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March 12 2010

(SPOILER) Over-Seasoning Buffy. Does the television concept of a season really work for the comic?

I think it's as good a concept as any. It's good to remember that it's in the format of a season when people get ruffled about, for example, Buffy having superpowers. That sort of stuff happened all the time on the show, but it only ever lasted an episode. (Buffy being ssychic, Warren having superpowers, Spike being invincible, etc). So if you think of each arc as an "episode", it makes sense.
Sad to think though that we're only getting 17 episodes this season (unless you count the Predators and Prey arc as an episode and providing the Joss Whedon finale is all one arc).

;)
I think the idea of a comic book TV season should be 12 issues, period. It may sound more like a mini-series, but that number just fits, just as the idea of a season in cable is 13 episodes rather than 22.
I've liked that I've been able to have new Buffy every month for years. Beats those years when there was no Buffy at all.
It's silly that the article seems to be advocating a lack of resolution to stories.
But it did not. It was decrying the fact that there seems to be no end in sight.
I think season 8 would have been better if it were a more focused effort. With all the craziness it's thrown at us, it's seemed all over the map and the wait for a final resolution to the main story arc has felt interminable. It's been literally years, and meantime the comic has meandered around giving us farcical diversions like Mecha Dawn, with just about every single supporting character from seven seasons of the show making appearances. Consider: we've seen Ethan Rayne, Warren, Amy, Riley, Tara, Angel, Faith, Oz, Andrew, all the Slayers from season seven, Fray, Dracula, etc. and I know I'm missing some names. It's just too much, too scattershot, and bears precious little resemblance in structure or style to a season of the TV show. And yes, this is a comic, not a TV show--but the people buying the comic experienced Buffy as a TV show. Season 8 probably would have done better as a tight 24 issue series focusing on the main characters, two years and out.
interminable

I could eat that word.

Sorry to say that Season 8 really has gone on much too long, and it is barely holding my interest. It would take a tremendous conclusion, and expectation of better focus next time, to close the sale on getting me to season 9.
Comic books are a different format, and when you add context to that format (monthly release, story arcs instead of episodes, etc.) the changes make some people uncomfortable. Coming to television and Buffy in particular from hardly watching TV and only reading comics up until about 16, it makes sense to me. The suspense kills me month to month, but that means these guys are doing a good job. I love how much I get to think about and discuss each issue or "act break" as it were, for a whole month. I would also have to say the increased amount of time for plotting and scriptwriting does some interesting things that the TV series didn't necessarily get to. And this does proclaim there is no end in sight, which there clearly is as we just hit the beginning of the climax of the season's largest mystery, who's the big bad. This has pretty much been the same climax focal point of the TV season: The Mayor is really going to be a giant snake, Glory is really a god, Willow is the real big bad. The alternative being what do they really want (which will be answered in the rest of this arc:) Angel wanted to end the world, etc.
I actually really enjoy how everyone in the Buffyverse is all showing up in season 8...I've always wanted that in the TV series, which is hard to do when different actors commit at different times, and it's difficult to crunch so many characters into 22 episodes. The Buffyverse is rich with characters and when the move to comics was first announced, I was hoping that we would see many familiar faces. Comic books are the way to do that, especially when we get things like one-shots.
The Buffy comics don't come out often enough for me, but neither did the Buffy television episodes. The overall season arc does have a shape--it will climax this year--and within it story arcs resolve in 5 issues or 4 or 1.

[ edited by Pointy on 2010-03-12 05:00 ]
The season 8 comics are turning into a more extreme version of the show, there's no budget and no actors schedules to keep so they can throw everything in that they want which I find fun. As for the idea that there's no end in sight... it's Joss, the man knows how to tie up loose ends in the final minutes and since he's helming the comics I have total faith that they'll have a great season ender.

