Thursday, July 5, 2012

Book – Joss Whedon: The Complete Companion – The TV Series, The Movies, The Comic Books and More

About a month ago I was browsing through a bookstore when I came across a new book on Joss Whedon’s works.  For those people who do not recognize his name, he is the creator behind many influential works, most recently the very popular Avengers movie.  This book is not a biography, but instead is a series of essays and articles on his works across all the various kinds of media.  This is probably not a book for people who have seen nothing else he has done.  It is more for people who are at least familiar with one of his works, and especially for those that are fans of his.

The almost 500 page book is divided up into the following sections: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly and Serenity, Comics, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, Dollhouse, Films, and Appendices.  Each contains an introductory essay giving an overview.  These are then followed by varying numbers of essays and articles on components of these shows, comics, etc. and how they relate to any number of other things.  Example titles include “Women Who Hate Women: Female Competition in Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, “The Death of Utopia: Firefly and the Return to Human Realism in TV Sci-Fi”, and “Six Reasons Why Joss Whedon is the Best Director for The Avengers”.  The term “exhaustively comprehensive” is completely warranted for this book.

I’d like to say that every one of these 61 essays is a winner, but that would be a lie.  Some are obviously Masters Theses that people wrote for Women’s’ Studies programs.  While it is to be expected to have someone writing about Whedon’s strong female characters, after so many articles go into it, it starts to get old.  This is not the fault of the 47 different article and essay authors, though.  Rather, the fault lies with Mary Alice Mooney – the editor for the book.  She chose what to include in it and there is a certain amount of redundancy that should have been avoided.

This is a minor complaint, though.  It’s not like I had to read every essay.  They are independent of each other.  This means if you loved Firefly, but hated Dollhouse (for instance), you can just read the essays that will be of interest to you.

The depth of knowledge that the authors had on their subjects was quite impressive.  I don’t remember reading anything that I knew was wrong in regards to Whedon’s works.  These were obviously not people who just dashed something off to submit for possible inclusion in this book.  These writers knew their stuff.

The essays I found most interesting were the ones discussing the enormous impact Whedon’s works have had on the TV, movie, internet, and comic landscape.  I wrote about those impacts in my own Whedon posts on this site.  In fact, I even flipped to the end of a Buffy article to see if I was credited as a source because they were saying everything I had already written more than a year ago.  (I wasn’t credited, by the way.  On an interesting note, it was about the only essay that did not list the sources it used.)

[You can get to my All Things Joss Whedon parent post by clicking here.  It has links to my reviews of all Whedon’s works that I would recommend to others.]

There are also essays in the book that are interviews with various people who have worked with Whedon, both in front of and behind the camera.

The book’s appendices list every single thing that Whedon has done, across all the different kinds of media.  It is a great one-stop source if you want to find out about his more obscure stuff.

One note in regards to the film section: Since this book was published at the same time The Avengers was released, the essays discussing this film, and Cabin in the Woods, were written prior to their releases.  They are still interesting, though, especially the one discussing why Whedon will be the best director for The Avengers.  Just about everything the author listed was definitely on display in the movie.

As I said at the top, this is more a book for people who are fans of some of Joss Whedon’s works.  While it would serve as an excellent source of information for someone completely new to his shows, the depth the articles go into may be too much for newbies to deal with.

      Paperback                   Kindle


  1. Hmmm that actually sounds pretty interesting Chip. Although, I can see how the similarity of some of the essays could get a bit monotonous.

    1. Overall, it wasn't that big a deal. The impression that it gave, whether correct or incorrect, is that this one issue was very important to the editor and that she felt the more that appeared on it the better.

  2. Great review Chip! I don't like Whedon enough to actually read this one, but who knows what will come in the future seeing as The Cabin in the Woods is already one of my absolute favorites this year.

    1. Thanks. I haven't seen that film yet, but I will when it comes to DVD/BD. I know enough about Whedon to know that if anyone can put an interesting spin on the tired "teens in a remote cabin horror movie" it will be him.