With San Diego Comic-Con coming to a close, you’d think panels would be dying down… At that’s exactly what we heard on the insanely long line for the Buffy The Vampire Slayer 20th Anniversary celebration, which filled the gigantic Room 6BCF with fans of all the iterations of the Buff-ster. Luckily, we snagged a seat for all the festivities, which included panelists Randall Batinkoff (from the movie), Nicholas Brendon, James Marsters, writer Jane Espenson, Scott Allie from Dark Horse, and comic artist Georges Jeanty, all hosted by Clare Kramer (who you may remember played Glory in Season Five).
Without announcement, the panel kicked off with the end of the first episode of Buffy, then a clip reel featuring the original movie, the TV show, and even the comics, to huge cheers from the packed crowd, all to the tune of Iggy Pop’s “Real Wild Child.” The biggest cheers, by the way, were reserved for Buffy kissing Spike. So there you go, shippers.
Then, Kramer came out and introduced the panel, which she plugged was the first time people from all three versions of Buffy have been in the same place. First up, Brendon talked about he was actually the second choice for Xander. Then it was over to Marsters, who said, “You never know what’s going to happen in life. I remember when I got the call for Buffy, I had told my manager I’d do anything, but I said, ‘Oh, not that.’” His manager encouraged him to watch the show, and then he immediately fell in love.
He also mentioned that with any other TV show, you read the pilot, and you know what’d going to happen every episode… With Buffy, he had no idea what would happen on any given week, and it was terrifying to him by Season Six. “I was just happy to be able to eat,” joked Brendon.
Turning to Batinkoff, he talked about what a humbling experience he had working on the movie with Donald Sutherland and Rutger Hauer, and that Joss Whedon was the nicest guy he ever met.
Then it was on to Allie, who said Dark Horse started publishing Buffy comics without connection to Joss or Mutant Enemy. Then a writer on the show said he was a fan, they started writing for the comics, then Jane Espenson, which brought them to Whedon – who did Fray for the Publisher. After that, Allie said he felt they should “pause” until the show was over. Allie said that the Season 8 was the first time anyone had attempted to continue a TV show with the creator, and that, “Changed the landscape of licensed comics.”
Asked whether the writers would improv the characters, Espenson said that Whedon would do that, but the writers never really channeled “The more extreme a character, the easier they are to write. Anya, Jonathan… When you get closer to the center, they get harder, until Buffy is the most difficult of all.”
Moving on to Jeanty, he said that he was concerned about using likenesses, but, “Joss told me, I want Buffy to look like Buffy, not Sarah Michelle Gellar,” said Jeanty, and that clicked everything in for him.
Then it was open to questions from the audience! Here’s some highlights:
Asked about favorite quotes, Jeanty said he loves the Spike quote, “I may be love’s b**ch, but at least I know it.” Then Spike himself brought the house down by simply saying, “Out. For. A. Walk.”
A fan wanted to know what they thought about being in a comic. Marsters said, “Yeah man, I look awesome! Spike can live on, and they don’t have to recast him.” Marsters noted that he told Whedon on the final episode, when asked whether he’d like to come back to Spike, that he’d go anywhere in the world, and do anything for him, “But if you want me to play Spike, you have seven years.”
Then they talked about the lasting influence of Buffy in culture, with Marsters saying, “Every time there’s a story about a young woman that can take care of her own problems, with out the help from a guy with a gun.” Brendon immediately quipped, “All of the NCISes.”
The next question was about Spike’s changing character, with Marsters saying that every season Whedon would come up to him and say, about three episodes in, that he had no storylines for him. So Spike ended up being whatever they needed, from a villain, to the romantic interest, to even the “replacement Cordelia,” said Marsters. Espenson added that, “We had you do that, because we knew you COULD do that.”
Marsters then said that he felt like the writers were “making love” to the actors through their words. Espenson said an enthusiastic “Oh yes!” to laughs from the crowd, then Marsters clarified that he really did feel like he felt like the writers professed their love to the cast by giving them great words, and the actors matched them with their performances. Then Brendon jumped in, saying, “I literally just f**ked my script,” which caused the whole panel – and room – to lose it completely.
After content restrictions had been reaffirmed, and the room had calmed down, the talk turned to favorite plot points or episodes, which Marsters saying he loved the episode where we got Spike’s back-story, because it was so surprising. For Brendon, it was the Snoopy Dance, which of course got the audience to chide him into doing it… Which he did. They then asked whether the Snoopy Dance was in the comic books. “It is now!” joked Jeanty.
Chatting about how the Buffy family has stayed together, Espenson mentioned that she has Whedon coming up on her web series Husbands, Marsters noted he worked with Espenson on Caprica, and Brendon said he makes balloon animals, and people from Buffy are hiring him all the time.
After that, they held a Buffy quiz, and that was it! Good night, San Diego, it’s been real!