The most enduring quote from that preface: "We have done the impossible, and that makes us mighty."
"Not you -- we," Cochran said. "That sense of camaraderie is powerful."
David Lavery, professor of English at Middle Tennessee State University and author of "Joss Whedon, a Creative Portrait," put it this way: "His fans root for him as believers in what Whedon once called the 'religion in narrative.' They root for him the way a sports fan cheers for his or her team, jumping off the sofa to cheer his imaginative accomplishments. We want his TV series, and comics, and movies to succeed so they can make his imagination their imagination."
Rhonda Wilcox was hooked on Whedon's work from the very beginning of "Buffy."
"I loved the moment in the pilot when, after being warned away from the nerds by the popular girl who was befriending her, Buffy still went to hang out with the nerds: my people," she said. "In the early years, the Alyson Hannigan character of Willow was my emotional way into the show -- and I've heard many others say that."
Wilcox, a professor of English at Gordon College, wrote "Why Buffy Matters: The Art of Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Fighting the Forces: What's at Stake for Buffy The Vampire Slayer," co-authored with Lavery.
Wilcox said Whedon's fans, like herself, "are willing to take aesthetic chances; they are willing to pay serious attention to the material; they have a sense of humor (as does every production by Whedon); they are smart and caring, and they take great pleasure in seeing the work of a smart and caring creator."
"Joss demonstrates his respect and appreciation for his audience as peers in the creative process, opening up directly to them," said Simon Fleischmann of Whedonverse.net. "Unlike other creatives who might keep their fans at arm's reach, or communicate through PR-mediated gatekeepers, Joss feels comfortable enough to speak with fandom unfiltered."
Fleischmann said fans appreciate that Whedon's work doesn't pander.
"He gives his audience not what they want, but 'what they need.' He doesn't rely on cliches and established tropes -- he subverts them. He doesn't introduce characters that are cute and fuzzy and lovable because marketing said they'd make good action figures. Instead, he forces his audience to confront painful situations, such as the loss of major characters, or the realization that for some people there are no happy endings."
There's an entire Whedonverse fandom track at Atlanta's annual Dragon*Con.
"We fans spend countless hours discussing many aspects of Joss' work but I think we spend the lion's share of our time speaking to the impact that it has had on our personal lives," said track director Wayne Hutchinson. "There is a strong sense of community and passion when discussing his work and that creates a strong bond."
Even though his latest work just happens to be one of the most expensive, anticipated movies of recent years, fans and colleagues expect that the same Whedon spirit will shine through.
"This is not new territory for him, it's just bigger," noted actor Fran Kranz, of "Dollhouse" and "The Cabin in the Woods."
"Joss is finally having the attention he deserves and hopefully it just grows from here."