Welcome to Monster Popcorn’s 100th post!! I’m incredibly excited to have made it this far and wanted to do something a little special in honor of this milestone. I racked my brain for various ideas and finally landed on one that I would be really excited to do. Fortunately, my idea came to fruition and I was able to chat with Angel & Faith comic book artist Rebekah Isaacs last night! I wanted to find out information about her work on Angel & Faith but also what makes her tick as a geek herself. She was gracious enough to lend me some of her time and talk about the comic, her process, as well as the movies, TV shows, comics and video games that she enjoys! I had a blast talking with her and really hope you enjoy our conversation as well. And don’t forget, if you haven’t done so yet, follow me on Twitter @monsterpopcorn or head over to the facebook page and “like” it to get more updates and news or if you just want to discuss movies, tv or comics!
For the uninitiated, Rebekah Isaacs is a very talented comics illustrator that has worked on such titles as The Twilight Zone, Hack/Slash, Drafted, Sheena, Ms. Marvel, Captain America & Falcon and DMZ. She’s worked with Brian Wood on the DV8: Gods and Monsters miniseries and is a co-creator of Magus from 12 Gauge Comics with Jon Price. She now works under Scott Allie and Joss Whedon on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 9: Angel & Faith, with Christos Gage doing the script work.
Rebekah Isaacs: Hi Ben!
Monster Popcorn: Hello Rebekah! How’s your night going?
RI: Not bad, how’s yours?
MP: It’s going well. I actually just got done reading the first four parts of DV8 and now I’m talking to the artist, so I’m doing quite well!
RI: Hah, awesome!
MP: Thank you for taking the time to chat with me.
RI: Of course. I hope you’re enjoying DV8.. are you reading the trade?
MP: Yes, I picked up the trade last night at my comic shop. I am enjoying it actually, so far it’s pretty interesting and I want to find out why and how the characters got to where they are. So I had read you moved to Orlando. Are you all settled in now?
RI: Phew, yeah, FINALLY. We had to get rid of almost everything because you basically have to make a blood offering to leave NY so it took a while.
RI: But i’ve got a really nice set-up here, which is great. My studio was so ghetto in NYC.
MP: Well I’m glad you are able to have a nicer set up now. I’m sure that makes for better working conditions.
RI: Definitely. But on the downside (for Dark Horse at least) I have more money for .. duhn duhn duhn… VIDEO GAMES.
MP: Haha.. so was the move the main reason as to Phil Noto doing the fill in issue on Angel & Faith #5?
RI: No, just general catch-up on the whole team’s part… I think we got started on the book a little later than they would’ve liked. It’s inevitable.
MP: I imagine so.. about how long does it take for you to complete an issue?
RI: 5 weeks. 2.5 weeks for pencils and 2.5 for inks.
MP: Oh ok, cool, I wasn’t sure if you were still doing inks or not. What issue are you currently drawing right now?
RI: Haha yeah, if you noticed a change in quality it’s only me to blame. I had a few hiccups with some of my preferred tools on the more recent issues but I think I’ve figured them out now but I’m finishing up #9 this week.
MP: I think you’ve done a great job, I’m continually impressed with your work.
RI: Thanks, I really appreciate that! I’m actually inking Drusilla clawing Faith right now. Catfight!!
MP: Haha.. yes! That sounds awesome! I know that in the upcoming issues, or at least in #6, we get to see a younger Giles. Did you have any difficulty drawing the likeness of a younger Anthony Stewart Head?
RI: Giles was hands down the easiest likeness for me… I don’t know why though! I think he must have similar features to the “default” way I draw faces and when i think about it, the shape of his nose is kind of similar to mine (my default faces look a bit like me, for better or worse).
MP: I saw some of the preview pages and I think you got it down quite well. Who is/was the hardest to draw?
RI: Faith was hell for the first month or two. I had a tendency to make her too dainty and pretty in a light way. She has a darkness to her expressions that I wasn’t quite grasping.
MP: That actually is a great segue for me.. One of the things I like about your work is how well the likenesses come through without ever feeling like you are being a slave to the original actor. It allows for your style to breathe but satisfies the die-hard fans. Part of that is not just facial similarity but expressions and body language.. is that something you pay attention to a lot?
