Wednesday, February 18, 2009

"chock full of hoot, just a little bit of nanny"

Sromkie: @Silver Did you watch the Buffy series when it was on TV (or DVDs since)?
Silver: No, I never did watch the Buffy series. I assumed it was cheesy due to Sarah Michelle Gellar being in it. Was I wrong?
Sromkie: ok... you should rent the seasons on DVD.... Season 1 isn't the greatest, but it gets really good. Anyway, you need to see it before I can point you to something else to read.
Silver: Ok, I'll check it out. How many seasons are there?
Sromkie: 7!
Silver: O.o
Sromkie: it's worth it though. Get crackin'!
Verm: Just start with the first season and decide if you want more after you finish it.
Tam: Buffy go!
Silver: All the peer pressure! :) I guess I'll add Buffy to my list.
Sromkie: Well, I would say at least give it until half way through season 2. Season 1 was still finding its legs. you'll enjoy it.
Sromkie: @Tam, please explain to @Silver how watching the series is vitally important to understanding the Season 8 comics.
Silver: @Tam Yes, please do as @Sromkie instructed. I am curious.

Watching my Twitter list over the last 24 hours has been a study in how I end up doing Sromkie's dirty work. I'm pretty sure I said all of two words about Buffy and suddenly I'm explaining why watching seven seasons of a television series is vital to understanding a comic book.

I'll admit that vital may be pushing it, but it's hard to imagine being drawn into the Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 comic books without knowing the background from the television show. So to start off Silver's lessons, I asked him to give me a run-down of what he does know about the show. And for fun, I pulled Thren in, too.

Pretty blonde girl (PBG from here forward) is born with some crazy power to fight and kill demons and vampires. PBG doesn't want this power and tries to deny it, but people around her tell her that she can't deny it and she must follow through with her destiny. PBG begins hunting demons and vampires and makes some friends along the way who have the same, or similar, powers. Throughout the series, PBG makes out with a lot of hot, spikey haired boys and creates some drama. Amidst PBG's drama, she has to deal with her friend's who create their own relationship issues at the same time as she's fighting off thousand-year-old demons and vampires. PBG has some close calls and almost dies a few times, but she miraculously comes back to life and picks up the killing right where she left off. Meanwhile, one of her spikey haired boyfriends betrays her and she has to kill him, which makes her very upset. About midway through the series, she has to think of some way to keep people interested, so her and her friends come up with some crazy new vampire/demon killing technology to make things more interesting. In the end, half of her friends die and she ends up alone, having killed every demon/vampire that the underworld has thrown at her. Roll credits.
Ok so I think Buffy is a high school student, though she really looks more like she's in college. Ooo I think the name of her school or town or somesuch has Sunny in the name. I suppose that's designed to be "oh ho funny," because it turns out there's a portal or gate or something in the town that leads to hell. Oops! How'd that get there?

So I guess all they have in hell is vampires, because that's what Buffy has to fight. I think the librarian at the school gives her assignments or tutors her in the stabbing arts or something. There are 2 other sidekicks, both of whom probably also don't look like high school students. At some point, Buffy falls in love with a vampire named David Boreanaz. I only remember this because he is also in the show Bones, which I rather like.

There is a sordid love affair between everyone on the show at some point. Buffy can't NOT fall in love with vampires, so eventually someone probably gets hurt by one. Does she even sleep with the librarian? I think Tim Curry should have played the librarian.

I'm pretty sure that's the plot for all 7 seasons. Buffy kills vampires using her cheerleader skillset, which apparently includes stabbing motions. That's all I know about the plot of Buffy.
Seasons 1-7 of Buffy span three years of High School and the four years after graduation. A lot happens to normal people during those years; they go from being awkward teenagers answering to parents, teachers, and any other "grownup" they encounter to being considered "grownups" themselves and expected to know the answer. For Buffy and pals, add in monsters, magic, and momentous moments. And over the course of 144 episodes, there are a lot of monsters and moments. Although the show never really lost its continuity, there is a big difference between Episode 1 of Season 1, Welcome to the Hellmouth, and the Series Finale of Season 7, Chosen. More than just seven years of life have linked these characters, they have celebrated the good times, suffered through the bad, and helped each other survive everything a gifted writing staff could throw at them.

So why can't you just take all of that on faith and jump into the Season 8 comics? I guess you could...if you're ok with missing the nuances of relationships. Good books, movies, and television shows do more than just tell you a story, they make you care about the people caught inside it. And Buffy the Vampire Slayer is no different. Sure, in Episode 1 you might think Buffy is a shallow sophomore wearing trendy clothes and butchering the English language. But by Episode 144, you've watched her sweat, bleed, and cry over all the badness in the world. You've watched her laugh in the face of overwhelming odds and get the job done even when it's not a fun or glamorous job. You've watched her make friends with two fairly awkward teenagers who grow into pretty incredible people. And you've seen her hurt them, intentionally and unintentionally.

Again, it might be possible to just accept that the characters have a history and hope you can catch up. But the books don't dumb it down for you. They fully expect that you will have some knowledge of the Buffyverse, and not just the basics. You need more than just "Blonde Girl Have Power/Blonde Girl Have Friends." You don't need to have stretches of dialogue memorized, but you need to know some of the things that have happened to these characters to fully understand the stories being told in Season 8--because reading a story about what happens after the end, always makes you wonder about what happened before. The villains from Seasons 1-7 may not make a big comeback in Season 8, but some of the more memorable minor characters play a part in the story arc. The main characters have definitely morphed from gangly, but witty, teenagers into powerful fighters in their own right. And the journey from High School Library to command center is worth sticking around for, after all, as Oz says, it's "chock full of hoot, just a little bit of nanny."


  1. Well, Tam - job well done. Buffy added to queue.

  2. What I like best about the Josh Whedon body of work (minus Dollhouse) is that his shows can laugh at themselves concerning plot and action but the relationships are taken very seriously. That's what's so compelling about them is that the characters care about each other and thus we care about them too. So what if a demon has made everyone sing for an entire show or the setting for an episode takes place in an old fashion western whorehouse. The focus is always the characters and their relationships.
    Ok, am I getting to deep into Buffy and Firefly? Did I mention I cried a little at the end of the Firefly movie? Yeah, I did :(

    Oh and I hope dollhouse gets A LOT better because I wasn't impressed with the first episode.

  3. Tam... I could not have said it better myself. Great job on the write up.