For the next Free Comic Book Day, Dark Horse is giving readers a taste of two major licenses with its "Star Wars/Serenity" flipbook. Both stories are written by "Dr. Horrible" and "Terminator" writer Zack Whedon (whose brother Joss created "Firefly"/"Serenity"), with the "Star Wars" tale illustrated by Davide Fabbri and the "Serenity" story featuring art by Fabio Moon. Comic Book Resources spoke exclusively with Whedon about the free comic, his fannish relationship with "Star Wars," and how Mal Reynolds and Han Solo might get along.
After playing around in the "Terminator" universe where he introduced new elements to the original movie storyline, Whedon now has the chance to write another, perhaps even more famous, set of iconic characters in Han Solo and Chewbacca. "There is definitely something scary about it," the writer told CBR. "These two characters are loved by, well, everyone. So you don't want to screw it up. I care about these guys a lot, so that makes it easier. I can be a good gauge for what a fan would like and dislike since I am one myself."
Whedon said that up to now, his "Star Wars" fandom has followed a familiar path. "It's pretty much the same as most people my age (32), which is to say that I grew up watching these movies. I had all the toys, I dreamed of being Luke Skywalker, I'd have lightsaber battles with discarded wrapping paper tubes, I'd reenact over and over the moment where Han runs after the Stormtroopers firing his blaster and screaming and then turns around and runs back screaming. On cold winter nights I'd cut open the bellies of Tauntauns and stuff my friends inside," Whedon said. He added that he's engaging in some not-atypical "Star Wars" obsessiveness. "In all seriousness, a few years ago, outraged that I couldn't get the original trilogy sans CG but with good sound, I bought a laserdisc player and the laserdiscs which have THX sound but no CG. Ultimately, the flipping required in laserdisc viewing takes more away from the experience than Han shooting first, so I gave in and bought the blu-rays. I know, I'm weak."
With the vast canvas of the "Star Wars" universe, which Dark Horse has had a large hand in expanding, CBR asked Whedon why he honed in on Han and Chewie for his story and why he chose this moment in their careers. "Well, this is before they met Luke and Obi-Wan, which is when their life took a turn for the epic/problematic/Jedi-heavy," he said. "They're still small time smugglers just trying to get by at this point. I didn't want to mess with any of the major storylines. I just wanted to write about these guys bumming around the galaxy. It's a light story, so I didn't want them dealing with heavy subjects like rebellion, fate and absentee fathers."
Whedon went on to say that the Free Comic Book Day tale is "sort of a day in the life of these guys who are always on the wrong end of every deal, which means staring down the barrel of a gun much of the time." "It's about how they work together, how they don't, how they talk to each other after being alone together on a spaceship for days on end," he said.
"Serenity" has some affinities with "Star Wars," but Whedon doesn't see Han Solo and Mal Reynolds getting along. "I think if they could get past their initial misgivings -- Mal with Han's shifty, smooth-talking nature; Han with Mal's stoic soldier routine -- they'd have a lot to talk about. But I think it's more likely they'd butt heads, possibly literally," said the writer.
Whedon is working with long-time "Star Wars" artist Davide Fabbri for the Han and Chewbacca story while Fabio Moon provides the visuals for the "Serenity" tale. The writer said he did not know which artists would bring his stories to life while he was writing them, but he has "seen the pages for both and they're astonishing." "They bring so much life to the pages and fill in millions of details that I could never think of," Whedon added. "They've both done some fantastic character design work in these stories as well. I'm very excited about the art."
Whedon has told a few "Serenity" stories in comics before, notably "The Shepherd's Tale" graphic novel, revealing Shepherd Book's checkered past, and a short for DH:HD on the "USA Today" web site. For the Free Comic Book Day Story, Whedon wanted a unified feeling with the "Star Wars" story on the other side of the flipbook. "I wanted to put Han and Mal in similar situations and through their reactions, see how they are different and how they are the same," he said. "The one thing that these two 'loners' are never without is their loyal friends, so that's part of it. I really focus on Mal but you get a taste of some other folks. [There's] not as much Jayne as I would like, but there's only so much you can do in ten pages."
Having tackled both very short stories and longer works like 'The Shepherd's Tale,' CBR asked Whedon about the fun or challenges of the very-short format. "The challenge with a short story like this is obviously real estate. You don't have a lot of panels to tell your story," the writer said. "That was part of my decision to have these be stand-alone stories that don't effect the greater mythology of these characters. I didn't want to do a disservice to a larger, course-changing story by cramming it into ten pages. I just wanted to have fun with these characters and shine a light on some of their unique qualities."
As to whether readers will see more "Serenity" from Whedon in 2012, the writer said that he'd like to tell the story of "where they headed after the movie."
"I'm having some pre-pre-pre-preliminary discussions with Dark Horse about that."
"Star Wars/Serenity" arrives on Free Comic Book Day, May 5, 2012.