Brett Matthews interview

Brett Matthews has written a couple Spider-Man specials for Marvel, an Angel mini-series for Dark Horse, and episodes of TV's Firefly. This month, he's part of the team, along with co-writer/creator Joss Whedon and artists Will Conrad and Laura Martin, bringing Firefly to comics in Dark Horse's Serenity. Westfield's Roger Ash recently contacted Matthews to find out more.

Westfield: For those unfamiliar with Firefly, what was the show about?

Brett Matthews: Firefly is about a small ship (Firefly class, hence the show's name) and the people that live and work aboard it, trying to make their way in a hard world they really don't see eye-to-eye with. There are crewmembers and passengers and lessees and even a preacher, all under the watch of a guy named Mal Reynolds, who not incidentally fought to keep the planets independent of one another in what amounts to the canon's Civil War - a fight he lost. Now, Mal's just trying to get by, and see that those on his ship do the same though he'd be loathe to admit that. Getting by involves taking a lot of dangerous and frequently illegal jobs to get paid and keep flying.

Westfield: Is knowledge of the show necessary to enjoy Serenity?

Matthews: The comic is written to work both for diehard fans and the new reader coming in cold. Obviously, you'll know the characters and their world better if you've seen the show, and we made a point of keeping the book consistent with the series' continuity. We didn't just want to re-hash the history of the show in comic form because it wouldn't be fair to those that had always been there. That said, new readers will get to know each character and experience the story's beginning, middle, and end just the same.

I'm always sort of envious of those that have never seen Firefly - I'd love to go back and experience it for the first time all over again.

Westfield: Serenity adapts the upcoming film of the same name. What challenges does adapting a film to comic format present?

Matthews: Actually, it does not.

The comic book Serenity is not an adaptation, but instead a new story called Those Left Behind, and takes place between the television series and the movie. Continuity wise, it's after the show but before the film.

The challenges of writing are always the same - writing something that's as good as it can be. Something not lame or derivative or emotionally off-point, not falling into those well-tread pitfalls. Something that's worth the couple bucks people pay for it and the time it takes them to read it, which is probably even more important/precious.

With Firefly specifically, it's to show you can have gunplay and derring-do and people getting backstabbed and just plain stabbed right alongside big, meaningful emotion. That you have to have the latter or the former doesn't matter so much. To write something worthy of Joss' world and characters, which I love very much.

Westfield: What can you tell us about the story of Serenity and who are the characters involved?

Matthews: Not a lot, because I hate when trailers or interviews or whatever say too much and spoil the fun. I mean, experiencing a story unfold as an unknown thing is kind of the whole point, you know?

The Serenity mini is very much of the world. It's about a job that goes bad and the why of that. About change and how it sucks and how it doesn't, about how if you're gonna move forward things are inevitably left behind.

It involves all the characters, because that's what makes Firefly cool. Some figure larger than others in the plot by necessity, but we'll spend time with each one.

Westfield: How did you and Joss Whedon work together on the book?

Matthews: We broke the story while he was shooting the movie (I know, I know, the guy doesn't work hard enough...) and beat it into shape over a couple of days and then drafts. We've refined over the months, tried to make the story work very specifically as a comic book.

It's always fantastic to work with Joss because he refuses to settle. He wants the project to be as good as it possibly can, but what makes him different from a lot of creators I know or have seen at work is that he's very decisive when he feels it gets to that place. He knows the idea that makes something great when he says or thinks or hears it, and that's the thing we latch onto and build around. To reiterate the most oft-used adjective for the guy, he's a genius - and there I go being lame and derivative, but it's the word that comes to mind. That Joss is also a wonderful, huge-hearted human being is sorta mind-boggling, but he is exactly that.

Westfield: What do you think artists Will Conrad and Laura Martin bring to the book?

Matthews: Will's style is insanely rendered, which gives the book a distinct look. This is hugely important to me, that the artist makes a project its own thing that doesn't just blend in with everything else on the shelves. I think the way Will handles likenesses and the level of detail he brings to the table accomplishes this. It rings true to the show and the film but without being redundant.

Laura Martin, all you need to do is pick up an issue of Astonishing X or take a look at Planetary to know her work is nothing short of exceptional. We're in very good hands, there, and lucky to have her.

The one very important cog in the machine you didn't mention is Scott Allie - I don't know if there's a better editor out there.

Westfield: Do you have any other upcoming projects you'd like to mention?

Matthews: I'm writing a feature film for Universal right now. I've worked for the execs that brought the project into the studio in the past, and they're scary smart and supportive and creative in their own right to the point that it's all a little suspicious. It's a great place to work, and the writing so far has been fun and perhaps even good.

I'm also working on a creator-owned book with a very talented artist named Kyle Henry, whose work I dig very much and whose name I think you'll hear a lot of in the near future. We're just dipping our toes into it now, but I think it's going to be something special.

Westfield: Any closing comments?

Matthews: A question - is birthday cake so very good year round, or is it because we only eat it a couple times of year?

More importantly, please check out Serenity when it hits the printed page and silver screen. A lot of hard work has gone into both to make sure you won't walk away disappointed, and biased me thinks they're insanely cool.