Everybody knows about Joss Whedon‘s Buffy the Vampire and everyone understands the concept of a “slayer”: an individual granted with superhuman senses, strength, agility, resilience and speed in their fight against forces of darkness. As many fans know, one slayer is chosen by fate (it’s the way of “Buffyverse”), and is always of the female persuasion.
Towards the end of Buffy’s television run the “there can only be one” rule was broken, allowing multiple slayers to exist at once. So with issue fourteen of Dark Horse Comics’ Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Nine hitting stores next month, former Buffy TV writers Jane Espenson and Drew Greenberg are mixing things up a bit, introducing a slayer who’s not only male, but gay.
Meet Billy, the slayer with the perfect name to strike fear into undead hearts all over Sunnydale and according to Espenson:
I thought, Gee, all the work we’ve done with Buffy is about being female, and how that doesn’t mean that you are lesser. It suddenly struck me: If being feminine doesn’t mean that your’e lesser, then liking guys also doesn’t mean you’re lesser. For very good reason, we’ve focused on the female empowerment part of Buffy, but I wondered, Did we leave something out? What if someone in high school is looking up to Buffy as a role model, and we’re saying: You can’t be a Slayer.
There will be the naysayers who believe this is only a way to drive up sales and they could be right. Marvel did it with the wedding of X-men Mutant Northstar, Jean-Paul Beaubier, to his partner Kyle Jinadu and DC comics relaunched Earth-2 Green Lantern Alan Scott as a gay man, but this isn’t about sales to Espenson and Greenberg.
I have no problem telling a story about a boy who’s always felt more comfortable identifying with what society tells him is more of a feminine role. So much crap gets heaped upon us as gay men — crap from straight people and, frankly, crap from other gay people — about how it’s important to be masculine in this world, how your value is determined by your ability to fit into masculine norms prescribed by heterosexual society and, sadly, co-opted by gay society as a way to further disenfranchise and bully those who don’t meet those norms. And those attitudes are a reflection of not just our own internalized homophobia, but of our misogyny, too, and that’s something I’ve never understood. So if this is a story that causes people to examine traditional gender roles and think of them as something more fluid, I’m thrilled.
One of the most interesting things about this new slayer isn’t the fact that we could see him sucking face with any male already in the Buffyverse, but his process of becoming a slayer. Billy won’t have all the bonuses that most slayers receive, since fate usually decides who becomes a slayer and inherits the strength and skill to hunt down vampires.
Batman doesn’t have super powers… He wasn’t gifted with an exotic foreign birth. So we take the Batman route; Billy is earning the Slayer mantle.
So Billy could be compared to Xander from early on in the Buffy series, just a guy sitting in the wings watching the action go by as a sidekick. But instead of watching, decides to risk his life defending his hometown. Right now, it looks like Billy has no powers and no back up, meaning his time could be short, but his potential for ass kickery could get him into the big leagues.
We’ll have to see how it all plays out for Billy when Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Nine #14 hits comic book stores October 10th.