Joss Whedon isn’t very good at good-byes. When his Buffy the Vampire screenplay was made into a movie in 1992, that would have been enough for most. But Whedon ended up bringing Buffy back in 1997 as a television show—again, most people would have been satisfied with that. But as the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 comic book indicates, Whedon couldn’t let go just yet.
All that goes double for Serenity. The sci-fi western about a group of rogue space travelers started out in 2002 as a TV series called Firefly, but it was canceled after only 11 episodes. Whedon then managed the impressive task of bringing the property back to life as a feature film called Serenity.
And he’s not done with it yet. In November Dark Horse is releasing a hardcover collection of the Serenity: Those Left Behind miniseries he co-wrote in 2005, and he’s already got another miniseries in the works for early 2008. As he explains in the following interview, there’s something about Serenity that makes it harder for him to let go, harder than even Buffy—which means no riding off into the sunset for the Serenity crew anytime soon.
PW Comics Week: So Buffy has this attractive blonde female and a popular genre as a framing device. What is Serenity’s appeal?
Joss Whedon: Ultimately, anything with spaceships and a compelling cast of funny, pretty people is pretty much something a certain section of people are going to tune into. It was definitely not as pop-simple as Buffy. Buffy the Vampire Slayer tells you the joke in the title; Serenity is something you have to reach out to—which is one of the reasons why Fox killed it with an ax (or I should say [killed] Firefly). But it’s kind of actually a fairly timeworn formula in the sense of mixing genres we understand—the western in this particular case with sci-fi trappings—perhaps a little more overtly than other people have, but pretty much to the same effect. It’s “How can we tell the kind of stories we love in the genre we’re comfortable in, we’re excited by?”
PWCW: How much do you credit the success of Serenity with your fan following?
JW: I think I have to credit all of it to the fan following. Fans obviously have gone a lot further than just seeing the movie, they’ve kept it alive—they even kept it in theaters with their charity screenings; they’ve made it mean something with the charity work they’ve done; they’ve created a community. The comic book has been a big deal for Dark Horse, that’s why we’re working on another one right now, and also because we thought of another good story to tell. [The fans] had a lot to do with it getting from TV to movies—[they] can’t be overestimated in this particular instance.
PWCW: What’s it like taking something from screen to comics?
JW: It’s complicated, with Serenity particularly. It’s easy with Buffy in a way because again it’s a pop idea, it could have been a comic book before it was a movie. Serenity doesn’t really lend itself to that in the same way. You can tell fun, compelling stories about it, but you have sort of an ensemble drama that you’re making into a comic book, so you have to find stories that are gonna move in a different rhythm than Buffy stories.
With Serenity and Firefly, you couldn’t do a regular monthly comic the way you can with Buffy because their life isn't [event after event] in the same way. I know that’s strange because we did do a TV show that was not monthly but weekly, but it lends itself to these stories that we tell in a few issues that we really think out beforehand.
Whereas Buffy, maybe because it was on for so many years, already has its own "Marvel universe" attached to it, with hundreds of ancillary characters and situations, so it’s easier to build that kind of story. With Serenity, you want it to feel more like a novel than a straight-up superhero comic.
PWCW: Can you tell me anything about the plot of the second miniseries?
JW: The second one basically involves the rather stunning concept of the gang trying to pull a heist that doesn’t go completely wrong. And what happens when things go right for them, how that’s not going to work at all.
PWCW: Does it have a title yet?
JW: Better Days. And that’s also a reference to the fact that it takes place before the movie and before certain people were iced.
PWCW: Are there more Serenity comics planned?
JW: Scott [Allie, Dark Horse editor] was definitely like, “Can we not wait three years in between comics next time?” I’m like, “I hear where you’re going with that.” It is definitely contingent on us having time and finding a particular story. With Buffy, I have an overarching story and I can do anything I want in that. Obviously, like I said before, Serenity doesn’t work that way, so it has to be right. It’s not simple. And the dialogue is very easy to get wrong. Luckily [co-writer Brett Matthews] worked on the show, so he really understands it, but it’s hard to make sure—you can’t take a wrong step with that or it won’t work. Hopefully, we’re not doing that with Buffy, either, but it’s a little more delicate.
The difference also with Serenity is I have more trouble letting it out of my hands. Buffy I ran as a show, and obviously Firefly had a writing staff, a great one, but, for example, with novels—they’re like, “[Let's do] Serenity novels!” The idea of somebody else writing a Serenity novel, I can’t handle. [But] there are 10 Buffy novels.
PWCW: Do you think that’s because you had more time with Buffy?
JW: I think so. If anybody wrote a Serenity novel right now, it would be the only thing apart from these comic books, which come out very rarely—that there is to say about Serenity. If something’s going to be said about Serenity, it’s going to be said by me. It’s too close to me still. It’s the child that never got to grow up and go to college.
|Joss Whedon’s SugarShock on DH Presents|
PWCW: And to just touch briefly on your contribution to the new Dark Horse Presents on MySpace, SugarShock—how has that experience been? We don’t see a lot of short, one-off things from you.
JW: I’ve done a few. I vaguely had the concept in my head for a while, and Scott said, “Hey, we’re doing Dark Horse Presents.” I write these things like manic episodes, which is exactly how they read. That’s not to say I don’t take time honing them, but they really do sort of happen fast. I just wanted to do something that was deeply silly, kind of indie, and would just let me play. Scott found me the staggeringly best artist—Fabio [Moon] just captures exactly what I had in mind and doubles it. It’s been just fun, just straight out, nothing but fun to do SugarShock.