HEAT VISION

Surprise 'Angel' Comic Book Series Debuting Next Week

The 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' spin-off will debut exclusively in comic book stores on April 17.
Boris Pelcer/Boom! Studios
The 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' spin-off will debut exclusively in comic book stores on April 17.

As soon as Boom! Studios announced that it was rebooting Joss Whedon’s beloved Buffy the Vampire Slayer in a new comic book series, fans started wondering how long it would be before Angel — Buffy’s on-again, off-again love interest and professional brooding vampire — appeared. Now there’s an answer…and a twist.

Angel will debut in Buffy No. 4, on sale next week, and then immediately appear in the first issue of his own comic book series, Angel No. 0, released in comic book stores on the same day as the first surprise series drop in Boom!’s history.

The new Angel series launches by forgoing the traditional three-month order cycle of the comic book industry, with the issue being shipped exclusively to comic book stores in the same numbers that the stores are offering Buffy No. 4. The Angel series, to be created by American Carnage and Detective Comics writer Bryan Edward Hill and artist Gleb Melnikov, will continue monthly from that point onward.

The first issue will be released with two covers, both by Boris Pelcer, which can be seen above.

Heat Vision spoke with Boom! Studios vp marketing Arune Singh, executive editor Jeanine Schaefer and Angel writer Bryan Edward Hill about the surprise release and what to expect from the new series.

Let’s begin with the obvious question: Why the surprise announcement and release for Angel No. 0, compared with the more traditional solicitation and order cycle?

Arune Singh, vp marketing: Something that we’re really committed to at Boom! is bringing new readers to comics. That’s always our goal. But we’re also, in an increasingly digital age, looking at ways to create surprises at the brick and mortar level, and that’s really hard.

We already knew that Angel was going to be introduced in Buffy issue 4, and we already knew that there would be an Angel series coming up, but we said — in the great Joss Whedon tradition — the twist is that there’s Angel coming up, but there’s one more twist. We looked at what can we do that drives people directly to comic shops, reduces the window from awareness to conversion — often the idea of getting people into a comic store is that they become aware of an idea three months before [it’s actually released]. We really wanted to give people a chance to know the book is available, [so] we’re announcing it eight days before it’s released so people can order it with their retailer, but then go in and pick it up.

The upside of doing it with a pop culture phenomenon like Angel is that there’s already a built-in fanbase, both in television and comics, and they are either comics fans or at least pretty open to comics. We wanted to make sure this drove people into comics stores specifically — that’s also why the comic is only available in comic stores April 17. It will not be available in digital channels until May 1. We’re just really committed to driving people to comic shops. It’s the lifeblood of the industry.

Bryan, the zero issue is a very complete and clean introduction to this new version of Angel, who he is and what he wants. It tells the reader everything they need to know about the character in one issue before the story moves forward. I’m curious — how did you decide what to include in the issue? What’s your background with Angel?

Bryan Edward Hill, Angel writer: I really liked the show when it first aired. I really responded to it. When you look at my work, you’ll find a lot of characters looking for purpose — characters seeking some kind of redemption, or at least reconciliation of sorts. That’s an important theme for me. Angel, by virtue of his narrative, has all these things already out there, and I really responded to that.

I thoroughly believe that readers, audiences, bond to characters by understanding what they want. Desire is how we relate. What I wanted to do [with the Angel No. 0 issue] is give you an idea of what he wants, you know? That he’s trying to make things better, that he’s trying to use darkness against darkness, as it were — and that he struggles with that. The self-imposed isolation of that. We live in a world, I think, where we’re much more isolated in real ways; we’re highly connected in technological ways, but in terms of real, organic, eye-contact ways, in those ways, we’re certainly struggling. Those aspects of the character, I think, are more universal than they were when the show was originally broadcast.

Both this issue and Boom!’s ongoing Buffy the Vampire Slayer reboot series benefit from a holistic approach to the franchise as it exists; it can and does choose from everything audiences learned about the characters from all seasons of the television series, as well as canonical material from elsewhere, managing to pick and choose from the characters’ entire history to start over instead of simply re-telling the same stories. This introduction to Angel draws from the Angel TV show even though it takes place before he’s met Buffy, which is a significant switch from previous canon.

Jeanine Schaefer, executive editor: I think one of the most interesting things is that we have the entire Buffyverse at this point to choose from, and we also have dramatic irony — but we have to make sure that new fans have something to get excited about, too. For me, there were a couple of things in both of these books where I was all, “Oh, what if we did this? Or what if we did this?” — it’s just us sitting around and thinking, “What did we really love? What were the things that we really responded to?” But I really let Jordie [Bellaire, Buffy the Vampire Slayer writer] and Bryan choose what they felt the routes into the stories they wanted to tell were, and went from there. We have all these things to choose from, but there’s no editorial directive of, “We have to have these characters in there!” It’s, "Okay, we have this story to tell. What pieces do we need to make that happen?"

One of the things that’s interesting is that the TV show had the two characters very closely tied together for the first few years, even after Angel was spun off into his own show. Is that going to be similar in the comics? Will they simply co-exist in the same world, or will readers have to buy both series to understand fully what’s going on?

Schaefer: You have to read both! (Laughs) You have to read everything we put out! There are some connections, but I’m hesitant to say to what extent, because we do have some things I don’t want to give away. They are going to be involved in each other’s books; I think that they’re both really strong characters on their own, but I think the level to which they relate to each other is almost a character by itself, so I just want to see that, you know? Not right away, because I want everyone to suffer and wait as long as possible, but we’re going to get there.

Is there nervousness about rebooting such a beloved character? Buffy fandom is an especially passionate and vocal fandom.

Hill: I wouldn’t say nervousness, because I’m not particularly prone to creative anxiety. I look at it as music; in my spare time, I write and perform music. Sometimes, you end up doing a cover or an interpretation of a song that someone’s heard before. And one of things there is deciding, what are the essential qualities of the thing that you’re interpreting, and how do you filter that through your own experience?

I’m very grateful to be at a point in my creative life where I don’t have to do anything; I only take on projects that I want to do, where I think I have a useful perspective. So, when it comes to Angel and the fanbase, I think they’ll find that I get it. If someone is a longtime fan and they’re wondering if Bryan Hill gets it, Bryan Hill gets it. (Laughs)

Simultaneously, you want to try and give it as much relevance as you can for 2019. It is a delicate balance, to retain the spirit of the thing while making sure that it’s at a cutting edge for current readers; I think we’re really happy with what we’re doing so far, and I think fans of both characters will be really happy and very pleased with what we have to offer them.

What makes this version of Angel as a series different from what’s come before? What will surprise long-term fans of the character?

Hill: We’re going to see Angel in suburbia, we’re going to see creatures that are allegorical for what younger people — and older people — are going through right now, so all of those expected things will be there with a sharpness that I think people expect from the franchise. The surprise is going to come from the exploration of Angel’s past. That’s one of the earliest conversations Jeanine and I had in Los Angeles: Let’s delve into this guy’s past. Let’s treat it will the epic broad strokes that were alluded to in the television series but that we can do in the unique format of comics. This is the stuff that we’re really excited about.

And of these new stories that we’re going to see in the past, how do those impact the familiar characters in this world? For Angel, I think time is strange and has lost a little bit of its meaning because he’s been burdened with it for so long. You have a character who’s simultaneously in the past and the present; how does his past affect his present, and so on. There’s a lot of interesting ideas to explore.

Angel No. 0 will be available exclusively from comic book stores April 17.

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