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Joss WhedonJoss Whedon - About Comics & Writing - Wizarduniverse.com Interview
Thursday 27 July 2006, by Webmaster
BENDIS:So the first one of these I did, I did with Stan [Lee].
BENDIS: Your name came up like, four times. In a very positive way. He’s very in love with you.
WHEDON: I just did that tribute thing they’re doing to Stan. I did a story for that with Michael Gaydos.
BENDIS: I know. I’m right after you with [Mark] Bagley.
WHEDON: Oh cool! Oh my God! Gaydos’ pencils were so amazing.
BENDIS: Aren’t they so nice? He doesn’t get nearly enough credit.
WHEDON: [Gaydos’s art] is so textured and so rich and so on the edge of comic books and so human. I was loving life because, you know, the story is really silly, so that’ll sort of help cover it.
BENDIS: What’s your story?
WHEDON: My story? It involves a comic convention of alternate dimensions where people are comparing their comic in worlds where there was no Stan.
BENDIS: Oh, okay. Cool.
WHEDON: It’s very silly. A lot of talking. What’s yours?
BENDIS: My story is, the Impossible Man returns to the Marvel Universe and is disgusted by what House of M and Civil War and me and Mark [Millar] and you and [Jeph] Loeb have done to it. So he goes to try to find Stan to complain. But he can’t get near him because he’s all immersed in his Hollywood stuff.
WHEDON: Ah. [Laughs] I got a soft spot for the Impossible Man.
BENDIS: Me too! It’s hard to work him into a story though. I wanted him to be the villain in House of M, I just couldn’t make it work.
WHEDON: Yeah, it’s gotta be the right kind of version. The thing about the Fantastic Four is they can be fluffy. There could even be H.E.R.B.I.E.
BENDIS: Yeah, that’s true. When [Mark and I] did Ultimate Fantastic Four, we got H.E.R.B.I.E. right in there, immediately.
WHEDON: Yeah. [Laughs]
BENDIS: That was more important to us than the Human Torch. Alright, I want to talk to you about a few things. One of which, and this is one of the biggest things I’ve wanted to talk to you about, even when we met in person, and I’ve never brought it up just because there wasn’t an opportunity. I would like to talk to you about why and how you came about hiring Jack Green as your cinematographer, because I kind of worship the guy. I was amazed you hired him. It was a pretty amazing thing.
WHEDON: The first American cinematographer I ever bought was Jack Green doing “Tightrope” for Clint [Eastwood] back in college. So I’m kind of a nut for him too. And the way I hired him was this-he came in and said, “I can do this.” And besides the fact that he already had a rep for being fast and his stuff looked good, he’s the loveliest human being on the face of the planet.
BENDIS: That’s so good to hear.
WHEDON: Just five minutes in, you feel like you guys went to school together. This guy has been in it now for a long while. He’s worked with big names. The only baggage that Jack Green brings with him are three of his children, who were on the camera crew. All of whom are good at their jobs and really sweet. He had one first assistant, one second assistant and one b-camera operator; two sons and a daughter. He just came in, he totally got it and then he kept on getting it.
There was one time I was gonna tell him to do something really weird. It had practically come to me in a dream, and I was just like, I just don’t think... it had a spotlight and it seemed to.... I’m like, I’m not even gonna pitch it. But I needed something to distinguish this and Jack was like, ‘Well, I didn’t want to say anything, and you’ll probably make me take it down, but I’ve been putting up a spotlight.’ I mean, it was just creepy. He gets the material. He does so much and has so much art. And you’ll notice that the shot is never about Jack.
BENDIS: Yeah, you know, we were just talking about that with Gaydos and Bagley, where there’s certain artists and craftsmen where they don’t get the credit because all they care about is the story and servicing the story. They’re professional and don’t have tantrums and a lot of times those guys don’t get the credit they deserve.
WHEDON: Yeah, I mean Jack is the fastest cinematographer I know and there are others who say, “Well, if you don’t take six hours and make everybody wait and make the shot so beautiful that it takes you out of the story, then no, you’re not gonna be the big name and not get the credit you deserve.”
