Joss Whedon

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Joss Whedon
Joss Whedon by Gage Skidmore 4.jpg
Joss Whedon at the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con International.
BornJoseph Hill Whedon
(1964-06-23) June 23, 1964 (age 49)
New York, New York, U.S.
Alma materWesleyan University
OccupationWriter, director, producer, composer, actor
Years active1989–present
Notable work(s)
StyleScience fiction, supernatural drama, comedy-drama, superhero
Spouse(s)Kai Cole (1991–present)
RelativesJohn Whedon (grandfather)
Tom Whedon (father)
Jed Whedon (brother)
Zack Whedon (brother)
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from the BBC programme Front Row, December 26, 2013.[1]

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Joss Whedon
Joss Whedon by Gage Skidmore 4.jpg
Joss Whedon at the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con International.
BornJoseph Hill Whedon
(1964-06-23) June 23, 1964 (age 49)
New York, New York, U.S.
Alma materWesleyan University
OccupationWriter, director, producer, composer, actor
Years active1989–present
Notable work(s)
StyleScience fiction, supernatural drama, comedy-drama, superhero
Spouse(s)Kai Cole (1991–present)
RelativesJohn Whedon (grandfather)
Tom Whedon (father)
Jed Whedon (brother)
Zack Whedon (brother)
Sorry, your browser either has JavaScript disabled or does not have any supported player.
You can download the clip or download a player to play the clip in your browser.
from the BBC programme Front Row, December 26, 2013.[1]

Joseph Hill "Joss" Whedon[2] (/ˈwdən/; born June 23, 1964) is an American screenwriter, film and television producer, director, comic book author, composer, and actor. He is the founder of Mutant Enemy Productions and co-founder of Bellwether Pictures. He is best known as the creator of the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997–2003), Angel (1999–2004), Firefly (2002–03), Dollhouse (2009–10) and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013–present) as well as Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (2008). Whedon co-wrote Toy Story (1995), wrote and directed Serenity (2005), co-wrote and produced the horror film The Cabin in the Woods (2012), and wrote and directed the film adaptation of Marvel's The Avengers (2012),[3][4] the third highest-grossing film of all time.

Whedon is notable for his work in the comic books Astonishing X-Men, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel: After the Fall and Runaways. He is also known for his collaborations in online media. Many of Whedon's projects have cult status.[5]

A member of a family of screenwriters, he is the grandson of John Whedon, the son of Tom Whedon, and the brother of Zack Whedon and Jed Whedon. In May 2013, Whedon was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Letters from Wesleyan University.[6]

Early life[edit]

Joss Whedon was born in New York City. He has been described as the world's first third-generation TV writer,[7] as he is the son of Tom Whedon, a screenwriter for The Electric Company in the 1970s and The Golden Girls in the 1980s, and the grandson of John Whedon, a writer for The Donna Reed Show in the 1950s.[8][9] His mother, Lee Stearns, taught history at Riverdale Country School as Lee Whedon,[10] and was an aspiring novelist.[8] Whedon is the younger brother of Samuel and Matthew Whedon and older brother of writers Jed and Zack Whedon.[11]

Whedon graduated from Wesleyan University in 1987. Before going to Wesleyan, he spent two years at Winchester College in England. He attended Riverdale Country School in New York City where his mother taught history.[12] At a young age he was a prolific writer, loved Monty Python and showed great interest in acting.[13]


Buffy the Vampire Slayer[edit]

(From left to right) Tom Lenk, Emma Caulfield, Alexis Denisof, Alyson Hannigan, Anthony Stewart Head, Whedon, Michelle Trachtenberg at the Buffy cast party.

In 1997, Whedon created his first TV show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The series depicts Buffy Summers, the latest in a line of young women called to battle against vampires, demons, and other forces of darkness. The inspiration for the idea came directly from his aversion to seeing the Hollywood formula of "the little blonde girl who goes into a dark alley and gets killed in every horror movie".[14] Whedon said he wanted to subvert the idea and create someone who was a hero.[15] This conception came from "the very first mission statement of the show, which was the joy of female power: having it, using it, sharing it".[16]

Most of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was shot on locations in and around Los Angeles, California. Whedon worked primarily with composers like Christophe Beck (seasons 2–4),[17] Thomas Wander (seasons 5–6)[18] and Douglas Romayne (season 7).[19] The writing process came together from conversations about the emotional issues facing Buffy Summers, and how she would confront them in terms of her battle against supernatural forces.[20] Whedon, Steven S. DeKnight, Jane Espenson, David Fury, Drew Goddard, Drew Z. Greenberg, David Greenwalt, Rebecca Rand Kirshner, Marti Noxon and Doug Petrie had the most writing credits.[21] Whedon usually directed episodes from his own scripts that held the most cathartic moments in Buffy's story.[22]

The series received numerous awards and nominations,[23] including an Emmy Award nomination for the 1999 episode "Hush".[24] The 2001 episode "The Body" was nominated for a Nebula Award in 2002,[25] and the fall 2001 musical episode "Once More, with Feeling" was nominated for a Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo Award and a Best Script Nebula Award.[26][27] "The Gift" won in the Drama Category for Television's Most Memorable Moment at the 60th Primetime Emmy Awards.[28] All written and directed by Whedon, they are considered some the most effective and popular episodes of the series.[29][30] Since its total of 144 episodes, Buffy the Vampire Slayer became lauded worldwide for its influential themes and impact on popular culture.[31][32][33]


