Gischler Enters The Whedonverse With "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Spike"

This August will see the launch of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Spike," a five issue miniseries from Dark Horse starring Joss Whedon's dashing vampire-with-a soul. Spike's solo story, by writer Victor Gischler and artist Paul Lee -- with covers by Jenny Frisson and Steve Morris -- spins directly out of events currently unfolding in the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9" ongoing.

CBR spoke with with Gischler, known as both a novelist and writer for numerous Marvel titles including "The Punisher: Frank Castle," "Deadpool" and "X-Men," about taking "Spike," his first foray into writing for the Buffyverse.

"I found myself on the phone with [Dark Horse editor] Scott Allie last year to discuss a potential creator-owned project," Gischler told CBR News. "The conversation also covered the possibility of writing something sooner or later for one of Dark Horse's existing titles. I mentioned that I was a huge Whedon fan ('Buffy!' 'Firefly!'), and I suppose that planted the seed which ended up with me scripting the Spike mini. I think if I could have hand-picked any character from Buffy to write about, it would have been Spike, so I feel lucky as hell."

However, the writer hasn't always been the huge "Buffy" fan he is today. "I used to not really care either way about 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer.' It was just some show my wife enjoyed," he said. "One weekend, my wife left me home alone while she went off to visit her sister. She commanded me to record the 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' marathon on the VCR. Since I was too stupid to figure out how to record one channel and watch a different channel, I left the TV on 'Buffy' all weekend. I'd walk by the TV, glance at the show and not really know what was going on. Eventually I sat down and -- half-heartedly -- started watching. I got hooked and watched the rest of the marathon straight through. I've been a fan ever since."

In scripting his upcoming miniseries, Gischler worked closely with Allie and the rest of the editorial staff. Allie explained the basics of what was needed from the "Spike" miniseries, and Gischler and the editorial staff bounced back and forth with ideas to flesh out the story. "I've got a top-notch editorial staff who will beat me with sticks if I get too far out of line, or drift too far from the established mythology (which I don't want to do anyway)," Gischler said. "I feel like the situation is just right. Yes, I bring my own ideas, but I think they fit well with what [fans] expect as far as style and tone."

The mini picks up plotlines straight from the current "Buffy" ongoing with Spike at the helm of a steam-punk spaceship crewed by oversized alien cockroaches. The leading vampire is heading towards the dark side of the moon, and it's unclear what he might find there. While Gischler is more than ready to reveal that readers can expect a few surprises, he emphasizes that there's more to the story than simple shock value. "Even more importantly is how the dark side of the moon suggests some important things thematically. The arc is tentatively titled 'A Dark Place,' and naturally this means more that simply a place with poor lighting. It's sort of a blank slate. Not a bad starting point for some soul searching." 

Indeed, the concept of heading out into the unknown in order to find oneself is very much at the core of Spike's story. "Spike's past is an important element," Gischler said. "I mean, this is a vampire with a soul, right? And relatively speaking, he hasn't had the soul very long. He's figuring things out. In a way, it's the ambiguity he's fighting against as he tries to define who he is and what he wants a bit more sharply. 

"His soul is still a new thing for him. It's like when I got my first smart phone: I had no idea what all the buttons did, but I instinctively sensed all the potential. 'Hero' and 'villain' are terms too limiting for a character like Spike, but these are the issues Spike must ponder."

Co-piloting the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Spike" mini with Gischler is artist Paul Lee, a man with past experience in bringing the Buffyverse to life. Gischler is a fan of Lee's previous work, and has high expectations for the "Spike" mini. "I haven't seen any pencils yet from the scripts I've turned in, but I am eager to catch a glimpse!"

Despite Spike's decision to head solo into the great unknown, leaving his relationships with the rest of the Buffy crew behind, readers can expect some ripple effects to be felt throughout the greater "Buffy Season 9" story arc. How those effects might be felt, however, remains a mystery.

"Directly, I'm not sure," Gischler said. "Other writers might have some other things in mind (and don't be surprised if it actually turns out to be very directly -- anything can happen). Indirectly, for sure. We're going to know a lot more about Spike and this will impact the way he relates to the other key players in the Buffyverse. I think it's going to be a hell of a ride."

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