Baltimore Comic Con is known from bringing in a number of talented people from all over the comic book industry and beyond. But in this interview, we went from the halls of the Baltimore Convention Center in the Inner Harbor to the verse of Joss Whedon’s cult classic series ‘Firefly’ as we spoke with Karl Story, the inker for the recent Dark Horse comic ‘Serenity: Leaves on the Wind.’
Besides working with some of the most iconic characters in comics, Story is no stranger to the realm of science fiction comics based on live action films. He has worked on a number of memorable franchises like ‘Alien vs. Predator’ in the late 80s and ‘Star Trek: Debt of Honor’ with Adam Hughes and Chris Claremont in the 90s. Though he one day hopes to work on a ‘Star Wars’ book with Chris Sprouse of ‘Star Wars: Splinter of the Mind’s Eye’ fame (hint hint, Marvel/Disney/Lucasfilm), the artist was more than happy to join his long-time collaborator Georges Jeanty on Zack Whedon’s comic sequel to Captain Malcolm Reynolds’ 2005 big screen adventure from Universal Studios, of which he happens to be a huge fan.
Throughout the course of our conversation, we talked to Story about various artistic elements of the awesome comic series that picks up with Mal, Zoe, River, and the whole gang when we last left them after the secret of the Reavers was revealed across the verse. Topics such as likeness rights, favorite characters, and research came up, but most of all, we enjoyed talking about one of our favorite shows with a fellow Browncoat who happens to be continuing the legacy of ‘Firefly’.
ScienceFiction.com: How did you come to be attached to ‘Serenity: Leaves on the Wind’?
Karl Story: I’ve known Georges Jeanty, the penciller, for a long time. He was part of Gaijin Studios in Atlanta with Brian Stelfreeze, Cully Hammer, Laura Martin, and lots of other people through the years. Some people were only with the studio for a few years at a time and that was like Georges, but we’ve always been friends. I worked with him recently on ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Nine’. I inked about five of the issues and when that was coming to a close, Georges said, “Hey, Karl! Did you ever watch ‘Firefly’ or Serenity’?” When I said yes I did, in fact I’m a huge fan, he said, “Well, would you like to ink a miniseries?” A few months later after we finished Season 9, he said okay we’re doing it and that started the ball rolling. Just wow. That was a great project to be on. I loved it.
SF: It was great to read! So you were a big fan of the show?
KS: Oh yes! I have the original DVD set and I have a lot of the actors and actresses’ signatures on it. Now I have the Blu-ray, so when I’m watching it, I use that one.
SF: Do you know if anyone from the show has seen your work on this series?
KS: I don’t know if they have or not. Usually some of the ‘Firefly’ people are at Dragon Con, but I didn’t go this year. Otherwise I would have asked them. I’ll have to ask Georges. I know that he spoke to the woman who did wardrobe and costuming on the show a lot while he was working on it. And I know that he has spoken to Joss in the past, but I don’t know how closely he worked on this. It was Joss approved.
SF: Sometime likeness rights can be an issue when working with characters based on real people. When you’re working on something like ‘Buffy’ or ‘Serenity’, what are some challenges in keeping that character as, say, Nathan Fillion, without actually being Nathan Fillion?
KS: We do our best. I know that there were at least a few cases and I apologize to the fans for this where I would get a pencil piece from Georges and when I finish I might have changed Mal’s look a little bit. If people feel that way and that’s the case, then I apologize, but we try our best. Sometimes the actors and actresses will loom over something and if it doesn’t look good, we’ll have to draw it again. I actually heard, but I don’t know if this is true, that Sarah Michelle Gellar with Buffy, at least in the early years of the Buffy comic, she was more on top of it. But over the years it seems to have smoothed out. As far as I know, there were no problems like that [on ‘Serenity’]. There were likeness rights issues that we thought would be a problem on ‘Serenity’ for secondary characters, but it seemed to get resolved. It was like crisis for a week and then it got solved. We didn’t have to retroactively remove people from artwork. There was a case with one of the characters where we could use him in the book, but we couldn’t have him on the cover. I think it was the Operative because ‘Firefly’ is owned by Fox and ‘Serenity’ was done by Universal. They’re part of the same universe that’s centrally owned by Joss, but… We had done a cover with the Operative, but we had to quickly do another one. I think that cover will be in the collected edition. It was a cool cover too. I really liked it.