Sublimating yourself to a story is sort of the opposite of the Quentin Tarantino school. When I watched “Kill Bill,” it was like sitting next to Quentin Tarantino and having him go, “Alright, cool! Check out my music that I love!”
BENDIS: [Laughs] Yeah, Rob Richardson, his cinematographer, is a guy I worship too. And it’s kind of the polar opposite, style-wise, of Jack Green, but I just love that guy too. But it did make me want to talk to you, as someone who works in both comics and film, about the difference between your relationship with your cinematographer and your penciler. Can you talk about that?
WHEDON: Well, my penciler is also my inker. It’s often [John] Cassaday that I work with. And in addition to my cinematographer, he’s also my actors. And it’s not so much like I’m the director; it’s more like television where I’m the executive producer, because he’s also the director. You know how many artists make their characters overact. You know, when you write something subtle and deadpan and they put in giant manga mouth and big lines coming out of their head. [Laughs] And you’re like, “Uh... wait a minute!” That’s the equivalent of having Halle Barry give that hilarious reading of the Toad line in “X-Men.”
I’ve had trouble with every aspect of that- working with a director who didn’t understand the material or a cinematographer who wanted to make it fancy at the expense of what was real and beautiful about it. And of course actors can bring their own baggage, although I’ve been pretty lucky. And your penciler is that whole package. He’s all of them. You’re definitely overseeing that. Usually, I get thumbnails and go back and forth with my artists; but Johnny, when he’s done with the pages, I get them. And it’s never more than, “Can you change an eyebrow? Can we have an eyebrow change?”
BENDIS: I know you’re obviously very happy with Cassaday. What was it like working with other artists like Karl [Moline] who you worked with on Fray, your first comic? Did you have a similar relationship?
WHEDON: With Karl, there was more back and forth because first of all, we were creating a brand new world and all brand new characters. And Karl and myself were both pretty fresh. He’d had more work than I had, since I hadn’t any at all. Karl would give me thumbnails and we would go over them because there were certain things I was looking for specifically. There was more back and forth, but I loved what he came up with.
BENDIS:Yeah, I loved that comic. It doesn’t get enough play out in the nerd world. So I’m using this opportunity to plug it.
WHEDON: Bless you.
BENDIS: I used to do thumbnails on every book I wrote. Like, fully draw the book and hand it to the artist and go, “Here, do this.” Some artists loved it and some artists really... they weren’t offended by it, but they’d be like, “Well, what am I gonna do then?” Some artists are like, “Great, I just wanna sit in front of the TV and draw.” But more and more as I went on, I saw I was kinda not trusting anybody and being very megalomaniacal. So I just started writing full script. And unless there’s a scene where, like you said, you had a dream with a shot and you had to get the shot out, I kinda just sit back and let people do it.
So sometimes it’s a learning curve. But I was just curious about the creative relationship of the cinematographer versus your artist.
WHEDON: Well, it’s always a question of who you got. I worked with one artist, who shall remain nameless, who could not get what I wanted at all. And I’ve definitely worked with one or two actors like that, and directors and cinematographers and production designers. I mean, the artist is doing all of that, costume design and everything, and I’ve had trouble on every front. I am also megalomaniacal. I don’t do the thumbnail art because, unlike you, I am not an artist and I don’t think even I would understand what was happening. [Laughs] But I try to describe very specifically when I’m being very specific about a visual, trying to use as many words as possible. Although with Cassaday, again, I do that less and less.
Ultimately, you have to have both, I think. You have to be a megalomaniacal fella who’s got a singular vision and then as you go on, and you find more and more competent people, who can not only service, but expand or challenge that vision, that’s when it starts getting really fun. When you go, “I’m not gonna dictate,” it’s fun because he’s gonna surprise you. He’s gonna bring something new to the table. It’s like, when you’re working with actors, they’ve got their rhythm. You’ve got yours and you’re always in danger of having all of your characters speak with your rhythm. It’s the same rhythm. And that’s a pitfall for any writer to fall into. When you’re working in movies or TV, you have actors and you know their strengths, or they’re gonna surprise you. Especially if they’re Christopher Walken. Then you never know what words they’re gonna land on. But with the writing, you have to create all that. You don’t have as many opportunities to be surprised.
