Marvel's The Avengers made a little dough at the box office this past summer. Nearly 1.5 billion dollars. Many people felt that a movie that assembled Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, and Captain America was guaranteed to make all the money in the world. Truthfully, the film's incredible financial and critical success received a nice bump by the man who was hired to rewrite the script and direct the epic project: Joss Whedon. It's likely that a fair percentage of those who saw The Avengers on opening weekend didn't even know who Joss Whedon was. I know there are a lot of people out there who would find such a thought utterly insane. Because for those who have been lucky enough to experience his work in television, with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly (and its concluding film chapter Serenity), Joss Whedon is a god of pop culture. Actually, he was a god of cult pop culture.
Of course, it's difficult to refer to him as cult now. Today, he is part of the mainstream. He has entered Christopher Nolan territory. So it should be no surprise that Marvel announced yesterday that Whedon will indeed write and direct The Avengers 2 (announced for May 1, 2015). Yay!
Signing on the Marvel sequel is just a part (the biggest part) of Whedon's overall exclusive deal with the studio. But for me, the more exciting development of his new deal is the return to the medium that made Whedon a god among fangirls and fanboys. He has been given the task to develop a show set in the Marvel Universe that will air on ABC. I'm not sure what kind of show the suits at Disney and Marvel have in mind. But I think the perfect source material to adapt--as far as the small screen and Whedon's creative genius are concerned--is the comic book Runaways.
Not to spoil too much about the series, but it focuses on a group of young teenagers who have varied super powers. And the title pretty much makes it clear that these teenagers are on their own. How they end up on their own is the plot of the very first issue but I won't mention this reason just because some people want absolutely zero spoilers.
Runaways was created by Brian K. Vaughn and Adrien Alphona but the series had other writers and artists work on it before it went on hiatus a few years ago. Joss Whedon was one of the writers. In fact, Whedon wrote a passionate fan letter when he found out the series was getting cancelled after Issue 18. Perhaps not coincidentally, the series was brought back to life when sales of the collected volumes, which included the letter, were higher than expected.
Talk (and more than just talk) of a film adaptation began prior to the series going on its current "hiatus." But it seems that plans for a film have been shelved for the time being. I'm actually glad the movie has moved to development hell because I think it would make for a better television show. And who better to develop a Runaways TV series than Joss Whedon.
There were already rumblings (among fans) of Whedon directing the Runaways movie long before he was signed on to take over the reins of The Avengers. And now he has a new contract that has him developing a TV series for ABC. Obviously, any show set in the Marvel Universe is going to have a significantly smaller budget than any of the movies. Runaways has had its fair share of epic moments during its run. However, the strongest aspect of the series is the relationships that develop between the different runaways. The bottom line: the runaway's are teenagers dealing with the usual teenage related problems while simultaneously facing off with evil supernatural forces. Joss Whedon would be right at home with this storytelling framework. Of course, he wouldn't be the showrunner so it wouldn't be like he was repeating himself by doing an updated version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Many fans would prefer a movie. Movies are bigger and sexier. But movies, especially those of the comic book variety, are prone to lose the more nuanced moments among all the spectacle. Unfortunately, TV dramas on ABC and other networks have been incurring similar issues. But Whedon has a new found power of influence. That can happen when you write and direct the most successful comic book movie of all time. So he could be able to create the show that he wants to create as well and play a part in choosing the permanent writing staff.
The last television program that Joss Whedon created was FOX's Dollhouse. For many of us, that show did not live up to the standard of his previous work (to be honest, I only saw one or two episodes). With finding success on the big screen, it would be great to see Whedon return to the medium that made him such an icon among millions of fans (and they, or we, really are fanatics!) ABC has been looking for a post-Lost serialized drama for several years now. ABC, The Runaways, and Joss Whedon: that sounds to me like the right ingredients to a successful endeavor. .