Joss Whedon speaks

Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, recently spoke to a group of retailers about his upcoming work on Marvel's Astonishing X-Men. Here's what he had to say.

"When Joe Quesada approached me and said 'we want a new book, Astonishing, as opposed to just taking over New X-Men,' and when I found out that I did have John Cassaday to work with, it all came to the same place for me, which is that place of going back to not the original X-Men exactly, because I don't want to take a step backwards, but going back to that very early mission of feeling out these very few key people that we recognize as the X-Men; Scott, Emma, the Beast, Wolverine, Kitty. And stopping the onslaught of information which naturally builds up, and even built up with Grant Morrison after he sort of did the same thing, and saying 'ok. Let's just freeze these characters for a moment and really find out where they are, who they are, and then get into these small, human moments.' Which happens to be the thing Cassaday does better than anybody, which is find the extraordinary complexity of a single moment in a person's face and then drop you into the middle of a huge epic. What it is for me is about grounding the thing. It's about these people. The book, obviously, has got a big bad guy, and it's got wonderful fisticuffs because if I've learned nothing else through Buffy and Angel, it's that you can only solve your problems through fisticuffs. Talking never helps. [laughter] And I hope I've spread that message to the children of America. [laughter] But at the same time, it was a chance for me to take some epic story, give it a slow build, bring people in at issue #1 and say, 'ok. Here we are. We've lost our father figure. We're struggling to replace him. We're trying to find our way.' All of these five characters, and it really does center around them although new characters will be introduced both as mutants at the school and villains and whatnot, these five characters is each asking themselves, 'why the hell am I here? What am I doing here? What does it mean to be an X-Man? What does it mean to have been through what I've been through?'

"For people who love the book, who've read it forever, it pays homage to what has gone before, but it's also very much a moment for people to come in because these people are all turning around and saying 'I don't know who I am. I don't know how to define myself.' Scott has been leader and not leader and leader and not leader. To me, he's the most fascinating character because everybody thinks he's a shemp. He's never really evolved into what he could be. Kitty is going back to being younger than everybody else and doesn't really understand if she even wants to be a part of an aggressive fighting hero team. Beast. Logan, boy has that guy got issues. And Emma herself. All of them are so busy trying to find why they're there in the middle of keeping up with the latest world crisis and battle and everybody being against the mutants, that they really have a chance to define themselves. My favorite thing, and it was in one of the previews and nobody noticed it and I don't even know if anybody ever will, but my favorite thing that I put in issue #1 was Scott talking to the group about being a group again, about trying to be superheroes again, and acting like a team, and saying, 'I can lead, but I need somebody to talk to people because I haven't looked anybody in the eye since I was 15." That was the moment he clicked for me. It was when I said, 'oh! That's right. He has to wear those things all the time. He's literally never looked somebody in the eye.' That is part of who he is, a part that has never really been discussed that I've seen. Every character has a piece of that. Every character has those moments. I can't stress enough that nobody captures them like Cassaday. For me, this book is a very solid grounding. We're on the ground taking stock of where we are as we go into the next adventure, and I really think that's going to make it a solid, emotional and exciting book. Following Grant Morrison is giving me nightmares because the quality of his work was huge, but my mission statement is a little bit different. It really is exemplified in the realism and gorgeousness of Cassaday's work, which I can't say enough about."

When asked if he would be using any ideas from his script from the initial X-Men movie in the book, he replied, "No, I'm really not. The movie was at a different juncture. It was like doing an Ultimate book. It was starting again. It was a different bunch of characters. Ultimately, I can't think about all that without weeping. This had to come very much from now; from what Grant had left as a legacy and from what had come before in the comic. The movie was just a different animal. Not to say that there's no confluence between them, but I did manage to have some new ideas since then. That stuff I think will exist only in a script somewhere on the Internet."

When asked if his 12-issue run on Astonishing X-Men would be one long story or several shorter stories, his response was, "It's broken up right now into 2 six issue stories. Obviously, it will progress. The thing that has always done best in my shows is the progression of characters; people changing and growing and sometimes devolving. There will be a constant thread through, but it will be very much contained. There's 2 six-issue stories that are very separate and the personal issues that run through them will not be resolved necessarily after 6 issues, but they will be very much compact. For me, when I read a book, if there are too many loose ends, or it's too long or too short, I get lost. Six issues per is a great amount to feel fulfilled, but still feel pulled in if I want to be."