BENDIS: I never asked you this-what’s your writing process for comics?
WHEDON: My writing process for comics is similar to my writing process for movies, although I tend to write comics chronologically, which I don’t with movies or TV. I’ll circle for a long time, for as long as I can without being late. Despite my reputation, I do care about that. [Laughs] And when it’s time and I feel it, I’ll start to free associate. I know the basic arc and I know where I’m heading, so I’ll free associate. I have a dry erase board I’ll write on a note pad, just to get ideas and then eventually, I’ll number out the pages and start trying to place all the ideas I have and when it starts to really take shape, only then do I start writing. I don’t write page one until I know exactly what page 15 is gonna be. And every now and then I’m wrong. Every now and then I go, ‘Aw, I’ve expanded this or contracted that.’ You know how that is. But it’s weird. There’s actually a very small amount of sitting down and typing because I’ve played out all the scenes so much and because I don’t describe as much with Johnny as I used to. So it really doesn’t take that long to physically write it at this point.
BENDIS: I’ve said this probably a couple times, but sometimes you know exactly where you’re going and then you get to page 18 and all of a sudden, you figure out you’re going somewhere else that’s so much better than you planned. And sometimes it sounds like you got your head up your ass a little bit, but you don’t! It’s just, the characters took over and it’s an awesome feeling where you go, “Oh my God! I’m on a roll!” But sometimes when you tell people that, it translates to, “What’s going on? Tell the story you were gonna tell!” They want the original story.
WHEDON: But again, it’s the thing that makes you, and I mean you in particular and also “one,” good at your job-the combination of absolute maniacal focus and absolute submission. The story is more important than what you intend to do with it. And when it starts talking back to you, you listen! And I know people who don’t and their stuff is not as tight. Their worlds are not as rich. Because they’re so adhering to their first idea that they lose the beauty of something that gets bigger than that.
BENDIS: Sometimes you start cramming. You’re literally shoving stuff into a box it doesn’t fit into. And I’ve seen friends do this. They’ll even tell me they’re shoving this into a box and I’m like, “Why are you doing that?” In the history of literature, it’s never worked. Shove it in a box and it’s sh**. You don’t get the response you wanted and you’re shocked. But that makes me think of something else I wanted to ask you. Do you do rewrites after it’s drawn?
WHEDON: Just lately, I looked at the lettering on the last Astonishing X-Men and went, “You know what, I can rearrange that slightly.” And I added a couple phrases and rearranged a couple things. Not tremendously. I’m going for very specific cinematic hits, boom, boom, boom! But yeah, just recently, I looked at one issue and went, “Euh! I could have used a phrase there!” And then one where I did it in time instead of after it was published.
BENDIS: The reason I wanted to ask you this is I was watching the commentary to “Serenity” with my nerd wife last week, who has questions for you that she’s written down and handed to me which I’ll get to in a minute, but you talked about a couple scenes that you wrote literally on set that you realized you needed. And I think about that and how we do that in comics. We always have the next issue to do that if we have to, but I was wondering how you rewrite if you realize you need a scene or do you rewrite after you’ve seen the art, especially with John Cassaday’s cinematic style and with few panels to play with?
WHEDON: Again, in movies or TV, there’s so much flow because everything is happening at once. You’re watching the thing being made. You’re not handing it to an artist who is then off in his cubbyhole. You’re there. You’re watching it. You’re seeing it evolve and you’re going, “Oh sh**! I gotta change this. I gotta pull this back. I gotta do more here.” Or whatever it is. Or if it’s TV, they’re coming in and telling you, “It’s too short. We need a new scene and you gotta shoot it after lunch.” And that’s not gonna happen as much in comics. Except that I often misnumber my pages.
BENDIS: [Laughs] I do that too! It’s the most embarrassing thing in the world. Because I do a rewrite specifically just to count the pages to make sure I’m handing in 22 pages in numerical order, and I still hand in a script with three page 19s.
WHEDON: Yeah, and I’ve done it enough times now, I realize it’s part of who I am.
BENDIS: Sometimes I’ll try to add pages to the script without getting in trouble, but it’s completely subconscious. I’m just bad with numbers.
