15 April 2010


Hollywood's biggest buzz is once again the sound of Marvel.  Joss Whedon,  most-recognized as the creator of the long-running TV series Buffy The Vampire Slayer,  will both direct and write The AvengersMarvel Studios' fast-tracked superhero team movie that will unite the rest of their upcoming film slate under one celluloid roof.

Rumors and speculation have been circulating for months about who Marvel might select to helm their Avengers,  a film that is unquestionably the studio's coup-de-grace and the all-important culmination of everything Marvel Entertainment has been working towards since 2008 and the release of Jon Favreau's first Iron Man and Louis Leterrier's remake of The Incredible Hulk.  Whedon was identified by IESB.com as a contender on Marvel's 'short list' of directorial picks just two weeks ago, and the story - which coincidentally broke on 01 April - was regarded as joke by many and its circulation was low as a result.

Understandably, then, Whedon's confirmation as The Avengers director, which hit the net late Tuesday and took the comicsblogosphere by storm Wednesday morning, came as a huge surprise to literally everyone. But the news, while shocking,  has been welcomed across the board by critics and fans alike a Christmas present. For legions of fans that span the spectrum from comics to horror to sci-fi, Whedon's a household name:  other than his flagship creation Buffy, Whedon is also the creator - as well as writer and director of many episodes - of Angel, Firefly, and the recently-canceled cult-favorite, Dollhouse. 

But Whedon, who turns 47 in June, has only directed one feature film, Serenity, the  2005 big screen adaptation of his science fiction series, FireflySerenity grossed just $25.5 million at the box office, and if any question exists about Whedon's credentials as The Avengers best choice, it resides here. 
Marvel, however, seems to be anything but worried. In an unprecedented move, one to which even Thor's Kenneth Branagh and Iron Man 2's Jon Favreau cannot attest, the company announced last night that Whedon control of The Avengers won't be limited to directing the film; he'll be writing it, too. 

More accurately, Whedon will be re-writing The Avengers.  Screenwriter Zak Penn delivered the film's initial script, which itself became an event of no minor importance after Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada announced via Twitter that he'd received it on 03 March.   
To what extent Whedon will be tweaking Pen's screenplay is anyone's guess, but nobody's worried.  Confidence in Whedon, noted to possibly be the world's first third-generation television writer, and his writing talent is unilateral. After graduating with a film degree from Wesleyan, Whedon's first writing gigs were on the writing staffs of Roseanne and Parenthood (1990).  His Buffy The Vampire Slayer episode "Hush" was nominated for an Emmy Award in 2000 for Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series, and, though uncredited, Whedon wrote a script for Twister ad the final draft screenplay for Speed.  Most recently, Whedon wrote the screenplay for The Cabin in the Woods, a horror/thriller due early 2011.

Despite his impressive resume, Marvel's decision to go with Whedon likely stems less from his previous accomplishments in either TV or film and more from just one simple fact: Joss Whedon loves comics. He knows comics, he understands superheroes, and he's written his fair share of them Marvel Comics. 
Dabblers following the periodic appearances of abbracadabbling's mysterious Time Traveler will be pleased to see the dude's back on the comicsblog today. We pleaded with him to not interrupt our hot coverage of Joss Whedon's ascendancy to The Avengers director's chair, but after having the same argument twenty-three times in a row, we finally gave in to the disarmingly suave chronal bully.  Of course, we agree that picking up today on the promise he blogged back on 31 March - namely, to tell y'all about Clash of The Titan's director Louis Leterrier future aspirations and bring 'em full circle- really is good timing.   We love good stories, and while assume Leterrier does, too, the tale of his Marvelous tomorrow doesn't have a happy ending.

Since the premiere of his first Marvel movie, The Incredible Hulk,  Leterrier made no secret of his desire to direct The Avengers - and while making the rounds to promote Clash of the Titans, took every opportunity to remind Marvel that he's the guy for the big job.  He also tossed several of his ideas for the film out into the public arena - making Avengers a quadrology, being one - and admitted that, while at the bottom of it,  his name was on Marvel's short list of directorial choices.

