This week Buffy, The Vampire Slayer Season Nine #14 introduces a new twist on the famous vampire killer. Jane Espenson and Drew Greenberg will introduce Billy: a gay male without “slayer” powers.
The series went off the air in 2003 but adventures in “Buffyverse”continue in Dark Horse Comics. Joss Whedon (The Avengers) executive produces the continuing comic book series. In Buffy mythology only young girls are “chosen” to become slayers so why Billy?
Espenson says she developed the character while working on her web series Husbands.
“I already knew [the character] Cheeks, and he has a line in Season 1 of Husbands, that Brad [Bell] wrote, that really struck me about how Cheeks has an ‘exotic femininity’ that’s equated with weakness,” she told OUT.
“I thought: ‘Gee, all the work we’ve done with Buffy is about being female, and how that doesn’t mean that you are lesser’. It suddenly struck me: If being feminine doesn’t mean that you’re lesser, then liking guys also doesn’t mean you’re lesser.”
“For very good reason, we’ve focused on the female empowerment part of Buffy, but I wondered, ‘Did we leave something out? What if someone in high school is looking up to Buffy as a role model, and we’re saying: You can’t be a slayer’.”
Billy is a new character who trains himself to fight like a slayer.
“He may not have the actual powers of the slayers, but he’s determined to be his own kind of hero, one who’s sort of modeled after those who do have the power, and he sets out to make due with what he has,” said Greenberg.
“Batman doesn’t have super powers. He wasn’t gifted with an exotic foreign birth. So we take the Batman route; Billy is earning the Slayer mantle,” Espenson adds.
Billy’s introduction is the latest chapter in GLBT characters (Willow and Tara)and storylines of the “Buffyverse.”
“We’re hardly pandering when we make a comic book,” Espenson said. “There’s always growing pains when making progress, but I think cynicism in the face of inclusion may not be a profitable route in making progress.”
Editor Scott Allie tells Comic Book Resources part of Billy’s introduction is tied to the wedding of Northstar in Astonishing X-Men and revelation of Alan Scott in Earth 2.
“It’s funny. When we started seeing what Marvel and DC was doing, we thought, ‘Damn. They’re racing to get these stories out one after the other, so it’ll look like we’re chasing them. But we’d had this story planned for quite a while,” Allie said. “But I think you can see this as a natural extension of stuff Joss has done all along. Getting a gay male character doesn’t seem unusual for ‘Buffy.’ And it wasn’t so much that we wanted to get a gay character out in the mainstream for whatever reason. It was more that this is a story that Jane Espenson and Drew Greenberg wanted to tell. When you read the story, you’ll see that it’s responding to things in the culture beyond just representing gay male characters. There’s a bit of a response to the whole ‘It Gets Better’ campaign in a way that’s more than subtext. For Jane and Drew in particular, with the kinds of stories they’re used to telling and what they care about, the Buffy mythos was an extremely appropriate place to empower this young guy who needed to find a way to stand up for himself.”
Buffy, The Vampire Slayer Season Nine #14 comes out Wednesday.