WHEDON: I like 22 pages. It’s actually 23 I write because we start on page two now with the recaps. And then I have to end with a last page. It’s not always a splash. In fact, it’s not even often a splash, but it’s still gotta be the last page. The ending on two pages thing, I mean, it works sometimes, but it’s hard for me. Turning that last page has always been a big moment. With Cassaday one time, I also pulled the dialogue from a couple of panels because the art was so pretty and I was like, “It’s being said.” It’s like that shot that Alex Maleev did of Bullseye.
BENDIS: Yeah, absolutely. It happens to me a lot with Maleev and Bagley where I yank whole bits of dialogue. Bagley draws those big doe eyes and you don’t need to say anything. It’s right there. There’s no dialogue that’s gonna make it any better. And that’s my biggest compliment to an artist, when they go, “What happened to the script?” and I go, “Didn’t need it.”
WHEDON: Yeah, that really is. And it’s that way with actors too. When I’m watching what’s going on and I go, “You know what? It’s really flowery what I wrote and full of pretty alliteration, but what if you just looked that way?”
BENDIS: The other writing thing I wanted to ask you, and this is something that has been my journey as a comic book writer; going from a single lead book or a double lead to a team-dynamic book; you have nine leads in the “Firefly” universe. You have nine characters and the ship, which is the tenth. And you have the X-Men, which and “Buffy” has a group dynamic too, but with more of a single lead. Do you have any gigantic thoughts about the group dynamic, because I’ll tell you the one problem I’ve had in my journey was there was always one character, like when I was doing Ultimate X-Men, I never had anything for Colossus to say.
BENDIS:And I’d always try to give him something. I’d literally sometimes say to David Finch, “Listen, have Colossus doing busy work in the background, just so he’ll look like he’s doing something.” But really, there was nothing for him to say to add to the plot or even add to the conversation in any way. And it was always one guy that I couldn’t give anything to. And every time I did it, boy I’d get sh** online for it, man. They’d always be like, “Don’t put Colossus on the team if you’re not doing anything with him!” They’d always see right through it.
WHEDON: Well, if I’m doing it in movies or TV, TV particularly, there is someone who’s going to notice and it’s going to be the actor.
WHEDON: They’re going to be like, “Why am I even in this scene? Why do I have to show up for filming today if I don’t have lines?” So you really can’t cheat your way through that one. But there is always somebody who’s more difficult than the rest. I think ultimately, the appeal of the single character book is huge to me. But at the end of the day, everybody who opens their mouth fascinates me. Even Fray was a one-character book, but I was fascinated by Urkonn. I was fascinated by Loo, I was fascinated by Icarus and Harth and Erin and everybody else, so ultimately, if that book had gone on, it would have ended up becoming a team book probably. Maybe in the sense that Ben Urich is part of Daredevil’s team, but still, you can’t help but give those people play. And some of the big hero moments in Fray belong to her sister.
BENDIS: But a lot of times when you have a single character, it’s a lot of fun to get the single person’s point of view of the world. It’s very easy to follow that person down the road. But when you have a group dynamic, you have to find the person whose point of view is the most interesting for that story or that scene. Or using the omniscient view, seeing the whole team go through something. It’s something that I’m thinking about all the time now.
WHEDON: In a way, I’m only interested in one person. One person always emerges as the “me” figure, for want of a better phrase. But I am fascinated by the internal conflict of the team. And internal conflict is definitely the phrase, because my favorite stuff in my X-Men run has been, and will continue to be, when they beat the sh** out of each other.
BENDIS: It’s always fun to have one person annoying the sh** out of everybody else in the group.
WHEDON: Yes, that’s important. I call that “Cordelia.”
BENDIS: Everyone in comics imagines that your life now, when you’re not writing Astonishing X-Men, is a day spent sitting in your office as every actress in Hollywood, dressed as Wonder Woman, comes into your office and does a little dance for you or something.
WHEDON: Yes, that’s exactly what’s happening. Then I wake up.
WHEDON: I am having enormous trouble with the [“Wonder Woman” movie] script. It’s going very well and I’m loving life, but because it’s only at script stage and there will be no discussion of casting before, I don’t really deal with that. No, it’s weird, I’m in my office and it’s just me.