As a result of Buffy the Vampire Slayer's success, Whedon was allowed the opportunity to make his 1999 spin-off series, Angel. David Greenwalt and Whedon collaborated on the pilot that was going to be developed for The WB Network.[34] During the series' early expansion, efforts were made by the network to mitigate the original concept.[35] "Corrupt", a precociously optioned second episode, was entirely abandoned due to the gloominess written into the script.[35] James A. Contner—director of the replacement episode—explained, "We were six days into preproduction and suddenly shut down. [...] It was a meeting of the minds between the network, the WB and Fox and Joss and Greenwalt about what the direction of the show would be. [...] [WB and Fox] felt that they didn't want to have [the character] in that place the whole time".[36] The tone was softened, establishing in the opening episodes Angel Investigations as an idealistic, shoestring operation.[37] It follows Angel (played by David Boreanaz), who works as a private detective in order to "help the helpless".[38]

Angel premiered on October 5, 1999. It was praised for presenting a unique and progressive version of the archetypal noir hero as a sympathetic vampire detective.[39] The series was however at times referred to being lesser than its parent show, regularly dismissed in context of having been derived from a more popular original work.[40] Despite this, it won a Saturn Award for Best Network TV Series.[41] The three episodes, "Waiting in the Wings",[42] "Smile Time" and "Not Fade Away", were nominated for Hugo Awards for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form in 2003 and 2005.[43] In addition to Whedon, the writers with the most writing credits include David Greenwalt, Tim Minear, Jeffrey Bell, David Fury, Steven S. DeKnight, Mere Smith, Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain.[44]

The WB Network announced on February 14, 2004, that Angel would not be brought back for a sixth season.[45] Its final episode, "Not Fade Away", aired on May 19, 2004.[46] Whedon said of the cancellation, "It was like 'Healthy Guy Falls Dead From Heart Attack.' I believe the reason Angel had trouble on The WB was that it was the only show on the network that wasn't trying to be Buffy. It was a show about grown-ups".[47] Fans attempted to revive the show through the means of online petitions, letter-writing campaigns and seeking to influence other networks for a renewal, but to no avail.[45][48] An official continuation of the story came rather in the form of a comic book series called Angel: After the Fall,[49] written by Brian Lynch and Whedon.[50]


Whedon followed Angel with the space western Firefly (2002), starring Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin, Adam Baldwin, Jewel Staite, Sean Maher, Summer Glau and Ron Glass. Set in the year 2517, Firefly explores the lives of the people who, on the outskirts of society, make their living as the crew of Serenity, a "Firefly-class" spaceship.[51] The series' concept progressed originally after Whedon read The Killer Angels, a book on the Battle of Gettysburg.[52]

An ever present element was Whedon's injection of anti-totalitarianism,[53] writing into the show a historical analogy of the Battle of Gettysburg; the "Battle of Serenity Valley".[54] Two of the main characters, Malcolm Reynolds and Zoe Washburne, fought in the "Unification War" and were defeated by The Alliance, an authoritarian regime.[55] The beaten soldiers were called "Browncoats" after the brown dusters they wore as their uniforms.[56][57] Whedon said, "I wanted to play with that classic notion of the frontier: not the people who made history, but the people history stepped on -- the people for whom every act is the creation of civilization".[58] Firefly was written as a serious character study,[59] encompassing what Whedon called "life when it's hard", and in elaboration said, "This is about nine people looking into the blackness of space and seeing nine different things".[60]

Tim Minear, who had worked with Whedon in the past, was selected to serve as the series' showrunner.[61] It was well received by critics, especially the fusion of American frontier and outer space motifs.[62] Despite critical praise, the show had an average of 4.48 million viewers at the time and was ranked 125th in Nielsen ratings, which led to the series' cancellation by Fox.[63] Whedon took to Universal Pictures as a means of achieving a continuation of the story.[64]

Following Firefly was Serenity, a follow-up film taking place after the events of the final episode.[65] This developed into a franchise that led to novels, comic books and other media; all centered around the show's fictional universe.[66][67] New Scientist magazine held a poll in 2005 to find "The World's Best Space Sci-Fi Ever", in which Firefly and Serenity took first and second place, respectively.[68] Since its cancellation, the series acquired cult status.[69]


In 2005, Whedon wrote and directed Serenity. After Universal Pictures acquired the film and distribution rights from Fox, Whedon started writing the screenplay.[70] Transforming the series into a film, he says, "...was the hardest piece of writing I've ever done. [...] It had to be self-contained and work as a movie, which meant I had to cope with problems like introducing nine main characters who'd already met!"[71][72] The script was based on unused story ideas for Firefly's unfilmed second season.[65] On writing the dialogue, Whedon felt that part of it came from "getting to invent the language", which "once I had, reads like a kind of poetry".[73] The narrative of the story centers on Captain Malcolm Reynolds—"the hero"—accompanied by River Tam acting as "the catalyst for what he does".[74]

