Coinciding with the end of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8," Dark Horse recently released a deluxe 300-page hardcover collection of stories from around the Slayerverse. "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Tales" includes pre-Season 8 "Tales of the Slayers" and "Tales of the Vampires" stories written by Joss Whedon, Jane Espenson, Amber Benson, Drew Goddard and others, with art by Leinil Yu, Tim Sale, Ted Naifeh, P. Craig Russell, Gene Colan, Karl Moline and more. In addition to these, it also features "Tales" from Season 8 by Becky Cloonan with Vasilis Lolos and Jackie Kessler with Paul Lee. CBR News caught up briefly with Espenson and Kessler to get their thoughts on the oversized tome.
Kessler's story, "Carpe Noctem," originally ran in two eight-page installments on "MySpace Dark Horse Presents" and appears in print for the first time in "Buffy: Tales." It was also recently collected in the sixth and final volume of "MDHP." Asked how fans of her novels received her "Buffy" story, which featured two female vampires out on the town in a world that no longer hates and fears them, Kessler said, "So far, no one has told me that it was horrific and now they need therapy. So that's good. Actually, most of the response was, 'Wow, you're writing something in the Buffyverse -- that is so cool!'" As for seeing her story for the first time on the printed page (and in such a deluxe edition), Kessler was more than a little amused. "I giggled like a little girl when I read the introduction and saw my name," she said. "I had such a good time doing the comic book, and seeing it as part of this amazing package of slayer and vampire tales was just astounding. (And I couldn't believe how bigthe hardcover was!)" Asked whether she might like to return to her character Ash or perhaps explore a new vampire tale, Kessler said, "To quote 'Trading Places,' 'Can't we have both?'"
Jane Espenson, a veteran writer and producer of the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" television series as well as "Battlestar Galactica," "Firefly," "Dollhouse," "Angel" and many other shows, was responsible for a significant portion of the material in "Tales." Her Harmony Kendall stories, which feature the flighty vampire as a television personality, are not included in this edition, though they are very much of a piece with some of her pre-Season 8 comics. Asked what appeals to her about venturing out amongst the vampires of the Slayerverse, Espenson told CBR, "I love world-building and I love moving the POV. Taking a story with a secondary character as the focus -- as in the Harmony story -- or taking a story set in the same world but in a different time or place, like my 'Dust Bowl' story. All of these require a believable universe.
"And they create a believable universe, too. They keep the 'verse from feeling insular and from folding in on itself, and they help the readers/viewers see the Buffy characters as existing in a real world."
Another benefit offered by the "Tales of the Slayers" and "Tales of the Vampires" stories is the freedom they allow, the writer added. "I love that these stories have so few parameters -- you can change styles and break narrative forms," Espenson said. "One of my favorite pieces for 'Tales' is the one called 'Spot the Vampire,' an illustrated, humorous poem with a sort of twisty joke at the end. Not at all something you could ever get the chance to write for television. You can also explore the textures that different artists bring to the work, and you can play around with things that would simply be impossible to do, production-wise, on a show."
Revisiting her material for the collection's release entailed a few surprises, Espenson told CBR. "I'd remembered 'Spot the Vampire' as a tiny two-page spread, but there's more to it than that. And I'd forgotten all about the story called 'Father,' which I'm very very fond of. And of course, just looking at the work of my colleagues at the time -- Doug Petrie, Rebecca Kirshner, etc. -- I started remembering all the fun we had discussing what we wanted to do and finding artists for ourselves. We realized at the time that this was something special that other staffs didn't get to do."
Espenson worked with some of comics' top talent on her "Tales," including Jeff Matsuda, Gene Colan, Craig Russell, Scott Morse and others. "I love the way P. Craig Russell and Jeff Parker absolutely captured the different periods and styles of 'Presumption' and 'Dust Bowl.' And 'Father,' with art by Jason Shawn Alexander, does a great job with a dark and moody story. I think the end of that story works really well," Espenson said. "I do like a chilling twist, and I think all the artists did a great job of supporting those twists so they hit with maximum impact." But, she added, things did not always run smoothly. "I always smile ruefully at the mistake in 'Broken Bottle of Djinn' -- Doug Petrie and I split that one and we failed to coordinate on one crucial point. The girl in his half of the story clearly seals the bottle with gum, but in my half of the story, it has an ordinary stopper. Totally my fault. It's a sickly smile -- I hate making mistakes like that."
Seeing all of these stories now collected in a giant hardcover volume, Espenson, much like Kessler, was thrilled at their presentation. "I love it! It looks so gorgeous! I got three free copies in a box from the great people at Dark Horse and I'm just sitting here touching them and smiling at how beautiful they are!"