Joss Whedon Confirms ‘Avengers’ Gig, JJ Abrams Talks ‘Super 8′ At EW Visionaries Comic-Con Panel

By Ryan Downey

– The Whedon faithful (this reporter included) were definitely stoked to be hearing the soundtrack from “Once More with Feeling,” the musical episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” as we waited for the panel to begin.

– Abrams greeted the crowd with a “Yo!” The pair confirmed that they met when they were both making shows for The WB, they have dinner from time to time, but they are too busy to see each other much.

– The moderator asked what the most extreme thing they’ve done as fans. Abrams said he wrote fan letters – but not to actors; to makeup people: Dick Smith, Tom Savini. He said Smith sent him the tongue from “The Exorcist,” which he still has. His mom was not psyched.

– Whedon said “I do have an Alien egg, but I had to bury the franchise in order to get it.”

– Whedon said he has always wanted to be a storyteller. Abrams said he enjoyed creating illusions doing magic tricks as a kid. Whedon asked whether comic nerds or magic nerds are more pathetic. Abrams said magic nerds.

– And finally: THE AVENGERS! “That is not an official thing because I think Marvel couldn’t afford a press release,” Whedon said. “So can I just make that an official thing? I’m directing “The Avengers.”

– After the cheers quieted down, he deadpanned: “It’s just a gig.”

– He talked about his love of the Avengers (especially the “death of Warlock” story) and comics in general. His father, a head writer on The Electric Company, brought home Spider-Man comics. That got him started.

– He said he’s still writing an outline for “The Avengers.” He said what drew him to the movie is that he loves how “these people shouldn’t be in the same room let alone on the same team — and that is the definition of family.”

– Abrams worked in a comic shop as a teenager. He made a joke about how much his Superman script was reviled online (“that was well received!”) but said he’d still consider doing a comic movie.

– Talk turned to the Spielberg / Abrams collaboration, “Super 8.” “I’d love to show you some footage but we haven’t shot it yet,” Abrams said. He called Spielberg “beyond helpful” and the project “a dream come true.”

– When asked if “Super 8″ will be in 3D, he said no. And the crowd roared in approval! Whedon said he loves 3D, but allowed: “There are definitely movies that shouldn’t be in 3D,” which got another cheer. Abrams said he’s not totally onboard with 3D yet.

– Whedon said he doesn’t know when we’ll see “Cabin in the Woods” as MGM is in flux. “They put James Bond on hold and we’re not going to come before him.” He joked about advertising the movie as being in 2D.

– The crowd roared at the moderator’s mention of “Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog.” Whedon said he thinks he missed his window a bit with Internet content. He said Dr. Horrible made money and really worked as a model for how to make money online. But he thought more people would get in on it. He said they were trying to create a sequel. “It’s in turnaround at the studio of me,” Whedon said of the sequel.

– He mentioned, for the first time in public, “Wastelanders,” an Internet piece with Warren Ellis that he was going to direct. “But Ellis saw that I’m going to be directing ’The Avengers’ and said ’ok I’ll wait.'”

– Abrams said Bad Robot, his production company, is also working on web specific material.

– Talk turned to Whedon’s most recent foray into television.

– “It must have been the wrong place [and] the wrong time,” Whedon said of his ill-fated series, “Dollhouse.” He blamed incompatibility with Fox, mentioning how great the WB was for genre shows and artists. “I love television. I love serialized storytelling. But I didn’t think that one through.”

– He said he’s extremely happy with the executives at Marvel. “They know what they want and that’s a great experience.”

– Abrams mentioned that “Undercovers,” on NBC, will have more self-contained stories than something like “Lost,” while still telling a larger story.

– The moderator asked who is inspiring them now. Abrams said he loves Edgar Wright. “I just saw Scott Pilgrim and I loved it.”

– “I’m making ’The Avengers,’ that’s cool, so I must be awesome,” Whedon joked, explaining that’s he’s been watching a lot of stuff in preparation.

– “I have had actual moments of sheer f–king panic because I love ’Star Trek’ so much,” he said, calling it “the gold standard” for a team movie and a summer movie.

– A fan asked whether they prefer filmmaking or television.

– “I don’t think there’s a better. It’s apples and oranges,” Whedon said, then cracked a well-received joke about episodes of long form storytelling being aired out of order by networks.

– Asked about his knack for dialog, Whedon confessed to often writing it first. He said he rarely does second drafts.

– “You don’t do second drafts?” Abrams asked Whedon, with mock dismay, burying he head in his hands.

– “I can name six episodes where it shows,” Whedon responded.

– A fan asked what memorabilia they’ve kept. Abrams said he has Page 47, phasers from ’Star Trek’ and a few other things. Whedon said he has all the props and costumes from Dr Horrible, although he doesn’t get attached to stuff.

– Asked how he’ll hit the established tone of “The Avengers” while bringing his own voice into it, Whedon said he’ll draw on his script doctoring experience. He noted that the standalone movies having their own tones to blend presents another challenge as well. He said knowing who is playing Tony Stark and Steve Rogers helps him while he’s writing.

– Is film school worth the time and the money or should you go your own way? “Just go your own way… To film school,” Whedon said, to big laughs.

– Abrams said he did not go to film school. Whedon did and said he studied with “the greatest teachers imaginable.” They both agreed that each approach can work.

– Abrams called Comic-Con a second home.