Serenity was released in North America on September 30, 2005. The score was composed by David Newman, and according to Whedon was intended to "deglorify space - to feel the intimacy of being on a ship as opposed to the grandeur".[75] He used two long steadicam shots for several minutes of the film's opening sequence to establish "a sense of safety in space".[76][77] In 2006, it won a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form.[78] The elements of science fiction that Whedon wanted to convey were essentially different in kind, and held "a sort of grittiness" and "realism", which he said, together, "get the most exciting kind of film-making".[79] Like Firefly, the film contained a statement on individual liberty.[80] Critic Roger Ebert observed, "Like Brave New World and 1984, the movie plays like a critique of contemporary society, with the Alliance as Big Brother, enemy of discontent".[81] The film received the 2005 Nebula Award for Best Script and the 2006 Prometheus Special Award.[82][83] It won IGN's Best Sci-Fi, Best Story and Best Trailer awards in 2005,[84][85][86] and was voted the best sci-fi movie of all time in a poll set up by SFX magazine.[79] There have since been multiple rumors regarding sequel possibilities.[87][88]

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog[edit]

During the 2007–08 Writers Guild of America strike, Whedon directed, co-wrote and produced Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (2008). He funded the project himself with the investment of just over $200,000,[89] and enjoyed the independence gained from it, saying there was "freedom to just let the dictates of the story say how long it’s gonna be. We didn’t have to cram everything in–there is a lot in there–but we put in the amount of story that we wanted to and let the time work around that".[90] Whedon and his brother Jed composed the music, parts of which were influenced by Stephen Sondheim.[91] Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog tells the story of Dr. Horrible, an aspiring supervillain, who shares a love interest in Penny with his nemesis, Captain Hammer. In 2009, Whedon won Best Directing and Best Writing for a Comedy Web Series at the Streamy Awards,[92] a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form,[93] and a Creative Arts Emmy Award.[94]


In 2009, Whedon created his fourth television series Dollhouse. Whedon explored themes in the show that were initially present in an unproduced spec script of his called Afterlife.[95] The series primarily follows Echo, an "Active" programmed for various purposes, on her journey towards self-awareness. Despite the low ratings in its first season, Dollhouse was renewed for a second and final season.[96] The reason given by Fox's president of entertainment for its renewal was, "if we'd canceled Joss's show I'd probably have 110 million e-mails this morning from the fans".[97] The show was cancelled on November 11, 2009.[98] The first season had mixed reviews, with Metacritic giving it a 57/100.[99] Robert Bianco of USA Today noted however that the end result was a show "that Joss Whedon's most devoted fans will debate and embrace, and a mass audience just won't get".[100] The Dollhouse universe has since been expanded in comic books.[101][102]

The Cabin in the Woods[edit]

Whedon co-wrote and produced a horror film titled The Cabin in the Woods with director Drew Goddard, which finished production in 2009.[103] Whedon and Goddard both intended to make a film "that was about horror movies while being a straight-up, good fun and scary horror movie".[104] The script was written in three days,[105] producing a minimum of 15 pages a day.[106] Whedon described it as an attempt to revitalize horror, calling it a "loving hate letter" to the genre, continuing:

On another level it's a serious critique of what we love and what we don't about horror movies. I love being scared. I love that mixture of thrill, of horror, that objectification/identification thing of wanting definitely for the people to be alright but at the same time hoping they’ll go somewhere dark and face something awful. The things that I don't like are kids acting like idiots, the devolution of the horror movie into torture porn and into a long series of sadistic comeuppances. Drew and I both felt that the pendulum had swung a little too far in that direction.[107]

The Cabin in the Woods was released on April 13, 2012 to critical acclaim,[108] yet performed inadequately at the box-office.[109] The film was produced by MGM, but once the studio went bankrupt, the film was held back.[110] It was later given an official theatrical release date, distributed by Lionsgate Films.[111] The MPAA gave the film an R rating for American cinemas.[112] With an estimated budget of $30 million, it was shot in Vancouver, British Columbia.[113][114] Part of what Whedon thought distinguished it from other horror films was that "people are not expendable. As a culture, for our own entertainment, we tend to assume that they are".[115] He stated that the idea of the film started as "a logical extension of what I think about horror movies",[116] and reiterated his sentiment that the introduction of torture porn into this genre was "becoming this extremely nihilistic and misogynist exercise in just trying to upset you, as opposed to trying to scare you".[117]

The Avengers[edit]

Whedon with the cast of The Avengers and Kevin Feige at the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con International.

In July 2010, it was confirmed that Whedon would write and direct The Avengers, a live-action adaptation of the Marvel Comics superhero team of the same name.[118] The film premiered on April 11, 2012.[119] It was highly successful at the box-office, grossing $1 billion worldwide within 19 days of its release,[120] earning the biggest opening weekend of all time, and becoming the third highest-grossing film ever at the North American box office.[121] The film received considerable praise from critics, with the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reporting a 92% positive rating based on 296 reviews,[122] and Metacritic giving it a 69/100 based on 43 reviews.[123]

Principal photography for The Avengers commenced in late April 2011.[124] The filming process took place in Albuquerque, New Mexico,[124] before moving to Cleveland, Ohio,[125] and concluding in New York City.[126] Cinematographer Seamus McGarvey said that he and Whedon "were keen on having a very visceral and naturalistic quality to the image" and "wanted this to feel immersive and did not want a 'comic book look' that might distance an audience with the engagement of the film".[127] They took use of the digital camera Arri Alexa when shooting the film.[127] The Canon EOS 5D Mark II and Canon EOS 7D digital SLR cameras were used to capture certain shots,[128][129] and high-speed photography was used on 35 mm film with the Arriflex 435.[127] About the music Whedon said, "The score is very old-fashioned, which is why [Silvestri] was letter-perfect for this movie because he can give you the heightened emotion, the [Hans Zimmer] school of 'I'm just feeling a lot right now!' but he can also be extraordinarily cue and character specific, which I love".[130]

