Resurrecting A "Fallen Angel": Ryall & Woodward Discuss The Series

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In July of 2005, the final issue of Peter David's "Fallen Angel" was published by DC Comics. The book had been cancelled. The reason given? Low sales. Sadly, this phenomenon is not a new one for comic fans. We have all had books that we enjoyed suddenly end on us (personally, the cancellation of "Major Bummer" hit me somewhat hard). However, this is part of the comic book "circle of life." Eventually, a new book comes along and fills the gap in our "pull" list after we finally accept that our favorite comic is gone.

But what if the book comes back?

Usually, when a comic is cancelled for low sales, that's that-- the book is gone. Occasionally, it undergoes a major revamp and a new #1 is solicited. To bring a book back from the dead though is truly a rare occurrence, but that's what has happened with "Fallen Angel." This December, fans of the Peter David comic will get to read a brand new adventure from the book's new publisher, IDW. And in keeping with the "new" theme, the book also has a new artist making his debut by the name of J.K. Woodward. CBR News contacted Woodward and IDW's Editor-in-Chief Chris Ryall to discuss "Fallen Angel's" resurrection and the comic's new look.

The move of "Fallen Angel" from DC to IDW was an industry rumor for quite some time (as first reported in CBR's own "LYING IN THE GUTTERS) but according to Ryall, the deal happened suddenly…and then not so suddenly. He explained, "You know, I forget who approached whom first. I know Peter and I both traded emails that asked, 'If DC doesn't continue 'Fallen Angel,' could we bring it to IDW?' I've long been a fan of Peter's-- and I liked 'Fallen Angel' quite a bit-- so when it turned out that DC was canceling the book, I dropped Peter another line, and the deal was done.

"Well, it took months and all kinds of haranguing with DC, and Peter had to do quite a bit of dancing and romancing, and then there were contractual things to get in-line with the book's co-creator, artist David Lopez, but the long and short of it is: we got it, and it starts in December. All the machinations to make this happen were just part of a day's work, really."

While Ryall's statement makes the feat he has accomplished sound a bit commonplace, his excitement over bringing "Fallen Angel" back to readers is readily apparent in talking with him. As for his specific reasons for this joyous feeling, Ryall said, "I love the fact that I was in a position to help resurrect a book I enjoyed as a fan. That's a pretty rare thing, I think. I enjoyed the book before I ever had a job in the industry, and it was this situation where I Monday-morning quarterbacked it-- like, 'Man, if I was the one running things, I'd certainly do what I could to keep 'Fallen Angel' going.' And here I am, in that position and able to do just that. I know how passionate the fans of this book are too, and I was happy to be able to do what we in the hip-hop community call a 'solid' for them as well.

"So there's that, and then there's the fact that I get to work on yet another book with Peter David, a guy who's been one of my favorite comic writers ever since he blew a hole in Captain Jean DeWolff (er, not that I wanted him to kill her, I just liked his writing…) back in the '80s."

The new artist joining Peter David on this go-round of "Fallen Angel" is J.K. Woodward, who-- while new to "Fallen Angel"-- is not new to IDW. "I was first directed to his work on 'Crazy Mary' in Digital Webbing, and loved it," Ryall told CBR News. "I'd hoped to find some kind of project for him, and he turned out to be a great fit first on 'CSI: NY' for us, since that book was set largely in the sewers of NYC and involved werewolves (or did it?). He's been able to more than capably handle any scenario thrown his way."

The next link in the chain of events was explained by Woodward, who said, "While I was working on 'CSI: NY,' I was again contacted by Chris who told me that he was working with Peter David on taking his DC series 'Fallen Angel' to IDW. Chris told me that he had passed on a copy of 'Crazy Mary' to Peter and he had chosen me as the new artist for 'Fallen Angel.' This was a very happy day for me."

For those readers familiar with the look of DC's "Fallen Angel" (as drawn by David Lopez), Woodward's style seems to be a radical departure. Trying to compare the two artists would be near-impossible, as they don't even use the same tools for their art. Assuming that half of the inspiration to save the book came from its art, one has to wonder why Ryall and David would make such a significant change?

"David Lopez (who's providing alternate covers for the first five-issue arc) wasn't able to work on the book, so we looked elsewhere," Ryall said. "Peter and I both really dug what Woodward was doing. I think, once you have to change artists on a book where the artist has had a long run, it's best to really take a left turn and not just look for a 'Lopez-clone' or develop a 'house-style' or anything like that. I'm much more open to new interpretations than I am watered-down copies."

