SDCC Interview: Joss Whedon on “Shepherd’s Tale,” “Buffy: Season Eight” and “Angel: After the Fall”
Fan-favorite creator Joss Whedon is just about everywhere this weekend at San Diego Comic-Con, promoting his groundbreaking Internet series Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog [here’s my recent interview with Joss Whedon on Doctor Horrible] as well as his work on various comic book spin-offs from his popular TV series Firefly and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, among other television and film projects.
I had a chance to sit down with Whedon recently to discuss The Shepherd’s Tale, his upcoming miniseries featuring the enigmatic Derrial "Shepherd" Book, a character from Firefly whose origins remain one of the series most popular unresolved threads. We also spent some time chatting about the current comics based upon Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as well as his thoughts on bringing characters back from the dead.
COMICMIX: With The Shepherd’s Tale, why is Shepherd Book the first character from Firefly to get a solo story?
JOSS WHEDON: I’ve done a breakdown of the story. I think Jim Krueger is going to write the actual script. The biggest mystery of what we never got to tell is Shepherd’s backstory. Everybody knew there was something more than just being Shepherd in there. And poor Ron [Glass] came to me during the strike and said, "I’m going to another convention. You’ve got to give me something." It’s been a number of years and they always ask [about Shepherd]. I said, "You know what, it has been long enough and this isn’t something I’m going to save for the sequel that may never happen, so we’ll make a comic book out of it."
Because it’s an interesting story, really. It’s the single most-asked question: "What’s up with Book?" And now we’re going to answer that.
CMIX: Have you considered doing spin-offs for any of the other Serenity characters?
JW: I’m spending a lot of time with the Buffy comic and that series just lends itself to the medium very well. The Serenity comics are a bit harder to pull together, so I haven’t focused on them as much.
CMIX: Buffy and Fray have reunited in Buffy: Season Eight. Will we ever see Fray in her own title again?
JW: Considering that I’m struggling yet again to get my scripts in on time, I think my plan is to get my next script done. It’s a very rich area, and there’s a lot that can be done, but as executive producer of that I have to make sure that it all lives up to same kind of standards. And with Dollhouse and the Internet show and the movie I just sold, I’m a little overextended. [Laughs]
CMIX: After Buffy slept with another slayer [in Season Eight] who had feelings for her despite knowing she couldnt’ return those feelings, some fans have commented this seems strange because Buffy has had so many bad experiences with being used or using someone for sex (such as Spike). What do you say to that?
JW: It’s something she’s suffered from for a long time. Being a slayer and having sort of a bad run of it, she’s the sort of person who has trouble connecting with people. [Her encounter with the slayer] wasn’t abusive and twisted the way the Spike thing was, and actually it was quite sweet — but ever since Angel turned on her, she’s never really been the same.
But it isn’t just that. It’s also who she is, her relationship with her father and the fact of finding out she was a slayer when she was 15. She just feels a separateness from the people around her that she hasn’t been able to overcome.
CMIX: As the creator of the Angel character, how do you feel about him becoming a human in the IDW Angel: After the Fall comic series, and having the Shanshu prophecy signed away?
JW: When [series writer Brian Lynch] pitched that idea, it was always like, "He’s still Angel. He still has the accumulated experience. He’s still going to be out there fighting the fight."
He’s not one of those vampires who enjoys his immortality so much that he cares to protect it. He’ll lay his life down whether or not he has one.
CMIX: You’ve never been afraid to have a character exit a series for what seems to be a permanent basis, only to return again down the road. With the return of Lorne in the Angel comic series, I’d love to hear your thoughts on good reasons and bad reasons for bringing a character back into a story.
JW: The good reason is, you have an emotional hit. The bad reason is, you have a gimmick or that person was popular and people are grouchy. You can absolutely take back anything — except Gwen Stacy — as long as there’s an emotional buy-in, something you can do to twist a different knife in a different place. Then it’s worth it.
If it’s just because you’ve runout of other ideas, it’s not such a great idea.
Issue #11 of the IDW series Angel: After the Fall and issue #17 of Dark Horse Comics’ Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight are both scheduled for release in August 2008.