What exactly is Joss Whedon’s Wastelanders?

Joss WhedonThe Avengers writer/director Joss Whedon has been making the media rounds lately, giving lots of interviews to both online sites and print publications for his upcoming Marvel superhero opus as well as the recently released The Cabin in the Woods. The resulting text has largely focused on those films but occasionally name-drops another upcoming project called Wastelanders, often with barely a passing interest.

So what exactly is Wastelanders? Well, here’s what we know: It’s a collaboration between Whedon and noted comic scribe Warren Ellis (Transmetropolitan, The Authority) that’s expected to be released in short installments as a web series, a la Whedon’s own Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. The series has been in the planning stages at least since the summer of 2010, when Ellis wrote a blog post clarifying the project for fans and saying we’d see it once Whedon finished up work on The Avengers. That still seems to be the plan, as Whedon recently told the New York Times that he’d like to get to it next after taking this summer off. No word on whether Whedon is actually directing the thing, though my guess is he’ll stick to producing and co-scripting as he did with Cabin.

Wastelanders’ plot is unknown, but the title brings to mind apocalyptic imagery of the Fallout videogame variety. (By the way, those games are actually loosely based on an excellent 1980s Commodore 64 RPG called … wait for it … Wasteland.) That matches with Ellis saying the project fits the science-fiction genre and happens to be “a funny horrible story about the end of the world.” So is Wastelanders Whedon and Ellis’s take on what happens when society as we know it comes a-crumblin’ down? Probably, although when Whedon mentions the project he usually talks more about the excitement of creating independent, Web-based entertainments than he does a specific storyline. He did tell EW that Wastelanders is a “dark piece” and called it “a drama about people who save the world and how unbelievably unhappy they are” in that Times interview.

No matter how epic the backdrop, you can bet that with Whedon on board it’ll be internal struggles and personal relationships that drive the series. Which is probably a good thing, as one wonders just how impressive his and Ellis’s “end of the world” can look, considering it’ll have to made for a tiny sliver of the money Whedon had at his disposal for The Avengers. Still, Dr. Horrible cost a mere $200,000 and look how well that turned out. So there’s really no reason to think Wastelanders won’t be yet another excellent bit of Whedon-birthed storytelling.