‘Avengers’: Joss Whedon talks sequel, ‘Buffy’ and ‘X-Men’ parallels

May 15, 2012 | 6:08 p.m.
joss Avengers: Joss Whedon talks sequel, Buffy and X Men parallels

Joss Whedon, shown in April. (Matt Sayles / Associated Press)

This story contains spoilers about “The Avengers.”

“The Avengers” passed the $1-billion mark in worldwide ticket sales this weekend, and a sequel is already in the works. Does that mean writer-director Joss Whedon will be back at the helm of the franchise that unites Marvel’s box-office heavyweights, including Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and the Hulk?

“You know, I’m very torn,” Whedon said in a sit-down interview in Beverly Hills before the film’s U.S. opening. “It’s an enormous amount of work telling what is ultimately somebody else’s story, even though I feel like I did get to put myself into it. But at the same time, I have a bunch of ideas, and they all seem really cool.”

Whether he gets his hands on the sequel, Whedon’s fingerprints are all over “The Avengers,” which echoes some tropes found in his other work in comics and television.

For one, Mark Ruffalo’s much-praised performance as Bruce Banner and his raging alter-ego the Hulk parallels Seth Green’s Oz, the werewolf character in Whedon’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Like Banner, Oz tries to run from the beast within, isolating himself in far-flung lands while he learns to master his inner monster. Ultimately, Oz learns to accept the wolf and displays Zen-like (though imperfect) mastery over his full-moon manifestations. Similarly, Banner learns to master the Hulk only by accepting and eventually embracing the anger that incites “the other guy.”

oz banner Avengers: Joss Whedon talks sequel, Buffy and X Men parallels

Seth Green as Oz in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” left, and Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner in “The Avengers.” (Fox / Marvel)

“I hadn’t really connected those,” Whedon said, when asked about the Oz-Hulk parallel. “But the Oz thing for me was kind of an intellectual exercise. And for Bruce, for me, it felt like a new truth — even though it really is similar and therefore isn’t new at all — because Mark and I had spent so much time talking about the way anger manifests. And I’ve even talked about the Hulk as a werewolf. As much as he’s a superhero, he’s that type of monster.”

kittypryde Avengers: Joss Whedon talks sequel, Buffy and X Men parallels

Whedon’s “Astonishing X-Men” run featured young heroine Kitty Pryde. (Marvel)

Fans of Whedon’s work in comics also may have noticed similarities between Tony Stark’s “sacrifice play,” saving the world from a nuclear missile at the end of the film, and Kitty Pryde‘s act of self-sacrifice when she saved the world from a giant missile-bullet in “Astonishing X-Men.”

“I was afraid you were going to mention ‘Superman,’ the first movie,” Whedon said. “I had never thought about that, since she’s more inside [the bullet], but there is a little bit of that. But the ultimate sacrifice and the ultimate threat, when you mix ’em up, usually somebody’s trying to divert a rocket.”

Whedon said any parallels between his previous work and the characters and plot in “The Avengers” are unintentional.

“I’m not going to do the same thing on purpose; I’m going to do the same thing because I’m creatively bereft, and I’ve run out of ideas,” he joked. “Awkward…”

But one trademark characteristic Whedon embraces in his work is his ability to unite groups of raggedy misfits against imminent evil. Led by anti-hero Capt. Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), “Firefly’s” crew of lost space-wanderers exposed the misdoings of an interplanetary government that stepped out of line. A teenage girl and her “Scooby gang” of freaks and geeks saved Sunnydale and Earth from demons and demented gods in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” And now, in “The Avengers,” disparate superheroes worked through their egos and hangups, pulling together as a team to defend the planet against alien invaders.

So which misfit crew is Whedon’s favorite?

“You know, I love all my raggedy children,” he said. “But if I could be anywhere, I’d be on board Serenity.”

— Noelene Clark


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58 Responses to ‘Avengers’: Joss Whedon talks sequel, ‘Buffy’ and ‘X-Men’ parallels

  1. kirk says:

    This was expected. Marvel only cares about $$$. Talent can go once a franchise is established.

  2. j.e.vogels says:

    Serenity…'nuff said.

  3. heyfritters says:

    I can't believe they didn't mention how he Whedon'ed Coulson. THAT'S his number one trademark.

  4. Mr. Universe says:

    Always happy when someone brings up Serenity; it has everything that made the first two Star Wars films so great, and none of what made all the other Star Wars film so terrible.

  5. howard says:

    i ate shawarma due to the avengers. hope for 9 sequels and 80 spinoffs. shut up and take my money.

  6. @chrisdvanne says:

    So glad for Whedon and his fans that The Avengers is a huge hit.

  7. Marvel shouldn't be rushing the sequel. Iron Man 2 was a let down and damaged the franchise. They should learn their lesson. They should let Joss do another movie of his own choice, and then come back to the franchise re-energised, like Warner did with Christopher Nolan.

  8. Yeah, I'd want to be on Serenity too! As much as I love Buffy, I feel her story (and Angel's) has been told very well but there is so much more to imagine and do in the Firefly 'verse.

  9. Davcato says:

    Good interview. Serenity is where he belongs. Finish the Big Damn Trilogy!

  10. Dragoneye says:

    Joss Whedon has a lot of guts saying he is not sure if he will come back or not. He has not had a successful movie, EVER!. Serenity is about as half-assed a movie as you can have. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was terrible, even for the day in which it was made. Take the opportunity to create something in the sequel (which are always harder to make) and show that you are a decent filmmaker. Iron Man 2 did not suck.