BENDIS: Are you dressed as Wonder Woman?
BENDIS: Okay, because that was the other rumor.
WHEDON: Whatever it takes to get me in the mood.
WHEDON: It’s kept me busy for a long time. I’m finally finishing the second draft. I’m very happy with it, but wow! Wow, this one was like pulling teeth. It’s tough. I would watch “Batman Begins” and just grumble, just bitch and moan, because he’s got everything. He’s got so much of the work done for him. He’s got the best rogues’ gallery. He’s got the best origin story. Wonder Woman is a lot more to figure out. But it’s coming together. And if you would direct those actresses to my office, it’s in Santa Monica. It’s not hard to find.
BENDIS: I don’t know if you want to talk about this, but I saw “X3” last night. Did you see it?
WHEDON: Oh! No! Did it open?
BENDIS: No, it opens Friday, but I’m a self proclaimed king of the nerds here in Portland, so I got to see it early. Now, you know, there’s a lot of you in there.
WHEDON: Yeah, I heard they were using some of that stuff.
BENDIS: There’s actually a couple of places that look just like panels right out of the comic. I was with Alex Maleev and I said, “Boy, that’s right out of the comic.” I actually showed him in the comic where it was exactly from your book. Are you happy about this? Are you not happy? I know you have a sordid history with the franchise.
WHEDON: Well, you know, when Avi Arad says, “Hey, we’re using your stuff. Aren’t you excited?” How do you answer that? I’m like, “Well I don’t know. Will it be awesome? Am I gonna get paid? Are any of those things gonna happen?” But you know. It was work for hire and it’s their right. And I’ll tell you this. This is what’s exciting to me-ultimately I make a good living and I’m more or less a happy person, when it’s not during rage or despair. And the most important thing is getting your stuff out there. You want to feed your family and that’s all good, but you want to get your stuff out there.
The thing that excited me the most was I read an interview where Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen and Halle Barry were doing this roundtable press thing. Ian McKellen and Halle Barry started talking about the cure and how it really resonated with them. And Hugh Jackman said, “Yeah, but in the case of somebody like Rogue, who really could see it as something potentially helpful,” they jumped down his throat. They got into it a little bit and they had to sort of stop and get back to publicizing their movie. And I thought, “Oh my God! The actual X-Men are arguing about this!” [Laughs]
BENDIS: That’s cool.
WHEDON: And that’s so great because I realized I’m not the first person to ask it, but it means I was asking the right question. It means that I went to the right place and if you’re opening a dialogue that people actually care about, including the actors who are playing the parts, that’s really gratifying. So yeah, I’m okay with it. I think it’s cool.
BENDIS: The movie does well by you. They don’t take the idea and dumb it down. So here are my wife’s questions and then I’ll let you out of here. She wanted to know what the leap was from horror to the space opera of “Firefly” and what other genres are you interested in for the future?
WHEDON: First of all, there’s no genre I’m not interested in. The sensitive family drama, I have trouble with. Apart from that, there’s nothing. Everything’s good. Musicals, comedies....
BENDIS: What’s the trouble with sensitive family drama?
WHEDON: I don’t know what the structure should be. I never studied writing. So genre lends me certain crutches or signposts. Here, they’ve gotta sing, they’ve gotta be scared, they gotta have action. I just saw a great production of “All My Sons” and I was like, “Oh yeah. That’s the way you’d do [drama].” The way the stories and revelations come out about the family. Besides the fact that I don’t know structure, I like to be one step removed. I like the fantasy or the singing or something that takes you a little bit away from where you’re at. Because I don’t want to write about me. I mean, I’m in there obviously, but I want to make that more general. I want that to be more universal as opposed to, “I’m 40. I’m writing. I’m boring and depressed.” I mean, it’s like, “Great. That’s a fascinating story... buddy.”
It’s not really my style. I want people to see themselves before they see me. Even though ultimately, you always work yourself into your work. So, I don’t know where the next quantum leap will take me or what body it will put me in, but I’m so happy in Kitty Pryde that I can’t complain.
BENDIS: Kitty Pryde is cool!
