This weekend at Denver Comic Con 2014, Hush Comics interviewed the wonderful artist Georges Jeanty, famous for his work on Buffy Season 8 and 9, as well as his current stint on Serenity: Leaves on the Wind. He had a lot to say about his past, present, and future, including his time with Joss, what he really thinks about Buffy hook-ups, and whether or not Wonder Woman is in his future.
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Hush Comics: What was it about comics that sucked you in?
Georges Jeanty: I guess when you’re a kid, you really don’t know anything else. Maybe now you do with video games and all, but that really didn’t exist. Maybe Pong existed when I was a kid. It was just the love of stories, reading, and things like that. I was a very weird child. I liked to read when I was younger. And, comics just grabbed me. And it grabbed me in a way that it just never let me go. And then when you get older, you realize, ‘Hey, I can draw!” And then you go, ‘Hey, I’m actually kind of good. Hey, look I can do this.” So it was sort of a natural, evolutionary process.
HC: Currently, you are working on the Serenity comic, and I know you were a fan of the show Firefly, when it was on the air, so can you tell me a bit about what made you love the story?
GJ: Love the story that I was doing or the show?
GJ: Well it’s a show that really had potential and obviously cut down before its prime, type of thing. So, it’s very sad. The vindication, of course, is that it got a movie and it goes on from there. The comics, honestly, it’s all because of Joss Whedon. I firmly believe that if Joss Whedon didn’t like comics, it would not be a comic book, per se. Buffy probably would have been, because I believe Buffy is co-owned by FOX, but Joss has Firefly and had he never really been interested in the medium, there probably wouldn’t be a Firefly comic book. The story is great because it’s the first one that really is post film and it takes place after and you find out what happens to everybody and where they went after the film. So that’s the really cool part about it. As a fan, I couldn’t wait to read the scripts when I was getting those.
HC: Awesome! I am a huge fan, too. When you were younger, I have heard that you wanted to be an actor. Who were your inspirations and did you ever act in anything?
GJ: Man, when I was younger, Robin Williams was Mork in Mork and Mindy. I have always been more attracted to comedy and the people who make you laugh. It is sort of a philosophical thing. You never forget the person who makes you laugh. Somebody can you make you cry, somebody can make you mad, somebody can you give you all those other emotions, but it’s the people, you may not even remember their names, but the people that make you laugh. I did a little bit in high school, acting, and in college, and church plays here and there, but I quickly realized I was a better artist than I was an actor. Or that it would probably pay better for me sooner than later.
HC: So at one point you were an artist with a collaborative Gaijin Studios. What did you do there and how did being with them get you the big gigs that you ended up with?
GJ: Gaijin Studios was primarily just a studio with a bunch of artists. We didn’t necessarily produce anything. We all worked in the same area as a sort of cohabitation. We all had our cubicles or rooms as it were. The great thing about that was a lot of the guys there had been in the business a little longer than I had, and had a reputation that when I was looking for work I could say, ‘Yeah, I’m part of this group called Gaijin,’ and it was part of this swag of being part of that studio that people were like, ‘Oh! Interesting. I know the studio. I don’t know you, but if you’re part of that studio, you must pretty good. ‘ So that probably got me Bishop: The Last X-Man years and years ago, and that probably got me that gig.
HC: Speaking of Bishop, Days of Future Past just came out and as a kid I always connected with the animated version of the story. So how does it feel to have your version of Bishop on the big screen?
GJ: It was the version that I did. It wasn’t technically my version because that concept was already done when I came to the book. I evolved in it. I did about 15 issues of Bishop, so it sort of evolved into whatever version it was. It was really cool. I have no criticism, per se, but, of course, you’re looking at something and thinking, ‘Yeah, he would have been a little bit bulkier,’ or ‘He would have been a little more of this.’ But just to see the character that you did, and essentially went into obscurity, its nicely vindicated. Granted he didn’t have a lot of screen time. Funny enough, if you didn’t now who he was, you’re going, ‘What? What’s he doing?’ Bishop could absorb power and redirect it. That was his mutant power. But they never actually explain that in the movie. So, you’re kind of like, ‘Ok, I guess he can shoot stuff out of his hands. Cool.’