As for those who say there should be 24 issues and out, the only problem is some of the stories need more issues to tell right. It's not like TV, TV what we read as 4 issues could easily fit a 40 minute episode. Some stories fit in one issue easily (The Animated Buffy Series issue comes to mind) and others just wouldn't be the same if they didn't make it last 4 issues (Wolves at the Gate would be the best example of that one). To me this feels like what season 8 would've probably been like on TV, jsut a little more extreme because there's so much more that can be done... plus again it's Joss so I trust implicitly that it'll end well
I think that "Season 8" really only signifies the continuity between the comic as part of the canon and the television series. Many of the old Buffy comics were not part of the canon as such, although a number of ideas from the comics did seem to get some reference later. Does that mean they were canonized? But I digress... anyway, it's note IMHO necessary to continue to think in terms of seasons with the comics now. Unless Joss wants to. Which, you know, he can do.
I only buy the Volumes when they are released & I think they flow together rather well. Course I always start at the beginning again when I get a new one.
Funny how the whole article is negated by such a statement: "Uh, dude, it ends at #40, and the climax is Joss's arc, which closes out the season."
I'm actually with buffywrestling on this one. Since I wait for the bound copies (and just look at someone elses actual comic) it actually works really well.

The concept is (like a 22 episode TV season) you have a finite number of comic issues to tell a specific overall arc. I'm not sure what's tricky about the concept. The fact that they took a while in determining the number of issues they were going to do was probably my biggest gripe. But calling a logical story a season if it spans 40 books isn't really what I'd call a stretch.
Well said patxshand *snort*

We've known for months now (possibly years?) that S8 was going to end at #40. There was some talk from Allie that it may have to go one extra but it was still always around that 40 issue mark. It was only very early on in the series that Joss intended for it to be much shorter but decided that he needed more time. So we’ve had an 'end in sight' for a very long time.

I have to say I disagree totally with this article that all of the arcs and standalones and have simply been about exploring different parts of the Buffyverse. I think the writer needs to go back and re-read the past issues because it's nearly all been a total set up to the climax. There’s loads of foreshadowing to Angel being Twilight, to Buffy gaining her powers, to Fray's world ect. There’s even foreshadowing to Riley’s return way back in #10. Allie said that Joss had created a 'Twilight Manifesto' at the beginning, detailing significant plot points throughout the season, and it shows. I've been very impressed with how the arcs all shape up on a re-read and how the planning is evident when reflecting back on the series.

There have been a couple of moments where the story has diverged but that was true of the TV seasons as well, not every episode related to the main plot whatsoever. In fact, one of the problems with S8 may actually be that it stuck too closely to the TV formula. When re-reading the TPB’s it moves at a great pace and works really well but because each issue comes out only once a month, and an issue is more like an act of a TV episode, it can feel like we’re moving at snail pace.

I think this article has got it all wrong. I just can’t stress enough about the benefits of re-reading this series and seeing how it actually is one of the tightest seasons of BtVS in terms of planning and structure. It may feel a little lost when you’re three years in and up to #33 but when you look back on it, it was planned out really well IMO. The only time it falters was in the Predators and Prey arc as that was a poor use of their time and wasn’t cohesive enough. And unfortunately the agonising wait between issues every month hampers the series, but that's unavoidable so I'm glad they're doing what they can for S9 and shortening the length. That's the only thing you really can do as it's a fault of the medium.

[ edited by vampmogs on 2010-03-12 05:25 ]
The article lost me when it started out by complaining about Season 7, although that's a completely different discussion...

