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Wizard whips up this alphabet soup to whet your appetite for his upcoming stint on Runaways

By Paul Florez

Posted April 2, 2007  4:05 PM

Joss Whedon looks to ditch the West Coast for a stay in the Big Apple—and he’s bringing Marvel’s Runaways with him.

Whedon, along with artist Michael Ryan (New X-Men), takes the reins of Marvel’s most beloved group of teen misfits starting with this week's issue #25 for a six-issue ride that finds them on the mean streets of New York City. And if there’s anything the Buffy creator has proven throughout the years, it’s that he’s the master of teen angst and clever dialogue. But the question ultimately arises, why is Whedon taking Nico and the gang out of sunny L.A.?

“[Brian Vaughan] asked me!” Whedon admits. “He said they’re the most landlocked runaways. I mean, they’ve been living at the same place for a long time, so they’re not actually running anywhere.”

Whedon promises that their trip will impact the team and their perception of the world: “It’s going to give them a very different perspective on what their lives are like compared to everyone else’s. They’re going to see a side of the world that they haven’t really seen before.” And with NYC being the thriving center of superhero culture, does this mean we’re going to see any big-name Marvel hero cameos? “Not the ones they’ve met up with before,” Whedon teases. “And I’m actually not going to reveal who they are, because I am a bad person.”

So before Whedon showers fans with the flowers of his labor, we’re teaching you the fundamental ABCs of Whedon’s career—everything you need to know to get ready for his Runaways.

A for Angel
Whedon first saw that “Angel” star David Boreanaz could carry his own series after the “Buffy” episode “I Only Have Eyes for You,” where Buffy and Angel get caught up in a romantic haunting. In 1999, Whedon relocated Buffy’s star-crossed lover to L.A., snatching Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter) and Wesley (Alexis Denisof) along the way. For five seasons, Angel fought the good fight helping the helpless, and eventually joined the blood-sucking lawyers at Wolfram and Hart, a law firm specializing in the supernatural. The series ended on a cliffhanger, with Angel and his gang facing certain death when taking on the firm’s evil Senior Partners. You can still catch Angel’s comic book adventures courtesy of IDW, which publishes a series of minis, specials and one-shots starring the redeemed vampire.
B for Buffy
Kristy Swanson bore the role first, but it was Sarah Michelle Gellar who made Buffy an icon. The show taught us the only thing more terrifying than fighting vampires and demons was surviving high school. Accompanied by her ragtag Scooby Gang—Giles, Willow, Xander, Anya and Spike—Buffy fought the evil forces of the Hellmouth for seven seasons. Things came to a heated finale when Willow activated all of the latent Slayers worldwide, forcing Buffy to relocate to Europe to train the next generations of Slayers. However, with Dark Horse’s Buffy Season 8 series, which kicked off in March, fans can plan on spending more time with their favorite Slayer. Says Whedon of the new comic push, “I’m having the time of my life. It’s really fun, and I’m getting to play with the characters I love, yet create new avenues of storytelling.”

C for Chase
In Runaways, he’s the dim-bulb son of mad scientists and the owner of a telepathically controlled dinosaur, but in Whedon’s heart, bad boy Chase Stein holds a special place: “I really love writing Chase. Chase always has my perspective, which is ‘Oh, now I get it.’”

D for Dark knight
Although he never wrote a script for “Batman Begins,” Whedon did go to Warner Brothers to pitch his take. “I still stay up late at night thinking how cool my Batman movie could have been, and I liked ‘Batman Begins’ a lot,” admits Whedon. “I thought it had some awesome stuff I would never have come up with, but I still think about what I could have done.”

E for E-sharp
If there’s anything the “Buffy” episode “Once More With Feeling” taught us, it’s that Whedon could do anything. After spending his entire summer between Seasons Five and Six writing the songs to the “Buffy” musical episode, this installment incited a musical revolution. Once fans saw the masterpiece, it sung its way to the top of favorite episode lists, spawned a soundtrack album and produced a pop culture phenomenon: Buffy karaoke!

F for Firefly
Set in the year 2517, the sci-fi Western series followed a crew of civil war survivors aboard the spaceship Serenity, and chronicled their adventures of survival in a universe dominated by an all-powerful- yet-supposedly-benevolent Alliance. Fox aired only 11 of the 15 episodes produced, some of them out of sequential order. However, the series found new life on the big screen as “Serenity,” which has prospered on DVD (as has the “Firefly” collection). In addition, a new comic project from Dark Horse looms on the horizon: Serenity: Better Days, by Whedon, Brett Matthews and Will Conrad, touches down in the fall.

G for ‘Goners’
Whedon remains tight-lipped about this new feature film project that he’s working on, saying only that “‘Goners’ is a supernatural thriller” he wrote after finishing “Serenity,” and “it’s being produced by Mary Parent and Scott Stuber [‘Halo’].”

H for House of Ideas
After wrapping Runaways and Astonishing X-Men, Whedon’s probably bowing out of future Marvel projects for the time being. “I’ve been in the House of Marvel for a couple of years,” Whedon says. “There is so much going on, there are so many crossover events, and every single character has been dragged out, revamped and dredged. I don’t feel like there is anyone you can get your mitts on that isn’t already being done.” Though Whedon does admit to having a dark horse favorite: “Cloak. But not Dagger. I hate Dagger,” Whedon laughs. “I’m kidding. That outfit? I love Dagger, she could teach Emma Frost a thing or two about shame.”

I for (Alien) Invaders
Whedon says he’s having a ball taking a crack at the Runaways’ resident alien, the shape-shifting Skrull named Xavin, who’s wrapped up in a homosexual romance with teammate Karolina. “I also enjoy Xavin because you know you want to find those characters that people don’t really get as well and haven’t been around as much,” notes the writer. “I’ve been having fun with Xavin.”

