Written By: Amy Pascale, forward by Nathan Fillion
Synopsis: A comprehensive portrait of writer and director Joss Whedon (Marvel’s The Avengers, Buffy: The Vampire Slayer), and his experiences and impact within the cinematic, television, and comic book industries.
Publication Date: August 1, 2014 (click to order)
Final Grade: A
Hit the jump for the full reviewPositives: Joss Whedon: The Biography is an insightful, entertaining, engaging, and intimate account of the life and work of one the most talented and successful artists of our time. Writer Amy Pascale paints her portrait of Whedon adeptly, often serving not as an author, but rather a facilitator, compiling insights from a variety of sources to construct a compelling narrative spanning from Whedon’s grandparents through the modern era to his successes within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Pascale draws upon many individuals, including Whedon himself, to give the readers a true understanding of writer and director’s motivations, creative process, struggles, humor, and personal convictions, which evolve and mature over the course of many decades and experiences. The first third of Joss Whedon is perhaps the most interesting, intriguing, and revealing. As Pascale conveys, Whedon’s inspirations and influences originated from a variety of sources, including life events and relationships. For example, a detailed review of the dynamics Whedon had with his family, especially his mother, leads to a greater understanding of why the writer often focuses on empowered women for his central characters. Futhermore, as Pascale traces Whedon’s challenges both as a student and as a newly minted college graduate seeking to find work, she details the adventures that ensue, ones which clearly impact his craft. Not only do these yarns provide a rare and unique perspective into the workings of the entertainment industry, but they are also wildly entertaining, and reveal some surprising creative contributions Whedon had to some now-beloved movies and shows, The second third of Whedon’s biography focuses on Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, the cult television hit, and subsequent related media. Here, Pascale gives an amazing amount of depth to the show’s inception and the inner workings of production from to week to week, even going so far to chronicle the script to screen process for specific fan-favorite episodes such as “Once More with Feeling”. The final act of Joss Whedon: The Biography traces Whedon’s continued motivation to challenge himself with new projects, passions, and mediums, after the cancellation of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and its spinoff, Angel. Here, Pascale recounts Whedon’s public stance during the 2007-08 Writer’s Guild of America strike (which led to the highly successful web series, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog), a foray into penning X-Men comic books, the roller coaster of producing the short-lived show, Firefly, and more. The culmination of these events are Whedon’s experiences serving as the writer and director for Marvel’s The Avengers, a giant blockbuster superhero film, which achieved record-setting box office numbers. Through unprecedented insight, Pascale allows readers to relive the journey, both the peaks and valleys, almost as if they were experiencing it with Whedon himself. By the biography’s conclusion, readers will gain a true understanding into the creative and inspirational mind and passion of Joss Whedon, Negatives: While Pascale certainly deserves a large amount of laudatory praise for her attention to detail, those details might slow readers down who are less familiar with the properties in question. Specifically, if not appropriately, a large portion of Joss Whedon: The Biography deals with the Buffy: The Vampire Slayer franchise. Non-fans of the series, either by choice or by happenstance, might feel overwhelmed by the deluge of information on the topic. It deserves noting, however, that the author clearly includes the extensive material on Buffy with the hope of encouraging readers to explore, or revisit, the series, in order to discover the joy it brought, and the impact it had, on so many, especially women, who connected with the strong female characters. Spoilers may deter some readers as well. Pascale often does an excellent job of summarizing Whedon’s work for contextual purposes, however, in a few instances the biographer divulges some key plot points or surprise reveals contained within various episodic television arcs and films. Readers should be aware that these moments exist in the biography, should they want to remain spoiler-free for the items in Whedon’s library they have yet to peruse. Overall: With Joss Whedon: The Biography, Amy Pascale delivers the story of an inspirational person. This portrait focuses on not just the writer or the director, but the man who has used his creative vision to inspire and entertain countless individuals. While existing fans (lovingly self-proclaimed Whedonites), may appreciate and connect with the narrative more than the uninitiated, Joss Whedon will undoubtedly prove engaging and captivating to all audiences.
Final Grade: A
Trivia: Joss Whedon is credited for roughly 99% of the script to the 1994 action film, Speed, including the famous line, “Pop quiz, hotshot”.