Greenberg on “Buffy: Season 9” #15 & Billy’s Inner Strength

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Greenberg on “Buffy: Season 9” #15 & Billy’s Inner Strength

In the conclusion to the Jane Espenson and Drew Z. Greenberg penned Billy the Vampire Slayer micro-arc in Dark Horse Comics’ “Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 9,” readers learn that Billy takes on “so much” because “he’s… good.” In reality, there is much more that guides this young man.

A normal teenager that has been marginalized by bullies due to his sexuality, Billy joins the fight against the zompires plaguing his town thanks to Devon, a classmate and the object of Billy’s affections.

What is it that Devon sees in Billy that makes him think he is capable of taking on the blood thirsty undead and why is Billy drawn to the fight even when Devon tells him no? Comic Book Resources spoke with writer Drew Z. Greenberg about what makes Billy tick beyond that goodness, the consequences of being an amateur slayer and how growing up gay primed Billy for his new calling.

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CBR News: Drew, what keeps you coming back to “Buffy?”

True story: when certain people in the world suggest that being gay is a choice, the standard response, naturally, is to ask them, “How could it be a choice? With all the risk of bullying and prejudice and misunderstanding out there, with the risk of being alienated and isolated, who would choose to be gay?” And that’s the right question to ask, because, seriously, straight people, when did you choose to be straight? You know you didn’t, and it’s exactly the same with gay people. We don’t choose this, either. But you know what? I have to admit something: I would. I would choose to be gay. And here’s why: even with all the unpleasant crap that goes with being gay, my experience as a gay man has also given me a sense of empathy, an understanding of justice, an awareness of what it means to be ostracized, no matter why. It’s given me insight into why we must fight for the rights of the oppressed, why compassion and love actually matter as more than just intangible concepts and why it’s important to embrace and celebrate the qualities that make each of us — gay or straight — unique. In other words, being gay has made me the human being that I am, and I like the human being I am.

With that in mind, I think the story of Billy, ultimately, is the story of a young man who spent his whole life feeling like an outsider, but who gains from that experience a determination, a certain resolve to make the world a better place than the one into which he was born. Put in simple mathematical terms, being gay plus growing up in his particular circumstance helped make Billy into a hero. Billy’s experience opens his eyes to what must be done in ways maybe others would never see. So yes, I think it’s more than goodness, though the goodness helps. And the best part is, if Billy can come out the other side determined to make the world better, maybe so can any young person who sees injustice and prejudice in their life, too.

Are we bound to see other slayers like Billy? Other slayers that aren’t equipped with slayer strength?

Well, that’s an interesting idea. I don’t know of any plans for more amateur slayers, but I suppose anything is possible.

This is obviously a story about Billy finding his place in this world. He’s finding acceptance, and not just as a slayer. Was there ever a thought to deal with the other side of Billy’s embrace of slayerdom? The possible consequences, or the lost youth and normalcy that Buffy dealt with when she was his age? If there was, were you concerned about scraping away the overall positive message or bungling the analogy?

You know, every character is unique. I don’t think Billy had the childhood that Buffy had: I think Billy’s living situation is an indication that Billy had to grow up pretty quick long before the zompires showed up in his town. So embracing slayerdom means something different to Billy, because Billy’s in a different place when it happens. Specifically, in Billy’s case, his embrace of slayerdom is almost a mirror image of Buffy’s process — it allows him, like Buffy, to find his real purpose, but unlike Buffy who came to realize her skill set had a price, Billy gets something of a payoff for his years of already feeling isolated (a scenario much more well-suited, I think, for the short-story format of Billy’s two-issue introduction).