Joss Whedon talks about the end of the 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' Season 8 comic, and the future of Season 9 -- EXCLUSIVE

Buffy-comic-Joss-whedonImage Credit: Dark Horse; Inset: Michael Buckner/Getty ImagesThe acclaimed (oc)cult TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer went off the air in 2003 after seven seasons. But for nearly four years, Buffy’s story has lived on in creator Joss Whedon’s “Season 8″ comic book series, which finishes its 40-issue run today. Whoa, boy, did things go down. (WARNING: Some big time spoilers follow, for both “Season 8″ and the impending “Season 9.” Consider yourself warned now.) Over the course of the “season,” Buffy became a god, battled (and boinked) her ex Angel, and watched him kill her mentor Giles. And then she effectively destroyed the seed of all magic on earth. Issue No. 40 deals with the aftermath, and — as Whedon makes clear in his exclusive Q&A with EW — it also gives some pointed hints for what to expect in Buffy “Season 9.” Whedon also talks about his new comic series about Angel with publisher Dark Horse, some of his controversial plot turns in “Season 8″ — Buffy goes lesbian? Xander and Dawn get domestic? — and what actor Anthony Stewart Head’s reaction was when Whedon told him his character Rupert Giles was going to bite the big one. 

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So no more magic, huh?
JOSS WHEDON: [Chuckles] Well, let’s not use hyperbole. No more magic in the sense of not so much entirely convenient magic. I wanted to play with the idea of the world dimming a little bit. Possibly because that’s how I feel about it, or at least this country in the last 10 years. And I wanted to do a little bit of a reset, where things seem more back down to earth. I got very excited when I had a comic book with the idea that I could do absolutely anything. We hit a lot of beautiful notes and I’ve got a lot of great writers working [on the comics], and I’m very proud of it. But at the same time, it’s like, yeah, “You can do anything” is not really the Buffy mission statement. The Buffy mission statement is, “What does this feel like?” So I wanted to bounce it back a little bit to the real world.

Issue No. 40 is clearly setting up Season 9, and makes it seem like it is going to be far more human-scaled.
It will be more like the television show. With the comic, we just sort of said, “Wheee!” Ultimately, “Wheee!” caught up with us in a cavalcade of mythology. It became clear, as it did with the show, that people really liked when Buffy’s adventures reflect what she’s going through in her life [and] what we’re going through in our lives at that age. That was the thing in season 8 that we didn’t tap into as much as I think we ultimately should have.

You did seem to touch on that idea when you, essentially, made Buffy a god with her own idyllic world, and she pretty much rejected it right off the bat.
Yeah. I feel like we’re true to the characters. It was just that very basic mission statement of, “You know what, I’m going through this, too.” Not a lot of people are leading armies. Buffy, part of her charm is that the fact that, outside the mystical world, she was nobody. And it was interesting to put her in that power position and to play on that grand scale. But ultimately, I think the fans more enjoy her when she is the little underdog and not the little overlord.

Not that anybody who’s a Buffy fan should be that shocked that you did this at this point, but Joss, you killed Giles.
Yeah, I did. I did. I have several reasons for that, some of which I can’t reveal because ripples from that event are going to be a part of both [the Buffy "Season 9" comic and the new Angel comic]. Part of it was really just feeling that Giles’ place in the comic book did not sit the way it did in the show. To have this paternal, expositional guy there — it wasn’t really something that played in the comics the way it did when Tony Head [i.e. actor Anthony Stewart Head] does it. I wanted to make all this matter and have something that would send emotional ripples through all the characters. Also, I’m a prick. But I did tell Tony it was going to happen before it did. At first he said, “Oooh,” a little worried. Then I said, “Angel’s gonna kill you.” He said, all excited, “Oooh! That’s great!” [Laughs]

Perhaps the other most controversial choice you made was to enter Buffy into a lesbian relationship. For some fans, that did seem to come oddly out of left field.
You know, I didn’t hear any real objection to that. But I don’t go trolling on websites for people that don’t like me. I’m very fragile, like an egg. We had talked about the idea of Buffy having a lesbian fling as one of the things that does actually reflect where she is in her life, if you consider the events in “Season 8″ to be her college experience. It’s that time in your life where that might happen. We just slammed right into it with a splash page, instead of tenuously inching towards it. And that was largely [writer] Drew Goddard’s call. He said, “You know what? It would obvious to start building toward this, and then seeing that play out, how that would be. I think in a lot of these situations, it just kind of happens, and then you deal with it.” It’s more interesting and it gives us a better opportunity to face the reality of a situation like that.

