NYCC 2013: DARK HORSE's WHEDONVERSE Panel - SERENITY's Back, BUFFY News

Serenity #1 cover by Don Dos Santos.
Credit: Dark Horse
Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season 10 #1 cover by Steve Morris.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season 10 #1 cover by Steve Morris.

Serenity is back… in comic book form, for a six issue series starting in January and with the news we received at Friday’s panel – there’s a lot to be excited about in the Dark Horse Whedonverse right now.

Dark Horse Editor-In-Chief Scott Allie jumped right into introducing the new Serenity series, explaining that it will take place after the events of the Firefly television series and continue the story in the same manner that the Buffyverse titles have continued on their respective series. Allie hyped the creative team of writer Zak Whedon and artist Georges Jeanty, adding that Jeanty will be working with inker Karl Story and colorist Laura Martin for the finished comic, with Tomb Raider's Dan Dos Santos doing covers.

With that morsel out of the way, and a promise to delve deeper later in the panel and an invitation to the audience to start considering questions for later, we see previews of the covers for Buffy Season 10 and Angel and Faith. There’s been some shifting in creative teams, with Victor Gischler, Will Conrad, and Scott Fischer heading up Angel and Faith while artist Rebekah Isaacs and author Christos Gage are moving over to Buffy with Scott Fischer on covers. We also got a peak at the retailer incentive cover, a double page layout by Isaacs that will be available on both titles, and it looks like a must for even the most casual Buffy fans.

Serenity #1 cover by Don Dos Santos.
Serenity #1 cover by Don Dos Santos.
Credit: Dark Horse

In discussing the shifts, and introducing cover artists Fischer and Dan Dos Santos – Fischer explained  “we come out of doing a lot of sci-fi and fantasy covers… even Magic cards, but this is the first time working in comics for me. What an amazing property it is and I’m honored to be working on it.”

And while Jeanty explains he wanted to keep going on Buffy just to say he’d  been doing it as long as the show was on, the Serenity book appealed to him. Jeanty wasn’t familiar with Buffy when he started on it, of course catching up and immersing himself in it when the comic started, but as a long time Serenity fan he couldn’t turn down the chance to draw what he considers the biggest challenge -- “it was that 9th character, the ship… I actually have schematics from Joss Whedon … and that is why I’m late some of the time.”

Isaacs describes working on Buffy as completely different, “feeling like [she’s] in Georges’ shoes like he was at the beginning of Season 8… there’s a lightness and comedic element that wasn’t evident in Angel and Faith.” The tight knit relationship of these creators was evident as Jeanty joked,  “it kind of feels like someone else is going out with my girlfriend now… I see they’re having fun, and I wish them well.”

With the news that Jane Espenson has to leave the panel a bit early, Allie asked what’s been keeping her so busy. Of course she’s still working on her web series Husbands, as well as Once Upon a Time, and the new Once Upon a Time in Wonderland television shows. She is however an integral part of the Buffy-verse team, and participates in the annual Writer’s Summits. This year’s summit was fueled by a surprise visit from Joss, who “helped tighten the screws of what we had done.”

Plenty of time was left for fan questions, and the first one was for Espenson from an aspiring screenwriter looking for advice on how to get involved with sci-fi and fantasy properties. Espenson reassured him he’s on the right track with living in Los Angeles and writing specs, but offers further advice – “watch RV like you’re researching it…. Watch shows you like, and make outlines of them.” Espenson recommended the writer study those outlines and use them to help organize their own scripting.

Angel & Faith #1 cover by Scott Fischer
Angel & Faith #1 cover by Scott Fischer
Credit: Dark Horse

The next fan asks the panel if and when Serenity might return to television? Espenson answers that while that would be nice, “we wouldn’t want it to be not-Joss.” Jeanty reiterates he was a fan from the get go, and “I’m on the third script and it is really really really good…. If we have to settle, and I use that term loosely, then this is the best we can have.”

Dos Santos adds “this is the first time I’ve felt this much like the show is back… I can’t wait for you to see more of what Georges is doing…” And Allie describes an email he received from Fox Entertainment that surprised him with just how excited they were upon seeing the first issue in completion.

The next audience question brings up the addition of Gischler to the Angel and Faith title and questions how that will change the book, with Allie explaining “there is more of a noir darkness to it, that’s a little different than what Christos and Rebekah had done… they were more concerned with sticking together than what book they were on… and we didn’t want to duplicate what we did in Season 9.”

When asked what working on these titles has taught the creators about storytelling, Jeanty answers that its conversations with Joss that have taught him the most -- “the guy would enlighten me, in a weird way when I didn’t expect it.” He has learned in these discussions with Joss, “you realize there’s always some play on and that once you realize what that morality play is, it all falls into place.”

Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season 10
Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season 10
Credit: Dark Horse

Dos Santos adds that a cover shouldn’t tell the whole story, but you need the script to know where you are going . He’s learned that it’s important to illustrate something that’s not in the story, as the story will tell itself in the pages of the book – with Jeanty retorting “the cover should have a WTF moment,” and describing how it needs to pop on the shelves to catch the buyer’s attention.

Isaacs answers that “because I started when I was pretty green I feel like I learned to draw through this series... I learned that less is more in comics – and especially in this series as we introduce people that didn’t read comics before to the medium… pulling back and making sure everything was really clear and easy to read” has been the main thing she’s learned and applied to her work.

The audience's next question regarded which episodes or moments in the series are the creators’ favorites. Georges Jeanty was the first to reply, saying that every time Oz leaves Willow, but that is the easy answer because “you’re not made of wood, that is gonna be emotional” – however,  when Willow goes all dark, and gets hit by Giles – “never more did I see a comic book moment in television than that” and “I got to recreate that in Season 8, with Amy and Willow.”

Panel from Serenity #1 by Georges Jeanty, Karl Story and Laura Martin.
Panel from Serenity #1 by Georges Jeanty, Karl Story and Laura Martin.
Credit: Dark Horse

In answering a question asking what they would work on if they could work on anything, Dos Santos quickly replies that “Serenity was actually top of my list, no joke.” The other answers are much more varied with Isaacs interested in anything Star Wars related, or even staging modern stories as ballets or operas and being involved with the costume and set designs. Jeanty explains he gets excited and wants to work on whatever he’s loving at the moment, such as Saga or Hellboy.

In closing, Allie explains that while none of the writers are present, he has a message from writer Christos Gage ending with “I take the responsibility very seriously… I promise I’ll bust my ass to give you the stories you deserve. Let’s do this people.” And… if anyone asks – I’m going to write Spike differently than I did in Angel and Faith.”

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