WHEDON: I love her dating Spidey in the Ultimate books. So I like both Kittys. All Kittys are good.
BENDIS: When you were at the Marvel retreat, we talked about all the characters. Is there another book you’re gonna do for Marvel?
WHEDON: I don’t have one in mind right now.
BENDIS: No character you gotta get your hands on before you shuffle off?
WHEDON: It’s weird, but there aren’t that many that I’m crazy about. [Bryan] Hitch and I talked about doing Spidey, but it’s tough because of the same problem I had on X-Men: how do you bring change to something that’s been run so long and so well? And, you know, I have a little bit of a Luke Cage crush. I kind of dig Luke Cage.
BENDIS: Get your hands off Luke Cage, man! That’s mine!
WHEDON: No, no, no! It’s too late! It’s over! I kinda had a thing with Luke.
WHEDON: Believe me, I love what you’re doing with him. So I’m vicariously living there.
BENDIS: You’re gonna take Luke Cage away from me.
WHEDON: No, I’m not! First of all, I couldn’t take anything away from you. You’re the master of the Marvel Universe and everybody knows it. I’m just the Watcher. I’ve sworn not to interfere. But I do all the time.
And also, I’m so crazy about Runaways. That would be daunting, but I have to admit. I once said to Brian [K. Vaughan], “You know, if Runaways isn’t doing that well, I could throw them into the X-Men and give them a little exposure.” And he was like, “I really appreciate it, but that’s so cheesy.” And then he wrote that X-Men/Runaways crossover! [Laughs] I can’t even find a copy. I’m like, “Wait a minute! I gotta read it!”
BENDIS: One of my favorite hobbies in my free time is trying to make Brian sell out.
BENDIS: I can’t get him to do it.
WHEDON: It’s tough, because the thing about Marvel is, it’s home. It really is. It’s where I grew up. People long before I started writing Astonishing X-Men pointed out the similarities between Buffy and the X-Men that I hadn’t even noticed. I hadn’t even noticed that all her friends had turned into superheroes. And then there I am writing the X-Men and there’s my work in a movie that I have a connection with and, you know, Marvel has the characters we love. They’re home. But you know what? You grow up and you leave home.
BENDIS: Not me!
WHEDON: [Laughs] And in your case, you grew up and you built a giant wing with a heliport.
BENDIS: I actually, in the first seasons of “Buffy,” saw the similarities between Buffy and Spider-Man.
BENDIS: The early [Steve] Ditko years of Spider-Man. And it’s funny-not a day goes by where the overwhelming desire to out him to his friends at the prom doesn’t overwhelm me. And I can’t do it, so thank you for that.
BENDIS: That literally goes on every week. “You know what would have been a great issue #100?”
BENDIS: Or a great Annual #2? Nope, can’t do it.
WHEDON: I’ve got an Annual coming up. The Astonishing X-Men Annual #1 is gonna be Johnny and me and that’s gonna be our blowout. We wrap everything up. And end the Marvel Universe! No. We decided against that.
WHEDON: But we’ve been building towards this since issue #1 and it’s going to be our big finale. Not that there couldn’t be anything after that. I also thought about doing a book about S.W.O.R.D., because I was having fun with that and adding that to the universe was really fun.
BENDIS: I was just going to ask you about that. Actually, this rarely ever happens, but someone on my board actually said that me and Alex Maleev’s Spider-Woman series that we’re doing later in the year should be Jessica [Drew] running S.W.O.R.D. And that was such a better idea than what we’re actually doing...
BENDIS: And then I went, “Oh yeah, what are they going to do with S.W.O.R.D.?”
WHEDON: At the end of my run, there will be a memo saying, “Here’s where we are, in case you weren’t reading. And here’s what would be nice.”
BENDIS: We call that a “Mark Millar Memo.” Ever see one of those?
WHEDON: I don’t know if I ever have.
BENDIS: Every time Mark leaves a book, he writes a magilla of things he wants everyone else to do. And I type back, “You’re not done with your book!” [Laughs]
WHEDON: Yeah, I know. The problem is, you always think of the next thing. Tell me you don’t have that problem.
