The majority of movie-going audiences know Joss Whedon from the superhero blockbusters he has directed, namely The Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Justice League, which he took over after Zack Snyder left the production due to a personal tragedy. Yet the properties which first made him famous — Firefly/Serenity and Buffy the Vampire Slayer — have sizeable fanbases, with cult followings still rabid for anything new.
The primary source of new material for those shows have been series from Dark Horse Comics, specifically Buffy comic books. While the TV show had a companion comic from 1998-2003, after the show finished its seven season run, the story continued in a pivotal series aptly titled Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight. This ongoing was popular enough to lead to Season Nine, Ten and Eleven, as well as various miniseries and graphic novels. Whedon was the writer or co-writer for most of Season Eight and the start of Nine, but has been absent from the Buffy comics since. That is, until now.
Buffy fans, rejoice. Whedon is back to co-write a miniseries about one of the core members of the Scooby Gang, Rupert Giles, played in live-action by Anthony Stewart Head. And Whedon has brought along another creative you may recognize from film and TV, Erika Alexander. As an actress, Alexander is best known for her role as Max on the Emmy-winning sitcom Living Single, but her more recent credits include the acclaimed film Get Out and the television series Bosch. Alexander also has comic book experience, as the co-writer of Dark Horse’s Concrete Park. Whedon and Alexander have cooked up a plot that involves Giles’ adult mind in a teen body, heading to high school in Los Angeles. Sounds fun, right?
CBR had a chance to pick the brains of both Joss Whedon and Erika Alexander about the four-issue Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Giles series, scheduled to debut with issue #1 on Feb. 28, with art by Jon Lam and Dan Jackson. We get the down low on Giles’ new status quo, his co-star Roux, which other Buffyverse characters we may see, and even managed to sneak in a question about that long-proposed Ripper TV show.
CBR: Joss, you killed Giles because you didn’t feel he worked in the comic book format. Did you have plans to resurrect him and send him to high school when you decided to kill him off?
Joss Whedon: I wouldn’t say he didn’t work — just, Buffy didn’t need a mentor (actually she did, but there is a time in your life where you have to walk through the world without them) and I needed a resonant moment. I remember telling Tony at Comic-Con… he was sad, but he got it. The bringing him back as a 12 year old came later. I liked the idea that Angel’s next arc was redemptive, but that the results were not what he expected. And then it was straight-up whimsy, which the books have exploited hilariously and poignantly.
I couldn’t bear the thought of him not having an arc of his own, and I thought throwing him into the American public school system would be the source of both fish-out-of-water hijinks and a chance to talk about something that’s important to me.
How much does the inner city Los Angeles setting of the series shape the story?
Erika Alexander: Los Angeles is a big part of this series. And why not, LA is a gorgeous, roaming, stucco, cement butterfly that provides a big canvas for us to play with. It’s also its own character in this mystery. Its sprawling highways help guide us to fun, new characters with their own quirks and mythologies.
Giles, on the other hand, is a fish-out-of-water in a double bind, because he’s locked in his teenage self, undercover, in a city high school battling a strange “virus.” Joss wanted Giles to explore rich, thorny issues like class, gender, race and privilege. The types of issues that someone raised in the city can’t escape. City kids also have to deal with puberty, college applications, the prom and constantly being bombarded with traffic, ads, branding and noise campaigns ad nauseam. It’s all competing for their mind space, a total energy vampire. The landscape adds an element of pressure and overwhelm that seems to suffocate individuality and breed conformity. It’s ironic that many students who grow up in these environments turn out to be great individualists and iconoclasts. So, after the initial shock, Giles will use his migrant abilities to adapt and fit right in.
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