He actually arrived in a sleek SUV but the rapture of his welcome at the pop culture expo which wrapped on Sunday was worthy of a conquering hero, his every appearance a cue for love-bombing and questions about what he will do next.
“Joss Whedon is my master now,” said the t-shirts, to which the Hollywood writer, producer and director could only smile.
Asked for the umpteenth time about new projects the smile only broadened: “Let’s see.”
The measure of his success at the four-day trade fair in San Diego, a showcase for the entertainment industry which flagged upcoming blockbusters, was that he was feted not so much for The Avengers, which has smashed box office records, but a TV series dumped by its network a decade ago.
Fox cancelled Firefly, which Whedon wrote and directed, about the crew of a spaceship in the future, after airing just 11 of its 14 episodes, citing so-so ratings.
A growing army of evangelical fans dubbed Browncoats gave it afterlife through DVD sales and successful clamour for a feature film, comics, role-playing game and other spin-offs.
A reunion of the cast and crew became one of Comic-Con’s most hyped events and an occasion to hail the show’s creator as the nerd who – thanks to other nerds – conquered Hollywood.
“Here at Comic-Con there are some people who are treated like gods. Joss Whedon is one of these people,” gushed a typical blog.
“The filmmaker is absolutely beloved by geeks and there is no greater geek haven than San Diego in July.”
Thanks to the TV shows Angel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dollhouse, among other work, Whedon, 48, has long been popular at a jamboree which started four decades ago as a gathering of graphic novelists and expanded into a pop culture behemoth.
He “gets” comics, comic writers and fans agree, and translates their ethos into television shows and movies.
“Oh my God, Joss, I feel so privileged to be here in the same room,” said one questioner – a journalist succumbing to fandom – at a packed press conference. “I just adore your work.”
Part of Whedon’s appeal is that he writes strong female characters, notably Buffy and Black Widow, which lures female audiences into traditionally male-dominated genres.
“I have always felt that men who are comfortable with powerful women are more powerful men,” he said.
It helps that in person – rumpled t-shirt, jeans, lugging his own little backpack through the corridors at Comic-Con – he comes across as geek everyman.
“It’s a skill, as an intelligent guy, to not make the people around you feel stupid and he has that,” said Nathan Fillion, the actor who played Mal in Firefly.
Such is Whedon’s status no one blinked when at a panel discussion he sounded a political note – something Comic-Con usually eschews – by comparing the US to tsarist Russia, saying it was becoming a country run by the rich for the rich.
He was born on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, he said, and raised by parents who considered socialism a beautiful concept.
The other reason for Comic-Con’s acclaim this year is Whedon trails critical and box office glory from The Avengers and the horror The Cabin in the Woods.
“Those films meant that a lot of people who hadn’t previously seen his work got a glimpse into his mind and how he thinks,” said Clare Kramer, who played Glory in Buffy.
“They got to see how he writes dialogues and builds characters. He’s reached an apex which for most people would be a peak, but with him you know there’s more to come.”
Whedon rebuffed speculation about a quick sequel to The Avengers but announced he had made an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing – filmed in black and white in his own house – for which he was seeking a distributor.
He wrote an accompanying musical score, his first. “If it’s terrible, then it was my first. Leave me alone,” he joked.
He is also working on a sequel to the 2008 web series Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.
Whether those projects succeed or not Whedon is likely to remain a star at future Comic-Cons.
In geeks’ mythology they resurrected Firefly, the masterpiece dumped by soulless corporate suits, and thus share the creator’s subsequent glory.