Joss Whedon: The Complete Companion
It’s a testament to the scope, depth and versatility of Joss Whedon’s famous body of work that the Complete Companion seemingly short changes elements of it. That’s not meant as a criticism, as such, simply an indication of the extensive, ever-growing field of Whedon-studies in academia. And lying on the coffee table at a hefty 485 pages, and a not-inconsiderable 61 articles, interviews, reviews and discussions the book is not exactly on the slight side. Fans of Joss Whedon will find plenty worth their money here.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Big Bang of the Whedonverse, gets the lion’s share of scholarly output here, along with Firefly/Serenity, another perennial favourite, including for yours truly, as does, by sheer weight of material, Joss Whedon’s many comic books series, themselves often spun out from his TV shows.
Angel and Dollhouse, and the brief, blissful creation that is Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, on the other hand are sections marked by their brevity. Those movies still fresh in all our minds, your Avengers, your Cabin in the Woods, similarly take up little of the page count, at least in this instance by virtue of being so brand new as to proceed academic articles just yet.
All of the articles are uniformly insightful and considered, many illuminating aspects of the shows you might not have thought about, such as the connection between language and masculinity, as in “You’re strong. I’m stronger: vampires, masculinity and language in Buffy,” or, perhaps, the placement of the traditional zombie in Whedon’s television shows, where it takes frequently surprising, scary and original form, as highlighted in the article, “Zombies, Reavers, Butchers, and Actuals in Joss Whedon’s Work.”
While the essays are understandably clumped together according to the show/comic book or movie they’re concerned with, there are several which trace threads throughout Joss Whedon’s collective work. “The Big Bad Universe: Good and Evil According to Joss Whedon” serves as an excellent example of consistent themes being followed from series to series. For any film students writing their dissertations with an eye towards Joss Whedon’s work this will most likely, deservedly prove to be an indispensable tool.
Which inevitably leads to the question of whether or not this collection is strictly for the most hardcore of his fans. Readers with a broad knowledge of Whedon’s work going into this book will, of course, have the home advantage, but the true gem of this collection is in its inclusive nature. Each of the chapters begins with a ’101′ segment, a back to basics prep to either jog your memory or give you a brief overview before the articles begin disseminating individual aspects of the show being discussed. These leading segments are hugely important primers, and are always written to entertain and inform, to share the passion the writers have as fans as well as scholars. The love for this auteur is always on show, but never more so than in these introductions, or even in the several interviews with Joss Whedon’s collaborators. Two of his most stalwart fellow writers, and a couple of his treasured actors, are thrown in for good measure.
Best of all, however, are the articles written by the fans themselves. The most intimate is “I’d very still: anthropology of a lapsed fan” which is an account by one fan of her days on an internet mailing list, and the community she became a part of around a shared passion for Buffy. Others go more broadly into the vitality of this dedicated, passionate fanbase and their effect on the survival of a show, even after its televisual death.
Beyond detailed studies of Joss Whedon’s work the book can also be dipped into and out of and enjoyed for its appreciation, and insight into television and comic books. One essay, titled “Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s hope”, while only tenuously connected to the object of these essays, nevertheless proves to be hugely entertaining in its study of the changing demographics of comic book readership. Your reaction to the above sentence should tell you a lot about whether or not you want to pick up this book.