They say you can never go home again. But in next month’s final issue of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer Season 8, Buffy, Angel and the Scoobies go back to where it all started – Sunnydale. Scheduled for release January 19th, Buffy #40 reunites series writer – and creator! – Joss Whedon with Georges Jeanty as they take blonde slayer home – with a promise to uncover a traitor in her midst.
Over the course of thirty-nine issues (and one more to go), Whedon and Jeanty served as the backbone for this redefinition of a licensed comic. Whedon served as the series showrunner/producer, writing a majority of the issues and guiding other writers for guest arcs. Jeanty served as the series’ primary artist, defining the look and feel of the characters – keeping them true to the original television series, but not turning it into a photo-montage of stills taken from the movie. For fans, the Buffy comic series continued the story they thought dead years ago. For Dark Horse, it gave them their highest charting book in decades. For Whedon, it gave him a chance to continue the story he started so many years ago. And for series artist Georges Jeanty, it gave the journeyman artist a chance to settle into a series and learn the characters and show the world what he can do.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season 8 #39 hit shelves on the first of this month, and Jeanty is furiously finishing up the final pages of #40. Newsarama sat down with the Atlanta-based artist to talk about his epic run on the series, the friendships he’s developed, and what’s next on his plate.
Newsarama: Let's start with an easy one, Georges – what are you working on today?
Georges Jeanty: I am finishing up the last issue of Buffy Season 8... [sob, sniff…] It has been a long and winding road and I can't believe I'm actually finishing the 40th issue! Back then I couldn't see getting to issue 10 and here I am at 40!
Nrama: You were hand-picked by Whedon to be his primary artist for the book – and in the years you've worked with him, have you two had a chance to talk about anything but work? If so, what's that like?
Jeanty: Well sure. We don't talk every day, and when we do it's mostly through email, but Joss is a bona fide card carrying Geek. And I mean that in the sincere way. He has a very fine knowledge of pop culture and comics in particular. We've talked about the X-Men when Claremont and Byrne were doing it, how we both have an affinity for Luke Cage, and Lando Calrissian's role in Star Wars. He's very unassuming. You quickly forget that you're talking to a guy to whom many people has become just as important in their lives as George Lucas, and realize he's a regular guy. I wish we spoke more often, but that's only because I know we have a lot in common. We were both jonesin' the other day about the episode of Glee he directed, and he was lamenting how genuine the Quinn character was. His interests are all over the place.
Nrama: A couple issues back, Buffy entered the realm of superheroes full-force with superpowers galore. Given that comics are stereotyped as a superhero medium and Buffy had been able to do without it for so long, what do you think of the Buffy title taking in some inspiration from superhero comics – which you worked extensively on before this book?
Jeanty: I think it was a well overdue nod to the medium that Joss loves so much. It was always written that, at some point, Buffy was to get superpowers because of the context of the story. I loved it, and I thought it might be a nice way to bridge the gap between the people who collect superhero comics and those who just read the Buffy book because of the show. One of the best things I've heard about Season 8 from some people was that they had never read a comic in their lives and when Buffy was announced as a book they started to pick it up not sure if they would like it, but are now regular comic readers!I think it's great that Buffy can become the gateway drug for other comics. As you well know, there is so much great stuff out there in 'funny book' land and the more people who find their way to it, the better! While Buffy won’t remain with these 'superpowers', she's always been considered a superhero because she does have extra strength and ability. I also have to say that I don't treat this series any different than any of the superhero stuff I've done. I think if you're telling good stories then that's what you focus on. Of course I'm working with characters that exist in the guise of the actors who portray them, so I am always working to get the likeness right, but beyond that I don't approach it any different.
Nrama: With Buffy Season 8 nearing its conclusion, what are your thoughts on what you, Joss, Scott and the others have accomplished here? You re-invented the idea of licensed comics and have had many others follow in your footsteps
Jeanty: It's amazing. And I'm the first one to tell you that I'm surprised by all the attention this little blonde slayer has gotten. I would have never believed it, if in the beginning, you told me that this book would run for as long as it has and win all the awards it has and gotten all the people who now read comics on a monthly basis. I don't know why I'm surprised, really. This is Joss after all. The guy has the Midas touch. Each time every issue comes out I'm amazed at how much there is still the popularity now as when it first came out 3 years ago. Do you know that Buffy in terms of chart numbers, has hovered in the top 20s and 30s for all of it's run? That's space where only the X-men or the Justice League and the Spider-man's and Batman's hang out, not some little slayer. But there she is. It's consistently the highest selling female lead character book. Buffy has proven she has just as much staying power as any of those other titles. I think it's a great accomplishment that the first 'non-superhero' book is usually Buffy in the top of the charts!