You also had Xander and Dawn ultimately become a romantic item, and you outed vampires to the world. It seems like you wanted to advance the story in a really meaningful, significant way on a lot of fronts.
You can’t just sit around and spin your wheel with these guys. The show lasted on the idea that people are constantly changing. What makes them interesting? So, is Willow destined to go dark? How is that future going to unfold? Who is in love with whom? Who can’t be with whom? That’s part of what makes their interaction rich. It’s not just, “We’re clever and funny, the murder is solved.” It’s just not the way I write. It was still very clear to me that Xander and Dawn were going to end up together by the very start [of Season 8]. And actually, I was surprised that anybody was surprised. All their interactions were so tight, and occasionally weirdly physical. It was all pointing there. He tried to have a relationship with somebody else, but some prick killed her.

You mentioned earlier about getting into a bit of trouble thanks to the freedom that comic books afforded you. But what was your favorite “We could never do this on the TV show” moment?
I gotta go with giant Dawn. I loved giant Dawn so much, absolutely more than the readers, but I didn’t care. The idea that Dawn becomes a giant and all the permutations of that, some of which we didn’t even get to do, that was such a delight for me. It just absolutely fit in the universe. It was the right kind of problem for Dawn to have.

On the penultimate page of issue No. 40, there’s a guy in John Lennon glasses who looks fairly evil. Am I right in thinking he’s new? Or am I just not remembering him from season 8?
He’s a new guy. I can’t tell you about him. But you are not wrong to say you don’t remember him, because he has not appeared yet. He has yet to come.

In the Fray storyline from “Season 8″ — in which Buffy got sucked into the world of your spin-off comic about a slayer living far into the future — we met Dark Willow again, and we seem to be heading in that direction the way we left Willow at the end of “Season 8.”
Well, maybe. It’s a question we’re holding out there right now: Is that her destiny? Can she get her powers back? This idea of magic being taken out of the world — that’s going to be her personal obsession and will result in a miniseries. She can have center stage for a while. Whether or not that means that’ll send her to become the evil Fray’d version of herself is something we’re going to dangle.

Finally, all due respect to the amazing artists who drew the comic and did the covers, but do you ever miss having the actors to bring these stories to life?
I do. Particularly, as I said before, in the case of Giles. Tony has this cool sexuality that just doesn’t come on the page when he’s saying, [in a British accent] “Oh, this book says blah blah blah.” It’s hard to capture some of the stuff that the actors bring. Tony is astonishing. I can’t speak highly enough of how artist Georges Jeanty captured their likenesses, but still made it look like a comic book and not like balloon heads on hastily drawn panels. And the way he captured Buffy was really lovely. But yeah, you hear [the characters] so well, sometimes it’s like they’re there. It is frustrating at times. You’re like, “Why can’t they just be there? Let’s get the whole gang back together again.”

For more on Joss Whedon and the future of the Buffyverse — including how Whedon really feels about the recently announced plans for a Buffy reboot movie without his involvement — check out this week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands Friday, Jan. 21.

Comments (106 total) Add your comment
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  • Rolo Tomasi

    Milk that cow.

    • jodipo

      show that jealousy

      • Rolo Tomasi

        How is that jealousy?

      • Dave

        Right. It’s not jealousy. It’s douchebaggery.

      • Rolo Tomasi

        Awww, sorry the truth hurts

    • Jake

      Joss created Buffy and while some fans may agree that it’s “milking” the franchise, it’s his to milk. I think season 8 was a little off the map, but still good and loyal to the characters. Once again though, he thought of it and owns it so what we say doesn’t matter.

    • NK

      I’m not personally interested in the comics, but creating new product – especially the kind of product that’s much less lucrative than, say, making a Buffy movie – doesn’t really seem like ”milking it”.