  11. Jherek says:

    To paraphrase a line from Planet Terror, Give Whedon the movie… Give Whedon all the movies.

  12. Moe says:

    Browncoat forever.

  13. Larry says:

    What needs to happen is for Marvel to come to an agreement with Columbia and Fox so that Wolverine, Spider-man and Storm can be in the sequel. Add to that WASP, Ant-Man, and Black Panther. Just think Wolverine in the same film as the HULK. That would be so awesome it could not be contained. Joss Whedon should direct Avengers 2 and 3.

  14. alan stowe says:

    Oh good, so I'm not the only person that realizes Joss just repeats himself over and over and over with the same archetypes and the same plot devices. I thought nerds were smart, but they really haven't caught on to him for some reason…

    Thanks LA Times!

  15. Ed C says:

    Avengers was great but I'm glad Joss still floats Serenity in his interviews. That was way better than Avengers all things considered (ducks).

  16. Shawn J says:

    LOL @ the photo of Mark Ruffalo and Hulk!

  17. danj says:

    Whedon has no problem offing main characters. Too bad he didn't get rid of Black Widow. ScarJo's acting was terrible.

  18. Dr. B says:

    Why has no one mentioned that Iron Man's sacrifice at the end of Avengers is JUST LIKE the Iron Giant's sacrifice in Brad Bird's movie? I totally expected a shout out, with Stark saying "Suuupermaaan" while he flew that bomb up into space!!

  19. Brett says:

    Whether Whedon's success with "The Avengers" will translate into box office boosts for any of his non-"Avengers" projects remains to be seen. If he returns to the "Firefly" universe, obviously the fans of that series will go see it, and I suppose there will be something of a bump in ticket sales if the marketing is allowed to promote it as "from the director of 'The Avengers'." But don't kid yourselves, Whedon fans – it's unlikely that Whedon is ever going to enjoy this kind of success for his own original projects.

  20. scott says:


  21. holly says:


  22. Anthony Smith says:

    Repeating a successful theme works for me. Buffy was a thoughtful, fun, and exciting ride. Angel was that as well, although on the lighter side. Serenity/Firefly was a very good movie and an awesome show. It should set the standard for all space adventures and it would be very cool to revisit that world, whether it be with the same actors, I know, major character dies (won't spoil it if you have not watch it, stop reading and go watch it!), so bring that one back! It's sci-fi afterall, or go with a new cast.

    Master Whedon writes a hell of a story and has a great imagination. I have been waiting for an Avengers movie for nearly 40 years and I was not disappointed. I have seen it twice and plan to see it several more times before it leaves the big screen. I suggest you do the same so you don't feel
    withdrawal symptoms. Vision, Wanda, Quicksilver, and the Black Panther would be my choices to add for a second installment. That would certainly open the door for X-Men to be intertwined if the powers that be would consider it.

    I would sign Master Whedon up for at least 2 more installments NOW. Disney, Marvel, you listening?
    If not: Joss, would you please consider a Justice League movie? And nostalgia forces me to ask, perhaps a Doc Savage/Shadow crossover?

    Whatever this man does, I will see it. I hope you live a happy, healthy, and very long life Master Whedon. And please keep on writing and directing
    Best wishes,

  23. Eleanor says:

    I watched The Avengers today for the first time, and thought it was excellent. I've also rewatched Buffy's Season 5 finale just now, and since we're talking about parallels I noticed that both Buffy and Captain America take their anger out on their punching bags, and both characters punch said bags straight out of the ceiling in this episode and of course in the Captain's first scene in the film. Probably not intentional, or possessing any deeper meaning, but I just noticed how remarkably similar the scenes are. But yes, I really hope Whedon chooses to be involved in the sequel!

  24. Peter C. says:

    The Avengers was amazing. Joss’s work never ceases to amaze me how he wraps everything up and truly shows what heroes are about. That being said, Fox needs to give him an X-Men movie. Not Wolverine, but an actual X-Men movie where we don’t have a director that knows nothing about the characters. I am so sick of Bryan Singer and his weird version of the X-Men. Fix them Joss! Please!

  25. HWA says:

    I want to see more Serenity. That was, by far, his Magna Opus. It was great.
    I could live without this superhero junk.

  26. Joe Baumann says:

    Serenity by far. They are doing a reunion at this years comic con in a couple days. Who knows. Maybe we will get very luck and another movie. I can dream.

  27. karen says:

    I think that Joss is a very creative person. Has anyone heard that great artists steal? Sure Oz and Bruce are similar but really…. I don't think Joss was thinking "hey i am gonna copy how Bruce deals with the hulk for Oz" And it is works then let him do it. Even the most creative people draw on the creativness of others. And Iron man 2 was okay not as good as Iron Man 1. Firefly was a great show and the movie was as well. And Buffy- what can i say about that show. And Dragon Eye, you do realize they were talking about the show right tell me how can a show last 7 years if was bad? There are so many BAD shows out there now. not enough good ones. Besides it is not just his decision but the decison of Marvel themselves on whether he comes back. But I think he will.

  28. Konk says:

    omg, i SERIOUSLY miss Buffy and her butt kicking the bad guys.

  29. Guest says:

    A 'Lord of the Rings' style 3-part Avengers vs the X-Men epic, please and thank you, Mr Whedon.

    Also, a Buffy where-is-she-now (Cleveland?) and-what-is-she-doing movie.. y'know, if you have a spare moment. That's my xmas list for Santa Joss. Ta.

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