Happy Birthday, Joss Whedon… And Thank You

by Brett White

It seems like only a year ago that we were last wishing Joss Whedon a happy birthday… and in fact it was almost a year ago, because that is how time and birthdays work. The man responsible for creating pretty much the best everythings ever turns 49 on Sunday, June 23rd, and we have to admit, this has been a pretty great year for the guy.

Yeah, last year’s birthday came hot on the heels of “Marvel’s the Avengers'” success, but in the past year he has released “Much Ado About Nothing,” signed a deal that keeps him in the Marvel family for another two years, finished the first draft of “Avengers 2” after deciding that he does have another story to tell with the team, and he got a new TV show (“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.“) picked up and ready to debut. He was named one of our Heroes of the Year for 2012, and was on-hand to accept “Marvel’s The Avenger’s” Golden Popcorn for Movie of the Year. This has been a good year for the man.

But to get a bit more “op-ed”-ish, a bit more honest, there’s no way that I could write a blog post wishing Joss Whedon a happy birthday and have it just be a rundown of all the awesome stuff he’s accomplished in his latest year of life. Without Joss Whedon’s work, I know for a fact that I would never have set my feet on the path that, through many a twist and turn, led me to being the guy who runs MTV Splash Page. Without Joss Whedon, a whole other row of dominos would have been set off, one that would have most likely kept me in Tennessee doing I don’t know what. But I wouldn’t be here, and for that I have to thank Joss Whedon.

I have to thank Joss Whedon for creating “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and putting it on television. I have to thank him for taking the storytelling structures that I grew to love in comic books and putting them on the small screen, creating a show that felt like I was watching something as powerful and important as Chris Claremont’s “Uncanny X-Men” run, unfolding in weekly installments on my bedroom TV. I have to thank Joss for creating the first longterm homosexual relationship that I had ever seen on television, thirteen years ago when that just didn’t happen. How many minds and hearts have Willow and Tara touched over the years? I also have to thank Joss Whedon for Anya because, come on, she’s just the greatest.

I have to thank Joss Whedon for following his gut instincts in regards to his creativity, as I watched him blow up and rebuild “Angel’s” status quo year after year, resulting in one of the greatest final seasons – and final episodes – of all time. I have to thank Joss for showing that the greatest rewards come from the greatest risks. I have to thank Joss Whedon for Numfar and the dance of joy.

I have to thank Joss Whedon for being a trailblazer when it comes to listening to fans on the internet. Seriously, “Firefly” found a passionate audience that he listened to and engaged with, causing it to still be a rabid fandom a decade later despite Fox only allowing it one brief season. I have to thank Joss Whedon for “Serenity,” which proved that cancellation means nothing if we all decide it means nothing (see: “Arrested Development” and “Veronica Mars”).

I have to thank Joss Whedon for being an X-Men fan, and for making me believe in them again when he started writing “Astonishing X-Men” in 2004. I had become disillusioned during Grant Morrison’s previous run, because the team felt so far removed from the classic take that I had grown up with. But Whedon came on the title, respected everything Morrison did while injecting the characters with old school style charm, modernized with his fresh dialogue. Every issue of that series felt right, and every issue had a moment that wrecked me in ways both joyous and horrible.

I have to thank Joss Whedon for embracing goofy things like web series (“Dr. Horrible” y’all) and Twitter and fan-sites, and totally owning them. Joss knows that creativity is creativity, and he just creates. He has a week off after wrapping on “Avengers”? He makes a Shakespeare feature film in his house with his friends, because the guy is a creator. Thank you for being a creator, and thank you for creating first and foremost.

I have to thank Joss Whedon for Black Widow. I have to thank him for taking a character that I never cared about in the comics and creating an adaptation of her, a version of her, in the film that so totally blew away literally every expectation I had for her. He, along with the fantastic Scarlett Johansson, gave us our first fully realized female superhero. She’s strong, smart, flawed, courageous, funny and a character that is overwhelmingly worthy of admiration. Remember?

I have to thank Joss Whedon for “Marvel’s the Avengers,” but this post is already pushing it on length and I don’t have another thousand words to gush about that film. But he had the hardest task in front of him, and he nailed it. And he proved that our big, loud and fun superhero movies could be scrutinized and analyzed like art. And he proved that our insider-y club could be welcoming to literally everyone, and that it’s more fun when everyone gets invited.

Joss Whedon. Thank you for the past year, thank you for the years before that, and thank you for the years to come. Happy birthday.