More than eight years after its final episode aired on television, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and its spinoff series "Angel" continue to inspire a large, passionate fan base. In 2007, series creator Joss Whedon and Dark Horse Comics launched a canonical continuation of the series in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8," a forty-issue series that concluded in January 2011. In September, Buffy returns for "Season 9," this time co-written by Whedon and Andrew Chambliss, with "Season 8" artist Georges Jeanty returning for the new series. Beyond that, Dark Horse is also publishing "Angel & Faith," set in the same universe and beginning in August.
Both "Buffy Season 9" and "Angel & Faith" spin directly out of the events of "Buffy Season 8," which saw Buffy, Xander, Willow and Dawn confronting a mysterious, masked villain calling himself Twilight, as Giles and Faith worked behind the scenes to discover and undermine the Big Bad's plans. Twilight was ultimately revealed as Angel, who had discovered a new, peaceful universe and set events in motions that would allow him and Buffy to live there happily ever after.
Things are never so simple, however, and Buffy returned to our plane of existence to stave off a demon invasion. The sentient universe possessed Angel, leading to a showdown between the former lovers in which Giles was killed and a mystical seed -- the key to all magic in the universe -- was destroyed. Free of Twilight's influence, Angel was left catatonic and Buffy struggled to pick up the pieces of her life by starting anew in San Francisco.
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8" ended with Buffy in a lonely place, as her decision to save the world by banishing magic from this plane of existence has alienated her friends and turned the army of former Slayers against her. Add to this the death of Giles at the hands of Twilight-possessed Angel and it would seem Buffy has few friends left. But, Chambliss told CBR News, things are not all bleak in the new series. "Buffy starts the season in a better place than where we left her at the end of 'Season 8,'" the writer said. "She's settled into her life in San Francisco, moved off Xander and Dawn's couch and is finally entertaining the notion of a life that doesn't involve facing the complete destruction of the world. It's the first time she's actually thinking about her future because, guess what, she didn't die saving civilization.
"There's still the fallout from the destruction of the seed to deal with and the whole notion that the world is a dimmer place without magic in it. And a lot people are still angry about the decision she made to destroy it," Chambliss continued. "This fallout is going to lead to one of the storylines that kicks off the season and we'll get to see some interesting side effects to the destruction of the seed that people might not have anticipated."
With the Slayer armada gone and the comic's renewed emphasis on slaying vampires, "Season 9" looks to have a stripped-down, back to basics approach as Buffy establishes her new life. "Joss really wanted to think about 'Season 9' in the way that he approached the TV show -- smaller stories that focused on Buffy and the core group of characters," Chambliss said. "Instead of Buffy being focused on saving the world, this season is really going to be about how she starts to grow up, sees herself as an adult and balances all that with being a Slayer. She's going to make a lot of mistakes along the way, because A) it's fun and B) what twenty-something sails through life without messing up every once in a while? Fortunately, most of us don't have to deal with vampires and demons while we're patching up our mistakes."
Chambliss also confirmed that the new series will feature the core "Scoobies" gang. "'Season 9' is definitely going to focus heavily on Buffy, Willow, Xander and Dawn. It's also safe to say that there's going to be a fair amount of Spike in the season -- writing Spike is fun, so I am digging that," he said. "There will be some new characters popping up fairly early in the season, a couple of them will actually be in the first issue. Buffy's also going to end up with some roomies, 'cause what twenty-something doesn't have to put up with at least one crazy roommate at one time or another? But again, the idea is to keep the core group small in that 'back to basics' approach. The season will definitely feel like Buffy and the Scoobies are back together again."
With Buffy reestablishing herself in San Francisco, Chambliss said that this real-world setting -- as opposed to her original stomping grounds in the fictional Sunnydale -- will influence the direction of some story elements. "There are a lot of cool opportunities that come out of Buffy living in a real city. For instance, the SFPD. Thanks to Harmony and the reality craze, they now know about vampires, so we get to play around with the idea of how Buffy operates in a city where the cops know about vampires and may be more sympathetic to them than to a 'vigilante' slayer," the writer said. "I love that we're in a real city, because one of the undercurrents of the season is that Buffy's life is becoming a bit more grounded and real since magic doesn't exist."
While understandably reluctant to give too many details about "Season 9's" over-arcing story, Chambliss did suggest some of the major themes for the new series. "I can tell you that emotionally, the season will be very much about Buffy questioning what she's going to do with her life. Without magic in the world, everything's going to seem a little bit grittier and real for Buffy. On a plot level, I can say that this season will very much be about what Buffy does best -- which is slaying vampires, but with some fun twists on it because the seed no longer exists. I'm tempted to say more, but I'd rather leave all the fun surprises for the season."
"Buffy" is now running concurrently with "Angel & Faith," though Chambliss said there are no direct crossovers planned at present. "However, "there's definitely going to be overlap, especially with the supporting characters. They'll definitely be some who end up moving from one title to another," he said. "The destruction of the seed is going to affect both worlds in the same way. Basically, both titles exist in the same universe and story continuity, but we're building self-contained arcs so you won't have to read 'Buffy' to understand 'Angel & Faith,' and vice versa (though why wouldn't people want to read both?!)."
Unlike "Season 8," which featured a rotating cast of writers, the current plan is for Chambliss and Whedon to be writing the majority of "Season 9," Chambliss said, though there may be guest creators along the way. "The plan is for Joss and me to write as much of the season as possible. We've broken out the 25 issue arc and plan to either write or co-write most of the issues," Chambliss said. "That doesn't mean other 'Buffy' alumni won't be involved. We're going to have a couple writers jump in to do some stand-alones. Right now, it looks like Jane Espenson and Drew Greenberg will co-write a two issue arc a little bit down the line -- both writers and people I love -- so, yay! Double-yay, actually."
Chambliss, a seasoned television writer on series like "Vampire Diaries," recently saw his first comic published, "Dollhouse" #1 -- continuing from the Whedon TV series for which he was also a writer. "I had a blast revisiting the Dollhouse. Jed [Whedon], Mo [Tancharoen] and I loved every minute of working on that show, so we were glad that we could fill in some of the blanks in the 'Epitaphs' timeline," Chambliss said. "It was also my first full-fledged experience writing comic books, and I couldn't have asked for better people to work with than my editors, Scott [Allie] and Sierra [Hahn]. They really helped me make the leap from thinking about writing in terms of TV to thinking about it in terms of comics.
"I'd definitely love to continue writing 'Dollhouse' comics," the writer continued. "There are a bunch of stories I'd like to explore that we never had the chance to do on the show -- Dominic in the Attic, Topher's mental disintegration, what happened inside the Dollhouse during the robo-call attacks. Right now the deciding factor is time, which neither Jed, Mo, or I have much of. But it's 'Dollhouse,' which the three of us feel a very close connection to, so hopefully we'll be able to work something out. It's just too much fun not to."