Yeah. #40 is the end, we've known that pretty much forever. And treat the four-part arcs as episodes, I figured that out round about #2 or 3.
I'm not worried about them sticking to or not sticking to a "season" type writing situation. As long as it comes out and it is good then I am satisfied. (I think people just like to over analyze). It's going off of the last season of the show which is the exact reason for the title of "season 8". It is not a test to see if they can write and develop a comic like a TV show, prime time or not, just to not do it that way so people can point out how they aren't following up to the title. Just read the comic and like it, sheesh.
Lost me when complaining about season 7 too ManEnough.
I liked how they mentioned that if Season Eight was on TV it'd be the most awesome season ever. I think that's a fair call - the return of all the big bads in "Lessons" was great enough, imagine an actual TV season with this level of guest stars.
I think that was actually season 7's weakest point. Not the returning characters, but actually the LACK of them. The season would've benefited IMMENSELY from being in comic form where they would have been free to have The First take on any dead person's form (Kendra, Tara, ANGEL!, Jenny, etc), without having to think "Crap, can we get that actor?". It always bugged me how little that was utilized (and why didn't the First .....nevermind, other topic)
I third ManEnough's comment too. Jump the shark? I think not.

Otherwise, aside from having to wait so long in between issues, I have thoroughly enjoyed the comics. I've never really thought of it as a season though I guess it is (one ongoing, overarching, well, arc with little mini arcs contained within it).
Recently having re-read the season 8 issues I have up to now, i found the whole thing very coherent, more coherent when in the beginning it was so hard for me to await the next issue.

I hope for a satisfying resolution. I'd hate to see Buffy and certain other characters being destroyed by going completely insane or evil or disconnected or something like that.

I'm curious if we will here again about the Guardians, Beloxa's eye, the primeval shamans, the key, more of the consequences of murder for Willow, Giles ... The pergamon codex has been mentioned; I'd forgotten about that, that would be pretty cool.
It seems like the important point has been made, that we all know it ends at #40, and the idea that "there's no end in sight" is crazy, since the revelation about the big bad this season is, essentially, the beginning of the end.

If there's a point to be made, I think it's in the length. The comics come out only once a month, which means that the time-span for the one season has been very, very long. Personally, I would be happier if they came out once a week, but there's this thing called "reality" that would probably prevent that from happening...

So yeah, the idea of a "season" is a bit of a stretch for comics. I rather prefer the British convention of "series" for TV, rather than season. So this is Buffy, series 8. Either way, it's basically the eighth big story arc for Buffy.

It's worth noting that Joss has already admitted that 40 issues may be too many, and that it did become unweildy. Season nine will likely be tighter, with fewer overall arcs. And that's probably a good thing.
And unfortunately the agonising wait between issues every month hampers the series, but that's unavoidable so I'm glad they're doing what they can for S9 and shortening the length. That's the only thing you really can do as it's a fault of the medium.


Techincally speaking, it's not a fault of the medium. There is nothing about the comics medium that dictates the issues must come out monthly, and in fact there have been weekly comics before, and even recently. DC did it with thir Superman titles, Marvel did it (and I think is still doing it) with their Spider-Man titles. With the right planning Buffy could have been a weekly comic. It already has different writers handling different arcs; all it would have needed to go weekly was more than one artist. Instead of Jeanty being the main artist for the whole series they would have needed a rotating group of three or four, which I would have preferred actually. And i think the reason why some people feel like there's no end in sight is that this one story has been going on for three years. That's a long time to be chewing over the same mystery.
With the right planning Buffy could have been a weekly comic. It already has different writers handling different arcs; all it would have needed to go weekly was more than one artist.


That's assuming of course that the writer's schedules could accomodate this. And whether Dark Horse has the money and resources to bring out a weekly title. Which I don't think they do.
And i think the reason why some people feel like there's no end in sight is that this one story has been going on for three years. That's a long time to be chewing over the same mystery.


It is a long time but I think it’s quite easy to pace yourself for the story. For example, if you know it's going to be 40 issues long don't expect all the answers in #11. I’ve actually seen reviews for as early as issue #4 where the person criticised the writers for not giving them all the answers.

[ edited by vampmogs on 2010-03-12 16:16 ]
For me, the real difficulty of comic vs television format is that each "episode" instead of lasting an hour, takes three minutes to read. In addition to only getting one a month it makes the process very unsatisfying. It's hard to really get emotionally involved in anything three minutes once a month or so.

