Thursday, July 2, 2009

Exclusive SCOTT TIPTON Interview

This man needs no introduction. If you're a fan of Angel comics, you know who Scott Tipton is. He did a lot of work on the pre-After the Fall series, including a handful of one-shots and the well recieved miniseries, Auld Lang Syne. Recently, he's been working on adaptations of some of the most popular episodes from the fifth season of Angel. Scott was kind enough to do an interview with me about his past work, as well as his new A Hole in the World miniseries.

BUFFYVERSE COMIC REVIEWS: To start things off, how did you first become involved with IDW?

SCOTT TIPTON: Back when it was still around, I was Associate Editor and Newswriter for Kevin Smith's pop-culture Web site, Movie Poop, which was run by one Chris Ryall. When Chris got the top job at IDW, I told him that if there was anything he thought I'd be a good fit for, I'd love to talk about it. Not long after, he offered me a writing assignment, adapting a Richard Matheson short story for their late, lamented horror anthology DOOMED. He must have liked it, as he assigned me a second one not long after.

Months go by, and in the intervening time, IDW acquired the license to produce comics based on the television series ANGEL, of which I had long been a fan. Throwing caution to the winds, I mentioned to Ryall that, if anything should ever open up on an ANGEL project, I had plenty of ideas for stories. Not long after that, I get a call from him, informing me that they’re doing a second SPIKE one-shot book, and the plan was to submit three or four pitches from different writers to FOX, and let them choose, and did I have any ideas?

Absolutely, I said. Give me a day or two and I’ll send you a pitch.

About a half an hour later, my pitch for SPIKE: OLD WOUNDS was in Ryall’s e-mailbox, and I was on pins and needles. Not long after came Ryall’s response. “Hey, this is pretty strong. Do you know how it ends?”

And in my head, my inner Mister Burns rubbed his leathery hands together and went “Eeeeeeexcellent.” You see, I had remembered what Marvel editor Mark Gruenwald had told me years ago about pitching a comics proposal. According to the Gru, the key to a proposal with a chance of selling is to come up with a story that doesn’t alter the status quo of the series you’re pitching for, but makes the reader look at the character in a slightly different light from that point forward. And, he said, make sure to leave your proposal unresolved, with a strong hook. If the editor asks for more, you’re on the right track.

So off went the proposal to FOX along with the other writers’ pitches, and after what seemed like an interminable wait (but was really quite swift in the scheme of things), the news came down: my proposal had gotten the nod, and the 48-page Spike one-shot was mine!

Spike: Old Wounds

BCR: Can you talk a little about your experiences with the SPIKE one-shot and the ANGEL ones that followed?

SCOTT: It was a great experience, but at first, it was sheer panic. After all, my previous assignments had been short stories. I had just talked myself into 48 pages. Now what am I supposed to do?

After the panic subsided, I sat down and sussed out just exactly how I was going to do this thing. Through a series of crude stick-men page breakdowns (which will never see the light of day, incidentally), I plotted out the story panel by panel and began scripting, and the work went fairly smoothly, much to my pleasant surprise.

I look back at the books now with a lot more experience under my belt, and I see all the places where I could have made it stronger, but overall, I'm pretty happy with them. I think they hold up pretty well. Fernando Goni's style was a perfect fit for this kind of book, combining a slightly exaggerated approach to the action and storytelling with really strong likeness work. In fact, as the pages came in and I saw how well he was able to draw David Boreanaz, I decided to make my next one-shot, LOST AND FOUND, a Spike/Angel “buddy” adventure.

LOST AND FOUND was a lot of fun, since I got to play with the Spike/Angel antagonistic relationship all the way through. I also enjoyed taking advantage of the Los Angeles setting in that one, and mapping their chase sequence all through the city – That was the first time I really went out of my way to provide the artist with tons of photo reference, which I've done on every book ever since.

Spike: Lost and Found

BCR: What was the pitching experience for your "Auld Lang Syne" miniseries like? Was there anything you wanted to do, but couldn't?