SF: In doing things like that, what are some defining characteristics from an artistic standpoint that are necessary for when you’re drawing the Operative or Mal or Kaylee or Jayne?
KS: Georges would answer this better, but for me it was their clothes. Kaylee has her crazy shirts. Mal with his suspenders. The Operative with that armor that he’d wear. Jayne’s hat, even though we don’t see that throughout the miniseries. It’s funny because Inara was the biggest departure because she wasn’t wearing her companion clothes anymore like her gowns and flowing dresses. She was dressing more like Zoe and that was neat. But Inara is one of those people that is just so beautiful and distinctive that it didn’t matter what she was wearing. I had my two ‘Firefly’ companions and my ‘Serenity’ companion that I got off of Amazon and I had them all the time for when I was unsure. That was me as the inker flipping through reference, especially for Jayne’s gun. That rifle of his I had to get right. I had my QMx replica of Mal’s pistol too. But I had the movie one and they were doing one from the show. There are differences. I even called my editor at one point because it was on a cover where he’s holding it and I said, “The book is called ‘Serenity’ so I thought it was more of the movie. Georges just drew the TV show one.” I wish they explained that as more of a Fox thing or whatever even though it all takes place in continuity and it takes place nine months after the movie.
SF: Speaking of the crew, did you have a favorite character to work with during your run?
KS: Serenity, but she wasn’t in the book enough and I don’t think they realized that. The script was great and it was a fantastic story, but I don’t think that they realized before we started drawing that Serenity herself wasn’t in it enough. I asked Georges about that and he said he was trying to find more places to get shots of her in. She’s a character for sure, so if those guys are reading, more Serenity next time.
SF: I know that this probably isn’t something you can discuss if there is, but when you were wrapping up this series, do you think that there was any indication that Dark Horse might revisit the ‘Firefly’ verse once again sometime soon?
KS: This is what I suspect, and I have some information, but I think that if Dark Horse could, there would be a monthly ‘Serenity’ book. But Joss feels that when they have a story to tell, they’ll tell it. And I don’t know when that would be. I wish it was soon. I would love that and I would absolutely love to work on it again. It’s funny because I had some family difficulties when I was finishing up the last issue and my editor asked if we needed to bring in help. I said that I just wanted to finish because it was the only thing keeping me sane. It was funny that working on ‘Serenity’ really helped me keep my sanity at that time and I was grateful for that. I don’t think my editor even realizes. They knew what I was going through, but it was hitting me harder than I thought. Finishing ‘Serenity’ gave me focus and I’m glad that I got to finish it. I didn’t have to give up any pages. I got to do the whole book and I can’t wait to hold the collected edition in my hands. I’m really looking forward to that.
SF: There always seems to be talk about potentially continuing the series in some way. Most recently, someone brought up the idea of an ‘American Horror Story’-esque limited series. If something like that were to happen, do you think that your work would still be considered canon?
KS: I think so, but it’s hard to say. If they got the opportunity to do a show again and they decide that they need to retell those stories or change them completely, I would understand. I know how these things work. That’s not going to change what we did. We told a story and we’re all proud of it. That’s okay.
SF: It is a bummer that Wash probably wouldn’t be in any of it though.
KS: I know. You can’t really get around that, can you?
SF: I love Wash.
KS: We all do.
Were you a fan of ‘Serenity: Leaves on the Wind’? What did you think of Karl Story’s work with Georges Jeanty on the series? Do you hope that Dark Horse Comics teams with Joss Whedon once again and brings us back to the verse for another adventure with Mal and his crew? And do you still miss Wash too? Of course you do! But let us know in the comment section anyway.