Joss Whedon has long been a fixture in the geek community, thanks to his TV work on series like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Of course, his notoriety exploded last year with the record-breaking success of Marvel’s The Avengers.

This led to Marvel signing him to write and direct the forthcoming sequel as part of an extensive three-year contract that includes overseeing all the studio’s Phase Two projects as well as starting up ABC’s planned S.H.I.E.L.D. (or is it Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.?) TV series.

However, before that deal was struck – in fact, before The Avengers had even been released – Whedon had already began brainstorming what audiences would see in The Avengers 2, according to Entertainment Tonight. Here’s what he had to say:

“I didn’t think I was going to do the second one, but I had an idea for it before I figured out the first one … You go into a movie not assuming there’s going to be [a sequel]. I’ve seen plenty of movies that are the first part in a trilogy that never happened, and it’s terrible. You don’t save anything for the trip back. Having said that, though, I did think, ‘If they were to come back, I know what’s going to happen and it’s going to be awful.'”

Whedon’s approach to sequels makes sense from a storytelling standpoint. In fact, Christopher Nolan has said on numerous occasions that he approached his Batman films in a similar way. Yet, Whedon’s anticipation for where subsequent films may end up means that the conflicts and alliances formed in The Avengers were likely planting the seeds for further complications down the line. The clash between Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Captain America (Chris Evans) comes to mind as a plot thread that might develop over several films. Could Marvel be planning to bring the popular “Civil War” arc to life at some point?

As for The Avengers 2, we’ve already heard reports that death would be a significant theme, as indicated by the mid-credits scene featuring Thanos and his apparent glee at “courting death.” Couple that with Whedon’s admission that the sequel will feature a more personal threat to the Avengers, and it’s looking more and more likely like The Avengers 2 will be The Empire Strikes Back of the series, as far as a more downbeat, darker ending is concerned.

Whatever Whedon has planned, his role in Phase Two will ensure that the preceding solo films properly set the stage for the team’s reunion in The Avengers 2.

“I’m actually really excited. I’ve gotten to look at everything and see behind the curtain on all the stuff, and Kevin Feige has a very clear vision. And it runs through all these movies. They’re all very different, but they really are what the next story should be. So I’m very excited about it.”

Captain America: The Winter Soldier will reportedly set the stage for a potential shifting of loyalty that will pay off in The Avengers 2, which Whedon said begins shooting in February 2014. It’s quite possible that some tragedy may strike the Avengers, leaving the team in disarray by the sequel’s end. At this early stage, however, this is pure speculation.

What “awful” events do you think the Avengers will face in the sequel? Would Marvel go so far as to kill off one of the core heroes? Will Robert Downey Jr. retire after all? Sound off in the comments section below with your hopes and expectations for The Avengers 2.

Iron Man 3 releases May 3, 2013, Thor: The Dark World on November 8, 2013, Captain America: The Winter Soldier on April 4, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1, 2014, The Avengers 2 on May 1, 2015 and Ant-Man on November 6, 2015.

Source: ET