Whedon's DOLLHOUSE Re-Opens With Dark Horse

Joss Whedon’s most recent television creation is getting dolled up for its comics debut.

The Eliza Dushku-starred television series Dollhouse had two seasons on FOX to tell its story, but as anyone who saw the series finale will tell you — there's more to it than that. The first glimpse of a future for Dollhouse was seen in the comic one-shot Dollhouse: Epitaphs, available exclusively in the Season 2 DVD (or Blu-Ray) collection. Released earlier this month, this one-shot offered the first look into the early days of the futuristic doll-driven apocalypse teased in the finales of the television series. And at October's New York Comic Con, longtime Joss Whedon publisher Dark Horse announced they're initiating a line of Dollhouse comics to begin in 2011.

In 2011, Dark Horse will release both a new one-shot and a miniseries under the banner of Dollhouse: Epitaphs, focused on the future promised and fortold in the season finales "Epitaph 1" and "Epitaph 2". With Joss Whedon knee-deep in pre-production for the Avengers film and show-running the Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic, he's tapped Dollhouse television writers Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon to take on the future for Echo as well as Maggie, Zone and Griff and other characters introduced in the television series. In Dollhouse: Epitaphs, readers are taken back to the storyline introduced in the series that showed a future version of Los Angeles overcome by armies of mindless, violent automatons that were once human beings. This future, nicknamed “Neuropocalypse”, came about through the sinister use of the Dollhouse technology that was at the center of the series from day one – as it turns out, in the wrong hands it could ruin the world.

For more, we talked with Tancharoen and Whedon about this sci-fi series that's making its way to comics.

Newsarama: What can you tell us about this comic?

Maurissa Tancharoen & Jed Whedon: It was a joy to work with these actors.  Finally the performances were exactly as we envisioned. Just kidding. The actors were still a pain in the ass.

The story begins at the very moment that Los Angeles is hit with a telephone call that imprints every person who answers as a mindless kill-zombie. Hilarious! And it continues from there. We follow our characters as they meet up and invent new methods of survival. 

Nrama: The season finales showed off three new characters to the Dollhouse mythos – Maggie, Zone and Griff. Would it be correct to assume they'll be the leads in this?

Tanchareon & Whedon: Yes, the comics will feature those three characters but we will also introduce some new characters and bring back a few old faves too.   

Nrama: Seeing as how you wrote for the TV show, do you still envision the characters in this comic as though you’re writing for specific actors?

Tancharoen & Whedon: The goal is never to write for the actor, but to write the character. Sometimes you change a character to fit an actor’s strengths or discover new things that an actor brings to the table, but the character has a life of it’s own. And in these comics, we have a chance to live a little more of the lives of Mag, Zone, Griff and the others.

Nrama: The subtitle of these new comic stories, 'Epitaphs', seems to refer to the titles of the two season finales, 'Epitaph One' and 'Epitaph Two.' Do people need to have seen those going in, or is this a more self-standing approach?

Tanchareon & Whedon: It would definitely help if people have seen “Epitaph One” and “Epitaph Two” but it isn’t mandatory. But we’re fairly certain that most of the people who will read this comic will be bona fide Dollhouse fans. Or friends of Dollhouse fans. Or Dollhouse haters who want to draw on it with a Sharpie.

Nrama: Will this strictly cover the future stories of Dollhouse, or will you go back and do more with the present-day?

Tanchareon & Whedon: These comics will focus on the period between the present day Dollhouse timeline that we came to know and love and the future apocalypse timeline that we came to know and love more than the other timeline. But don’t tell Joss we said that.

Nrama: Our lips are sealed. One of the big questions of those apocalyptic future scenes in Dollhouse was how far had this spread — was it just L.A. or did it reach out into the countryside or the world even. Will you be touching on that, or going to those outside places, in this one-shot?

Tanchareon & Whedon: Spoiler alert. Mum’s the word. We don’t know.

Nrama: Okay, I’ll give you that. Both of you were writers on the original TV series – so what's it like to be able to return to these characters and continue the story in comic book form?

Tanchareon & Whedon: We were all disappointed (aka depressed) when the series came to an end, so when Dark Horse approached us to do the comic we were thrilled to have the Dollhouse mythos live on, and came up with the idea for the first issue over dinner that very night. These stories will dive a little further into the emotional and physical adjustments these characters have to make within the chaos of the apocalypse. 

Nrama: Joss has taken many of his TV creations to the world of comics — but for this, you're forging the way. What kind of conversations did with Joss or the editors to determine the right approach for doing a Dollhouse comic?

Tanchareon & Whedon: Joss was very supportive and told us to go nuts! And by that, he meant go away.

Nrama: Before I let you go, one more question — with writing a comic, one of the bonuses is you get a bigger special effects budget – a good artist can draw almost anything. Are you re-adjusting to being able to write something without worrying about how much it’ll cost to shoot?

Tanchareon & Whedon: When writing for TV, your priority list is — story (of course) followed by “Can we even afford that story? Please say yes?” Being able to crash cars and blow things up without getting reprimanded for thinking too big is a new experience. One that we like very much. With that said, conceptualizing this world in a comic book structure was definitely an adjustment. It can be intimidating because you’re essentially “directing” what’s in each panel and sometimes fitting the dialogue and the action into a set number of pages becomes a daunting puzzle. But we had Dark Horse to hold our wee little hands.

The first Dollhouse: Epitaphs one-shot is exclusively available in the Dollhouse Season 2 DVD or Blu-Ray Set. Dark Horse will release a second Dollhouse: Epitaphs one-shot in early 2011 to comic stores nationwide.

Will you go back to the Dollhouse?

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