SPOILER WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8” #32, in stores now.
As it nears its conclusion, Dark Horse’s “Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 8” has been gaining more and more buzz with readers both for the controversial leak of the series main villain Twilight and for the arrival of all-star writer Brad Meltzer on the penultimate “Twilight” arc, which started with this week’s “Season 8” #32.
To help prepare fans for the hit series’ impending end, CBR is proud to introduce “Behind Buffy Season 8” – a new monthly column featuring interviews with the creators and staff behind the creation of Buffy’s last two stories to help highlight the questions being answered, the characters thrown into crisis, and the future of the entire Buffy franchise. This month, we start with a double dose of info as “Buffy” editor Scott Allie steps in to discuss both the Whedon-penned issue #31 -Â “Turbulence” -Â as well as Meltzer’s debut with #32. And we’ll be back over the course of the “Twilight” arc with more familiar faces from the series to help delve deep into the master plan for “Buffy Season 8.”
CBR News: Riley comes in for a brief moment here, but it’s a nice reminder at this phase in the game that Buffy is pretty much totally doomed in love.
Scott Allie She absolutely is. Boy, is she! But seeing these characters reconnect -Â even though not a lot gets to happen because of the shape Riley’s in -Â was great. The Riley character played an interesting role in Season 8 so far because we introduced him with no one knowing what was going on. When we first introduced Riley many issues ago, it looked like he was on the side of the bad guys. Then later, you find he’s a double agent and the exact nature of that. Some fans were frustrated that they didn’t get to see how all that came about, but the reason we couldn’t show you how it came about at the time was that it would have killed the suspense of whether he was a good guys or a bad guy. Something remains to be said about how Riley ended up doing what he was doing. And we’ll find out that Twilight knows more than anyone gave him credit for. That’s definitely part of the ongoing mystery.
Twilight’s capture of Faith, Giles and Andrew seems to be more than “I need some hostages to help gain leverage on Buffy.” He seems to have a specific plan for these guys.
Yeah. It’s really complicated, and the conclusions that fans have jumped to because they don’t have all the information…well, let’s say they’re going to have to rethink some things. We’ll see what this is all about in a couple of issues, but he’s not just going to get his hands on Giles and Faith and kill them.
And some readers have noticed that on this page here, Twilight is speaking in a normal voice with a normal balloon and font, where as previously he’s had this spooky gothic font. And some people were like, “Oh, Scott Allie screws up again!” But it was all intentional. [Laughs] This part is intentional. There were a couple of things earlier that weren’t, but the font change is intentional.
The other quiet thread Joss pulls up that’s important to the characters more so than the big mystery plot is shown in this death scene. Buffy certainly takes a lot of blame and responsibility on her shoulders as being “Queen Slayer” or however you want to say it, and it seems like that’s coming more and more into focus as we near the end of the season.
Buffy’s very hard on herself. In some ways, she’s not hard enough on herself, but in others she’s endlessly hard on herself. One of the things about this story line is that the scope is so big compared to what would happen in a normal television season – big in terms of the number of characters involved and big in terms of the consequences and fatalities. It’s been difficult in a story that’s so character-driven and so focused on the character’s emotions to show the scale of what’s going on around them. This one page here is a very useful scene in terms of making Buffy connect on a human level that’s separated from Xander and Dawn and Willow. Here’s a guy where you don’t know who he is or why you’re responsible for his death, yet here it is. This is how terrible it is. And of course, Joss’ ability to make it a pretty human moment in the course of all this craziness is great.
We know we need to take pains to make the consequences feel human. And the size of the story and the cast make that difficult because there could be whole issues of Buffy just walking around dead bodies being crushed by the grief of it all, and that’d be in character for her, but it wouldn’t serve the story very well.
And I want to highlight another little thing that Michelle [Madsen] the colorist did in those last three panels. If you look at the close-up on the soldier’s face…in his eye there’s a little white dab. Just a gleam of light. It’s in the first and second panel, and it’s drawn into the final panel, but Michelle colored it pupil color so that it dulls down. She and I didn’t talk about that, but it’s a little trick I’m fond of. When a character dies, you literally take the sparkle out of their eyes so they do look subtly but significantly different. A living character would have enough moisture on their eye that it’s always reflecting light, but when you die and stop blinking, your eye starts to dry up. Michelle colored the eye a little more grey, but the highlight is more dull to deaden the look. It’s a small thing but one I liked.