If Ryall was looking for a new interpretation, he definitely found that with Woodward. The artist laid out his background for CBR News and its readers. "I've been both reading comics and painting all my life, but didn't really combine the two until I moved to Germany in 2000 and released a self-published title called 'Flesh Angels.' This got the attention of a young writer, Phil Smith, from L.A. who tapped me for his 'Gelding' series. Nothing came of the 'Gelding,' but Phil went on to become an editor for Top Cow and through him I met Mike Coilbert, writer of 'Crazy Mary.' 'Crazy Mary' was published in "Digital Webbing Presents" #16 and #23 and Mike is taking it on now as a series. 'Crazy Mary' caught the attention of IDW editor Chris Ryall, who then hired me to work with Kris Oprisko, Max Collins, and Steven Perkins on 'CSI: NY' (which, as mentioned, led to being hired on 'Fallen Angel')."

From the art shown in solicitations for the new "Fallen Angel," it is clear that Woodward's style involves more than just pencil and ink. He follows a three-step process which results in completely colored art with a very unique look. To clarify this though, he explained, "The thing about the process I use-- there really is no inking or coloring in the traditional comic book sense. The first step is the pencils, which are usually pretty rough. Since I don't have to send them to an inker, I generally don't worry too much about these. This is the fastest part of the process since any thing about the pencils I'm not happy with, I can always fix in the next step. The second step is painting with gouache. I do this in black and white for three reasons:

  • First, it helps me to concentrate on tones, light and shadow. In my opinion, this is where the mood is and it requires more thought than simply the color.
  • Second, it allows me to change color more easily if I have a black and white base. I like to allow the editor or writer options for changes wherever I can.
  • Third, it saves money. Gouache is not cheap, so buying only two colors (one tube black & one tube white), I can save some money.

"The third step is applying color. This is done by airbrushing the base colors over the tones which have already been applied with gouache."

When asked about the biggest challenge in working on a property like "Fallen Angel," Woodward responded, "The same thing that was challenging about 'CSI: NY'-- I had to work with characters that were established by someone other than me. All my previous work was collaborative. But in the case of 'Fallen Angel,' it's an enjoyable challenge. I really like the work Lopez has done and I'm trying hard to stay true to the look of these characters."

Now that Woodward has a regular job with "Fallen Angel," he can speak from experience about what it takes to make it as an artist in the industry. His advice for aspiring artists? "Be prepared to sacrifice everything! Seriously, you better love what you do because if there is anything in your life more important than your career in comics, then you won't make it. That weekend with family or friends? Have to tell them you can't make it. Got a spouse? He/She better be understanding, because he/she will have to entertain him/herself while you're working those long hours. I was two hours late to my own birthday party because I was working and then I had to leave early. Comics will totally monopolize your time, and it's easier if you just accept that at the start.

"Get published! You probably won't get your dream job first shot out, so self-publish, or go to small press, but get published, get reviewed and build a following! There are small press companies out there that do anthologies and share the publishing costs (try Digital Webbing, for example). This is a good way get your work out there with out spending too much.

"Also, invest in stamps and use them. Send and keep sending samples of your work (preferably published) to editors and reviewers. If they even look at your stuff and don't contact you immediately, they will probably forget you by the end of the day, so be persistent and keep buggin' em!"

IDW is generally associated with dark, horror-driven titles like "30 Days of Night" and "Wake the Dead," even though they will be putting out a new, all-ages "Transformers" series soon. Considering Fallen Angel's tone could already be considered dark, readers may be wondering if the move to IDW will make the book even darker, grimmer, or more "Rated R?" Ryall said, "There's certainly no mandate for Peter to darken things up or throw in more violence, nudity or language just because he can-- I want him to tell the story he intended to tell if the book had continued. So in the first arc, we'll be revealing that the Fallen Angel is, in fact, Supergirl and…wait, that's not quite right.

"I think the general feel of the book will darken a bit, simply because J.K. Woodward's art lends itself to that, but there's no editorial directive for it to do so. I want Peter to feel free to tell the best 'Fallen Angel' stories he can."

In the spirit of telling great stories, CBR News asked for any possible teasers on the new series. Without divulging too much, Ryall answered that the new series picks up where the previous one left off while simultaneously heading in a new direction. He also said, "Issue one takes place two decades after the end of the DC run (which we're thinking of as 'Season One')."

Woodward added to this by saying, "I have only read the first script, but I have been told a few things. I want to be careful not to give too much away, but I will say this: you will meet the Angel's son…and his half-brother."

In case you are wondering how many issues are planned for this new incarnation-- and how many issues Woodward will be drawing-- Ryall responded that Woodward is "definitely doing the first arc, and I know he, Peter and I all hope the book's sales merit more and we can all three keep this going as long as Peter wants to keep writing it."

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