NYCC: Dark Horse Does Vampires Right with "Buffy" & "Angel"

If you want to pack a panel room, just guarantee them a dose of "Buffy." The smaller panel room at New York Comic Con quickly filled to the brim with con-goers eager for the inside scoop on the future of Dark Horse Comics' vampiric offerings. The attendees were greeted by Jeremy Atkins, Dark Horse's Director of Public Relations, who introduced the rest of the panel: Anne Marie Tallberg of St. Martin's Press (publisher of the "House of Night" novel series), Rebekah Isaacs (artist on "Angel & Faith") and Scott Allie (editor of the "Buffy" titles). The early morning panel was off to a quiet start with the crowd not really responding until Atkins asked them, "How many of you are Buffy or Angel fans?" which was met with uproarious cheers. Despite the early hour, the crowd was awake now.

The panel started with "Angel & Faith," Dark Horse's new addition to its popular line of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" comics. Atkins explained series writer Christos Gage was running a little late, and he'd direct all questions to series editor Scott Allie. Allie gave the crowd an overview of the first two issues, recapping that Angel has developed a plan to bring the recently deceased Giles back from the dead. "Faith thinks this is a terrible idea," Allie added.

The next outburst of applause came from the numerous Mike Mignola fans in the crowd, excited to see "Baltimore: The Curse Bells" appear on the projection screen. The series focuses on Lord Baltimore, a World War I soldier who decides to rid the world of vampires after witnessing their bloodsucking activities on Europe's battlefields. "Some people call it steampunk," Allie said, " but we didn't set it up to be." The second series of stories is currently wrapping up and Allie called it a "gory, classic approach to vampires."

The vampires are also about to cause more than a bump in the night over in the Hellboy corner of Dark Horse. "B.P.R.D.: Hell On Earth" addresses the mysterious absence of vampires in the Hellboy-verse, an absence that Allie called "deliberate." "If you read '1946' and '1947' then you know something has been going on with the vampires." This something will be written by Allie and Mike Mignola and illustrated by Jason Latour. Also, Allie guarantees it will be a "nasty approach" to vampires. Atkins nudged fans to watch the news over the next few weeks as some announcements regarding "B.P.R.D." will be made. "There's some exciting stuff happening next year."

It's no surprise that the appearance of a "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 9" cover brought the crowd to new heights; this audience wanted Buffy -- there was a female cosplaying as Spike, if that's any indication of their fervor. Allie laid out the status quo of the Buffy books for the audience, saying that killing the newly-accepted vampires has become a real problem and Buffy's not exactly seeing eye-to-eye with law enforcement. A series of murders is happening where corpses turn up drained of blood and appearing to be only 30 years old even if they've been missing for 50 years. "They look like they're vamps, but they don't get dusted when they are killed," Allie said, adding more mystery to the series.

Steve Niles' "Criminal Macabre" series still focuses on Cal McDonald despite his death. He came back from the dead as a zombie, as comic book characters are wont to do. "It turns out that the other popular thing happening right now besides vampires are zombies, Atkins joked. "They're two great taste that go great together!"

In the midst of all this vampire talk there was one giant elephant in the room and Eric Powell's "The Goon" addressed it -- by beating the crap out of it. "We did an issue of 'The Goon' where the first five pages were the Goon mercilessly beating the crap out of 'Twilight'-style vampires." The crowd thoroughly enjoyed this, proving that Dark Horse fans don't like their vamps sparkly.

Despite his two-decade publication history, Hellboy has never had an original graphic novel produced. Mike Mignola and Richard Corben will be changing that soon. The new OGN features Mignola's version of Frankenstein and a Dracula-like vamp. "It's [classic horror film] 'House of Frankenstein' in Mexico, which is where Hellboy was known to do a lot of drinking in the '50s."

Atkins then gave the floor to Anne Marie Talberg to discuss the upcoming "House of Night" miniseries, based on a series of wildly successful novels. The series follows the adventures of sixteen year old Zoey Redbird as she discovers that she's a fledgling vampire and is shipped off to House of Night to learn all there is to know about the ways of the vampire. Talberg stated, "We're really excited to see 'House of Night' comics, because [novel writer] P.C. Cast can't write enough material fast enough for our fans!" The miniseries will focus on the cast learning more about the historical vampires that populate the "House of Night" universe and will provide new insight into characters for fans of the novels.

"At the other end of the vampire spectrum is 'The Strain,'" said Atkins. Dark Horse is adapting Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan's trilogy of vampire novels, which Allie described as a "faithful retelling of the novels with additional material that wasn't put in the novels." David Lapham ("Stray Bullets") and Mike Huddleston ("The Coffin") will be writing and illustrating the book, respectively. The covers for "The Strain" are shockingly grotesque, and Allie insists that's all part of Del Toro's plan. "He insisted that we put nasty monster images on the covers."

When Atkins asked if anyone in the audience was a fan of the manga series "Vampire Hunter D," he received a smattering of applause and one emphatic "YES." Those fans will be happy to know that Dark Horse is almost caught up with Japan's publishing schedule. If fans are disheartened by the slowed pace of release, they can rest assured "you're getting it when Japan gets it," said Atkins.

While the panel waited for Christos Gage to arrive from an overlapping panel, Atkins asked Allie some additional questions about "Buffy: Season 9." "I've been at my job for 17 years, and the thing that keeps it fresh is having constant, brand new challenges," Allie said. One of the big challenges of "Season 9" is Joss Whedon's limited involvement. While Whedon is still involved in the process, Dark Horse has taken over a little bit more of the process. "The only reason we can be more involved without Joss is because we worked so close with him on 'Season 8.'" Another challenge to "Season 9" is publishing both the main title and "Angel & Faith" simultaneously. "If an issue ends up being late, that's problematic because of how closely timed the books are to each other."

When Christos Gage arrived, he brought with him an announcement fans weren't expecting: we're going to meet Faith's dad. The arc, called "Daddy Issues," starts with issue #6 and sheds light on a corner of the mythology that had previously been left in shadow. Gage also announced that "Angel & Faith" #5 will bring lovable demons Clem and Harmony (queen of the braindead undead) back into the Buffyverse.

Gage revealed he actually hadn't watched "Buffy" or "Angel" until he was approached for the job, a revelation which a fan audibly gasped over. But rest assured Whedonites, Gage has consumed all 12 seasons worth of both shows in record time, a feat which has allowed him to pepper "Angel & Faith" with callbacks so deep even diehards had to look them up. Isaacs said she was in the middle of watching "Buffy" for the first time when the chance arose, thanks to her fiance who owns every season of both shows.

Regarding the Angel comics previously published by IDW Publishing, both Gage and Allie confirmed they are trying to not contradict those stories too much but admit that some of the events have to be altered to fit with Whedon's vision. "We don't want to get mired into how the two series connect and interact, but we try to be respectful of their material," Allie revealed. Later a fan asked if future plans for Angel's son Connor would address the all-powerful state the IDW series left him in. "One pitch Joss had was to use time travel to send Connor back to the early '60s and make him an ad executive," said Allie, referencing actor Vincent Kartheiser's roles on both "Angel" and more recently "Mad Men." "It went over my head because I don't have cable."

Most of the questions dealt with whether or not certain characters would be popping up in the "Buffy" books in the future. The aforementioned Clem, Haromy and Conor are set to appear, as is Illyria. According to Allie, there are no plans to touch on the future timeline shown in Season 8, so a guest appearance by Fray is not in the cards right now. The same can be said for Drusilla, but after a shockingly positive reaction to hearing her name, Allie said, "it's good to see there's interest in her return." Drusilla fans, start your petitions.

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