SCOTT: Not remotely, no. Working on AULD LANG SYNE was a dream from start to finish. David Messina and I had only worked together once before, on a short story for the Angel Halloween special MASKS, and so this was where we really got to know each other, and I've been lucky enough to have been working with David practically nonstop ever since, both on STAR TREK series like KLINGONS: BLOOD WILL TELL, INTELLIGENCE GATHERING and MIRROR IMAGES, and more recent ANGEL projects like SMILE TIME.

AULD LANG SYNE was such a smooth-running machine that even David's taking ill in the middle of it didn't slow things down, as his then-assistant Elena Casagrande filled in so ably that I didn't even realize the change until much later!

BCR: Where would you place "Auld Lang Syne" in the Angelverse continuity?

SCOTT: I intentionally tried to keep it vague. It could be taking place during Season 5, or at some point after the series ended. Come to think of it, it could even take place after the events of AFTER THE FALL. I think. I'll have to go back and look at it again…

Angel: Auld Lang Syne #3

BCR: How did you and Brian Lynch collaborate with the Gunn story in "First Night"? Did you break the story together?

SCOTT: That story was Brian's baby, make no mistake about it. When he asked me to come in and co-write one of the "First Night" stories, I was delighted (primarily because Gunn was the only Angel character I hadn't really had the chance to tackle yet), but I had no idea it would turn out to be one of the most integral chapters. As I recall, Brian and I talked over the story, what would be happening and what he wanted to get across. I put together the first (very) rough script based on Brian's direction and story points and then we would swap drafts back and forth until we got it to where Brian wanted it. Brian deserves the lion's share of the credit, but there is a moment or two in that story that I brought to the table, and the fact that it appears in Brian's masterful story arc pleases me to no end.

BCR: Now, onto the new stuff. You've been doing a lot of adaptations of Angel episodes recently. Do you pick the episodes to adapt and pitch them to Chris Ryall, or are you assigned an episode?

SCOTT: More often than not, they come from Chris. He came to me last year and asked if I would be interested in adapting SMILE TIME with David Messina, and naturally, that didn't take much convincing. Nor did the offer to adapt NOT FADE AWAY with Stephen Mooney. The only one that I came to him with was the one I'm currently writing, A HOLE IN THE WORLD.

About the adaptations, I see some of the feedback from some fans who say they don't like the straight adaptations of episodes, and I can understand that position, if I don't agree with it. I can only speak for myself, but I like the adaptations for the same reasons I buy DVD sets of television series I've already seen: I love these stories, and there's satisfaction to be found in seeing them again, and especially in seeing them re-interpreted in another form. Plus, there's a long tradition of comic-book adaptations of TV and movies, and I've always enjoyed them. I remember as a kid knowing STAR WARS backwards and forwards, but that didn't mean I loved the Marvel adaptation by Roy Thomas and Howard Chaykin any less. Just the opposite: I read those comics till the staples fell out.

A page from Scott Tipton's adaptation of "Not Fade Away."

BCR: Is there any information you can give us about the "A Hole in the World" adaptation? Artist/number of issues?

SCOTT: A HOLE IN THE WORLD will be a five-issue miniseries, adapting both parts of the Illyria origin story, "A Hole in the World" and "Shells." The artist will be the amazing Elena Casagrande, who's done series like GHOST WHISPERER for IDW, as well as providing finishes for our recent SMILE TIME miniseries.

BCR: "A Hole in the World" is a very emotional episode, but it doesn't have much action. Was the lack of action a factor in adding the more action-packed "Shells" as the second half of the miniseries?

SCOTT: Actually, the action consideration didn't really enter into it; the drama in these is so compelling I wasn't worried about that at all. Rather, it's just that only doing the first episode would really feel like just half the story. So when the word came down that we'd get to adapt both, we were absolutely delighted.

BCR: How has it been like working with Elena?

