BUFFY/ANGEL: AUTUMNAL - Christopher Golden & Scott Allie (Mania.com)

By:Edward Gross
Date: Thursday, October 12, 2000

Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel have proven to be a one-two punch for Dark Horse Comics, turning out to be one of the most lucrative licenses the company has acquired. Refusing to merely churn out one comic after another that pales in comparison to the television series that spawned them, the comic book creators are determined to be as innovative as Joss Whedon and company have proven to be on the live-action front. Shaking things upthe universe and the charactersseems to be one of their primary goals.

In particular, that's one of the agendas behind the October-December issues, which have been grouped under the 'Autumnal' umbrella. Line editor Scott Allie explains that the inspiration for 'Autumnal' came from his desire to do horror comics. 'Real horror fiction never has happy endings,' he explains 'Apocalypse Now and Bitter Moon are much more horrific stories than either Buffy or The X-Files. So, working with the Buffy franchise, I wanted to try to do something a little darker. The marketing department came up with the phrase, 'No More Happy Endings,' and that really is the difference between regular genre fiction and a good horror story.'

Darker Horizons

Christopher Golden, a frequent Buffy/Angel novelist, regular Angel comic writer and major 'Autumnal' contributor, says, 'They're stories that aren't as bright and shiny as you might normally find in the comics and on the show. They're a little bit darker and definitely creepier, [particularly because] they're not so cut and dry. Even if Buffy and Angel win the day, the evil isn't necessarily gone, it's just in abeyance at the moment. Or they're dealing with cosmic evil that can't really ever be destroyed. So we wanted for these three months to spend a little more time doing things that were more in a Lovecraftian mode in the sense of the great cosmic evils and how they manifest themselves.'

As Allie notes, the mood, tone, morality and plotlines of these particular stories are quite different from what people would normally expect from the Buffy universe. 'Obviously I can't do anything totally bizarre with the book, unfortunately,' offers Allie, 'but we have managed to make it different. The people who think I haven't been doing a dark enough book will hopefully be pleased. We're using a lot of elements of the gothic tradition in that all of the stories have a preoccupation with the past. That's pretty typical of the older, pre-20th Century horror tales. The first Autumnal Buffy story features a slayer from the past, and Angel's first story features a haunted amusement park in which something was summoned forty years ago. Spike and Dru are at the 1933 Chicago's World's Fair being chased, and Giles returned to England to deal with the death of his mentor.'

'Autumnal' began last week with a special one-shot devoted to Giles, which was written by Golden and Tom Sniegoski. The plot had Giles dealing with the death of his mentor, Archie Lassiter, who seems to have died under extremely mysterious circumstances. Giles went to England, found the Council of Watchers as off-putting as ever and became immersed in a mystery involving the Key to Amon-athna, an amulet whose sole purpose is to re-open the earth to the advances of the Elder Gods. Naturally, the Watcher holding the amulet will become seduced by its promise of power.

'That was nice,' enthuses Golden, 'because it gave us the opportunity to do something with a character who, I think, is actually the most underestimated character on the show. He's a guy who has the knowledge, ability and anger inside of him to be a warrior. He always takes a back seat, because he's not what the show is about. But I would watch a show that was just about Giles. He's a John Constantine type of character, if only he's given the chance to be. So we had a nice opportunity to do a story where he goes back to England and butts heads with the Council of Watchers and ends up, because of who he is, saving their asses. And they hate him for it.'

Upping the Evil

Of the three issues of Buffy published during this period, a two-parter will be written by a college friend of Joss Whedon's named Christopher Boal, whose concept involves an old Slayer who comes to Sunnydale. The third issue of Buffy will involve a voodoo priest and is being written by Tom Fassbender and Jim Pascone, who are scheduled to become the series' regular writers. Golden and Sniegoski, meanwhile, are back for Angel, initially on a two-parter called 'Vermin.'

'Tom and I were asked to do something pretty creepy and we thought the best way to do that was to figure out what disturbed Angel,' says Golden. 'What gets under his skin? It was sort of set up on the series and we've definitely set it up in certain moments in the comics. Angel's life these days is dedicated to fighting the forces of darkness, like demons. But demons don't creep him out as much as rats do. Then there's the whole idea of demon rats. We wanted to come up with something that was just gross. Not gross in a violent sense, but gross as in creepy. You know, 'Ooh, get that away from me!' sense. So we came up with demon rats in an abandoned amusement park on the California seacoast, and a kidnapped little girl.'

The third issue is 'Little Girl Lost', which is about a runaway girl who is also pyrokinetic. 'Much like the little girl in Firestarter,' he says, 'but the story is really about how she got that way and what Angel can do to help her. And in the story, Angel connects on an emotional level and is able to sympathize with this girl.'

Possibly one of the most anticipated entries in the 'Autumnal' series is the third Spike & Dru special, which Golden himself takes great pleasure in. 'It's called All's Fair,' he explains, 'and it takes place at the Chicago World's Fair in the 1930s. It's probably the craziest comic I've ever written. Basically it's Spike and Dru go to the World's Fair, where they're simultaneously hunted by Chinese Shadow Warriors for a crime they committed in 1900, and have to deal with a Herbert West-type mad scientist who's got his display at the science building at the World's Fair. All of that is happening simultaneously with this wonderful landscape. It was so much fun doing the research on this one, and I love dealing with Spike and Dru because they're just so gloriously evil.

'They have so much fun being evil,' laughs Golden. 'That's what makes Angel such an intriguing character, too, because he had that much fun when he was really evil. Now, of course, he feels really bad about it, but he did enjoy it at the time. Actually, I wrote an eight-page Angel story in which the whole point was he was telling Buffy about one of the things he did and she says, 'It must be so terrible to have those memories.' And Angel says, 'No, you don't understand. The problem is that they're good memories.' When he thinks about them, they're good memories and that makes them that much worse. How much more guilty do you feel when that's your reaction when you think about it? But with Spike and Dru, their relationship is so dysfunctional and so perverse. They're just dark and nasty.'

Down the Road

The end of 'Autumnal' will not mean the end of special events in the Buffy/Angel universes. Series producer Jane Espenson has written a one-shot featuring Jonathan, the season four character who starred in the episode 'Superstar,' and was the guy everyoneincluding Buffylooked up to. Then there's Joss Whedon's Fray, about a slayer 500 years in the future that won't feature anyone from the current time-frame, as well as the four-part Buffy/Angel crossover that'll kick off 2001.

'It's called 'Past Lives,'' explains Golden, who'll co-write the crossover with Sniegoski. 'It sort of addresses the question, 'What does the Council of Watchers do now that they don't have a Slayer?' It introduces an operative for the council called Alexa Landry, and it turns out that for a very good reason she has a very old grudge against Angel. She also used to sleep with Giles back in his good old days. Essentially it's Alexa causing all kinds of problems for Angel, which draws Buffy and Giles into the story. Of course, Buffy has her past with Angel and Giles has his past with Alexa, and Angel, unbeknownst to them, has a past with Alexa's family. It's all about the idea of the past coming back to haunt youin this case in spectacularly violent ways.'

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