Hardcore fans remember Whedon for orchestrating seven seasons of the hit show Buffy the Vampire Slayer and another five seasons of the spinoff Angel, both produced by TV arm of 21st Century Fox (NASDAQ: FOX). Fox also co-produced Firefly and Dollhouse, fan favorites that the network ultimately canceled.
Whedon and Fox had been practically joined at the hip until last summer, when Disney signed Whedon to a multi-property development deal in the wake of Marvel's The Avengers earning more than $1.5 billion at the worldwide box office. The first of his new creations arrives in September, with Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., a Tuesday night TV drama that begins airing in September.
The show is set in (and thereby, extends) the Marvel Cinematic Universe established in the five films leading up to The Avengers. Only in this show, it's not Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America that propose to boost Disney stock. This time, a team of perfectly human field operatives leads the way.
I'm already convinced that Disney has a ratings winner on its hands. How can I be so sure? I've seen the first episode. Whedon treated the thousands of us who showed up for a panel discussion at San Diego Comic-Con to an advance screening of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
For now, all I can say is that the show offers treats for fans of Marvel's comics and movies while offering enough mainstream action to appeal to the same demographic that watched Buffy in its heyday, or which tunes in to USA Network's action thriller Covert Affairs.
Importantly, Marvel appears to have given Whedon and the writers of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. the space to create something much bigger than a weekly TV show. When asked by a fan which comic book characters would appear in the show, Whedon coyly replied that he and his team may introduce "new people that are part of the Marvel Universe that is not yet cinematic."
in other words, fans and Disney stock investors alike can expect Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to be a doorway to heretofore unseen allies and enemies, with actor Clark Gregg leading the way as team leader Agent Phil Coulson. He embraced Whedon at the panel when asked what it was like "put the suit back on" after dying on screen in The Avengers.
If Gregg loves the role as much as he purports to, it shows on screen in the first episode. Whedon, too, sees the show as a way to play with the entirety of Marvel's vast assets. "This is a show that has so much history and so much to make ... I guess I'm a little excited," Whedon said at Comic-Con.
After paying $4 billion for Marvel in 2009, you can bet Disney CEO Bob Iger is thrilled with the prospects. Everyday investors should feel similarly: Thousands of Marvel characters have yet to show up in the MCU. Whedon, with a history of producing fan favorites, is about to change that.