In a way, Buffy the Last Vampire Slayer will be similar to Marvel’s Old Man Logan. The upcoming comic series gives creators a chance to showcase how Buffy Summers might turn out if she reached her older years. Written by Casey Gilley and with artwork by Joe Jaro, Buffy the Last Vampire Slayer shows the titular character in her fifties trying to survive a world that has “found peace” between humans and vampires after some mysterious act dimmed the sun. Buffy increasingly finds herself on the run from a society that’s left her behind. The upcoming series explores how an iconic character firmly defined in her original form by her youth confronts what it’s like to get older and face a world radically different than the one she knew.
During an exclusive interview with CBR, Buffy the Last Vampire Slayer‘s Gilley and Jaro broke down why Buffy Summers is the perfect character to explore later in life. They shared why Anya is the perfect foil for this older Buffy and discussed how the comic reflects the real-life complications and contradictions of getting older in a society that overvalues youth.
CBR: What is it about Buffy that makes her ideal for this kind of approach, seeing her seasoned compared to most of her incarnations?
Casey Gilley: Well, I think it’s unexpected. In the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, although people cared about the Slayers, they were definitely a function. They were a weapon and something that was a safeguard to protect real humanity. They did not have a long life expectancy. So when I think about aging Buffy, I think about what would she have missed? What were things that she might not have gotten to experience in an average way that informs her worldview?
What I think is compelling, I can’t speak for anybody else, but I love seeing women get older in comics. I love seeing what life has taught them, the choices they’ve made. I love seeing women defy these patriarchal and societal expectations of what they’re supposed to be by a certain age. Although Buffy was a very good Slayer, she was never a compliance Slayer. And that noncompliance, I really think, is something that is a lifelong quality that carried her into where readers will meet her now.
Joe Jaro: To piggyback on that… It is unexpected. Our editor came to me and asked me, “Would you like to do a Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic?” I was like, “Yeah, that’s awesome.” And then, she hit me with how she’s older, like an Old Man Logan type. That’s actually really dope. When you think of Buffy, you think of young Buffy, cheerleader young adult Buffy, that’s all you think of.
With Wolverine or whatever, you know he’s been around for a while. He’s a grown-up when we see him. It’s totally flipped everything [with a character like Buffy], but how Casey wrote her with her humor and it’s very… She was sarcastic before but now it’s like kind of grumpy, dry sarcasm that is like, “Oh, you were joking before, but I don’t think that’s a joke.”
The Buffy/Anya rapport is such an interesting element to see on display in this series, especially considering how little time the two characters genuinely got utilized together in the original series. Was that part of the intent going in, or was it an element you discovered during the development of the series?
Gilley: When I was thinking about who Buffy has with her in this world, the first thing I did was I looked at Joe’s Instagram because I wanted to see who I felt like he would be great drawing. I think that it’s so important for any writer to know their artists and to ask them, “What are you into drawing? What do you hate drawing? What is it that will really inspire you?” I love how Joe handles anatomy and Anya was always such a physical character — physical comedy, acting, expressions, everything about her.
I think it’s easy to forget how powerful [Anya] is. She’s somebody who can really stand up to Buffy as she has now, but is also humane and has learned enough about compassion and learned enough about who she is to handle this version of Buffy. I really don’t think that any of the other friends could have done this. Like when I pictured Xander or Cordelia or anybody coming up against her, Buffy would’ve just walked all over them. She does walk over Anya, but when she says something cutting, it gets under her skin, and her points land. I also just wanted to see how Joe would handle them, beating the crap out of each other.
Jaro: I love that you picked Anya. Her physicality, her mannerisms. I love drawing her mannerisms, this almost childlike kind of naive. It’s hilarious. I always thought she was funny in the series and you’re right. Their relationship was very underutilized, then the tragic end of Anya at the end of the series. It’s funny. When I look up references of Anya, her fear of rabbits and such, I love drawing her. Hopefully, the humor and the comedy come through when I draw it.
While this is firmly a version of Buffy and her world, evolving in ways that make sense for the setting, it’s also very much an opportunity for the two of you to put your own stamp on this franchise that really has stood the test of time. What is that like as creatives to approach?
