This was a short interview I did with Brett Matthews in June of 2005. At that time I had a really good relationship with Dark Horse Comics and had done a number of interviews with their talent pool and organized a couple of events on Silver Bullet Comicbooks through them. Brett used to be Joss Whedon’s assistant during the Buffy, Angel, and Firefly periods so it’s entirely possible that I originally conducted this interview hoping to include it as part of the ongoing Buffy Post Mortem but it ran instead as its own standalone piece to promote the new Serenity prequel comic that DHC, Joss, Brett, and Will Conrad were about to unleash on fandom.
Brett Matthews is no stranger to the Whedonverse or the world of comic books so it should come as no surprise that when the idea for a Serenity prequel story was hatched, he was the man for the job. Not only has Matthews previously collaborated with Joss Whedon on another Mutant Enemy property-turned-comic-book, Angel, and not only has he written for the short-lived series Firefly (the show on which the film was based) but he had already been developing the story featured in the mini-series as a half-hour animated episode to be released on DVD, much like the Chronicles of Riddick or Van Helsing DVDs before it.
Matthews is joined on Serenity by artist Will Conrad, colourist Laura Martin and co-writer, Joss Whedon. The mini-series, hitting shelves on July 12th, 2005, promises to bridge the gap between the television series and the film, and giving readers a glimpse into what these characters have been up to since we last saw them in the show’s final episode, “Objects in Space”.
When I contacted Matthews, he was busy at work on an upcoming project and only had time for a quick Q&A – which should explain the brevity of the piece – but I think what we managed to work in is both informative and entertaining. I hope you do to…
MIKE JOZIC: The Serenity comic started life as a short animated prequel like the Riddick and Van Helsing ones before it. Were you attached to write that originally?
BRETT MATTHEWS: Yes. I actually wrote the Chronicles of Riddick anime – and in so doing collaborated with two very talented guys, David Twohy and Peter Chung – and so knew all the Universal folks involved with the project, and obviously I know and love Joss and the Firefly universe. So, it was a very good fit.
JOZIC: Had the project reached the stage where they were thinking of a director or did they do any design work for the animated versions of these characters?
MATTHEWS: No. The plug got pulled early, due to concerns about time and money. The turnaround on these things is nine months, minimum, and more often a year.
JOZIC: So, how did the story end up at Dark Horse and ultimately turn into a three-issue mini-series?
MATTHEWS: Long story short, we had a story we knew we liked and it wasn’t going to be an anime. That didn’t make it any less worth telling, and since comics are something Joss and I both love and like to have a hand in…
Dark Horse made a lot of sense. Joss obviously has a great relationship with them, and they’re very good about trusting him and just letting him create, which he does better than anyone else I know. Knowing from past experience that Scott Allie’s a fantastic editor to work with and that there’s a comfort level there, things came together very quickly.
The story is what it was. It hasn’t changed a great deal. There was never a script for the anime, so all the writing was done knowing this would be a comic.
JOZIC: And how does it feel to be working on a prequel story to a major motion picture that was based on a television series you worked on that was unceremoniously cancelled by the network it was on only a few years ago? In some ways, I would think there’s a Family Guy-like feeling of validation, or something.
MATTHEWS: I don’t know, by which I guess I mean there are a lot of emotions involved and it’s hard to pick just one. I imagine Joss felt very vindicated the first day he walked on the set of the movie, or when they started building that beautiful ship again. I mean, he strapped this thing on his back and made it happen no matter how many times people told him it wouldn’t, through his love for it and sheer force of will. It’s an amazing, amazing thing.
For me, it was just a wonderful thing to visit these characters again – to hear and write their voices. I just really, really missed them.
JOZIC: The mini is supposed to be a prequel to the film. In what ways will it embellish the film experience or inform the reader/viewer?
MATTHEWS: I don’t want to ruin anything about the movie, because it’s really something people just need to go and sit in the dark and experience. I hate me the spoilers.
But there are things from the movie you’ll get a first glimpse of in the comic. Just as important, there are things from the show that will get closure. It really does fill the gap between the show and the film – the story the comic tells exists in a world where the show did happen and the movie will. It’s very much in continuity for the hardcore fan, without who all this wouldn’t have happened.
JOZIC: I’ve heard some rumours that Book will have a limited role in the film. If true, will that be addressed in the prequel story or are they two separate things?
MATTHEWS: I’m not big with the rumors, and so won’t comment except to say that Book does some pretty cool and interesting things in the comic, and that you’ll get insight into his character.
JOZIC: Considering how well other Whedon properties have done for Dark Horse, what are the chances we’ll see some more stories set in the Firefly universe coming out for the comic book market?
MATTHEWS: That’s totally Joss’ call. If the book makes money for Dark Horse, I assume they’d be up for more – that’s kind of how it works. Do I personally think there are more stories to tell? Sure.
JOZIC: The mini will actually be coming out sporting variant covers illustrated by some of the finest artists in the field right now. Out of the 9 covers done which one would you say is your favourite?
MATTHEWS: That’s such a hard question. I love them all. So many talented artists at the top of their game just doing their thing: Cassaday, Hitch, Chen, Quesada, Bradstreet, Yu, Jones, Phillips, Middleton. I’m not into variant covers as a rule, but when they’re all this damn good…
JOZIC: There’s gotta be one that stands out…
MATTHEWS: You’re gonna force me to pick one, huh?
But it changes every time I look at them all. Ask me again tomorrow.
JOZIC: If I can go back in time for a bit, I’d like to ask a few questions about your past comic book work, like the Angel mini-series from a few years back.
At the end of those four issues you guys kind of walked off the book with a big To Be Continued vibe to it. Did you and Joss have more story there to tell?
MATTHEWS: Yes, for sure. But you remember a couple questions up that thing about a book needing to make x amount of dollars to continue? It didn’t, and that’s the business side of show business.
JOZIC: You’ve also done some mainstream super-hero comics for Marvel. Is that something you’d like to do more of?
MATTHEWS: I loved working with Marvel, and with Joe Quesada as my editor. I’d love to do more with them and him someday.
JOZIC: Do you have any interest in developing some original ideas for comics that you would write?
MATTHEWS: Sure. It’s just a matter of having the right story at the right company. Which is much harder than it sounds.
JOZIC: So, what’s next for you? Back to television or are you going to hang around the comic book industry for a spell?
MATTHEWS: I’m writing a feature film for Universal right now. Who knows what’ll be next? Not me.