Christos Gage Discusses Everything Buffy
I recently chatted with Christos Gage about his new gig as writer on Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10. You may know him from such books as Angel & Faith from Season 9 of Buffy, and the criminally underrated Avengers Academy. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10 #4 is out this week (6/18/2014)
We’ve seen some big changes in the Vampire lore. How much of that was Joss and how much of that was your idea?
Christos Gage: We’ve seen some big changes in the Vampire lore. How much of that was Joss and how much of that was your idea?
You know, I can’t fully remember, though I am pretty sure it came out of the summit meeting. We knew that, after the return of magic, the Zompires (sort of feral zombie vampires) would go away, but there was a general feeling that we didn’t want to just go back to the status quo for vampires…we wanted to step up the threat level. And it tied in with our idea of Buffy’s Vampyr book being involved in chronicling and/or transcribing/creating the new rules of magic, which also came out of the summit and is a huge part of our season. All that is unfolding now, in the current issues of the comic.
Why do you think that Buffy can’t be happy in a relationship? Her budding relationship with Dowling seemed to be going good until he agreed to somewhat end it.
CG: That’s something she’s asking herself this season. But it wasn’t as simple as her not being happy with Dowling…it was that she got scared as she saw things with him going down a familiar path, one she saw before with Riley. (Dowling was attacked and almost killed during a Zompire battle.) Normal humans Buffy gets romantically involved with tend to be treated pretty harshly by the danger of her life, even if they’re tough, like soldiers or cops. And then, after they broke up, Riley found happiness with his wife, which probably reinforced Buffy’s feeling that she’s not the best choice for a regular guy, that they’d be better off with someone else. Are those feelings valid, or is she being overly neurotic and harsh on herself? Can she be in a healthy, happy relationship, or does she sabotage them unconsciously? These are all things she, and we, will be exploring in the very near future.
How much say does Joss have on the final product? Is more of a he checks it out at hype end and oks it or does he have a lot of say in the nitty gritty elements of each arc.
CG: Obviously, Joss is a super busy guy, but he is very much involved in the shaping of the season in our summits, and in approving every step along the way thereafter. The summit is a lot like a TV writer’s room, including folks like Jane Espenson, Drew Greenberg, Nicholas Brendon – who is co-writing a number of issues with me this season – and more. At that stage, Joss contributes a great deal, as well as steering the ideas others supply, much like a TV showrunner. In terms of the outlines and individual scripts, everything is sent to him as it comes in. I’d imagine how closely he looks at them has to do with his schedule at that moment…but I can tell you that just when I figure he doesn’t have time to look at it, he will chime in with a note like asking us to change a story title because we inadvertently repeated one they used on the show, or on ANGEL & FAITH last season when he asked me to make Giles’ father in the flashbacks less like Wesley’s father in the show. And if we come up with a new idea that we didn’t cover in the summit, we run it by him – this just happened, but it’s something that’s coming up in the book so I can’t say too much about it – and he always responds, and it usually starts a very productive email chain. I’m always amazed by how not only Joss, but folks like Jane and Andrew Chambliss, who are very busy with other things, are so generous with their time…you can tell it’s because they still have such deep love for the Buffyverse and its characters.
What has it been like working with Nicholas Brendon? Has it been interesting to teach him the ways of writing for comics?
CG: It’s been great! He’s very enthusiastic and, as you might imagine, a really fun guy to be around. And while he’s eager to learn the ins and outs of writing comics, I feel like I’ve learned an equal amount from him. He approaches it as you’d expect an actor might…very focused on character, and experimenting with dialogue in ways I hadn’t tried before. For example, at the start of issue #3, I was continuing the dynamic Drew Goddard had started between Xander and Dracula in Season 8, and I was trying to convey that Dracula had staged fake evidence of an orgy at his castle to make Xander think it was a non-stop party there and want to hang out there more. But I wasn’t sure how to get across that it was fake. Nicky suggested having Dracula repeat the word “orgy” a lot and really belabor the point of how much crazy fun was going on, which was not only funny, it conveyed how desperate Dracula was to make it seem real, while making it clear he was trying way too hard and it was clearly fake. So it’s been a great experience for me. I’ve always felt that there’s no point in having co-writers who duplicate each other’s strengths; it’s better to have collaborators who complement each other, and I feel like we do.
