Monday, May 2, 2011

Chris Ryall Interview on Angel's Run at IDW

Comic Book Resources (CBR) has posted a fantastic interview with IDW Editor-in-Chief Chris Ryall, "Ryall Takes Stock of IDW's 'Angel' Run". (Hat tip Whedonesque.) As most people are aware, after a six-year run at IDW, the Angel comics franchise will be moving over to Dark Horse, which is the publisher of the Buffy comics series.

(Full disclosure: I've only read the first four volumes of Angel: After the Fall, which encompassed the first 17 issues of the series.)

This is bittersweet for me, since, as I've mentioned numerous times, IDW has taught me to take comics seriously for probably the first time in my life. I also understand that the characters of the Angel series will be merged into the Buffy series starting with the beginning of her Season 9. After arguing for a long time that the Angel franchise deserves to stand on its own two feet, it's finally coming full circle and Angel is joining back up with Buffy. Fortunately for my own sake, I can certainly understand how it must have been hard to try to keep Angel and Buffy circulating around in their own parallel universes, so it makes a lot of sense to put them both under one roof.

Although the entire interview is fascinating, I was particularly interested in how Ryall somewhat scoffed at the idea of "canon", which I define as meaning "this is what really happened". Ryall mentioned that bringing Joss Whedon onboard certainly added credibility to the Angel comics. He continued on:
" [bringing Joss in] instantly added I guess what you'd call "canon." That was always a big thing on message boards and everywhere else. "This book is fine, and we like it, but it's not canon because Joss didn't write it or because it's not a TV episode." Everyone had their differing degrees of what canon was. To my mind, that's kind of a dumb argument. Canon to me is stories that I like. There have been a ton of terrible Spider-Man comics over the years, and those are the ones I choose to not acknowledge. I don't need the stories where Gwen Stacey and Norman Osborn were getting it on. So to me, it's all fictional stories. Joss didn't write every episode of the TV show, so there was always a little bit of frustration there. Brian was doing great stuff on the books, so if you liked them – and everyone said they did – why would it matter if it's "canon" to whatever degree you define that to be."
I have to admit that I shrunk down in my seat a little bit when I read this, since I'm one of those narrow-minded people who thinks twice about paying a nickel for anything that isn't "canon".

I was also interested in what he had to say about Kelly Armstrong's run as the writer of the series for a short time after Brian Lynch finished his original stint. Ryall basically said that Armstrong had an impossible task:
"The fans weren't all that forgiving because to them we were going from Joss to "not Joss." It didn't matter who it was going to be, and it was going to suffer by comparison. To make another old reference, it's kind of like when Frank Miller did "Daredevil: Born Again." That really became the last Daredevil book you'd ever need to read. So the next guy coming on for another issue was doomed. There's no way to measure up in the eyes of the fans. It's impossible. That's what "After The Fall" was. It was the culmination of everything "Angel" was supposed to be in comics, and Kelly took the story in different directions and tried all she could to reestablish things and move away from that so she wasn't just copying what had come before. But it's a tough thing. So when Brian came back on, he had this familial connection of sorts to Joss, and the fans loved his stuff from the beginning anyway. It was an easier time for them to absorb more stories by him."
I've actually briefly looked at Armstrong's issues and thought they looked quite entertaining. However, I stopped reading the Angel comics after the 4th volume mostly because it was a good breaking point for me. Wesley's ghost had left for good, and the 4th volume brought an ending to what I considered to be the actual television series. I also felt that the franchise could turn into a money pit for me and I eventually wanted to get on with my life again. However, I'd be disingenuous if I claimed that the fact that Brian Lynch had left the project didn't enter into my decision to stop purchasing new volumes. I couldn't help but think that the franchise stopped being "canon" after the 4th volume, and everything after that point would have just been light, albeit enjoyable reading. However, if I do decide to start reading Angel comics again, I won't let the fact that other people besides Brian Lynch wrote some issues stop me.

Chris Ryall is one class act, and I think he and the entire staff at IDW handled the handoff to Dark Horse with a lot of professionalism. Although IDW's run at publishing new Angel comics will shortly be coming to an end, here's hoping that their already-published works continue to sell quite nicely for them in the future.


Chris Ryall said...

Hey, thanks very much for the piece--I appreciate it. (I'd also be remiss if I didn't point out that Volume 6 is also all Brian Lynch stories, including a very funny "Angel movie adaptation" about their experiences in After the Fall.

And the final new Angel issue we're doing, Angel Yearbook, which is out in a couple weeks, has a new Lynch story (and a short story by me, too).

Anyway, commercial over. Thanks for the support, I appreciate it!


Miriam said...

Thanks for stopping by, Chris! You can hawk your wares here anytime ;-)
I'm betting that slowly but surely I'll have a complete IDW/Angel collection at some time.

BTW, I really liked your definition of "canon" meaning "stories that I like". That certainly simplifies things a lot.