Whedon commented on the conversion of The Avengers from 2D to 3D, saying that "current 3D conversion technology is really amazing, and Marvel is very picky. Having a sense for things in a 3D space and filming while feeling that space was a very easy thing for me. I’m just tired of seeing just things flying toward the camera. So I had to make things look good for 3D in 2D. My eyes and senses work that way, so the conversion from 2D was no problem".[131] On his initial desire to take on the film, he said, "It goes back to the very first incarnation of The Avengers, it goes to The Ultimates, it goes to everything about it. It makes no sense, it's ridiculous. [...] Ultimately these people don't belong together and the whole movie is about finding yourself from community. And finding that you not only belong together but you need each other, very much. Obviously this will be expressed through punching but it will be the heart of the film".[132]

Much Ado About Nothing[edit]

On October 23, 2011 Bellwether Pictures confirmed they had completed principal photography on Much Ado About Nothing, which Whedon scripted, produced, directed, edited and composed,[133] based on William Shakespeare's play of the same name.[134] It was filmed in black-and-white over a period of 12 days at Whedon's residence in Santa Monica, California.[135][136] The film had its world premiere at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival.[137] It had a limited theatrical release on June 7, 2013,[138][139] and was expanded nationwide in the U.S. on June 21, 2013.[140] Whedon's idea to adapt the play for the screen originated from having "Shakespeare readings" at his house with several of his friends, years prior.[141] Despite its comedy, he discovered that there were elements in the text "of debauchery" that brought out a core darkness, and while influenced by the visual nature of film he decided to permeate a motif of sexuality into the script.[142]

Whedon and his DP Jay Hunter took advantage of natural lighting in order to make it feel "very found", noting, "Our lighting package rose in the east and set in the west".[143] Using mirrors, glass and windows to shoot through, he explains, "[It’s] something I’d like to do all the time, but particularly in a movie that’s all about lies, and manipulation and misunderstandings. The more you can warp the frame a little bit, the more it speaks towards what’s going on".[143] The film was shot with multiple hand-held digital cameras, often with a RED Epic, and used a Lensbaby Composer with Double Glass lens on a Canon 7D to differentiate certain scenes.[144] Working with the actors, Whedon determined that, although giving them notes for guidance, "...what I understand is what an actor wants to know. ‘Why am I doing this, and how should it come out?’ And ‘Will I be safe to try something strange?’ And ‘Will I be asked to do more?’ I don’t come at it from any other standpoint than that".[145]

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.[edit]

In March 2012, Whedon stated that although television involves more compromise than film:

I think, ultimately, gun to my head, TV is the place. Being able to spend years with a character, to really develop them, to understand them, to challenge the actor, to learn from the actor, to work with a team of writers -- that experience is so fulfilling. The idea of putting something out there and letting it grow is really exciting.[146]

In August 2012, Whedon signed a deal to develop an upcoming Marvel TV show for ABC.[147][148] Titled Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., it focuses on the secret military law-enforcement agency featured throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe.[149] The pilot was penned by Whedon, his brother Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen,[150] directed by Whedon, and executive produced by himself, Jed Whedon, Tancharoen, Jeffrey Bell and Jeph Loeb.[151] Whedon stated that the storyline of the series would be largely independent from the Avengers sequel, reiterating that it mostly revolves around the title espionage organization.[152] While the show involves individuals who possess powers within the spectacle of science fiction, it would also focus on "the peripheral people ... the people on the edges of the grand adventures".[153] The pilot was officially ordered to series on May 10, 2013.[154] The show's storyline follows the character of Phil Coulson.[155]

Future projects[edit]

In Your Eyes[edit]

Whedon is the writer and executive producer of the upcoming paranormal romance film In Your Eyes, the second feature film by Bellwether Pictures.[156][157][158] It stars Zoe Kazan and Michael Stahl-David.[159] It was filmed extensively in New Hampshire,[160] with some footage shot in the New Mexico desert.[161] The film is about two people who are intercessory linked by supernatural means, despite being strangers.[162]

Avengers: Age of Ultron[edit]

On August 7, 2012, it was confirmed that Whedon would return to write and direct a sequel to The Avengers,[147][148][163][164] following a deal with Marvel Studios that will expire after three years, in June 2015.[165] The film will be released on May 1, 2015.[166] On the matter of approaching a sequel, Whedon reasons not to go "bigger", but "deeper". "Now you can really spend your time just digging in. And by digging in, I mean with a scalpel to cause pain".[167]

Other work[edit]


As a script doctor, Whedon worked as an uncredited writer on films like The Getaway, Speed, Waterworld, Twister, X-Men and Atlantis: The Lost Empire.[168] X-Men reportedly contained only two dialogue exchanges of Whedon's contribution,[169] but the final cut of Speed left in most of his dialogue.[170] At the same time as script consulting, he wrote Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Alien Resurrection, and co-wrote Titan A.E. and Toy Story, the latter of which earned him a shared Academy Award nomination for Original Screenplay.[171][172][173] Whedon has expressed strong dissatisfaction with the released versions of the films Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Titan A.E. and Alien Resurrection.[168][172][174] He also co-wrote the song "My Lullaby" from The Lion King II: Simba's Pride.[175]


