Here’s how you start a quickie, unfounded Nerd Rage in a comic / genre geek when he reads just the headline of a story before he’s had coffee like a civilized person, or at least like a person who needs coffee to keep from dying: you have him spend fifteen or so years knowing the following quote by heart:
Into every generation a slayer is born: one girl in all the world, a chosen one. She alone will wield the strength and skill to fight the vampires, demons, and the forces of darkness; to stop the spread of their evil and the swell of their number. She is the Slayer.
…and then you show him this headline, completely without context:
EXCLUSIVE: Buffyverse Gets It First Gay Male Slayer
Dark Horse Comics announces the introduction of Billy in Buffy Season 9 #14
First, you feel the Continuity Hate: “But… but… the slayers have to be female! That’s been how it is not just since the series, but since Donald Sutherland was teaching Kristy Swanson how to shank Pee Wee Herman twenty fucking years ago!” Then, you feel the Pandering Seeth: “Wait a second… are you telling me that somebody expects us to believe that the forces of magic can’t tell the difference between a girl, and a gay guy? Are you honestly expecting me to believe that I’ve been buying into stories about female empowerment and overcoming gender expectations for twenty years, only to find out that all that matters is what you choose to put in your mouth in the privacy of your own home? Are you telling me that gay men might as well just be women? Does this means that we can expect Willow to get the nod as the starting center for the Oakland Raiders? You condescending bastards!”
And then you actually, you know, drink your coffee and read the fucking story and discover that the whole thing actually makes a lot of sense, given the circumstances and the long-term themes of the Buffyverse.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer writer Jane Espenson explains Billy, the new character, thusly:
Batman doesn’t have super powers. He wasn’t gifted with an exotic foreign birth. So we take the Batman route; Billy is earning the Slayer mantle…
I thought, Gee, all the work we’ve done with Buffy is about being female, and how that doesn’t mean that you are lesser. It suddenly struck me: If being feminine doesn’t mean that your’e [sic] lesser, then liking guys also doesn’t mean you’re lesser. For very good reason, we’ve focused on the female empowerment part of Buffy, but I wondered, Did we leave something out? What if someone in high school is looking up to Buffy as a role model, and we’re saying: You can’t be a Slayer.
Buffy co-writer Drew Greenberg elaborates:
Jane and I certainly talked a lot about the metaphor of feeling powerless in a place overrun with people who, if you let them, could end up sucking the life out of you, and what it means to be someone who stands up and says, “I want to make a difference in my life. And if I can make a difference in my life, maybe I’ll be making a difference in others’ lives, too.”
Okay, now that makes sense to me. If there was an overarching theme to Buffy, particularly in the first three seasons, it was as simple as: High School Is Hell. And sure, over time that has turned into College Is Hell and Young Adulthood Is Hell, but those first three television seasons are nearest and dearest to many of our hearts, and introducing a high school aged character who is enduring, in his “secret identity,” daily difficulties likely far more troubling than those of a geek, or a nerd bookworm, or a former cheerleader with a crappy reputation is potentially a perfect fit for the kinds of stories we’ve come to expect from the Buffyverse.
But guys: you wanna watch how you publicize this storyline. I don’t think most of us comics fans give much of a damn if you introduce a gay character, so long as the character and the story is good – if we did, we’d have tuned out of Buffy somewhere around 1999. But if you hype it in a way that makes it seem like you’re fucking with continuity? To comic fans? You face shock and damage.
Check the original article in Out for more exclusive art from the issue. Buffy The Vampire Slayer #14 will be in comic stores on October 10th.