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S8 and canon

25th April 2007 (23:34)
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Here's my £0.02 on the great debate on whether the new Buffy comics should be regarded as canon. 



I originally started writing this as a response to elisi 's post here, but after I realised I 'd started writing a 400-word essay I decided it might be better here in my own journal...


Elisi wrote: The show wasn’t cancelled, it ended. Sunnydale was wiped off the map, and since Sunnydale and Buffy always went together, it really was the final, definitive ending.

To my mind, it's true that the S8 comic is not the same show: it's what happens next. It's another story starring some of the same characters. The TV show was a metaphor for a girl growing up and becoming a woman; it's likely that the comic will have a different theme and plot, though hopefully sharing the same values.

In other words, the S8 comic is an authorised spin-off. Which means it's canon for the Buffyverse the same way Angel is canon for the Buffyverse!

Now some people never got into Angel the series; they disliked the theme, the actors, the structure, whatever. Some people never watched it. And it's possible there are people writing fanfic in which Spike died at the end of 'Chosen' and never came back to life; in which Wesley was never more than a bumbling incompetent. Where Faith apparently served time in prison between seasons 4 and 7 and came back a more mellow person, but the crucial detail that she surrendered herself willingly to the police is unknown. And that's fine... but personally, I'd consider them to be writing an AU, even though they're entirely within canon if you define it ultra-narrowly as "What was shown on screen in the TV show Buffy The Vampire Slayer as originally broadcast".

Likewise, now when I read a story written after March 2007 in which Buffy is a partygirl in Rome, or Xander is in Africa, then I also have to consider it an AU. Not canon, except in that ultra-narrow sense. Not that I'm saying that this would be badwrong; there's nothing wrong with AU fic, as long as you realise that's what it is before you read something out of place and get thrown out of your suspension of disbelief. The point of defining 'canon' is that it lays down the ground rules; it's the shared basis of understanding that we can all build on.

So why do I consider S8 canon? Because quite simply, Buffy is Joss Whedon's artistic creation. Yes, he didn't create it single-handedly, but he inspired it and still had control over everything that was shown to us. (And from the sound of it, the comic is going to be created by a team of writers in collaboration with Joss, just like the TV show - and their ideas will then be given form by the artists and letterers, just like the actors did. So really, the process isn't so dramatically different.)

And yes, I'd much rather that S8 was on the TV screen instead of in comics, and we could actually watch Sarah, Aly, James, Eliza, Nick, Tony, Michelle, Iyari and the others rather than just look at drawings that vaguely resemble them. But the cold hard reality of economics intrudes. The only way Joss can currently share his creative vision with us is through this medium.

And I want to hear what he has to say.

Comments

Posted by: geralyn (ellalthea)
Posted at: 26th April 2007 00:22 (UTC)
funny angel/spike humor

*applauds*

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 26th April 2007 18:18 (UTC)

*bows*

Posted by: rhiannonhero (rhiannonhero)
Posted at: 26th April 2007 02:43 (UTC)

I like your argument and for the most part agree--except that I don't want to hear what he has to say. I liked where Buffy ended and, for me, that's the end. Period. Of course, I'm not an active fandom member when it comes to fic and such, so it doesn't matter one way or the other. :D

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 26th April 2007 18:20 (UTC)

Fair enough. Personally, I'll always be curious to know what happened next...

Posted by: lusciousxander (lusciousxander)
Posted at: 26th April 2007 08:34 (UTC)
Xander by moscow_watcher

I agree with you. This whole canon thing is just annoying me lately, why can't we just enjoy things without obsessing much about it. Can't we just write Xander/Spike and Buffy/Faith without obsessing about what's canon and what's not? Can't we read what Joss has to say without obsessing about likeness and what we think Buffy should do?

I think it's up to fans, if they want to consider them canon, fine, if they don't it's also fine.

I'll read and enjoy and consider these comics canon, just because I love BtVS and want more focus on Buffy, Xander, Willow, Dawn and Giles rather than Buffy and her vampire boyfriends.

Posted by: ibmiller (ibmiller)
Posted at: 26th April 2007 14:07 (UTC)
shoes

Well, even a die-hard Spuffy like me enjoys and considers the comics canon. I'm excited, especially about issue four, and now the Faith series, since we've seen the covers for those.

