In January of 2011, in the wake of the death of a MAJOR character in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer universe, Joss Whedon gave an interview to Entertainment Weekly magazine where he discussed the ending of the comic book series Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 and spoke a bit about what was to come in Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 9. The 9th season of BtVS is already in full swing as Issue 6 hits newsstands today … and you are NEVER going to guess the challenge that Buffy Summers faces in this new issue of the comic book series. At the time of his interview last year, Joss revealed that BtVS: Season 9 would be “more like the television show” … but the subject matter of the newest Buffy comic was NEVER featured in the Buffy TV series. The revelation below is a MAJOR SPOILER if you have not read the new comic book yet so proceed with caution. I will tell you that Buffy faces a challenge that she has never faced before … and it is a challenge that is arguably more formidable than any Big Bad villain she has ever faced. Read on to find out more.
After years of tackling vampires, demons and assorted “big bads” on TV and now in comic books, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is facing something else extremely daunting: pregnancy. In the latest issue of Dark Horse Comics’ Buffy the Vampire Slayer series, in stores today, Buffy weighs the life of being the “chosen” Slayer against the life she’s about to bring into the world. After some soul-searching with the son of another former Slayer, Buffy decides to have an abortion. There were two key aspects to discussing the hot-button issue, says the comic’s executive producer, Joss Whedon: It had to be portrayed as a difficult decision for Buffy, and it had to be treated with respect on the creative side. “It’s not something we would ever take lightly, because you can’t. You don’t. It’s not an easy thing for anyone,” he says.
The Buffy TV series, which ran from 1997 to 2003 and starred Sarah Michelle Gellar, became a cult hit and fostered a ferociously loyal fan base in its seven seasons before vampires became all the pop-culture rage. In two “seasons” of Buffy comics, Whedon has continued the story lines from the television show. But the previous Season 8 issues were too “comic-booky and overblown” for his tastes, so when Whedon and series writer Andrew Chambliss began breaking down stories for the current Season 9, they decided to return to the mission statement of the original TV show, which was to follow the story of a woman at important points in her life. “Buffy was always about the arc of a life, and it wasn’t ever going to be one of those shows where they were perpetually in high school and never asked why,” Whedon says. “It was about change. So there’s never a time when Buffy’s life isn’t relevant.” Season 9 finds the character in her early 20s with no idea what she’s doing with her life and in free fall while everybody around her seems to be maturing, finding direction and setting up their adult life. Living in San Francisco with all the magic cut off from the world and zombie vampires lurking in the city, Buffy learns she is pregnant — with the unknown father possibly one of the guests at a wild party at her place — and in the new Issue 6, she confides in the anti-heroic vamp Spike of her decision to have an abortion.
Chambliss says Buffy’s choice was something that grew organically out of the story. “Given the specifics of Buffy’s life at this point in the season — facing a new kind of vampire threat, barely able to keep a job — it seemed like it would be dishonest for Buffy to not at least entertain the question of whether she should keep or end the pregnancy.” Whedon had never thought about a pregnancy story for the TV-show character. In comics, though, he has license to do more with magic and creatures, and it has given him the chance to be “a little more on the nose in the grounding of our characters.” Whedon points out that Friday Night Lights is one show that recently tackled abortion with the proper respect. And he concedes there’s a little bit of a political jab in the Buffy story line. It’s not that women should be on one side or the other, he says, but that people have to make this decision and talk about it. “It offends me that people who purport to be discussing a decision that is as crucial and painful as any a young woman has to make won’t even say something that they think is going to make some people angry” … “I don’t tend to write straight dramas where real life just impinges,” he says. “But because I don’t, when I do it is very interesting to slap people in the face with just an absolute of life.”
Wow. Well … it’s something new for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. To be honest, a storyline like this probably seems more controversial because it’s being featured in a comic book (then again, telling a story in comic book terms is also more freeing because comic books have a smaller audience than a national/syndicated television show does). But as we have learned from recent issues of Archie Comics, real life issues such as same-sex marriage and interracial marriage can be showcased alongside the usual, more mundane comic book fare. It seems to me that the BtVS comic book series has alienated a lot of longtime Buffy fans who don’t consider the comic books to be a real extension of the TV series. IMHO, I am just absolutely thrilled that Joss and his longtime team of Buffy collaborators are creating new stories for Buffy and her friends … no matter how much they differ from the TV series that we all know and love. I’m of the mind that if Buffy the Vampire Slayer was still in television production today, Joss would put the characters thru many of the same paces that he has put them thru in the comic book series (er, except for all the flying around by Super Buffy). It doesn’t seem at all out of the realm of possibility that this abortion storyline would show up eventually if BtVS was still on the air. It’s a very sensitive subject but when has Joss shied away from tackling sensitive subjects before? I have to admit, I’m quite a few issues behind on reading Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 9 but now that I know what to expect in Issue 6, I’m really curious to get to reading so I can learn how Buffy got herself in this predicament.
So, Buffy fans, what do y’all think of this development? Have you been keeping up with the comic book series? If not, what do you think of Joss’s decision to bring this storyline into the Buffyverse?