Joss Whedon and Erika Alexander Send Buffy’s Giles Back to School
The majority of movie-going audiences know Joss Whedon from the superhero blockbusters hes has directed, namely The Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Justice League, which he took over after Zack Snyder left the production due to a personal tragedy. Yet the properties which first made him famous – Firefly/Serenity and Buffy the Vampire Slayer – have sizable fanbases, with cult followings still rabid for anything new.
The primary source of new material for those shows have been series from Dark Horse Comics, specifically Buffy comic books. While the TV show had a companion comic from 1998-2003, after the show finished its seven season run, the story continued in a pivotal series aptly titled Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight. This ongoing was popular enough to lead to Season Nine, Ten and Eleven, as well as various miniseries and graphic novels. Whedon was the writer or co-writer for most of Season Eight and the start of Nine, but has been absent from the Buffy comics since. That is, until now.
Buffy fans, rejoice. Whedon is back to co-write a miniseries about one of the core members of the Scooby Gang, Rupert Giles, playing in live-action by Anthony Stewart Head. And Whedon has brought along another creative you may recognize from film and TV, Erika Alexander. As an actress, Alexander is best know for her role as Max on the Emmy-winning sitcom Living Single, but her more recent credits include the acclaimed film Get Out and the television series Bosch. Alexander also has comic book experience, as the co-writer of Dark Horse’s Concrete Park. Whedon and Alexander have cooked up a plot that involves Giles’ adult mind in a teen body, heading to high school in Los Angeles. Sounds fun, right?
CBR had a chance to pick the brains of both Joss Whedon and Erika Alexander about the four-issue Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Giles series, scheduled to debut with issue#1 on Feb. 28, with art by Jon Lam and Dan Jackson. We get the low down on Giles’ new status quo, his co-star Roux and which other Buffyverse characters we may see, and even managed to sneak in a question about the long-proposed Ripper TV show.
CBR: Joss, you killed Giles because you didn’t feel he worked in the comic book format. Did you have plans to resurrect him and send him to high school when you decided to kill him off?
Joss Whedon: I wouldn’t say he didn’t work – just, Buffy didn’t need a mentor (actually she did, but there is a time in your life where you have to walk through the world without them) and I needed a resonant moment. I remember telling Tony at Comic-COn… he was sad, but he got it. The bringing him back as a 12 year old came later. I liked the idea that Angel’s next arc was redemptive, but that the results where not what he expected. And then it was straight-up whimsy, which the books have exploited hilariously and poignantly.
I couldn’t bear the thought of him not having an arc of his own, and I thought throwing him into the American public school system would be the source of fish-out-of-water hijinks and a chance to talk about something that’s important to me.
How much does the inner city Los Angeles setting of the series shape the story?
Erika Alexander: Los Angeles is a big part of this series. And why not, LA is a gorgeous, roaming, stucco, cement butterfly that provides a big canvas for us to play with. It’s also its own character in this mystery. Its sprawling highways help guide us to fun, new characters with their own quirks and mythologies.
Giles, on the other hand, is a fish-out-of-water in a double bind, because he’s locked in his teenage self, undercover, in a city high school battling a strange “virus.” Joss wanted Giles to explore rich, thorny issues like class, gender, race and privilege. The types of issues that someone raised in the city can’t escape. City kids also have to deal with puberty, college applications, the prom and constantly being bombarded with traffic, ads, branding and noise campaigns ad nauseum. It’s all compelling for their mind space, a total energy vampire. The landscape adds an element of pressure and overwhelm that seems to suffocate individuality and breed conformity. It’s ironic that many students who grow up in these environments turn out to be great individualists and iconoclasts. So, after the initial shock, Giles will use his migrant abilities and fit right in.
What can you share about Giles’ “mysterious new friend” Roux?
Alexander: Roux is a student attending the Living Legend Academy and Charter School and she’s got a secret. Well, she’s got lots of secrets. As a self-proclaimed “Watcher” she spends her day guarding her ward and she’s a bit of a busy body, so she’ll clash with Giles’ investigation. Roux has survived a tragic, complicated past and now she spends her time ruminating on how to survive the future and can she get a date to the prom. In that way Giles and Roux are two of a kind.
Will other main Buffyverse characters appear in this series?
Alexander: Yes, beautiful Willow will make a cameo. She’s Giles confidante and connection to his other life. She reminds him that while sailing the ocean he should be careful not to fall over the edge.
Artist Jon Lam is a newcomer to the Buffyverse. What made him the right fit for this series?
Alexander: Jon’s work rocks and he has a beautiful sense and sensibility for story. That’s a killer recipe.
Do you think about Anthony Stewart Head when you write young Giles?
Alexander: I do. As Giles, Anthony did a wonderful portrayal and he is beloved, but I for this project think of Joss more. I mean, isn’t he the original template for the character of Giles? Joss’ dry sense of humor, quick intelligence, shyness, and self-deprecating existential battles are charming and make a rich palette for my ear. So, that is a lot of who this young Giles is now.
Is adult Giles in his teenage body a spin on when adult Giles reverted back to his teenage self in the show in “Band Candy”?
Alexander: Joss would have to answer that, but that’s a great guess.
Whedon: Not really. Giles in “Band Candy” was a teen in an adult body. Here he’s the opposite, a 50-something guy in an even younger teen’s body. The fun her eis, his mind knows way too much, but his hormonal little body is calling way more of the shots than he’s been used to for a while. When we’re our of that phase we think we remember it, but the physical and mental taffy-stretching-machine of adolescence is something you have to be feeling to truly understand. We make it an origin story after the fact: how I came to be me. During… well, it is an origin story, but it’s the falling-in-a-vat-of-radioactive-acid kind.
In terms of look and personality, Giles would probably be considered a nerd in school. Any possibility of a story about bullying? I imagine that his knowledge and experience would make him the wrong kid to pick on.
Alexander: Hey, maybe you should write this series, because you’re right on time! [Laughs] Yes, bullying does come up in this high school, as it would any. But our Giles is uniquely armed to handle it. Imagine, you get to go back to school as your young self with your adult mind? Boo-yah! Now deja vu becomes foresight. Dude, it’s Freaky Friday meets the Matrix with an 8-ball. Sweet.
Being a fan of classic rock and a guitarist, what’s the likelihood of Giles starting a garage band in high school?
Alexander: The 8-Ball says, “Not so likely,” at least in this iteration. But Giles Playlist is embedded in this series, so that’s something.
Whedon: I thought no one did that any more, but my son’s in a band and he and his friend are voraciously listening to all the old stuff. So, I guess it’s a real possibility. Of course, Giles would be insufferably exacting and his band mates would constantly be quitting.
Is there any possibility of that Ripper spinoff series still happening?
Alexander: Joss, are you listening? We’re all hoping. Ruminating.
Whedon: I will never give up hope on that one. And Tony seems to be getting younger in real life, too…
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Giles #1 is scheduled for release on Feb. 28.
Original article at CBR