Alternate Cover: Do we need a Dollhouse comic?

The end of the TV show Dollhouse need not be the end of the story. But should it be?

Joss Whedon's Sugarshock!

With this week’s news that Dollhouse has finally gone to the great schedule in the sky, fans are already beginning to wonder: will there be a Dollhouse comic? After all, Dollhouse‘s showrunner and all-round genius Joss Whedon has brought all his other TV creations to the printed page. Financials aside, why shouldn’t the series go on in printed form?

However – and I say this as someone who enjoys Dollhouse far more than most people would willingly want to admit – I don’t think a Dollhouse comic is a good idea.

Contrary to what some people would believe, creating a comic isn’t purely about storyboarding a movie and slapping on a few speech bubbles. The medium is good at some things and bad at others. On the surface, Dollhouse was a show about people having their identities removed and replaced, and the possibilities and consequences of that. But that was just the story. We should not forget that the point of Dollhouse wasn’t just to tell that story. The show was literally brought into existence by a plan to showcase Eliza Dushku’s acting range.

No matter how good comics are, that’s one element of the show that can’t be translated to comics. Without it, the logic of the presentation falls apart. Echo, for all her originality, isn’t so interesting that we need to see her on every engagement. The main reason the show follows Echo so closely is because we need a reason to watch Eliza Dushku. Without that constraint, the stories and format would make less and less sense, which, for a show as tenuously constructed as Dollhouse, might be more strain than it can handle.

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The TV-to-comics transition can work, of course. Dark Horse’s official Buffy Season 8 comic proves that much. But, then, even when it was on TV, Buffy, with its teenage metaphors, secret identity angst and colourful cast of villains, always owed more to comic superheroes than it did to the televisual teenage dramas that were its contemporaries.

Buffy, then, was a natural fit for the printed page. Even Buffy‘s spin-off show Angel, which hovered around a noir-tinged detective show format for the majority of its TV run, doesn’t immediately lend itself to the medium of comics. IDW’s often lacklustre Season 6 comic adaptation demonstrates perfectly that even the most Angelesque stories can’t make up for the gaping void of charisma left in characters like Wesley and Illyria when their actors are removed from the equation.

Of course, there’s no reason to say that the story of Dollhouse defies continuation in any medium, or even necessarily in comics. It’s just that the show, at present, is so built around the TV format that it would need a radical overhaul for a comic to do it justice. Such a rework would require considerable input from Joss Whedon, and with all the goodwill in the world, he’s probably got bigger fish to fry.

Buffy gets additional attention by virtue of being his first and greatest masterpiece, but Angel and Firefly are already being consigned to history as he pursues new opportunities.

So, as much as I loved it and will continue to tune in for the final episodes, let’s hope that Dollhouse gets the ending it deserves, in live-action, rather than the undignified, zombie-like re-animation of a comic series.

And if Whedon does feel like writing more comics, well… Sugarshock! deserves the attention far more than Dollhouse does.

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James writes Alternate Cover every Monday at Den Of Geek. His previous column can be found here.