Whedon & Tancharoen Return to the "Dollhouse"

"Dollhouse," Joss Whedon's most recent television project, was an interesting creature. Starring Eliza Dushku, the series began by following her character Echo, a woman imprinted with a succession of distinct personalities whose reason for existence was to fulfill fantasies -- and sometimes dangerous missions -- on behalf of wealthy clients of the titular Dollhouse. Parallel to this, Paul Ballard, a disgraced federal agent, struggled to unravel the mystery of a woman called Caroline (Echo's identity prior to becoming a "Doll") due to a belief that saving her would lead to the downfall of the Dollhouse, which most people believe to be an urban myth. But with the first season's un-broadcast thirteenth episode "Epitaph One," the show became something quite different.

Set ten years in the future and starring Felicia Day, "Epitaph One" revealed that the technology created by the Dollhouse will eventually lead to mass "imprinting," with millions of people worldwide programmed to kill anyone who hasn't been similarly directed. That episode also seeded several plot points for the second season and led into the series finale, "Epitaph Two."

Now, the writers of those episodes, Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen, are set to continue the story in comics at Dark Horse beginning with the one-shot "Dollhouse: Epitaphs" in March to be followed by a miniseries later in the year. The one-shot is illustrated by Cliff Richards with covers by Phil Noto and Steve Morris. CBR News caught up with Whedon and Tancharoen by email to discuss their plans for "Dollhouse's" future.

Though a version of the "Epitaphs" comic was packaged with the "Dollhouse" Season 2 DVD and Blu-ray, the March-shipping one-shot will include additional story pages not seen in the original minicomic release. The pack-in comic explored the moments immediately before and following the mindwipe broadcast that turned a huge portion of the world's population into mindless butchers, reintroducing three of the heroes from the post-apocalyptic "Epitaph One" and "Epitaph Two" episodes at an earlier point in their lives. "In the additional material, we'll reveal what happens to the established characters in the minicomic when their lives eventually intersect," Whedon and Tancharoen told CBR. "Probably. That's probably what will happen, though we're scared to say for certain." Following the "Epitaphs" issue and its depiction of the near-future disaster's origins, the writers said that the upcoming "Dollhouse" miniseries "picks up where we left off."

The "Epitaphs" period of "Dollhouse" raises a number of questions about what's taken place between the end of the Season 2 storyline and where things pick up with "Epitaph One." Alpha, the imprint-integrated serial killer who served as Season 1's "big bad" and returned for a mini-spree in Season 2, has at some point rehabilitated to the degree that he is one of Echo's most trusted allies, even creating a new refuge for the wiped but non-imprinted populace in the wreckage of the Los Angeles Dollhouse. There is also the open question of what Echo and Paul Ballard have been up to in the time between leaving the Dollhouse and returning to lead the remaining operatives to Safe Haven, as well as many other mysteries. "There is a giant gap between the two timelines, and that's why we're writing the comic -- to fill in some of those blanks," Whedon and Tancharoen said. "Since we had to wrap up the TV series so swiftly, we were forced to give some of the characters short shrift. This is our chance to give them some more love."

As to whose stories might be told, in the near term the focus will be on the "Epitaphs" cast of Mag, Zone, Grif and Lyn. Asked whether the origins of Tony/Victor's tech cult (first seen in "Epitaph Two") might one day be explored, the writers said simply, "You'll have to read it to find out..."

With "Dollhouse" switching media from TV to comics, some aspects of the brutal, devastated world of the "Epitaphs" era become somewhat easier to realize, according to Whedon and Tancharoen who said, "Our stories are no longer limited by 'budgetary restraints.' Now we can go crazy."

One thing readers will not see in the comic, however, is the era after "Epitaph Two," during which Echo and Adele DeWitt will presumably try to clean up the mess that the Rossum Corporation has made of the world. "That was the end of the series and thus the end of the 'Dollhouse' story," the writers told CBR. "These comics will explore the timeline leading up to that amazing, ingenious finale."

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