SDCC 2011: Dark Horse’s Joss Whedon Panel Recap

We could be wrong about this, but we’re pretty sure this was the panel that fans – by the thousands – waited out for in the blazing hot sun here at San Diego Comic-Con 2011. I mean, that’s what we did. But after several hours, and our skin starting to glow red, peel off, and reveal the lizard underneath, a packed-to-capacity crowd was treated by an appearance by the god of Comic-Con himself, Joss Whedon.

Scott Allie, the Editor of Buffy, Angel, and other titles came the stage right at the top, and mentioned that an eight page Spike story by Jane Espenson would be available for free in stores in August. And then it was time for the hilarious and self deprecating Whedon to take the stage. Whedon talked about the upcoming Buffy Season Nine, which will be more grounded that season eight. “I know most of you have had sex in universal wars, and had sex and created new universes… But I think we can make season nine more universal than that,” joked Whedon.

With that, Whedon opened it up to questions: “I think the best way of handling this is for you to ask me questions, and then for me to tell you that… I’m not allowed to tell you.”

So here we go!

Q: Will we get a snarky commentary on the new Buffy: The Movie Blu-Ray?
Whedon: “Snappy? Snarky? It’s a fine line. No, actually, I didn’t even know about it.”

Q: Would you have done Season Eight the same way on TV that you did in comics?
Whedon: “There’s no way you could have done on TV… Certainly for the money we were being given. Plus, you couldn’t have had an entire episode of them having sex… Well maybe. In season six. Having discovered that I CAN do it differently from the television, I’ve discovered that I don’t want to.”

Q: More big name comics?
Whedon: “I don’t think anything of my work upcoming has to do with big comic titles.” [Laughter] “The X-Men, of all the titles I could have written for were definitely the grail. Bryan Hitch and I always say, “Let’s do Spider-Man! What can we do that hasn’t been done. [Pause] Let’s not do Spider-Man.” I’m going to do a Spider-Man reboot. In one year. With Justin Bieber and Elle Fanning. It’s going to be terrible.”

Q: What do you think about continuing from one season of Buffy to another?
Whedon: “Every season was designed for us to be cancelled. The first time I did a cliffhanger was Season Three of Angel, and I said, “Oh the first episode is so much easier to write now!”

Q: Will we see Connor or Wes in Buffy?
Whedon: “All of the Buffy and Angel characters are under one roof now. It makes life easier and better to have each other in each other’s world. The books will start out separately, we’re going to keep them in their own worlds initially. But then, soon after that… We’re going to get really silly. If I had the time, there would be about five other people who would have their own books.”

Q: Bringing Fray into Season eight, difficult or easy?
Whedon: “Writing that was pretty much pure joy. Obviously, there’s some reconciling issues. All of the Buffy comic has been affected by Fray. Now that I’ve resolved that they are connected, it’s a joy. Mostly because I got Fray to say, “Summers, you drive like a spaz.””

Q: Is there a character you regret introducing?
Whedon: “I don’t have a lot of regret. Sometimes we know I have killed beloved characters, and we all know there are some characters that haven’t sticked to the wall as well as others. If people don’t like the, we can play with people not liking them. I’m not big with regret. It’s just not on my schedule.”

Q: Will we find out where Spike got his bug ship?
Whedon: “Yes, eventually we’ll find out where he got his insect dirigible. And he’ll be part of Buffy’s life, you just got to put those two in a room. I won’t say which room.”

There’s no plans for more Serenity one-shots, but they would like to do more back-story stuff, and maybe do more continuing stories, as well. “It would be interesting to know what happens next.” To a shout of, “Bring back Wash!” Whedon quipped, “The Wash Clone Wars.”

Q: Did Rogue inspire Echo?
Whedon: “You know, they’re connected… They both come from the place of wanting to build strength.”

Q: Where do the Powers That Be fit into Buffy?
Whedon: “You know, everybody had some kind of controlling force out there that was supposed to be benign, but just couldn’t get that done. On Buffy, it was The Watchers, or old women, or clouds or something out there, something to move the story along or rail against to make the story move along. No matter who’s out there, we have to do it ourselves.”

Q: Would you ever bring Buffy to Broadway?
Whedon: After huge applause, “You mean like take her to a show? I… Would. I can’t say that I will, but yeah. I think she belongs there. In the theater opposite where Dr. Horrible is.”

Q: How badly are you planning on smashing our hearts in Season Nine?
Whedon: “Look, you all know I want you to suffer. It’s like a drug. Season nine is not designed around tragedy, but life so seldom is. Season Nine has some very edgy stuff in it, some new stuff in it, but it’s not built in darkness persay.”

Q: What are you thoughts on your GLBT fans?
Whedon: “Well, I’m against it. Because you’re making the lord angry. You didn’t think I was going to bring up Alien: Resurrection, but I am. When I was writing it, discovering the idea of Clone Ripley, and robo-Winona, both discovering the idea of feeling less than human, and feeling like an underclass, to me, this felt like a powerful metaphor for the gay community. That was my first thought, and that was what made it interesting. And Buffy was an extension of that kind of storytelling. It absolutely means everything to me that the Gay communities have embraced my shows.”