SCOTT: It's been great. Elena is a huge fan of the series and this episode in particular, and has been very involved in breaking down the story into issues and determining the pacing. We just finished another project, a single-issue "Q" story for the STA R TREK: ALIEN SPOTLIGHT series (which will be out in August), so now we're both feeling warmed up and ready to tackle such a larger and more ambitious project. As the pages on Q came in with panel after panel of dead-on likenesses of Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes and John deLancie, I couldn't help but think how great her renditions of Wesley and Fred were going to look. And having seen some of the beginnings of the work already, I'm not disappointed.

A sample of Elena Casagrande's art, from Ghost Whisperer #1

BCR: What about ANGEL, the character and the series, draws you in as a fan and as a writer?

SCOTT: For me, it's the opportunity to contribute to this marvelous world Whedon created. It's a fantastic mix of gothic horror, comic-book style continuity and wry humor that really appeals to me. And thanks to Whedon and his team of writers on the series, the characters are so well established and firmly delineated that writing them is an absolute joy. It’s like Spike's voice is in my head just waiting to get out.

BCR: Just for kicks: Favorite character, favorite episode, favorite season?

SCOTT: Favorite season is Season 5, no question. Not only did the Wolfram & Hart angle really spark up the series, but adding Spike to the cast added both a much-needed regular dose of humor and an equally welcome steady antagonist for Angel. When I got the chance to do my Wesley issue in ANGEL SPOTLIGHT, I made sure to set it during Season 5. I could do nothing but write stories in between Season 5 episodes, and I'd be a happy man.

Favorite episode? That's a little tougher. I've been very lucky in that so far, my four favorite episodes have been the ones I've gotten the opportunity to adapt: "Smile Time," "Not Fade Away," "A Hole in the World" and "Shells." But I'm also really fond of "The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco."

As for my favorite character, it depends what day you get me – some days it's Spike, some days it's Wes, some days it's Illyria. But in terms of my favorite character to write, it’s Spike, no question. Angel is the most challenging, but Spike is the most fun.

BCR: Some more kicks: What was your favorite issue to write?

SCOTT: I think the issue I'm proudest of as a writer is still the WESLEY SPOTLIGHT. I love that one because I managed to pull off an ending that's entirely different depending on how well you know the series. I've had fans approach me who are only just getting into the ANGEL universe tell me how much the ending affected them, and yet the ending is entirely different if you know what's to come in "A Hole in the World." Plus, I got to do a Wesley/Spike adventure, and they never had all that much interplay in the series, so it was a great opportunity from a character standpoint.

Scott Tipton's WESLEY Spotlight: No Sacrifice

BCR: Are there any other projects, Angel or otherwise, that you have in the works?

SCOTT: Well, let's see… ANGEL: NOT FADE AWAY #3 will be out very soon, as will the third issue of ASTRO BOY: UNDERGROUND, the prequel series for the upcoming animated film. Also starting this month is SPOCK: REFLECTIONS, my new STAR TREK series with David Messina, a prequel of sorts to Messina's outstanding series COUNTDOWN.

August will see the premiere of the official ASTRO BOY MOVIE ADAPTATION, co-written by my brother David (collaborator on all my TREK projects as well) and drawn by the astounding E.J. Su. Also coming out in August is the aforementioned Q SPOTLIGHT with Elena Casagrande, and the hardcover collected edition of SMILE TIME, which I'm very excited about. And finally, A HOLE IN THE WORLD is currently scheduled to begin in November.

For anyone interested in my prose work, my book COMIC BOOKS 101, a history of the art form, the creators and the characters, (co-written by me and one Mr. Chris Ryall) is currently available at Amazon. ( And my weekly columns on comic-book history can be found every Wednesday like clockwork at my Web site,

BCR: And lastly, what would a fan have to do to get word to the big cheese that we want an original Tipton ANGEL story?

SCOTT: Well, the best way to show your support would probably be to keep buying the adaptations, I'd imagine. Me, I'm just happy to be on the team.

Thanks a lot to Mr. Tipton for doing this! That's a lot of information for us to chew on as we anticipate the November release of A Hole in the World/Shells #1! Check back next week for an interview from ANGEL artist David Messina! Also, don't forget to pick up Scott Tipton's ANGEL: NOT FADE AWAY #3, which comes out this month!


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