Interview: BRYAN EDWARD HILL Talks About The Vampire With A Soul

Unless you have been living under a rock, you can’t have missed BOOM! Studios’ reboot of Buffy The Vampire Slayer with the exceptional creative team of Jodie Bellaire and Dan Mora. 

But wherever Buffy goes, Angel is sure to follow.

So, it comes as no surprise that at the end of the first Buffy arc, the brooding vampire with a soul was pictured lurking in the background, ready to be unleashed back into the comic book world. 

Helming the relaunch of the character, and becoming responsible for reintroducing Angel and his gang into the modern world, is writer Bryan Edward Hill. Having worked on a number of high profile characters for DC Comics and Top Cow, Hill’s ability to write engaging character-driven action is perfect for a crime-fighting demon, like Angel.  

Later in the month, on the 25th, the first arc will be released in a collected edition which includes the surprise 0 issue that kicked off this run. Bryan Edward Hill kindly took some time out from his busy schedule to share with us the lowdown on what makes the vampire with a soul such an intriguing and beloved character.

Interview: Bryan Edward Hill
Angel Volume 1 Cover Credit: BOOM! Studios

Darryll Robson For Monkeys Fighting Robots: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today, I know that you are currently working on several different projects at the moment and I wondered how you organized your time when working like that? Do you work on one particular project for a length of time, or do you chop and change throughout the week?

Bryan Edward Hill: Well. When I’m working on a television show, I don’t have a lot of free time. Television requires writers room presence, and that takes up 40 to 50 hours a week. What I try to do is set aside different days for individual projects so that I can maintain mood, you know, and then I don’t have to flit between too many different things. If I’m working on Angel, then it’s a very different vibe than a sci-fi action piece, or a historical drama or something like that, so I designate different days for different things. Angel, I tend to write at night because it is more of that feeling and mood. So that is, in particular, my late night, right-before-bed writing. 

MFR: Is there much collaboration you have to do with Angel because it is obviously part of the Buffyverse, do you have to liaise with the other writers and creators?

HILL: Luckily for me, BOOM! does a lot of that, Jeanine Schaefer my editor over there, she manages most of that conversation. I don’t have to deal with it personally too much, which is good because you don’t want to have to write with all of those tones. It’s better; I think to do what you want to do and then find out if what you want to do is acceptable for the rest of it. It’s hard to keep all of those rules in mind all of the time.

MFR: Have you had a lot of freedom with the stories you’ve been able to tell in Angel?

HILL: Yeah, so far. I have spoken in some detail what the overall plan was and where I wanted to go with this year.  And one of my intentions was to push it a little bit in the terms of aesthetics, of its scope, of its emotion.  Comics, unlike TV, they have limitless budgets in terms of how the visual storytelling can go. Obviously, you have to pay your artists, and letterers and all of that, your writers,  but you can make it an epic experience, and I’ve been able to do that the way I’ve wanted to and I’m very grateful for that.

MFR: You’ve had an excellent creative team working on the comic. Have there been any particular scenes that when you’ve seen the finished work, it’s blown you away?

HILL: I was a little familiar with Gleb’s (Gleb Melnikov, Artist on Angel) work before we worked on the book together but there’s so many artists, and so much work out there, you know, I’m not going to say I was following him because I wasn’t. But when I saw Gleb do the first flashback that I put into the book and the strong graphic quality of his images, that really set the tone for me as a writer. It showed me what kind of artist I was dealing with and how much Gleb could really do, so that freed me up.

It’s a bit like when you are directing an actor, and you have a script, and you have an idea of what you want it to look like, and you do a take, and then the actor does something you just couldn’t imagine. The nuance, the subtly, the presence on screen, whatever it is, and then you realize, “oooh wait a minute,” I can do a lot more things than I thought I was going to be able to do when it was just me and a word processing program. 

And that’s really the experience of working with Gleb, is that he is so capable in so many different ways that it frees me up to do bolder structure and make some narrative choices to remove dialogue and let the images carry the story, which is really how I prefer to work honestly. Although I am a writer, I try not to have dialogue be the driver of the storytelling. I have always been in love with the moving image, or the still image, and its ability to tell a story. I would give my writing the platform to power the images rather than get in the way and slow that process down. 

Interview: Bryan Edward Hill
Angel Volume 1 Interior Art Credit: BOOM! Studios

MFR: Were you a big fan of the Angel TV show originally?

HILL: I was, I was more a fan of Angel than I was Buffy really, because I could identify more with Angel. That was my favorite of the Weadon-verse on television, for sure. 

MFR: Do you feel the stories you have told so far, and that you are planning on telling, are influenced by the style of Angel, like it was different from Buffy so did you consciously pick up the themes that the T.V. show picked up?

