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Marvel Studios has a reputation. Many in the industry will tell you that the company likes to buy low and sell high with its talent, though that era might be shifting with the changing of the guards that recently took place behind the scenes. But early on, the studio preferred to hire relatively unproven storytellers and mine their talents before they exploded. Which helps explain Joss Whedon’s recent comments.
The fan-favorite filmmaker was speaking at a Q-and-A following a reunion screening of his Internet musical series Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, when he admitted to the crowd (via Variety) that he has made more money off of that original and offbeat content than he did writing and directing the first Avengers movie for Marvel.
Was he joking? Possibly, as Whedon will often quip sarcastically (and self-deprecatingly) about money and fame, especially when his guard is down during a fan-driven Q-and-A. However, Whedon’s also smart enough to know that any comments he makes – off the cuff or on the record – about his relationship with Marvel will be parsed by Internet sites like… well, yes, like this one. Back in 2013, as the cast and crew were at the negotiating table to come back for The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Whedon told Deadline:
In general terms, yes – Marvel can be very cheap, God knows. They can also be sensible and frugal. They have a very small infrastructure and they’re not heaping this money on themselves.
This could boil down to the fact that The Avengers bears Joss Whedon’s name in the end credits, but it’s Marvel’s movie. Therefore, the money reaped goes back into Marvel coffers. Dr. Horrible, meanwhile, was the brain child of Joss Whedon and his cast – a self-proclaimed "mid-life crisis" project that Whedon created specifically for the Web back in 2008. Neil Patrick Harris played the title character, a singing supervillain who keeps the world updated via his online blog. It consists of three-parts, each running about 15 minutes. It had a soundtrack that was released in iTunes (possible revenue for Whedon), and a DVD release eventually followed (more revenue for Whedon). Seeing as how some core Avengers players made less than $1 million for the first Avengers movie, you can see how Whedon might have been exaggerating… but not likely.
No one is crying for Joss Whedon. He might not have made $100 million for Avengers: Age of Ultron, but he definitely did well coming back for the sequel. Does he still hold a grudge with Marvel for how things ended? You be the judge.