When I was on the promotion trail for Vanguard Prime: Goldrush, I did an in-store Q&A where I cited Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a big influence on my writing. The brilliant Leanne Hall, who was leading the Q&A, turned to the audience to take a quick poll: How many of you are familiar with Buffy the Vampire Slayer? To my surprise, only one hand went up.
I had just assumed that Buffy had permeated culture enough that everyone knew what it was. Of course, it didn’t occur to me that most of the audience was 10 years old, and that Buffy had been off the air for the entire time they’d been alive. Thankfully, I had Leanne there to help explain the show, given that she too was a Whedonite and had encountered a similar situation at one of her own events.
But the fact that nobody had heard of the show really threw me. You see, I was such a big Buffy fan while growing up that, when I went away to leadership camp in Year 11, my drama teacher instinctively knew that he should tape the latest episode for me so that I wouldn’t miss out on seeing it (proving why he made such a good mentor…and just how much television-viewing habits have changed since I was in high school).
That fanboy love continued onto the spin-off series Angel, and from there onto Joss’s other TV work, including the modern classic Firefly and the under-rated Dollhouse. In fact, I was such a fan of Whedon that I’d follow him anywhere. I’d try to pick out the lines that were his in the movies he’d script-doctored, including Toy Story, Titan AE, Atlantis: The Lost Empire and the original X-Men. I sought out the hardback graphic novel that collected his entire Astonishing X-Men comics run. And nothing can describe the heartbreak I felt the day I found out that the cinema I was working at had hosted a Q&A session with the man himself…a year before I started working there!!
Those of you unfamiliar with Joss might ask why his work inspires such loyalty. Is it the intriguing plots, the insightful use of theme? Or is it the witty dialogue that’s proven so influential it’s had a trope named after it? Well, yes, it is those things. But at the heart of it is his focus on character.
In short, Joss creates characters you love. They range from idealistic to cynical, erudite to streetwise. They’re flawed, but they’re always trying, and that’s what makes them so relatable. And once you feel like they’re close friends, like they’re family, that’s when Joss will throw a curve at you and break your heart…and though it’ll be through hot salty tears, you’ll love him all the more for it.
Through his work, Joss taught me to be a better writer. Through his interviews, he taught me the importance of including strong female characters in your writing, and why men shouldn’t shy away from considering themselves feminists. He taught me that smart and funny equate to cool, and that while high school may be hell, it’s a hell that can be conquered.
That’s why it was so heartening to see him hired by Marvel to direct the first Avengers movie and, when it succeeded, to see him jump to the top of the Hollywood A-list. And while I’ll gobble up every detail I can about Avengers 2 to find out what Joss has in store for us next, I’ll content myself in the meantime with seeing his take on the work of one of the few writers I’d rank higher than him (and I think he’d happily agree with me on that score).
So if you’ve never seen Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I heartily recommend you check it out. And when you’re done, I’ll happily welcome you into the Church of Joss Whedon.
We’re getting jackets made.