The Reverse Jump: Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Journey from Screen to Graphic Novel

It seems like every fall, at the start of the TV season, there is a new comic book or graphic novel being adapted into yet another ‘superhero’ type TV show. Last fall invokes images of the trailers and the first episodes of The Flash, Gotham, and iZombie, all television programs adapted from DC Comics properties. This fall and winter we will see the creation of two more DC adaptations in CBS’s Supergirl and the CW’s DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. We are never surprised by these new shows, just like we are never surprised by the newest Marvel Property or DC Property to hit the big screen every summer. Our society is completely flushed with superheroes and various adaptions from graphic novels, which is what makes the case of Joss Whedon’s Cult Classic Buffy the Vampire Slayer, all the more interesting.

Copyright Dark Horse Comics 2007
Copyright Dark Horse Comics 2007

Buffy the Vampire Slayer ran on TV for seven full seasons, which ended up being a total of 145 episodes, from 1997-2003. Whedon did a good job of tying up all lose ends at the end of the show’s seven year run, however, some fans, myself included, felt that there was something missing, as if there was more story to be told. Whedon listened. On March 14th, 2007 the first of the “Season Eight” graphic novels was published by Dark Horse Comics, the issue was simply called, Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, The Long Way Home, Part I.  This issue was only the beginning, the graphic novel series running from March of 2007 to January 2011, with a total of 43 issues published. The graphic novel series picks up right where the show left off, telling the story of exactly what happens after Buffy and her now large gaggle of Slayers closed the Hellmouth underneath Sunnydale, California. Whedon served as the creator and writer on the graphic novel series, with Georges Jeanty working as penciler, Andy Owens working as colorist, and Jo Chen creating the covers for each issue, and the greater volume collections (x).

Dark Horse Comics was first founded in 1986, after the founder, Mike Richardson got tired of the quality of the comics his own comic store was selling so he started his own publishing house. Dark Horse Comics quickly made a name for itself as a niche comic publisher that treated creators much like partners. This is exactly how and why Whedon ended up working with Dark Horse to create Buffy Season Eight, along with other comic continuations of his completed or cancelled TV shows, such as: Serenity (a Firefly graphic novel series), Dollhouse, and Angel (which later evolved into Angel & Faith). In 2014, after a three year long hiatus, Dark House Comics and Joss Whedon elected to create a Season 9 for the Buffy the Vampire Slayer comics line, alongside another season for Angel & Faith.

It is interesting to see a property, that originally started off as a movie, transform into a highly successful TV show that achieved cult status quickly after it began, to a series of graphic novels that still continue the same story. In this age we are so used to seeing graphic novels and comics be adapted for the big screen and the silver screen, with great changes being made to the original content, in ways that are sometimes unrecognizable or just simply disappointing. This does not happen with Buffy Season Eight, instead it works as a direct sequel to the series, filling in every blank that was left, and the rest of the story that Whedon was simply waiting to tell. The graphic novel form leads itself incredibly well to this, speaking as someone who binge-watched all seven seasons of Buffy in about three weeks while I was in High School, the graphic novels lead themselves to this same binge watch mentality. It is just as easy to pick up a volume of graphic novels and read it in a day or two as it is to watch a season of a forty-five minute TV show on Netflix. That instant gratification is exactly what binge-watchers, and fans of Buffy love; what better way to expand a cult classic than making it into a form that is known for producing other cult classics? Those of us who are fans of other cancelled or finished TV shows that are still waiting for more stories of our favorite characters, can only hope that other creators follow the path that Whedon has paved, and chose to make that jump with their properties as well.

  2 comments for “The Reverse Jump: Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Journey from Screen to Graphic Novel

  1. holyguava
    September 20, 2015 at 7:59 pm

    It is a cool idea to have a comic (or any media) continues where TV series ends. Avatar the Last Air bender did the same thing. Do you find it an easy transition from screen to page? Without voices, the actual actors, and motion can the comic live up to that? What if people don’t want to have a new media messing with a tied up ending? Be funny to see this comic be adapted into television once more.

  2. lexi.darnell.
    September 26, 2015 at 5:11 pm

    I would say that story telling wise the transition was smooth, reading the comics it felt like watching another episode of Buffy, albeit just a shorter one. The weirdest thing about reading it as a graphic novel instead of watching at as a TV show, was that there were a lot more cliff hangers from issue to issue than there ever really were from episode to episode. I personally felt like the ending of Buffy was a little lack luster and was missing something so I appreciated a way to keep the story going, though I am sure there are other people that did not feel the same way at all. I would love to see it adapted into a TV show one more time, particularly from the graphic novel. It would do the Hairspray sort of jump (as Hairspray went from a movie, to a broadway musical, to a movie musical), and it would be interesting to see how people would react to it!

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