This interview contains major spoilers for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 9” #6, on sale now.
Joss Whedon and the team behind “Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 9” don’t do anything by half measures. Following the surprising last-page reveal in issue #5 that Buffy is pregnant — and further courting controversy by indicating that the father’s identity is unknown, due to the Slayer’s drunken blackout in issue #1 — last week’s “Buffy Season 9” #6 saw the indomitable heroine dealing with the fallout. After crying on Dawn’s shoulder and consulting Robin Wood — Season 7 ally and son of previous Slayer Nikki Wood, whom Spike killed — Buffy makes a fateful decision about her future. She decides to have an abortion.
And with that, Comic Book Resources takes you once again BEHIND BUFFY SEASON 9 for another chat with series writer Andrew Chambliss, who spoke with us about what this issue is, what it isn’t and what fans on both sides of the abortion debate can take away from the story.
CBR News: After the revelation of Buffy’s pregnancy last issue, fans expected the issue of abortion to come up. But there are a lot of ways this could have gone down — what was the thought behind sending the story down this avenue?
Andrew Chambliss: When Joss and I were talking about how to handle Buffy’s pregnancy, we knew Buffy — given the unstable nature of her present life — would have to seriously consider abortion as an option. But we didn’t want it to be an easy answer. We really wanted to have a story that was about Buffy making the decision. Weighing all the options. Both on a practical level and on an emotional level. To say that this isn’t something anyone decides easily or on a whim. It requires some deep soul searching and introspection. The idea was to try and take readers along with Buffy on that journey — have them be with her while she asked the tough questions — and, at the very least, understand why she made the decision she did.
You have to know, of course, that you’re stepping into a cultural-political whirlwind by having Buffy make this decision, whether or not she ultimately follows through. Is there a risk of permanently alienating fans with a strong anti-abortion belief?
Sure, there’s always a risk. But Joss and I really talked about approaching this story in a way that dealt with Buffy’s decision on a personal level, something that was organic to her character’s journey this season. It’s not meant to be a polemic, but rather a story that can put readers inside Buffy’s head as she makes the decision.
However it plays out (and yeah, I’m going to play this close to the vest) — Buffy has been forced to examine her life under a microscope. She may be a Slayer who has saved the world countless times. She may be a total badass when it comes to slaying zompires. But she’s now got to face the fact that there are some fundamental areas of her life that she’s ignored for too long. Her decision has really highlighted the fact that she can barely support herself, that she’s never really thought about building a future for herself that doesn’t involve slaying, and that she really has no idea what she wants out of life. All these thoughts are kind of inescapable for Buffy at the moment, and going forward, they’re definitely going to be a major driving force in the series.
Part of why fans reacted so strongly to the pregnancy itself was the character’s relatability, that we have a sense that Buffy, for all her Slayer-ness, is “like us” — and some fans thought she should not have got herself into this situation, where she doesn’t know who the father is. Is there an opportunity here, though, to humanize and personalize the decision for those who see it as a black-and-white issue?
I think it’s understandable that people who relate to Buffy would, at first blush, say she would never have gotten herself into her current situation. But I think that’s the point. I don’t think Buffy ever thought she’d be facing what she is right now. I don’t think anyone expects to find themselves pregnant, not sure who the father is — but life happens, and we have to face unexpected challenges. Buffy was just as shocked and surprised at the positive pregnancy test as a lot of the fans were, and I think it can humanize her situation in a way that makes it seem less black-and-white.
The first person that Buffy tells about her pregnancy — at least that we see — is Dawn. This would be a natural choice, of course, but what sort of perspective is Buffy looking for from her sister?
I don’t think Buffy’s going to Dawn expecting to get an answer from her — or any advice at all. After all, Dawn hasn’t faced anything like this before. She’s going to her sister some non-judgmental comfort and to be able to say out loud all the things that would be too scary and lonely to think about by herself.
Buffy spends a lot of time in this issue speaking with Robin Wood, and we see some flashbacks about his mother, the Slayer Nikki Wood, and the decisions she made. How does their discussion ultimately lead Buffy to her choice?
NIkki’s story serves as a good counterpoint to Buffy’s situation. She’s the only Slayer Buffy knows who has tried to raise a child and slay at the same time, and Buffy sees how she could fix the mistakes that Nikki made as a mother. But ultimately Nikki’s story really only tells Buffy how to handle the Slayer part of being a mom. The genre stuff. The answers Buffy doesn’t get from her talk with Robin is how to handle everything else — all the practical, real world things that haven’t even entered Buffy’s head yet — all things that ultimately lead Buffy to make her decision.
Spike’s reaction to the news and Buffy’s decision is both shocking and touching — it’s very subdued. It’s a great scene. Take us inside Spike’s head for a minute. Given what Buffy means to him, that she’s trusting him with this, and the one-two punch of what she’s saying, what’s going through Spike’s mind?
Spike enters the scene prepared to tell Buffy he’s harboring feelings for her so he’s completely blindsided by the mere fact that Buffy’s pregnant. What I like about Spike in this scene is that he just listens — he doesn’t try to tell Buffy what to do, what’s best for her, or even ask who the father is. He knows this can’t be a decision that Buffy came to easily so he’s just there for her. And that’s exactly what Buffy needs at the moment.
Given this comic’s ability to stoke conversation, what do you hope people take away from this issue?
Well, first off — conversation! The more people think, the better. There’s been a tremendous amount of debate on the message boards, and that kind of back-and-forth is a good thing to see all sorts of perspectives. But, secondly, I hope people spend some time trying to put themselves in Buffy’s shoes and think about what it must be like to be her age, facing an unexpected pregnancy, all alone, and simply ask themselves — what would I do?
“Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9” #6 is in stores now.