'Punching Things Up' – Christos Gage And Nicholas Brendon Talk Buffy Season 10 At San Diego Comic Con

By Joshua Stone

At this year's SDCC, I had the opportunity to sit down with the current writing team of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10, Christos Gage and Nicholas Brendon, and conduct an interview. Gage most recently served as writer for Angel and Faith Season 9. Brendon played Xander for seven seasons on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and writing Buffy is his first experience writing on any comic book.  The interview was a fun experience and I was able to see why their writing together has worked so well so far as they played off each other very well and had a lot of fun doing it.

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Joshua Stone: Nicky, as your still a working actor, what made you want to get involved in writing comics and why start with Buffy, as obviously for you the magnifying glass is so intense with this title?

Nicky Brendon: Well, Buffy is already being published, so it is easier to get your name out there, and Nicky and Xander are very much alike. And I've just always wanted Buffy to say some things. I've been talking with Scott [Allie, Editor-in-Chief of Dark Horse Comics] about it for a couple years and it just kind of came to fruition and it's been a rousing success.

JS: It's been great; I've loved bringing Dracula back.

Christos Gage: I had nothing to do with it. No, he did come up with the excellent set piece in issue 5.

NB: And all the outlines and all that.

CG: No, that's not the part I remember. I remember him saying "My people are going to call you. Don't look directly at me".

JS: My understanding with the whole universe is that Joss[Whedon] is still very much involved, and it's still his baby. Looking at how the two previous seasons of Buffy were put together with the tie-ins with Angel, and Angel and Faith, and how that took place, the whole thing is very collaborative and well planned out. Working through that, how has that process been for both of you and keyed your storylines in that way?

CG: Obviously, Joss is a very busy guy; so one of the things we do at the beginning of each season is have a summit, which is a lot like a writer's room on a TV show. Nicky was at the Season 10 summit since we knew we were going to be doing this. We work out the larger arc of the season with Joss there. He does get sent everything, but if it is a particularly busy week shooting Avengers 2 or something, he may not have the chance to get down an in-depth look at it, but we want to make sure we've got the storylines approved. But then he does check it out and periodically he does weigh in. I remember once or twice I've come up with a story title that I didn't realize they did use on the show, and he'll usually ask to just pick something else. He's not doing it because he needs the money, I'll tell you that.

NB:  He does this thing a lot too where he will [Brendon stood up, rubbed his chin and imitating a thinking pose], "So guys, where's Buffy in this? It is called Buffy the Vampire Slayer." He'll do that a lot. It will be like he is actually paying attention and then "Hmm, yep, yep, umm, have you guys ever heard of Buffy?"

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JS: Outside of Buffy, what is the first comic you guys ever picked up? Did you collect comics when you were kids?

CG: I am going to out him right here, he was an athlete and not a nerd.

NB: It's not that. The first comic I ever picked up was Archie and it sucked. And I was like "What the fuck!"

JS: How old were you?

NB: 7 or 8. I just happened to pick up the wrong comic.

CG: I can't remember my first one because it was a long, long time ago. I've been reading comics since the 70's and I'm proud of it. I read Spider-Man, Days of Future Past when it came out. Devil Dinosaur was a big favorite of mine, the Godzilla comic. I'm there, baby.

JS: First thing I picked up was American Flagg, you would have had a very different experience if you picked up American Flagg where there was actually sucking in the comic.

NB: Oh, is it really?

JS: Yeah, American Flagg is awesome. Howard Chaykin.

CG: You would like Howard, he's a perverted old guy.

NB: I think I've heard of him before.

CG: It's great.

JS: How long is the season going to go? I looked ahead and saw you were going to be off for a couple issues and then back on again, how much further do you see your involvement going? Are there going to be more guest writers along the way?

CG: I think probably no other guest writers, but Jane Espenson, if she has time, may come in and do a mini. Jane's terrific, so if she wants to come in and do something there's always opportunity for that. Currently there's no plan for other guest writers. We are just going to keep doing it as long as we're having fun and our schedules work out. We're doing 7, 11, and 12. That's as far as we planned out, but we're going to keep going.

NB: We get along pretty well.

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JS: Nicky, are you looking to do your own at some point?

NB: Maybe. He does the heavy lifting, the lion share he does with the outline, and I punch things up.  It's a great collaboration.

CG: We get together and talk about the upcoming storyline, if we haven't already. I write the first draft and then we talk. Like I said, the set piece in issue 5 with the giant vampire getting staked on the building, that was all his. It's interesting because it's sort of the reverse of how I worked on G.I. Joe: Cobra with co-writer Mike Costa, where he was the first draft guy and I did that [what Nicky does]. It's an interesting process for me. I've always felt like on the writing team you don't want two people who do the exact same thing. You want people whose skills compliment each other and Nicky comes at it as a trained actor and I'm trained writer as a writer obviously. He looks at it in ways I don't. Like the whole orgy thing, I was trying to figure out how to get across that Dracula is lying about the orgy, and you [Nicky] were like just have him repeat stuff a lot.

JS: Thank you very much guys, I look forward to future issues. It's been great so far. Thanks.

Further musings of Joshua Stone can be read on Twitter @1NerdyOne.

About Hannah Means Shannon

Editor-in-Chief at Bleeding Cool. Independent comics scholar and former English Professor. Writing books on magic in the works of Alan Moore and the early works of Neil Gaiman.

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