Eighteen months ago, Joss Whedon had three TV series on the air. And now, he has none. In the cult-pop underground, where he is something of a wickedly big-brained deity, there is an anguished gnashing of fangs. While he promises a return to TV in the future, Whedon is preparing an expansion of his kingdom on two fronts. This month he begins a 12-issue stint as writer of Marvel Comics' ''The Astonishing X-Men.'' The pairing of scribe and title is both fitting (X-fan Whedon cites the mutant freedom-fighter series as a formative ''Buffy the Vampire Slayer'' influence) and ironic (Whedon wrote an unused draft of Bryan Singer's first ''X-Men'' movie). ''Joss knows how to write an ensemble and has the ability to nail a character with a sentence and a half,'' says Marvel editor in chief Joe Quesada. ''He has some kind of black-voodoo writer magic.'' Whedon will also make his film-directing debut with ''Serenity,'' a big-screen revival of ''Firefly'' (whose cancellation by Fox still irks him), due in 2005 from Universal. Whedon says it's been hard getting over the end of the Buffyverse, but he's ready for new challenges. ''With both ''Serenity'' and ''X-Men,'' it's gratifying to be walking in worlds I love. I am surrounded by old friends in new mediums. It doesn't get any more exciting than that.'' More from the Hellmouth's mouth...
EW Does it feel like the end of an era?
Joss Whedon It does! Somebody on the Internet -- and it wasn't me -- said this era of the Buffyverse, these eight years, were like Camelot. ''One brief shining instant.'' I have to say, I did get a little choked up.
EW Wish you had another season of Angel?
JW I was really upset [when Angel got canceled]. When we hit 100 episodes, we felt we had made a stand. I felt we had hit [our stride] in our fifth year -- and then we got cut down. With ''Buffy,'' I was ready to end. ''Firefly'' -- I went into such a state of denial, it caused a film. But with ''Angel,'' it was like ''Healthy Guy Falls Dead From Heart Attack.'' I believe the reason ''Angel'' had trouble on The WB was that it was the only show on the network that wasn't trying to be ''Buffy.'' It was a show about grown-ups.
EW Why didn't Sarah Michelle Gellar appear in the final ''Angel''?
JW We wanted her earlier in the season; she declined. When we realized it was going to be our last season, we made some inquiries about her appearing on one of the shows before the finale. But she was only available for the last one, and I didn't want her in the last one -- in part, because when she wasn't available earlier, we did an episode all about her. [The story] is something that occurred to me based on what was going on [while trying to get Sarah], which was: Well, she has clearly moved on. Maybe we should too.
EW There's been talk of a series of ''Buffy'' or ''Angel'' TV movies. True?
JW The WB mentioned the idea. At first I thought an ''Angel'' TV movie feels like electrifying a corpse to see it twitch. But then again, I have these characters I love. Maybe a series of movies, each focusing on a different aspect of the Buffyverse, would be fun. But I don't know if there's a market for what I'm proposing. The marketplace is just so bi-zarre right now.