Spoiler Warning: Major plot points from Season 9, issues 1-7 are discussed in this interview. If you are not up to date, do yourself a solid and hit the back arrow key on your browser. You’ve been warned!
If you’ve been following the comic book continuation of the much beloved television show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you know that a lot has happened in Season 9 of the series. Once again, major spoilers for issues 1-7 ahead. Our favorite slayer is finally living a somewhat normal life as a waitress in San Francisco after the defeat of Twilight and the end of magic, the scoobies have disbanded, and vampires have gone public thanks to Harmony Kendall’s smash hit “reality show.” While Buffy has faced monsters, demons, vampires and more than one apocalypse, in the recently released issue, “Slayer, Interrupted,” she faces something that she is enormously unprepared for–pregnancy. After weighing her options, Buffy chooses to get an abortion. On the eve of the release of issue #7, Persephone caught up with Dark Horse editor and Buffy writer, Scott Allie, to chat about what’s been going on in the Buffyverse and how fans have responded to several recent (and extremely startling) revelations.
Persephone Magazine: Obviously there is a major plot point in #7 that we want to discuss, but before we get to that, let’s go back and talk a bit about issue #6, and the events leading up to it. Has there been any backlash against the pregnancy/abortion storyline from the right? From fans in general?
Scott Allie: No more than we’d expect–I’m not put off by the backlash. We knew we’d upset people by even using the word. We knew that some people would think, because of their own feelings on the topic, that Buffy would never seriously consider the option. And we knew that some people would decide that this was the end between them and Buffy, them and Joss. We knew there’d be some sort of consequences. People avoid the subject generally in entertainment because it’s polarizing. But it’s something you need to talk about. The topic of abortion brings out really strong feelings, and it brings out so much venom from the right–even the idea of contraception is getting heated up in ways I didn’t think possible in this century. As our attention spans get shorter, we seem to want simpler, more extremist stances, things that will play great in sound bites, where there’s no room for nuance or respect for the other person. When you have such loud voices on that side of the argument, pushing the “Every Sperm Is Sacred” thing so far as to call a girl a prostitute for suggesting birth control be considered part of health care, it’s useful to remind people that these are viable and legal options, that these are within our rights. Abortion’s been legal for almost forty years. It’s strange that these people that want to push government out of every other part of our lives–certainly out of the business of helping people–want government involved in all these decisions about the most personal and private aspects of our lives. And obviously the experience of going through with an abortion isn’t something most people are going to want to celebrate or proclaim on a bumper sticker, but for some people, it is going to be the best option, and even the most responsible option, in some situations. And Buffy feels that right now it’s the right choice for her.
Buffy becomes pregnant after getting black-out drunk at her own party. Were there ever any misgivings concerning her ability to properly consent to sex?
I know this is something that bothered a lot of readers, and I’m not gonna say we’re right and they’re wrong. For Buffy, inside the story, dealing with the reality of it, from her perspective–she thought she had let herself get black-out drunk at a party in her own house. She remembered drinking, she remembered waking up hung over–not apparently hurt in any other way, when she woke up in her own bed in issue #1, but just extremely hung over. I don’t mean to diminish the reality of statutory rape when a woman’s under the influence, but when Buffy got the positive result on the pregnancy test, she assumed that whoever she’d had unprotected sex with was in a similar state, and that she needed to deal with the problem at hand–figuring out what to do about the pregnancy. We talked about how much energy should go into the search for the guy she had sex with, but we just did not think that that’s what the focus would be for her in the situation.
Why was it important for Joss and the writers to show Buffy visiting Robin Wood in issue #6, before deciding to have an abortion?
Fiction’s all about choice, right? Characters are defined by the choices they make, choices move plots forward. So it was important for us to show Buffy going through the process of making a choice–giving the choice a whole issue. We wanted to show that it’s not an easy choice, that it’s not a choice made lightly–it’s hard to imagine this choice is ever made lightly, but all I know is that it wouldn’t be made lightly by Buffy. And we didn’t want her decision making to be internal, because that doesn’t make for good comics. So when you’re wrestling with a big decision in real life, it’s good to talk to someone who has a useful perspective, one that you’re going to respect, and hopefully learn something from. Robin was the clear choice. Buffy doesn’t have a lot of examples to talk about pregnancy, or motherhood–and certainly no one in the Slayer community. Robin has the most useful perspective on the idea of a Slayer having a baby. Maybe Angel would have been a person to talk to, in light of Connor, but she’s not ready to talk to him yet. And I think she wanted to give someone the chance to talk her into going through with the pregnancy. That’s the most mature thing to do with such a huge decision–if you’re leaning one way, hear the other side out, see if you can be swayed. What she heard from Robin only made her more certain she wasn’t ready to go ahead with the pregnancy, even if Nikki Wood had been.
