readers, new people who haven't read the book," said David, "The most challenging part is having [a story element] that seems organic rather than something that's been tacked on."

David went on to explain why his characters in "Fallen Angel" were a good fit with Joss Whedon's demon character from the "Angel" television series, saying one character is an angel who fell from Heaven and the other is a demon who rose from Hell. David also acknowledged the benefits of a crossover franchise, but said his focus is on storytelling. "You want to get higher sales, you want to get increased interest, but first and foremost you have to respect the readership and respect their right to a story that works," said David.

The panel closed by thanking attendees for coming and welcoming Willingham and Williams to the series, and also thanking Landau for her portrayal of Drusilla.

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