Trunkstheslayer you make a very, very good point. Just think how much more of an impact the First would have had if it had manifested as Joyce, Angel, Tara, Jenny, Drusilla. I mean for Buffy it was mostly Buffy. How scary is that? I know the First was Spike to Spike but was it ever even Spike to Buffy? Appearing as Angel would have been great for both Buffy and Spike, so many places you could have gone with that. Thinking about it now, they really wasted DB in the time they had him.
It is a long time but I think it’s quite easy to pace yourself for the story. For example, if you know it's going to be 40 issues long don't expect all the answers in #11.


It's a story that is read in five minute chunks, once a month, and it has lasted for three years and counting. It's not necessarily about expecting all the answers, it's about a general lack of satisfaction with the snail's pace of this format. It's like sitting down to a meal, but then being told you can only eat a forkful every hour: the food might be good but the meal will still be frustrating and ultimately unsatisfying. Knowing that a 40 issue "season" would take three and a half years (at least--but will it pass four years with the occasional delays?) to finally unfold, I think Joss underestimated the impact of that time frame on the flow of the narrative.
This is exactly why I said it’s a problem with the medium and that it’s great they’re addressing it for S9. Making the season shorter is the only option that they really have.

The story flows perfectly in a re-read or in the TPB’s so it’s a story more suited to a TV show than a comic book. Which is exactly why this article has got it backwards when it implies it doesn’t work like a season. It does, that’s the problem.

[ edited by vampmogs on 2010-03-12 16:42 ]
To be fair to the format, it doesn't necessarily have to move at a snail's pace, although those used to getting Buffy in hour segments may feel like that's the case. I know people who won't watch series on TV because an hour at a time is a snail's pace. As far as no end in sight, I have to say that the end appears very much in sight at this point.
Making the story shorter and less rambling is something I applaud, but there are other options too, having more to do with format: they could increase the page count of the individual issues, or even go to standalone graphic novels. They could publish weekly or bi-weekly. They could employ artists who excel at creating denser pages with more panels per page. (Considering the lack of detail Jeanty often gives us I think more panels per page would acually look better with his style.) From a strict story-telling perspective, I think it best to avoid an "overarching mystery" format for season nine, as having to wait more than three years for answers is frustrating for the reader.
Lack of detail from Georges? He's no Geof Darrow, but I think you've confused him with Rob Liefeld ;). That said, while the standalone GN idea has merit, the option is there now for folks to just wait for the TPBs and read those. On another note, I do have to say that calling it Season 8 was doomed to lead a lot of folks to unrealistic expectations about it.
Lack of detail from Georges? He's no Geof Darrow, but I think you've confused him with Rob Liefeld ;).


Nope, not confusing him with Liefeld: Jeanty does actually have a basic understanding of anatomy. But I have often been disappointed with panels that simply don't seem to contain enough detail for my taste in both the backgrounds and especially in the characters' faces, especially when seen in long shots; at times his character work looks more like a comic strip than a comic book. Personally, I would have loved to see John Byrne take on Buffy season 8. He can draw anything and he can also meet a deadline, but at the same time his work has an open and uncluttered feel and his character faces are at once detailed and joyfully comic-booky. Too often Jeanty doesn't even seem to bother trying to differentiate one character from another in background shots, and, just as a matter of personal taste, his faces tend to have a juvenile look; Buffy and Willow too often look about 13 to me.

On another note, I do have to say that calling it Season 8 was doomed to lead a lot of folks to unrealistic expectations about it.


Yeah, it might have worked better if Joss had just deemed it an ongoing, in-canon Buffy series and structured it accordingly.
I'm curious to know what the correlation is between people disliking Buffy-as-a-comic, and first-time comic readers (ie. only started reading comics for Buffy).

