Another day at Comic-Con, another special day for fans of beloved franchise characters of all kinds. Today, a special panel was held in celebration of one of the most critically and fan-loved franchises in television, film, and comic book history, Buffy, the Vampire Slayer! On hand to talk about the character and her vast universe were a host of actors and those involved in the creative process for the various incarnations of the character were here as well. Actors Nicholas Brendon (Xander Harris) and Clare Kramer (Glory) were on hand, along with Dark Horse Comics editor Scott Allie, writer and producer Jane Espenson,illustrator Georges Jeanty, and from the original movie Randall Batinkoff . There were also some surprise guests!
The panel opened with several clips from the original film and the television show mixed together. Featuring lots of action as well as glimpses of various romantic encounters the slayer had over her seven seasons. The clips were bookended by the last shot from the first episode and the parallel scene of Giles, Xander, Willow and Buffy talking before going off to close the Hellmouth.
Clare Kramer was the first to walk out on stage and address the crowd. “To celebrate Buffy turning twenty, we’ve brought a lot of people here who have been involved with the film, the show and the comics,” she said. Nicolas Brenden, surprise guest James Marsters, followed by Espensen and Allie. Kramer asked Brendon about getting cast “I wasn’t doing it the way they wanted it at first, and then Joss saw me react to something else in the room and he said, ‘do it that way’. I did my scene and I was sitting in the head of FOX Studios, and they passed two of us on to the network. The last meeting, the guy went in first and then I went in. I was doing the audition scene, and I thought I was nailing it at that time. I walked out and thought ‘holy shit I nailed this.’ I go out, they brought the other guy in, he auditioned again, then I got a phone call the next day saying I got it.”
For Marsters, the legacy means a lot “When you think you know what’s going to happen, you get surprised. I was going to go whore myself out in LA and I’ll do something for television. I had a son to raise. I got the call for Buffy, and I thought ‘oh, not that’. They told me to watch it, watch the show and see if I wanted to do it tomorrow. I watched and thought it was awesome! I auditioned, thinking it was a character for one episode, and I auditioned for it, they sent me the script. One thing led to another, and they didn’t kill me off, and there was one point in season six where I showed up, do whatever and whenever, and I had to do that. If you sign up for a television show you kind of know what’s going to happen from the pilot, but with Buffy, you’re being asked to do god knows what. I remember kind of terrified by that and then I realized how lucky I was to be terrified. As an artist you want to be terrified. For me it was surprise after surprise after surprise.”
Batinkoff chimed in. “In the movie I was asked to play her boyfriend. They told me I needed to play a guy who was really stupid. The film got some attention, then I turn around and see that it’s a TV series. I remember trying to get on the show, and here I am 20 years later and still a part of it. By the way, Joss Whedon, coolest guy ever. Most down to earth, he’s at the top of the list of guys who I’ve worked with in my career.” Kramer then asked what it was like to take the brand and move it into the comics. ”The way licensed comics are done have changed so much,” said Allie, “When we started doing the comics in the 90s, we learned the show by watching it, but we had no direct connection to them in the show. They sent stuff to us, we sent it to them, but it wasn’t too connected. Eventually building a relationship got us to do Fray. The comics shifted a lot suddenly. When the show was ending, I told Joss I thought we needed to stop for a bit and wait until the show was ending to see about moving forward. When we started season eight, we really tired to make it unique and it gives us a great opportunity to get the voices and the stories right.”
In discussing the writing, Brendon asked Espenson about the ease of writing the characters. “The more outside characters were easy to write. Anya was pretty easy because she’s so extreme, and then I loved writing Jonathan and Andrew as well. Also I hear the characters in my mind when I’m writing them. When I write a line for Spike I hear James.” Jeanty told the crowd that he was handpicked by Whedon to do some of the art. ”At first I thought they were just blowing smoke to get me to do it, because I wasn’t a Buffy fan to start with,” said Jeanty, “I was told that I just had to make her look like Buffy, not Sarah Michelle Gellar necessarily, but Buffy.” Jeanty then turned the question about the Buffy legacy means to her. Kramer indicated the crowd. “It’s you guys,” she said, “It was great to be part of such an artistic storyline, and I couldn’t have asked for a better project.”