J for Joss
Born Joseph Hill Whedon, he changed his name to Joss, which is Chinese for “lucky,” after he broke into the writing business.

K for Kitty Pryde
Whedon’s self-professed favorite X-Man is phasing computer whiz Kitty Pryde. Aside from citing her as an inspiration for the creation of Buffy, his run on Astonishing X-Men centers on Kitty’s return to the team and the resurrection of her once-dead boyfriend, Colossus.

L for Loeb
Upcoming Buffy Season 8 writer Jeph Loeb was an executive producer along with Whedon on the ill-fated “Buffy” animated television show. The project was set up at Fox, but when that network passed, it was scrapped after it failed to get picked up elsewhere.

M for Melaka Fray
Into each generation, one Slayer is chosen. However, this wasn’t the case for the futuristic vampire killer Melaka Fray, who was the first Slayer to be called in centuries after a new vampire threat, known as Lurks, emerges 200 years from our time. Dark Horse published the long-delayed, eight-issue mini, which Karl Moline (Route 666) penciled.

N for Numfar
The only character Whedon ever played in the Buffy-verse was the dancing Pylea native, Numfar, which he appeared as in “Angel” Season Two’s “Through the Looking Glass.”

O for ‘the Office’
In March, Whedon directed an episode of the hit NBC comedy “The Office.” What does Whedon think of the experience? “That turned out to be so much fun, but you know, to be a director for hire, to walk in someone else’s house, that’s not an easy thing to do.” Whedon says. “[But] in ‘The Office,’ they couldn’t be nicer or more collaborative or more interested in working hard and getting it done, and to a man it was a great experience.”

P for Princess Powerful
So who is Whedon’s favorite Runaway? That would be the super-strong, pre-pubescent adolescent who’s known by both Princess Powerful and Bruiser, depending on which Runaway you ask. “I’ve always loved Molly [Hayes] desperately,” Whedon says. “Brian writes Molly so intimately well.”

Q for Quiet
The landmark “Buffy” episode “Hush”—told almost completely dialogue-free—scored Whedon an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series in 2000. Speaking of awards, he won an Eisner in 2006 for Best Continuing Series for Astonishing X-Men, and was nominated for a Best Screenplay Oscar in 1996 for “Toy Story.”

R for Runaways
Created by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona, Runaways tells the story of a diverse group of teens—Nico, Karolina, Molly, Gert and Chase—who find out their parents are actually a cabal of villains called the Pride who set out to conquer the world. Featuring similar themes and motifs to the ones we’ve seen on “Buffy”—evil parents, teen angst, adventure hijinks—we’re placing bets that Whedon is going to take no prisoners on his upcoming six-issue run with artist Michael Ryan (New

S for Spike
The bleach-blond vampire with a soul, played by James Marsters on both Whedonverse TV series, died destroying the Hellmouth in “Buffy” only to be reborn in “Angel” Season Five, where he continued his role as the antihero. These days, look for Spike in a host of minis and one-shots from IDW, and a possible cameo in the Dark Horse Buffy series!

T for TV
With great shows like “Buffy” and “Angel” under Whedon’s belt, fans are waiting for his return to television. But would he? “I love TV, I absolutely want to go back to TV, I just don’t want to get trampled on,” says Whedon, a third-generation TV writer whose father, Tom, and grandfather, John, both wrote for television. “You know, if I have a series that I believe in, and I have the people to make it and a place to put, yes. I adore television, but a lot of things have to come together, and while I have these other obligations, I can’t really pursue those things.”

U for Uncredited Work
Some fans may not know, but Whedon did a rewrite on the first “X-Men” script that went uncredited in the final production. He also wrote drafts of the screenplays to “Twister,” “Speed” and “Waterworld” which were never credited, though for his screenplay to “Alien: Resurrection,” Whedon has actually disavowed his own work!

V for ‘Veronica Mars
Whedon publicly praised the CW series, calling the teen-centric mystery the best show ever, and he backed up his claim with a guest appearance as a rental car manager who gets outwitted by Veronica in the Season Two episode “Rat Saw God.”

W for Wonder Woman
Whedon was scheduled to direct and write the silver screen adaptation of DC’s Wonder Woman. However, he recently announced his departure from the project, citing creative differences with the studio. Or, as he good-naturedly puts it, “I think the Amazon and I are going to see other people.”

X for X-Men
Alongside series artist John Cassaday, Whedon has redefined Marvel’s Merry Mutants with Astonishing X-Men, now in its second “season” and drawing to a close, as the Children of the Atom defend Earth from a bloodthirsty alien race who claim Colossus is foretold to be their destroyer. Whedon says his collaboration with Cassaday has been the best he’s ever had: “Cassaday is one of the great collaborations of my life. My scripts have gotten shorter and shorter because I just know he understands what I need, and he brings it so hugely.” Look for Whedon and Cassaday to continue the thrills when Astonishing X-Men #22 hits stores on April 18.

Y for ‘Yoko Factor’
Up until Season Four, Buffy never really had another love interest besides Angel. Sure, there was Scott Hope, but who remembers him? When demon-hunting Initiative operative Riley came into the picture in Season Four, we knew a fight between him and Angel was coming. And in the episode, “The Yoko Factor,” Angel traveled to Sunnydale to go toe to toe with Riley, letting him know who the real love of Buffy’s life was.

Z for Zack
Whedon’s brother Zack worked on “Angel” as a production assistant for Joss, and currently works as a P.A. to “Deadwood” creator David Milch. He also wrote the episode “Amateur Night” for the HBO series.

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