BENDIS: I stay on my books! No, but me and Mark argue all the time, because Mark will be on a book for a year and then run away. And I like to stay. And his argument is that even the best runs in comics still have those weird issues. And he never wants to write one of those weird issues. And I think I love those weird issues. I love the issue of Daredevil before Frank Miller killed Elektra. He’s in the sewer, fighting some big, giant Kingpin of the sewer. I love that issue. It’s almost terrible, but I love it. And it’s right before this genius issue. And Mark never wants to do that. So my argument is that he should stay on his books longer and go on that journey and do all these things.
WHEDON: It happens so fast in TV, but once you hit your stride and you really care and you’re keeping it going, those little weird sidebar moments are always your favorites.
BENDIS: Exactly, exactly.
WHEDON: But you have to hit certain marks with a genre, which as I said, is a crutch. But at the same time, you become fascinated by what lies between them. When I did a “Buffy” episode with no music and no action in it, it was so exciting. The first time I wrote a scene on set, it was a day during Season 3 where they came to me and said, “We’re running late and we’re running short.” I was directing the second part of a two-parter. I had directed both parts, so they already had an assemblage of the first part and they said, “It’s really short. We need another scene.” So at lunch, I wrote a scene between Faith and the mayor and at the end of the day, we shot it. And God bless the two great, professional actors. It was two takes on either side and we were done. But it had no jokes, it had no fear and it had no punch. It was just a scene between two people and I had never done that before and I was terrified to do it. But it was so liberating. Those things just come up.
In comics, it hasn’t come up as much for me, because I don’t do the same kind of volume that you do. Getting one out a month is a heroic event for me. So they tend to be a little more focused than the TV, where I’m putting out 22 a year instead of 12 and they’re 60 pages long.
BENDIS: That’s Mark’s argument: if you say you’re only going to do 12, you’re gonna make sure each one of them is as near perfect as you can make it.
WHEDON: Well, we were supposed to do 12, me and Cassaday. And, I don’t know, about mid-way through or two-thirds of the way through, I saw him at Comic-Con and I said, “Dude, I know what happens for the next 12 issues.” And when I told him, he cussed me out so hard, because he knew. [Laughs] He was like, “You know I have to leave.” And I was like, “Dude, I’m sorry! But I think this should happen and this! And then this!” And then he was like, “And then we’ll finish it with the Annual.” And we made the deal in like, a day. It just unfolded.
BENDIS: Ok, here come the rapid fire. Ready? What’s your favorite comic of all time?
WHEDON: Favorite comic of all time! We’re talking issue or run?
BENDIS: Favorite issue of all time.
WHEDON: After I get off this phone call, I’m gonna remember the real one. And it’s gonna make me really crazy. I’m gonna say issue #1 of Ronin, by Frank Miller.
BENDIS: What’s the last great comic you read?
WHEDON: Now of course, I have to remember the last comic book I read. And of course I read them a few days ago and can remember none of them. Not because they’re not memorable books, but because I panic at these things.
BENDIS: I love that.
WHEDON: Yeah, you’re passive aggressive with me, I know. James Lipton would have just yawned and left by now. “I don’t even care what turns you on.”
WHEDON: The last great comic I read...
BENDIS: This is like the good first year of “Inside the Actors Studio,” when they didn’t know the questions were coming. So the answers were better.
WHEDON: Oh yeah. Now they’re all prepped.
BENDIS: You can say Runaways.
WHEDON: You know, I was gonna try to think of something that wasn’t Runaways, because I’ve always talked about that book because I love it so well. But you know what, I’ll say I finally got the softcover of Young Avengers.
BENDIS: Oh yeah, that’s good.
WHEDON: I was loving that. I missed it when it first came out and I didn’t have any back issues and I was waiting and it took forever for the friggin’ softcover. I met Allan [Heinberg] and I felt really weird that I hadn’t read his book. But what I love about it is that it’s straight-up yarn spinning. It’s not like, “Here’s a post-modern take.” It’s just, this is why we love Marvel Comics.
BENDIS: They just yesterday sent me a double-page spread from issue #12, which is the Avengers and Young Avengers leaping at you for the big finale. It’s so gorgeous. And literally next week, I get to start working with Jimmy [Cheung]. He’s doing an issue of New Avengers.
