Star Wars and Buffy News From the Long Beach Comic Expo

Greg Weisman, Christos Gage, and Megen Levens give a peek behind the comic curtain.

I had the pleasure to attend the final day of the Long Beach Comic Expo on Sunday, March 1.

Having gone through the monster that the San Diego Comic-Con has become, it was so pleasurable to go to a convention that focused on comics. I was told by several guests that the Long Beach Comic Convention is bigger than the expo, but I thought this was a fine gathering of comics’ fans. There were several dealers selling back issues, collectibles, art, supplies, and several companies with booths, including Aspen, First Comics, and IDW. There were several comics professionals in attendance: Brian Buccellato, Chris Burnham, Jim Cheung, Chris Claremont, Gerry Conway, Agnes Garbowska, Tom Hodges, Dave Johnson, Scott Koblish, Boy Layton, Scott Lobdell, Dan Panosian, Barbara Randall Kesel, Norm Rapmund, Stan Sakai, Richard Starkings, Peter Steigerwald, Ethan Van Sciver, and Brian Wood. Also present were several screen and voice actors: Yeni Alvarez, Barry Bostwick, Luciana Carro, Jim Cummings, Keith David, Elisa Gabrielli, Kevin Grevioux, Dean Haglund, Richard Hatch, Jerry Houser, Phil LaMarr, Katie Leigh, Rena Owen, Cree Summer, and Patricia Tallman. This is only a small listing of the all the talent that appeared.

I had to attend two panels.

The first was the Star Wars Rebels: Kanan the Last Padawan. The speaker was Greg Weisman, the writer of the comic coming out this April from Marvel Comics. The illustrator on the book will be Pepe Larraz. Mr. Weisman was an Executive Producer for the first season of Star Wars Rebels, a writer and Producer for Young Justice, and creator of Disney’s Gargoyles television series. The ongoing Kanan series will have its first five issue written by Weisman, and then a new writer and artist will come on. The series will show the Jedi’s past, under Master Depa Billaba, and what life was like for him before, during, and just after Executive Order 66. Weisman said he wanted to be sure the audience was clear on two things: 1, he’s not doing Young Justice, because no one is, and 2, he knows nothing about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. He was approached to write Kanan after he left Star Wars Rebels. He loves the characters and got to write it after doing a 90 minute pitch. The biggest thing to figure for him as a writer was how Kanan survived the purge, and, even more troublesome for a Jedi on the run, how to survive after the purge. He’s very happy with the art being done by Larraz and they speak often about the book. Lucasfilm has been really great in sending Larraz photo references, such as Weisman writing that clone troopers arrive in a scene and Larraz is sent pictures by Lucasfilm of what the troopers would look like in that time period. From his experience working on Star Wars Rebels he’s very happy with how Disney is working with Lucasfilm, trusting them to do their own thing. With all the money Disney paid for Star Wars they don’t want anything to go wrong with the franchise. One question from the audience asked Weisman’s opinion on what was canon. He stated he was very happy with Disney’s take on canon because so much of the novels and comics contradicted each other. Some things that were written may be used or reinterpreted at a later date, such as the Inquisitors which were once part of the Expanded Universe and now are a part of Rebels. Weisman has two projects that will be announced shortly–not more Young Justice, and one will be announced at WonderCon. He’s written two books for a, hopefully, nine book series. I purchased both and will have the reviews up soon.

The final panel was the Buffy the Vampire Slayer comics panel with current Buffy writer and artist Christos Gage and Megan Levens.  Gage revealed he did not watch Buffy or Angel when it was originally on; he was approached by Dark Horse’s Scott Allie to write the Angel & Faith series and had to binge watch both shows to be brought up to speed. Because of this he can’t tell one season from another after watching them all. Levens watched Angel in college when it was originally on and didn’t know it was a spin-off. Nicholas Brendon, who played Xander on Buffy, has co-written a few issues with Gage and he was asked about their writing relationship. They live close to each other, so after Gage writes a first draft of a script he gets together with Brendon, who adds notes about Xander and helps with dialogue, especially on Xander and Giles. Brendon came up with the premise for Issue 19. Levens was asked what’s the craziest thing she’s drawn so far, and she replied “Shirtless Spike with kittens.” This season is the most character driven of the comic because for the first time the entire Scooby Gang is together. Creator of Buffy, Joss Whedon, said to Gage he felt he got too far from the characters in the Eighth Season of the comics, so he wanted to bring them back together. When asked what the Big Bad was this season, Gage said growing up and being an adult. Another source of trouble will be Buffy never having a relationship with Spike while he’s had a soul, so that inspires the two to try to make a go of it. Joss told Gage this would make Buffy very uncomfortable, so he was all for it. Giles, who’s currently a teenage boy, was also a source of commentary. It was suggested that the first season of Angel & Spike would have Angel focued on trying to resurrect Giles. Scott Allie didn’t want the vampire to be successful, while Joss and Christos did. Gage suggested that Giles be brought back as the Ripper, when he was young and had just enough magic to cause trouble, but Whedon said that would cause issues, “…like would Ripper-Giles want to sleep with Buffy?” This idea was shot down. Levens said she had an epiphany when she was able to draw the characters from memory, so she knew she was going to do their likenesses justice. She enjoys drawing Spike and Little Giles the most. The only character she hasn’t been able to draw is Angel. This prompted a question from the audience which asked since Angel and Spike were having the same sort of nightmares, going vamp and attacking innocent people, would this compel them to meet up? Keeping a straight face, Gage replied that could be one way for the books to crossover. He ended that line of thought with, “Wouldn’t it be delightful if he appeared in Buffy?” Another question asked was if there was anything the fans ask for but you can’t do. Gage responded with the fanfic favorite, the Buffy-Spike-Angel threeway, though it was teased in a dream sequence in a previous issue. He also revealed that he was the one to show Nicholas Brendon the large Spike-Xander relationship fanfics online. Asked what would be their dream projects, Gage said a Godzilla versus Avengers book and Levens would love to be on the current run of Ms. Marvel. Though this panel was only an hour long, everyone was entertained with what was said, and it was a perfect close for the Expo.

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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