RI: Yeah, expressions are something I really try to capture, because every person emotes differently. In DV8, for example, i could get away with using my own acting as reference for the characters’ expressions but I couldn’t get away with that in a book based on live-action characters. Faith expresses anger in a different way than I would and in a different way than Angel would. It was just a matter of studying stills.
MP: Exactly, and that is something I really picked up on. I felt like I was being given an impression of the character in all aspects, which helps a lot with trying to feel like it is a continuation of something that was previously live action.
RI: Thanks, I’m really happy that readers are picking up on that!
MP: I also really enjoy the way you handle action. I liked Phil Noto’s work in issue #5 but felt like the action wasn’t as dynamic as it’s been with your issues. Each panel you draw is essentially a still frame but I definitely get a sense of motion from your work and, in my cinematic brain, I can see it play out in between the panels. I was wondering how you approach drawing action?
RI: Haha, I wish I had a better, more academic answer for this question but I don’t really think about what I’m doing with action scenes, it just kinda happens. The two things that I usually am conscious of is drawing the eye to the lower-right corner of each panel, which increases the reading speed and therefore creates the illusion of a quicker pace, and the inclusion of clothing or hairstyles or props that can move easily with the action. Wait… so I guess I do kinda think about it, but not to the degree that some other artists seem to. And it’s weird, because action used to be one of my weakest points but I wanted to be good at it so I kept forcing projects that featured a lot of action on myself.
MP: Well it appears to have worked! I’d say the action is definitely one of your strong points in Angel & Faith, that and conveying emotion.
MP: Are you given a lot of liberty with Christos’ scripts as far as design and page layout? Is he very specific in his descriptions or does he give you a lot of room to work within?
RI: No, I’m really not given any guidelines for layout… which may be a good or bad thing because that’s one thing I’m often criticized on; my plain jane panel layouts. But I was always taught in school to not mess around with fancy panel designs until you’ve got everything else on the page down pat… and I’ve got at least a few more years to go before I’ll feel like an expert! I’m also a big admirer of what Dave Gibbons was able to do in Watchmen with such amazingly simple layouts. That was one of the first American comics I read and I will always hold it in high regard. If it’s good enough for Watchmen, it’s good enough for me!
MP: Yea, Gibbons work was simple but highly effective. So who are your influences? What made you want to go into comics as an artist?
RI: Well, besides a handful of Barbie comics as a child, my first forays in comics reading were in manga, so I started out with a very manga-influenced style.
MP: I never latched onto Barbie haha.
RI: Hahaha you missed out on so much great fashion advice!
MP: I know! I could have been a better dresser!
RI: When I started reading American comics in college, I became obsessed with Steve McNiven and Josh Middleton.
MP: Yea, McNiven’s work is just pure joy to look at. So what are you reading now that excites you?
RI: Unfortunately I don’t get much time to read comics these days but I’m so freakin’ obsessed with Locke & Key, it’s driving me nuts. I’ll be honest, I never really read a comic monthly for a long period of time until I discovered Locke &Key. I mostly just read the first one or two issues and then trade-waited. Having gotten in so deep with this series now, though, waiting and waiting and waiting for each issue to come out, I don’t know how people do this!! It’s excruciating!
MP: It is excruciating, I personally like to read it all at once but with both Buffy and Angel & Faith, it’s a necessity for me to read every month!
RI: Yeah, i feel for ya. With a few of these issues I’ve finished drawing I’ve thought, ‘Man, if I didn’t know what was coming next I’d be tearing my hair out right now.’
MP: Haha.. I’ve not read Locke & Key but have been toying with buying some of the trades. I love the horror genre and I’ve been wanting to read a good horror comic.
RI: Oh, it’s amazing. it was so completely invigorating for me, finally picking up that book. As cheesy as it sounds, I feel like it gave me new purpose as an artist and just a storyteller in general.
MP: That’s how I felt about Buffy as a show. It came to me at a time where I needed a pick me up and it showed how much someone like Joss Whedon (and staff) can affect you and really invigorate you as a person.
RI: Yes, definitely.
MP: I’m sure you get asked this a lot, but do you have a favorite episode/character from Angel (and/or Buffy)?
RI: Character would be Giles (so lucky that I get to draw him, but so unlucky in that I’m the first one to draw him in flashbacks only!) Episodes… I love episodes that make me cry. I’m pretty cynical when it comes to entertainment and if a show/movie/book makes me cry, I have deepest respect for those writers.
