by Tami Katzoff (@tvtamijo)
“They’re special. They’re called. They’re strong. They punch really hard and run really fast and they’re always, always girls.”
This is 16-year-old Billy Lane’s accurate description of Vampire Slayers – accurate, that is, except for the last part about Slayers always being girls. Because there’s a new Slayer in town, and it’s Billy himself.
The current issue of Dark Horse Comics’ Buffy Season 9 is the second half of a two-part introduction of Billy the Vampire Slayer. This initially reluctant boy, the victim of homophobic bullying in his small town, takes on the responsibility of facing the new zompire threat. He’s got a Watcher, Devon, who also happens to be his love interest. And, according to Devon, he’s got moxie.
Billy is the brainchild of Whedonverse vet Jane Espenson, a long-time contributor to the “Buffy” comics. She pitched the idea with fellow “Buffy” scribe Drew Z. Greenberg after getting a lot of appreciative feedback from male fans – “Guys who were coming up to me saying, ’Buffy’ helped me get through high school, because I felt different, I felt excluded, I felt bullied or whatever, and here was this girl who was sort of an outcast, who was triumphing over all these obstacles.’”
“There’s this population of young men who benefitted from ’Buffy’ in the same way that we always knew young women were benefitting from her,” Espenson realized. “Why not tell a story about one of those guys?”
But we all know that messing with a tradition as sanctified as the Slayer line is a risky business. “When it was first announced, I think a lot of people were concerned,” says Espenson. “Like, are we changing the mythology?”
Though Billy did cause a bit of a buzz when he was introduced, Espenson needn’t have worried about a real backlash. “People really seemed to get it and like it and get that we were saying something important about identity and choice and power in a way that wasn’t offensive, in a way that was really empowering and strong,” she says.
So what about you? Do you welcome Billy into the singular group of young people that can legitimately call themselves Slayers? Or do you think that slayage is an activity reserved for girls (with help from their “ordinary” guy friends)? Let me know in the comments section below.
Previously on The Weekly Whedon:
» ’Firefly: Browncoats Unite’ is a labor of love
» ’Firefly’ special exclusive clip: how Nathan Fillion joined Serenity crew
» Jane Espenson’s ‘Husbands’ gets comical
» Charge up the freeze ray: Here comes Dr. Horrible!
» Maurissa Tancharoen: agent of W.H.E.D.O.N.
MTV News producer Tami Katzoff presents The Weekly Whedon, a column exploring all corners of the Whedonverse from “Marvel’s The Avengers” to “Buffy” and beyond. Assemble your reactions in the comments section!