One of the (many) reasons we’re a bit excited about The Avengers is that Joss Whedon, who’s writing and directing, has a history of writing great characters who interact brilliantly with one another. Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse, Dr Horrible’s Sing-along Blog – all are chocka with memorable characters and fascinating dynamics. And while the characters of these heroes are already more-or-less established, the way that they interact in the particular circumstances of The Avengers film is only just beginning to be hinted at. Here’s how The Avengers seem to be shaping up, comparative to the inhabitants of the Whedonverse – and yes, we know it’s too early for anything but wild speculation, but that’s the fun of the internet!
Wisecracker and – as he himself neatly puts it – genius billionaire playboy philanthropist, it already seems like maybe Iron Man’s going to get all the best lines. In that sense, he’s probably closest to Spike from Buffy, another glib bastard we couldn’t help but love. Like Spike (or Angel), he has much to atone for, but he’s working through it and is thoroughly on the side of the angels these days. He also bears more than a passing resemblance to Firefly’s Captain Mal Reynolds, another charismatic leader who sometimes runs before he can walk.
Extraordinarily powerful and from another world, Thor ostensibly resembles a Buffy villain more than any of the heroes. But Chris Hemsworth is on record as saying that, “It’s [Thor’s] brother stirring things up. Whereas [to] everyone else, it’s some bad guy who they’ve gotta take down, he’s constantly having to battle the greater good and what he should do vs. it’s his little brother there.” So he’s torn between saving the world and saving a sibling? Sounds like Buffy around the end of season 5 of the show, or Buffy at the end of season 6, when the baddie to be taken down is her beloved friend.
He’s a trained and loyal soldier, displaced from everything he knows and cast adrift in a whole new world (and not in a good Aladdin way). There are shades of Buffy in early season six, after her reluctant resurrection, but Cap’s also not a million miles from a couple of Firefly characters: Shepherd Book and Simon Tam are also cut off from their former lives, after all. That said, the interaction between the quiet, determined Steve Rogers and the brash Stark seems more reminiscent of Angel/Spike or, believe it or not, Dr Horrible/Captain Hammer, another pairing between a quiet, determined sort and a flash git. Yes, we seriously just compared Captain America to Dr Horrible. Please post your condemnatory messages below.
Kick-ass, deadly female with a penchant for tight clothing? Well, that could be practically any Whedon character. Buffy, Faith, Zoe, River or Echo – the description pretty much always applies. Johansson herself hasn’t said much about her character – we know that she’s human, highly trained and absolutely deadly, and that she wears a catsuit. Beyond that, it’s a bit of a blank. So far, therefore, despite being a girl she’s closest to Buffy’s season four boyfriend Riley: also a human among supermen, also handy with a pistol and also eye-candy for fans.
Another human among superbeings, Hawkeye avoids being the Xander of the group (“Whenever things get rough, he / Just hides behind his Buffy”) by having a really cool bag of toys and tricks to throw into the game when times get tough. Tranq-tipped arrows that can take down even the Hulk? Gotcha covered. Nifty folding bow, as glimpsed in the trailer, for more space-restricted operation? All over it. On hand to provide cover from an elevated position in case of threat? Not a problem. So really, he’s a Jayne-from-Firefly: a working-class hero who carries superior firepower into any combat situation. We can only hope that his choice of headgear is as memorable.
He’s fighting a transformative power that threatens to overwhelm him at any moment, and which poses a considerable risk to those around him. Well, in the Whedonverse who isn’t? Buffy's Oz or Willow, Firefly's River Tam – all can be overwhelmed and let loose in an instant, and an ill-considered outburst goes badly for Dr Horrible to boot. The best example of this, however, is probably Angel, the vampire-with-a-soul who can’t risk being happy in case he goes all evil and deadly again. Admittedly, with Angel the danger to his control stems from true love rather than bad temper, but the potential for massive destruction and loss of life is still there.
We’re already getting the sense, from the post-credit clips and trailers, that Fury has more than a little in common with Buffy’s Rupert Giles. He’s older and wiser than his charges, more deadly than his appearance might suggest, and often frustrated at wrangling an unruly gang of clashing personalities who each has something to bring to the table when properly managed and motivated. That said, Fury has significantly better dress sense and seems less likely to recline with a nice cup of tea and a copy of The Iliad translated into Sumerian.