SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for recent issues of "Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 9" including last week's issue #9.
It's been a rough few months to be Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
Aside from seeing members of her formerly tight knit Scooby gang go their separate ways in the wake of the end of all magic on earth, the heroine at the heart of Joss Whedon's Dark Horse "Season 9" comic series was recently dealt a string of shocking events. First, Buffy learned she was pregnant. Then, she decided to abort the pregnancy in the face of her lifestyle and role in it. Then most recently, Buffy learned the entire pregnancy was a sham -Â a confusing false positive caused by the fact that her mind had been transfered into a robot body. Yes, a rough few months indeed.
And since the current "Apart (Of Me)" arc sees Buffy, her vampire ex Spike and young scientist/robot swap mastermind Andrew tracking down the location of Buffy's actual physical body (which has since been kidnapped), CBR News is back to unpack the craziness with another installment of BEHIND BUFFY SEASON 9, our ongoing exploration of how the hit series comes together.
Below, editor and co-writer (with Andrew Chambliss alongside artist Cliff Richards) of the "Apart (Of Me)" arc Scott Allie describes how the series of twists developed, how the team from Whedon down committed to the controversial story, what the robot swap will mean for Buffy and Spike's relationship and much more about issues #8 and 9 ahead of 10's arc finale.
CBR News: Scott, readers have now fully seen the shape of the story that went from pregnancy scare to abortion decision to robot revelation. I think the fans have been trying to find the best way to feel about all this as the choices have been real for Buffy even as her body hasn't been her own. When this whole string of events was being put together, did fan reaction impact the discussion, or did you guys try and stay on target with what you thought made for the best story?
Scott Allie: It's a little bit of that. The various twists and turns came as time went by. This wasn't all full-sprung out of the original summit meeting. A lot of it was, but some of it came with time. The main thing was the robot. The robot was the first idea in tandem with the idea of a pregnancy. But along the way, we'd go, "Oooh. People are going to be angry at that" or "People are going to feel screwed by that." We knew there would be a negative response, we think because we are doing a dramatic thing and changing up the story in ways that evoke an emotional reaction. So we are prepared for negative responses. I think I used to be naive about that, but not so much anymore. We know it's going to come unless we play it super safe, and playing it safe is no fun.
Since Spike and Buffy confronted and then teamed with Andrew in issue #8, we've had these moments where Buffy has seen the life Andrew set up for her body, and she's reacted not with rage so much as a kind of doubt as to why she hasn't been able to get that for herself. Was that idea the core of what this body swap was about?
Yeah. There are so many different lines of subtext going on, but that's a big one for her. The way she's lived her life for all these different reasons doesn't allow her to have any normal comforts. Would that be possible for another Slayer? Would that be possible for a different girl? I think one of the things we wanted to deal with with the pregnancy was that it's not so much the fact that she's a Slayer that dictates all the aspects of her life. A lot of it is just uniquely who she is. That's why her decision about a child was different than Nikki's decision. Looking at the Malibu Barbie version of herself created this opportunity while I was writing this three-part story where Buffy experienced a sort of dissociative thing where she really thought of the other Buffy as a real person in ways that neither Andrew or Spike were comfortable with. That was her weird coping mechanism. In trying to figure out what was happening, she thought this other Buffy was a fully fledged person. And she wasn't entirely. She wasn't someone else living a different life. The other girl is in fact Buffy, under this fake situation, so she shouldn't feel the need to compete with her. But Buffy was so traumatized by the pregnancy scare, the abortion decision and the reality of the situation with the other Buffy that her perspective was heavily affected.
Though speaking of the other Buffy and what exists within her, we get a moment in #8 where she breaks a spoon into a stake and has almost a moment of recognition. Is that the muscle memory Andrew was talking about, or is there a bit more of Buffy lingering there?
A little bit. There is some stuff in issues #9 and 10 where we deal more with the fact that this yuppie Buffy character has Slayer strength and some of that muscle memory, but she just doesn't know it. That comes out in her at the right time, and Simone is able to bring that out in her when she wants to.
Let's talk about Simone. She's a character whose story started at the very end of last season, and it's been interesting coming in to Season 9 because there hasn't yet been a clearly defined Big Bad so much as there's been a lot of somewhat interconnected but largely stand-alone stories dealing with the new shape of the world. Is Simone a thread that starts to reveal the bigger arc of the season?
The deal with Simone really dominates issues #8 through 10, and you're right. I do feel like issues #5, 6 and 7 each worked as kind of stand-alone stories. #5 was the dream issue with Willow leaving and Buffy discovering she's pregnant. #6 was her making a decision about whether or not to have a baby. And issue #7 has her discovering she's a robot. So those worked very episodically while #8 through 10 are more of a single story. Simone will fade into the background for a while after this, but she'll remain an important part of Season 9 overall.
Getting into last week's issue, we saw a lot of turning points for the characters, and I wanted to start with what we see in the story of Xander, Dawn and Detective Dowling. By the end of issue #9, Dowling has been forced to stake his former partner and confront whether he saw a zompire or a woman when he did that - something Xander warned him on. Where do these three go from here considering they've really just hit this big emotional wall?
Xander and Dawn have a story that's developing extremely slowly throughout Season 9, but it will be integral by the end. Dowling is on a particular trajectory in terms of learning how to fight vampires and deal with these things. He's finding the right role for himself because cops aren't trained to fight vampire, and cops aren't really trained to solve problems like vampires. So Dowling is the guy who has to deal with that problem head on in a unique way. The things that happen to him and the things he learns in this arc aren't super important right away, but we'll find him taking on a particular role soon. The next three-issue arc that Georges and Andrew are doing takes Buffy out of a lot of what's been happening to her. It separates her out of the main events that have been affecting her this season, but it takes her to a really important decision-making moment. And then for the last ten issues of the season, we thrust her deeply back into all of this stuff with Xander and Dowling and Simone. It all comes into sharp focus in the back half of the season.
The other major thread that this arc deals with is Buffy and Spike's relationship. In the past, you and I have talked about how the goal here never was to put them together and make them a happy couple, and we've seen then trying to navigate their feelings here in a way that makes sense. What can you say about how this relationship impacts what will become of Spike in his incoming mini series?
Oh man, there's relatively little I can say about that. Some of the readers felt we spoiled too much just by announcing the Spike series. But in my opinion - well, I wrote this so it's my take on it, but Buffy and Spike have a pretty mature conversation about who they are and what they mean to each other coming up. Spike makes what is a pretty strong choice for the two of them, and then his mini series develops him in a really interesting way. Joss had said a few years ago that he felt like Spike was the most evolved character of the group. He's changed the most and matured the most. I think you can make that argument for a number of characters in the series, but you can particularly make it for Spike. So I see what Victor Gischler is doing in "Spike" as the next great step in his evolution and maturation. This is him evolving into the man that only he can be and the man that he can only be because he chose to get a soul.
We wrap #9 on another, really traditional cliffhanger where Buffy has someone get the drop on her. What can you say about this twist and where it takes us in issue #10?
Buffy gets to confront this other side of herself, and her frustration with her own inability to be that girl with the nice house and the Prius, the girl she thought she was going to be back before the Watcher came for her. And Buffy is lucky to have strong resourceful friends.
"Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 9" #8 and 9 are in stores now.