Very late on the evening of Sunday 2nd October 2011, after a long weekend at the Second Starfury Vampire Ball held at Heathrow’s Renaissance Hotel, acclaimed comic illustrator Georges Jeanty was kind enough to spend a few moments with Geek Chocolate to talk about his love of superheroes and his work on Buffy the Vampire Slayer seasons eight and nine. We invite you to grab a drink and join us at the bar.
Geek Chocolate – It’s four years since the first issue of Buffy the Vampire Slayer season eight was published, and you’re currently preparing issue six of season nine, due out later this year. Did you ever imagine you would still be working on the project at this time?
George Jeanty – No, as much as I love it, I never thought of myself as a Buffy artist, and I seem to get that more the more years I’m with it. In the beginning, it was just a job that I got like I’d gotten any jobs. I’d come off one, and I just looked at this as another one, and for the first few issues that’s what it was, and as I was getting more aware of the culture of Buffy and the whole Whedonverse in general, I got into it, and somewhere along the way it stopped being a job and it really became a labour of love. I always enjoyed it, but now more so.
GC – I understand Joss Whedon approached you directly to be the artist for season eight.
GJ – Well, he didn’t corner me in a store or anything like that, but yeah, he and the editor Scott Allie, they were talking about getting season eight started, and Allie was like “Well who do you want, what are you thinking?” and apparently, I wasn’t privy to this conversation of course, they said my name had come up, and Joss was like “Well yeah, let’s see if we can get him, I really like his work, let’s see if he’s available.”
GC – Your background and first love is superheroes, so Buffy, although heroic, isn’t your normal field. Why do you think you were chosen?
GJ – Because I am the chosen one. In all the world, there is one chosen. I don’t know. You know, I should really stop Joss one day and actually ask him, because I still don’t know what it was about me in particular that actually inspired him to say “Hey, let’s look at this guy.”
GC – And who are your favourite heroes?
GJ – When I was growing up I loved the Thing from The Fantastic Four immensely. I was very much a Marvel character fan, not so much the DC, and I was into the B-characters of the seventies, like Luke Cage, Ironfist, Morbius, the Living Vampire, just all of those little characters who you would see pop up every now and again, and I guess as a kid, thumb-draw a character that’s so obscure, just for the love of it. I love pretty much all of the characters, but those were my favourites.
GC – Comic distribution has changed a great deal from when Dark Horse launched over thirty years ago. A lot of small houses now challenge the once mighty pillars of Marvel and DC, and now digital distribution can offer new markets beyond traditional publishing.
GJ – Yes, they can. We are ever moving forward. The ironic thing is that back in the forties and fifties, when comic books were actually at their zenith, comics have not sold more since that time. There was a time when Superman had a circulation of three million, whereas now, something breaks a hundred thousand, they consider it a phenomenal success.
I think the digital age of the computer has affected every part of the world, and comics aren’t excused from it. It’s something where you have to evolve with the technology or you’ll perish by it. I applaud the comic creators and the dealers for trying to embrace the technology, not trying to be counter culture, saying “I’ll never be digital.”
GC – It’s certainly allows the smaller houses to compete on a global level, because they can their product beyond running around the local shops on the back of a bicycle.
GJ – Even more so, it actually allows the individual to operate on a global level. Nowadays you don’t need a company to publish a book. If you are an artist and you really want to do something, you could actually publish it and make it look just as good publicationwise, I don’t know about artwise, as the competitors out there, so this new digital age, maybe it’s raised the bar on a certain level, but it definitely has afforded us more of a luxury for this medium, which I think is really good. I don’t think that paper as a medium will die necessarily, but I do embrace the digital age, downloading books and all that. It’s just a fact of life.
GC – Despite the new technologies available to artists, you still draw freehand, working with pen and pencil. Do work digitally in the office, or is it always traditional.
GJ – Always traditional, only because I have a computer but I don’t use it to any great degree. I’m very old school and it’s hard for this old schooler to kind of evolve, which is ironic, because I was just saying the opposite about the companies. It’s just hard for me to go digital in that sense. I like the way I draw, in general I love the way artists draw on the page, those who can, because it really does more organic that way, and I do feel more spontaneous. I don’t know any other way to say it other than it’s organic. It’s just all there.
GC – How did you feel about the recent adaptation of Buffy season eight into a “motion comic?”
GJ – I was happy. They actually didn’t consult with me or anybody. Twentieth Century Fox owns the rights to Buffy so they can do whatever they want with it. I don’t own the character, obviously. I was delighted. It’s always a gas to see your work in, I don’t know if I’d call it animation necessarily, it’s more a flash animation, it’s a very crude method, but some things I love, and some things I didn’t like. They were obviously finishing artwork from time to time, and I wish that they would have talked to me about it, because I would have loved to be involved with it, and given a helping a hand where it might have been needed.