MP: Haha.. I’m the same way. My favorite episode, at least from Angel, is A Hole In the World.. it’s so sad but so fricking good!
RI: Oh yeah, A Hole In the World is a knife to the heart! So The Body in Buffy, and the one where you find out that Cordy has died in her coma is one of my Angel faves (I can never remember the name!). Remember Me? I think is the name?
MP: Yea, that could be it. (Editor’s note: The episode is You’re Welcome) The Body is really good, definitely one of my top episodes in Buffy. A Hole In The World made me so happy at the beginning of the episode and then I was crying at the end. I was like “damn you Joss Whedon” but I love it!
RI: That’s one of my favorite things about Joss. He cares enough about the characters to take huge, huge risks with them, which sounds weird when the risk may be to kill them off, but if everything always went well for them and they always managed to get out of the jam at the last moment unscathed, they’d never grow or change and we’d never really realize how much they mean to us.
MP: Yea, that’s is one of the reasons why I like Whedon’s work. There is such great impact. I like that he takes those risks even if it might piss people off. It’s something I respect incredibly and it makes every character feel like they could be in danger. It keeps you on your toes. What other tv series are you a fan of?
RI: Oh TV… what am I not watching. My favorite show at the moment is Breaking Bad.
MP: I haven’t seen that yet! I own 3 seasons of it though!
RI: Wow, get on it! You will hate everyone who ever recommended it to you, though, because you will literally not be able to stop watching it.
MP: It’s probably going to be my next show to watch. I’m currently watching Rome.
RI: Oh, i haven’t tried Rome actually. How is it?
MP: It’s not bad so far.. I’m still on the first season but it’s something I didn’t think would capture my interest but it’s definitely holding it. It’s intriguing thus far, I’m curious to see how it all plays out.
RI: Hmm… i’ll have to check it out.
MP: Have you seen Homeland?
RI: No, it sounds awesome though!
MP: Holy crap, it is awesome. It may just be my favorite show currently. It’s so gripping and you just get sucked in!
RI: I love shows like that, the ones that destroy your life!!
MP: I know.. you lose sleep over it but you are like, it’s worth it haha.
RI: I really love Dexter and Battlestar Galactica and Veronica Mars too but a lot of my favorite shows are comedies.
MP: I love Dexter, BSG and Veronica Mars as well. I think I’ve seen BSG and Veronica Mars twice all the way through. I miss Veronica Mars.
RI: I know… what a bummer. I keep hoping that Scott* will push for a comics series. He’s a big fan too.
MP: I’ll have to harass him on Twitter with a Veronica Mars campaign!
RI: Please do! Honestly, though, I’m trying to cut down on my TV time to make more time for video games, though! Which sounds like a pretty backward plan but barring Star Wars, they were my first nerdy passion and I think a big part of why I wanted to tell stories in a visual medium. They inspired me a lot but I’m really behind on my titles so I’m trying to get back into playing them more as a kind of career research!
MP: Do you think you’d like to work in the video game industry in some capacity?
RI: As a part-time thing someday perhaps, but I also really love the independence and control that working as a comics illustrator gives you.
MP: What kind of video games do you like to play? What console(s) do you have?
RI: Mostly RPGs. We have PS2, Wii, XBox360 and I just got a DS which is amazing because almost every jRPG developer moved to that system when it because too costly to make their games on the next-gen consoles.
MP: Have you played what is apparently the greatest game to ever exist, Skyrim?
RI: I haven’t played Skyrim… I’m gonna have to give it a try but I just couldn’t get in to some of Bethesda’s other RPGs. I’m more into the Japanese model which emphasizes story and characters over combat. Not that one is better than the either, it’s just a personal preference. Are you playing it?
MP: I haven’t played Skyrim myself but everyone talks so highly of it. I’m about to embark on Batman: Arkham City.
RI: Oh man, now that looks badass! I can’t wait to play it.
MP: It really does! I just got done with Arkham Asylum before Christmas and it was a really fun game and I hear that Arkham City is just so much more!
RI: One thing that does get me excited is that there are starting to be some comics tie-ins with video game franchises that are actually pretty good. I think that’s gonna be a big thing soon, because games are becoming so immersive but they’ll always be a bit limited in their ability to tell a really long-form story.
