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Scott Allie - Buffy editor at Dark Horse Comics
A job with bite
How did you become editor of the Buffy comics?
Jamie S. Rich, who's now the Editor-In-Chief at Oni Press, was an editor here [at Dark Horse], and a big fan of Buffy. He campaigned to bring it here, but left the company before the book got started.
I hadn't seen the show, but based on the word 'vampire' I asked if I could edit it. That got the ball rolling. One of my best friends was already a big fan of the show, so I tapped him for advice getting started, as I tried to learn the show myself.
What's Joss's involvement with the comics?
He had very little involvement for the first few years. His staff dealt with me and the comics, but that staff was not as familiar with comics as Joss. I really would've benefited from direct contact with him then, and I think the series would have started better. But of course, that's really unique in comics.
We do a lot of licensed books, and almost never do the people at the top deal directly with us. But then Doug Petrie expressed interest in writing comics. That opened the door for the other writers, like Jane Espenson. That eventually led to Joss saying he wanted to write a comic. At first it was going to be a Faith series, but then he decided on Fray. As we started talking about that, I started tapping him for more advice about the other comics.
The way it works now is that on the books he writes, like Fray and the upcoming Tales of the Vampires, he practically edits the book with me. On ones he does not write, his biggest contribution is informal, through conversations we have about other things which turn back toward the monthly or the other projects I do.
Really, just the experience of working on Fray with him has taught me more about his aesthetics than watching the show could ever do. It's in that way that his influence has most affected the various Buffy comics.
Are there any plans for Joss to write a follow-up to Fray?
Not so much plans, but we are talking about it. He has a few things he wants to write, and the truth is I think it's Fray that he's most interested in.
What audience are the Buffy comics aimed at?
Basically the viewers of the show. I aim at an age range of about 14 to 28, but anyone who watches the show should find the comics accessible. I know some people who don't watch the show read the comics, but I don't think we can hope for that to happen with a lot of people. We'd be happy if we could get the million or so viewers of the show.
Is continuity a nightmare in the Buffy world?
No. Continuity in Buffy is pretty clear cut. Not like Star Wars, where you have dozens of storylines in any give time period. With Buffy there is a set number of characters, and we only have to acknowledge the 22 or so episodes they do every year.
Which issue or storyline are you most proud of?
False Memories and Creatures of Habit are perhaps my favourite of the regular continuity. Tales of the Slayers, the big book we did, is another high water mark.
My favourite single issue is probably Buffy issue 55, the Dawn and Hoopy story. That was hilarious. Fray, of course. And while it sounds like shilling, I think A Stake to the Heart, the one we're working on right now, which wraps up the current Year One arc, is one of the best things we've ever done. It's definitely the scariest, which means it's going to rate higher in my book, and we're taking our biggest chances on it, I'd say.
You know how Joss's episodes in the TV series stand out from the other episodes? I think that in some ways Stake to the Heart will stand out similarly.
Step back in time
Why did you decide to take the comic strip back to pre-season one Buffy?
Remember when I said continuity wasn't a nightmare? Apparently I forgot something. For a while we were sticking to about a year behind the show in the continuity of the comic.
It's surprising, but it actually takes much longer to get from script to publication of a comic than from script to airing of a TV show. So it would be impossible to get current with the show. But then somehow the stories got out of control, and we were catching up on the show, which would be an unsustainable situation. Suddenly we were writing comics right in time with the show, and it got a lot harder.
Without knowing where the show would be in the months to come, it was hard to plan out the comic. There were also rumours that Season Seven would be the last, so I decided to let Joss and Marti and the gang figure out where the show was going while we sought refuge in a place where we would have a lot of freedom, and wouldn't bump up against current changes in the storyline. Hence, year one.
End of days?
How is the end of the show going to affect the Buffy comics? Will they continue?
They'll continue. I want to work out with Joss exactly how they'll continue. Ideally I'd like to continue from the end of Season Seven with Joss's direction, but that might be too much to ask.