HC: Can you tell me a little bit about how you were able to work with John Ridley on The American Way?
GJ: John Ridley, who has just blown up, totally. Actually coming out next he has got a musical biography of Jimi Hendrix coming later this year.
HC: With Andre 3000?
GJ: With Andre 3000. Yeah he [John Ridley] was a great guy. Again, another guy who just loved comics. He did a couple of things with Wildstorm. He wrote Authority and then something else, a short story. And then he pitched this creator owned gig and they brought me on after the fact to say, ‘Hey, he would love to collaborate with you.’ I created the look of the characters with a description that he had done. He said essentially, ‘You being apart of this, I know there aren’t any big stars or Superman, Batman, any of those characters are not in here, but what I can offer you is a piece of this particular pie should it ever go anywhere. This was 8 or 9 years ago, where you going, ‘Oh, whatever. Cool.’ And the story was so good. I think at the time, I was pegged to do The Flash. So I was geared towards something that was more established and more known. After I read his script I was going ‘Oh my God. This is so good. If I didn’t draw this, this is something I would want to pick up and read.’ And finally Ben Abernathy, the editor, at Wildstorm at that title at the time was really selling it. Through Ben’s generosity, I said, ‘Sounds like these would be really cool people to work with.’ When you’re looking at a project like that, originally it was 10 issues and it ended up being 8 issues, but you’re going, ‘I’m going to be with these guys for 8 months.’ That’s a relationship where you’re like, ‘If I don’t like you now, I’m really not going to like you in 8 months. But if you seem cool, hopefully there is hope that we will really get along.’ John and I got along great. I mean it was a lot of back and forth. We called each other a lot and talked about it. He loved the comic medium. He really loved the idea that he was saying something about the Civil Rights Movement and all that stuff. It is probably one of the things I am most proud of in this business.
HC: That says a lot. After you were done working on The American Way, you were contacted to work on Buffy. Up that point you hadn’t seen the series yet, but piggybacking off of my Firefly question, what is it about the Buffy story that you love, not only the show, but what you did?
GJ: Uh, that it was Joss Whedon. I didn’t even read the script. I didn’t know what the script was, but they said, ‘Well Joss Whedon’s going to be writing the first arc. Would you be interested?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah. Sure.’ And I hadn’t really watched Buffy. I knew Buffy through pop culture, but I had never really absorbed her, and I really quickly caught up when I did get the gig. Joss was really generous. I knew who he was, and just the fact that he was giving this to me, this guy who really had no reputation. I mean, I had done books, but whatever. He had seen my work, liked it, and wanted me. I was like ‘Yeah, you’re Joss Whedon. Cool.’ [Now referring to Joss] ‘No, no, dude, here’s my phone number. Call me if you need anything, or if you have questions about his or that.’ This was the first time Joss was actually doing a Buffy comic book which was very monumental. Buffy had been printed up until then for years, but he had never actually done anything. He did a little something in the Tales of the Vampire and the Tales of the Slayer, but never on Buffy directly. I quickly realized how much of a big deal this was. I jumped in on that strength, not really knowing the character.
HC: I know that you didn’t watch it before hand, and I have heard you watched it out of order. What order did you watch it in?
GJ: I did. I started with season 6 and then 7. I liked it so much, because the sent me season 6 and 7 on DVD, I liked it so much, I went back and watched 1-5 on my own.
HC: And did you watch 6 and 7 again so you felt you had the whole series?