Nrama: Fans of yours at cons have been getting something special from you – sketchbooks chronicling your work on Buffy that are also available on your website. You've done four so far – can you tell us about them?
Jeanty: They were these little books that I put together mostly because people were always asking me about the process of drawing and of drawing Buffy in particular. So I took it upon myself to make little books showing how the issues came to being. I'm a process artist. I don't just sit at the table and start drawing a page. I have to get reference, map out a location, figure out lighting perspective, mood, all that, and at the end of a given issue, I have all these little tidbits, so I put stuff together for about five issues worth and make a sketch book out of it. The first one had a lot of art and some text on it, but I fond more and more people were really interested in reading about how things came together or any conversation I may have had with Joss or the like. So subsequent issues carry a fair of amount of art and text. They're really neat. I like to think of the comics as DVDs and the sketchbooks as the DVD supplemental!
Nrama: Any big celebration plans for when you wrap the series up with the last page of the last issue, #40?
Jeanty: I really haven't thought about that. When you're in the eye of the storm for so long you never think about what it's going to be like when the storm passes. It would have been cool if Dark Horse or someone threw a party. But we're all in different states so that might not work as seamless, but I'm always up for a party, so if anyone out there is throwing a end of Buffy Season 8 party let me know! What I will be working on after this is a mystery to me as well. I have a few offers, but nothing concrete, so if there are any editors reading this interview, I'm looking for work!
Nrama: Well, you might have a fallback position. Prior to committing yourself to comics, I read that you considered going into acting. Can you tell us about what tempted you with that career path?
Jeanty: In high school I was always the class clown looking for attention, making people laugh, y'know that socially insecure stuff some kids do and only found validation in the opinion of others. You average teen. Ah High School, good times! But really, I just loved, not so much being the center of attention, which I craved, but making people laugh. It gave me such a high! And, of course, if you could make the girls laugh then you had something! I don't know why I never went into singing because everybody knows that's where you get the chicks! I've just always had a good sense of humor. That's not to say I laughed at everything, rather I had a keen idea on what was funny and I could see the humor in a situation. I always drew and could never see giving that up, but the acting was a powerful force, and it was fun because you were around other kids and you went places. As anyone who draws can tell you, art is mainly a solitary sport! I realized early on, that I was a better artist than I was actor. Not that I have left that part of my life behind, I still do the random community theater here and there. I still crave the attention from people, that's why I love cons so much, getting to talk to people. So beware, that little church production of Bye Bye Birdie might just have yours truly in!
Nrama: We're glad to have you in comics, Georges – but what do you thinking the acting business and the cartooning business have in common? Is there anything you learned from the acting realm that's helped you in depicting people in comics?
Jeanty: Oh yes, a great deal. As an artist you're pretty omnipotent. You have to create this world and have your 'characters' act in it. Having studied drama has helped my 'characters' better actors. I run a scene in a comic like it's a scene in a movie. I'm always asking what are my characters doing even if they're not saying anything at that moment. I always strive to put facial expressions on their faces. I've always loved the way Kevin McGuire did it and it's always been a staple in my books.
Nrama: Although Buffy has taken up your drawing board for a few years now, from time to time I see you doing side projects – like a recent Batman comic. Can you tell us about doing these side gigs and getting a chance to stretch your legs between Buffy issues?
Jeanty: That has been a practice in juggling. All of those projects I took, like the Manhunter story or the Batman: Return of Bruce Wayne or the Faces of Evil: Deathstroke, were all taken because I had some down time with Buffy and wanted to keep busy. Well, the best laid plans being what they are, those 'extra' projects were either late or I had some other Buffy stuff to finish and it never became as smooth a transition as I would have liked. I immensely enjoyed doing those projects, but in the end, I had to pull double duty in some cases to get them done! Everyone all around was very nice and accommodating, it was just the timing that went a little off.
Nrama: Will you be coming back for the next run of Buffy, Season 9?
Jeanty: That's the million-dollar question. I don't know. I would love to come back to Buffy and me and the powers that be are talking about it, but in the mean time I will have some down time and I'd like to keep busy. I don't know with what, but I have been very lucky in my career that things have come my way when I needed them so I'm hoping something comes along that is both fun and interesting and has no Buffy in it. I love my Buffy, but after 4 years I need a little distance to avoid burnout. My only hope is that she'll take me back next year...