CCI: Bill Willingham talks "Angel"

At its Saturday afternoon panel at Comic-Con International, IDW Publishing announced that "Fables" scribe Bill Willingham will be taking over the "Angel" ongoing series beginning with issue #28. The title is the centerpiece of IDW's Joss Whedon-approved continuation of the heroic vampire's adventures after the end of "Angel's" run on television. CBR News spoke with Willingham about his plans for the series.

"One question that always comes up, how long will you do the ongoing series?" the writer began. "Well, they've got Brian Denham on to draw it. I've been wanting to work with Brian Denham for as long as I knew him--just after he stopped working in a comic shop, so twenty years or more. As long as he's willing to be on the book, I'm willing to be on the book."

Willingham also addressed the status quo of "Angel" leading into his run and how he's going to play with that concept."The last thing we've found out is that Angel is now known in LA as a vampire and he's famous. So we'll see what happens when you're a hero who's suddenly so famous that, wherever he goes a crowd develops because he's famous, but then they start getting panicky because, doesn't he fight demons wherever he goes?" the writer said. "So the attraction, the flee-in-panic, the two forces are colliding together and we're going to see what happens.

"The one thing I wanted to do--I love the Angel cast, but if I was going to tell Joss Whedon what to do--was to take Connor, who's been a brat and done some pretty diabolical and just tantrumy things so many times, let's find out if there's a core to him," Willingham continued. "You're done being a teenager, let's do some smarting-up. I'm looking forward to that. He's going to become an interesting, effective, crown prince of Angel Enterprises."

Looking around Comic-Con, it's hard to ignore the fact that pop culture is experiencing a vampire revival, with the immense popularity of "Twilight," not to mention HBO's "True Blood." These and other recent stories have featured tortured, heroic vampires, so CBR asked Willingham why he thinks Angel stands out from the crowd. "In 'Angel' the series, we have couple characters" who contribute to the continued appeal of Joss Whedon's creations, Willingham said. "Angel, who is kind of tortured and pouty, and rightfully so because he's got a boatload of guilt that he's carrying around with him. And almost the mirror image of him is Spike, who [feels that] yeah, I got a lot of baggage too, but I think being a vampire's pretty damn cool. So we get to see both sides of that dichotomy in two different characters, and we'll play with that for a while. There's no need to fix the stuff that doesn't need fixed. I think Whedon and company handled that wonderfully, so we'll just continue that without screwing it up."

Since the debut of "Fables," the long-running Vertigo series starring a cast of characters from fairy tales and other legends, the writer has become intrinsically associated with that series. But "Bill Willingham of 'Fables'" has branched out, writing several other projects in recent years, and continues to pursue very non-"Fables"-like gigs with other publishers. Asked what he enjoys about working with company-owned or licensed characters rather than his own properties, Willingham said that it was fun to play around in other worlds. "With company-owned or licensing, you can't ever say 'this is mine.' It really isn't ever going to be yours--it's going to be yours for a while, but you're like a steward, you're looking after it for a while. And you have to return it, eventually, hopefully in fairly good condition," he said. "You have to look at the licensing things as, 'this is going to be fun for a while. I'm going to be able to do things that I can't do with "Fables," but don't get possessive of it.' It's more of, 'look at that kid across the way, he's got such fun toys. Oh look, I get to go play with them for a little bit, isn't that cool?' If you try and play with them for a little bit and then steal some of them and take them home with you, then that's not cool and we'll try to avoid that."

Willingham said that, to that end, he will "try and do the best stories possible." "I'm looking forward to it," the writer said. "Brian Denham is doing some amazing art. I hope people will try out the book when it comes out."

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