I’m still working on the next story in my “Safe as Houses” series, so I’ll share some thoughts this week.
Since one of the episodes of “Inside Job” took place in a comic book store, here’s a shout out to a couple of my favorite high-quality series. My character Sally doesn’t read comics, but I read the two mentioned in the story: Joss Whedon’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and Allison Bechdel’s “Dykes to Watch Out For.”
Joss Whedon and Buffy
If you’re reading my stuff, you’re probably already a fan of Joss Whedon and his brilliant TV series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” What you may not know is that “Buffy” is still “on” — in comic book form.
Joss has created some of the most consistently high-quality television out there. “Buffy” and its spin-off “Angel” were sophisticated, intelligent, richly funny, and also big hits. “Firefly” and “Dollhouse” were every bit as sophisticated, but didn’t catch on with the vast public, though they earned a loyal following.
Joss has also made a few movies: “Serenity” is a sequel to his Firefly series, “Cabin in the Woods” is a smart, classy, original spin on horror movies — and is there anyone out there who hasn’t seen “The Avengers”?
My Buffy Journey
My wife turned me on to “Buffy.” I laughed and cried through all seven seasons, and the five seasons of the spin-off show “Angel.” Nearly every episode featured unexpected story twists, deep character development and the kind of trademark witty dialogue that — well, when I try to write like that my wife says, “Don’t try to be Joss.”
I avoided reading anything online about the show until we’d watched the last episode, because people casually include spoilers in their remarks about something already aired. I’m being very careful now in case you’re lucky enough to have the pleasure of watching the series in your future.
When we finished the last episode of “Angel” (which ran for one year after “Buffy” ended), I went online and found to my delighted amazement that the story had been continued in comic book form and was still ongoing.
The Buffy Comics
Over a few months I read the forty-some issues of “Buffy Season 8” in their omnibus editions, then bought the back issues of the currently running “Buffy Season 9.” I’m now completely caught up and am following the ongoing Season 9 series.
It’s a huge slowdown, going from an episode every evening to one per month. Fortunately, though “Buffy” is monthly, there’s a companion series called “Angel and Faith” and a couple of five-issue mini-series, so at the moment, “Buffy” is “on” practically every week.
The storytelling quality is still high. Just recently they ran a two-parter by Jane Espenson featuring a young gay man who wants to be a vampire slayer. Ms. Espenson was one of the writers on the original series and on other acclaimed series such as “Battlestar Galactica.” Her story was as every bit as fine as anything done on the TV series.
The comics are published by Dark Horse and you can buy and read them online here. You can read more about Joss Whedon and his work on Wikipedia and on a site called Whedonesque.com, maintained by devoted fans.
Allison Bechdel and Dykes to Watch Out For
Allison Bechdel also does the kind of storytelling I love. She builds and develops the characters, tells stories that make you care, and presents people from all walks of life without judgment, always trying to see the other person’s point of view. She published her “Dykes to Watch Out For” cartoons from 1983-2008. Each strip was only about a page long and was published every other week. They’ve been collected in several volumes which are now, alas, out of print. (However, it seems that at least some of them can still be ordered through Amazon.com, here.)
My “Dykes” Journey
I discovered these cartoons in a friend’s bathroom in Tucson. She had “Dykes to Watch Out For Volume 4” in the basket of on-the-pot reading matter. After just ten pages, I was hooked. Rather than spend the rest of my visit in the bathroom, I carried the volume out to the living room.
I’m actually glad I started with Volume 4 instead of Volume 1. The first volume and a half were just random cartoons; she only started the ongoing serial in the middle of Volume 2. Also, the early episodes were a little clunky and awkward. But by Volume 4 she had built up some backplot and her storytelling style was developing.
I started at exactly the point where the story was sophisticated enough to intrigue me, but not far enough along to spoil the many good plot threads to come. I went home and bought up all the old volumes that I could find, and then bought the new ones as they came out and started reading it weekly on her website .
Alas, a few years ago she stopped writing the comic to focus on her graphic novels. Fun Home and the recently published Are You My Mother? are very good, but oh how I wish she’d continue telling us about Mo and Sydney and all the other characters I’ve come to love so much.
I’m imagining that the volume on display in the comic book store in my story would be the recently published Essential Dykes to Watch Out For, which has most of the cartoons in one volume. Can’t imagine why the sleazeball owner of that particular store would stock something so cool — maybe the occasional sex and nudity?