With Buffy and Xander, this was a discussion that was a long time coming, and in this Xander has to come in and be the voice of reason -Â the one who tells her to get it together and stop lying to everyone about how they all feel.
I love it. He’s become Nick Fury. He stands up a little more than he might be able to in the past. I think their friendship is as solid or more solid than it’s ever been through all this Season 8 business, so he’s willing to be a little more irritated with her and to call her on her Buffy B.S. The fact that she would wait for this. “I kiss your sister, and NOW you express feelings you’ve denied for eight years?!?” I think it’s a really nice bit for him because he’s such a significant character in this story, and he doesn’t always get to shine because he’s not the super powered guy on the team.
I’m really glad this conversation got written by Joss because in some ways it’s so crucial and pays off character stuff that’s been going on since the beginning of Season 1. It was nice that he was the guy who came in and wrote that. That [conversation] was part of the plan for this season, and a lot of this stuff gets worked out as we’re moving, so the fact that this happened in a Joss issue just worked out that way. At one point, the kiss between Xander and Dawn was going to happen earlier in Jane’s arc, and so the aftermath would have happened at the end of that story. So as it turned out, the kiss came later right before the peak of the battle so there was no time for the characters to stop and talk about their feelings.
Buffy’s takedown of the goddesses is a great example of what the comic can do that could never have been done on the show both because of Buffy’s powers and because of the scale and craziness of the goddesses and how Georges draws them.
I love how we go directly from them having that conversation where she hugs Xander to her going to beat the hell out of those goddesses. That’s probably what she needed there. [Laughs] And with the sound effects, Georges did those himself. He’s always done pretty cool sound effects throughout the series. Brad is not really that much of a fan of sound effects, so I think we back off that a bit in the new arc. So ironically, even in those real superhero issues of the story, we’ll be seeing less of those.
Moving in to issue #32, this train image synchs up with a lot of the covers in being a kind of iconic superhero moment for Buffy’s arc with these powers.
Oh yeah. We took pains with each cover of this arc to make them very direct homages to specific covers from superhero comics. There are other ones we could have done that would have been more iconic that you would have recognized immediately, but we wanted to keep them story-specific. So that made us go into some slightly more obscure places in terms of what we referenced. But obviously the cover to #32 is the “Action Comics” #1 cover.
And it seems like pulling this one off in the book as well helps give a sense of scale for how her powers work almost more than being the big, dramatic splash page reveal.
Maybe the cover steals the thunder a bit from this page, but this image in the story is there to remind you that Buffy has abilities that she never had before. In terms of a dramatic story moment, you’ve seen her do some of this stuff before, but this page confirms and reminds you of how this is a different girl to some degree. We’re in Tibet, and we don’t know where we got this train, but we can balance it on our head. [Laughs]
This issue specifically is so much about Xander the comic book nerd, and it’s told via…
Brad the comic book nerd. [Laughter]
Exactly! Did Joss always know that this turn was coming with Brad in mind to step on at this point?
It evolved a little bit. I mean, certainly when we first mapped it out one of the first things Joss knew was that Brad would be writing the penultimate arc and that Buffy would be either getting these powers or have them by then. He didn’t necessarily know how much of a nerdgasm it was going to be once Brad got there. And part of that is how every arc has played to the strengths of the writers. These are not interchangeable writers. Brad couldn’t have written “Wolves At The Gate” and Drew [Goddard] couldn’t have written this. Or if they’d done it, it wouldn’t be the same story. In this story, we’ve got a guy who has a real knowledge of and love for traditional DC comics, and we’ll see lots and lots and lots of references to the DC stuff because Brad’s a DC guy.
The real kicker for this page is that Xander asks Buffy if she can phase, which gives us some meta-commentary on Joss’ association with Kitty Pryde from the X-Men.
