Interview: Peter David and J.K. Woodward on Fallen Angel: Return of the Son

Fans of Peter David and J.K. Woodward's Fallen Angel have been patiently waiting for the next installment in the saga, but come January, the wait is over. Liandra's story continues with Fallen Angel: Return of the Son, a four-issue arc that delves further into the mythos behind the mysterious city of Bete Noire where the Fallen Angel makes her home.

As part of the book's return, the creative team and publisher IDW are engaging in a promotional blitz, including offering a 1 in 10 variant signed by both creators, and a 1 in 20 signed J.K. Woodward sketch cover. In addition, J.K. is reaching out to New York City retailers, offering to make a personal appearance at any store in the 5 boroughs that orders 30 or more, to do a free signing and sketch for every customer who buys a copy, as well as giving out original Fallen Angel art to the first 5 customers.

The series inspires that level of zeal in its fans as well, as J.K. recently showed on his blog with the appearance of one particularly dedicated Fallen Angel fan at this year's New York Comic-Con. But what is it about this series that has both the creators and the fans so invested in it? I spoke with Peter and J.K. to learn the answer to that and other intriguing questions the series poses.

 

 


 

Matt Adler: We haven't seen Fallen Angel for about a year now, since the Fallen Angel: Reborn miniseries. Is the plan to do one Fallen Angel mini a year? Do you have plans on how to keep it in the minds of readers and retailers during these breaks?

J.K. Woodward: Well, the plan was to stop the ongoing and to switch to mini-series, but I'm not sure the plan was to do just 1 a year. In fact, I thought the idea was to do 2 a year and  hopefully that will be the case from here on in. The idea of the mini series is to offer more jumping on points to new readers. I think if we do 2 mini-series every year, then keeping it in the mind of readers won't be a problem since there will only be a break of a few months between series and it may even welcome new readers, which is my hope.

Peter David: Actually, nowadays it seems a greater challenge to keep series in the minds of retailers when it's ongoing.  Short of doing crossovers or sales gimmicks, it's problematic getting any attention when the book comes out month in, month out.  Case in point:  "Fallen Angel" came out for nearly three years from IDW and, aside from the launch, got little to no publicity.  But every time we do a new limited series, it prompts interest, interviews, and publicity.  I would actually like to do more than one mini a year; the fact that we fell behind is entirely my fault.  Between various projects and a health problem that effectively knocked almost two months out of my schedule, I've just been way behind.

MA: Fallen Angel is set in the city of Bete Noire, Louisiana, also known as "The City That Shapes The World." What does that mean? Does the city serve a specific purpose?

PAD: It means a variety of things.  First, as we've seen, the Magistrate has the ability and resources to impact upon, and direct, events in the world.  Second, think of it as karma central, the nexus of the balance of power between good and evil.  If Bete Noire tips too far into darkness, then the world will go with it.  But the obvious question is:  If it tipped too far toward good, then would the world become a paradise?  Wouldn't that be a good thing?  That's actually one of the key questions that we'll be addressing in the current series.

JKW: The city actually has its roots in the Old Testament, so I think if there is a purpose, only God knows, but its influence is felt everywhere. It's like the world in microcosm. If the balance shifts towards evil in Bete Noire then there are devasting effects in the rest of the world and vice/versa. There's even been cases where we see the Magistrate of Bete Noire having a direct and intentional affect on world events (see Fallen Angel #21).

MA: What's the status of Bete Noire's most notable residents as Fallen Angel: Return Of The Son opens?

PAD: Picking up pretty much where we left off at the end of the previous one.  The Fallen Angel is running Bete Noire, and Jude has taken her place as the one who helps lost souls.  And, if it's possible, Jude has fallen even farther from his previous status than the Angel did from hers.  That's going to be the core of the conflict between the two of them.

JKW: The most notable change is that Liandra and Jude have changed places after the events of the ongoing series. In this story we have Enoch, the son of Cain who founded Bete Noire, returning to the city. At this point, his intentions aren't quite clear, but I suspect things could change for everyone. Only Peter knows for sure at this point.

MA: As you're alluding to, it's been revealed that Bete Noire is in fact the biblical city Enoch, which Cain (of Abel fame) named after his son. Is there some aspect of the tale of that biblical city that parallels what you're doing with Bete Noire?