From 1989 to 1990, Whedon worked as a writer on the sitcoms Roseanne and Parenthood.[176][177] He is notable for his directing work in television, which includes two 2007 episodes of The Office ("Business School" and "Branch Wars")[178] as well as a 2010 episode of the musical series Glee ("Dream On"), which reunited him with his Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog star Neil Patrick Harris.[179]

Comic books[edit]


Serenity: Those Left Behind was released in 2005 as a limited three-issue comic book series, and a tie-in to Serenity.[180] Set between Firefly and the film, it was intended to bridge the two storylines together.[180] Whedon was credited for story and Brett Matthews wrote the script.[181] Illustrations were done by Will Conrad, and Laura Martin contributed coloration.[182] Serenity: Better Days spanned three issues.[183] Whedon and Matthews wrote it, with art by Will Conrad and Adam Hughes.[184] Whedon later co-wrote The Shepherd's Tale with his brother Zack.[185][186]

The cover art for Fray #1, published in June 2001.

Whedon, a lifelong comic book fan, is the author of the Dark Horse Comics miniseries Fray, which takes place in the far future of the Buffyverse.[180] Whedon returned to the world of Fray during the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight story arc "Time of Your Life".[187]

Like many Buffy the Vampire Slayer writers, he contributed to the show's comic book continuation, writing three stories in the anthology Tales of the Slayers (including the one featuring Melaka Fray from Fray),[188] as well as the main storyline of the five-issue miniseries Tales of the Vampires.[189] Whedon and the other former writers released a new ongoing series, taking place after the series finale "Chosen", which he officially recognizes as the canonical eighth season.[190] The first issue was released on March 14, 2007 by Dark Horse Comics.[191] Arcs and issues of season eight written by Whedon include "The Long Way Home", "The Chain",[192] "Anywhere but Here",[193] "A Beautiful Sunset",[194] "Time of Your Life", "Turbulence" and "Last Gleaming".[195][196][197]

Following Buffy the Vampire Slayer's successful eighth season, IDW Publishing approached Whedon about similarly producing a canonical sixth season for Angel.[198][199] Angel: After the Fall released 17 issues as of February 11, 2009.[200] The title of the series then changed to Angel: Aftermath.[201] Although Whedon lacked the time to write its continuing series, he served as executive producer with Brian Lynch.[202]

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Nine was published from August 2011 to September 2013.[203][204] Whedon wrote "Freefall, Part I–II" (with Andrew Chambliss).[205]

Marvel / DC

Whedon wrote Marvel Comics' popular comic book line Astonishing X-Men,[206][207] but finished his 24 issue run in 2008 and then handed over the writing reigns to Warren Ellis.[208] The title, recreated specifically for Whedon, has been one of Marvel's best-selling comics and was nominated for several Eisner Awards including Best Serialized Story, Best Continuing Series, Best New Series and Best Writer, winning the Best Continuing Series award in 2006.[209][210] One storyline from this comic, the notion of a cure for mutation being found, was also an element in the third X-Men film, X-Men: The Last Stand.[211][212] Whedon introduced several new characters into the Marvel Universe such as the villainous Ord,[213] X-Men Ruth "Blindfold" Aldine and Hisako "Armor" Ichiki,[214][215] Runaway Klara Prast, and Special Agent Abigail Brand,[216][217] along with S.W.O.R.D., the organization she commands.[218] In February 2009, Astonishing X-Men #6, which depicted the return of Colossus to the title, and concluded Whedon's first story arc on that title, was named by Marvel Comics readers the #65 in Marvel's Top 70 Comics of all time.[219] He wrote short pieces for Marvel's Stan Lee Meets Spider-Man and Giant-Size X-Men #3,[220][221] and he was the subject of an issue of Marvel Spotlight (alongside artist Michael Lark).[222] He also contributed as part of a panel of writers to Marvel Comics' Civil War crossover event, lending advice in how to tell the story and how to end it.[223]

Whedon is the second writer of the critically acclaimed and fan-favorite Marvel comic Runaways, taking over after series creator Brian K. Vaughan completed his run.[224] He had been a fan of the series for some time, and had a letter published in the first volume, which was included in the Volume 1 hardcover edition.[225]

Whedon's other comic-related work includes writing the introduction to Identity Crisis trade paperback and a contribution to the "jam issue" Superman/Batman #26 (to date his only published work for DC Comics).[226][227]

Online media[edit]

Whedon with Jason Segel and Neil Patrick Harris in September 2011

The R. Tam sessions, starring himself and Summer Glau, served as a form of viral marketing for 2005's Serenity.[228] Whedon, in collaboration with Fábio Moon, created the free webcomic titled Sugarshock!, as part of the revival of Dark Horse Presents, which was launched on Myspace.[229] With the script of Jim Krueger and art by Will Conrad, Whedon executive produced another free comic book on the Internet, Serenity: The Other Half.[230]

