JK Woodward on Fallen Angel: Reborn

Joss Whedon's Illyria makes the jump from "Angel" to "Fallen Angel" this week, as Peter David and J.K. Woodward bring the powerful demon to Bete Noire in "Fallen Angel: Reborn" #1 for a four-issue arc. The latest incarnation of the fan-favorite IDW Publishing eries entwines the fate of its titular heroine with another powerful yet similarly damned woman, and explores Illyria's origins in the deepest pits of hell. CBR News caught up with artist J.K. Woodward for a quick chat about the new series, forging his own style, and painting Illyria's likeness.

"Fallen Angel" stars a haunted, hooded woman named Lee living in the crime-riddled town of Bete Noire. It's also worth knowing that Lee is, in fact, an angel cast out of Heaven for defying God's will. Bete Noire's seediness reaches a mystical level, shaping the fates of its inhabitants as well as the world outside its borders. The town is overseen by a hereditary magistrate, the first born of each generation going back to the original descendant of Cain -- a position until recently held by the Fallen Angel's son, Jude. For much of the previous series, Lee has, among other things, been on a quest to help God die.

The new series takes place immediately after the events of "Fallen Angel" #33, which saw Lee offered the chance to be risen up once more. When she refuses, the Fallen Angel finds that the wrong deal with God can be every bit as bad as a deal with the devil. Lee is thrust into the role of magistrate of Bete Noire, while her son Jude, hideously disfigured after a battle with Moloch, is the new "patron saint of lost causes."

"Those who read the old series know that things were kind of turned upside down in Bete Noire and those who haven't read it needn't worry because things were turned upside down and we're eventually starting over," Woodward told CBR. "The first issue [of 'Reborn'] will be very friendly to newcomers of 'Fallen Angel' and 'Angel.' If you've know nothing about Illyria and nothing about Liandra, you will still enjoy this. Peter David has found a very entertaining way of introducing readers to all the characters."

"Fallen Angel: Reborn" #1 will feature an extensive look at Illyria's background, including scenes from her fully demonic days that have never been depicted on television before. Woodward said David compared Illyria's backstory in the first issue to the first few minutes of the first "Lord of the Rings" film, which launched a series of movies that viewers unfamiliar with the prose trilogy had no difficulty following.

Woodward greatly enjoyed drawing those Illyria origin pages, which take place in hell and show her true demon form and thus allow for a more extravagant horror than the usual subtle darkness of "Fallen Angel." "It was great to kind of go nuts!" he said, adding that David instructed him to "cut loose" in the script. "Now don't get me wrong, I enjoy the subtle stuff as well. I like creating a foreboding mood in my work and that requires subtlety, but it's just great fun to paint giant Lovecraftian-style demons whenever you get the chance. Previously, I had only got the chance to do this kind of work when I was doing those 'Fall of Cthulhu' and 'Necronomicon' covers for BOOM! Studios."

"The cool demonic stuff doesn't end there, either," Woodward continued. "I was given opportunities to create some cool stuff in later issues as well. This is definitely a fun (and of course dark) book! Very much in both the Peter David and Joss Whedon style of story telling!"

Though the introduction of Illyria, who was played on the "Angel" television series by Amy Acker, adds the always-tricky artistic challenge of drawing to a likeness, Woodward has plenty of experience to draw on, as his first job with IDW was painting "CSI: New York." "Actually, it's kind of a thrill doing this character," the artist said. "I'm a fan of the show and Amy Acker is amazingly hot!! I enjoy painting her."

When "Fallen Angel" first relaunched at IDW Publishing after its 20-issue run at DC Comics, Woodward took over art chores from series co-creator David Lopez, and has since become very much associated with the title. Woodward told CBR that he is much more confident now in his approach to the characters and stories, having illustrated most of "Fallen Angel's" 33 issues and is now shepherding the series into "Fallen Angel: Reborn." "I think David Lopez did a great job with these characters and whenever I had a visual question about them I would refer to his work, but now I refer to me," Woodward said. "I feel a lot more freedom with these characters because I feel after three years I've finally earned it. I'm having a lot more fun and have even developed a slightly different style of art just for this series."

"Fallen Angel: Reborn" #1 is in stores now from IDW Publishing.

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