south-by-southwest

Nerd king Joss Whedon loves you, too

March 11, 2012 at 12:07 PM ET

Matt Rivera / msnbc.com
Saturday, March 10, 2012, in Austin, TX (Matt Rivera / msnbc.com)

The first audience question for Joss Whedon turns out to be a request. The lucky guy at the front of the queue at the Q&A microphone in room 18abcd of the Austin Convention Center explains that he is playing SuperBetter! One of his tasks, he claims, is to give Whedon a high five.

Whedon — the mastermind behind “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (an icon of hipsterdom), “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-Long Blog" (a so-awesome Web series), the upcoming movie blockbuster version of the “Avengers," and just generally a whole lot of cool — looks stumped.

Maybe he’s unfamiliar with the health and self-improvement game developed by Jane McGonigal — another highly anticipated speaker at South by Southwest this year. Perhaps Whedon just couldn’t hear over the cheers of envious audience members, drowning out the nervous young man’s geeky, awesome, awesomely geeky request.

Once Whedon groks that the dude wants to slap palms as part of some quest, however, he's GGG. “Well, I guess we better do it then,” he responds.

An usher escorts the guy on stage, said requested high five occurs, and cheers erupt throughout the capacity-filled venue. There is even more applause outside the hall, where fans who couldn’t get into the main venue sit eight rows of 40 people each deep in front of a huge flat screen, leaving nothing but standing room for those stuck in Siberia, aka the wide convention center hall.

Yes. Writer, director and apparent king of the nerds Joss Whedon is that beloved.

In town for the SXSW Film Festival to premiere “Cabin in the Woods,” a horror movie that he co-wrote, Whedon may be a more popular draw for the Interactive portion of the conference. The hoodie-and-Converse wearing hordes descended upon Austin to talk apps, open source, the Internet, video games and what have you, but they're also a Venn-diagram demographic that has long appreciated Whedon’s take on sci-fi fantasy, even when entertainment executives did not.

And this was before Whedon got tapped for the job of writing and directing the much-anticipated movie version of the Marvel ripoff of D.C.’s Justice League, “The Avengers.” Perhaps almost as much as the actor-writer-director-icon himself, Whedonverse fandom has suffered at the hands of capricious network executives who tried to mess with “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” screwed up the “Firefly” storyline by showing episodes out of order, and straight-up cancelled “Dollhouse” without, as his earnest fans believe, giving it a proper chance.

If his acolytes remain bitter, Whedon, it seems, is not. This is a guy who loves his job so much that he can’t stop doing it — directing “Much Ado About Nothing” in his home between the month that “Avengers” wrapped up shooting and the dreary process of editing it into an actual film. ("I didn't write that one," he said of the Shakespeare comedy.) He obviously appreciates his fans, gamely answering the Whedon-obsessive questions of both interviewer Adam V. Vary and the audience, even though many of his answers were more sassy than sincere.

Here’s a few of our favorites:

For those who have obsessively dissected each and every new “Avengers” trailer: Who are the bad guys? Skrull? Kree? Those guys from “Starship Troopers?”

“It’s the Vulcans. I don’t know a lot about the Marvel universe, and I thought there were Vulcans ... we’ll probably get a few emails.”

What was it like on "The Avengers," to have the keys to Scrooge McDucks’ money pit?

“That is in fact who financed the film. They don’t talk about that much."

On “Watchmen” and the “Batman” reboot, and the zeitgeist that we’re over traditional superheroes:

“I’m not over it! I’m a fanboy. I want to see what’s up with Thor and Captain America and what he can do with that shield. I’m not ready for postmodern super heroes.”

On the unlikely team members of “The Avengers”:

“Obviously I look at the Avengers and go, this team doesn’t make any sense at all, but I can work with that, because it doesn’t make sense to them either. They’re extraordinarily dysfunctional people. And they’re in their own way very isolated. So just being able to tell that very basic story; isolated people who come together and become more than their parts, is a meaningful story to me.”

On the possibility of “Firefly” returning to TV:

“I keep thinking they’re gonna call me. I keep thinking they’re gonna crunch the numbers and think, oh, we can make money with this! And they don’t.”

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