Greenberg on "Buffy: Season 9" #15 & Billy's Inner Strength

Wed, November 14th, 2012 at 9:58am PST

Comic Books
Jason Tabrys, Guest Contributer
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In the conclusion to the Jane Espenson and Drew Z. Greenberg penned Billy the Vampire Slayer micro-arc in Dark Horse Comics' "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 9," readers learn that Billy takes on "so much" because "he's... good." In reality, there is much more that guides this young man.

A normal teenager that has been marginalized by bullies due to his sexuality, Billy joins the fight against the zompires plaguing his town thanks to Devon, a classmate and the object of Billy's affections.

What is it that Devon sees in Billy that makes him think he is capable of taking on the blood thirsty undead and why is Billy drawn to the fight even when Devon tells him no? Comic Book Resources spoke with writer Drew Z. Greenberg about what makes Billy tick beyond that goodness, the consequences of being an amateur slayer and how growing up gay primed Billy for his new calling.

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CBR News: Drew, what keeps you coming back to "Buffy?"

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9Writer Drew Z. Greenberg talks about Billy the Vampire Slayer rising to the occasion in "Buffy the Vampire: Season 9" #15
Cover by Georges Jeanty

Drew Z. Greenberg: Oh, wow. Primarily, the characters, because I love them like old, dear friends I can't wait to see again. But it's more than that: it's a certain sensibility, a set of ideals that says anyone can be a hero, even the bubbly blonde cheerleader who you think will be killed by the monster in the dark alley, or even the sweet, sensitive gay kid who's learning to fight back. I like that the world of BUFFY is one in which inclusiveness is more than just theory, it's actually made real and that we don't just end up admiring these characters who rise to the challenge; we end up liking them. (Or, in my case, loving them.)

And then there's also getting to play in Joss's imagination, which is, frankly, one of the most fun, adventurous, scary, intimidating, satisfying places I've ever been. I'll go back any time he'll let me.

How active was "Buffy" creator Joss Whedon in the plotting process for these two issues?

Joss is overseeing the entirety of Season 9 -- he hosted this star-studded writers' summit well before Season 9 started (the kind of assemblage that makes fanboys' and fangirls' heads go boom). During that summit, Joss articulated his goals for the season and the story points he knew he wanted to hit. (It was also when he invited the writers there to brainstorm ideas for specific stories, and that was where the Billy arc was born.) In addition, Joss also installed the freakishly-talented (and, by the way, all-around nice guy) Andrew Chambliss as the one to handle the day-to-day storytelling on Season 9, and, of course, Joss always relies on [Editor-in-Chief] Scott Allie and his team for editor responsibilities at Dark Horse, and they provide invaluable feedback. So Joss' presence was large and comforting. Like a body pillow.

Any plans to re-team with Jane Espenson for another batch of "Buffy" books or perhaps something else from the Whedonverse?

I would partner on anything with Jane. "Buffy" stories, other Whedonverse projects, being a team on The Amazing Race. Whatever, whenever.

The other slayers are called and chosen. Billy obviously doesn't have those kinds of mystical shackles. He took is upon himself to be a slayer. Do you worry that people might cynically dismiss the possibility that Billy would rise up because of goodness and little else? Is it more than goodness? Jane said he was special because of a "fire in his belly," but what else is there that drives this boy to be so brave?

Unlike Buffy, who was destined to be a slayer, gay teen Billy chooses to be one
Variant by Phil Noto, #15 interior art by Karl Moline

True story: when certain people in the world suggest that being gay is a choice, the standard response, naturally, is to ask them, "How could it be a choice? With all the risk of bullying and prejudice and misunderstanding out there, with the risk of being alienated and isolated, who would choose to be gay?" And that's the right question to ask, because, seriously, straight people, when did you choose to be straight? You know you didn't, and it's exactly the same with gay people. We don't choose this, either. But you know what? I have to admit something: I would. I would choose to be gay. And here's why: even with all the unpleasant crap that goes with being gay, my experience as a gay man has also given me a sense of empathy, an understanding of justice, an awareness of what it means to be ostracized, no matter why. It's given me insight into why we must fight for the rights of the oppressed, why compassion and love actually matter as more than just intangible concepts and why it's important to embrace and celebrate the qualities that make each of us -- gay or straight -- unique. In other words, being gay has made me the human being that I am, and I like the human being I am.

With that in mind, I think the story of Billy, ultimately, is the story of a young man who spent his whole life feeling like an outsider, but who gains from that experience a determination, a certain resolve to make the world a better place than the one into which he was born. Put in simple mathematical terms, being gay plus growing up in his particular circumstance helped make Billy into a hero. Billy's experience opens his eyes to what must be done in ways maybe others would never see. So yes, I think it's more than goodness, though the goodness helps. And the best part is, if Billy can come out the other side determined to make the world better, maybe so can any young person who sees injustice and prejudice in their life, too.

Are we bound to see other slayers like Billy? Other slayers that aren't equipped with slayer strength?

Greenberg didn't rule out the possibility of more amateur slayers showing up in "Buffy"

Well, that's an interesting idea. I don't know of any plans for more amateur slayers, but I suppose anything is possible.

This is obviously a story about Billy finding his place in this world. He's finding acceptance, and not just as a slayer. Was there ever a thought to deal with the other side of Billy's embrace of slayerdom? The possible consequences, or the lost youth and normalcy that Buffy dealt with when she was his age? If there was, were you concerned about scraping away the overall positive message or bungling the analogy?

You know, every character is unique. I don't think Billy had the childhood that Buffy had: I think Billy's living situation is an indication that Billy had to grow up pretty quick long before the zompires showed up in his town. So embracing slayerdom means something different to Billy, because Billy's in a different place when it happens. Specifically, in Billy's case, his embrace of slayerdom is almost a mirror image of Buffy's process -- it allows him, like Buffy, to find his real purpose, but unlike Buffy who came to realize her skill set had a price, Billy gets something of a payoff for his years of already feeling isolated (a scenario much more well-suited, I think, for the short-story format of Billy's two-issue introduction).

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TAGS:  dark horse comics, buffy, billy the vampire slayer, drew z greenberg, jane espenson, karl moline, gay heroes

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