Posted by: lusciousxander (lusciousxander)
Posted at: 26th April 2007 14:52 (UTC)
Xander and Dawn by schala

I know many die-hard Spuffy fans who enjoy them, which is good, that's the aim of the comics, to make us happy. :) I'm also excited about #4! I ADORE Dawn and I know in my heart she'll save the day. And maybe, hopfully, bond with Buffy again. Those two need to talk!

Posted by: ibmiller (ibmiller)
Posted at: 26th April 2007 18:48 (UTC)

Completely agree - love dear Dawn (er, made a post about her). I want to see real sisterly stuff, not TV-esque "we bicker so we must be family" stuff.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 26th April 2007 18:25 (UTC)

I think it's in the nature of fans to obsess over things: that's what makes us different to casual viewers/readers. But I agree that the whole canon debate is really secondary... unlike the original religious definition of the term, nobody's going to be burned at the stake for promoting a heretical view of what's canon. At least, I hope not. :)

Although clearly I'm right, everybody else is wrong, and all my opponents are going to burn!!!!

;)

Posted by: tessarin (tessarin)
Posted at: 26th April 2007 11:00 (UTC)

Before Joss jossed Fray I would have agreed with you. I considered Fray 100% canon until season 7. Primarily due to Joss writing them.

Now I count the comics as partial canon as Joss or Fox who actually own the show will happily throw out the comics for any Buffy continuation in the future. As such say they are 75% canon in my view.

Sure he retconned during the course of the series as well, most notably with Spike's backstory so doing it in the comics isn't the problem. But I think they need a test of time facet in order to be considered 100% canon. If they are still adhered to after a continuation on TV. Then they are 100% canon. Until then there is the risk that not just portions but the whole lot will just be discarded in the future.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 26th April 2007 18:30 (UTC)

There is that... I get the impression that it was certain other writers (like Drew Goddard) who were the main reason why BtVS had the generally excellent level of continuity it had: left to his own devices Joss would be much more likely to throw it out of the window if he thought it would make a good story.

Still, he's said he considers these comics to be canon, which I take it was meant to distinguish them from all the other comics which he hasn't said that about. Presumably that's significant in some way: I presume it means that anything else he writes will be forced to take account of what happens in them, whereas he doesn't consider himself bound by anything that went into the other comics.

Posted by: aycheb (aycheb)
Posted at: 26th April 2007 14:03 (UTC)

Don’t spin-offs generally focus on a character who wasn’t the lead in the original show? I’m sure there are examples that feature the original lead(s) but at the moment all I can come up with is “Muppet Babies” (too much children’s TV rots your brain). There’s a plan to spin off Veronica Mars as an older wiser FBI agent isn’t there? Nevertheless your point is a good one – if anything Angel is less canonical than the Buffy comics and it also involves a significant change of genre with the whole noir thing.

I can’t help thinking that the vehemence with which people are claiming the comics aren’t canon has more to do with feeling that the canon story had finished (the S/B romance for one thing had clearly gone as far as Joss was interested to take it) than any inherent inability to connect to the new format. I can believe that for casual viewers if the actors aren’t right there acting in front of them the characters they play no longer exist but the whole point with fans is that we keep on thinking about the stories even when we’re not watching and unless you happen to blessed with an eidetic memory, the Buffy in your head won’t be SMG.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 26th April 2007 18:36 (UTC)

Don’t spin-offs generally focus on a character who wasn’t the lead in the original show?

Exactly. Spike's not going to appear much in S8, so this has to be a spin-off. :) [/tongue-in-cheek]

But I view the Buffyverse as a row of books on the shelf. Each title - BtVS itself, Angel, the comic - is a self-contained story; but they're all by the same author, share a common style, and many characters and situations are held in common. (Then there are the tribute works and collaborations by other authors set in the same universe...)

Posted by: ibmiller (ibmiller)
Posted at: 26th April 2007 14:05 (UTC)
overstated

Yay! Totally agree with you!

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 26th April 2007 18:38 (UTC)

Thanks!

*ticks name on list* :)

Posted by: Mrs Darcy (elisi)
Posted at: 26th April 2007 16:19 (UTC)
Buffy - Best Show Ever by touristrgirl

Hmmm.... OK, I'm going to jump sideways for a moment. Are you by any chance familiar with the Peter Wimsey novels by Dorothy L. Sayers? In 1936 she began her thirteenth Lord Peter book ('Thrones, Dminations') , but set it aside. Many years later a fragment was found and the trustees of the Sayers estate decided to ask Jill Paton Walsh to finish the story. The book was published in 1998 and I can still remember almost squeeing v. loudly when I first came across it in a bookshop - a *new* Wimsey story!!!! Of course there are issues... because it is not 'all Sayers'. But the writing is so flawless that it is *impossible* to tell where Sayers stops and Walsh begins. If I was bothered about 'canon' in that 'verse, 'Thrones, Dominations' would definitely be pure canon, even though it was not all by the original author. Whereas if, say, they'd turned it into a film... I probably would never have gone near it.

