SFX WHEDON SPECIAL PREVIEW: Exploring Book’s Backstory

Joss’s bro, Zack, on fleshing out the The Shepard’s Tale in the first Serenity hardback graphic novel

Of all the Firefly characters, the one fans know least about is the enigmatic preacher Shepherd Book (played by Ron Glass). It’s appropriate, then, that he’s the subject of the first original hardback Serenity graphic novel, “The Shepherd’s Tale”, to be published in November with art by Chris Sambee. Joss Whedon has entrusted the job of scripting the story to his brother Zack, a fellow TV writer on the likes of Fringe, Deadwood and Dr Horrible.

“It explores Book’s backstory,” says Zack, “which in the show is very mysterious. You get little indications that his life is much more interesting than you think, but you never really know what it is. This story goes all the way back to his childhood, to see how he ended up the man in the show. It’s very much a character story. It’s very human. I had a lot of fun with it. It’s really charting his emotional and psychological life, and it was really interesting. I was working from an outline by Joss, and he had this really complicated, rich history imagined for Book. Then I scripted it. It was a lot of fun, and it was nerve-wracking because I know that people really care about this character and that universe. And I care about it too. I’m a huge fan of the show and the movie and everything. But I know that we did it justice in the comic. His life took a lot of very interesting turns, and I think that people will be really surprised to see some of the places that he came from.”

“This is an idea that Joss cooked up a few years ago,” adds Dark Horse editor Allie, “where Ron Glass was pressuring over and over again to give him some backstory to his character, because his backstory was such a mystery in the show and in the film, and fans really want to know where he comes from and how he came to be this badass preacher on the edge of the universe. Joss had that story in his head, and he was keeping it to himself, and he finally felt like the way to get it out there was a graphic novel. So he plotted it, did an interesting complex plot, and Zack did an amazing job of fleshing it out and bringing it to life. And Chris Sambee’s drawing it, so it’s just great. It’s a really nice kind of special format, prestige book.”