I've been reading comics most of my life (at least 17 years) and have no problem with how the story has translated to a comic medium; but I do know there's posters here that have been reading for as long as I have (or longer) and are disliking the transition.
I agree that season eight has been stretched over too long a time period. Three and a half to four years is an incredibly long time, in any format, to tell what is just one chapter of a larger story. I'm not wishing for less Buffy though - instead I'd have preferred two seasons of twenty episodes each.
Me, I gave up getting the comics some time back, so while I'm missing out on the story at present, I'll be able to read them TPB-sized chunks and speed things up.

It's a long, slow-moving story in conflict with the instant-gratification instinct that causes us problems. Which is true in any serial format.
I've been reading comics most of my life (at least 17 years) and have no problem with how the story has translated to a comic medium; but I do know there's posters here that have been reading for as long as I have (or longer) and are disliking the transition.


I'm 42 and have been reading comics off and on since I was five with the occasional long break. I consider myself something of an expert on the industry just from having read so damned many comics over the years. These days I mostly stick to independent, non-Marvel and DC stuff, and I tend to follow certain writers. (Ennis is great, Brubaker is great, Vaughn is great, and the Goon is probably the most consistently entertaining thing on the stands.)

Having said all that, I don't really care for Buffy Season 8 and I think embracing the medium and giving us one ridiculous spectacle after another was a mistake. Yes, Buffy was a talky TV show and most episodes wouldn't translate well to a comic book format but that doesn't mean we should get Giant Dawn and Flying Buffy and massive special effects shots and constant comic book in-jokes. I actually like the fact that actor availability and budget concerns constantly affected what the TV show could do because giving the writers limitations made the writers focus. We got quiet, intense character studies instead of giant robots because there wasn't enough money in the bugdet for giant robots. In the comic they can literally go anywhere, do anything and cast anyone, and the result, for me, has been ill-conceived, not at all of a piece with the TV show, and consistently disappointing. It just hasn't actually ever felt like Buffy at all. What does this girl who robs Fort Knox and jumps out of planes and commands five-hundred people living in a castle have to do with Buffy Summers? Precious little, it seems to me.
The Liefeld thing was an exaggeration for jokey purposes :) (and because I just re-read the 40 worst of Liefeld). I do have to agree with you regarding detail on faces on long-shots and that there is a more strip-oriented, cartoonist sort of quality to it. I do find it interesting to ponder the lack of budget/lack of focus idea, though. I'm a bit surprised to have to say that I do feel some level of agreement on the amount of spectacle versus quiet character moments. There might be something to the idea that the proportion is skewed due to some attempt to compensate for an idea of what the medium is or "should-be". I like my talky and thoughtful books more than any others, so a show like Buffy would translate better than perhaps it gets a chance to. The spectacle has the potential to distance us emotionally from the characters.
Liefeld--aaarrgghhh. That Captain America pin-up he did still sears my retinas to this day (I'm assuming it must be close to the top of Liefeld's 40 worst.)

On other thing about season 8 that is indeed the fault of the format--we don't get to have the actors, and so automatically it feels false to me to a degree. Buffy isn't a series of drawings, she's Sarah Michelle Gellar in my mind and she always will be. I miss her, and all the rest of the actors; I miss the choices they made, I miss hearing their voices. There's just so much acting the drawings can do for us, so I always feel separated from the stories to a degree.
I've been reading this thread in order to determine whether I want to start reading Season 8. I am not a comic reader. I only read two in my life - the first Firefly one (didn't like it at all), and Watchmen (loved it, but heard that it was not your regular comic book). This Buffy comic sounds like a curious read, but there is no way I am willing to pay money for it. Maybe if I can get a compiled version from the library, I'd consider it, but Giant Dawn and Flying Buffy sounds way too preposterous to associate with my beloved show.

The spectacle has the potential to distance us emotionally from the characters.