I quite like the comics, but there is a giant huge big gulf between the TV show and S8. The comics are their own canon and I'm very happy that it's renewed fandom, but it is only one possibility amongst many. I would not label any post-NFA fic 'AU' if it didn't adhere to S8... because *every* post-NFA fic is by their very nature 'AU' since show canon is closed and everyone is welcome to go where they like from now on.

Lord I hope some of that makes sense, because that's all I have time for...

Posted by: aycheb (aycheb)
Posted at: 26th April 2007 17:09 (UTC)

The Wimsey series is a particularily interesting example. Busman's Honeymoon was originally written and produced as a play by Sayers and only later turned into a novel. Is the novel canon but not the play on which it is based?

Posted by: Mrs Darcy (elisi)
Posted at: 26th April 2007 17:18 (UTC)
Writing is hard! by missmurchison

Is the novel canon but not the play on which it is based?
I'd forgotten about that, but yes - I'd say the novel was canon. The play might be its own, parallel canon, but because it was written with a different aim it would not count in the same way. (I am so much more hung up on medium than I thought - it's very interesting.)

Posted by: aycheb (aycheb)
Posted at: 26th April 2007 18:01 (UTC)

This is where I just get completely confused by what people mean by canon because the play and the novel tell the same story. Would the play have no influence at all on how you thought of the characters? You’ve quoted lines from the shooting scripts that never made it to the screen in some of your meta essays. Would you do that now? BtVS was forever playing with the form of the story, is the musical not canon?

It is interesting. To be honest I find it simpler not to think in terms of canon at all. It’s more accurate for me to admit that I’m interested in Buffy and how changing the world will change her and the comics are somewhere for that story to be told. Not everyone has that obsession and why should they? If the Spike/Buffy romance or Spike becoming a hero in his own right were my main focus I might feel differently about S8 and that would be fine too.

Posted by: Mrs Darcy (elisi)
Posted at: 26th April 2007 18:17 (UTC)
Not Fade Away by amavel_bel.

This is where I just get completely confused by what people mean by canon because the play and the novel tell the same story.
Since I have never seen (or read) the play I'm really not sure. *ponders* To be honest I'm not at all bothered by Peter Wimsey 'canon', but if there was a discrepancy between the play and the novel at any point, I think for continuity purposes Sayers would in future books have had to go with the novel.

To be honest I find it simpler not to think in terms of canon at all.
That seems a very sensible approach... Maybe my main problem is that I loved the show so very, very much and the comics are not at all filling the void the show left.

If the Spike/Buffy romance or Spike becoming a hero in his own right were my main focus I might feel differently about S8 and that would be fine too.
Now this I remember touching upon in AOQ's final AtS post (where he summed up his thoughts etc) - because I realised that for me BtVS is so deeply intwined with Spike and the Spike/Buffy relationship (whether love or hate), that I find it hard to judge the show *without* him. AtS I grew to love 'on its own' as it were, so straight off there's a difference.

Must run, and I completely lost the thread in that last sentence. Sorry - will do my best to attempt to remember what on earth I was going to say when I get back.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 26th April 2007 19:04 (UTC)

To be honest I'm not at all bothered by Peter Wimsey 'canon', but if there was a discrepancy between the play and the novel at any point, I think for continuity purposes Sayers would in future books have had to go with the novel.

I'd agree with that, but not because the play was in a different format. Rather, because the novel came later - and a living author can always change her mind about things. (A good author tries to stay consistent... but if she really thinks "It would make a much better story if X happened instead of Y" then I'd hate for her to feel constrained form making that change).

Maybe my main problem is that I loved the show so very, very much and the comics are not at all filling the void the show left.

I'm wondering if one problem is that the comic format is good for showing action, snappy dialogue and special effects, but not so good for relationship and romance stories where so much depends on body language, chemistry and actors' expressions and tone of voice. Which might explain why a lot of negative comment has focussed on the "boys and their toys" aspect of the comics...