WHEDON: I was gonna say, Jimmy Cheung’s art is just so gorgeous. And sweet. It has the same quality the writing has. It’s like, “We really just care.” It’s not like, “We’re gonna reinvent” or “We’re gonna deconstruct.” They’re just getting it right. So that made a big impression. I couldn’t put that down.
BENDIS: That’s cool. Allan will be very happy. Favorite movie of all time?
WHEDON: My favorite movie for a long time was a dead heat between “The Bad and the Beautiful” and “Once Upon a Time in the West.” But the upstart winner is “The Matrix.”
BENDIS: Wow. Stan said “My Fair Lady.”
WHEDON: What’s your favorite movie?
BENDIS: My favorite movie is “Reds.”
WHEDON: Oh cool!
BENDIS: I’ve shocked you a little bit. Yes, I love that.
WHEDON: No, I dig it, but you don’t hear that a lot.
BENDIS: Yeah, I’m completely alone. And you know how I know I’m completely alone? Not on DVD yet. So what’s the last great movie you’ve seen?
WHEDON: Okay, I did see some unexpected greatness in “Kong.” Amidst the hoke and the bloat was some transcendent movie making. It was like the “The Legend of 1900”: a great, lean flick trapped in a three-hour fat suit. But no, I do have a recent great, and it”s not, I don’t think it’s coincidence that the last great movie I watched wasn’t a movie. I’m way late to the game, but I have really good excuses. But I just watched the miniseries opener of “Battlestar Galactica” and I loved the toes off that bitch. I’m not positive what that phrase means. But tension, drama, humanity, and-alien spaceships. I was pretty floored. That’s my call.
BENDIS: I just saw one this weekend that surprised the shit out of me. I saw “Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang.” The first half-hour is the best half-hour of screenplay I have ever seen on screen.
BENDIS: I highly recommend it. I think you’ll love it.
WHEDON: I’m planning to see it. Of course, I have a kid so I don’t see anything until it’s on DVD, with very few exceptions. The big ones, I’ll go and see. But honestly, the last movie I saw that really surprised me was “Sky High.” I really liked that movie. Kurt Russell was hilarious.
BENDIS: I spent the hour after I saw that with my child hitting myself on the head with a hammer.
BENDIS: And I wanted to be Robert Kirkman’s lawyer and sue everybody because it was such a rip-off of Invincible it was ridiculous.
WHEDON: I started to see a lot of things that are similar, yeah. I don’t know how often it’s been done. I hadn’t read Invincible. You know, it’s just one of those movies that has a premise, pays it off cleverly and then follows through and has a second half. These things so seldom happen.
BENDIS: See, for me right now, I love being a father more than anything in the world. And watching “Sky High” with my child ties for our worst moment tied with having to sit through “Garfield.”
WHEDON: Ah. Well, see, my child hasn’t seen any movies yet.
BENDIS: Ah, okay. How old or young?
BENDIS: Ah, see, my kid loves movies. She’s three and a half and she loves them.
WHEDON: Ah, well, he hasn’t seen any TV at all except for one concert and I showed him a couple songs from “The Little Mermaid.”
BENDIS: She doesn’t know the TV works. It only works for movies at night.
WHEDON: Ah, right. We’re just starting to get him in on it. I’m also trying to think of a great movie I’ve seen recently and it’s just not gonna happen. I’m sure it wasn’t “When A Stranger Calls,” because I saw it in my hotel.
BENDIS: What’s your favorite album of all time?
WHEDON: I should have seen that one coming! I’m gonna go with “Decade,” which is cheating, but I don’t care. It’s a compilation from when I was growing up. Neil Young’s “Decade.”
BENDIS: Okay, cool. Anything you wanna plug before we get out of here?
WHEDON: You know, my brain is barely working, but I need your album. You can’t just throw these things at me and not even have to answer yourself.
BENDIS: [Laughs] Oh, the Distillers’ “Sing Sing Death House.”
Thank you for doing this. Very cool of you. You’re going right after Stan. Look at you!
WHEDON: Check me out! Take care bro.