HILL: Yes but not so much in a conscious way as much as what happens to your unconscious when you just watch a thing a lot. In that way, a show can be almost like music, in that you start to get a feel for it. I have watched all of the seasons now, and I rewatched some of my favorite episodes, I kind of got back into the groove of it. It’s more of a feeling thing. It’s not like I have a list of things that make Angel uniquely Angel as much as you just sort of know when it’s circling what it needs to circle.

MFR: Did you get to choose which characters you used then, did you pick you’re favorite characters or did BOOM! tell you which characters you needed to use?

HILL: BOOM! gave me a lot of freedom to use who I wanted to use, when I wanted to use them, so the cast we have seen so far, those are the characters I wanted to start with first.  In a lot of ways, the story is about the formation of Angel’s group, and there’s a little bit of heroism going on. You know we have this back story about Angelus when he was evil, having his own dark riders and his own kind of nefarious group bringing suffering across the world and now in modern times he is somewhat reluctantly gathering a new group of people around him that can do good in place of the harm he once caused.

I picked very specific characters in the mythology to fill out some archetypal roles: the warrior nature of James Gunn: the magical incarnations of Winifred: that sort of thing. The team that we have is the team that we needed for the story that I wanted to tell. That being said, I would love to bring in as many characters from the series as I possibly could. We’ve got some new characters that are not new to the Angel universe but are new to the comic book and are familiar to readers, and they have new twists, but they are essentially who they were. I am excited to see how people respond to those.

MFR: I know that you created the new character Lilith who, when I read the comic I see as being a replacement for Doyle for the original series. She has that link to the powers that be, which is the part that Doyle played. I wondered how important it was for you to create your own character as one of the main characters in the story?

HILL: Lilith isn’t so much as a creation as much as an incorporation of existing, magical, esoteric thought in mythology.  Lilith as an archetype has always been interesting to me because some people look at her as if she is a villain, other people find her to be the symbol of female empowerment. And all of that seemed really interesting to me. I wanted to explore Angels relationship to magic a bit, to the so-called spirit world and how he deals with that and how it deals with him. And bringing in this idea that there are entities out there that are concerned with the affairs in the human world and, even if they cannot directly influence things physically, they can always influence others to do things good and bad. Lilith seemed like an excellent gateway to discuss those things. And I wanted to have a bit of a ferocious female energy in this book and writing her allows me to do that.

MFR: So this is a character that will continue through your run on the Angel comic?

HILL: Yes, I would think so. Perhaps not in ways that people can expect, but her influence will certainly be felt in the comic book going forward.

Angel: Lilith and Fred in Action Credit: BOOM! Studios

MFR: We’ve got the collection of the first arc out next week and the crossover event going on with the Buffy comic 

HILL: Hellmouth, a lot of exciting things going on there.

MFR: Yes, I’m assuming that’s going to have a big impact on what you’re writing on Angel?

HILL: For sure. Without getting into details, the events of Hellmouth, are going to raise the stakes in those books and they’re to raise the personal stakes for all of the characters. The most important thing for an event like that is the characters change because of their experiences there, and you’re certainly going to see that, and it’s going to be reflected in both Buffy and Angel going forward. I would expect there to be multiple degrees in the terms of intensity for Angel that is a direct result of the events to come in Hellmouth.

MFR: So, do you have a long term plan for Angle? Is it a year or two-year plan that you’ve got?

HILL: Because I work in television as well, I do think in terms of seasons, and I do have what I consider like, a season of comics in me. A year of issues, I would say about 12 issues. So I think by season, by season, by season and it’s both detailed and incredibly malleable. It’s a bit like knowing you want to get to Athens but not knowing exactly the path you are going to take to get there. So, I have what I would refer to as a soft plan, but I do certainly have events I’d like to cover emotional points that I want to hit, and some evolutionary things with the world that I want to make sure I get set in to tell the story. 

MFR: One last question, is there a particular character that you are really desperate to use in the comic?

HILL: I will say that readers can look forward to the entrance of Wolfram and Hart into the narrative. And also of Lorne. Wolfram and Hart as an enemy have always been interesting to me because I’ve always been fascinated with corporations and corruption and some of the esoteric history behind the power centers of the world. 

And with Lorne, I’m just a real fan of karaoke. And I’m glad I can share that love with readers around the world.

Angel in a Hell Dimension Credit: BOOM! Studios

Monkeys Fighting Robots would like to thank Bryan Edward Hill for talking to us about Angel, and also to BOOM! Studios’ Esther Kim for her assistance.

Angel continues his adventures in issue 5 released on 25th September 2019, the same day as Angel Volume 1 comes out. So you can be completely up to date before the start of October when the exciting Hellmouth Crossover starts, taking over both Angel and Buffy comics for the rest of the year. 

Darryll Robson
Darryll Robson
Comic book reader, reviewer and critic. A student of Comics Studies and still patiently waiting for the day they announce 'Doctor Who on The Planet of the Apes'.