It’s definitely a meta-joke that does on this weird level to end page 8 on “Can you phase?” It’s a joke on Joss and his very public love of Kitty Pryde, but it’s also the fact that you’ve got in Brad not just a guy who writes for DC but who loves the DC material…so on page 9 where Xander is trying to explain Kitty’s powers is Brad ribbing on Joss and having fun with that dynamic. And I see the appeal. “Yeah, Joss…why do you like Kitty Pryde?” Or Buffy Summers asking Joss Whedon, “Why the X-Men? Why is my whole life built around the X-Men? It’s all you, Joss!”
There’s definitely some of this in terms of acknowledging Joss as the creator and acknowledging the fandom, but also in terms of acknowledging the tone of the show. There’s also a joke coming up in an issue where something totally breaks the fourth wall. Dawn repeats a line from an earlier season that’s both tense and funny, but Dawn does a really weird little thing that will completely break the fourth wall for the longtime “Buffy” viewer.
In issue #31, Willow noted that her powers returned because of a cataclysmic event that hadn’t happened yet, and after the fun superpower beginning of issue #32, at this point things start to turn back towards that anticipation of big, scary event as Warren and the villains creep back up on the edge of things. What role do those guys play now that things have turned for them?
They’re definitely the kind of “B-List” villains in the scheme of things. We’ve got Twilight as the major threat, and these guys are not quite with the program. Because of their bickering and the way they act and their history with the characters, they’re as much nuisance as they are threat. You’ll see more of that, but they’ve been here the whole time. They have a significant role even though they’re not the A Game.
And everybody’s got a problem with Twilight, including the other bad guys, so now [Buffy and company] have got to deal with their enemies. Nobody knows what Twlight’s plan is, and that’s why you end up with Warren and Amy who have been previously allied with the Scoobies coming once again. Everybody hates them, but they’ve also treated them like a necessary evil for such a long time.
And to wrap that whole conflict, we get Buffy floating over them and delivering a classic bit of comic bookiness.
Yeah. Here where Buffy’s levitating and says, “General, would you care to step outside?” is of course a quote from “Superman II.”
Some of the CBR crew went to see both “Superman: The Motion Picture” and the Richard Donner cut of “Superman II” the other night, and it’s amazing how that’s one of the instances where the adaptation has bled back into the fan culture in such a big way. It’s almost like “Season 8” being “official” in that respect.
For sure. There’s lots of significant stuff. The whole “canon” argument in fandom is so strange. None of this stuff is really real. [Laughter] But the two Donner films are always going to count for something…unlike a lot of other things.
We’re wrapping this week with a quick tease of issue #33, and fans are getting to see the turn we’ve been talking about with Buffy’s guilt and how she takes it, and this is a seriously messed up way for her to view her role in the deaths of the other girls and the gaining of her power.
If Buffy hadn’t done what she did with Willow and the spell…if she hadn’t shared the power, a lot of this wouldn’t have happened. And certainly none of these girls would have been killed. She’s got a tremendous amount of guilt over that. So in #31 and 32, it sort of involves her and Willow figuring out what happened and how she got these powers. And Willow’s discovered that the deaths don’t stop in Tibet. So they’re trying to figure what the heck it all means -Â why there’s all this death. You have these slayers that she shared the slayer power with, and now they’re dead, and she has all these powers she’s never had before. This is where the series is headed. This is where “Season 8” reaches its peak and analyzing the consequences of this sort of thing. Buffy’s role in this is significant -Â this suffering she’s helped bring about while only trying to do good things.
And in her view, she’s become what she hates the most. It adds a mirror or a dichotomy between her and the vampires that hasn’t been brought up that much before.
That is part of the genius of Joss, and Brad pulls it off beautifully. One of the great things about “Buffy” and one of the things that’s had a big impact on me -Â because I’ve been a horror geek since I was about eight years old -Â about what Joss does and what “Buffy” does is that we take these melodramatic monster plotlines and make them really be about something driven by genuine human emotion. Joss is the master at setting that stuff up, and he works with writers who can help him build it.
So you get this line here where Buffy says, “It makes me a vampire,” and it’s pretty poignant for a story that’s about a cute blonde who stakes vampires. I like it.
Be on the lookout on CBR next month for another in depth discussion covering the events of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 8” #33!