Patton Oswalt on "Serenity: Float Out"

Joss Whedon's "Serenity," the film that closed out the short-lived but fan-favorite "Firefly" television series, broke a lot of hearts with the abrupt death of pilot and all-around nice guy Hoban "Wash" Washburne, played by Alan Tudyk. But, in a year that will also see the origins of Shepherd Book explored in comic book format, Wash gets a proper eulogy this June in "Serenity: Float Out," a one-shot written by actor-comedian Patton Oswalt and illustrated by Patric Reynolds, debuting June 2 from Dark Horse. CBR News caught up with Oswalt to discuss the special, the life or lives of Wash, and his occasional forays into comics.

Though he is perhaps best known for his comedy, including stand-up performances and recurring roles on television shows including "United States of Tara," Oswalt has also performed in dramatic roles and others where the humor is more subtle. Asked whether his "Serenity" one-shot would draw from both aspects, Oswalt said, "I don't really draw a distinction between those two any more; it's emotional either way, so I just try make something that I hope people will find is trying to be true and go, 'Ah, I recognize that.'"

"Serenity: Float Out" focuses on three men who had been acquaintances of Wash, the easy-going pilot of Serenity who met his untimely end in the film, but are strangers to each other. As they prepare to christen a new Firefly vessel in Wash's honor, they tell stories about his life.
Oswalt's narrators are all new characters, with each holding a different view of the pilot they are collectively eulogizing. "One of them is a smuggler who used to smuggle with Wash - they were frienemies, in a way," Oswalt said. "Another is an old Alliance pilot, but clearly something has gone wrong with his career because he's no longer with the Alliance. He used to be the kind of guy that would bust Wash when he was smuggling. And the other guy worked with Wash during his 'straight' days, when he was just working regular jobs. They all know kind of a different Wash. Just like people who have worked with you at different points in your life, they probably know different versions of you, like, 'Oh, I knew him, he was this punk;' 'Really? Because I worked with him and he was like the quietest guy...' Everyone's got that in them, so I kind of wanted to touch on that.

"Not to club people over the head with it, but it's clear that you see Wash through the eyes of these people that knew him, so slightly different versions of him," the writer continued. "Again, if someone told a story about you, it would not be you, it would be their version of you. That's another thing I really like."

Oswalt, whose previous comic book credits include "JLA: Welcome to the Working Week" and stories in "The Goon Noir," "Bizarro World" and "Bart Simpson's Treehouse of Horror," said he enjoys the occasional foray but isn't planning to quit his day job. "I'm lucky enough that I don't have to make my money doing comics; there are other guys that, monthly, have to come up with these mind-cracking ideas, which I can't even imagine having the skill to do," he said. "But if an idea really grabs me, I'll pitch it."
As to whether any of "Serenity's" surviving cast would make an appearance, Oswalt said, "I'm not going to tell!"

The opportunity to pitch "Serenity" came up during filming for "Dollhouse," another of Joss Whedon's shows, in which Oswalt appeared in two episodes. "We were talking in between takes, and I was going on about 'Serenity' and how much I loved it, and how I was bummed that it didn't last. And [Joss] was polite enough not to go, 'Ok,  yeah, whatever,' and actually listen to me," Oswalt told CBR. "I had read all the 'Firefly' comics, which were great but also very frustrating, because they were expanding on that world, filling in more hints about that world that previously had been hinted even less. So it was that kind of frustration of, 'Why can't there at least be more comics?' At that point, he goes, 'If you think of anything, go ahead and pitch me' - which was probably a very polite way of going, 'How do I get this guy away from me?' And then I ended up pitching stuff to him."

Previous "Serenity" comics have been set prior to the events of the movie, presumably in order to make use of the full cast of characters, including Wash. "I was never aware that they hadn't done anything after the story ended," Oswalt said of being the first to explore the post-"Serenity" universe. "So I guess it was my happy ignorance that led me to pitch a story that happened after 'Serenity' had ended, and it's in Joss' good graces that he's allowing me to do so. Ignorance and luck!"

Oswalt praised artist Patric Reynolds' work on the issue, noting that he has seen all of the completed pages for the one-shot. "Patric's fucking fantastic. He's so good," Oswalt said, adding that Reynolds inherently understood the effects the writer was going for. "When I did the JLA book, I literally described every rivet and stitch for Patrick Gleason, who's such a great artist," Oswalt said. "Someone told me later, 'You can write it like a screenplay. You can write "a guy walks across the room," and they'll figure it out. Think of the artist as the [Director of Photography].'" He added that there were a few instances in "Float Out" where he gave specific layout instructions, but on the whole, he trusted to Reynolds's artistic judgment.

By way of parting thoughts on the issue, Oswalt said of "Serenity: Float Out,""It's the greatest comic book ever written. After June 2, there's no new comics on June 9 - they're letting everyone take a breather. Every publisher is shutting down for the following week."

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