When Joss Whedon said “I’d rather make a show one hundred people need to see, than a show that one thousand people want to see” I believed him. I was pretty into Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Some could argue too much so. Being too young to stay up for its prime time 10:30pm slot on a school night, I would religiously record and then watch the episode at 6am the next morning. If the tape cut off, the previous program ran over, or I encountered “VHS problems”, schoolmates would have to deal with a day of surliness and an embarrassing level of angst. I had a lot to say on the Angel vs. Spike debate, owned all the DVDs, trawled magazines for posters and articles, and could probably still give re-enacting the musical episode a red-hot go.
The show ran for seven seasons. It’s a popular number. There are seven music notes, seven colours in the rainbow (though I am a bit dubious about indigo), seven dwarves, seven modern sins, seven days in a week – the list goes on. Buffy, unlike Firefly or Angel, wasn’t axed. Despite being offered more funding and opportunities, Whedon and the other writers decided the series had run its course and called it a day. This meant that the show had an opportunity to conclude on its own terms and didn’t leave audiences staring at a dragon thinking “I want the last five years of my life back”. There was an epic fight scene, mass destruction, magic, death, tears, and everything ended on a hero shot. Brilliant.
It therefore seems strange that just a few years later Whedon decided to continue the series in comic book form. Dubbed ‘season eight’, the comics pick up about a year after the television series ended. Buffy has had spin-off comics before, some good, most lacking continuity. However, most of these are easy to write off as something akin to fan-fiction. Season eight is different. It has the Whedon stamp of approval, and so no matter which way you try to skew it there is no getting away from the idea that what happens in the comics is what happens next for the characters.
The artwork is great, managing to depict the characters without making everything look like screen captures. Similarly the dialogue stays true to the personalities painstakingly sculptured over seven years. I think the problem is the lifting of budget and rating constraints. For a show with supernatural themes which already pushed the boundaries of special effects, the move to comic book form must have been like winning the lottery.
Suddenly, Buffy’s sister’s a giant! No! A centaur! No! A doll!! The cast is in a castle. Scratch that: Japan. No, Scotland. Oh now they’re underground. Actually wait, why don’t we send them to weird mindscape dimension? Twice.
Now Buffy is having cherub filled fantasies about Angel and Spike in the midst of having a once off lesbian fling. Meanwhile Xander is chilling with Dracula who has lost his ability to turn into a bat as Dawn battles MECHA DAWN. Actually that was pretty funny.
In the past the villains were vampires, demons, giant worm things and even Buffy’s ex-boyfriend. In the comics however, they crash-land their submarine (yes, submarine.) and end up fighting Tibetan Gods.
It’s not that it’s bad, but over the last four years, my enthusiasm for the comics have dramatically waned. Despite the last issue I read ending on a cliff-hanger, acquiring the next one has been a low priority. Ten years ago I was waking up before the sun came up just to see the next episode ASAP. Unlike Angel and Firefly which got axed mid-season, Buffy didn’t need to be continued. The comic books have made it something I only like to read, which is a sad turnaround on Whedon’s initial intentions. Further to this, originally only twenty-five issues were planned. This has now been extended to forty, and season nine is already happening.
Somehow, despite almost ten years off air, Buffy the Vampire Slayer has jumped format and then the shark.
Elizabeth can also be found at her blog Harold is Cool.