Buffy Season Eight fails to deliver
// Marco Ferreira

Like the Buffy character herself, popular franchises rarely die. The beloved television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer ran for seven seasons from 1997-2003, to garnering a massive fanbase as well as critical acclaim. Four years after the final season aired, there was still enough of a fanbase for series creator Joss Whedon to team up with Dark Horse and continue the long running show, but this time in comic form. Dubbed Season 8, the Buffy comic was originally planned for a 25 issue run which would have been a comic for every episode of a season. Running from 2007 to 2011 the series ballooned into 40 issues before completion. Despite the original writers and Whedon himself producing and writing for the project, it received mixed reception from fans. Art and the medium it's created in, which in this case is Buffy The Vampire Slayer and television, are so integrated. This can lead to problems transitioning from one format to another, and what was at the heart of the original work can easily be lost, as is the case with Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8.


In theory, the unlimited budget of the comic medium should pair well with the fantasy occult element of the show. However, when the budget restraints were lifted, Whedon and writers went overboard with the fantasy, introducing (and there are some soft spoilers here) multiple alternate dimensions, almost every character from the television series, over-the-top super powers, a space ship and worst of all, time travel. Elements people enjoyed about the show, like how the characters react and change to metaphorical situations of fantasy, were lost. Whedon acknowledges this criticism in an open letter that ran in the final issue of the series. It read “I was so excited to finally have an unlimited budget that I wanted to make the book an epic, but I realized along the way that the things I loved the best were the things you loved the best: the peeps. The down-to-earth, recognizable people … so that’s what we’ll try to evoke next season – along with the usual perils, and a few new ones, of course.”


Most of the story arcs written by Whedon capture the voices and personalities of the characters well. This is important as the comics take place sometime after the events of the television series, so some departure was necessary in terms of setting and concept. New political and military themes are welcome additions to the Buffy formula, however it's a big departure from the more microfocus of the show. Having the actors’ voices come to mind while reading is important in easing the transition. Joss Whedon’s tone and humour isn't mastered by all the writers though, and sometimes the humour is overt, relying on visual spectacle and absurdity rather than dialogue. As a result, it can sometimes feel like you’re reading a comic, As a result, it often feels like you are just reading a random comic book rather than a canon continuation of the Buffy story.

Almost every character from the television show makes an appearance in the comic. These additions sometimes seem frivolous, more for the sake of pandering to illicit “ohhhh shiiit!” moments from fans rather than to advance plot. It seems as though the writers thought that what people loved about these characters were their visage and a few catch phrases. Many of the characters seem to depart drastically from who they were in the original series as well. In an interview with SFX magazine about the comic continuation, Nicholas Brendon, the actor who played Xander stated, “[Xander is] looking good, rocking the eye patch in charge of 500 chicks. That is the one thing that Xander would be completely blown away about being in charge of 500 slayers. Xander wasn't in charge of himself in the show!"

Character developments that would have readers jumping out of their seat aren't handled with as much care as they were in the original series. Some of these developments polarized fans, which is nothing new for the show, however what was most disappointing was how the comic handled the death of one of the important characters. Whedon is no stranger to killing off important characters when it's necessary, but it just didn't have very much weight in season eight, and considering who dies, it certainly should have.

The artist, Georges Jeanty, does a passable job at bringing the character likeness to the page, but the work is fairly inconsistent. Sometimes characters are recognizable, and other times features become so simple it's difficult to identify who's who. Although the novelty of the dated outfits from the television series is lost, the characters would have benefited from unique, signature looks and styles to make identification easier. Because of some unimaginative character design paired with faces that lose their detail in some panels, and thus their recognition, visually Buffy season eight requires more attention and focus to discern what exactly is going on. Jeanty does a good job at displaying the individuals’ movements and expressions, capturing the characters well in this regard. His artwork also lends itself well to action, which is fitting, this being Buffy the Vampire Slayer.


When Buffy the Vampire Slayer was airing, one of the most obvious drawbacks to the television format was the network censorship. An example of this was the lesbian couple who weren't allowed to kiss on camera while their straight counterparts made out voraciously and made love to one another.

In a May 2000 interview Whedon responded to this criticism on the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer forum The Bronze, posting, "Are we forced to cut things between [name removed] and [name removed]? Well, there are things the network will not allow us to show. As for example kissing." This was while Buffy was still on the WB network, and when the show made the switch to UPN in its sixth season the lesbian couple was depicted kissing. In its final season there was a full-blown lesbian sex scene (complete with blanketed cunnilingus) which was a first for network television.

Of course, straight white dudes love a little girl on girl action so it's not surprising that when it came to any depiction of two men being sexual with one another, the show never delivers. The obviously homosexual male character introduced in season six is never openly acknowledged as being gay, and he's far from entering any relationship or having a sexual encounter, which for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is out of place. One would expect the subversive world of comic books to alleviate some of these restraints, but this is obviously not the prerogative of Dark Horse as a publisher.

There are no real advancements in any of these regards from the original series to comics. Sure (spoiler alert), Willow is still a lesbian, (end spoiler) and some other female characters experiment with same-sex sex but there's still no depiction of gay men. The aforementioned gay male character is more obviously gay, but the comic never takes any responsibility for the characters orientation, and instead stereotypes him further. There is one depiction of men kissing in the comics, but it's in a nightmare that Buffy is having when two past love interests start kissing each other instead of fawning over her.

The original television series also lacked ethnic characters until season 7, when the writers obviously became aware of their lack of diversity and wrote an episode where everyone hooks up with a different race. In the comics this is greatly improved and different races and cultures are given a bit more weight and importance to the story.

As for swearing, blood and full frontal nudity, there is still an absence. Even in a greatly pivotal and uncomfortable sex scene there are leafy tree branches conveniently hiding every areola and ball sack. However, when you’re dealing with a show originally made for young adults, we shouldn’t expect it to suddenly switch it's target demographic just because it switched its medium.


As a fan of the original series, I was looking forward to the continuation of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series as a comic, but it just doesn't deliver. The plot was unlikely, sometimes ridiculous, and characters act out of character numerous times. If you’re a huge comic fan you might appreciate some of the elements of the project, but odds are if you don't read a lot of comics, and you’re a fan of Buffy, you shouldn’t expect this project to win you over. Reading the first story arc of season nine, it's encouraging to see Whedan and company learned from their initial mistakes. Comparatively, season one of Buffy the Vampire Slayer wasn't exactly great, so perhaps the comics can still develop into a great continuation of the story the fans love. It's just unfortunate that season eight was such a departure.

//Marco Ferreira, opinions editor
//Graphics by Britta Bachus

Enjoy it? Share this on Facebook


© 2011 The Capilano Courier. phone: 604.984.4949 fax: 604.984.1787 email: editor@capilanocourier.com