Has Nick had a lot of input into the Xander aspects so far? Has he brought an outside perspective on any other characters?
CG: Nicky has helped a lot in terms of the voices and perspectives of the characters. From a plot standpoint, that mostly took place in the summit, which he was very much a part of…for example, he advocated for Xander and Spike to move in together because he had such a good time with the “Odd Couple” arrangement when they briefly did it on the show. And he was right, it’s been a blast to write!
I adored that set up with Xander and Spike. How many issues do you plan on having Nicky sticking around? He seems to have taken to the comic medium well. Let’s have a “Zeppo” style of miniseries for Xander.
CG: Nicky will be hanging around as long as he wants. He’s working on issue 7, and 12, and probably more. It’s all about making the scheduling work.
How do you approach writing these characters? I remember you did an interview with I think CBR before this season started and talked about wanting to capture their voices while at the same time pushing what fans knew about these characters, and that really made an impact on me while making me excited for this season. I’m probably butchering what you said (laughs).
CG: It’s really a matter of watching the shows and reading the canonical comics to the point where you sort of know instinctively what they would say and do. That also allows you to make them grow as people, but it has to come from a real, existing starting point and make sense. For example, last season, we tried to put to rest the notion of “Dark Willow,” at least in the sense that she is a different person…Willow came to grips with the notion that Dark Willow is an aspect of herself, and trying to deny it wouldn’t work…she had to accept that side of her and be at peace with it, in order to keep it from taking over altogether. That’s the kind of thing I mean. A few years ago, Willow wasn’t in the right place to do that, but she’s matured, as they all have.
If you had your way, and Joss said “yes” to any idea you presented to him, what would you really like to do with these characters that fans would not expect?
CG: Well, this is more in the realm of ending the story altogether, but for me, a true “happily ever after” for these guys involves Buffy, Spike and Angel living together in a polygamous marriage arrangement. Although I’d imagine there are some fans that not only expect that, but have written extensive fanfic about it!
Holy crap I love that ending. Now Dark Horse needs to start having a “What If?…” line of comics just so you can write that.
CG: I might anyway!
Since you’ve been watching the shows so much for this project, what past villain or storyline have you watched/read that has made you go, “Man I want to revisit this villain/person.”?
CG: There isn’t a single villain…really, I try to approach it from the perspective of what are we trying to achieve with the characters, and what will help get us there or enable us to do something interesting with them? If that means bringing back an old villain – like Eyghon in ANGEL & FAITH, for example – then great. Although I guess you could say Harmony falls into the category of a villain I can’t get enough of bringing back. She’s in #10, along with Clem.
Has it been very different going from Angel & Faith to Buffy? Do you miss writing the two of them?
CG: It’s different because the tone is different. But it’s similar in terms of writing characters with really strong voices and enjoying myself immensely, as well as having the awesome luxury of collaborating with my A&F team, Rebekah Isaacs, Dan Jackson, Jimmy Betancourt and Scott Allie and Freddye Lins. And of course I miss writing Angel & Faith! I got to write Faith in Buffy #1-2. Angel, maybe soon.
How long is Season 10 looking to be?
CG: 30 issues
As I’ve read/watched Buffy over the years, I’ve always wondered: why doesn’t Buffy ever tackle normal criminals? I know she’s more supernatural in nature, but there were never monsters working for the mob? What are your thoughts on that?
CG: I get the impression that if Buffy was in the area when a mugging was taking place she’d intervene, but in general, she doesn’t go looking for criminals because there’s already a law enforcement system in place to tackle that, and they’re pretty good at it. She handles supernatural threats that normal human officers aren’t equipped to fight…although, with the world now aware of the supernatural, that might change! I think there’s also a reluctance to kill a human being with a soul, even a criminal, whereas dusting vampires or dispatching soulless monsters seems less harsh. You do touch on something we’re going to be exploring a bit this season (and have in the previous one), which is the merging of the human and supernatural worlds. Police departments are forming supernatural crimes squads, and we may indeed see monsters working for the mob…or, who knows, the cops!
Thanks so much for taking time out from your schedule to talk with us Christos. I can’t wait for the next issue.
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