This is exactly what happened for me with Serenity vs Firefly. If I already didn't feel connected to those characters, there is no way I would be able to emotionally connect with them just from what the movie gave me. It's not a comment on quality of the movie but a personal preference. I'll take two characters talking over stuff blowing up any day, and that's why I prefer books and serialized TV to either comics or movies.
Alpert, if you loved Watchmen (and who doesn't?) I recommend picking up Tom Strong and Promethea, both also by Moore. Each lasted around 35-40 issues with a number of story-arcs all dovetailing together into a complete whole. Also, League of Extraodinary Gentlemen books 1 and 2 by Moore are great Victorian fun.
Alpert, you might be interested in reading Astonishing X-Men.
This is difficult for me to say but I do feel the comics have become unfocused. The limitations of the TV series actually inspired more excitement and creativity. The story was more interesting and this overblown super hero powers thing seems just like some teenager's fantasy. Let's make Dawn gigantic just because we don't have to worry about budget, let's give Buffy Supermanish powers just because we can. Joss' fans aren't mostly kids, they are adults who always appreciated the metaphor of the show and the angst. While I so appreciated the continuation of the Buffy universe when the comics first showed up I'm finding my interest waning. It's not something I thought would happen...ever.
I think most of us agree about the lack of focus in the series. It seems that it could have been done just as well in half the issues. Of course, that means leaving out some great scenes.

There's not real solution to this problem that won't anger some of the fans. A shorter series, released more frequently (say a 20 issue series over the course of six to nine months) would probably be ideal for most of us. It's long enough to get a big story, and frequent enough to get us all the way through. The problem becomes lead time and commitment. Almost all the work would have to be done before the first issue ships, and that means a huge risk for DH, given that no one knows how the sales will be until the series is moving. Buffy's sales have been dropping pretty linearly since the beginning, though, and I suspect that might not have been the case if so many of us hadn't gotten a little bored or impatient with it.
I buy the books when they come out. Have to say I don't really get them. Lots of disjoint stuff happening. Maybe they play with comic forms the same way the telly series played with tv tropes and I'm not meant to understand it.
Buffy's sales have been dropping pretty linearly since the beginning, though, and I suspect that might not have been the case if so many of us hadn't gotten a little bored or impatient with it.

It's hard to know with comic sales because big first issues followed by steady drops are the norm. However, I'm going to assume that almost all the audience for this book were hardcore fans of the series--maybe the first issue's sales had a fair number of casually curious people but by a few issues in you would think the sales numbers represent real fans of the TV series--which further leads me to assume that if the story had kept their interest then those fans of the TV series would have kept buying it. Casual fans come and go but for someone who loved the TV show I can't really see dropping the comics if they remained appealing. So, yeah--I think the comic has driven a good number of people away over time. Personally, I quit at the end of the Faith arc when Buffy went back into season seven selfish bitch mode; now I just flip through the issues in the stores.
Thanks for recommendations, Hellmouthguy and Simon. Though because of those I spent the last hour browsing Amazon.com and on-line library catalogs instead working or, more importantly, eating lunch.
Having said all that, I don't really care for Buffy Season 8 and I think embracing the medium and giving us one ridiculous spectacle after another was a mistake. Yes, Buffy was a talky TV show and most episodes wouldn't translate well to a comic book format.

Despite the backlash he often, unfairly, receives, Bendis excells at talky character based comics. I would have loved to see him co-write an arc with Vaughan or Whedon or someone, just so his own tics weren't overpowering.
Hellmouthguy, I have to ask: I've read a lot of your posts and you seem to have a lot of complaints about the characters and really several other things. So, why do you keep flipping through? If everything constantly irritates you or at least does not meet your expectations, why not just say "to hell with it," and let it be?
Whew.......
zeitgeist, thank you for that link, i laughed and laughed and laughed.
the rise of that style exactly coincided with my waning interest in comics.
i still can't really read those drawings as a full page, i just get lost in all the lines.

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