Here at KomiX Towers, we are huge Buffy fans, right from the very beginning. We owned the VHS, we upgraded to DVD when at college. We collected the merchandise, went to Buffy conventions in costume, and swooned when Nathan Fillion showed up in Season 7. We are guilty of having written fan fiction, a fact that has not been publicised until now. We actually did a happy dance when it was announced the Buffyverse would continue in comic-book form with Season 8.
And here we are now, in the Autumn of 2011 and we have in our hands the first issue of Season Nine. How better to celebrate this than to bag an exclusive interview with the Buffy artist Georges Jeanty? Our brand-spanking-new KomiX reviewer, Crom catches up with Georges and talks comics, influences and envy over not being able to work on Angel & Faith as well:
I’ve read that Frank Miller’s Daredevil #183 was crucial to your becoming a comic artist. What was it about that issue that made such an impression on you?
Well, all you have to do is look at the issue to know why. I always loved comics and collected them rabidly all my life, and around that time I was in High School, and like most high school kids, I was looking for purpose, identity. I found it in comics. I was already picking up Fantastic Four and most Marvel titles regularly, this was also a time when I got into the Teen Titan which was sacrilege since the Titan were… gasp… published by DC, and I was a full fledge Marvel zombie. I never had any interest in Daredevil past his involvement in the Marvel Universe, so picking up that book was never an option. This Drug Store I used to go to after school on the way home had a couple of those spinning racks (“Hey Kids, Comics!”) and the guy who ran the place was a cliché of the Drug Store variety. He was this balding overweight guy who planted a cigar in the side of his mouth when he talked. The kind of guy who tied his belt around his ample stomach to keep his pants up instead of at his waist. And why is it these guys never seemed to like kids?! And if so, why sell comics?! But I digress.
After school I would stop in and look and see if there were any new comics (this was before the general comic going public knew what an important day Wednesdays were). So there were a lot of titles with previous issues all bending in the rack. I had read all that I was interested in and 183 of DD was sitting there like a quiet invitation. I was impressed that the cover showed DD actually getting shot by the Punisher’s rifle. Bored more than anything, I picked it up and decided to take a chance, until the new issues of my regular crop of books came in. What happened next, quite literally changed my artistic life.
Who was this Frank Miller and why was I praising him on a title that I didn’t even like?! The storytelling is what grabbed me most. This guy was amazing. Everything seemed so effortless and I was totally engrossed. Needless to say, I went back to the Drug store the next day after school and praised the fat man with the cigar in his mouth and the belt around his stomach for not getting rid of at least 5 months of Daredevil back issues. I was in heaven. I began to ask another question; who is this Elektra chick….?
Your first big break in the comics’ world was Paradigm #1 in 1994. How did that come about, and how long did it take you to get that first job?
I was working for a comic shop at the time and we were doing a local show in Miami, just a one day thing, in the ballroom of a hotel. There were mostly dealers but also a few creators signing. Believe it or not we were set up across from Stan Lee who spent a lot of his time just sitting around (this was before the age of Superhero movies as we know it). Another guy who was down from Detroit was signing his latest book U.N. Force published through Caliber Press. We struck up a conversation and before you know it, he was looking at my work saying some very impressive things. He said when he got back to Detroit he’d get in touch with me. Caliber comics was wanting to start a superhero line and this guy, Brent, who I was talking to, was in the lead to head these books. Paradigm was actually a spin off from U.N. Force. I was so nervous. I questioned every artistic decision I made when I was drawing that book. It was awful. That’s why nowadays I tell young hopeful artists who want to break in the business that it’s better to get your start on small press books because years later when you look at your first published work, and you will, at least you cut your teeth on a book that hardly anyone’s seen. I did that book in 1992, I think, and it only took a few months from meeting Brent to drawing the first issue. I was starting on the 3rd issue when the book was cancelled. Thankfully, those pages will never see the light of day. I loved the book, I just didn’t like my work.
Was there a point when you felt like you’d ‘arrived‘? (Perhaps working on big DC characters such as Superman, Superboy and Green Lantern, or your first ongoing series Bishop: The Last X-Man?)
