Monday, July 13, 2009

Genre schmenre

You know, I have to admit that, like quite a few other people, I'm finding quite a bit of fault with the new Buffy comics that Dark Horse are putting out. I think that part of the problem is that, in these new comics, we may have moved too far away from the high-concept idea that made the series work so well initially. We may be in the same universe, but are now a huge distance from 'high school drama/comedy meets vampire romance'. I guess what I'm really talking about here is the issue of genre: which ones Buffy fits into and which ones it works well or not so well within.

Me being me, this got me thinking about other comic book genres that might serve Buffy a little bit better...

Shoujo/Shōjo manga
From Wikipedia: "Shōjo manga covers many subjects in a variety of narrative and graphic styles, from historical drama to science fiction often with a strong focus on human and romantic relationships and emotions." In other words, a shoujo series can be about absolutely anything - say, a super-powered girl who fights the forces of darkness - as long as the focus is more on the romance and relationships than anything else. I certainly think that something based on Buffy the Vampire Slayer wouldn't exactly find it hard to meet that criteria, no? A reinvention of the series as full on shoujo comics, foregoing a lot of the focus on...well, it's hard to say where the current series' focus lies, actually, possibly suggesting that it's lacking in one, much to its detriment, but as I was saying: reinventing the series as shoujo comics might do wonders. And it's more than possible: as long as there are interesting characters and the scope for some really complicated emotions, anything can become shoujo comics. One of my favourite examples of this is Marvel comics' Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane (pictured above), which reimagines Spider-Man's high school years (which is when the original comics were set anyway, so this isn't exactly reinventing the wheel) through the shoujo lens, focusing primarily on his relationships with Mary Jane, Gwen Stacey, Harry Osbourn et al instead of the superheroics, which plays a part (the secret-identity drama in particular) but is never centre stage. Could a shift away from the action and back to the personal drama be exactly what the comic book series needs (that and, perhaps, the kickin' Takeshi Miyazawa (see above) on art duties to boot)?

Comic book noir
For almost as long as there have been American comics, there have been comics that have been part of the "noir" genre, focusing on crime, gangs, corruption and the everyday struggles of working-man sleuths. Not to harp on about Marvel even more, but they recently did a series of "noir" reinventions of classic characters like Spider-Man and the X-Men for a collection of mini-series'. Although, as some pointed out, noir-ising (?) Daredevil seemed a bit redundant, as the character's comics already reek of film noir tropes as it is! Angel, especially in season one, before it became full-on urban high fantasy, borrowed considerably from the noir genre, but perhaps Buffy could learn a few valuable lessons from this genre too. I mean, she lives in Scotland now but couldn't possibly move to a major urban area like Glasgow or Edinburgh? Vampires and demons never come up with complicated, real-crime schemes? Again, the series has touched on this stuff (the LA-based episode "Anne" springs to mind), but has never really taken the time to explore it. Could that time be now?

When in doubt, just strip everything away, give Buffy a sword and some spells, set her off against some goblins and let her go. The series uses lots of elements borrowed from the fantasy genre, but I think it'd be really interesting to see the plot of the whole series trend that way too, with Buffy shunted off to some high-fantasy style world that's part Lord of the Rings and part Red Sonja, and made to go on big, epic quests against unimaginable evils. Sure, the series' own postmodernity may make it tough to do that sort of thing without a few sly rib-nudges and jokes at the genre's expense, but I still say it's a workable idea. Even superhero comics (here I go again) have tried it. The Atom, a comic about a shrinking super-hero, was temporarily turned into Sword of the Atom, and even the Incredible Hulk became a classical gladiator figure for a time there a couple of years back. For Buffy it's not even as much of a stretch as it is for these other titles as it contains so many fantasy genre elements anyway. Anyone besides me want to see Ms Summers as a medieval warrior woman?

What I'm noticing here as I sit writing this is that Buffy really is a pretty neat postmodern intertextual melting pot, seeing as how it borrows heavily from everything from high school drama to sci-fi to superhero fiction. If one wanted, one could have Buffy and friends put on primary-coloured spandex and fly around fighting super-criminals and it actually wouldn't seem too out of place, considering that many of the seeds for it are already there in the basic concept. In the past Buffy has also felt free to explore everything from musical films ("Once More with Feeling") to Westerns (as a concept from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer role-playing game books)!

Those are just a couple of my ideas for the comics, but this doesn't have to be limited to just that, of course. I wouldn't be surprised if I discovered that there's already some noir-influenced fan fiction out there, or some that takes the characters and places them firmly in the realm of historical romance (and hey, why not? They've already got characters that live for numerous centuries and time-travel). Any more genres that you'd like to see Buffy explore a little more?


Jayunderscorezero said...

Oh yes, P.S., I guess this means I haven't entirely disappeared.

Dalton the Hardcore Loser said...

Ugh. Makes me a bit apprehensive about beginning Season 8, but being the hardcore Buffy fan that I am, I'm gonna forge ahead anyway....