It seems like just yesterday that the success of The Avengers led to writer/director Joss Whedon signing on to not only take charge on The Avengers: Age of Ultron, but help in crafting the rest of Marvel's shared universe. That ultimately meant turning his TV collaborators to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and helping to shape the connective tissue found in Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
But all good things must come to an end, and with Age of Ultron's release approaching, and rumors that it will be Winter Soldier directors Anthony and Joe Russo helming Avengers 3 & 4, Whedon's role in Marvel's universe is uncertain. Or, perhaps more accurately, it's becoming more and more certain that it he'll be leaving it. Thankfully for fans, it sounds like Whedon has a good reason for that possible change: he's ready to create something brand new.
It's strange to think that an entire generation of comic book movie fans may know Whedon as 'the director of The Avengers', and not the offbeat geek icon he was before Marvel ever gave him a call. With properties like Dollhouse, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly, Whedon showed a passion (and knack) for creating not just films or TV shows, but entire fictional universes. And more often than not, they were built on the shoulders of women.
When speaking with Buzzfeed about his recently-released comments - that "quiet misogyny" and "sexism" were to blame for so few female superheroes - the topic of Captain Marvel understandably came up. So, would a smaller-scale film focused on Marvel's first superheroine be up Whedon's alley?
"I would never rule anything out, because I like working here. By the same token, the biggest thing for me is that I need to do something that I create myself. It’s been way too long since I created a universe. The last thing I did before The Avengers was [directing an episode of] Glee, and in between I did Much Ado About Nothing. So I haven’t created my own universe for over five years. That feels wrong."
The director has been quite candid in the past about the physical and mental toll that directing Marvel's biggest movie ever carries with it, going so far as saying he couldn't see himself directing another like it.
Whedon won't reveal just what he's thinking of next - another sci-fi, fantasy, or western series, perhaps? - and says there's no "grand scheme" he's already got in the works. But before signing for Age of Ultron, Whedon apparently had a specific 'universe' in mind - one sure to raise eyebrows among both Marvel and DC fans:
"I will say that when I was thinking about, 'Well, if I wasn’t going to do Avengers 2, what would I want to do?' — of course the first thing I thought of was “turn-of-the-century female Batman.” Not Batman actually. But, you know, something cool. One person. Can’t stress that enough. Movie about one person — not a team, not 10, just one. But do a nice sort of hard action movie that combined all my favorite things. Something that would be the love child of Sam Fuller and Edward Gorey. You know, I’ve had many thoughts since then. Oh, I could do this! Oh, I could do that! But it is my instinct to want to tell those stories."
First off, let's clarify: Whedon is not speaking about making a potential Batgirl, Batwoman, or alternate-universe Batman movie. Instead, implying a more contained story following a young, female vigilante - a story that should sound right at home in his existing catalogue (and if you're taking cues from the Dark Knight, why not set the events against an early 1900s backdrop?).
It's thrilling to think of a Whedon-helmed Batgirl or Batwoman story, but years of juggling a half-dozen superheroes and a shared universe makes it a long shot. Even Captain Marvel doesn't seem a proper fit, with Whedon referring to the heroine's tendency of coming out on top of situations as one reason she doesn't grab his attention.
But if Whedon's hopes for the superhero genre as a whole are a sign of what 'universe' he's dreaming up this very moment, a return to his roots may be in the cards:
"You know me, I love a bouillabaisse of genres. I like to throw everything in the stew. The superhero story... it doesn’t have to be about one tortured billionaire. It can be a girl and her community, her crushes, her fears. We can evolve that genre more quickly if we come at it from different ways. It both makes sense commercially and artistically. Not all the movies are going to be good. That never happens. But it’s going to open up the avenues."
Whedon's wish for a wider variety of heroes, heroines and stories in the superhero genre is one we share, so hopefully his heightened profile will help his next project become a reality sooner rather than later.
Then again, he may prove true to his word and kill every member of The Avengers. Only time will tell.
The Avengers: Age of Ultron releases in theaters on May 1st, 2015.