Whedon appeared in all three episodes of Husbands season two as Wes,[231] and said that it was his "biggest acting role yet".[232][233][234] He appeared in the video called "Potty Training a 25-Year-Old", as a bathroom coach.[235] Whedon played the character Gerald in the first episode of Written by a Kid.[236][237]

Unrealized projects[edit]

Whedon had a number of planned projects that became stuck in development or terminally stalled. Among these, a Buffy animated series, a set of television movies for The WB based on Angel and Buffy characters, and Ripper - a proposed BBC pilot about Rupert Giles. Ripper was announced to be in development at the 2007 San Diego Comic-Con. The development process was set to begin in 2008, and Ripper to be aired that summer, yet the pilot did not materialize due to copyright issues.[238] Early in his career, Whedon sold two spec scripts that weren't produced; Suspension and Afterlife. He sold Suspension for $750,000, with an additional $250,000 if production had commenced.[239] It was described as "Die Hard on a bridge". A year later in 1994, he sold Afterlife for $1.5 million, with an additional $500,000 if production had commenced. In 2000, Andy Tennant was in talks to direct and rewrite.[240] In Afterlife there were precursors to many of the themes Whedon would later explore in Dollhouse. The script was about Daniel Hoffstetter, a government scientist, who awakes after dying to discover his mind has been imprinted on a mind-wiped body.[241]

Goners was announced in 2005. According to Variety magazine, it was a fantasy thriller under development by Universal Studios, and was to be produced by Mary Parent and Scott Stuber.[242] When asked about the film itself during an interview, Whedon said, "It is a fantasy thriller, it is pretty dark and it’s all me. So people will pretty much know what that means if they look at my body of work. But it’s a new universe set in the present day with a new concept for me and a new bunch of characters. It’s been a long time since I got to do that, so that’s really fun".[243] From a 2006 interview with Fanboy Radio:

I've been seeing a lot of horror movies that are torture-porn, where kids we don't care about are mutilated for hours, and I just cannot abide them... it's an antidote to that very kind of film, the horror movie with the expendable human beings in it. Because I don't believe any human beings are.[244]

Whedon had been hired to write and direct a Warner Bros. adaptation of Wonder Woman. However, in February 2007, Whedon announced that he would no longer be involved with the project. "We just saw different movies, and at the price range this kind of movie hangs in, that's never gonna work. Non-sympatico. It happens all the time".[245] In late 2009, Whedon made a bid of $10,000 for control of future Terminator material.[246]

Style, themes and influences[edit]

Whedon spoke about his approach to screenwriting.

Structure is the hardest part of storytelling. With The Avengers, the structure nearly killed me. It was very difficult to make it flow and cohere in terms of all the changing perspectives and characters, all these movie stars, all these beats to hit. It’s a ridiculously complex puzzle. But once you’ve got the puzzle, and you’re just filling in the voices and coming up with the moments, that’s what’s fun.[247]

He also spoke about his penchant to kill off characters.

The percentage of people who die... is a lot. I think it's pretty near everybody. The percentage of people that I kill - not so many. I think the reason that my rep is so nasty is that I tend to do it... unexpectedly, or to someone people are recently invested in, and that is a real mission statement for me, because; death doesn't leave a card. Death doesn't take Hitler. It doesn't work according to story plans. And when a death feels like a loss, gives you grief... then you have told a story that involves death.[248]

Whedon prefers to incorporate as many practical effects as possible when using computer-generated imagery.

I don't think it looks good if it doesn't look real. That veracity is the most important thing. You want to feel like this is definitely happening. I am very strict about letting people feel the space that something's happening in, and the environment has got to be a key part of it. Generally you just try to mix just as much practical with CGI as possible, so people really don't know where one begins and the other ends.[249]

Whedon has kept ambivalent on whether to shoot on film or digital video, saying that he has "no allegiance to film as film. If the story is in front of me, I’m fine".[250]

Many of Whedon's altered phrases, and heavily popularized words have entered a common usage called "Slayer Slang", which PBS included an entire section of in their article series Do You Speak American?.[251] In an issue of Buffy Season Eight, where Buffy travels to the future, Whedon writes Buffy's reaction to the future dialect of Manhattan; this allows Whedon to comment on the series' distinctive style of dialogue. "Buffy blames herself for what's happened to the English language, and there's a lot of hubris in that joke. I like to think that adding Y's to words that don't usually have Y's is going to destroy the whole fabric of our society".[252]

In terms of characters, Whedon's works usually revolve around an ensemble of protagonists,[253][254] primarily focused on a loner hero who ends up working with others to accomplish a goal.[255] He says of the recurring aspects of community, "Everything I write tends to turn into a superhero team, even if I didn't mean for it to. I always start off wanting to be solitary, because a) it's simpler, and b) that isolation is something that I relate to as a storyteller. And then no matter what, I always end up with a team".[256] Examining a typical motif, he explained, "I tend to write about people who are helpless or out of control who then regain or retake control".[257]

Thematically, Whedon's films and TV series feature several allusions to components like contemporary philosophy; existentialism, anti-authoritarianism, power, powerlessness, betrayal, revenge, deception, sexuality, sacrifice, misogyny, and feminism.[257][258] Whedon gives his mother credit for inspiring the elements of feminism in his work. When asked how he could write so well for women, he answered "If you met my mom, you wouldn't ask".[259] The character Kitty Pryde from the X-Men comics was an early model for Whedon's strong teenage girl characters, "If there's a bigger influence on Buffy than Kitty, I don't know what it was. She was an adolescent girl finding out she has great power and dealing with it".[260] Kitty Pryde later played a central role in Whedon's run on Astonishing X-Men.[261] In response to asking himself why he writes such strong women characters, he famously replied, "Because you're still asking me that question".[262]

