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Serenity : The Shepherd’s Tale

Zack Whedon - "Serenity : The Shepherd’s Tale" Comic Book - Dark Horse Interview

Thursday 4 November 2010, by Webmaster

After years of speculation, the past of Shepherd Book is finally revealed in Serenity: The Shepherd’s Tale. Written by Joss & Zack Whedon, the dark tale covers several eras of Book’s life, and sheds light on how he became the character fans know from the ’Firefly’ series.

While most comic fans know Joss Whedon, his brother Zack has a lengthy and successful career as well, writing for shows like ’Deadwood’ and the new AMC series ’Rubicon’, scripting ’Dr. Horrible’, and finishing up the critically acclaimed comic series Terminator: 2029 and Terminator: 1984. Zack took time out of his busy schedule to answers a few more questions than we usually run as part of our exclusive Facebook interviews.

What was it like working with your brother on this project? Was there any sibling rivalry with what direction to take the story?

Though Joss and I both worked on this we didn’t really work on it together so to speak, or I should say we didn’t work on it simultaneously. By the time I got to it Joss’ work was done. He wrote an outline of the story, a rundown of the events that transpired and what he had in mind for each chapter of Book’s life. I then took that outline and wrote the comic, following his outline and hoping not to screw it up. Since we did our work separately we avoided any sibling rivalry and let me tell you there WOULD have been rivalry because I always thought that Book should be a member of a travelling Space-Circus.

Where you at all concerned with how fans would react to reading Book’s past?

Very concerned, yes. One of this character’s most prominent qualities is that he is a mystery. I worried that taking that mystery away might alter the audience’s relationship to him in a way they weren’t happy with but ultimately I think it only deepens your connection to him.

I also was concerned because people know this guy, all these characters actually and have a nuanced understanding of who they are, how they speak, what they would and would not do. I wanted to reward that understanding rather than contradict it. The fans of ’Firefly’ and ’Serenity’ are die hard, they’re committed and holy s*#t are they vocal. I didn’t want to get on their bad side.

Having been a writer on some of the best television shows, and now having a few critically acclaimed comics out, do you feel one medium has influenced your writing in the other?

I learned most of what I know about writing working in television so it obviously influences how I write comics. I think that you will never have a story worth telling (or watching or reading) unless you have a fully realized character at its center, which is something I learned writing for television. Working in comics has taught me a lot and I am still learning about that medium and its pitfalls but I think it has influenced my work in television by making me edit myself more meticulously. The real estate in a comic disappears awfully quick and you need to make every panel count. I think now when I write screenplays I’m much more economical as a result.

Do you have a preference for writing in one medium over the other?

Creatively I have found writing comics more satisfying. There is less interference, I really feel that I’m in control. All that is fun and the end result is yours for better or worse. You really own it. I love comics for that reason. Television is wonderful in that you have all the elements of filmmaking with the added benefit of being able to tell a story over many, many hours. You can really get deep down into a group of characters in a way that you cannot in a single film. Also, television reaches such a vast audience and the pay is pretty good.

Is there an artist in the comics industry you’re dying to work with?

Pia Guerra and John Cassaday come to mind. They are awesome.

Having worked on properties like ’Serenity’ and ’Terminator’, are there any franchises out there that you would love to tackle?

I’m excited to start working on original comics of my own. I’ve spent a lot of time both in television and in comics writing in other people’s voices or writing characters that were created by someone else. All of that has been fun and rewarding and I’m grateful to have gotten to work in such excellent franchises but I’m anxious to work on something original at the moment. Maybe after I’ve scratched that itch I’ll go back and find some established world that I want to play in but I can’t think of what that would be right now.

Did you read comics as a child? If so, which titles?

I didn’t read a ton. I would read the odd Spiderman, Daredevil, Hulk, as every kid does but none of those consistently. I read Batman: Year One and Dark Knight Returns, a couple of the Sin City books, Watchmen. One time I picked up a copy of something by Daniel Clowes, I think it was Eightball and it might’ve been a gift from Joss or something, I’m not sure. I think I was about eleven. Anyway, I remember reading it and being horrified. I was too young for it, had never read anything like that before and didn’t get it at all. Whatever it was, it made me sad and afraid.

What project are you most proud of having worked on?

I’m proud of different things for different reasons. I’m very proud to have worked on ’Deadwood’ because it was such an incredible show. Even though my role was small there I’m proud to have been a part of it in any capacity. I’m proud of ’Dr. Horrible’ because it was really a collaborative, family effort. I think I’m related to some very talented people and I’m glad lots of people know that now. The Terminator series I am doing with Dark Horse is close to my heart also.

Do you think fans will ever see ’Firefly’ return to television or the big screen?

That would be amazing but I’m not holding my breath. I think there is a chance for the distant future but that is based on no inside knowledge or anything, just an ongoing hope that we’ll get to see that cast together again.

If the Whedon family were The Beatles, which member would you be?

I think I’m George. Joss is probably John and Jed is Paul which leaves George and Ringo and I ain’t Ringo. George is pretty fresh though. He wrote “While my Guitar Gently Weeps” which is fantastic. Now that I think of it there are about four Georges in our family. We are like the Beatles if they were an eight man band where four of the men were George.