"Joss Whedon Interview"

JUL 2001 Product

 

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          Joss Whedon is best known as the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Heís also written or co-written scripts for films including Alien Resurrection, Titan A.E., and the original Toy Story. This month he sets his sights on comics with Fray from Dark Horse. Worlds of Westfield Content Editor Roger Ash recently spoke with Whedon about Fray.

Westfield: What can you tell us about Fray?

Joss Whedon: Itís a slayer story, but one thatís not connected at all to the Buffy mythos, except that itís about a slayer. I wanted to do a futuristic, slightly sci-fi adventure, but I didnít want to create a whole new universe. I wanted to stay sort of in the world that I had already created, so I had some of the groundwork already laid. At one point, I had thought about doing a story about Faith, but then we brought Faith back to be on Angel, so I canít really interfere with that myth. I thought if I go a few hundred years into the future, I probably wonít step on any toes. Then I can do whatever I want in the series and I can have fun with the comic.

Westfield: Who are some of the major characters in Fray?

Whedon: The major character would be Melaka Fray, sheís the heroine. Sheís the slayer, although she has no idea of this at first. She is a professional thief who works for a guy named Gunther who is, among other things, a big fish. In the future, thereís a lot of mutations out there. Sheís confronted by UrKonn, whoís an extremely powerful demon, early on. But her nemesis, the vampire that she first met up with when she was younger, is called Icarus. Heís a particular bad-ass. Heís in the mix a lot. Thereís her sister, Erin Fray, whoís a cop. They have a very contentious relationship because Melakaís a crook. They have very different reactions to the crappy lives theyíve had. Those are the major players, except that Icarus is working for a higher being that we donít meet for a while.

The other thing is that, not only has there not been a slayer called for a couple hundred years in this, there hasnít been any vampires or demons or magic of any kind in the world. Vampires are reoccurring, and nobody even knows what theyíre called. When Frayís first told that she has to fight vampires, she doesnít know what the word means. They donít even have them in legends, so itís all a whole new world for her. It takes place in Manhattan, which they call Haddyn, because everythingís sort of shortened. Manhattan is exactly as it is now, only more so. They just kept building straight up.

Westfield: Why did you decide to do Fray as a comic?

Whedon: Because thereís no way on Godís green earth I could afford to do it any other way. Thereís a bunch of flying cars in it. I wanted to do a comic. I love comics. Iíve read them my whole life. Iíve always wanted to write one. I thought about this story and thought, ďinstead of creating a whole new world, I can just do this and maybe itíll be self contained and it can be a little journey into comics.Ē I had hoped just to do a couple issues of something, then it ballooned into an 8-part story because I can never shut up.

Westfield: How much work did you do on creating this new version of the world before you actually started working on the comics and what were some of the influences you drew on?

Whedon: In terms of creating the world, we kept it pretty simple. Artist Karl Moline looked a lot at the movies Blade Runner and Fifth Element because those are both urbanization gone mad. Stylistically, those were obviously influences, just in terms of creating the world. I didnít spend a lot of time coming up with a brilliant vision of the future. I wanted to keep it simple. My excuse is always, and itís the same thing I did in Alien Resurrection, for the rich people, for the normal people, for the people who actually live inside the law; yes, computers have changed everything and everyone is young and beautiful, and itís a whole new world and thereís all sorts of ramifications. But if youíre poor, nothing has really changed. Especially if youíre crooked. That gets me out of having to actually imagine a lot of things because Iím not the sci-fi visionary that some people are, although it would be fun to get into a world like that. I wanted to tell a pretty basic story. I just wanted to have that scope, that feel. I love stuff in the future.

Westfield: How is writing Fray similar or different to what you do when you write for TV or films?

Whedon: Itís surprisingly both, actually. Itís similar in that youíre looking the big moments, youíre looking for the big emotions, and youíre constantly saying ďthese guys are overacting.Ē Itís different in the sense that you have to choose a still picture that will convey what usually you would have movement to convey. When youíre taking off in the air or landing, which one is the one you need to show? How much do need to convey visually? How much can you do in one panel? Thatís different and pretty exciting just because itís new.

Westfield: How did you feel when you first saw Karl Molineís art for Fray?

Whedon: I love it. Iím pretty blown away by it. Weíve definitely gone back and forth on a couple of things, conceptual things. Thereíre certain things that I stress that he doesnít. Weíre feeling each other out in that sense. But I think his pencils are really lovely. His character stuff is really beautifully detailed. I love Melaka. I love the look of the world. Itís very dynamic. Iím pretty thrilled. I just got the colored pages for the first issue and Iíve been just giggling like a school girl.

