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When Marvel announced its intention to bring some of its most iconic comic properties to the big screen with the goal of banding them together for the penultimate superhero movie (The Avengers), the stage seemed set for what could potentially be one of the biggest film franchises in history. But for all the A-list talent that has signed on to participate, some critics and fans remained fixed on the one unknown element in this multi-million dollar undertaking: its director. Despite having received an Academy Award nomination, Joss Whedon is best known for his creation of cult TV shows and legions of loyal fans. His only foray into film directing came in the form of Serenity (2005), which served as a coda to the story he began telling in the short-lived Fox series Firefly.


But despite the questions some might have regarding Whedon’s fit into mainstream filmmaking, The Avengers couldn’t be in better hands. When a relatively unknown filmmaker from New Zealand named Peter Jackson was given the reigns for The Lord of the Rings trilogy, similar questions were raised and subsequently answered when he produced one of the most epic movie franchises of all time. As he has shown time and time again, Whedon is more than capable of rising to expectations and bringing a fresh perspective to stories that people love.


But to understand Whedon’s involvement, we have to go back a number of years. The journey to this point began in earnest in 2008, shortly after Iron Man became a massive hit at the box office. That’s when Marvel Studios’ President of Production Kevin Feige (among others) began work on what would become one of the most massive comic-to-film undertakings ever attempted. It was decided that some of Marvel comics’ biggest heroes (Iron Man, The Hulk, Captain America, and Thor) would each be made into a feature film franchise, with the ultimate goal being to bring each of these properties together to form the core of the superhero group, The Avengers.


With The Avengers a year away and the story being kept very secret, speculation regarding the film is abundant on the Internet. But for all the rumors, there are a few pieces of the puzzle that have already been revealed. For starters, many characters from previous films (and those films soon to be released) will be incorporated into The Avengers. The core group of heroes making up the unit will include Iron Man (played by Robert Downey Jr. from Iron Man and Iron Man 2), Captain America (played by Chris Evens in the 2011 release, Captain America: The First Avenger), Thor (played by Chris Hemsworth in the 2011 release, Thor) and The Hulk (previously played by Edward Norton, but played by Mark Ruffalo for The Avengers). Additionally, the team is rounded out with The Black Widow (as played by Scarlett Johansson in Iron Man 2) and Hawkeye (to be played by Jeremy Renner).


Also included in the confirmed cast are Samuel L. Jackson and Clark Gregg, who play S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives Nick Fury and Agent Coulson, respectively. S.H.I.E.L.D. (The Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division) is the government organization that is tasked with assembling Earth’s mightiest heroes to battle threats that conventional methods of combat can’t handle. The incorporation of S.H.I.E.L.D. serves an important role across the Marvel film universe, as it ties together all the threads that will eventually bring together The Avengers. Fury and Coulson have appeared in both Iron Man films, Coulson can be seen in the trailer to Thor, and Samuel L. Jackson signed a nine-picture deal to reprise the role of Nick Fury in Captain America, The Avengers, and other future sequels.


Tasked with helming a project almost unprecedented in ambition and grandeur is cult favorite and self-proclaimed comic book geek, Joss Whedon. Whedon was rumored early on to be in contention for the director’s job on The Avengers, in part due to his experience with ensemble fantasy favorites like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly, and the film Serenity. While not a commercial success, Serenity was visually stunning and highlighted Whedon’s ability to take stories from one medium and seamlessly translate them into another, the perfect attribute for anyone directing films based on comic books.


When examining the list of heroes comprising The Avengers, the actors involved, and the director, the common thought is that The Avengers will follow the storyline set in Marvel’s “Ultimate” line of comics…


Dear reader:


Joss Whedon’s importance in contemporary pop culture can hardly be overstated, but there has never been a book providing a comprehensive survey and analysis of his career as a whole—until now. Published to coincide with Whedon’s blockbuster movie The Avengers, Joss Whedon: The Complete Companion by PopMatters (May 2012) covers every aspect of his work, through insightful essays and in-depth interviews with key figures in the ‘Whedonverse’. This article, along with previously unpublished material, can be read in its entirety in this book.


Place your order for Joss Whedon: The Complete Companion by PopMatters, published with Titan Books, here.


Spotlight: Joss Whedon
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