Whedon has been described as "the gravitational center of the Whedonverse, a galaxy that spins recurring actors and themes through an orbital system of TV shows, films and comic books that all share similar traits: a unique brand of witty dialogue, relatable characters and fantasy/sci-fi mythology."[263][264]

Whedon's influences include Ray Bradbury,[265] James Cameron,[266] Rod Serling,[267] William Shakespeare,[268] Stephen Sondheim[269] and Steven Spielberg.[270]

Personal life[edit]

Whedon is married to Kai Cole, producer and co-founder of Bellwether Pictures.[271] They have two children and live in Los Angeles.[272] On the topic of marijuana, he has said, "I think weed’s a fine thing, for the enjoyment of and, occasionally, for thinking about movies. I don’t use it socially because it does not improve my socializing. [...] But every now and then it takes you to a different place".[273] When asked about his five favorite films, Whedon listed The Matrix (1999), Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), Magnolia (1999) and The Court Jester (1956).[274]

Religious and philosophical views[edit]

Whedon has identified himself as an atheist, absurdist and humanist.[275][276][277] When interviewed by The A.V. Club, Whedon answered the question "Is there a God?" with one word: "No". The interviewer followed up with: "That's it, end of story, no?" Whedon answered: "Absolutely not. That's a very important and necessary thing to learn".[278][279] Talking about the exploration of religion and morality through his own work, he stated:

The meaning of life and the meaning of what we do with our lives is something that's extremely important to me. [...] One of the few times that I really got to sort of say exactly what I think about the world was in the second season of Angel. [...] [Angel] said, you know, 'Well then, this is my statement. Nothing [we do] matters, so the only thing that matters is what we do'.[276]

In April 2009, the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard University presented Whedon with the 2009 Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism.[280]

Whedon has spoken about existentialism, explaining in detail how it, and more specifically Jean-Paul Sartre's Nausea, was used as a basis for the episode "Objects in Space".[281] He called it "the most important book" he ever read,[282] and said it was handed to him right after he saw Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind, whose impact, he recalls, had made him an existentialist.[283]

Political views[edit]

In July 2012, at the San Diego Comic-Con International, in response to one woman who noted the anti-corporate themes in many of his movies, and asked him to give his economic philosophy in 30 seconds or less, Whedon spoke out against both the socialism he was brought up listening to and capitalism as well, stating that "ultimately all these systems don't work". He went on to say that America is "turning into Tsarist Russia".[284][285]

Endorsing Barack Obama in the 2012 United States presidential election,[286] Whedon satirically equated Mitt Romney's future as president with a zombie apocalypse, "Romney is ready to make the deep rollbacks in health care, education, social services and reproductive rights that will guarantee poverty, unemployment, overpopulation, disease, rioting—all crucial elements in creating a nightmare zombie wasteland."[287][288][289]

Television credits[edit]

SeriesEpisode numberTitleCreditOriginal air date
Buffy the Vampire Slayer1.01"Welcome to the Hellmouth"WriterMarch 10, 1997
1.02"The Harvest"WriterMarch 10, 1997
1.10"Nightmares"Story (teleplay by David Greenwalt)May 12, 1997
1.11"Out of Mind, Out of Sight"Story (teleplay by Ashley Gable and Thomas A. Swyden)May 19, 1997
1.12"Prophecy Girl"Writer/directorJune 2, 1997
2.01"When She Was Bad"Writer/directorSeptember 15, 1997
2.03"School Hard"Story (with David Greenwalt, teleplay by David Greenwalt)September 29, 1997
2.07"Lie to Me"Writer/directorNovember 3, 1997
2.11"Ted"Co-writer (with David Greenwalt)December 8, 1997
2.14"Innocence"Writer/directorJanuary 20, 1998
2.21"Becoming (Part 1)"Writer/directorMay 12, 1998
2.22"Becoming (Part 2)"Writer/directorMay 19, 1998
3.01"Anne"Writer/directorSeptember 29, 1998
3.10"Amends"Writer/directorDecember 15, 1998
3.16"Doppelgangland"Writer/directorFebruary 23, 1999
3.21"Graduation Day (Part 1)"Writer/directorMay 18, 1999
3.22"Graduation Day (Part 2)"Writer/directorJuly 13, 1999
4.01"The Freshman"Writer/directorOctober 5, 1999
4.10"Hush"Writer/directorDecember 14, 1999
4.16"Who Are You"Writer/directorFebruary 29, 2000
4.22"Restless"Writer/directorMay 23, 2000
5.06"Family"Writer/directorNovember 7, 2000
5.16"The Body"Writer/directorFebruary 27, 2001
5.22"The Gift"Writer/directorMay 22, 2001
6.07"Once More, with Feeling"Writer/director/composer/lyricistNovember 6, 2001
7.01"Lessons"WriterSeptember 24, 2002
7.07"Conversations with Dead People"Co-writer, uncredited (with Jane Espenson and Drew Goddard; Marti Noxon, uncredited)November 12, 2002
7.22"Chosen"Writer/directorMay 20, 2003
Angel1.01"City Of"Co-writer (with David Greenwalt)/directorOctober 5, 1999
1.04"I Fall to Pieces"Story (with David Greenwalt, teleplay by David Greenwalt)October 26, 1999
1.19"Sanctuary"Co-writer (with Tim Minear)May 2, 2000
2.01"Judgment"Story (with David Greenwalt, teleplay by David Greenwalt)September 26, 2000
2.04"Untouched"DirectorOctober 17, 2000
2.13"Happy Anniversary"Story (with David Greenwalt, teleplay by David Greenwalt)February 6, 2001
3.13"Waiting in the Wings"Writer/directorFebruary 4, 2002
4.06"Spin the Bottle"Writer/directorNovember 10, 2002
5.01"Conviction"Writer/directorOctober 1, 2003
5.14"Smile Time"Story (with Ben Edlund, teleplay by Ben Edlund)February 18, 2004
5.15"A Hole in the World"Writer/directorFebruary 25, 2004
5.22"Not Fade Away"Co-writer (with Jeffrey Bell)May 19, 2004
Firefly1.01"Serenity"Writer/directorDecember 20, 2002
1.02"The Train Job"Co-writer (with Tim Minear)/directorSeptember 20, 2002
1.06"Our Mrs. Reynolds"WriterOctober 4, 2002
1.12"The Message"Co-writer (with Tim Minear)July 15, 2003
1.14"Objects in Space"Writer/directorDecember 13, 2002
1.01"Ghost"Writer/directorFebruary 13, 2009
1.06"Man on the Street"WriterMarch 20, 2009
1.13"Epitaph One"Story (teleplay by Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen)N/A
2.01"Vows"Writer/directorSeptember 25, 2009
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.1.01"Pilot"Co-writer (with Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen)/directorSeptember 24, 2013

