Two words: Joss Whedon. Okay, four: Scarlett Johansson

Image: Joss Whedon directing Samuel L. JacksonBy Mark Leiren-Young

A few days before The Avengers debuted I was asked why I was so excited about seeing what’s looking like the most successful comic book movie of all time. This was my answer.

I’m a lifelong comic book fan and the idea that it’s even possible to make The Avengers has my inner 16-year old doing cartwheels — which is seriously impressive because my outer 16-year old sure as hell couldn’t do cartwheels. The idea that The Avengers is doable is mind-boggling; the fact that they hired a lifelong comic book fan to bring the series to life . . . and that they handed the project to the guy who should have been doing The X-Men all along, is beyond cool.

Joss Whedon doesn’t just freely admit his comic book influences — he has actually written comics. He did a run of The X-Men that lived up to the title billing as “amazing.” What I love about the Marvel movies is that, whether they work or not — and even when they have inexplicably awful sequences like the Spider-dance — they all seem to have been written by someone who has actually read the comic books.

The Marvel movies also treat the inside nods to fans like Easter eggs in a DVD or video game, instead of slowing the plot with them and trying to hit various iconic moments as if they were compulsory figures in skating. Sam Raimi’s Spider-Mans featured several sequences that were literally lifted from famous Spider-Man covers.

But fan boy bliss aside . . two words: Joss Whedon. And again . . . not just ’cause he did Buffy, but because Buffy was so clearly inspired by the Marvel universe (especially The X-Men).

Personally, I’d love to see Marvel hand Whedon the keys to their universe, but until that happens here’s why I’m hoping Joss Whedon’s first sequel isn’t a new Avenger’s movie, but a solo story featuring the Black Widow.

1. Scarlett Johansson as the Black Widow.
2. Scarlett Johansson in the Black Widow costume.
3. Did you see Buffy? Did you see Dollhouse? Did you see how Whedon turned a tiny dancer into a lethal killing machine in Firefly and how he transformed the nerdly Fred into a lethal goddess on Angel? Did you see what he did with Black Widow in The Avengers?
4. Because Joss Whedon doesn’t just talk Fanboy, he’s the real deal. Kitty Pryde was his inspiration — and if you don’t know who Kitty Pryde is, you may have written or directed one of the earlier Marvel movies. The whole epic Dark Willow storyline on Buffy was dark Phoenix from The X-Men. Angel borrowed heavily from the Bat-world. Whedon even handicapped a fight between the Black Widow and Buffy.
Image: The Avengers5. Because somewhere the Mensa reject who pulled the plug on Whedon’s Wonder Woman movie is feeling like he’s just gone 15 rounds with the Hulk, so why not finish him off.
6. ‘Cause I can see it now . . . Black Widow returns to Russia to fight mob corruption. There’s probably a suitcase nuke, a dirty bomb and a love interest, maybe Hawkeye, who will die and need Avenging. (Hawkeye has a tendency to die in Marvel comics.) She’ll go rogue. It’ll be like the ultimate episode of Dollhouse. And, just maybe, the Widow’s sometime beau Daredevil will guest star and Whedon will be able to undue some of the damage done in one of the worst Marvel movies ever made.
7. If it fails, Scarlett Johansson can always come back for the next Avengers movie as the Scarlet Witch. Nuff said.

Mark Leiren-Young won the Leacock Medal for Humour for his memoir Never Shoot a Stampede Queen and was part of the team that adapted the Marvel hero Moon Knight — one of his all-time favourite members of the Marvel Universe — as a live action TV series.

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