Prior to the 2007 Browncoat Cruise, a Firefly convention held aboard a cruise ship, Ron Glass asked Joss Whedon? for some information to answer the inevitable questions on Shepherd Derrial Book's backstory. At the time, no new comics for the Serenity series were planned, but Whedon emailed Glass some facts from Book's past to reveal, along with permission to announce that the character would be the subject of the next Serenity comic. Scott Allie, senior editor at Dark Horse, only found out about this because he was copied in on the email. The comic, originally to be titled A Shepherd's Tale and released as a three-issue miniseries, was later verified by Allie, who stated in the letters section of Serenity: Better Days #1 that a comic based on Book's past was slated for a late 2008 release. As it is focused on a single character, Allie stated in a June 2008 interview that it was an opportunity for the Serenity comics franchise to "go in a real different direction."
This release date was not met, and no news was forthcoming until March 9, 2010, when Dark Horse announced that the work would be published in November 2010 as a hardcover graphic novel under the title The Shepherd's Tale. According to Allie, the three-year delay was because no appropriate author could be found to write the story from Whedon's outlines, until Joss Whedon brought his brother Zack Whedon? as well as Chris Samnee? in on the project in late 2009.
The comic starts off by depicting the attack in which Book was fatally wounded during the film Serenity, then expands upon the character's life by flashing back to events in the character's life, then stepping back to the decision that led to each event, all the way to his childhood. After running away from home and his abusive father, the young Henry Evans falls into a life of crime, then is recruited into the Independence movement. As tensions between the Independents and the ruling Alliance increase, Evans volunteers to infiltrate the Alliance military and spy on them using a video transmitter implanted in his eye. After killing a man named Derrial Book and stealing his identity, Evans joins a law enforcement agency, from where his ambition and drive attract the attention of the military. When war breaks out, Evans/Book attempts to orchestrate a simultaneous six-planet strike to end the war "in one day", but instead presides over a massacre of Alliance forces, including the loss of the starship IAV Alexander and the 4,000 aboard. Book is discharged and dumped on a nearby planet by escape pod. Several years later, Book wakes up in a homeless shelter after being beaten by Alliance soldiers for his role in the Alexander disaster, and has a spiritual revelation while eating a bowl of soup, which prompts him to join the church and train as a Shepherd. Ten years later, he leaves the church as a missionary, and takes passage on the transport Serenity (as seen in the episode of the same name).