NYCC: Dark Horse Expands the "Whedonverse" Beyond "Buffy"

On Friday evening, Editor-in-Chief Scott Allie took the reins of New York Comic Con's "Whedonversity: A Look at the Future of Buffy and Serenity Comics!" panel to show off Dark Horse Comics' upcoming titles based on the works of Joss Whedon to a packed room. Writer Jane Espenson, "Buffy" and upcoming "Serenity" penciller Georges Jeanty, "Angel & Faith" artist Rebekah Isaacs, cover artist Scott Fischer and artist Dan Dos Santos shared their own personal experiences with Joss Whedon and his work. Although none of the series' writers could be present at the panel due to other commitments, Allie did read a letter written by Christos Gage expressing his gratitude for the opportunity to work on "Angel & Faith" while reassuring readers that "I'm going to write faith different than Buffy and Spike."

To start, Allie presented an all-new 6-issue "Serenity: Leaves on the Wind" miniseries written by Zack Whedon to be released in January, 2014. The series takes place after the "Serenity" movie and the "Float Out" one-shot comic book. Whedon handpicked Georges Jeanty to work on the project with him.

Jeanty, who had worked on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" comics previously, said the comic's ninth character -- the ship Serenity -- issued some challenges: "The ship took me some getting used to." However, he researched blueprints for the ship meticulously in order to improve the authentic tone of the comic. "I make sure whatever the background is is theoretically where the background is."

When asked why "Serenity" hasn't received an ongoing series like "Buffy," Allie said it all comes down to the man himself. "Joss didn't want to. He wanted to continue to do miniseries," Allie said. "Joss needs to have a story to tell." He went on to say that Whedon was afraid the comics would "stretch the resources we have thin if we made 'Firefly' an ongoing series." In the end, Allie explained, "It all comes down to the story -- Zach has to have a story to tell." Allie went on to insist "this is the first time we felt so much that the show was back" while speaking about a previous "Serenity" comic, "The Shepherd's Tale." That said, the creative team expressed interest only in comics that captured the mood of the show.

Addressing a question about whether or not they would like the show back, Espenson answered, "We don't want it to be not Joss."

Dos Santos added, "I'm happy with the way it is."

"If we have to settle, this is the best thing we have," Jeanty concluded.

"Serenity" wasn't the only hot topic of the evening; Allie announced the continuation of Buffy's story in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10," to be released in March 2014, and a new volume of "Angel & Faith" starting in April, 2014. In addition to showing the two first covers for "Buffy Season 10," Allie confirmed that Christos Gage and Rebekah Isaacs would move to "Buffy" while writer Victor Gischler and artist Will Conrad would tackle "Angel & Faith."

Asked how it felt to give "Buffy" over to Isaacs Jeanty said, "I kind of feel like someone is going out with my girlfriend now -- I was tempted to stay on another year so I could say I worked on ['Buffy'] as long as the show was on."

Isaacs said "the tone is so different" working on "Buffy" compared to "Angel & Faith." With so many new characters to become familiar with, the artist found "there's more of a lightness, more of a comedic element in Buffy." However, the lighter tone has helped her "feel more relaxed" about the work, regardless of how "now I feel like I'm in Georges' shoes."

"It'll be a little darker, but not terribly dark," Allie added, whereas "Angel & Faith" will be "a little bit noir horror."

Not to leave a fan-favorite hanging, Allie also promised that readers would be seeing more of Spike. Admitting that Dark Horse previously "didn't have a great plan for Spike," he assured the audience that they solved that problem while planning Season 10. "Spike has a great arc in season 10 -- we're going to make Spike fans kind of happy."

The creators then discussed their past history with the Whedonverse, and how fortunate they felt to be on the receiving end of Joss Whedon's sage advice. Espenson revealed that many of the stories are created with "Joss weighing in."

Jeanty, who said he has been "closest" to Joss in previous collaborations, recalled, "The guy would enlighten you in a weird way when you didn't expect it." Jeanty once recognized that "all 'Buffy' is is a morality play," which helped his creative process. "As soon as I knew what the morality was, it all fell into place."

Allie recounted something Joss said to him that stuck: "You fall in love with moments, not movies."

The statement prompted a fan to ask the assembled creators about their favorite moments from Joss Whedon's works. Isaacs answered first, admitting she loves episodes that make her cry, particularly "Conversations with Dead People," which she finds to be an "amazing piece of storytelling."

On the other end of the spectrum, Dos Santos was "smitten with the scene where Kaylee buys the dress," adding "I rewatch the entire season of 'Firefly' [and] it's still so good."

Fischer discussed a scene in "Angel" where Faith makes her first reappearance. "I'm so obsessed with that," the artist said, adding that the scene featuring Faith dancing influenced some of his cover work.

Unable to cite a single moment, Jeanty said he was most affected by "every time Oz leaves Willow." Additionally, he rehashed a scene with Dark Willow in Season 6 that he could only describe as a comic book moment. "I've never seen such a comic book moment in a show. [That was] such a cool moment."

While many of the creators are comic book veterans, some are relatively new to comics. Fischer said prior to his work on "Buffy" he had only done a lone Free Comic Book day cover, although he had previous experience designing sci-fi novel covers and children's books. However, when he was approached for the job, he found it "hard to say no." Interestingly, both Dos Santos and Fischer said they have yet to work on any Whedonverse covers without also having a script for the issue they're working on, which is not always the case given the schedule of monthly comic books.

In contrast, industry veterans Jeanty and Isaacs both weighed in on their work in comics. Jeanty said his approach to covers is to "really have a WTF moment. You [see] it and you go 'Oh my god, what is happening to Buffy?!'"

"Less is more in comics," Isaacs said of her own approach. "The clarity of the story has to trump everything," she said, stressing the importance of the reader. "Nothing else really matters."

Taking a final fan question, the creators discussed what projects they would work on if they weren't busy with their current books. Dos Santos said he wants to write and illustrate his own long form novel. Isaacs, perhaps in a hint to Allie, said she would want to do "anything Star Wars related." Alternatively, she's been reading up on ballads and operas and would love to end up staging modern stories as ballads or operas, adding, "It'd be amazing to have a 'Buffy' ballet."

Jeanty wants to do anything and everything. "Anything that's good I'm like, 'Oh god, I want to do that stuff!'" He mentioned other titles including "Saga" as part of a long list of projects he admired, before mentioning why he loves his work on Whedon's titles. "I don't have a contract on 'Buffy' or 'Serenity' -- I could have left at any time." Instead of the security of a contract, Jeanty said, "It feels not so much like a job, but a family."

Stay tuned to CBR News for more on "Buffy Season 10," "Angel & Faith" and "Serenity: Leaves on the Wind."

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