Westfield: Do you have any plans for Fray past this mini-series?

Whedon: Weíre doing a book, Tales of the Slayers, a one-shot that me and a bunch of the writers from the show are doing, that will encompass a lot of different slayers in stories and there will be a short Fray story in that. Beyond that, I have no immediate plans. But if people really respond and theyíre like ďhey, we want a Fray book,Ē certainly it would be open. The story will be self-contained, but Iím not going to blow up the world at the end of it.

Westfield: Youíre also working on an Angel comic thatís coming out soon. Can you tell us anything about that?

Whedon: Brett Matthews, who is on my staff and who has spent hours and hours talking comic books and films with me, we both went to the same college, studied film at the same place; weíre both comic book freaks. Weíve spent a lot of time talking about the Angel book and what we thought we should do with it. He said, ďwhy donít we just do that?Ē And we called editor Scott Allie and said, ďCan we write a couple?Ē And Scottís like, ďok.Ē Thatís one of the things I love about Dark Horse, theyíre really nice about everything. What weíve been trying to do is get the Angel book to be more of a comic book. The template was so locked to the show that it was starting to feel a little stale because a TV show is not a comic book. Letís have the character with the big, long tail. Letís have the two-story Jack Kirby monster. Letís have this guy swoop from the shadows in an alley in the dark of night and save somebody, not unlike that guy with the cape. Letís accentuate that. Letís make it a real bigger than life comic book. Give it some of that sexy feel. So we came up with a four-part story arc. Brettís doing most of the heavy lifting. Weíve been bringing the story together, and Iíve been working dialog on him, but in terms of laying it out, itís mostly his. I think itís going well. Itís fun. Some very cool pencils from Mel Rubi.

Westfield: Can you say anything more about the Tales of the Slayers book?

Whedon: We donít have a date for it, but we talked about this when we were shooting the Ď70s flashback of Spike killing a slayer on a subway. I said to Doug Petrie, whoís one of my writers and whoís written some of the Buffy comics and is, like me, a comic book nut, ďGod. We should do a compendium of stories of slayers throughout history.Ē And he was like ďI get to do the Ď70s slayer on the subway.Ē Heís actually doing it with Gene Colan. There was so much of the original Blade and Tomb of Dracula in that whole sequence. We were so into that. We pitched that to Scott and he was all over it and it turned out that practically my entire staff wanted to do it. They all picked an era and we talked about length and Iím doing three little pieces in it myself. Itís a different artist for every piece and weíre getting some really exciting people to draw it. Luckily, a little more contained than this eight-issue monster.

Westfield: Can you mention any of the other artists who are working on it?

Whedon: Karlís going to do, obviously, the Fray story for me. I think Tim Sale is going to do one of my pieces, which Iím just freaking out about. Craig Russell is doing something, and, like I said, Gene. Iím not sure who else at this point. Weíre still fairly early in the process. But cool guys. [NOTE: editor Scott Allie says we can add Ted Naifeh and Steve Lieber to the list of artists working on the book.]

Westfield: Is there anything youíd care to share about what we can look forward to on the Buffy and Angel TV series?

Whedon: Lots oí fun. [laughter] Hey, Iím not wrong. Both shows are gearing up for season finales of just insane adventure. The last four episodes of both shows just kick into enormous high gear. Itís gonna be really fun, really hard to shoot, really expensive, and Iíll be really tired afterwards. [laughter] Hopefully, things will wrap up emotionally as well as adventuresomely.

Westfield: Do you plot out the story arc for the entire year before you start doing anything?

Whedon: Actually, we plotted out the story arc for this year before last year. It was in the third year that we figured out what we wanted to do for the next two years. So, yes. We plot it out leaving room for disasters or fortuitous occasions. Anything could change. Basically, we plot it ahead always, because if you donít know where youíre going, youíre not going anywhere.

Westfield: With that in mind, do you have an eventual end in mind for Buffy?

Whedon: No, I really donít. I end every year as though itís the last year, just in case, so that you donít feel that sense of ďbut there was all that left unresolved.Ē Instead of doing cliffhangers, I like to leave every year with a sense of closure. But no, I donít see any end in sight. Iíve already got plenty of extraordinary ideas for next year.