Fans of the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" comic woke up to shocking news several weeks ago when the secret identity of Twilight, the villain of Season 8, was revealed by leaked solicits much sooner than either the fans or creators had anticipated.

(And if you have somehow managed to avoid the news until now, be warned that the following contains SPOILERS.)

Dark Horse Comics and Buffy creator Joss Whedon embraced the leak -- or as Whedon put it, "Let's just get in front of it. Let's get on top of a surfboard and ride it" -- while many fans felt cheated by the early reveal that Buffy's former one true love, the besouled vampire Angel, was behind the mask of her current foe.

We've got the debut of the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" #35 variant cover -- an homage to "Uncanny X-Men" #138 by regular "Buffy" artist Georges Jeanty. ComicsAlliance also spoke to Jeanty about his experiences during the recent furor, the even bigger questions that were raised by the reveal -- and why he regrets never seeing James Marsters play live to this day.

ComicsAlliance: How long have you known the truth about Twilight, and did that knowledge have any impact on your work, or the way you dealt with the character?

Georges Jeanty: [I've known] since the beginning. At the time I began drawing the comic I wasn't a Buffy fan by any means, and had never seen an episode of the show. I was aware of Buffy and Angel, of course, but more through pop culture than personal knowledge. While I was drawing Season 8 I became a rabid Buffy fan, but the Buffy/Angel reveal was always just something we were going to get to. It wasn't the focus, per se. We all knew it was going to happen, but there was so much in between stuff that it never seemed as big as it would become when we got closer to it in my mind.

CA: When did you first learn the news that Twilight's identity had been leaked? What was your reaction?

GJ: Like everyone. It was on Whedonesque. I thought something had changed and we were just going ahead and showing the covers for solicitations. It was surprising and unfortunate.

CA: Obviously, everyone knows now that Angel is Twilight, although we have seen Angel as a villain before in the Buffy universe. What makes this different?

GJ: Well that's the thing that actually might play in our favor. Die-hard Season 8 readers will notice some inconsistencies if Angel is indeed Twilight, not the least of which is he can fly. And he seemed stronger than Buffy for a while there. The reveal of his identity aside, that's only half the story. There is so much more that needs to be explained about Twilight because it is Angel.

CA: Some fans have responded very strongly to the news, particularly because it came in advance. How much do you think this reveal will alter the impact of the Twilight storyline, and Season 8 as a whole?

GJ: I don't think it will affect the flow of the story. Those who don't know wont get that sudden Joss [sic] of breath when they turn the page and see that it's Angel, true, but the events leading up to that will have sparked so many other questions that revealing Angel will look like just the beginning of what is sure to become an engaging and fascinating final act to Season 8. I feel bad for the writer, Brad Meltzer. He had a great little rabbit in a hat and it came out prematurely through no fault of his own. Long-time readers will not stop reading after Angel is revealed; there's still too much left to tie up.

CA: Some fans have also responded very strongly to the news simply because a beloved character has been turned into a villain. When the full story comes out, do you think that some of those concerns will be assuaged?

GJ: That's not a yes or no question. Buffy fans had to deal with Angelus, twice, so the fact that Angel is perceived as the bad guy in Season 8 wont come as a shock. Season 8, just like all the past seasons, continues to have these characters grow and evolve. If Season 8 had just done generic stories I think the some of the fans would have jumped ship a while ago. I think this season especially is one of growth far beyond what we've seen before. These characters are now represented as adults in extraordinary circumstances. By the end of Season 8 I think people are going to be demanding Season 9 because of where Season 8 is going to leave the Scoobys.

CA: Buffy is obviously a franchise that has a devoted fan base completely independent of the comic book medium. Has the experience of working with Joss, or interacting with the fans of the title been significantly different from your experiences on other books?

GJ: A resounding YES! I was totally unprepared for the Buffy fan base. Like I said, I was never into the series when it aired, so all those milestones like Buffy falling for Angel, or Joyce dying, or the musical episode, or Tara dying, or Buffy dying, or Buffy dying again, was all lost on me. I remember being at Dragon*Con one year and I was walking around and I saw this line waiting to get into the big hall that they have for the major events. I asked some of the people who were standing in line what were they waiting to see, they said James Marsters was performing with his band. And I thought, oh, a singer. Was he popular? Because I had never heard of him. I was told that he was the one who plays Spike on Buffy, but I was still drawing a blank. "The guy with blond hair." A faint recollection came over me. I walked away saying to my friend, boy, some of these fanboys will stand in line for anything. Little did I know that years later I would curse having missed that performance!

So, yeah, I don't think I've ever come across fans like Buffy fans, and I've had the great pleasure of meeting fans in several countries and they are all amazing! And they love to party. Go figure!

CA: In your work, do you ever use photo reference or look back at the show for inspiration, or do you envision the comics characters independently of that?

GJ: All the time! I have tons of pictures of all the characters and I'm practicing all the time. I try my hardest to get the faces right without having them look like they are taken directly from a photograph. I like to think I have stylized the characters to the point where they don't look photo real, but they have the flavor of the character they're supposed to resemble. I get a lot of criticism on this and everyone has an opinion on it. I am constantly drawing the character's heads. It takes me 30% more time to do a Buffy page than, say, a Gambit page, because of the likenesses. But how hard is my job when I get to sit around all day and draw Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alyson Hannigan or Michelle Trachtenberg?

CA: Joss recently revealed that there he has some plans in the works for Spike, as well. Is that something you're going to be involved with?

GJ: I would love to draw Spike! He was one of the great characters of the series and I'd love to get my hands on him!

CA: Any teases you can give us about exciting stuff that hasn't been "spoiled" in Season 8?

GJ: Now that we are coming to the final act it would be a shame to reveal anything because all of the events that have been moving Season 8 forward are going to come to a deffinate head. All I can say is keep reading. This ride isn't over yet and you wont believe how it ends!

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