WonderCon: Zack Whedon, Christos Gage on ‘Serenity,’ ‘Buffy’ comics
The story in "Serenity: Leaves on the Wind" picks up nine months after the events in the film. Cover for No. 1 by Dan Dos Santos. The fourth issue in the series is due for release April 30. And, yes, Mal and Inara are together. (Dark Horse)Link
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10" No. 2 is due out Wednesday. This variant cover is by series artist Rebekah Isaacs. (Dark Horse)Link
A look at Georges Jeanty's art in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8" No. 33, from 2010. (Dark Horse)Link
Before the “Dark Horse: Whedonversity” panel got started, there was an impromptu singalong among fans in line. A man with a guitar and a female singer performed the theme song from “Firefly,” and then fellow Browncoats joined in the singing of “The Hero of Canton,” the mistaken celebration of the man they call Jayne.
Fans’ fervor for the short-lived Joss Whedon sci-fi western series, its follow-up “Serenity” film and the “Avengers” director’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” TV show endures, and in the pages of official canonical further seasons in Dark Horse comics, the characters’ adventures continue.
Zack Whedon, who is writing the six-issue “Serenity: Leaves on the Wind,” which is set nine months after the events of the 2005 film, that series’ artist Georges Jeanty and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10” writer Christos Gage talked with the crowded room, mostly answering fan questions about their current series, “shipping” and more in a panel moderated by Nerdist’s Brian Walton. (And Dark Horse’s Aub Driver announced that an original graphic novel starring the “Buffy” vampire Spike, written by James Marsters, will come out July 16.)
“Season 10” is Buffy’s third season in comics, and in preparing for it Gage noticed something about the vampire slayer and her gang: “The core scoobies haven’t really been together for a full season since Season 6 of the show … so it was really exciting that we’re going to be bringing them all back together now.”
But things aren’t quite the same. The characters are no longer in high school, and Buffy’s older Watcher, Giles, is now stuck in the body of his 12-year-old self (Joss Whedon’s suggestion, Gage pointed out).
The writer added that Nicholas Brendon, who played Buffy’s clever geeky pal Xander on the show and is co-writing a few issues with him, offers more than insight into his old character. In addition to the actor’s perspective on how when, say, a character might repeat a word, he’s also contributed major plot elements — and insisted that Giles have the sort of “raging” unexpected and embarrassing problems adolescent boys have.
“We’re having a lot of fun with all of that,” Gage said to laughs.
Jeanty, who penciled much of two seasons of “Buffy” before starting work on the new “Serenity” miniseries, said of drawing Xander, “He can be very neurotic and very jumpy, and he speaks with his hands a lot and things like that, so I tried to incorporate that in the artwork. Obviously, I’m working with just a static image, but within that, I try to illustrate how that character was in their TV persona.”
“Serenity: Leaves on the Wind” is three issues in, with three to go, and where Buffy Summers’ team is back together, Mal Reynolds’ is divided.
“Part of the ‘Serenity’ idea was to break them apart and bring them back together,” Zack Whedon said, “and to have some of those fractures occur off-screen … and to have the readers playing catch-up a little bit, but then to have the events of the comics break them apart and watch them struggle to come back together.”
As for further “Serenity” comics, Whedon said he hoped another writer would pick it up after him, and that the closing issue of “Leaves on the Wind” will “tee a lot of things up” for possible future stories.
Before turning things over to the audience Q&A, Walton asked the panelists about fans who have their own strong ideas about what becomes of characters after shows end.
“The biggest disappointment is that Spike and Angel aren’t gay lovers,” Jeanty said of the “Buffy” vampires, citing fan fiction, to laughs.
Gage said he didn’t know what “shipping” — fervent fan belief that characters should be in a romantic relationship — was until he started writing the “Buffy” spinoff “Angel & Faith.” “And then I got to explain it to Nicky Brendon, who didn’t know what shipping was. And even better, I got to explain to him that there’s an entire Xander-Spike shipping action going on.”
When Whedon said he didn’t know what it was, Gage explained and mentioned the Buffy-Spike advocates (Spuffies) and Buffy-Angel stalwarts (Bangels), comparing the passions to the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry.
Speaking of shipping, a fan thanked Whedon for finally bringing together Mal and Inara (to much applause), who had a tempestuous flirtation on the show.
“I was a little tired of the will-they-or-won’t-they,” Whedon said. “I was like, ‘They will, and they have, and now you get to watch it.”
In the “Season 10” series, Xander is in a relationship with Buffy’s sort-of-it’s-complicated sister, Dawn. She’s been a divisive character among fans since her late introduction on the show (one fan asked Gage if he would reveal that she’d been a demon all along). “I root for them as a couple,” Gage said. “That doesn’t mean I’m not going to do terrible things to them as a couple.” And Jeanty told the anti-Dawn crowd to “give her a chance,” as she’s matured over the comic seasons.
Responding to a fan request for swearing in Chinese — a staple of “Firefly” — in “Serenity: Leaves on the Wind,” Whedon said, “When it’s spoken in the show, it works. But on the page, to me, it just felt like an interruption in the dialogue.”
Also, answering a question about fan criticisms, he said that some not-so-positive reactions to the previous “Firefly”-universe comics project he did, the 2010 graphic novel “The Shepherd’s Tale,” about actor Ron Glass’ character, resonated, and were part of the reason he wanted to do “Leaves on the Wind” — “to give the fans something substantial … that would be satisfying to them.”
Despite those earlier reviews, Whedon was in for an unexpected compliment at the panel: One audience member asked how it feels to be the Whedon brother with the best-looking hair.
“Joss was obviously disqualified from the competition,” Whedon joked. “Jed would take issue with that. But thank you very much. It feels real good.”
Talking about the pressures of continuing such beloved screen creations as comics, Gage, who also does work on Spider-titles at Marvel, said, “If I write a bad Spider-Man story, I’m not going to ruin Spider-Man. Spider-Man’s been around for 50 years. Batman’s been around for 75 years. But if I write a bad Buffy or Angel story that’s in canon, I really feel like I’ll be doing something very bad. It’s not going to ruin the character or the story lines, but there’s less of it and it means a lot. I know what it means to people. I know what it means to me. So I work very hard to try and get it right.”
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