I’ve probably written more about Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel than anything else in my career. Even though I now make a living writing comics, my love for Joss Whedon’s Buffyverse far predates my interest in comics. I had a single box of superhero and horror comics that I loved as a little kid, but I never went beyond that. The box was put away with the other toys I’d moved on from, and taken up to the attic to collect dust. But Buffy – Buffy changed my life. The characters – from Buffy and Angel themselves, to Willow and Wesley and Spike and Giles and beyond – are part of me the same way that many of my real life friends are, and the lessons I’ve taken from the show – particularly Angel’s “If nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do” and Buffy’s defiant “Me” in response to Angelus’s taunts, asking what she has left that he hasn’t taken away – helped shape, in large part, who I am today as a writer, feminist, and person.
Something else huge that the Buffyverse did is lead me back to comics, now my medium of choice as a creator and the art form I love above all others. I remember reading in a Buffy magazine that Joss was going to officially continue the series in a comic book titled Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight through Dark Horse. Hoping to re-familiarize myself with comics before the first issue hit, I went to a comic shop and was pleased to discover a collection of Angel comics from IDW. I began reading comics again that day, with Jeff Mariotte and Scott Tipton’s (Blastoff’s very own) respective Angel titles, and Peter David’s Spike one-shots. I started reviewing Buffyverse (and later, non Buffyverse) comics on my blog, and eventually began my career as a comic book writer with a short story in IDW’s final issue of Angel. I’ve written and published almost two-hundred comics since then, and… well, it’s clear that I owe it all to Buffy.
At their best, Buffyverse comics capture what was best about Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, while also expanding upon what we already know and love about the characters. With a respective seven and five televised seasons a piece, Buffy and Angel introduced a lot of characters and a lot of mythology over the course of the hundreds of years some of the more, uh, sharp-toothed characters have been alive, and the comics I’m going to talk about set out to fill in the blanks while having a hell of a lot of fun.
SPIKE VS. DRACULA
Spike, the vampire who, in Whedon’s world, gave Billy Idol his look, never got his own spin-off… which was an egregious sin that IDW sought to correct with their line of comics. After a couple of Spike one-shots set during the show, IDW invited industry legend Peter David back for a full miniseries that put Spike up against the most infamous vampire of all time.
Dracula had been introduced in Buffy’s fifth season episode, Buffy vs. Dracula. Drac’s role in the episode was mostly used for kicks, one of which had Spike boasting that Dracula was his nemesis, had likely arrived to settle their score (not the case), and owed him eleven pounds. Peter David’s Spike vs. Dracula is a five-chapter story, which spans over one-hundred years, detailing Spike’s history with the count – eleven quid and all.
Some of the chapters are better than others – with the first and the last being particularly clever – but the entire saga is satisfying and funny. Peter David plays with what we know about Spike and his journeys, elaborating on seemingly throwaway flashbacks that had Spike and Drusilla ciaoing down in Rome, as well as tying another installment deeply to Spike’s role in the flashbacks in the Angel episode Why We Fight. The series ends during the final season of Angel, during a time when Spike was incorporeal. David seamlessly moves through these dramatically different periods in Spike’s life, focusing on the roller coaster ride of Spike’s clashes with Dracula in his established history, rather than making a grand statement about either character. It’s fun as hell, and I could tell that Peter David had a blast on this romp through Spike’s history as well.
ANGEL VS. FRANKENSTEIN
Angel vs. Frankenstein is unique, in that Frankenstein never appeared as a character on either Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Angel during the TV years. John Byrne, another comics legend, wrote and drew two one-shots putting Mary Shelley’s monster up against Angel during two crucial times in his life. The first, Angel vs. Frankenstein: The Heir, features a soulless Angelus tricking Frankenstein, a vengeful creature, out of Dr. Frankenstein’s inheritance money… which turns out to be far more of a curse than a blessing. The second, Angel vs. Frankenstein II: Fragments, reunites Angel and the monster, but this time Angel has already been cursed with both a soul and the unfortunate occupation of an underappreciated guard at a mental institution.
Both stories, much like Angel: Blood and Trenches, John Byrne’s pulpy WWI miniseries, are purposely void of the humor and hope that would characterize even the darkest of times on Angel’s TV show. These are at two bleak times in Angel’s life, first when he is carving his name in Europe’s history with blood, and then when he was hopelessly trying to find his place among humanity, only to constantly be reminded that he didn’t fit in with them or the creatures of the darkness. Both of these are horror stories, both in execution and tone, leaving the people around him to wonder if Angel – even at his best – is all that dissimilar from Frankenstein’s monster.
Both of these comics, which put Joss Whedon’s fan-favorite vampires against the greatest monsters in horror history, are fun and creepy spectacles that take some of the best aspects of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel and sort of let loose. Like my other favorite Buffyverse comics (Angel: After the Fall, Illyria: Haunted, and Buffy: Season Ten come to mind immediately), I’ve read these a bunch of times – and even Buffy fans who have yet to discover the wonderful world of comics can have a blast with these books.
PAT SHAND is a comic book writer (Robyn Hood, Charmed: Season Ten, Grimm Fairy Tales), pop culture journalist (Sad Girls Guide, Blastoff Comics), and rabid Buffy fan… clearly. His essays on Buffy, Angel, and their many tie-in comics have been collected in Titan Books’ Joss Whedon: The Complete Companion. He, at one point, walked around in a velvety black coat, a la Angel, circa Buffy Season One. He hopes most people forget that last bit, though.