Posted by: Mrs Darcy (elisi)
Posted at: 26th April 2007 19:38 (UTC)
DT Balcony by iconbitch.

but not so good for relationship and romance stories where so much depends on body language, chemistry and actors' expressions and tone of voice.
I think that's a large part of it (although Leetah/Cutter in Elfquest is one of my favourite lovestories, but there it's *all* comic book!) - not the romance aspect, because I'm perfectly happy for Buffy to be single, but the interactions between characters, and the way someone (especially SMG in S6) could express so much with just a look or a gesture. Comics have many strenghts and I love them dearly, but they are - compared to TV - a much lesser format. I'm not getting anything from the comics that fanfic hasn't given me already, except a new story. And it was never really about the story for me - it was about the characters journeys - and I don't think they can ever be as compelling in comic format as on screen.

I think I'll go and talk Darcy into getting me 'Spike: Asylum' and see if reading a non-canon story about a character I really care about makes a difference.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 26th April 2007 18:55 (UTC)

Like aycheb, I'm not really seeing why the format of a work is so important. Buffy is Joss's creation, and everything he writes about her is by definition canon unless he himself says it isn't. (Or he changes his mind later, which is his privilege). That's the big advantage of writing original fic instead of fanfic. It's also why I personally am glad that the Buffyverse is no longer closed canon - there will be new ideas, new characters, new plots and, yes, new challenges and controversies coming our way... and we won't have to keep on circling around the same old ideas forevermore.

Where I'm in a dilemma is that on the one hand I'm bothered by people saying the comics are not canon, despite the fact that the original author says they are... it seems a little high-handed. And on the other I don't really care about canon, except as a label. Write stories with Buffy in Rome all you like: I'll read them and enjoy them. But I'll still get a moment of cognitive dissonance when you start talking about things that are "untrue" in "Joss's Buffyverse", unless you've warned me first...

Are you by any chance familiar with the Peter Wimsey novels by Dorothy L. Sayers? Read them all. If I were getting picky, I'd say that the bits of 'Thrones, Dominations' that Sayers herself wrote were canon, and Walsh's additions weren't necessarily so: assuming you could tell them apart. (If you really can't, then the whole book should be canon). But the situation is different because DLS is dead and Joss isn't; Joss can keep on adding to canon himself... If Jill Paton Walsh decides to write new Wimsey books, and is a good enough writer, then it's possible she could be accepted as the legitimate continuer of the Wimseyverse and from now on what she writes will also be considered canon.

Posted by: ibmiller (ibmiller)
Posted at: 26th April 2007 18:59 (UTC)

Oh, but she did. It was called "A Presumption of Death" and was really awful. All the weaknesses of "Thrones, Dominations" and none of the strengths. So, I can usually tell the parts apart by writer, and I think the continuation is rotten. So yeah.

Posted by: ibmiller (ibmiller)
Posted at: 26th April 2007 18:56 (UTC)
Jane Austen

Very familiar. And actually, I'm not sure what to think of Thrones. The writing is good, but I definitely see the errors which make it "not Sayers" (of course, knowing where the fragment ended and certain facts about it help). But still, it's not nearly as high quality as the last five or six books in the series. Of course, I do consider it canon (as I consider The Silmarillion canon, though it's largely rewritten by Chris Tolkien).

And there were a few Sayers written films that practically no one considers canon (not to mention the BBC versions which do silly things to the endings - or, in the case of Gaudy Night, turn it into an atrocity).

I think to view the switch in medium as a spin-off rather than one guy's AU is more helpful.

In view of the collaborative aspect, I think the artist/writer collaboration is somewhat similar to shooting the show. And there are going to be many more writers. Just wait till August.

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 26th April 2007 19:11 (UTC)

Not at all. Welcome. :)

I suppose Joss could completely mess things up, betray every message and theme of his shows, totally break with existing continuity, and tell a boring story on top of all that. I wouldn't bet on it, but stranger things have happened... In which case I'd - well, I'd still consider the comics canon, but I'd feel free to ignore that part of canon in anything I wrote myself...

Posted by: bluekaty (bluekaty)
Posted at: 27th April 2007 13:47 (UTC)
bluespike

Well said. I'm going to buy the comics, I'm anxious because I may not like what's in them but this doesn't mean I'll reject them. To me Buffy & co. are first of all Joss' creation, I love fanfic but Joss' stuff is the centre of the Buffyunivese.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 27th April 2007 18:39 (UTC)

There's no rule that says you have to like them; it's ignoring them that seems odd to me. (I'm reminded of the people who proclaim that the show ended with 'The Gift' and seasons 6 and 7 never existed...)

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