GJ: No. I sort of watched little bits here and there where I needed to get the characters a little more defined. No, in my mind when I think of Buffy in the end it’s when she actually dies saving Dawn. That season 6 two-parter was kind of strange because I’m like, ‘She’s dead? So she’s coming back? And who is this biker gang? And now there is this other Slayer thing? What is this?’ And a big thing that I just never understood was her Slayer strength. I knew she was a Slayer, but to me that did not automatically denote she was more powerful than everybody. So, a lot of the first few episodes I saw, I felt bad that this girl is getting beaten up and I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is like a masochistic television show. That poor little girl.’ And then when I talked to Joss, because I was doing the comic book… I sort of need details. You need your stage in order to perform. You need to know what’s on that stage so you know what you can use. And with Buffy, I told Joss, ‘Well she’s strong. Ok. I get that, but how strong? Is she Superman strong?‘ And he’s like, ‘Well, it’s funny. We’ve never really tested her limit, but in all honesty, think maybe Spider-Man strong, not Superman strong. But definitely more than Batman strong.’ So that sort of put things in place to me where as an artist I knew how far I could go. She could probably turn over a car, but she would have a lot of trouble lifting it over her head. Those little details, which obviously never came to play in the book, but I knew what she could do.
HC: I have heard season 6 is your favorite season. Is that still true?
GJ: Yes. Totally. I’m all about change. I totally get it, the people who were with it all the way from the beginning, people love season 3 when Faith comes in, and no one likes season 4 for some reason. But there were moments like Oz and Willow, and then Tara coming in. There are moments in every season. It’s not that any one season is a blanket of awful or great. There are moments. But I thought season 6 just said, ‘This is what it was, and now these guys are growing. ‘ Sometimes, you might have a bad year, or you might get fired. That year is your lowest year, but that doesn’t mean you are any less of a person, but your life has changed. That year was such a year of change. A lot of people who didn’t like Spike were like, ‘Well, that’s because they hooked up that season and it was awful.’ I appreciated that change and I loved Andrew, Warren and Jonathon coming in. Those guys were so funny. It’s obvious the writers were having a great time writing their dialog. That felt to me like a cool season.
HC: Do you have a moment from season 6, that you are like, ‘That’s the moment’?
GJ: I’m probably supposed to say The Musical. It’s been a while now and all of has just morphed in to one big Buffy ball. I couldn’t tell you the specifics of season 6. I will tell you though, and since Joss was such a big comic book fan, he modeled Willow’s dissension on Jean Grey and Dark Phoenix. When you watch it having known that, you see that when Willow brings Buffy back and then Giles has that conversation, like, ‘You incompetent idiot. How could you have done that?’ And she’s like, ‘Maybe you should be a little nicer to me knowing how much I actually did.’ You can see she wasn’t bad there because she didn’t have the black magic obviously, but you can tell there was that seed that was planted and I love that. And it’s something if you’re a long time you’re like, ‘Cool, this is going somewhere.’ Oh! Ok, I do have a moment. Probably the best moment, and Joss loves to do this, is when Dark Willow is doing whatever, he [Joss] recreated it in season 8 in the first arc, where Willow is like ‘Nothing can stop me now.’ And then bam! She gets hit and Giles is like, ‘I’d like to test that theory.’ And that’s the end of the episode, and it’s like, that is the coolest ending ever. And when Amy the rat comes back and she does it and Willow does the same thing, it’s ‘Oh my God that is so cool. And I was a part of it. Cool!’
HC: That is awesome! How has working under Joss’ direction influenced the way you tell stories through art?
GJ: His story telling is not so much about the script. I learned a lot more talking to him. I’m the kind of artist where I get the script, I read it, absorb it, but of course there will be little nuances and I always tell a writer I work with, ‘Do you mind if I call you because I want to get your thoughts. When you say this person walks into the room upset… Buffy walks into the room upset, that could mean a lot. Could be upset that she just had a hangnail, or she didn’t get her nails done, or upset that she got really bad news.’ I would usually talk to my writers and ask, ‘What is the context of this? How upset? What is their body language?’ I guess that is the actor in me who is coming in and saying, ‘Well, what are they doing that gets them to that point?’ Obviously, if you’re upset, you’re standing in a different way, or you’re looking in a different way. Your posture is definitely different. That was one of the things I would talk to Joss about. There was one time where he was writing a script and he was a little late and I was like, ‘When do you think it’s going to get done? The editor is on my back because I have to draw it and it takes a whole lot longer to draw. ‘ And he said, ‘Yeah, the only problem I am having with this script is that I don’t know what I am trying to say.’ And that is when it solidified to me that Joss works on theme. Like the theme of loss or redemption; anything you can put in a theme. That’s where he says, ‘This is my theme and I am going to try to structure the episode around that theme. Everybody is going to be affected in some way by that theme. They may not be the central focus of that theme, but they are going to be affected.’ That to me makes really good story telling because you’re combining everything. Especially in television, since it is a serialized drama, it keeps going on and on, all you really have are themes because there has to be that arc, and usually for that episode, you know that there is something they went through. That is the biggest thing he taught me, indirectly, just reading his work and listening to the man talk.
