Buffy Meet Becky: Indy Creator Takes Stab @ Vampire Slayer

Buffy, Becky, and Tales of the Vampires

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Tales of the Vampires, Gabriel Ba & Fabio Moon cover

Although born on the silver screen, Buffy the Vampire Slayer didn’t find success until landing on the tv screen and as of late, she’s called comics her canonical home. With the ongoing Buffy comic book series helmed by creator Joss Whedon proving quite successful, the franchise is spreading it wings… or is ‘fangs’ a better word?

On June 3rd, Dark Horse Comics will release Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Tales of the Vampires, a 40 page one-shot about a small Massachusetts town and what happens with a sultry vampress gets a taste for the high school crowd. The one-shot is written by Becky Cloonan, best known as the artist of such books as DEMO and Pixu. She’s joined by fellow Pixu alum Vasilis Lolos to draw the story, and the rest of the Pixu team – Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon – are rounding out the group providing a alternate cover.

For Cloonan, it’s her feature-length debut as a writer and for Buffy fans it should prove to expand on the world and recent events in the primary Buffy in which vampires are known to the world at large. No matter what camp you are from, with the creators Eisner pedigree and popular source material – it should be a intoxicating ride.

Newsarama: Becky, big picture-wise, how would you describe the story in this book?

Becky Cloonan: The story focuses around Jacob, a high school kid, and a small group of people and vampires that immediately effect his life. He's torn between two girls, Alex, his classmate and only friend, and May, a mysterious college girl. On the other end is Sebastian, a vampire that he has been hanging out with, and who he lets drink his blood. And then there's his mom, who is concerned about Jacob but doesn't know how to help him, or for that matter, what was wrong with him in the first place.

But the vampires, the violence, the love triangle, all this is secondary to Jacob's search for some kind of escape from his life. His days are a constant repetition of events, and bringing vampires into the equation doesn't necessarily solve that problem. Jacob just floats by until his routine eventually collapses on him, and he realizes that he was the one keeping himself trapped all

Jo Chen cover

NRAMA: Leading off this story is a man named Jacob, who has a penchant for video games and vampires. Can you tell us about him?

BC: Jacob is a high school kid who, naturally, is looking for some action. He's bored, disillusioned and a loner, so naturally he is attracted to the danger and adrenaline rush that fraternising with vampires gives him, and he enjoys the light headed feeling that bloodletting gives him. He thinks he has everything under control, but realizes too late that he is in over his head. That's when the trouble starts.

NRAMA: How does Alexia fit into this?

BC: Imagine you're at a party and instead of doing shots or passing around a joint people are getting their blood sucked by a vampire. There's always someone who will make a fuss about not wanting to participate, and maybe get dramatic about it- that's Alex. She doesn't like Vampires and is pretty disgusted that the boy she's got a crush on- Jacob- loves them.

NRAMA: And the solicits talk about, ominously I say, a character named May – who “can help Jacob leave those High-school days behind”. What’s her story?

BC: May gets a bad wrap, she's not that ominous! She's the older woman- I'm not sure exactly how much older- but Jacob doesn't seem to mind. She gets involved almost accidentally in a love triangle with Jacob and Alexia, and of course it doesn't end well. Okay, maybe she deserves a little bit of the ominousity.

NRAMA: I think you created a new word there – ominousity; I like it!

How intertwined is this with the Buffy franchise?

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BC: It's as intertwined as it can be without having any Buffy-specific characters in it- that is, it deals heavily with the current social issues that have come up in the new series. As vampires are becoming more accepted into society, it's shifted the balance of power between them and the slayers. This issue is a glimpse into how that shift is playing out, from both the perspective of a human, and the perspective of a vampire.

NRAMA: This isn’t your first dance with a vampire – you did a heavily under-rated (and out of print) adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula some time back. What makes vampires so cool?

BC: There's something to say about the mystery and drama surrounding Vampire mythology, something sexy, dangerous and pretty damn evil that people respond to in a really visceral way. Bram Stoker's Dracula is an eternity away from what's happening in Buffy- which proves yet again that Vampires are of the most versatile monsters in history. From historical lore to Lost Boys, from Blade to Twilight, to Vampire Hunter D to Castlevania to Bunnicula, they've crept into every genre and every medium, and have kept people on the edge of their seats for generations.

NRAMA: If you had the chance, would you become a vampire?

BC: Just think of all the work I could get done if I didn't have to sleep... It's pretty tempting, but then again I love eating solid food, so I don't think I'd jump at the opportunity, maybe just slowly walk up to it and tap it on the shoulder, that sort of thing.

NRAMA: How did this project come about for you?

BC: Vasilis Lolos and I had just finished a horror comic with Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba called PIXU that Dark Horse is collecting in hardcover this summer, and after that we started talking with Scott Allie who thought this would be a cool project for me and V to work on. I guess it was one of those "one thing led to another" type scenarios. Oh, Fabio and Gabriel did an alternate cover to this Buffy issue, which is totally awesome. The main cover was done by Jo Chen, and she's been a favorite artist of mine for years and years, and with Dave Stewart on colors it's like, man... so many dreams come true for me.

NRAMA: Joss Whedon is the head honcho for all things Buffy – did you have any meetings, conversations, or back-and-forth about the story at all?

BC: I shook his hand at New York Comic Con! That was pretty rad. I'm assuming he was okay with the story because he didn't try to strangle me or anything! Actually, his input came through my editor on this, Scott Allie. I had three or four very different initial ideas, and we narrowed it down with some back and forth.

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NRAMA: As mentioned, you’re working with a friend and frequent collaborator, Vasilis Lolos. As someone who’s attuned to his work, did writing for him change the way you wrote it? As in, did you make sure to steer it towards thing he’d be able to draw particularly well?

BC: In part, I was careful about locations and I left a lot of the design and feel of it up to him. But at the same time I figured he can draw anything that I can draw, so I didn't particularly play to his strengths. That's one of the great things about working with a great artist, I don't have to worry about that stuff. V can draw anything that's thrown at him.

NRAMA: Although you’ve written for other artists before, this will be your biggest work as a writer yet. What’s the experience been like?

BC: I'm not gonna lie- it hasn't been easy! I've spent the better part of my life honing my drawing skills, and every time I've written for myself I've been really lazy about it, I write in short hand, incomplete sentences, no punctuation... that sort of thing. This was the first actual "Page One, Panel One" script I've ever written. My process is still a little backwards- I loosely storyboarded the whole comic before I wrote it, and kind of dictated my storyboards to the script. There was a lot of edits, a lot of back and forths on this, but it was worth it! It's actually pretty dense too, which I was happy with because I usually fall back into my 'decompression' comfort zone. I feel like I really raised the bar for myself with this, and I had a lot of fun doing it. I learned a lot, too (props to Scott Allie for putting up with my newness to script writing)! I'm really happy that they took a chance on me as a writer, and I'm really proud of how it came out.

NRAMA: And do you plan to do more writing in the future?

BC: Oh yeah, definitely! Even if people hate it! [laughs]

I'll never stop drawing, though.

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