He’s lived, he’s died, he’s come back and he’s reclaimed his soul. But for Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s vampire Spike, getting over heartbreak may be the worst of all. Good thing he’s’ got his steampunk space ship and his crew of alien cockroaches.
After the events in recent issues of Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season Nine, Spike is cutting away from Buffy and the Scoobies and into a new miniseries titled Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Spike. Writing this five-issue series is Victor Gischler, who’s written for Marvel these past few years and was the key writer for re-launching that company’s vampires. Gischler is joined by artist Paul Lee, who has drawn many of Dark Horse’s Buffy comics over the years.Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Spike #1 is set to debut next month on August 22nd, and Newsarama talked with Gischler for more on vampires, bugs, and lost loves … and a return to Sunnydale.
Newsarama: This new Spike mini spirals out of the main Buffy ongoing where Spike is left wanting in his on-again off-again relationship with Buffy. Where’s Spike’s head at when the series opens?
Victor Gischler: Honestly, where Spike head is at is the key question of this whole five issue miniseries, Chris. There is a story and some good action, but the real big thing we’re working on here is Spike’s current situation.
Spike starts out this story unhappy, confused and in a slightly self-destructive frame of mind. Like you said, his on-again –off again relationship is rough; if you’ve ever been in love, you don’t ever want to be in that off-again part. So he’s mentally wrestling with the reality of that.
Nrama: And what better place to think that in the captain’s seat of a steampunk space ship piloted by alien cockroaches. That was a very out-of-left-field development Spike had in the main Buffy comic, and you’re picking up on that.
Gischler: [laughs] Yeah, there’s some really interesting stuff already in place before I got there. It’s always interesting to come into a situation like this, where the editor tells me “Hey, we want you to write Spike…. On a bug ship, with bug minions.” It might be off-putting for some, but this unique set-up gives you another context in which to show Spike. So while we have a space ship and some alien bugs, I can assure you that in no circumstance will it suddently become Star Trek: Spike…. This isn’t Spike’s adventures throughout the cosmos. We come back to Earth pretty quickly – there’s some space stuff early on, but we come around again.
A lot of the forward momentum of this story is about loose ends. And the thing that brings him back to Earth is bringing him specifically back to the ruins of Sunnydale. If you remember the story with the Seed, Buffy shattered the Seed. That was 99% taken care of, but there’s a pesky 1% still floating out there that is some old business that needs to be sorted. So in a way, the actions reflect what’s going on in Spike’s mind. There’s old business that’s causing trouble, and that thorny problem – both in Spike’s head and in Sunnydale – needs to be excised out.When Spike does come back Sunnydale, he’s meeting up with a new demon. I don’t want to say to much about her, but she’s a new character … and as I just slipped, a new female character. I’ve seen the pages Paul Lee has done featuring her, and it’s going to be some great stuff. Spike sort of gets mixed up with some demons, and he’s had an uneven time with demons in general: he’s fought them, slayed them, but in the case of this series he discovers compassion for this demon and wants to help. After the Seed was busted, it closed this doorway – the hellmouth portal – and its stranded demons like her on our side. There’s lots of story mixed up in that, and thematically it leads us into the theme of home, family and where we decide our true home is and how we decide who our real family is.
Nrama: Forgive me, but I can get past those bugs on his ship. Roaches give me the heebie jeebies, but how are you aiming to make them work here?
Gischler: If you’re familiar with the relationship Spike and the bugs have, they’re sort of his ultra-faithful servants and there’s really a lot of quite nice comic relief potential with the bugs. Spike can be a little bit abrasive and he’s not always polite with them, but the bugs take it because Spike is their master.
I do admit they are creepy, but it’s in a way that plans into the fun. Once I got into the writing of this comic series, I actually found the bugs quite useful. When I was about halfway through writing the series, I actually went back and expanded some of their roles in the first two issues. This isn’t a miniseries about the bugs, but they’re going to be very useful and enjoyable characters. I found them surprisingly fun to write.
Nrama: This spins out of what Spike’s gone through in the main Buffy comic series, but how does it relate now with what’s going on in Buffy and sister title Angel & Faith?
Gischler: The connective tissue is more thematic than it is physical. It’s really about Spike getting himself back in a frame of mind that he can come back to the larger world, and that he can participate with the rest of the cast we all know. How that’s going to happen – or even when – is not really for me to say. This miniseries Paul Lee and I are doing are about Spike attempting to get his had on straight.Nrama: You mentioned earlier that you’ve already seen some of the work artist Paul Lee has done based on your script. How is he acclimating to the story you’re aiming to tell?
Gischler: He’s excellent. Look, I can’t draw so everytime I see artwork come in based on my written scripts I’m amazed. As a comics writer, you always have this concern that you may not be communicating effectively enough in the script to impart the artist with all the necessary information. Once I got Paul’s first pages, I had a sense of great relief and then a flood of pleasure. I just received an advanced PDF of the full first issue to give it one last look-thru, and it’s outstanding. Paul conveys very naturally what I was trying to get across in my script.
Nrama: Since you first started in comics back in 2008, all of your work to date has been at Marvel. Why’d you choose to expand now, and why was this Spike series the right one for you to expand with?
Gischler: When I recently wrapped up my work for Marvel, I was coming off a very intense run on X-Men. It was excellent for my career to be associated with the X-Men, but also very intense; Marvel takes their characters very seriously, as they should. Although I’m sorry not to be doing X-Men any more, I’m glad too. I have mixed feelings, but at the end of the the day it’s allowed me to do new things.
I had a phone conversation with Dark Horse’s Scott Allie about five or six months before he even approached me about doing Spike, and he asked me several questions; things like what does Dark Horse do that I like, and what I had in mind that I’d like to do with them. One of the things Dark Horse has going for it is the wealth of non-superhero properties; especially the Joss Whedon stuff. I’m a huge fan of Firefly and Buffy, and Allie could tell. I was grateful for my time on X-Men, but I’m really excited to be able to do non-superhero stuff. Actually, I have a number of non-superhero creator-owned things that will be announced soon as well.Nrama: How did Scott bring Spike into the picture?
Gischler Well, as I said a few months went by after my initial conversation with Scott before we got on this subject. He called back and asked what I thought about doing a story about Spike, and I said “Heck yeah, I’d love to do that.” Not only was it non-superhero, but it was something uniquely different. Doing this minieries has been a chance for me to spread my wings as a comics writer; it almost feels physically different when it comes down to writing this over my Marvel work. It’s kind of like if you’d been eating pizza for 20 days in a row and you get offered steak. You love pizza, but a steak does sound great too. I love writing for Marvel. But I’m so glad for the chance to so sink my teeth into Spike.