Let's be clear: The Avengers is going to make a boatload of money. And, while you might say that any movie with those heroes, together, would do well, all of the early buzz says it's good, too. And that's Whedon's fault. So what should he do next?
By most conservative estimates, The Avengers will make somewhere between $500 million and $600 million worldwide, and any director with a film that does that well on his resume is automatically vaulted onto the A list. Basically, Joss Whedon will be able to do whatever he wants. So what should he want to do?
The stuff he's already talked aboutWhedon's releasing his microbudgeted Much Ado About Nothing adaptation later this year, which he shot in 12 days at his house in Santa Monica with a cast that includes Alexis Denisof, Nathan Fillion, Fran Kranz and Amy Acker. He's also producing another film through his Bellwether Pictures: the supernatural romance In Your Eyes.
He's reaffirmed his commitment to Wastelanders, the web series he's writing with comic-writer-novelist Warren Ellis, who describes it as "where Joss' sense that too few people followed the example of Dr. Horrible meets my obsession with the Quatermass serials, which were half-hour episodes. Short-form genre serials of the kind that TV just doesn't make anymore. What we eventually came up with was very much a fusion of British and American styles, and very much a fusion of my style and Joss' style. And full-on science fiction."
He continues to threaten us with more Dr. Horrible—there are, apparently, songs written as well as a cast that's ready to go as soon as he is—and more Whedonverse comics that he'll oversee and, occasionally, write.
And he should do all of these things because they are small (or small-ish) and will give us the most Joss with the least interference from people with money who usually tend to interfere with things that would otherwise be cool.
The stuff he probably can't avoidWhen a film earns as much as The Avengers will, it'll get a sequel, one that Marvel will likely ask Whedon to direct, given that he delivered so ably the first time around. After all, wrangling six characters, assorted villains and a story that makes them all make sense is no simple task.
If Whedon were smart—and we like to think he is—he'd agree to Avengers 2 but also attach another Marvel film to the deal, one of his own choosing, one that he could develop from the ground up. Maybe that Black Widow solo film that keeps getting bandied about; maybe The Runaways, based on the Brian K. Vaughan comic (that Whedon also wrote for a while); maybe something else entirely. But there is still gold in the Marvel catalog, for someone with the license to mine it.
The stuff we wish he'd doDammit, I wish this man would come back to television. To that end, I wish he'd spend some of this power on a resuscitated Mutant Enemy, the production company that gave us Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly and Dollhouse. I want Whedon to find a cable channel that would let him do his shows his way, because this dude is capable of giving us a Breaking Bad-level genre show ... and I want to watch it.
Or maybe start a YouTube channel, like Felicia Day's Geek & Sundry. A place for his teensy feature films and Internet projects and potential TV series to live. Dr. Horrible, like The Guild before it, redefined the audience you could reach (and the money one could make) with online entertainment. Maybe now that The Avengers is just about in the rear-view mirror, that's something he could pick up again, but in a bigger, more cohesive way.
Or, perhaps, more Firefly. Ahem.
Ultimately, of course, he'll do whatever he wants to do ... most likely after a long vacation. But he took on the great responsibility, now he's got the great power. Let's just hope it corrupts in the most deliciously entertaining way possible.