Aw, man. There were several times I thought I had arrived! I must have done 3 high profile books before I got to “the Big Two” I scored a job at Tekno Comics, and then at Defiant, and a couple of others I can’t even remember now. I always say that my career has been a series of false starts. Just when I thought I had arrived something happened and I was back to square one. It wasn’t until I moved to North Carolina to join the staff of London Night Studios (of Razor fame) that I thought I was at least a working artist… until they folded a year later).
Having worked on so many iconic characters like those mentioned above, are there any characters/titles out there you’d still like to work on?
How much time have you got? Pretty much every character out there I would consider a challenge to work on. I’m still a Marvel fan, I’d love to work on their characters, but DC has been very good to me over the years and it’s always a pleasure to do their books. Sorry, that’s a short answer to a long question.
Moving on to Buffy, I believe I read somewhere that you hadn’t seen the show when you were offered the job on Season Eight. Is that correct and, if so, what went through your mind when you did get to watch the series knowing you’d be working on the comic?
You are correct, sir. I was aware of Buffy from pop culture, but I wasn’t into the show. Not knowing the much of the character, what struck me most in the begging was how much this little blonde girl got hit. I was a little turned off in the beginning. I didn’t get the extent of her Slayer strength. As I continued to watch, I was taken at just how good the writing was and how many comic references there were. Ultimately I was hooked, as I’m sure most Buffy fans will attest.
Season Eight featured a lot of returning characters. Was it difficult capturing these characters having only come to the TV series so recently?
YES! I hope I didn’t put too fine a point on that. I was frozen with intimidation, because my whole career I wanted to do a licensed book. I thought it might be a Star Wars book or a Star Trek thing. And then came Buffy. While I didn’t know it at the time, I was the luckiest boy at the prom to get to be asked by this girl to dance. And 5 years later, we’re still dancing. The first 4 issues of Season 8 were hard. I spent so much time on the likeness that I probably ate up a whole month just on faces! If I had it to do again, I would certainly go back and re-do that first arc. I used, and still use, a bunch of pictures where possible.
Do you have any favourite moments from season eight, either as an artist or simply as an admirer of Joss Whedon’s work?
It’s certainly a treat to get to read one of Joss’ issues. I’m always a fan when Joss writes the character stuff. Give me 2 characters in a room with Joss’ wizardry and I’m a happy camper. I love reading his scripts. I really enjoyed the Faith arc. That one was written by Brian K. Vaughn I thought that character experienced a lot of growth in Season 8. I love that forever after, when people are looking up stuff on Faith, they will have to refer to Season 8 at some point.
I have – to my shame – only just discovered the existence of the Spike online comic set towards the end of Season Eight. Do you know of any plans to make this more widely available?
Yes. I believe that story, which needs no apology, thanks, will come out in one of the future trades to Season 9. It was a lot of fun to do for a few reasons. It reunited me with Jane Espenson who wrote a gem of a script and it gave the chance for inker Dexter Vines, who until this had been inking the covers, to do some extraordinary work on interiors, and it was the first story I worked on after a brief hiatus from Season 8 to Season 9. All around a good looking 8 pages.
Are there any characters you particularly hope to see more of in Season Nine? (I was very happy to read that Andrew will have a significant role.)
Yeah, Andrew will be around and a few other fan favourites that I’m not at liberty to divulge. One teaser; Robin Wood makes an appearance. I would love to see all the characters come back so I could draw them, but I think the cool thing is that there will be some characters that were exclusive to the Angel series that will show up….
With fans looking forward to the launch of the season – at the time this interview was conducted – how far ahead have you read, and how far ahead are you with the artwork?
I’m on the 6th issue. I know what Season 9 will go on to become and I’ve read through the next arc, but everything hasn’t been written yet. I know the broad strokes and believe me, all that I know about the series so far has made me think that Season 9 could turn out to be a little more intense than Season 8. Just wait. You guys will be busy writing about all of the spoilers that are soon to come!
How much of Angel & Faith have you seen, and what was your impression of it? Any regrets about choosing Buffy over this title?
I’ve seen a bit of Angel but not as much as Buffy. I remember talking to Joss and we had a conversation about me coming back to the series and he started to tell me about how the Angel book was going to go and I have to tell you, I was really considering doing that one, but in the end I chose to stay with the girl I came with. I love what Cristos and Rebekah are doing on the book. I’m jealous when I see the book. I wish I had it in me to do 2 books a month, I would have lobbied for both of them! But this way, I get to read the Angel series without having too much knowledge about it.