Greetings from the Odinson,
Joss Whedon is the renowned writer/director/creator widely known for his much beloved television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly. He’s a legacy writer (his father wrote for The Electric Company and his grandfather wrote for The Dick Van Dyke Show) that got his first gig writing for the dramedy Roseanne. For years he was a go to writer and script doctor in Hollywood, contributing to such films as Twister, Toy Story, Alien: Resurrection, and X-Men. He even showed off his true fanboy roots as he’s had highly acclaimed runs on the Astonishing X-Men and Runaways comic book series. So die hard is this man’s following that, based in no small part on the demand of the fans, he was able to continue the story started in Firefly, a TV show which only lasted 14 episodes (several of which were aired out of order), with the major motion picture Serenity.
With a résumé that reads like this, one would think Joss Whedon could get anything done. But with Angel being prematurely canceled (boy, and just when it was better than ever), Dollhouse not making it to a third season, several made for TV movie follow-ups to the Buffyverse nixed for one reason or another, and a rejected take on making Wonder Woman work as a movie (I bet Warner Bros. is kicking themselves now for not green lighting that one), all of a sudden Whedon’s good name seemed to be losing clout in the Hollywood circles, but not with fans.
Whedon fans know the greatness this man brings to the table. So when Marvel announced that it was turning over the keys to their flagship franchise movie The Avengers over to fan-favorite fanboy-done-good Joss Whedon, there was great rejoicing. And the rest, as they say, is history.
This project fit Joss Whedon’s skill set like a glove. Not only is he a lifelong fanboy of the comics medium (something most us can relate to), but his whole career he has excelled at writing about strange, unusual, and exceptional people placed together, whether they want to be or not, in impossible situations and, despite their differences, overcoming great obstacles. The Avengers are an eclectic group of extraordinary individuals brought together for a greater good. As Joss has said many times himself, “there is no way these people would get along,” but despite their differences as they embark on this journey that has been thrust upon them, they learn that they are much, much stronger together than they ever were apart.
I can draw many parallels from the Avengers to other unusual groups from the Whedonverse. The motley crew from Firefly, as well as the dysfunctional family of Angel Investigations, and the lost souls of the Dollhouse…all of these assemblies have a lot in common with Marvel’s collection of premiere heroes. But it’s the Scoobies of Sunnydale that have the most in common with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
Buffy Summers/Captain America – Steve Rogers was chosen and given power and ability beyond those of ordinary men and charged with fighting a great evil threatening to overtake the world. Buffy Summers is the Chosen One, granted powers and abilities greater than those of mere mortals and charged with defending mankind against the forces of darkness. Rogers is a man out of time, a product of a bygone era and he sometimes finds it hard to understand the modern world and understand his place in it. Buffy’s role as the slayer sets her apart from everyone around her, even those closest to her can never fully understand the responsibility placed on her shoulders. Because she is different, whether it’s trying out for the cheerleading squad, ditching class to slay vampires, or feeling utterly alone even on a crowed college campus, Buffy sometimes finds it hard to fit in with the regular world around her. But Buffy and Captain America are both strong-willed individuals and powerful leaders that can inspire those around them to bigger and greater things.
Angel and Spike/Thor and Loki – Angel and Spike have been many things to each other – father and son, friends, rivals, enemies, and brothers-in –arms. Thor and Loki are stepbrothers whose relation has also run a similar gambit. Like Thor and Loki, who hail from the mystical realm of Asgard, Angel and Spike, as vampires, are products of the supernatural and operate on a power scale few others around them can comprehend. Depending on points of view, all four of these guys have all played the role of both hero and villain. They are four extremely complicated and passionate men who live out eternal lives trying to either atone for past sins by righting wrongs or prove their worth in the eyes of someone they love.
