The Dark Horse: Joss Whedon panel at San Diego’s Comic-Con International began as Dark Horse editor Scott Allie told the assembled audience that there will be a Willow miniseries and Spike miniseries coming out from Dark Horse soon, as well as an Angel and Faith series focusing on trying to resurrect Giles. Allie also mentioned they are working on new “Firefly” comics, no release date as of yet.
The man of the hour, Joss Whedon, then entered the Ballroom 20 stage to thunderous audience applause. Wearing a “Much Ado About Nothing” shirt, he told the laughing audience, “It’s been an interesting year.”
He also announced that two days ago they just finished post-production on “Much Ado About Nothing.”
“We are submitting it to some festivals and hopefully someone will be submitting it to theatres…if not, iTunes,” Whedon said, adding, “I wrote the score, so it’s my first film score and if it’s terrible then, well, it was my first. Leave me alone.”
He then announced his next project, “Dr. Horrible 2,” to more cheers from the audience, joking, “We’re going to do three prequels, but they’re going to suck!”
“We have a bunch of songs, we know exactly where we’re going…and some of the actors are in it are very successful,” the writer/director added.
Whedon also said he is going straight from Comic-Con to London to meet with Warren Ellis about another project.
He then opened the floor to audience questions, promising to answer some questions in mime.
“What’s it like to work at Fox?” Whedon said, then mimed being stuck in a box as the audience laughed.
The first fan to the microphone wanted to know if Whedon was going to physically write the Dark Horse Buffy “Season Nine” or a possible “Season 10.” Thanking writer “Season Nine” writer Andrew Chambliss and praising his work, Whedon said he was most involved in the big picture stuff, outlining where the story and characters were going to go.
“When I can I love to write it…but in the main I am very grateful now I have this extraordinary stable of people I can trust,” Whedon said.
The next fan wanted to know what Whedon’s twist to a story about a zombie apocalypse would be, other than killing off “our favorite characters.”
“That wasn’t long,” Whedon said of the reference to killing characters as the audience laughed.
He then said his unique twist is that most fiction assumes we know where the zombies are coming from, “So I feel like you look at the Rage zombies and that’s fine…but I’m interested in our best intentions, and how that turns into a zombie apocalypse,” Whedon said, giving an example of a zombie apocalypse where a cure exists.
“They’ve become fodder, you can mow them down and it’s OK. In the 80s, it was foreigners,” Whedon joked, adding he wanted to investigate, “Not taking the easy way out,” with zombies.
A fan wanted to know if Whedon would consider going back to TV. “I love television!” Whedon said, adding that he would love to go back to TV writing, but had no plans as of right now.
The writer joked to another fan who asked if Whedon would do a fan art gallery show, “But how would I make money?”
“This is all about me…I think I invented television and I’m enormously handsome,” Whedon joked again as the audience cracked up.
The next fan to the microphone wanted to know if there were any properties he wanted to go back to and re-do or reinvent any of his old work.
“I’m not a big go-back guy,” Whedon said, adding that he had thoughts for new material. “I got applause for saying I have thoughts,” Whedon joked as the audience applauded. “I can walk too!”
To a fan asking which he liked, TV, film or movies more, Whedon said he liked all of the various mediums and that they were all different.
“That’s the only thing I want to do with my life, create emotional moments, and I don’t care where,” Whedon said.
The next audience member to the microphone asked Whedon for his advice for new and struggling writers.
“Honestly, my advice is the kind that will make you want to slap me, but it’s always make things, put it online, do it with your friends,” Whedon said. Stating that the world has changed when it comes to entertainment, he continued that he thought the big problem with film now was that the movies getting made are only small indie pictures or big Hollywood tentpoles.
“Luckily I would never add to that problem,” Whedon joked, adding as the audience laughed, “Oh, wait.”
“It really is about the DIY,” Whedon added, encouraging fans to make their own stories.
Whedon then told an audience member who wanted to know why he liked to cross genres that as a kid his family made fun of Whedon because he loved every movie he saw. “All of them, no matter what,” Whedon said, citing loving even the sequel to “Jaws.” He continued that his education was divided into genre studies, “that really hit home in a way that made sense to me,” Whedon said.
“I also have ADD,” Whedon joked.
Talking about creating interesting villains, Whedon told the audience, “You take the reality of the fact that nobody is pure evil except for a couple of guys and pure good except for me…and then you mix it up.” Citing when Angel slept with Buffy the first time and turned evil, Whedon said he was amazed with how awful he could write Angel. “We all want the license to be evil a little bit,” Whedon added.
An X-Men fan wanted to know what Whedon was most proud of in his life and work. “Hopefully it’s something I haven’t written yet,” Whedon said. He added that he thought “The Body” was one of the best episodes of television he ever wrote.
“Whether or not stuff lives on…it’s the things where you write something and the characters start teaching you,” Whedon said.
