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When news first broke that Joss Whedon was going to be writing and directing Marvel’s second Avengers movie and also developing a television series for Marvel, I was – like everyone else – a very happy person indeed. And then I saw the actual press release, and… Well, I might’ve changed my mind a little bit.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m still very happy that Whedon will come back for Avengers 2 or Avengers: This Time It’s Thanos or whatever the movie ends up being called; the essential Whedon-ness of the this summer’s movie was something that lifted it far above the ranks of the other Marvel movies to date, and gave it the particular flavor that I think catapulted it to the uber-success that it’s enjoyed. I’m also very happy to see Whedon back in television, a medium that he enjoys and is very good at, when given the opportunity; I’m curious to see what he’ll come up with for ABC, and who he’ll bring on beside him to keep it running while he’s off coming up with the follow-up to the third biggest movie of all time. All of that is good.
This, though, is the part that gives me pause:
Joss Whedon has signed an exclusive deal with Marvel Studios for film and television through the end of June 2015.
“Exclusive”? So… No non-Marvel projects for three years?
This won’t be entirely the case, of course; his Much Ado About Nothing is, I believe, complete and close to release, so I assume we’ll be seeing that. And Wastelanders, his collaboration with Warren Ellis that predates the first Avengers movie, should also be exempt being a web series. And yet… There’s something weirdly disheartening about the idea that we’re not going to see more original ideas from Whedon for the next three years in terms of TV and movies; no more Cabin In The Woods-esque surprises, and that fantasy of a new Whedon series on cable so that Fox can’t screw with his new ideas on the shelf for awhile (Sadly, I have been thinking of that for quite some time; how much fun would everyone have with a Whedon show that did 13 episodes a year and had less network restrictions?).
I find myself mapping it onto comic book industry logic; at a time when creators are finding time to, and value in, moving from superheroes to ideas, stories and characters they’ve created, Whedon does the opposite in terms of mass media. When viewed like that, it does make me just a little sad.
It’s a minor complaint, perhaps; for all I know, Avengers 2 and the new show would’ve kept him more than busy over the next three years anyway, and certainly it’s a deal that undoubtedly benefits him as much as it does Marvel, even without knowing the specifics. And yet, when faced with the fact that Whedon is contractually bound to Marvel Studios for the next three years – sorry, that he “will also contribute creatively to the next phase of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe,” to use the official parlance – I find myself suddenly, unexpectedly, realizing that I would far rather have seen him use his newfound box-office credibility and the power it gave him within the movie industry for something new, instead of more of the same.