I went to Dark Horse Comics' Joss Whedon panel yesterday afternoon curious to hear what, if anything, he had to say about the making of "The Avengers." Instead, the superhero movie barely came up, but Whedon did add some more fodder to my pre-Comic-Con discussion about how certain series translate from one medium to another.
I lost interest in the Whedon-run "season 8" of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" that Dark Horse published, due to unevenness and lack of focus, but also because after a while the comic - in which Buffy leads an army of Slayers and has a series of globe-trotting adventures on a massive scale - bore little resemblance to the show I had enjoyed watching for seven seasons. As it turns out, Whedon agreed, and said he wouldn't make the same mistakes in the upcoming "season 9" series.
When a fan asked whether, had "Buffy" and "Angel" continued as TV shows, the stories would have been the same as in the spin-off comics, Whedon said, "There's no way you could have done, on TV, for the money we were being given.
"The point of season 8 to me was, 'Hey, it's comics, and we can do these things we can't do on television,' and it eventually became kind of an albatross," he explained. "People were more interested in her life than they were in the fact that we could draw bigger things... Having discovered that I can do it differently than the television show, I've discovered that I don't really want to."
In other spin-off comic news, Whedon and Dark Horse have now wrangled the rights to all the various "Buffy" and "Angel"-verse characters, so fans should expect some stragglers like Illyria to finally turn up in the comics.
But more interestingly - especially if "Firefly" happens to be your favorite Whedon project (as it clearly was to many people in the Indigo Ballroom) - when a fan asked if he'd be telling the backstory of more "Firefly" characters in comics, Whedon said that "We now have license to not only tell backstory but move forward with these characters, too. It would be interesting to know what happens next."
The idea of Whedon bringing properties from one medium to another kept coming up. A fan asked if he would ever try to bring Buffy to Broadway, and he said, "Yeah, I think she belongs there - in the theater opposite where 'Dr. Horrible' is."
As for "Dr. Horrible" itself, he said he and the other members of his family who helped create the original - brothers Jed and Zack and sister-in-law Maurissa Tancharoen - are hard at work on a sequel. (Though when Joss, Neil Patrick Harris, etc., will have the time to do it is anyone's guess.)
"I've worked on a number of songs," he said. "I got a demo from Jed and Maurissa that Zack pitched and they wrote, and just like they did when we did the first one, I said, 'I would respectfully like to withdraw my songs, because it's so good.'"
(The character will also continue to live on in comics written by Zack.)
In discussing the time and money spent trying to put together a "Buffy" animated series, Whedon said, "It still baffles me to this day. I'm also still waiting for someone to tell me it's time to make that Serenity sequel." Cue massive applause, followed by Whedon saying, "But they won't. Sorry, that much love, I had to destroy it."
As for "Avengers," though Whedon himself brought it up briefly in a discussion of his penchant for stories about empowered young women - "The only trouble I've had with Avengers is, 'Where is the 14-year-old girl with superpowers? Very confused! Is it you, Robert Downey Jr.?' It's probably Clark Gregg." - the only question about it came nearly 45 minutes into the panel, about how challenging Whedon found it to work with actors and characters who had already been introduced cinematically by other writers and directors.
"It's not that different," he explained. "You come to a relationship with an actor that you build on the set and in pre-production. You take what parameters you have. Something like 'The Avengers,' there's an enormous number of parameters: visual styles, people who've played the characters, people who haven't, all the reconciling that goes on. There are so many concerns, but at the end of the day, as soon as there's been an episode of a TV show, you're already in that world of 'How do I resolve with what I already have?' There will be parameters based on 'Who's my audience? What can I get away with? How long do I have to tell the story?'
"With 'The Avengers,' it actually hasn't been as hard as I thought it'd be. What I find is these characters mesh through their differences really well. And these actors are having a great time playing against each other. They are, as a troupe, actually a much better team than the Avengers are."