HC: If you could draw any scene from a Whedonverse show, what scene would you draw?
GJ: Well, why would I do that? I will counter that statement, actually. I did have a conversation with Joss just about this. I will tell you there is a scene that I would have loved to have drawn that never made it on television but should have. When we were doing season 8, I hate to give myself credit for this, but I am the Buffy fans, best friend because I was going to bat. When Buffy slept with another woman, I was like, ‘Nuh-Uh! She’s not going to sleep with another woman. I’m not going to draw that. You need to justify that to me before I can do that.’ When Giles died, “Nuh-Uh! Giles isn’t dead because I’m not going to draw it. You have to justify that to me first.’ So I was really going to bat. I went to Joss at some point and said, ‘Dude, you’ve got Spike coming in season 8. That’s great, we are finally getting the gang back together.’ But I was like, ‘Joss, you realize, if you think about it, Buffy doesn’t know Spike is alive. Because he became alive in Angel obviously and there was never that scene where it’s like, ‘Oh my God’ [referring to Buffy]. He [Joss] was like, ‘Yeah but the fans are really…’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah, the fans want to know that stuff. That’s the stuff that they love.’ He said, ‘No, they can probably assume that Andrew told them’ because of “The Girl in Question” in Angel, they both go and see Andrew. ‘They can just assume Buffy found out from him. ‘ I said, ‘It’s a little bit of a cop out, I gotta tell ya.’ In my mind, over the years, I wonder what that scene would be like. The writer in me, doing Buffy for so many years at that point, I was creating that scene so I could justify it when they did get together and of course subsequently have all these conversations. In my mind, that is what I feel happened in continuity, although it never actually showed up.
HC: Do you have time to read comics, and if so which ones are you currently reading?
GJ: Yes. I hate to say this because it probably makes me a bigger geek than I am, but I’m at the comic shop every Wednesday, looking and seeing what’s out. I’m reading The Uncanny X-Men that Brian Bendis and Stuart Immomen are doing. And the Miracleman reprints, the Alan Moore stuff. Comics today are a very different animal, and very rightly so because of the movies. Now, limited series is a thing. A continuity book is virtually non-existent, and reading this has really restored my faith in what comics could do because while Alan Moore isn’t reinventing the wheel with his stories that he did back in the ‘80’s, it’s obvious that he is taking the story telling medium, and these were a bunch of 8 page stories that he did that were collected eventually, and with these 8 pages he is just telling the story as it is progressing, but every 8 pages is doing it in a different way. It is so entertaining. Miracleman is sort of a British knockoff of Shazam. Even in that, he plays with that factor, and it is just so good. I cannot recommend it enough. Anyone who wants to be a comic writer ought to be reading those Miracleman comics because he is just doing great storytelling.
HC: You drew Buffy for season 8 and 9, will you be making a return in season 10?
GJ: That is a very interesting question. Well, I did Serenity, which was sort of always the plan. Yeah, personally feel that Buffy was the girl I came to dance with. I certainly don’t want to abandon her. If they ask me back for something, whatever it is, probably not as long as I did before, but I would come back for something special.
HC: Since Serenity will be ending soon, do you know what your work will be in the future?
GJ: I personally finished Serenity a few months ago, because of course you have to do it ahead so they can print it. But, I’m working on The Future’s End for DC right now, which is their big 52 book, a whole year, every week. I am doing what I can; I pretty much do a book a month. So, I’ve done an issue and I’ve got an issue waiting for me, so I will for the foreseeable future be doing that. And there is some talk of maybe doing some Wonder Woman stuff down the line. Who knows? It’s just hearsay right now. So, we will see!