Buffy Season 8 launched at Dark Horse Comics back in 2007 as a comic book continuation of the TV show, without those silly little issues like casting and budget to worry about. For fans who had been missing the show, me included, this was the best news ever. Finally there was an opportunity for new Buffy stories that were within continuity.
Rather than getting bogged down in exactly what Buffy did after Sunnydale’s destruction, the series picks up a few years later, with the Scoobies leading an army of slayers from a base in Scotland. Bringing back the whole gang, the series wasn’t afraid to cover controversial stories. Buffy experimented with a girl, eventually deciding that she was straight – although not before trying it again just to make sure. The big bad of the season, Twilight (which Joss Whedon claims isn’t a reference to the other Twilight) has Buffy and her army branded as terrorists and hunted by the US military, bringing back some old villains to help him. The identity of this masked villain is very well handled, although admittedly the comic does falter a bit after the reveal takes place.
The series ends on a surprising twist, perfectly setting up a ninth season that is currently ongoing. Attempting to scale back from the craziness of Season 8, Season 9 sees Buffy and the gang move to San Francisco and fight smaller scale battles, while trying to figure out what to do with their lives. The comic gained a lot of media attention for an issue in which Buffy believes she is pregnant, and plans to have an abortion because she feels she can’t bring a baby into her world. The series has had its low points, but overall has been just as strong as Season 8, even featuring spin-off mini-series for Spike and Willow.
While Buffy wasn’t the first TV show to move into comics, it was the first to continue the show’s storyline, establishing it firmly as a new season. The success of Buffy Season 8 inspired many other creators to continue their shows in comics, particularly those that had been cancelled before their time.
Buffy’s spin-off Angel got an ongoing series, although at a different publisher, IDW. Angel: After the Fall saw Angel and his team sent to hell by Wolfram and Hart. In hell Angel’s powers don’t work, and after several months there his friends have turned away from him. The comic sees Angel reform his gang to beat back his old enemies, eventually returning to Earth. While this initial story was not half bad, after they left hell the comic totally lost all direction and not many people were sad when it was cancelled. Angel got a new series at Dark Horse, teaming up with rogue slayer Faith; which has been far better than Buffy Season 9 so far.
Smallville got a season 11, published not surprisingly by DC Comics, finally showing Clark as Superman, something which was only seen in the final episode. Bringing back all the characters from the show, including ones whose actors had left the show like Chloe. Lex Luthor, having had his mind erased in the last episode is attempting to discover the truth about Superman. Unbound by the same copyright rules Smallville had on TV, the comic has introduced many classic characters the show wasn’t allowed to touch. The most significant is Batman, who was introduced in the second story arc, being an amalgamation of his comic and film counterparts. The series has also introduced Flash and hinted at the arrival of Wonder Woman, expanding the Smallville mythology.
The latest show to throw its hat into the ring is The X-files, continuing Mulder and Scully’s exploration of the unknown. Starting this June, the series picks up shortly after the last (dreadful) film. While I used to love X-files, I got bored of it around the time Mulder left and the story lines got truly ridiculous. Hopefully this comic will be a return to the show’s once fine form. The first story at least sounds interesting – beginning with former X-files employees being killed off.
With more and more shows persevering in comic book form, it seems likely that this trend will carry on in the years to come.