With that, the questions started coming from the audience. Any favorite quotes? Espenson mentioned Willow’s “I doodle, you do doodle too.” Jeanty said that his favorite was when Spike said “I may be love’s bitch, but I can admit it.” Marsters, in his Spike voice, said, “Our for a walk.” Brendon added, “May it please the dark master-bator.” Batinkoff mentioned the prolonged death of Pee Wee Herman’s character in the film. Kramer’s was “Did anyone know that the slayer was a robot?” Another fan asked about the response of the actors to the comics. ”It’s awesome,” said Marsters, ” I don’t want to do injustice to the character if I was to do it again. The time for me playing that character has come and gone, and I love that he is still going. It’s great.” Brendon added, “I never thought I would be in a comic book, so that’s great to me.”
Another fan question came about where does the panel see the influence of Buffy on other media. Allie said, “I see it in all the paranormal romance stories out there.” Kramer said, “I think it broke ground for things like The Hunger Games and Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” Another fan asked about the changes that Spike’s character underwent during the show. ”Jane can talk about this too. The characters are more defined by how they say something and not what they say. I always felt like I was being put in there as needed. At first I was a villain who was supposed to die. Then I was the wacky neighbor for awhile, then I became kind of Cordelia’s replacement when she left to go to Angel, you know the naysayer who says everyone is going to die. Then I was the wrong boyfriend when Buffy came back to life. In the end because everyone who was in it was very talented, the ride tended to be more diverse than for other characters.” Espenson added to that, “We knew we had a great actor. We knew we could put him in that Hawaiian shirt and we knew that he could make it work.”
Brendon asked Espenson about the rumors he heard that Joss wanted to kill Xander but that they compromised with him losing an eye. ”I never heard anything about that in particular,” said Espenson, “but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t batted around. You did lose an eye though!” Another fan asked Espenson about the big moments in her career. ”Working with Joss is not that you just get the great exposure of being on a great show, but it’s that you learn so much. How do I make people laugh, how do I make them cry. It’s why I’m here today.” Another question was about favorite plot points or episode. ”I loved filming the 100th episode,” said Kramer, “that was my favorite. It was a lot of stunt work, which I love.” Marsters said, “I loved going back and seeing what William was like before he was a vampire. It was one of those times where I was wrong. I though he was always a bad guy. I remember being scared a little and ultimately putting that wig on remember just having a fabulous time with that scene.” ”Did Xander have any plot points,” Brendon joked, “there’s so many, but I love the Snoopy dance.” He then proceeded to demonstrate it for the audience!
Jeanty talked about his favorite pieces. ”I loved doing the Harmony story.” Espenson said, “I loved doing the recent one where Spike is naming the bugs on the ship, and on the show I loved the Jonathan reveal in “Superstar”.” Allie mentioned “The Body”. Espenson who mentioned all the show runners and producers who are huge Buffy fans who have incorporated pieces of Buffy into their own work, citing examples like Torchwood and Once Upon a Time. For Brendon, a question was about his work on the video games. ” I never got to see them. It’s just a lot of saying the same things over and over in a room! It is strange sometimes to see my face on so many pieces of merchandise, I will say that.” A final question was about the family environment that was established on Buffy and if it has continued in other ways. “I just did some work for Jane on Caprica, and I had some work with Charisma Carpenter on Supernatural recently.”
The final part of the panel ended with a quiz for the audience, with the prizes being comic books signed by the entire panel. The audience was very enthusiastic about giving answers about famous quotes, Buffy’s address for her home, the Mutant Enemy slogan and how many vampires Buffy staked between the film and the television series.
The answer, by the way, is 133. Happy slaying!!