Jaro: I think writing it’s a little bit more daunting, but Casey did a great job of just laying it out. It is post-apocalyptic for us humans, but it’s not for vampires. They still want to live their lives. They want to go to Starbucks or whatever it’s called now. Everything is geared towards them now. So tweaking is actually, I was having a lot of fun with it. Just tweaking things so it still looks the same, but it’s tweaking it towards vampires are the top of the food chain now… I had a lot of fun with it. Casey did a great job of kind of explaining the world to me. Hopefully, I did a good job of conveying.
Gilley: One of the things that I think is so important about Buffy — the movie, the show, the comics, the everything — is you don’t need any context to come into this world. It’s familiar. And it being so familiar is what gives it the potential to be so scary. A few interviewers have asked us what our favorite episodes are, and Joe has mentioned that “Hush” is one of his, and I think that it’s such a scary episode because the second you introduce, even something slightly unfamiliar, it’s even scarier because you know this world. You know these houses, the couches feel lived in, the characters wear the same clothes over and over. You really get to know what it’s like to live in their world.
I did not want to approach the apocalypse as something that was foreign with people tied to diesel engines and barrel fires and people playing hockey with a human skull. I really wanted it to feel that same sort of, I know where we are, even though we’re in London. We’re no longer in California, even though there is no longer a sun, even though the vampires are walking around you. All of these things are so opposite of where we saw Buffy last, but I really wanted to give readers that same feeling of, “I know where I’m at and I recognize things in Buffy’s apartment. I recognize what she says.” To me, getting into a story means that you can walk in and sit down and watch it happen.
We went through a little apocalypse during COVID-19. There weren’t people in harnesses, running around bartering, gasoline. Everything was still familiar, which is why I think every day was a new horror because all of the touchstones we had got further and further from us. So that to me is what a real apocalypse is, where the things that you were once comforted by don’t just no longer exist, but you’re having a hard time remembering if they ever did.
Buffy has existed as a character since 1992, almost thirty years. Going by her age in the original film and then the subsequent incarnations of the character, she’d be at about the age she is in this comic. Was that something you were both aware of during the development and creation of the series?
Gilley: I am 41. I grew up with Buffy and I love comics. I want to see people who look like me, people who don’t look like me. Stories are ways to learn and teach empathy. The place where I’m at in my life, something I think a lot about… I had a kid four years ago, and ever since then, I have noticed that people see me less and less. I think that that’s a very unique experience for people who are women or people who are femme is you reach a certain age where people just stop looking at you like they once did. You’ve gotten to a place where people underestimate you. You’re still the same person. In fact, in a lot of ways, you’re even better.
I thought, “What would that be like for somebody like Buffy, who could really do whatever she wanted?” Then all of a sudden, she can’t — not only are people telling her she can’t, but she’s also being gaslit by the entire world, who once said we need you to save us. Our safety and longevity depend on you. Now they’re looking at her like, “Oh, how could you, this is awful. Why would you ever kill a vampire?”
I think that it’s coming from my experience, being a woman and being a parent where there was definitely a day where I looked around and realized like, “Wait for a second, everybody was pressuring me to have kids, and now my son is crying in a Target and you’re all looking at me like I’ve taken my pants off and rolled around on the ground.” I wanted there to be empathy and for people to have a moment to look and see themselves in the story, and see that I know what it’s like to feel disempowered — even though I don’t feel any differently than I did when I was 22.
Jaro: Visual–wise, design-wise, and everything, I think I was actually lucky because I have so many references. The original actors are this age already. I, myself, I’m 45 too. I can totally relate. I definitely can’t do some of the same things that I could do when I was in my twenties. Buffy’s obviously still cranking it out there. She’s training. So physicality, she is peak herself. Emotion-wise, as you said, Casey… She’s probably a better fit than a lot of these younger folks out there. Emotion-wise, it’s taken a toll on her.
Gilley: Joe, with every issue of Buffy that you draw, I think that you have really told a beautiful story of revealing her physical power. She’s very cloaked. She keeps herself very wrapped up and there are narrative reasons for that, but we see more and more of her. And then something that rears, we’ll see this very full moment. You don’t see a whole lot of Buffy’s body at once. And then when you do see her, it’s like she’s even stronger and more physically able and has better muscle memory and physical intelligence than she did when people said she was at her peak. I love how slowly you have revealed this physical power that she has increased in ways.
Buffy the Last Vampire Slayer #1 is on sale now from Boom! Studios.
from Ultimate Comic Blog