Frequent casting[edit]

Whedon often hires the same actors for his projects.[263][264]

ActorBuffy the Vampire Slayer
Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog
The Avengers
The Cabin in the Woods
Much Ado About Nothing
Amy AckerYesYYesYYesYYesY
Felicia DayYesYYesYYesY
Alexis DenisofYesYYesYYesYYesYYesY
Eliza DushkuYesYYesYYesY
Nathan FillionYesYYesYYesYYesY
Carlos JacottYesYYesYYesY
Ashley JohnsonYesYYesYYesY
Fran KranzYesYYesYYesY
Tom LenkYesYYesYYesYYesY
Damion PoitierYesYYesYYesY
Andy UmbergerYesYYesYYesY
Jonathan M. WoodwardYesYYesYYesY


YearTitleCredited asNotes
WriterDirectorProducerExecutive producer
1992Buffy the Vampire SlayerYes
1994The GetawayYesCo-writer (uncredited)
1994SpeedYesCo-writer (uncredited)
1995WaterworldYesCo-writer (uncredited)
1995Toy StoryYesCo-writer
1997Alien ResurrectionYes
2000Titan A.E.YesCo-writer
2000X-MenYesTreatment (uncredited)
2001Atlantis: The Lost EmpireYesTreatment
2011ThorDirected the post-credits scene (uncredited)
2011Captain America: The First AvengerYesCo-writer (uncredited)
2012The Cabin in the WoodsYesYesCo-writer
2012The AvengersYesYesCo-wrote the story with Zak Penn
2013Much Ado About NothingYesYesYesComposed the score, co-edited
2013Thor: The Dark WorldYesCo-writer (uncredited)
2014In Your EyesYesYes
2015Avengers: Age of UltronYesYes
YearTitleCredited asNotes
WriterDirectorProducerExecutive producer
1989–1990RoseanneYesWriter, story editor
1997–2003Buffy the Vampire SlayerYesYesYesCreator
2004Buffy the Animated SeriesYesYesCo-creator (unaired)
2007The OfficeYesEpisodes directed:
"Business School"
"Branch Wars"
2010GleeYesEpisode directed: "Dream On"
2013–presentAgents of S.H.I.E.L.D.YesYesYesCo-creator
Online media
YearTitleCredited asNotes
WriterDirectorProducerExecutive producer
2005R. Tam sessionsYesYesYesCameo appearance
2008Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along BlogYesYesYesYesCo-creator, music, lyrics


List of awards and nominations
YearAwardCategoryTitle of workResult
1995Academy AwardsBest Original ScreenplayToy StoryNominated
1996Saturn AwardsBest WritingToy StoryNominated
2000Primetime Emmy AwardsOutstanding Writing for a Drama SeriesBuffy the Vampire Slayer episode: "Hush"Nominated
2009Daytime Emmy AwardsWriting For A Special Class SpecialDr. Horrible's Sing-Along BlogWon
2013Saturn AwardsBest WritingThe Cabin in the Woods (shared with Drew Goddard)Nominated
2013Saturn AwardsBest Director[290]The AvengersWon
2013Empire AwardsBest Director[291]The AvengersNominated


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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

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Astonishing X-Men writer
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Warren Ellis
Preceded by
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight writer
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Brian K. Vaughan
Preceded by
Brian K. Vaughan
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight writer
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Drew Goddard
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Jane Espenson
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight writer
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Brad Meltzer
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Brian K. Vaughan
Runaways writer
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Terry Moore