GC – It’s a very different medium, but many years ago, not long after the series finished, there was a proposal for an animated continuation of the show. Did you ever see the promo reel?
GJ – I did. I saw that, I liked it very much.
GC – It was a different interpretation, more stylised than the c
haracters you draw.
GJ – It was very much the animation of the time, too. Animation is a very quick in-and-out thing, and I think a lot of animation, unfortunately, is not done well, it’s just done in abundance. As popular as Buffy is, I never understand how something that’s Buffy related can either get cancelled or not get made at all when there are so many people want it.
GC – I recently wrote and editorial for the website where I observed that superheroes are very in vogue at the moment. Where once spaceships dominated fantastic television, the last few seasons there’s been a glut of capes and tights. Do you think that’s a response to the global economic situation, that people can no longer look to a future in the stars, they must look to Earth for inspiration, comfort and hope?
GJ – I think not so much that it’s a sign of the times necessarily but the idea that the comic medium is now fodder. Hollywood just wants stories, and it wants product, and obviously comic is a plethora of product and story, and I think the digital age has actually caught up with the comic book, the comic book character per se, and from there it’s so much easier to actually do a comic book in a movie form, in animation, whatever form it takes.
That’s just how the curve is right now, and I think it’ll be around for a while, because you’re right, science fiction really ruled the movie industry and now it’s becoming the superhero genre. I think it’ll follow very much like that until everybody’s gotten their fill and something else takes over.
GC – What do you feel about the recent hero movies, Thor, Captain America, and of course next year’s Avengers, directed by Joss Whedon?
GJ – I love it, sure, as an artist, and again, as a Marvel fan. I love the idea that all these characters, had they come out when I was a child, I would have lost my mind, because all we had when I was a kid was the comic books. At that time there was maybe one movie, like Superman. Every five years, there would be a suggestion of a “superhero movie,” and nowadays you’ve got two or three. If I was a kid going to the movies now, I’d spend all my days just sitting in the theatre.
GC – With a vehicle like those, they stand or fall on the lead, and I thought both Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans were both excellent.
GJ – And I think a lot of that reason, although I don’t know about Hemsworth, but I know Evans is a big comic fan. The people involved, the culture that read comics as a kid, they are now the ones who are making movies, and those guys understand, the Sam Raimis of the world with Spiderman, and the Tim Burtons with Batman, and Bryan Singer and all of those guys, they grew up on comics, they know who Jack Kirby is, they understand what the Teen Titans were, who the giants of that time were, and now that they are in a position to actually make some sort of a visual contribution, they are staying very faithful in most cases to the original property.
GC – In 2012 we have reboots of Spiderman and Superman. I’m aware a lot of people didn’t like Superman Returns, but I enjoyed the fact that it was a very much about the characters, and I thought Brandon Routh was excellent –
GJ – He was.
GC – The Hollywood shelf life before a remake is now only about ten years, yet surely with the ubiquity of DVD, digital quality history is freely available to everybody immediately. Shouldn’t the period be lengthening rather than shortening?
GJ – I can see why you might think that, but consider that the DVD market and the like is all secondary. Hollywood looks at what comes out right now, they’re not necessarily concerned about with what’s going to come out later, and in their minds it’s the thing that’s coming up, not the thing that came out, that they’re more interested in. They’re looking forward. The DVDs are an afterthought, and they’ll package it, but in terms of “What are we going to do?” it’s always with a look forward, they never look back, and that’s just how they operate, and I don’t think that will change.
I think we’ll see a lot more reboots, that seems to be the fashion now, to say a reboot. Comic movies now have a twenty five, thirty year history. Batman came out in 1989, Superman came out in 1978, so the idea “Hey, we’re making a new version of Batman” doesn’t sound so far fetched because it’s been around so long. In a producers mind it’s a very valid idea to say “Yeah, that’s old, we want something new, let’s make it again.”
GC – There are very few people in this world of seven billion who work in exactly the place they want to be. Do you ever just wake up in the morning, think about your life and realise you’re doing okay?
GJ – I do, I wake up and thank God. I’ve done a lot, I’ve accomplished a lot, I’ve probably touched a lot of people, and at some point down the line, when nobody’s looking, I’ll probably touch myself a little, too. But no, I love it, I would not trade it, I never complain. There are times when you hate your job, but I never complain about it, I know how fortunate I am, and I know the position I am, globally, astrologically or cosmologically, and I try to honour that with my work.
GC – Georges Jeanty, thank you for sharing your talent, your enthusiasm, and your encyclopaedic knowledge of your medium.
GJ – I thank you, sir.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer season eight is now available in eight collected volumes from Dark Horse comics, and the first individual issue of season nine has just been released
Special thanks to Georges Jeanty for his time, and Sean Harry of Starfury Conventions for arranging the interview. Details of upcoming events can be found at www.starfury.co.uk