Time Traveler saw the writing on the wall, but our dude knows not to say a peep lest the time stream become distorted and our reality cease to exist. That'd be a major bummer for all involved, and in this case, even the Traveler's mad time-hopping talents weren't needed to predict the outcome of Leterrier's self-hyped Avengers quest.   It's possible Leterrier was in the game until recently (he's still contracted to direct one more feature for Marvel), but if he was, he forfeited it two weeks ago with the first showing of TitansWe can only hope that his future endeavors meet with more success, and that Leterrier reads plenty of comic books before he's behind the camera of his next Marvel movie  -- or, for that matter, a Warner Bros./DC Comics movie.  Leterrier is reportedly in talks to direct a film adaptation of the Award-winning comic book series, Y The Last Man.

Feeding his comic geek might be Leterrier's best bet - if not for tomorrow, then for that glorious day after.  Comic books have clearly been the secret of Joss Whedon's success, and the style and substance of his romance with Marvel Comics. 

One of the best examples of that romance, and Marvel's high regard of Joss Whedon, came in mid-February, when the publisher announced their new Astonishing line of comic books, so named after the incredibly successful series Astonishing X-Men that Joss Whedon and artist John Cassaday launched in 2004.  Though the dynamic duo helmed the Eisner-award winning comic for two years, Astonishing overshadowed and overtook Uncanny X-Men in less than a year to became the flagship title of the X-Men franchise.  Astonishing's  initial storyline was also used as the premise for X-Men: The Last Stand, the third X-Men feature film, in 2006.

After departing his Astonishing X-Men with the series' twenty-fifth issue, Whedon wrote six issues of the comic Runaways before turning his full comics attention to the launch of his next ongoing Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season Eight  series, published by Portland's Dark Horse Comics.  Marvel Comics, however, didn't fully let their "superstar scribe" go; Whedon returned to Marvel to adapt the initial story-arc from his series for The Astonishing X-Men: Gifted, the first of Marvel's motion comics, which debuted on iTunes last October. Here's the preview:

 More info on Marvel's motion comics can be found [here].

The Avengers is scheduled to hit theaters in summer of 2012, the ten-figure payoff that teams Marvel Studios' franchise superheroes in an Ocean's Eleven-sized all-star cast clad in Spandex. Headlining Whedon's eventual super roster are Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson.) Ed Norton, who played The Hulk in Leterrier's 2008  movie, is also a possibility for the film. 

Whedon's absolutely no stranger to ensemble casting - he astonished with his X-Men and did the same weekly for years with the cast of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel.  But making the The Avengers  work - and work well - would be an unbelievable task for any director.  With the stories of three different films culminating in The Avengers, not to mention  the three different yet relatively new superhero celebrities whose respective egos will be vying for screen time,  the newbie Whedon will need to find a way to make a great comic book film while still staying true to the storylines and characters already developed by Favreau and Branagh. 

Placing The Avengers script into Whedon's hands proves Marvel knows what they're doing,  and by playing to his strengths, they've already taken their first, best step to ensure success for the most ambitious and important film the Studio has (or has plans to) produced.

No matter how big a success The Avengers proves to be, that it succeeds is critical- not just   for Marvel, but for the future of superhero cinema. The Avengers marks  a brave, new world for comics coming to the big screen. The film will be a litmus test of the viability of incorporating the demands, strengths, and complexities of comic book continuity into a brand new medium. It won't be an easy fit, but if all goes well, Whedon will  be the author of  Hollywood's next 'gold standard.' And while superheroes may reap the early benefits,  The Avengers might just be the first in a long line of films from any genre to embrace tomorrow's newest model of storytelling.
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Check out everything from Joss Whedon on Whedonesque [here]. Avengers movie and related Marvel Comics events can be found [here].  And full episodes of The Astonishing X-Men motion comic are available for download via iTunes, and can be watched free online at Hulu.com [here].

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