by Jarrod Jones. The earth has cracked open in Sunnydale and the demons are running amok.
It’s Hellmouth, the first BOOM-bastic event from the creators of the Buffy and Angel comics series. For any tried-and-true Buffy fans, flipping through the pages of the first couple installments of Hellmouth is an exercise in faith. Not just faith in the steadfastness of our favorite vampire slayer or her vamp-trouncing colleagues, but faith that the future of these characters is in good hands during this, the BOOM! era of Buffy.
For Jeremy Lambert, co-writer of Hellmouth and an avowed Buffy fan, the responsibility of partnering with Jordie Bellaire and artists Eleonora Carlini and Cris Peter to tell the biggest Buffy story yet (since Season 7, anyway) is bringing out the feelings.
“Emotionally? I’m a complete mess,” Jeremy admits, the brave soul. “The world’s cracked open, it’s Season 7-level showdowns and everything is hitting at once. Starting in the thick of it, hitting 100mph and not slowing down… but keeping that emotional heartbeat throughout, that core of what Buffy and Angel are, has been the real north star for me.”
As we stand in the midst of hellfire, unwieldy vamps and smoldering Angel action (check the Jenny Frison cover below), DoomRocket had a chat with Jeremy Lambert about Hellmouth and the scale and energy that comes with the biggest BOOM! Studios event of the year.
1. With ‘Hellmouth’, you’re collectively pushing the ever-expanding BOOM! ‘Buffy’ line over the precipice into a full-blown event. This is Season 7-level stuff. As creators and fans of the ‘Buffy’ saga, where are you at emotionally with all this?
Jeremy Lambert: Emotionally? I’m a complete mess. And it’s all Jeanine [Schaefer, Executive Editor at BOOM! Studios] and Jordie’s fault. I got a call back in June and I’ve been the same ever since. Honestly, it’s been incredible to be brought into this world and see everything that’s in store for these characters. To see what’s being done by the teams on Angel and on Buffy. Bringing those together into Hellmouth alongside Jordie has been a dream and so much fun.
Like you said, the world’s cracked open, it’s Season 7-level showdowns and everything is hitting at once. Starting in the thick of it, hitting 100mph and not slowing down… but keeping that emotional heartbeat throughout, that core of what Buffy and Angel are, has been the real north star for me.
2. The Hellmouth casts a long shadow in the Buffyverse, with many nefarious types having already made various attempts to open the dread Sunnydale portal over the years. Considering what’s on the other side of it (and what we’ve seen pop out of it before), how will the ‘Hellmouth’ event address the lore surrounding this portal-pit?
I think there’s a unique approach to the Hellmouth here. There are a couple fun asides about where we’ve been before with the Hellmouth. But really, the approach has been… the Hellmouth is terrifying. And I don’t think the Hellmouth is necessarily the same for each person that enters it. A true level of fear and very personal and individual level of fears wait within. I think we address the lore that’s come before in really fun ways, and putting our own energy into hopefully creating an original addition to that lore has been a real treat.
3. An event book means upping the ante in terms of scale and energy. But you’re not only scripting this Californian apocalypse, you’re keeping the entire fracas in lock-step with the ‘Buffy’ & ‘Angel’ issues that both precede and tie in with ‘Hellmouth’. How have you gone about coordinating this event? Have there been any unwieldy moments?
I’m sure Jeanine’s going to have one hell of an answer to this one! For me, it’s been an immense amount of fun to keep re-reading the Buffy and Angel arcs and weaving everything together that we’ve been planning. I think it’s one massive puzzle. For sure there have been unwieldy moments, for me, at least. And I’m sure much more so for Jeanine and Jordie. And sometimes you have to write 10 pages to realize you have to erase those 10 pages and do it differently and you don’t even care because of how excited you are that you can bring something into the fold in a new, better, and exciting way and that’s all part of the process. I love it very much.