To expand a bit on the recent attacks on women’s reproductive rights and how that ties in with what Buffy is going through–it’s very encouraging that the comics show Buffy dealing with this choice, as you point out, in a clear-headed manner, especially when certain politicians imply that women are not capable of making that choice for themselves. Whether or not intended, Buffy has become something of a feminist icon. Would you say that the writers had these political issues in mind when writing the story, or does the story come first?
Well, Buffy became a sort of feminist icon because Joss had the radical notion to present strong female characters, not for political reasons, but because it’s truthful. It reflected his experience. And because of the world we live in, that’s considered a political statement, with so much of popular entertainment putting forth a different version of womanhood. The artist has something to say, and maybe that’s political, maybe it’s not. The world frames the argument for him. Abortion is a political issue because people politicize it. It’s actually a really personal issue. So the story is personal, and the story comes first, and the story can’t help but exist within a political context. Also, because Joss feels, as I feel, and Sierra and I think Andrew feel, that this reality deserves to be expressed in stories. A young woman makes a choice about her life and her body.
Although she does seek the advice of Robin, Buffy ultimately turns to Spike. Why do you think that is?
Well, Robin offered the most useful perspective for her, spoke with an experience no one else close to her could offer. But Spike was going to offer the most unflinching support. If things were solid with Willow, if Willow hadn’t left right before this came out, she might have gone to Willow. But Robin had made his opinion clear, and given her what she wanted, his perspective. Spike was in the forefront of her thinking for a number of reasons, but ultimately she needed a friend.
In #7, Spike more or less states that he’s in love with Buffy and believes that he could give her a normal, happy life. We don’t want to start a “shipper war,” but do you think we’ll ever see these two get together? And could they ever be normal? Is normal even what Buffy really wants anymore?
You clearly want to start a shipper war. Rather, you’re describing the shipper war. These are really good questions, best answered by the story “¦ or never.
OK, OK. So, changing the subject–after learning Buffy is pregnant, Spike tries to keep her from slaying when Detective Dowling is attacked by zompires. Do you think this is a bit condescending?
Well, I can see what you’re saying, but I think it’s natural–until the moment that she’s no longer pregnant, it makes sense to want her to take it easy. Every pregnancy is different, each one affects the woman differently–this is not a small thing. Earlier in the issue Spike gives her a chance to change her mind. One can imagine a certain self-interest for Spike in the idea of her going through with the pregnancy, should Buffy change her mind. Maybe she’ll go through with the idea of running away with him. This pregnancy showed a glimmer of her seeing him as more than just her dark place. If she starts fighting vampires, it might get harder for her to change her mind. So I think Spike simply thought it made sense to not complicate matters further by throwing her in to the thick of it.
It just seems a little over-the-top perhaps, especially when one considers that Nikki Wood was pregnant with a baby while slaying, and also during her Cruciamentum. At any rate, Buffy didn’t seem too happy with this decision being made on her part.
Um, Spike probably doesn’t want to think about Nikki Wood.
Very true. All right, so let’s finally get to the real question that is on everyone’s minds right about now”¦Buffy is a robot!!!???
Well, yeah, it looks that way.
Is this what the First Slayer/Underground Pixie meant in “Slayer, Interrupted,” when she said Buffy wasn’t the slayer?
She’s a robot!!!
Was there any symbolic meaning to cutting off Buffy’s (if in fact, it is Buffy) right arm? You know that people are going to yell “metaphorical castration!” People love yelling “metaphorical castration.”
Buffy’s body is the landscape of the story in this arc. Her body and her mind. So yeah, there is symbolic significant in the dismemberment, but not college-class symbolism, not, “The arm represents the child that might have something something.”
Considering that the image of Buffy’s arm being cut off was also spoiled in the teaser release of the cover art, has there already been a reaction?
Yeah, but the reaction’s great. I mean, it’s not all positive, but that part didn’t lead to people threatening to stop reading. I don’t think, anyway. We spoiled the arm thing in a fairly calculated move, I think it’s safe to say. And we cheated it a little bit, so as not to totally spoil the story point. But that cover took a long time to get right–we went back and forth about how best to portray the mechanical arm getting hacked off, and then we came up with the idea that it should be the bloody version people see in advance.
So, if Buffy is a robot, does this mean that she is definitely not pregnant?
We’ll want to wait till issue #8 is out to really get into that.
The name of this arc is “On Your Own,” but as Robin points out, Buffy isn’t alone. Although Willow has left for the time being, Dawn makes it clear that she and Xander will support Buffy, and even Buffy’s roommates want her to stay. Is there a deeper meaning to the arc title?
In one of my favorite bits from Season 8, Xander said something like, I think fearless leader needs some alone time. To which Buffy replies, Is there any other kind? Good stuff, Joss. I imagine even if Willow, Xander, and Giles were right there by her side, she’d be feeling a little alone through this. And, of course, they aren’t.
Stay tuned to Persephone Magazine for another Q&A with Scott Allie in April, on the release of Issue #8 of Buffy Season Nine!