A female fan then asked how he felt female characters are received by the entertainment industry. “You’re always going to get this reaction against it,” Whedon said of female protagonists, adding that things have changed a lot because of movies like “Hunger Games” and women being in action movies.
“In terms of comics, that’s a much more fertile field. I will also say I have been to Comic-Con for more than a decade I always go with the intention to buy a cool female hero statue…and I’ve never found one that doesn’t look like a porn star,” Whedon said to audience applause. “It seems really late in the game for there to be nothing but cheesecake down there.”
A Shakespeare loving audience member wanted to know why Whedon did “Much Ado About Nothing.” The writer/director said that after doing readings of the play with his actor friends, including Amy Acker, he decided he wanted to do a darker, “colder” version of the play.
“It’s why it’s noir…really I just wanted to shoot Amy Acker again,” Whedon said.
To the next audience member, Whedon said that at no point did he think “Avengers” would be as huge a blockbuster as it turned into, praising Marvel’s Kevin Feige. “It wasn’t until it happened, that people kept coming back, that I understood that what I wanted to do, make the summer movie that is a movie not a ride…it felt like there was a need for that old-fashioned notion,” Whedon said, adding, “That success means a lot to me.”
A young fan wanted to know if Whedon would do a second season of “Firefly,” but place it before “Serenity” so that Wash would be back.
“No,” said Whedon as the audience groaned. “Because ultimately I wouldn’t be able to movie forward with the other characters at all,” Whedon added, saying, “I couldn’t just run in place.”
The next audience member to the microphone asked how he avoids spreading himself too thin with all his various projects.
“I think we all know I did not avoid spreading myself too thin,” Whedon said. He then cited the “Tim Minear” factor as how he could tell stories, explaining that he assembled a team of creative people around him like writer and friend Tim Minear, “And clutch them to you bosom and never let them go,” Whedon said. He also said he’d love to do a stage musical, but is not sure what his next project would be.
Another fan wanted to know if comic readers would get more “Fray.”
“She’s a part of the ‘verse now in a way you can’t really ignore,” Whedon said, adding, “Again it’s a question of when we have the right story and time….she is on the back burner, but she is burning.”
To an audience member who asked about Whedon possibly directing “Ant Man” or “Avengers 2” Whedon said that as far as he knew Edgar Rice was still directing “Ant Man.”
“I grew up a Marvel boy, so I definitely have affection for that whole world,” Whedon said, though did not commit to saying whether he would direct another Marvel movie or not.
Whedon also said about directing Scarlett Johnason as Black Widow, “She has the most darkness in her of all of them.”
“That meant in the middle of my superhero movie I got to do a little noir…the idea of appearing to be helpless and using that to manipulate people seemed fun,” Whedon said.
Whedon then revealed that the scene at the beginning where Black Widow was tied up was the only scene to survive from the very first drafts of the “Avengers” screenplay.
The next fan to the microphone brought up the movie “Cabin In the Woods” and asked what Kevin — one of the monsters listed in the movie — was.
“Kevin was just a guy in a shirt with a name tag that said ‘Kevin’ that would just horribly murder people,” Whedon said, adding that they had to cut him out of the movie.
Whedon then told the audience that “Much Ado About Nothing” all took place in one location and was in black and white, but no matter how big or small the budget the problems on a film will always be the same problems.
“I spent the first three weeks of ‘Avengers’ saying, this is more like making an Internet musical than anything I’ve ever done,” Whedon said. He then warned against ever filming at your home. “All people ever do is mow their lawns and make their dogs bark!” Whedon said as the audience laughed.
The low-budget nature of “Much Ado” was also part of the reason they filmed it as black and white to compensate for lighting variations and crew needs.
Another fan who identified as a union organizer asked about his writing during the Hollywood Writer’s Strike and asked about his economic philosophy as he often wrote corporate “big bads.”
“I was raised on the Upper West side of Manhattan by the most idealistic people…and socialism as a model was such a beautiful concept, and now it’s become short hand for horns and pitchforks…[and] we’re watching capitalism destroy itself right now,” Whedon said, adding, “We are turning into Csarist Russia.” He stressed that America needed to find a system that, “Honors everybody’s need to have a start, to have a life.”
“These things have been taken away from us…since the beginning of the Reagan era and it proved to be catastrophic,” Whedon continued. Stating that in politics that nobody has the perfect answer, Whedon believed the debate went beyond just Republican and Democrat and is now between people “trying to make it work” and people who have “gone off the reservation,” Whedon concluded to giant applause.
The very last question came from a fan who wanted to know Whedon’s biggest geek moment.
“My life is one endless geek moment!” Whedon laughed. He then said the email he got from Marvel CCO Joe Quesada about who was going to be on his team in “Astonishing X-Men” was a huge geek moment.
“You would have been more amused to meet me when I met Neal Adams and Bernadette Peters. I could not speak,” Whedon added.
He then announced that next season the CW would be airing “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog” for the first time ever, ending the panel amidst audience cheers.