What's the deal with the Angel comic? Why did it end and will it ever return?
As we started getting more involved with Joss, he started expressing ideas about what we should do with Angel. Then he expressed an idea about him writing it, which sounded great. So we cancelled the ongoing series to make room for Joss, who only wanted to do a miniseries. And we just haven't decided what to do with it next. I know it's been a long time, but we've been caught up with other stuff.
End of days?
Do the cast have to approve their comic strip likenesses, and has anyone ever asked you to make changes?
Not all of them have approval, and the way it works is they only have to approve the artist one time. Once they've said yes, it's just up to me and the licensing folks at Fox to make sure the likenesses are appropriate. And yes, there have been some artists who've been shot down, or about whom some cast members have complained. But I don't want to get into that...
What's your favourite Buffy character in the comics?
Every time I'm asked this I have a different answer, but right now it's Buffy. She's the one I find most compelling, if only because of the current arc. I'm realising there are aspects of her we've still never gotten into, and I have renewed interest in doing so.
Will there be more Tales of the Slayer or similar anthologies?
Yep. Tales of the Vampires, starting in December. Four issues, same sort of thing, but focused on vamps. Just like Tales of the Slayers, it'll written by show writers, and Joss will work closely with me to get it right.
Are there any plans for more one-off, such as the Giles and Jonathan comics? How about a Troika issue, or something based on the abandoned Faith series?
Definitely Faith. I'm working on trying to get something going there. I've had a lot of pitches for Faith stories over the years, but I've been waiting for just the right one. I'd like to do more with Spike, too.
The write stuff
Who are your favourite artists and writers?
Favourite writer is Alan Moore, favourite artist is Mike Mignola. Also a big fan of Jeph Loeb, Tim Sale, Garth Ennis, Steve Dillon, Alex Maleev, Jason Pearson, David Lapham, Evan Dorkin, Jill Thompson, Chris Ware, Craig Thompson, Jeff Campbell.
Are there any 'guest' artists or writers that you'd particularly like to work on an issue of Buffy?
Jeph Loeb is number one on the writing list. J Scott Campbell is top of the artist list. They almost did a story together a year or two ago, but it didn't work out. Adam Kubert is another artist I'd love to see on it. Oh, and Cassaday. A few more names: Pia Guerra, Craig Thompson, Jill Thompson, Michael Lark, Kevin Nowlan. The fear of leaving people off makes me want to continue...
What's your top tips in the comic world other than Buffy right now?
Promethea and Hellboy, in keeping with the above question. Craig Thompson's Blankets comes out soon, that's sure to be a masterpiece.
The Devil's Footprints
Tell us about your own creation, The Devil's Footprints.
Well, I created it with some people you would recognise from the Buffy comics. Paul Lee and Brian Horton have been painting the covers on the monthly for a while, and contributing in other ways - Brian has designed numerous characters for the series, Paul wrote, pencilled, inked, coloured, and lettered Buffy #55. And the colourist, Dave Stewart, worked on Ring of Fire, Fray, and a bunch of other projects.
Anyway, DF is a horror story about Brandon Waite, a young magician whose father did some really bad things, but has been dead for a bit. Now the whole family is suffering from some mysterious illnesses, so Brandon has to try to save them. There's a very direct occult mystery there, hopefully very suspenseful and atmospheric, and it leads to a big fiery climax with demons showing up and all.
But beyond the occult potboiler aspect of it, the themes are along the lines of Buffy - the supernatural business is a metaphor for Brandon's misguided attempts to protect the people around him, his difficulties with communicating honestly with people.
If we've done that well, I think that's the most valuable thing I've learned from Joss - you reinforce the scary stuff with something more real, something you can write about honestly and with emotion. We've gotten really good reviews on it, some really nice quotes from Wizard magazine, Alan Moore, and Clive Barker. Check out the web site - www.devilsfootprints.com. There's a collection of the series coming at the end of the year, with some extra short stories, new paintings, etc.