StephenT (stormwreath) wrote,

Reaction to reaction to the comics

Edited to add another free icon! (Note: views expressed in it may not be those of the management.)

This came out of a reply I wrote to elisi 's LJ, but I thought I'd expand on it here. There's been a fair bit of unfavourable reaction to the comics so far, which she summed up in this quote:
Both molly_may and thedeadlyhook comment on how all the men (even Andrew!) seem to be cool and in charge, whereas the Slayers are just a bunch of girls that need someone to lead them. And Buffy is all tied down and helpless...

I can sort of see the point if I squint hard, but I'm not really buying it. Xander seems cool and in charge, certainly - which I think is deserved after his character development in seasons 5-7. Even so, as soon as the excrement hits the rotary air impeller at the end of #2 he freezes up and panics, unable to help. Giles is cool and domineering, but I'm not sure he's doing much to win the respect of the girls he's teaching - Buffy's hands-on approach seems much better from that perspective. And Andrew is whiny, irrelevant and annoying, and fails to give proper answers.

As for the women - remember the very first scene of #1 was a group of new Slayers kicking ass. Leah, Satsu and Rowena did the cool abseiling out of a helicopter thing with Buffy, and Rowena's squad killed two of the big scaley demons while Buffy herself only got one of them - and while Buffy was back on form with the quippage, Leah got in a sarky remark of her own... at Buffy's expense, no less.

Mind you, Buffy's being a pretty effective leader here - showing not only excellent fighting ability (note that she can beat three Slayers single handed, and make it look easy) but a good grasp of tactics (the 'flank them' surprise attack in the cathedral in #1) and is also showing concern for the morale and feelings of her squad. Contrast her comments about Satsu's new hairdo here with the way she didn't even learn the Potentials' names in S7...

As for the supposed "pandering to the male gaze" - yes, I suppose the shot of Buffy tied to her bed could be considered exploitative, but I hope people complaining about it also complained about all the images of shirtless Spike or Angel being chained up we were given on the show. :) It's meant to be a nightmare image - very deliberately reminiscent of the old cliché of the virgin in a scanty negligee tied to a sacrificial altar. Joss starts subverting it on the very next page when Amy's dagger splits into fragments when she tries to stab Buffy. As for whether Buffy is a damsel needing to be rescued by heroic men - firstly, Xander seems pretty much at a loss at the end of the episode and if there is any cavalry riding to the rescue, it's in the form of a cute redhead in a flowy green dress and RenFair bodice, not a man. But given what we're shown of Buffy's dream, I've a suspicion that she's going to have to fight her own way out of the enchantment, by drawing on her own strengths, instincts and memories of relationships. Call it a feeling...

On a final note here, I think this quote from Mr Whedon from his introduction to 'Fray' might be relevant:
"I had come to Dark Horse with pretty much one stipulation: No cheesecake. No giant silicone hooters, no standing with her butt out in that bizarrely uncomfortable soft-core pose that so many artists favor. None of those outfits that casually - and constantly - reveal portions of thong. I wanted a real girl"
Of course, real girls do sometimes wear nothing but their underwear, especially if they're in their bedroom getting ready for bed. The gratuitousness only comes if they do it all the time, even when there's no apparent reason for it...

Secondly, a lot of people have dismissed the comics as "only Joss's fanfiction" - which quite frankly, considering how most people here write fanfiction, seems a rather self-denegratory thing to say. Do we really think so little of what we do, do we see it as so trivial and insignificant, that comparing Season 8 to fanfic is a way to ignore it as irrelevant?

Because it seems to me that writing anything takes the same skills of plotting, characterisation, dialogue and description. True, non-fanfiction requires thinking up original characters and world-building - but to paraphrase Terry Pratchett (because I can't remember the exact quote), "When people ask me 'Where do you get your ideas from?' I don't really know how to reply. I get ideas all the time, non-stop... that's not the problem. The trick is turning the ideas into an actual story that people want to read." I'm sure any fanfic writer will sympathise: plot bunnies breed like, well, like rabbits - it's actually writing and finishing a full-length story that's the difficult part. While fanfic writers have less original creation to do, they have instead the necessity to make sure their people and plots stay in character and believable within the context of the existing canon - which is a different skill, but no less a skill.

This, however, does point to the one big difference between fanfic and original fic: someone like Joss has the freedom to innovate. Fanfic sometimes does this too, but hesitantly and protected by a wall of 'AU' and 'non-canon' warning statements that put a lot of people off. Mostly, though, characters and situations from the original show are trapped in amber, unable to develop or progress or change.

16-year old Buffy had no sexual interest in Xander, so in fanfic Buffy can never have any sexual interest in him ever, or she'd be out of character. As the original creator Joss isn't bound by such limitations: he's free to choose what he thinks would make a good story, and then decide if and how this can be reconciled with previous character developments.

And if a relationship is encumbered with all sorts of issues and baggage and potential conflicts - why, I think that would make him more likely to set it up, not less. It's the way he works...
Tags: buffy, meta
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