I also do suffer from a great deal of guilt because I’m sort of coming in like a wrecking ball on this one and then abandoning Jordie and Bryan [Edward Hill], two writers whom I absolutely adore and look up to, to one hell of a mess. A hopefully cohesive, affecting, emotional mess, but a mess that characters will need to clean up nonetheless.
4. ‘Hellmouth’ marks the first time Buffy and Angel meet each other in the “reVamped” version of the ‘Buffy’ saga. How have you dealt with the knowledge that you’ll be among those responsible for this moment? How have you prepared for it, and how do you think fans of the franchise will react to it?
“ReVamped!” Nice! Well, speaking honestly, I’ve had to push that out of my brain as much as possible. And tell as good of a story that I possibly can with my co-writer and dear friend Jordie. I’m just such a massive fan of both shows, they mean the absolute world to me. It’s Buffy, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Gotrek & Felix for me. Those are the stories that are locked in an endless battle for my holy trinity. I certainly hope fans react to this well.
You know, in other interviews I’ve said that I hope everyone is quite shocked with where we go and drop the book in surprise and all that. And it’s true, I really do think we’re doing some very fun and surprising things here. But more importantly, I want to stay true to the essence of what Buffy and Angel are to me and us as a team. And to me that is, just like most of my absolute favorite stories, a middle finger to cynicism. There is so much respect and reverence for emotional honesty, teenage emotions, here… these absolutely inherently valid altars to who we were and who we are in the face of things that try to change us and threaten us and people we love. And a refusal to dismiss those feelings, or belittle them. Change and hope and the power of friendship. The family you choose. And I just hope that comes across, even in a book that’s described as a big book, an event book that’s meant to bring so many elements into one. I hope that north star comes across. That was a lot, I’m sorry, but I really do.
5. There’s a two-page spread in ‘Hellmouth’ #1 that made my jaw widen in awe of the sheer insanity of it all. Jeremy, how are you adapting to the scope of this event? How do you reconcile that scope with the patented emotion-driven character moments we’ve come to expect from ‘Buffy’?
So happy to hear that! I think that’s the big challenge with a book of this scope, while having it retain the core of emotion-driven characters and that heartbeat throughout. And with the guidance of Jeanine, we’ve really been trying to push the boundaries of what an event book can do, and what the expectations of a book like this might be. Much of that is with the enormous assistance of Eleonora Carlini, and of course Jordie. And what we’ve done is view the massive scope, and whirlwind of elements that come with something of this magnitude, all through the lens of our major characters and their current emotional states. Being a bit more subjective with each character as we glimpse the Hellmouth from their perspective and sometimes even through their eyes. Make everything more personal and cohesive and then grow from there if it works. On this DPS for example, it works in I think three major ways. One, it spatially grounds you, showing you where we are, where these things are taking place, and the scope of what’s happening. Two, it reveals that the Hellmouth is fully activated and already wreaking havoc on Sunnydale… normalcy’s armor being cracked and torn open. And finally, it’s a warning… a precursor, the smallest glimpse of what will happen if Buffy and Angel fail. So it hopefully does indeed have that wow factor, but it’s all tied to the emotional narrative at its core.
7. Your all-time favorite ‘Buffy’ episode, please, and tell us why you love it so.
This is tough! I typically say “Hush”. It’s an elemental fairy tale of a take that encapsulates so much of what Buffy means, all without words for the majority of it. And the Gentlemen are such incredible villains, of course. But I re-watch so many episodes because I love so many. A myriad of different approaches, especially over 7 seasons. It’s hard to argue with the power of “Surprise” and “Innocence”. Those are the episodes that knocked me on my ass and really let me know that I was watching something that was going to change my life. Giles speech at the end of “Lie to Me” had a similar effect. “The Body”, too. Which I know is Jordie’s all-time favorite.
‘Hellmouth’ #1 & #2 are in stores now. Issue #3 drops December 11. (FOC is November 18. Diamond Code: OCT191397)
Check out this unlettered 4-page preview of ‘Hellmouth’ #2, including a variant cover by Goñi Montes, courtesy of BOOM! Studios!
More comics interviews to get those synapses firing…