    • Hsas

      Hi Lee,Just to let you know that the cards were a big hit and they look great all framed up! I’ll get some poohts to you when I can get them from my parent’s camera! Reply

    • Martine

      Sorry, I loveb BTVS too as a tv show, but he is absolutely correct. BTW; Awesome name. From LA Confidential, right? I love it.
      Let the darn thing die. The whole gay Dracula thing was pretty much where I drew the line. Maybe because i always kind of thought he was hot, and it was annoying to have him be gay. Not to mention that even gay he would have better taste then Xander.

  • Anne

    Will read the article in this week’s EW. Will get the comic as soon as I can find it. But absolutely, no question about it, will NEVER EVER watch a non-Whedon “Buffy” and will travel to New Orleans soon to pick up some Kazui voodoo dolls,

    • gabe

      yeah, im definetly not watching that peice of crap movie they are making with out him

    • jun

      Frankly based on Season 8 Volume 7, I think a Buffy movie without Whedon may be an improvement. Afterall, didn’t Whedon write the first Buffy movie (nobody would argue it was as good as the season)? Whedon isn’t the writer that made the season good. Everyone else did that. Whedon wrote the crappy 80s movie (or was it a 90s movie that seemed like an 80s movie because it was so crappy?). So, a Buffy movie without Whedon? Bring it on.

      • Stef

        Whedon wrote the movie the Kuzuis butchered. He left the theater in tears and realized what a mistake he’d made.

      • Martine

        You may be right. I never even liked any of the episodes he wrote. Certainly the best episodes were done by the other writers. I especially hated those wordy sort of pun like jokes he writes. And the constantly mopy, entitled teenage girls who can throw a bus characters are so overdone that no one can do them seriously any longer. they have become a joke.

  • GimplyGump ☺

    I hope they have a giant, well 40 comics – 1 to 3. graphic novels of these.

    • Olivia

      They’ve stated that they probably won’t collect the issues in any larger than the trade paperback volumes, which have 5 issues each.

      • Riker

        They’ve stated that there will likely be 4 hardcovers, each with 10 issues.

  • helena

    excuse me, BUT WHERE IS SPIKE?

    • Jane

      If you read the comics (particularly the last couple issues), you’ll know.

    • LLL

      Mostly ignored and locked out of the house.

      (Forget a continuation of the “I love you” in Chosen. She seemingly forgot that she cared about him AT ALL.)

      • Olivia

        Well, Season 9 is ahead so don’t lose all hope.

        They WERE kind of busy saving the world, again.

  • t.t

    can’t you bring anya back joss????
    saddest death on buffy every
    sadder than giles, sadder than tara and sadder than joy
    (not that those 3 weren’t sad they were heartbreaking, but anya was much more heartbreaking maybe it was just that its anya

    • anya

      Seriously! I haven’t really read these comics but the way they killed Anya off on the show was just sad! And the fact that none of the other characters seemed to care was just as bad!

      • Stef

        You should really read the comics. They are, after all, canon and pick up after Chosen. Why a fan would watch the show then refuse to read the comics just because they’re comics, is something I don’t understand.

      • Haylemichael

        I bought the shirt I’m weianrg when I first moved town, eight years ago. I was in the outdoor market looking for nothin’, and my Dad held it up for me, ’cause he thought I’d like the design.It’s a pretty cliche black shirt with an ugly dragon coiled around a sword and roses.It’s never faded, and I don’t want to throw it out…Heh.

  • Izzy

    Joss, you killed Giles!!

    • Kyle Broflovski

      You bastards!

  • Caio

    Read the first 3 story arcs, and while funny and entertaining at times, capturing the show’s feel, it’s just not Buffy. I can’t see it as canon.

    It’s not just that the actors are not there, is that I believe some of these characters are in places they never would’ve been on the show, and Joss, with no budget restrains for the first time ever, went waaaaaay over board with the monsters and mithology,and that’s never what the show was about, not even during the last mithology heavy game-changing season.

    • Stef

      Good thing these “can’t see it as canon” things are not up for debate; it just is.

  • Chaz Winterbottom

    I love the show but couldn’t hang with the comic, though not for a lack of trying. I stuck with it for at least a dozen issues if not more before I jumped ship. It started out entertaining, but ultimately it became to much more like an X-Men comic and strayed too far from what I liked about the show. I missed the small scale stuff the showed handled so well. Giants, and helicopters, and castle headquarters were kinda fun a first but over time it just started to feel too different and by different I mean silly.

