Analysis of Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10, Volume 18 picks up after a new villain, Archaeus, has presented himself while Buffy and her friends are resolving their various relationship struggles. In order to beat Archaeus, vampire and ex-boyfriend of Buffy, Angel, is called in as a reinforcement, just as Buffy has committed herself romantically to Angel’s longtime friend and rival, Spike. The plan to banish Archaeus and the mysterious artifact he is tied to seems to work, but not without putting some unique pressures on the gang. Through the comic’s use of color, panel construction, and character style, it becomes apparent that Buffy is not the typical superhero comic book.
Traditionally in superhero comics, heroes are seen most often in primary colors (reds, blues, and yellows) whereas villains are seen in secondary colors (oranges, purples, and greens). In this volume of Buffy, Buffy Summers, the main protagonist of the series is drawn throughout the volume in a green t-shirt, when the Big Bad that she and her gang are fighting is predominantly red. Her two best friends, Willow Rosenberg and Xander Harris, both are seen in orange hues. Willow’s magic is drawn in a lime green shade famously associated with evil — everything from Superman’s kryptonite to the Avada Kedavera curse in the Harry Potter series present the shade in an evil light. This inversed color scheme could represent that despite being the protagonists of the series, the members of the Scooby Gang do not necessarily enjoy feeling like they always need to be there to save the day. Throughout the series, the characters struggle with resentment about not being able to lead their own lives without the supernatural interfering. Willow’s magic may be portrayed as evil because of her relationship to it. Famously in season six of the television series, Willow suffered from an addiction to her new powers and ultimately, when feeling she was being held back by her friends, turned to the dark side. Though she was ultimately saved and eventually felt safe enough to return to practicing magic, her intentions may not ultimately be pure.
Color is not the only element that affects how the comic is read. The structure of the panels also has a part in how the story is told. In the first half of the comic, the story is very action-oriented. To contain the movement, wide panels are used to convey the feeling of swooping actions. The changes between panels are not incremental or moment-to-moment, but are action-to-action or scene-to-scene transitions, as are most common in western comics. Near the end of the comic, the panels become smaller when the setting has shifted to the Summers’ residence. There are more moment-to-moment transitions and the pace slows down compared to the beginning of the comic. There is a panel near the end of the book that bleeds into the center line in which Buffy and Angel share a goodbye hug. The lack of boundaries on the panel conveys the idea that the hug had lasted a while before the next panel cuts it off. Despite the fact that nothing is said in this panel, the eye is drawn to the section of the page for a prolonged period of time. This bleeding draws from a technique more commonly seen in non-western comics which emphasize the importance of tranquil moments.
Yet another style choice that differs from those of traditional comics is that of the style of the characters themselves. Generally, comics simplify the designs of characters so that their features become iconic and the character becomes just vague enough that any person can identify with the protagonists and see themselves in the character. This is not the case in the Buffy comics. It is clear in the designs of the characters that their features are based on their live action counterparts. This is especially the case regarding the front cover of the comic, portraying a very painterly view of Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Buffy and David Boreanaz’s Angel. Throughout the comic it is apparent that Gellar’s facial structure influenced the artwork, especially when examining the eyes. Boreanaz’s pronounced forehead and jawline are also easy to identify as a specific person rather than a simplified character. The Giles character does, however, have some of these simplified aspects that the rest of the artwork avoids. I imagine that this is because he is a different Giles than that which was featured on the show, which gives the reader the ability to project their own characterizations onto the new character.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is not the traditional superhero comic series. The artist makes very distinct choices regarding how the comic is drawn that in many cases go against the norm of superheros. Through the artist’s use of color, page structure, and character design, Buffy separates itself from the typical superhero feel but still presents a deep, interesting, and action-oriented story. By being visually different from the usual hero comic, it gives the writer the opportunity to branch out from the general hero’s tale and bring new side to the genre.