There are few behind-the-scenes pop culture figures that inspire the fervent fan devotion that Joss Whedon does. One way those fans are continuing to express their adoration: WhedonCon, a three-day convention devoted to Whedon, his shows and the people involved in them.
The fans who go to this convention can be "rabid," ranging from those who simply enjoy Whedon's shows and projects to those who can quote them chapter and verse and even hardcore cosplayers who make fandom the center of their community, according to Marsia Powers, the convention chair. Powers is also the president of Fandom Charities, a nonprofit that produces WhedonCon and other Whedon-related events.
Powers said the convention, which kicks off Friday in Los Angeles, is similar to San Diego's Comic-Con, just "a hell of a lot tinier" and about, well, Joss Whedon (even though Joss himself sadly won't be gracing their stages).
At some point during the planning process for the first WhedonCon, the organizers learned that first-year conventions typically lose money, but they were undeterred. "As long as I ignored that, we would move forward," Powers said.
In the end, the convention actually managed to make money, according to Powers. As you might have gathered from the name, proceeds from Fandom Charities' events go to various charitable organizations, so last year's surplus was donated to two charities.
Fandom Charities has been producing events since 2007, starting with a "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" musical sing-along. They've been endorsed by everyone from "Dr. Horrible" star Felicia Day to Joss himself, and they still do that "Buffy" sing-along every year at Comic-Con.
"The thing about Joss Whedon and the way he writes, and the people who've worked for him and the way they write, is that it's not your usual damsel-in-distress and she's rescued by her boyfriend," Powers said. "It's that everybody works together for the common good. His stories, and their stories, are usually ensembles about people working together."
For Powers herself, she became a hardcore Whedon fan during what she described as the days when you still had to pay per minute for the internet, posting on fan forums where they'd dive deep into everything from who each episode's writer was to the costuming. She said that Whedon fans are often drawn to the in-depth nature of his writing, comparing him to novelist Neil Gaiman.
Powers said that Fandom Charities draws inspiration for its charitable mission from Whedon shows such as "Angel," citing the line, "If nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do."
"That's the thing about a Whedon fan, is that they want to have fun, but they also want to help," Powers said.
WhedonCon includes several programming tracks, ranging from talks featuring talent involved in Whedon-related projects to an event focused on cosplay. Still, Powers said that her personal highlights had more to do with the fans themselves. She said that one woman who went to last year's convention is moving from the Midwest to California due to all the friends that she made there, which Powers said made her feel good.
"I want people to have a good time and to be able to be involved in charity work and not feel bad that they can't afford the $100 or $1,000 for a ticket for an event where most of the money may just be going back to putting on the event," Powers said.
A wedge currently facing Whedon fans: politics. Powers said that it can be a touchy subject, with Whedon having fans of all political stripes, but that, once again, they look to Whedon's work for how to deal. She cited another Whedon line, this one from "Firefly" — "May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one."
One of the charities benefiting from this year's event is the Al Wooten Jr. Heritage Center, which provides free and low-cost programs for kids in South L.A. Ron Glass, who starred in Whedon's "Firefly," was on the board of the center. He passed away last year, so the charity was chosen as part of WhedonCon's tribute to him — along with a memorial at the convention itself.
You can still get tickets to WhedonCon at the door — it costs $50 for the whole weekend, or $25 for one day.