EXCLUSIVE: Buffy's James Marsters on his new Spike graphic novel (plus a 4-page preview!)

It's been a little while since James Marsters threw on the long black trench and played everyone's actual favorite vampire of all time, Spike. But he's returning to the role this year in a whole new way, and we've got an exclusive look.

Since Dark Horse has found its footing (and a steady audience) with its official Buffy comic continuation, it's branching out, and one of the biggest ways it's doing that is by giving some of the actors a crack at writing the characters who made them famous.

James Marsters has been carrying around his Spike graphic novel idea for a while. Thankfully, its day is finally about to come. We got in touch with James to ask him about what it was like getting back into the Buffy world, about the stories he still wants to tell, and with whom he might tell them. Also, we tried to make him mock fellow writer-turned-scribe Nicholas Brendon. Keep reading and you'll see how that turned out.

And make sure you check out the four-page preview in the gallery below, too!

 

So, I’ve heard you pitched the Spike comic over the phone to Scott Allie while you were at a con with Georges Jeanty. Do you remember how you pitched it to him, and what sold him on the idea?

I remember seeing Georges at a Buffy panel at the San Diego Comic Con. I told him about a story that had been kicking around my noggin for a while. I was interested in the period of Spike's 'life' after he wins back his soul, but before he figures out what to do with it. I thought about Spike trying to find something to eat, a place to sleep, and clothes for himself now that his conscience wouldn't allow him to hurt, maim or kill. I knew in my gut that there was no way in hell he'd get a job. In the first scene, he almost loses a fight because his old boots are falling apart.

I thought it might be funny and poignant to see him try to navigate this new situation, especially if he failed most of the time. He also might be tempted to play the hero. After his disasterous break with Buffy, he might try to find female companionship. 

So I wrote a story where Spike is homeless and starving to death. He meets a sweet lady, but doesn't tell her that he's a vampire. A Big Bad comes to town, and he tries to save the town. He fails on both fronts. The monster turns out to be much tougher than he looked and kicks Spike's ass. He beats him down like a rag doll. The sweet lady finds out Spike's secret and runs away in horror.    

The story, though, is a happy one. Spike makes a small step toward redemption. He finds a way to get a new pair of boots without killing anyone, stealing them, or getting a damn job. 

Georges thought it might make a good comic and put me in touch with Scott Allie at Dark Horse. It's hitting the stands soon, and it looks great. It totally and unequivocally rocks! I say that with all appropriate modesty.

Conversely, how much control did you have over Spike when Buffy and Angel were still on the air? Did you ever put your foot down when a script contained something you thought that Spike wouldn’t say or do?

I had no control whatsoever over Joss Whedon. He, and the other writers on Buffy, were the chefs. I was merely a waiter. I don't discount my part. Being an honest actor is not simple. It takes courage. It's a lot of work. Nonetheless, they cooked the dish. I served.

So I guess the next logical question is, have you talked to Joss to let him know that Spike is finally and officially yours to control completely? And is he mad about it?

I sent the script to Joss and got his highest compliment. Silence. It's a much better reaction than him writting to me to tell me all the ways that the story sucks and how to fix it. I assume he's pleased with it, or at least not too pissed off by it. Otherwise, believe me, he'd let me know.

What’s your writing process like? Do you hunker down on your own, or have you talked with other people about this story as you write it?

The story leapt out of me over the course of a week. It had been bottled up in my head for so long that it had no shyness about coming out. Then I showed it to all of the original Buffy writers to get their input. They are now my good friends, and were all very kind and creative.

I remember David descriping the concept of the "Themeny," the enemy who also embodies the theme. That was gold.

Are there any stories you want to write for Spike that you think you could never get away with?

I am at heart a subversive artist, so I am always trying to come up with stories that I could never get away with, and then telling those stories, anyway. Scott at Dark Horse says he's open to me doing more of these in the future, so I'm brainstorming with David Fury these days about more ways to put Spike through the grinder. David says that writing and producing the new 24 is fun and all, but he misses the days where he could create demons, rip people's heads off and send them to hell. David is a hoot.

You’re an unabashed fan of Shakespeare. Let’s imagine for a moment that Shakespeare is a vampire and is still alive. What do you think the bard would be writing about now?

I think the closest thing we have to Shakespeare today is Martin Scorsese. The Wolf of Wall Street, Taxi Driver and Raging Bull are like Titus Andronicus, or Pericles. Hugo was like a Tempest or a The Winter's Tale. If Shakespeare were around today and were a vampire, he would go to Martin's house, rip his throat out and take over his niche.

Joss is doing that little Avengers project. If you could be involved, is there a character in that world you’d want to take a crack at playing?

If Joss wanted to make me an Avenger, I would hope that he would make me Deathcry.

Nick Brendon has also entered the fold and is writing some of the Buffy comic. Throw down the gauntlet. Taunt him like a pro wrestler. Make him feel small and helpless.

I heard Nick Brendon is also writing a comic. I say good luck to him. He's a good man. It will no doubt be hilarious. No, I'm not going to bait him for your pleasure. You sick-o.

You try to make a guy attack a former colleague one time ... and finally, as you know Syfy makes really classy movies like Sharknado, and Sharktopus, and Ghost Shark. If you were given the chance to make your own Syfy movie, what would you call it?

My Syfy movie would be called "Sharkactor." It would be about a shark who goes around trying to convince people that he's actually a squid, or a bass. In the end he discovers that all along he was really just trying to find himself.



Spike: Into the Light,
written by James Marsters and drawn by Derlis Santacruz, will be available this summer, July 16, 2014.