Will 2013 finally be the year that Joss Whedon’s legion of fans get to sing along with the long-awaited sequel to his 2008 Internet sensation Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog starring Neil Patrick Harris, Felicia Day and Nathan Fillion? The geek pop polymath who gave us Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Firefly, and a surprisingly successful indie about a band of superheroes no one had ever heard of called The Avengers made no promises when Entertainment Weekly caught up with him late last year, but he did say that putting a crooning Doogie back in a lab coat is on his “to do” list. “We really want to shoot it next year. We feel strong about the idea and we have a bunch of stuff written,” said Whedon, who is currently directing the pilot episode of Marvel’s S.H.I.E.L.D. series while also writing the script for the sequel to The Avengers, plus prepping the release plan for his film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, due in theaters this summer. In between: The occasional napping.
Hence: “I have a certain bandwidth issue I am trying to overcome,” says Whedon. But he’s determined to make more Horrible, as this novel little corner in the increasingly vast Whedonverse is important to him. He created the first installment of the musical tragicomedy with his brothers, Jed and Zack (both TV writers), and Maurissa Tancharoen (also a TV writer) during the Writers Guild of America strike of 2007-2008. The Emmy-winning series of three, 14-minute episodes cast Harris as a video blogging, freeze ray-wielding mad scientist super-villain who loses his cold dark heart to an activist do-gooder (Day), who begins dating his allegedly righteous nemesis, the arrogant, self-serving, not-so-gentlemanly superhero Captain Hammer (Fillion). Whedon made Dr. Horrible to show his fellow scribes how they could forge their own destinies in Hollywood — and because he digs musicals and likes to make stuff and can’t ever, ever sit still. He says the appeal of doing a sequel to Dr. Horrible – besides the chance to play in that creative world and collaborate with his friends – is that smaller projects like the Web series or Much Ado keep him current with his fans during the long periods of time when he’s not as visible while working on larger projects like the Avengers sequel. “These giant things take three years to make,” says Whedon, who had just turned in his outline for the movie when we interviewed him in late November. “If you don’t have anything else coming out, people who are used to having you once a week feel like they’ve lost you to a certain extent.”
Of course, Whedon will be back in front of fans on a weekly basis to some extent if Disney-owned ABC decides to pick up Disney-owned Marvel Studios’ first ever TV series, S.H.I.E.L.D., which will chronicle the adventures of agents that serve the secret spy agency that polices Marvel’s dangerous, strange world. In fact, one factor slowing the development of a Dr. Horrible sequel is the fact that two of Whedon’s key collaborators – brother Jed and Tancharoen — are working with him on S.H.I.E.L.D. Should the show go to series, the couple (who are married) will serve as day-to-day showrunners with another friend/associate, Jeffrey Bell (Angel). Says Whedon: “One of the great things about having worked for so damn long is that there are so many people that I truly trust.” He says he will work on the ongoing series “as my schedule allows,” helping the team brainstorm stories in addition to the usual exec producer/overseer stuff of reviewing and approving cuts of episodes. ”I have to maintain a fine balance between not hurting The Avengers, which is my number one priority right now, and not be the guy who shows up once a month and undoes everything that’s been done by everyone else.” Sometimes, that can happen unintentionally, by dint of Joss being Joss. He elaborates by telling a story from the show that made him a pop culture heavyweight. ”Back when I was doing Buffy, I made a joke once. I said, ‘We’re going to do leprechauns! It’s going to be the best episode ever!’ And Marti Noxon, who just started as a staff writer, came back three days later and said, ‘I spent three days doing research on leprechauns.’ And I was like: What the f— are you talking about?’”
Now, as ever, the Marvel-ous wisdom rings true: With great power comes great responsibility.