Georges Jeanty Talks "Serenity" and "Buffy" in Vegas

"Everybody knows we're going to be singing, right?" artist Georges Jeanty joked at the beginning of his spotlight panel at the Vegas Valley Comic Book Festival. When moderator Katherine Keller of Sequential Tart asked Jeanty to introduce himself, the artist, sitting in a stool in front of a microphone instead of at the traditional comic-con cloth-covered table, gave a short summary of his comics career, marveling at his nearly two decades in the business. "The comic business is very much a freelancers' business, and being a freelancer, you never have that job security," he said. "The idea that I've been around for 20 years almost is a feat amongst itself."

Jeanty detailed his history working on Marvel and DC superhero books, followed by six years of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." His next project is the six-issue "Serenity: Leaves on the Wind" miniseries for Dark Horse Comics, written by Zack Whedon, brother of "Buffy" and "Serenity" creator Joss Whedon.

Keller asked Jeanty about his influences, and he named Alan Davis, John Byrne, Michael Golden, George Perez, Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli as some of his biggest inspirations. Asked how his style reflects those artists, however, he had trouble answering. "When I look at my work, I don't see any of that," he said, comparing an artist looking at his own work to people hearing recordings of their own voices. "That is the way I think artists view themselves."

Going back to the beginning of his work on "Buffy," Jeanty said that at first he didn't believe Joss Whedon really wanted him as the artist for Season 8 of the comic book series. "If Joss Whedon sent you an email, what's the likelihood that you're going to believe it?" he quipped. Eventually, he was convinced that Whedon wanted him to draw "Buffy," but he needed a crash course in the show. "My crime, I guess, at the time, was I'd never seen an episode." Dark Horse sent him the sixth and seventh seasons of the show so he could catch up. "Those first four issues, I really didn't know enough about Buffy to really get it," he said, describing that initial arc as the movie Whedon would have made if he could have followed the series with a feature film.

Asked about designing the characters' looks, specifically how he picks clothing for them to wear Jeanty said it was a big change from his earlier work. "I'm used to drawing superheroes, people in costumes," he said, explaining the transition he made to drawing everyday people. "I became very savvy about women's clothing" because the details were important to him. He asked Whedon where Buffy would shop, and Whedon suggested Anthropologie, so Jeanty started subscribing to their catalog to look for outfits for Buffy. He also talked fashion with editor Sierra Hahn, whom he described as very fashionable. At the same time, "I would never try to put Buffy into something she couldn't be maneuverable with," he said, noting that on the TV show, "whenever you saw Buffy in a skirt, you knew nothing was going to happen." For Willow, the look is all about earth tones, since "what she wears is germane to what she was doing." Although he's had freedom in designing the characters' outfits, Willow's recent hairstyle change required lots of consultation. "I had to do maybe 10 designs of Willow and her new cut in various forms," he said.

All of that attention to detail meant that drawing "Buffy" took longer than Jeanty's other work. "A normal page for me would be a day," he said. "With 'Buffy,' it probably took me 20 percent longer to do." Drawing versions of characters played by real people also added to the time spent. "With those likenesses, I was always checking and re-checking."

Moving back to "Serenity," Jeanty was asked if, like "Buffy," he'd been unfamiliar with the show before starting to work on the comic, but Jeanty said he'd watched every episode of "Firefly" when it originally aired. He's now working on the third issue of the series, and he had plenty of praise for writer Zack Whedon. "Zack has taken the reins and is doing amazing," he said. Though reluctant to offer too many plot details, he did reveal when the first issue opens with respect to the "Serenity" movie. "There's a very special little present that happens after nine months and comes into the world." Most of the crew members are the same, although Jayne has left the ship. "The only real difference is Inara. She has pretty much left her old life behind, because she has a new life."

As for his favorite "Serenity" character, Jeanty first admitted that when the show was airing, "I remember actually sending a special email to Joss saying you have found my future wife," in reference to actress Morena Baccarin, who played Inara. "He was just ripping me like no tomorrow," Jeanty laughed. He said that his actual favorite character is Mal, whom he called "the Han Solo of the crowd."

Unlike the cast of "Buffy," the characters in "Serenity" don't dress in modern fashions, but Jeanty still has plenty of sources to consult. "Nowadays, this whole steampunk thing is very popular, but if you notice, 'Firefly' is steampunk," he said, citing steampunk magazines and books as his go-to sources for the look of the series.

As for whether or not Jeanty has any interest in working on creator-owned projects, the artist said it just isn't something he planned to pursue. "I don't know if I'm just old school, but I love playing in other people's sandboxes," he said. At the same time, "If I weren't into 'Firefly,' I wouldn't be doing the book. Thankfully, I'm at a point where I can do what I like."

Asked how he goes about placing characters on the page from the way they're described in scripts, Jeanty told a fan, "I tend to approach the 'Buffy' stuff and the 'Serenity' stuff more as a director, and these are my actors. I'll lay out the whole book and just sort of look as I were looking through a camera."

Asked by another fan if there were any "Buffy" characters he'd never had a chance to draw but would like to, Jeanty talked about meeting actress Emma Caulfield, who played Anya on the show. She asked him if she had appeared in the comic, and he had to tell her that she hadn't. "I got to pretty much draw everybody else," he said, although he was only able to draw Cordelia in one brief flashback. "I think Cordelia in the Buffyverse has gotten the rawest deal ever," he said

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