Brand Whedon and the fault line between mythos expansion and fan exploitation
Giles is one of my favourite characters in the whole Whedonverse - erudite, awkward, brave, shy, resilient, loving and, oh yea, British he is a rich, textured, lovable, complex figure. When it was reported years ago that there might be a spin-off television series include BBC involvement and to be called Ripper, I was so excited.
As I was to hear about the new four-part mini-series from Black Horse that will feature Giles investigating disappearances at an inner city LA high school
Whedon worked with global franchises long before Buffy aired on TV, and the Marvel brand in particular. Whedon had been involved on the X-Men film project in 1994, although very little of his input can be seen in the final movie, and then in 2004 he was given the opportunity to take over the comic book series. The first two limited seasons had run in the 1990s, and Whedon with illustrator John Cassaday took the helm between 2004 and 2008.
A review of one of the titles Whedon wrote, Astonishing X-Men, draws attention to the intermingling of tones, the centrality of teamwork over individual genius and the grasp of the franchise’s allure for fans: ‘He knows how to write a team book with humor, action and drama. He knows how to handle team dynamics while allowing each character to have a unique personality’ and goes on, ‘Whedon absolutely nails the interpersonal dynamics. The team is small - Shadowcat, White Queen, Cyclops, Wolverine and Beast - but this lets the spotlight shine on everyone. No character dominates the page’. Cassaday’s artwork is also highly commended and one can see here the trademark Whedon television aesthetic translated and adapted for comic books ). Not only the aesthetic (great writing supporting an excellent story and great visuals bringing that into graphic existence) but also a politics associated with it: the democratising nature of the team over the fascist nature of the individual enforcer. The ability to work with a pre-existing franchise (and a franchise beloved by its fans) and to do so while retaining his own sense of aesthetic and political motivation would be rewarded later on with the opportunity to write and direct one of the biggest films ever made. And while industry recognition for his television work was hard to come by, Whedon and Cassaday won an Eisner Award in 2006 for best continuing series for their work, as well as two further nominations.
And I'm feeling all kinds of un-American today.