Joss Whedon on a couch

Humble Beginnings, Incredible Writing: A Review of Joss Whedon: The Biography

I’ve been a part of the Marvel movie craze since Spiderman (2002). However, when Ironman hit theaters, everything changed. Beloved heroes, clad in armor and suits, felt real and relatable. They were no longer just people with super powers; they became people with super powers.

Those movies built up to The Avengers, one of my favorite movies of all time. The Avengers was the first movie I attached Joss Whedon to, even though I had seen some of his work prior, I never made the connection. The excitement leading up to that movie carried a lot of pressure, so I paid more attention to the name of the man responsible for giving that experience to the world and to me.  Needless to say, The Avengers is a great movie and I was blown away. What struck me most was the team dynamics and the humor. I’ve never laughed so hard at a movie, nor thought that hard about what it takes to have a team of heroes, each with their own strengths and problems, fight an overwhelming force. Whedon’s name quickly became sacred amongst my group of friends.

Loki was especially floored by Whedon's work...

Loki was especially floored by Whedon’s work…

Recently I was given the chance to read about how Whedon came to be in Joss Whedon: The Biography, written by Amy Pascale. I never knew just how many things Whedon has been involved with. Looking back on it though, the lines he penned are the ones that always stick out. Apparently I’ve always been a fan of his writing.

Cover of Joss Whedon Bio

The book starts where any biography should, Whedon’s childhood and the lives of his parents and grandparents. It’s interesting to see that writing for entertainment has been in the family for several generations. Their love of classical theater permeated through the household. It must have been quite the show just living in that house.

As a child, Whedon was beat up and picked on. Instead of writing a sap story, Pascale shows how Whedon used these challenges to drive his writing. Whedon confronts his oppressors, including networks and political figures. This, combined with Shakespeare and Feminism created one of the best creators of our time.

I’m probably one of the few English graduates to proudly claim that I hate reading Shakespeare. Truly, it drives me nuts; however, I’ve always respected him and loved what people make of his material. I love creative spins of Macbeth and the anime of Romeo X Juliet, so I found it funny that Whedon came from a family that regularly celebrated and performed Shakespeare. Of course, one of the greatest theatrical writers of the decade was influenced by the greatest author of history, right? Seems like common sense, but where Whedon differs and is strengthened by is his love of super heroes. Flipping the horror genre on its head, Whedon created an icon of television, Buffy.

Slayer battle in comic form? Check.

Slayer battle in comic form? Check.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer honestly wasn’t that interesting to me during the time of its reign. I always knew about it and what was going on, but I never stopped to watch. Little did I know of the dynamics at work. Whedon loves low-budget horror movies and always wanted to see the blonde in the alley beat the monster to a bleeding pulp. This in turn, at least I think so, led to even more powerful female characters in pop culture. I’m pretty sure the Blood series starring Saya, one of my favorite anime shows, came from Buffy.

Hello monster! Meet schoolgirl with sword.

Hello monster! Meet schoolgirl with sword.

The empire of Whedon fans was pretty much built on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Since then, Whedon has shown great fan support, even addressing them in posts on The Bronze and attending gatherings. He sticks up for his stories as a fan himself. His characters and plots matter. It’s not about making money, even though that helps. I imagine Whedon crying with his audience when something tragic happens to a character and raising his fist in a mob of anger when cancellation loomed overhead.

As a writer myself, I can’t imagine what it’s like to have something cancelled. It’s a shame when such a great work is torn down, just because it isn’t making enough money. These moments in the book are filled with anger, sadness, and redemption, not just from Whedon, but from his whole team.

Lucky for the fans, Whedon and Mutant Enemy never gave up on his characters and did everything they could to make sure the story was complete. It wasn’t just entertainment. A Whedon production finds moral change for the characters or comments on something more. He often calls this finding the Buffy of it, or the Angel of it. On the surface, Buffy may just be fighting a giant snake, but how does that affect her character? Similar questions are what drive his shows and movies to a wonderful effect.

Bring me a pony and a plastic rocket.

Bring me a pony and a plastic rocket.

While Whedon’s life is an inspiration to me, I have to give superior props to Amy Pascale for putting it all in ink. The biography seems so natural, as if she had witnessed his life from the beginning, not as some omniscient being looking in, but as someone walking on his level. Through this book, I get a glimpse of who this awesome writer is as a person. I felt his pain with Firefly’s cancellation and rejoiced with Serenity. I’ve never seen the show or the movie, yet I was moved nonetheless. I have a renewed interest, more insight, and a deeper respect for Whedon and the people working their butts off to create top quality entertainment. I can’t say that about a lot of writers, dead or alive.

It’s amazing to know that someone as talented as Whedon came from being that weird little kid tucked away with his X-Men comics. Geeks are usually beaten up and made fun of throughout our lives, but that just makes them stronger and defiant. In the darkest times come the greatest imaginations. Whedon never gave up on his heroes and his fans will never give up on him. The journey of being a creator is fraught with peril, but its the fight that shows just what kind of person one can be. Everyone is capable of greatness.

angel-comic

In a world where nothing matters, all that matters is what we do.

Joss Whedon: The Biography is obviously going to be rejoiced over by the fans, but I also think that just reading about him will create new ones. Personally, I’ve been scouring video stores for Firefly, counting the days till Age of Ultron, and blasting away at my keyboard with my own ideas, but that’s just me.