This spring and summer has history-making potential. Between Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope, The Cabin in the Woods, and The Avengers, Joss Whedon is poised to get his propers from mainstream audiences. For years he’s been sooooo close to wide appeal but that brass ring has constantly escaped him. He’s picked up fans along the way and that number has grown to the point where he’s being given a real shot with scripting and directing duties on Marvel’s superhero pig-pile.
Since his career has mostly seen him operating on the fringe, it’s expected he’ll shatter the walls that have held him back all of these years. Below is a retrospective of his work for the 0.00002% of the Internet that might not be aware.
After kicking around Hollywood with writing jobs on sitcoms like Parenthood and Roseanne, Joss Whedon graduated briefly to film writing with 1992’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer starring Kristy Swanson and Luke Perry. The movie underperformed at the box office but Whedon couldn’t shake the character. Four years later he was able to develop the television series of the same name that would put him on the map. This series became the foundation of the Whedonverse eventually leading to a spin-off and higher-profile projects.
Against the better judgement of almost everyone, 20th Century Fox was eager to revive the Alien franchise after box office failure of Alien 3. The project proved to be somewhat of a hot potato with directors Danny Boyle, Peter Jackson, Bryan Singer, and South Park’s Trey Parker all passing. Due to the success of Buffy, Whedon was brought in to write the script and subsequently put through the studio’s ringer. Originally the script starred a cloned Newt with the final act taking place on Earth. After re-writing the finale five times, his battle for Earth and the lead character of Newt didn’t make the final film version.
Seeing the potential in Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s supporting character Angel, Whedon spun off a second drama that relocated the vampire with a soul to Los Angeles. The result was a darker, more grown up show that appealed more to male audiences. The series centered around a paranormal detective agency that investigated and dispatched Los Angeles’s demonic underbelly. Don’t let that description dissuade you. The show was awesome.
Whedon’s futuristic space western followed a crew of rebel smugglers in the year 2517 as they traversed the solar system alluding the Alliance and other threats. The series was criminally mishandled by the programmers at Fox which led to its early cancellation. However, success on DVD lead to the film adaptation, Serenity.
This musical broken into three acts centers around a lovesick super-villain, his heroic nemesis, and the woman that they both love. It was written exclusively for the Internet during the Writer’s Guild of America Strike and funded by Whedon himself. This allowed he and his writing partners complete control over the final product without the worries of changing story and pacing to fit a television or film format. The series won several awards and helped guarantee that Neil Patrick Harris would be allowed to sing at any televised event of his choosing.
Feeling pretty bad about their mistreatment of Firefly and seeing a need to televise Eliza Dushku in various sexy outfits, Fox once again went into business with Joss Whedon. The result was the high-concept science-fiction series Dollhouse. On the show, individuals trying to wipe their slate clean and start over volunteer themselves to a service that wipes their memories and reprograms them to fulfill the fantasies and nefarious needs of clients able to afford such services. It was a pretty shakey premise that needed time to find its footing. It took an entire season to do so. In a very un-Fox move, Fox actually allowed the show the opportunity to grow and brought it back for a second season. It was then canceled as it hit its stride.