MP: I dream of a Buffy or Angel game that doesn’t suck. I don’t hold out high hopes for it, but that would be a dream game for me if done well.
RI: Oh man, that would be amazing. I’d like to see the budget that would’ve been for that awful movie reboot** go to that!
MP: Exactly! I’m glad that failed. What are some of your favorite movies? Being that I’m a huge movie buff, I must know haha.
RI: Empire Strikes Back is my favorite, hands down. Labyrinth is way up there but it loses points because it’s got some pretty serious flaws despite having David Bowie’s package at its disposal.
RI: But it got me through some rough times in my adolescence so it’ll always get high marks from me. Blade Runner and The Game are another two I could watch on loop.
MP: I’m a big fan of David Fincher.
RI: Yeah, he’s amazing. The Game is kind of a random one on a Top 10 list, I guess, but it was randomly playing in the background at my sister’s house when we went to visit and I remember being so creeped out just by the lighting… it was the first time that I really saw cinematography as a separate art form, and understood how much changing the visual mood could affect the story. I was 15 maybe, though, so at the time I was just creeped the hell out.
MP: Yea, I know that for some The Game is one of their lesser favorites of Fincher, but I really dig it. It really is such a great visual mood kind of movie. But then again, he’s so well known for his excellent cinematography in his films. Seven is another one where the cinematography just oozed with so much atmosphere that it really affected you on some level.
RI: Yeah, I guess it depends a lot on which one you see first.
MP: Did you have any favorite movies that were released in 2011?
RI: Oh man, haha, I don’t even remember what I did last year! Rise of the Planet of the Apes was so amazing though. How could I forget that one.
MP: Oh I loved that.. Andy Serkis as Caesar may be my favorite performance of the year. The guy is crazy talented.
RI: Yeah, I’m sure he must’ve seemed like a madman before he made it big, but having absolutely zero inhibitions as an actor has paid off now!
MP: Exactly! Well, if you haven’t seen them, I’d recommend seeing Midnight in Paris, Beginners and The Muppets (which literally had me smiling as I walked out of the theater).
RI: Thanks, I was really on the fence about whether to see The Muppets, and I don’t know anyone who’s seen it. I’ll definitely see it now.
MP: It’s just a really great feel good movie.
RI: Let’s see if it can crack my heart of stone 🙂
MP: Haha.. it worked on me, so there’s a good chance! So to wrap up, do you have any projects you might be working on alongside or in between Angel & Faith? Do you have intentions of going to Comic Con?
RI: My side project is sleeping for probably the next year, but I will be going to several cons this year, just not Comic Con. I’ll be hitting up MegaCon, WonderCon, Denver ComicCon, and Boston ComicCon for sure, possibly others. It’s gonna be a nutso year. You’re going to SDCC, I assume? I just can’t do that show, it’s too much.
MP: I’m going as long as I can get a ticket. But yea, the show is overwhelming but I love it. I love being around all the geeky people. It feels like home. Well, hopefully I will get the chance to attend a convention that you will be at and stop by your booth to see how things are going.
RI: I hope so too! It would be great to chat in person!
MP: Yes it would! I really do appreciate you sitting down to talk with me. It means a lot and I’m looking forward to posting my 100th post!
RI: No problem at all! I enjoyed it! And congrats on your 100th post! I hope you continue to enjoy Angel & Faith, and maybe we’ll get to meet in real-life sometime this year!
MP: Thank you! If you keep up the incredible work, I will no doubt continue to enjoy it (just make sure that Gage guy keeps up his end too! haha).
RI: You got it! Take care and have a great night!
MP: You too! Have a great night!*Scott Allie, editor of Dark Horse comics **A movie reboot of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was being pursued without Whedon’s involvement but has ceased development currently.
So there you have it, my conversation with Rebekah Isaacs! I probably could have split it up into a couple posts but seeing as how this is the 100th post, I wanted to encapsulate the entirety here! Below I’ve provided some examples of her work on Angel & Faith which you can find more of at her site http://rebekahisaacs.com/. You can also follow her on twitter at @rebekahisaacs. If you like her artwork, head over to Cadence Comic Art where you can buy original pages of her work!
by Ben McBride