PAD: Not a specific aspect, no; we're working on charting new ground here.

MA: J.K., you're particularly known for your painted style on Fallen Angel. Can you tell us a little bit about what you do to achieve the look of the book?

JKW: The pages are pencilled on 11 x17" watercolour paper, which is pretty much industry standard and then painted with a combination of guouache, watercolour and india ink. I try to do a lot of bold light and shadow with Fallen Angel. I always felt the story should have a noire style look. I remember in the first script I got from Peter reading a description of Bete Noire as a city that looked as if it were carved out of shadow (or something like that) and that sort of stuck with me. I feel like I've been trying to live up to the visual mood Peter instilled in me with that phrase from the beginning.

MA: Are you approaching this miniseries differently than previous issues of the series?

PAD: I'm using more adverbs.  Seriously.

JKW: More contrast. Stronger shadows. I love working with watercolour but at times it can look a little washed out. By using ink in the shadow work and even combining some inked line work with the painting, I can get a neater, stronger look. This is the first time I'm adding ink to the mix and I'm very happy with the result so far. I'm including some preview art with this interview so you can judge for yourself.

MA: What's the collaborative process like between the two of you?

PAD: It works well.  I write a script, and JK says, "This is great!" and he draws it and I look at the art and say, "This is fantastic!"  It's less of a collaboration and more like a mutual admiration society.

JKW: It's pretty simple, actually. I get a script from Peter and I illustrate it. We've been working together for over 4 years now, so I think he knows what to expect from me and I know what he's looking for. He gives me a lot of great visual panel descriptions that just inspire me to do some of my best work and sometimes he'll give me less specific descriptions and say things like "just go nuts here" and let me come up with stuff.

MA: What do you like particularly about each other's work?

PAD: He brings all the mood to Bete Noire that I could ever want.  The storytelling is clear and I particularly like the detail and level of artistry that he brings to it, especially when he's not hampered by a monthly schedule.  I thought "Fallen Angel Reborn" was some of his best work in ages, and it confirmed for me that not making him crank out a new issue every 30 days was the right way to go.

JKW: I like that I never know where he's going to take me. I've grown more as an artist in the last 4+ years with Peter than in my whole adult life. He creates these vast and diverse settings in his stories. I never know what I'll get to illustrate from one issue to the next. For example, in the Reborn mini, we go from L.A.,  to Bete Noire, to Antarctica, underwater, then post-apocalyptic NYC. Lots of fun with that. I also like how he can jump from dark and intense to light and comical. It's always one hell of a ride in a Peter David story!

MA: Why does this series mean so much to the two of you?

PAD: It's a chance to tell an extended story that's shaped entirely by us, and we're able to explore concepts and themes that are pretty much impossible to go into elsewhere.

JKW: It's a different kind of comic. Difficult to define. I love the world it takes place in and there is a vast group of vibrant characters. It's my favourite place to play as an artist, but more than that, I'm a fan of the series. I have been from the very first script and I can't wait to get a new script every month. I can't imagine going back to a day when I didn't have that to look forward to.

MA: What other work do you have coming up?

PAD: X-Factor, of course, as well as Stephen King's Dark Tower.  Also you can find a new book by me and Bob Greenberger, "The Spider-Man Vault," (a history of Spidey with built in collectibles like the Marvel and DC Vault Books) exclusively in–of all places–Costco.  Don't ask why 'cause darned if I know.

JKW: I recently had 2 Star Trek books which were also published by IDW. I did a piece for the Infestation Sketchbook for IDW. I have a viking story called Saga, written by Brian Gottesman and soon to be published by Archaia. I have 2 artbooks I contributed to. Sci-Fi Art Now and a Transmetropolitan art book. And I'm also contributing an 8-page story to a horror anthology called Tales of the Supernatural.


 

Just when Matt Adler thought he was out, Bete Noire pulls him back in.

Comments

  1. mikeandzod21 mikeandzod21 says:

    I’ve interviewed JK, and in the last few years since he’s started FA, his art as improved with every single issue. When he starts posting pages I’m always like ‘this is the best work of his career’.