    • Kapykya

      ITA, I couldn’t stick with it either!

      • Diane

        Me neither

    • Stef

      I stuck with it but there at the end I had to really force myself to remember new issues were out and go read them. Joss has acknowledged many times that he made a huge oopsie with some of the characterization, story, and direction of the season. I mean, some of it was good, some of it was just downright awful and just made me wonder what the hell Joss was thinking. He maybe doesn’t troll the internet forums but he realizes gaffes were made. Part of the reason I’m ecstatic he’s decided he will write S9 himself.

  • MARTY

    I can not stress to the world how much I miss this show each and every single day. I have never enjoyed the experience of watching a show more in my life. I am so greatful to Joss for continuing this story and so greatful that it continues to have the twist and turns that made me love the show. Miss you Buffy! And hope that one day we goet a movie/show/anything that has the gang back together!

    • Diane

      I’d pay a ton to see a Buffy movie. I miss Buffy. And for me the comic doesn’t do it. It’s just a media form I can’t get into

      • Stef

        You’ll probably get your Buffy movie, only it’ll be done by the Kuzuis, and Joss won’t have been involved at all.

  • Chris

    Season 8 started really well, but the last few arcs just made me go “Huh? Wha?”. It got a little out of control. Twilight was an interesting villain, until you find out who he is. Then it lost a lot of weight with me.

    The Dawn/Xander relationship doesn’t surprise me much. Ever since Season 7, they had scenes that made me think they might work as a couple. Of course, this being Joss, that means that Xander or Dawn, or both, will probably die.

    • Warawut

      30 Rock was MY great discovery this year. Went back and gogerd myself on 2 and half seasons worth totally enjoyable. Must be the Seinfeld for our times. Solid writing, great characters, a does not novelty each week, some zaniness. No wonder it has such a devoted audience. Tina Fey just rocks!!

  • O!

    Joss – this is just a tease, right? Could you really get the whole gang together and do this? I’ll never watch the “re-boot” with out you or Sarah Michelle but this I would take a leave of absence for…

  • Lana

    My god, season 8 is finally coming to an end in what was like a 4 year damn long wait fest!

    My god, the last few arcs have been crossing convoluted comic story arcs and then some! The expanded mythology just got way out of hand. Here’s hoping for a better (and OMG make it shorter) Season 9!

  • Dana

    Reading this article makes me feel like I stepped into Bizarro land where the Buffy I know never existed and the entire story became some kind of school boy comic book fantasy.

    • MWeyer

      Trust me, the actual comic was far, FAR worse as Buffy was literally flying around like Supergirl at one point.

      • Stef

        Worse than that, she became a god. -.-

  • Kimberly

    Wait…so why did Angel kill Giles??

    • Olivia

      He was taken over by a higher power, which made him do it.

    • LLL

      He was told by a talking dog (Not kidding!!!) that he had to destroy Buffy, to bring her low, to make her a GOD… so he did (bringing about the deaths of 206 [+ however many died in the finale] Slayers in the process. But that’s okay. Buffy instantly forgave him so they could have sex and give birth to a new universe (again not kidding!) that possessed Angel after Buffy rejected it because it was destroying the world…giving the universe mommy-issues. Possessed, Angel then murdered Giles. Buffy broke the seed and the world was saved.

      No. It made no sense.

      • Kimberly

        Thanks, I think! I need to start catching up.

      • soz

        So basically, Angel became Jasmine? Kinda? That sounds…like it doesn’t really make any sense. Sure. Whatever. Comic books will never be canon to me anyway. They’re like the show writer’s fanfic.

      • Candre

        ??????????????????????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Chaz Winterbottom

        Wait, so Buffy had sex with Angel and gave birth to…a universe? And I thought things got ridiculous when they started making Andy Dick references.

      • anya

        Ummm what? Kinda glad I didn’t read these now.

      • Jenn

        Yes. It was pretty bad and made no sense. Plus they kept on bringing bad random characters from the show for no reason what so ever. Warren (hello he has no skin!) and the Master to name two. And they didn’t even add anything to the plot.

  • REASON

    all my guilt as a Buffy fanatic for not reading Season 8 is now gone…sounds like he is just burning down the house.

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