Sunday, May 27, 2007

From the Bookshelf: Joss Whedon: The Genius Behind Buffy

An extremely fun and entertaining read, Joss Whedon: The Genius Behind Buffy largely covers Joss Whedon's television career as a writer on Roseanne and Parenthood, among others, and of course his triumvirate of perfection, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly, though it does have some very informative chapters on his film career as one of the most important script doctors of the 1990's. But to be honest, I'd take his TV career over anyone's film career.

The book is a bit sad, because at the time it was published--2003--Joss' product was still out there in the market. Granted, as the book winds down, the writer, Candace Havens, discovers that Firefly has most likely been cancelled (it had) and that Buffy may possibly come to an end (it did). Still, that left Angel, which got cancelled in 2004. There's no discussion of Joss' current film career, since the publication date preceded it, but it's been one of mixed joy and turmoil: Serenity continued the story from Firefly and won critical acclaim, but it flopped at the box office (though the book, and the man himself, makes it continuously clear that quality is far more important to Joss than money). He spent two years working on Wonder Woman before leaving because the studio didn't want what he wanted, and he didn't want what they wanted (I wonder whose ideas were better, eh?).

At the time the book came out, Joss was still a genius workhorse, and though he's still a genius workhorse, it's largely confined to the comic book medium (where he writes Astonishing X-Men and the official eighth season of Buffy). Now, while I absolutely adore comic books and think of them as an artform equal to that of television or film, it's been a mighty long time since I got to enjoy new Joss material on the screen, big or small. Luckily, it's been revealed that he's submitted a final draft of the screenplay for his psychological horror film Goners and will soon be finding out if he will be shooting it THIS YEAR. Which makes me all kinds of happy. But there is a certain sadness that hangs over the material here, especially those chapters detailing future television projects that Joss will never get to make.

Speaking of the book...let's actually talk about it. Havens is obviously a fan, and the book is pretty biased, but then again, this is not meant to be a definitive biography, rather an educational look into the method and madness of a creative genius. Which it is. There are plenty of great quotes from Joss himself, as well as those he has worked with, all painting a picture of the man as the unique, insanely creative maestro his fans have always known he is. Though a hardcore Whedonite I am (and ooh, that's some pretty scary, quasi-religious terminology right there), there are several things here that I was completely unaware of, especially Joss' early life and several film scripts he's already written that may or may not ever see the light of day.

I'm not exactly sure if Joss Whedon: The Genius Behind Buffy will have any literary value to those who are not already fans of the subject or his work (unlike, say, Bob Spitz's magnificent Beatles biography, published in the same year), but I do know, as one of those aforementioned fans, this is absolutely essential. A+

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