It's not like Joss Whedon is "getting by" with a little help from his friends, but the Buffyverse creator sure is pulling in some big-time talent for his Eisner Award-winning "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight" series.
After top-selling runs penned by Brian K. Vaughn ("Lost," "Ex Machina") and Drew Goddard ("Cloverfield"), Dark Horse Comics just released back-to-back one-shots penned by superstar writer Jeph Loeb ("Heroes," "Hulk") and fan favorite "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" television series veteran Jane Espenson.
In April, Jim Krueger ("Justice," "Avengers/Invaders") takes his stab at slaying, writing a one-shot to be illustrated by Cliff Richards, focusing on the relationship between the book's resident odd couple, Giles and Faith.
Rupert Giles was of course played by Anthony Stewart Head on the original television series, is Buffy's Watcher -- or Obi-Wan, for lack of a better term.
Faith Lehane, brought to life on screen by Eliza Dushku ("Dollhouse"), is a slayer who flirts (well, more than flirts) with the dark side for most of the original series, but again, sticking with the Star Wars reference, finds the light at the end of the tunnel like Anakin Skywalker.
Krueger told CBR News that a casual meeting with Whedon at a comic book convention not only led him to writing issue #24 of the Dark Horse series, but also, more importantly, launch a friendship that continues today.
"I had read a number of interviews with Joss in which he had talked about how much he liked 'Earth X,'" Kruger explained. "I approached him at WizardWorld and asked him if he'd like to write the introduction to the trade. He said, 'Yes.' That, I guess, was our first meeting.
"A couple years later, after Dark Horse had gone through its first major run of 'Buffy' comics, I pitched them on the idea of a 'Buffy' limited series that would act as an overview of all seven 'Buffy' series, all from the perspective of Giles - sort of a watcher's view of Buffy's growth as a hero and Seasons 1-7 retrospective.
"This idea, while pitched, somehow led to the creation of 'Season 8.' I think someone at Dark Horse told me I somehow got some sort of ball rolling even though I can't imagine how I had anything to do with it.
"Anyhow, at that time, I asked if I could be a part of it. [Editor] Scott [Allie] said sure. And then he said, 'Would you like to do the next 'Serenity' limited series next instead, and work with Joss on that?' And then I asked if I could do both. And everyone seemed to say okay."
Obviously, Jim Krueger is a big fan of Buffy - as is his daughter - and estimates he has watched all seven seasons, four times each. "What I love about Buffy is that it's all got to do with the fact that, despite everything that happens, she's still a girl," offered Krueger. "Joss and his teams of writers have created this girl who never loses herself to the fight. And that's really admirable. I often think that this is the problem with say, Wonder Woman. Despite the costume, despite the curves, she's not really a girl. She's not allowed to mess up in relationships the way a girl would, not allowed to love someone she shouldn't, not able to really be human. And that's what makes Buffy really great. And that's why so many of her enemies become her friends throughout the series."
Known predominantly for his cape-friendly collaborations with artist Alex Ross on "Earth X," "Justice," "Project Superpowers" and "Avengers/Invaders," Krueger knows a thing or two about what it takes about being a superhero. And he has no problem calling Buffy a superhero, too. Even without the tights.
"She's a hero certainly because of her actions, because of what she has lost to do the right thing," said Krueger. "And because she hasn't stopped doing the right thing even after no one has really noticed that she's been saved. Think of the X-Men. I don't really care that they're different. I care that they do the right thing even though they're hated.
"I also think part of the heroic journey is being caught up into a bigger story than your own. And there's always a cost for that. For Buffy, it's a normal life, a normal love, a normal peace."
But despite his ever-present affection towards Miss Summers, Krueger won't be writing her in "Buffy" #24. "This is all about Faith and Giles and is a direct sequel to the Brian K. Vaughn run from earlier in the series," teased Krueger. "Brian and Joss did a great job of putting those two together. And by suggesting that in the future, they would be helping slayers find their way. Of course, that way is sort of off-track now that it's considered cool to be a vampire."
Krueger agreed Giles and Faith are unusual bedmates, but loves their synergy on the printed page. "They're certainly coming from two different worlds. Faith is from a dysfunctional broken family with loads of betrayal under her belt. And bad sex, now that we're speaking of things under the belt while Giles comes from a prim and proper world of academia and rules.
"But this war they've been drafted into has changed them. Giles' hands are dirty. He's killed people in the war. Faith has had to become better than she ever was. To a certain degree, these two individuals have come a little closer to the center to find, in the midst of their fight against vampires and demons, a friendship and strange sense of family.
"Both Giles and Faith have sort of had to deal with the fact that they don't fit their prospective molds," continued Krueger. "Faith is not quite the model slayer. And Giles is not the model Watcher. And so, they fit together. They didn't fit together at the beginning of the series, but the growth of these two individuals has created this perfect partnership, I think."
Asked to tease what readers will see in his anticipated one-shot, Krueger revealed, "Now that it's cool to be a vampire, it's very uncool to be a slayer. And as a result, many slayers have sort of given up on being chosen. This is the story that deals with a place referred to as Slayer Sanctuary, where a number of slayers have gone to hide.
"From there, Faith and Giles go to investigate, and some really bad things happen."
Cliff Richards' artwork for "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight" #24 made Jim Krueger an instant fan. "His ability to capture the look of the characters and tell a story is really fantastic," the writer said. "In all honesty, I didn't even know he was so good. It's no wonder he's done as much work on Buffy as he has. He totally made me a fan."
Richards penciled a majority of Dark Horse's original "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" series from #8 (April 1999) to #63 (November 2003).
Jim Krueger's first published work in comics was "The Foot Soldiers" for Dark Horse in 1996. He later created "Galactic" for the publisher in 2003. Krueger also penned an eight-page "Serenity" story for MySpace Dark Horse Presents and it's been announced that he's writing the next "Serenity" limited series.
Next up for the ever-busy Jim Krueger is the next wave of "Project Superpowers" with Alex Ross for Dynamite Entertainment, and finishing up "Avengers/Invaders" for Marvel. Landing more and more film work, as well, he's also writing "The Stand-In" for Ardden Entertainment, which Krueger said "is about an out-of-work actor asked to double for a senator, who then gets in over his head during an assassination attempt on the Senator's... well, this actor's life."
Krueger also has one more volume of "TOMO" to do for his friends Tom Bankroft and Rob Corley at Funny Pages, and he's working on a final draft for an original graphic novel for FOX ATOMIC.
No fooling, "Buffy the Vampire: Season Eight" #24, with covers by Georges Jeanty and Jo Chen, goes on sale April 1 from Dark Horse.