Q: Anything from your experience as a child influence your writing?
Whedon: “I actually managed to get through my childhood without getting a life experience. I went through childhood staying in my room reading Frank Hebert. I was afraid of most things. But fear, pain, the sense of aloneness… These weren’t based on experiences I can recount to you in a David Copperfieldy way.”

Q: Is there a Buffy Season Eight animated feature in our future?
Whedon: “How much money do you have on you? We spent a lot of time and effort to put a Buffy Animated Show on the air, which baffles me to this day. I’m still waiting for someone to call me and tell me its time to do that Serenity sequel.” [Huge applause break.] “…But they won’t. Sorry, that much love, I had to destroy it.”

Q: Why do you consistently include strong female characters?
Whedon: “There is a video on YouTube that can help you with this question. Look up Equality Now. End of the day, I have many answers for it, it has to do with my Mom, the people in my life, but end of the day: I DON’T KNOW. I don’t know why I think I’m a fourteen year old girl. I don’t look like one. The only problem I’ve had with The Avengers is, where is the fourteen year old girl? Is it you, Robert Downey Jr? It’s probably Clark Gregg.”

Q: Would you lend your voice to the Star Trek comics?
Whedon: “What I think makes Star Trek great is their own voices, and for the comics, for me, it’s not something I’m attracted to, because I want to see what they do visually on TV, or the movies. I don’t think the pay off would be that great.”

Q: Dr. Horrible 2?
Whedon: [Huge applause break] “The thing that you have to understand is… Yes.” [HUGER applause break] “I’ll just say this, I’ve worked on a number of songs, I got a song from Zed and Maurissa, and said, “I’d like to respectfully withdraw my song,” because theirs is so good.”

Q: Ben Edlund for Angel comics?
Whedon: “I have not approached Ben, and if I can get Ben in any of my houses, I’ll do it. And an amazing singer… Whhhhhhat?”

Q: The seventh episode always seems to be the significant in Buffy and Angel, is that deliberate?
Whedon: “It was based on the fact, usually, because the seventh episode was the second one I could direct. So I would save all the goodies for myself. It’s not kind of me, but there it is.”

Q: Who would the five standalone characters be in the comics?
Whedon: “I am not positive. Obviously, Willow has a journey to go through. Illyria is near and dear to my heart. And the Kennedy/Riley book is going to be the most popular, I think.”

Q: Will there be stories that make Dawn a stronger character?
Whedon: “Well, I’m not going to turn her into a superhero. She is going to go on her own journey, and not be just a little sister anymore. Dawn for me, is a touchstone of the non-extraordinary, and that’s why she’s with Xander.”

Q: What’s the difference in crafting a TV show versus a comic?
Whedon: “The difference is not great, it’s really about rhythm. The comics come out once a month, so if you’re telling a story over a few issues, it breaks into four issues, one act over four months. You’re always going to build around your breaks, your page breaks, your commercial breaks. You do have to parcel things out differently. Oh! Also, your actors don’t change their lines.”

Q: Are you going to make a Dr. Horrible comic book?
Whedon: “We have made some, we will make more.”

Q: How different is it working on Avengers, versus something you’ve created?
Whedon: “You know, it’s not that different. You come to a relationship with an actor that you build on the set and in pre-production. You take what parameters you have. And in the Avengers there are an enormous number of parameters. At the end of the day, with a TV show, as soon as there’s been an episode, you have to work with what you have, too. I have found that these characters mesh through their differences really well. And these actors are having a great time… As a troupe, they mesh much better than The Avengers are.”

Q: What’s up with Ripper?
Whedon: “I have said this to some people, they are going to get a whiff of Ripper in the Angel and Faith book. I will always want to do a Ripper movie. I think if I mention it to Anthony Stewart Head… One more time… He will stab me in the face. If we’re actually rolling, I will call him and say, we are rolling. It’s Ripper. But until then… He’s at this Con. And he could have a knife.”

Q: Have you ever written anything you hated?
Whedon: “No, everything I’ve written is awesome. In a way it’s a burden. I recently pulled out a script that I’d written twenty years ago, one of the first of many to not sell, and it was fun, and I liked it a lot, but I thought, “This guy is YOUNG.” In everything, there’s always good intent, and something that made me smile. I recently read some letters I wrote to my mother from boarding school. Very indulgent.”

Q: Do you see the connection between Kaylee and Kitty Pryde?
Whedon: “I’m often unaware of my, let us call it… Theft. But now that you say it, okay, yeah. Another original idea. You couldn’t have asked that question when we were alone? No, it wasn’t deliberate, but I do see the connection… Now.”

Q: Would you ever want to do a gay male character?
Whedon: “At some point, you write enough lesbians, people realize… This is just a guy. This isn’t feminism. This is Cinemax. It’s time for a little equal opportunity. Besides, who doesn’t love cock?”

Q: More Dollhouse comics?
Whedon: “Yes, we are, they have some on deck already, and we’ll see on their reception. It’s been hard for me, because there are so many things that seemed compromised, because there were so many things I wanted to talk about that FOX didn’t want. So it’s taken me a while to realize the show has fans.”

And with that, the panel was over, Joss said thank you, and that was it! Seems like that guy is pretty popular, he should do well in this industry. We’ll see you at the next panel!