An Edge Hill University academic has written a book about American screenwriter, director, producer, comic book writer, and composer Joss Whedon.

Best known as the creator of several television series, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Whedon also co-wrote the Pixar animated film Toy Story and wrote and directed the Marvel Cinematic Universe superhero films The Avengers and its sequel Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Professor Matthew Pateman, Head of Media at Edge Hill, was inspired to write the book after becoming a huge fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer when it first aired over 20 years ago.

Matthew said: “This developed into keen intellectual curiosity which itself became a few conference papers and then a book (The Aesthetics of Culture in Buffy the Vampire Slayer). The focus on the show drifted to a focus on the producer, Joss Whedon, and his extraordinary diverse offerings. He was working in television, film, comic books, the internet; he wrote songs, musicals, episodes, features, web series; he was director, producer, writer, performer; as well as political activist and spokesperson for the culturally peripheral. But he was also involved in some of the most globally powerful franchises there are (Marvel and Disney for example). The more I consumed the culture his company and his collaborators made, the more complex, fascinating and important his work became.”

Joss Whedon directing The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Credit: Photo 12 / Alamy Stock Photo

Joss Whedon directing The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Credit: Photo 12 / Alamy Stock Photo

Professor Pateman’s book, Joss Whedon, assesses Whedon’s contribution to US television and popular culture. Examining everything from his earliest work to his most recent tweets and activist videos, it explores his complex and contradictory roles as both cult outsider and blockbuster filmmaker. Crucially, the book insists on the wider industrial, technological, political and economic contexts that have both influenced and been influenced by Whedon, rejecting the notion of Whedon as an isolated television auteur.

Matthew Pateman said: “The relationship of Whedon’s work to questions of creative control, distribution, networks, studios, actors, directors, set-designers, editors et cetera, fascinated me. This led me to question the industrial contexts of his work, the material factors that allow or impede, especially televisual production. So, a love of a TV show that revolutionised U.S. prime time network television became, for me, the catalyst to locate the work of one person, Whedon, inside the complex set of political, technological, legal, industrial, aesthetic, personal, ideological, practical and theoretical factors that allow us to consume these amazing works of mass mediated art.”

Using key source material, with exclusive access to drafts of many of the episodes across Whedon’s career, as well as unique correspondence with Whedon collaborator Jane Espenson, this book offers unparalleled access to the creative process that helped produce Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Dollhouse and Firefly.

The book is published by Manchester University Press and can be purchased here.