Joss Whedon, best known for his TV creation Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is a comic book fan. Big time. ‘I was a Marvel boy,’ says Whedon of his comic influences. ‘I read everything they put out in the late 1970s into the 1980s.’ But actually, writing comic books has never been a concern for this producer, writer and director-until now.
Melaka Fray is Whedon’s first comic book creation. She’s a teenage slayer who doesn’t know from Watchers, demons or vampires, living in a slum and working as a part-time thief. With the first title released in June, Dark Horse is publishing the eight-part mini-series Fray as a monthly comic with art handled by newcomer Karl Moline, inking by Andy Owens, and colors by Dave Stewart. In direct market sales, Fray’s advance orders equal the numbers on Dark Horse’s best-selling Star Wars series.
It all began when Buffy was licensed as a comic book series by Dark Horse in 1998, causing Whedon to take another look at the genre. ‘I discovered that comics were good again. I mentioned to Dark Horse that I had staff writers who were comic book buffs and might want to try their hand at writing an issue or a one-shot, and they were excited about that,’ Whedon recalls. ‘And I thought if they could do it, maybe I could do it too.’
At first, Whedon was going to write about Faith, the dark slayer from the Buffy TV series. ‘I thought I should do something Buffy-related because I knew that universe. But I didn’t want to screw with the continuity of the show, so I set Fray 300 years in the future.’ Squeezing Fray into his already busy schedule-Whedon is supervising both Buffy and Angel, as well as a Buffy the Vampire Slayer animated series for Fox Kids and assorted other projects-he’s found the experience quite satisfying. Says Whedon: ‘There are things you can only do in comic books-rhythms, visuals and experiences that are different from anything else.’
With Dark Horse’s success with Hollywood adaptations (The Mask) and Whedon’s track record of successful films (he wrote on Disney’s Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Titan A.E., Alien: Resurrection and Toy Story) and TV offerings (Buffy and Angel), Fray may someday find herself on the big screen. Unlike Buffy (which is owned by Fox), Whedon owns the rights to Fray, and he is strictly devoted to developing the heroine for the comic page for now.
Dark Horse is using Whedon’s celebrity status as Buffy creator to boost sales and bring attention to its comic line. His appearance at Chicago’s WizardWorld convention in August 2000 brought out record crowds, and mainstream magazines such as TV Guide and Entertainment Weekly have run stories on Whedon’s unique move into comics.
And Fray is only the beginning. Joss joins his fellow Buffy writing staff in penning a special Tales Of The Slayer anthology comic due out in September, and has written a four-issue Angel mini-series slated for sale beginning in October.
‘Before video games and VHS, there was a time when comic books were the only extraordinary visual stimuli you could take home with you. I think it’s still a viable medium for kids, they just need to be exposed to it.’