In August this year writer Christos Gage and artist Rebekah Isaacs joined forces to bring readers the new Angel & Faith series from Dark Horse Comics. Following on from the events of Buffy Season 8 and running alongside Buffy Season 9, the new series sees Angel and Faith living together in London as they struggle with the death of Giles and the loss of all magic in the world.
Interview: Bernice Watson
Sci-Fi Bulletin: Angel and Faith are both characters who carry a certain emotional burden and are both looking to atone for past misdeeds. How does that affect the dynamic between them as partners? Why do you think they work so well as a team?
Christos Gage: I think they work for that very reason. They’ve each walked a mile in each other’s shoes. When Faith hit bottom, Angel was there to help her – he wouldn’t give up on her. Now the roles are reversed.
Rebekah Isaacs: They’re characters who I think would be friends even if they could hang it up in the fight of good vs. evil and just sit around and chill. They’re both dark-humoured, prone to brooding (Angel more often, of course), have trouble feeling accepted and comfortable in the world outside, and at this juncture in their lives, both have an extreme drive to make their previous wrongs right. Of course, that drive could be what gets them both in trouble in different ways, eventually…
Christos, when writing Angel and Faith, how do you balance keeping the characters recognisable from the television series while also allowing them to grow and develop?
CG: It’s hard to explain, it’s more an instinctual thing that comes from getting to know them after watching all the shows. And of course it doesn’t hurt that my editors have years of experience with these characters, so I feel confident they’ll tell me if I stray too far. And, of course, there’s Joss, who knows a thing or two about them and isn’t about to let me ruin his kids!
A lot of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans actually prefer Faith because she’s, in some ways, a more complex character than Buffy. Were you a Faith fan before you started working on Angel & Faith? What do you enjoy most about writing/drawing Faith?
CG: Well, as I’ve said before, until I was offered the job I hadn’t seen any of the shows! But after watching them all, I did indeed become a Faith fan. I think she has an incredible character arc; she’s probably grown more than any other character in the Buffy-verse. The episode in which she takes over Buffy’s body and sees what it’s like to have real friends, people who really love you, and ends up being compelled to save innocent people simply because it’s the right thing to do, is an amazing moment for her. I can certainly relate to someone who’s made mistakes in life and is trying to do better. I think that’s why people like Faith; it’s why I like writing her.
RI: I have to admit she’s grown on me a lot since I started working on the series. I certainly didn’t dislike her, but before I got the job I hadn’t gotten very far into Buffy, and Faith didn’t have quite as much dimension to her character as she does later in that show and in Angel. She was still very much leaning more towards villain than heroine at that point.
After finishing the shows and reading Brian K. Vaughan’s arc of Season 8, which I loved, I had a new appreciation for Faith. And the new things that are revealed about Faith’s past in Season 9 make her even more compelling. The new puzzle pieces are forming a seamless big picture of who Faith is for me, and I think long-time fans of the character will be really fulfilled as well.
Faith is very true to herself and comfortable with her powers whereas Angel is constantly striving to overcome his vampire nature. Is this dichotomy something that you play on when you’re writing them as a team?
CG: Definitely. In the very first arc, Faith is wrestling with the question of whether to use the Mohra blood to forcibly turn Angel human again, because she feels like he will never allow himself any peace as long as he’s a vampire. The difference in the way they feel about their abilities is an important part of their relationship.
Faith now finds herself watching out for a group of young English slayers who have been sort of cut loose and don’t quite know what to do with themselves. In the past Faith has resisted being a role-model but she just keeps getting leadership thrust upon her. How do you see Faith growing into a more adult role? How does her attitude to leadership differ from that of Buffy?
CG: Well, as Alasdair pointed out to Faith in issue #3, it’s Faith herself who has become the adult, simply by doing the responsible thing and looking out for others – whether she was doing it consciously or not, she’s made herself a leader. I think the difference between Faith and Buffy is that Buffy has always been told she is the “Chosen One,” so to some degree she has accepted the mantle of leadership…although one of the key parts of Buffy’s journey in Season 9 is looking past that and trying to figure out what she wants out of life. Faith, on the other hand, has always been treated as the “flawed” Slayer. (To be fair, she did a lot to bring that on herself.) So when people behave toward her as if she was a leader, it kind of throws her.
One of the many great things people are enjoying about this series is the way you have really made the characters your own, is it hard stepping into such an established universe, creatively?
RI: At first it can feel a little restrictive compared to say, superhero comics, because there is a very clearly established visual and aural guideline for how the characters move, act, and sound. But once you get a grasp on that, you can start to extrapolate on it in a way that still stays true to the character. That’s when it gets really fun because you know you’re adding your own small touch to a mythology that so many people care so much about. But it definitely took me a few months to feel like I really “owned” the characters. Luckily I had the excellent editorial team to help me out.
CG: I don’t want to make it sound like it’s easy, because it’s not, but the idea of working with established characters is something anyone who comes from the world of writing for TV is used to. My wife and I wrote for Law & Order SVU and Numbers and in both cases we were working with established, pre-existing characters. The same is true with Marvel and DC heroes. You have to be true to the characters as they exist, but at the same time think of new ways to explore who they are and see them develop… such as bringing in Faith’s father in our second arc, and seeing how that affects her.