Willow/Iron Man – Willow Rosenberg is wicked smart, a computer whiz so skillful that she can even hack into government networks, and one of the most powerful witches in the world. Tony Stark is a brilliant scientist/inventor whose genius knows few rivals, and he is a modern day wizard with a suit of armor that makes him one of the mightiest super heroes on Earth. Willow suffered through an addiction to magic that not only nearly ruined her relationship with a loved one, but it also put her friends in danger. She worked hard and long to curb her dependence. Tony Stark is a recovering alcoholic, but at the height of his dependence on the Demon in a Bottle he lost his company, was charged with the murder of a man, he was dismissed from the Avengers, and he even gave up his role as Iron Man. It was a hard journey back, but Stark now lives with his addiction in check, for the most part. Both Willow and Tony Stark are easily the smartest and most versatile members of their teams, but both struggle with inner demons that threaten to surface and place those they care about most in danger.
Oz/Hulk – Oz is a super smart, sardonic musician with an unassuming personality that just so happens to be a werewolf. Bruce Banner is a mild-mannered scientist with one of the greatest minds on the planet who, when he becomes angry, just happens to turn into the giant rage-fueled monster the world has come to know as the Incredible Hulk. Both men have searched far and wide for a cure for their curse. Both men have women they love with all their hearts but keep them at a distance for fear of them getting hurt. They have both had varying degrees of success at controlling the beasts that reside within, and they have both been hunted because they are perceived as monsters and a threat to mankind.
Faith/Black Widow – Faith is the quintessential bad girl, a slayer that isn’t going to play by anybody’s rules, but also a lost girl with a knack for making bad decisions that sometimes lead her down a dark path. Natasha Rumanov is a super spy, a master of disguise, infiltration, and the art of seduction who sometimes questions herself because of her dark ambiguous beginnings. Both women have worked for the enemy in the past and both women struggle over guilt of past sins and strive to this day to atone for those misdeeds.
Anya/Hawkeye – Anyanka is a 2,000 year old vengeance demon that made her way in the world by dealing out punishment on the behalf of scorned women everywhere. So long was Anya in the business of vengeance that when she became human she found it hard to relate to others because she had become too out of touch with the human condition. Clint Barton is an eagle-eyed assassin whose life as a sniper, a loner, keeps others at a distance. He finds it hard to connect with those around him and make new friends. Anya has been around for many centuries and brings to the table a vast wealth of knowledge and experience. Hawkeye is a veteran of many campaigns and a seasoned modern day warrior with vast knowledge on tactics and assessing a situation. Both Anya and Barton have a matter-of-fact attitude about the world around them, they are seldom caught off guard, and they have no qualms about saying what is on their minds.
Giles/Nick Fury – Giles is a wise man, father figure, and a grounded center for the team of extraordinary individuals around him, even if they don’t always listen to what he has to say. Nick Fury is a wily old spy always thinking two steps ahead of everyone else, the magnet that draws together these amazing heroes, and the helping hand that heads them in the right direction, even if they themselves don’t realize it yet. Both are under the thumb of higher authorities, Giles to the Watcher’s Council and Fury to a shadowy government cabal. But both are willing to defy orders if the greater good can be served. Both are capable men with dark secrets that make them a bit enigmatic sometimes, even to those that trust them most.
Xander/Agent Coulson – Xander Harris is the master of mirth and the heart of the Scooby Gang. He is the one person with ties to every single member, the one person whom everyone confides, listens to, and likes (well, except for Angel anyway). Agent Coulson is a consummate professional with a quick wit and is an instrumental part in drawing all the members of the Avengers together. Xander’s words and actions have often enlightened those around him and sometimes made them rethink the way they are going about something. Coulson has passed along vital information between members of the team, and his ultimate act of courage inspires those around him to greater deeds.
Riley Finn/Agent Hill – Riley Finn is the consummate soldier. He follows orders and protocol and he gets the job done, period. Maria Hill is a no nonsense agent of SHIELD who follows orders and goes above and beyond to get the job done. Both Finn and Hill would never question orders. That is, until the day people in their lives enlighten and inspire them to see that sometimes blindly following orders is not always the right thing to do.
After drawing the parallels it is clearly not that big a leap for Joss Whedon to take from the Buffyverse to the Marvel Universe. And after the opening weekend numbers and continued success of The Avengers movie, it is clear to see that Joss Whedon was definitely the right man for the job.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell