Buffyverse canon

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The Buffyverse canon consists of materials that are thought to be genuine (or "official") and those events, characters, settings, etc., that are considered to have inarguable existence within the fictional universe established by the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The Buffyverse is expanded through other additional materials such as comics, novels, pilots, promos and video games which do not necessarily take place in exactly the same fictional continuity as the Buffy episodes and Angel episodes. Star Trek, Star Wars, Stargate and other prolific sci-fi and fantasy franchises have similarly gathered complex fictional continuities through hundreds of stories told in different formats.[1]

Definition[edit]

Using the religious analogy of a canon of scripture (see Biblical canon), things that are not canon are considered "apocryphal." When a body of work is not specifically accepted or rejected by an authority, "canon" can be a fluid term that is interpreted differently by different people. This is the case with "Buffyverse canon," which has yet to be publicly defined by an authority to the satisfaction and consensus of all observers (see: links to canon debates). The creator of the Buffyverse, Joss Whedon, has implied that additional materials he was not heavily involved in creating were separate from canon.[2] When asked in an interview about canon, Whedon stated:

Canon is key, as is continuity. If you are massive nerd. Which I am. I believe there's a demarcation between the creation and ancillary creations by different people. I'm all for that stuff, just like fanfic, but I like to know what's there's an absolutely official story-so-far, especially when something changes mediums, which my stuff seems to do a lot.[3]

Canon listing[edit]

This is an overview of what has been dubbed official Buffyverse canon by series creator Joss Whedon:

Comics and novels[edit]

Outside of the TV series, the Buffyverse has been expanded and elaborated on by various authors and artists in the so-called "Buffyverse Expanded Universe". The Buffyverse novels and Buffyverse comics are licensed by 20th Century Fox, but are generally considered 'less real' within the Buffyverse (apocryphal).[4]

Despite this, they have been licensed as official Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Angel merchandise. Furthermore, many authors have said that Whedon or his office have had to approve their overall outline for their novel or comic if not the final product. This was to prevent the stories venturing too far from the original intentions of Buffy/Angel stories (see below). These works are commonly considered non-canon. Jeff Mariotte, author of Buffyverse novels and comics has said:

The rule in licensed fiction is that what's on the screen is canon, and the rest is not.[4]

Works by Buffyverse writers and cast[edit]

Joss Whedon[edit]

Work created with Joss Whedon's involvement has been described as canon by commentators,[5] and by Whedon himself. For example he announced in 2005:

Darkhorse Comics are starting a new Buffy comic, and as I understand it, it will take place after the end of Buffy and Angel and be canon in the Buffy world. And I understand it that way 'cause I'm writing it![6]

In a separate interview, Whedon spoke of the planning process for the series:

I basically said, "We could do something and for once we could make it canon. We could make it officially what happened after the end of the show."[7]

Whedon has also written the comic mini-series Long Night's Journey, as well as short stories for Tales of the Slayers and Tales of the Vampires.

Fray is an eight-part comic series written by Whedon, about a Vampire Slayer of the future named Melaka Fray. In the Buffyverse, a powerful scythe used by Buffy is found in centuries to come by Melaka Fray. In 2001, whilst Whedon was still producing Buffy, he spoke about his concern of implications of information established by Fray (and Buffy comics generally) affecting the canon Buffyverse:

When it comes to Buffy, I do the show and that's it. Anything I do in a comic might interfere with the canon, or interfere with what I'm doing on the show. With Fray, I thought, okay, I'll do something new, that's in the Buffy universe so that I don't have to create a whole new universe for my first foray into comics. It can therefore be of interest to the fans, yet not interfere with anything.[8]

However, the Buffy series finale did not match continuity set by Fray. In Fray no mention is made of the Slayer's essence being split amongst multiple women.[9] When asked about the apparent contradictions between Buffy and Fray, Whedon responded:

No, that’s actually something I hope to deal with, either in the Spike format or in another series of Fray. There’s a discrepancy there that I plan to explain. I have a vision for it.[2]

In an interview with TV Guide, Whedon revealed that he considered TV tie-in comics to be "ancillary" unless written by the script-writers:

"TVGuide.com: Have you seen the Battlestar Galactica comic?

Whedon: No, I don't think I can do it. I love Battlestar too hard. I couldn't look at any ancillary work.

TVGuide.com: I love Buffy "hard," so are you saying we fans shouldn't read the [Buffy the Vampire Slayer season eight (by Whedon)]?

Whedon: No, because if they stopped doing Battlestar Galactica, and then two or three years later Ron Moore and David Eick said, "We ourselves are going to continue the story in comic-book form—as opposed to something ancillary to the show done by other people," then I would be all over it. That's not to say the Battlestar comic isn't great, but I love that show the way other people love Buffy. I love it unreasonably."[7]

Mutant Enemy[edit]

Several of the comics have been written by the scriptwriters of Mutant Enemy Productions. Doug Petrie wrote comics Ring of Fire, Double Cross, and Bad Dog. Jane Espenson has written comics (Haunted, Jonathan, and Reunion), as well as two Tales of the Slayer prose shorts ("Again, Sunnydale" and "Two Teenage Girls at the Mall"). Rebecca Rand Kirshner also wrote a prose short story for Tales of the Slayer, "The War Between the States".

Buffyverse cast[edit]

Two actors have co-authored comics with Christopher Golden. James Marsters, who portrayed Spike, co-authored "Paint the Town Red", whilst Amber Benson co-authored Willow & Tara. Benson also wrote the comic short story "The Innocent".

Works by other authors[edit]

All other Buffyverse comics and novels were written by authors that were not involved with any level of production of the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Angel. The creators of these works are generally free to tell their own stories set in the Buffyverse,[citation needed] and may or may not keep to established continuity. Similarly, writers for the TV series were under no obligation to use continuity which has been established by the Expanded Universe,[citation needed] and sometimes contradicted it.

Continuity problems[edit]

Usually the authors and editors of these licensed materials try not to contradict information that has been established by canon. However, many of the materials do directly contradict it. Jeff Mariotte has said:

Sometimes stuff shows up on screen that contradicts what you wrote, and sometimes the timing is such that a book comes out after the episode that contradicts it airs.[4]

For example, according to Monster Island, Spike and Gunn meet in the Hyperion Hotel in Angel Season 3;[10] however, the canonical Angel TV series later established that Spike and Gunn meet in the Wolfram and Hart L.A. offices in Angel Season 5.[11]

Some of the licensed materials successfully avoid contradicting any information given in episodes. For example, How I Survived My Summer Vacation features short stories that take place after Buffy Season 1 but before Season 2.

Joss Whedon's involvement[edit]

A number of comments by Buffyverse writers have indicated that although they know they are not writing Buffyverse canon, overviews for their stories may still have been checked over by Whedon.

Referring to Whedon, Christopher Golden said:

He has to approve everything. I should say, his office has to approve everything, so sometimes he gets more involved than others in doing those approvals.[12]

In a separate interview, Golden said:

There are times in both books and comics when I know he has gotten involved because the word, sort of, comes down from him.[13]

Similarly, Peter David was asked about his comic, Spike: Old Times, and said:

Ostensibly comments came from Whedon, although for all I know, it was from an associate.[14]

Jeff Mariotte has revealed more detail of the approval process:

I come up with a proposal that's eight or ten pages long and I submit that to Pocket Books. They read it and if they like it then they submit it to 20th Century Fox and the Buffy office. If everybody approves it then I can get to work ... if I proposed doing something that was counter to what they wanted the direction of the character to be, they would tell me.[15]

Mariotte implies that little input is given, only acceptance or rejection of general ideas:

In the world of licensing there is a difference between 'approval' and 'input', and I'm not sure what the legal relationship between Fox and Mutant Enemy is. My impression is that Fox is doing everything in its power to make sure Joss is happy with what we do, and I know that Joss is looking at everything and making comments or thumbs-up, thumbs-down on stuff.[4]

When asked how much attention he pays to licensed works, Whedon said:

Not very much. I just don’t have time. I give them a few guidelines of things they should stay away from, things that we’re going to be dealing with or things that would disrupt the canon or things that are just antithetical to what I believe in.[2]

Elsewhere, Whedon has pointed out that he has never entirely read a single Buffy novel, and has little time to devote to such material. He therefore knows little of the final product, or of their quality control.

Sanction by Joss Whedon[edit]

In one instance, Whedon has endorsed a comic neither written nor supervised by him, The Origin by Christopher Golden and Dan Brereton, as canonical. An adaptation of the 1992 Buffy film which was reworked to fit the television series' continuity, Whedon said this of the comic:

The origin comic, though I have issues with it, CAN pretty much be accepted as canonical. They did a cool job of combining the movie script (the SCRIPT) with the series, that was nice, and using the series Merrick.[16]

Brian Lynch, writer of Spike: Asylum and Spike: Shadow Puppets, had no involvement in the production of the Buffy or Angel television series, but was charged by Joss Whedon with producing the canonical comic series Angel: After The Fall. Betta George, a character created by Lynch, has since been brought into the official canon.[17] Angel: After the Fall also makes explicit reference to Spike: Asylum within its pages. After After the Fall became an ongoing series penned by various writers, the canonicity of later stories is somewhat nebulous without the explicit say-so of those involved or Whedon himself.

Other Buffyverse productions[edit]

Excluding the Buffy and Angel television episodes, novels, and comics, there have been a variety of other official productions set within the Buffyverse. They are largely regarded as apocryphal, and some are contradicted by other canonical works.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992 film)[edit]

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the 1992 comedy film starring Kristy Swanson as Buffy, was written by Joss Whedon and directed by Fran Rubel Kuzui. In 2001, Whedon described his experience watching the film:

I finally sat down and had written it and somebody had made it into a movie, and I felt like -- well, that's not quite her. It's a start, but it's not quite the girl.[18]

The film contradicts continuity established by the Buffy television series; for example, the nature of vampires differs in significant ways: in the film, vampires do not have "vamp" faces whilst feeding, and can fly. They also do not turn into dust when killed. As noted above, the canonicity of this film is superseded by The Origin.

Television pilots[edit]

Whedon wrote and partly funded a 25-minute unaired Buffy pilot[19] to help sell the series concept, but he was not happy with the final product (he has been quoted in an interview about the pilot, "It sucks on ass"[20]). The story is nearly identical to the plot of the first Buffy episode, "Welcome to the Hellmouth", which supersedes it in canon; there are minor canonical changes, including the recasting of some roles and slight personality changes for some characters.

The unaired Angel pitch tape was produced prior to that series. It features Angel speaking toward the camera (possibly breaking the Fourth wall) and narrating action seen in clips.

Screen tests[edit]

Two Buffyverse screen tests have been widely released, both of which are found on the Angel Season 3 DVD set (disc six): Amy Acker's screen test for the role of Winifred Burkle, and Vincent Kartheiser's test for the role of Connor. These are associated with Angel cast and crew. Acker's test involves a scene with the characters, Fred, Wesley and Gunn. Fred tries and fails to alert Wesley to an imminent danger but Wesley (and later Gunn) are struck by a love spell which causes them to profess their love for her. Kartheiser's test involves the characters Connor and Angel. Connor wishes to leave the Hyperion, but Angel attempts to stop him. It was noted that in this screen test, Connor was not Angel's son, but a boy who had come to live with him.

Promos[edit]

Some promotional material aired on WB and UPN featured Buffyverse actors portraying their characters in original material. For example, Sarah Michelle Gellar appeared as Buffy for 1-800-COLLECT adverts. Similarly Nicholas Brendon played Xander in Barq's commercials. Some Buffy Season 6 UPN promos consisted of the Scooby Gang talking about Buffy. Whedon's degree of involvement in the making of such promotional clips is not publicly known.

Video games[edit]

The Buffy the Vampire Slayer video games do not contradict continuity established by the series. Furthermore, many of the actors from the shows have provided their voices for the games. Joss Whedon was involved in Chaos Bleeds, and appears in the game's special features.

Undeveloped productions[edit]

Mutant Enemy Productions have at various times gone into the early stages of development with potential Buffyverse spinoffs that were ultimately unproduced. Faith the Vampire Slayer, Ripper, Slayer School, and the Spike movie would have taken place within the same fictional continuity.[citation needed] Buffy the Animated Series might have followed a slightly alternative continuity since promotional artwork has shown that the Sunnydale High library would have looked dramatically different from in the Buffy episodes.[21]

The David Fury-written script "Corrupt" establishes an alternative continuity after the premiere Angel episode, "City of". Events that take place in the story are instead superseded by the continuity of the second Angel episode, "Lonely Hearts", the episode which was written to replace "Corrupt".

Unofficial works[edit]

Various works are not licensed by 20th Century Fox as Buffy/Angel merchandise, and do not have any involvement from any Buffyverse cast and crew. These include adult (pornographic) parodies and fan films.

References[edit]

  1. ^ See Star Trek canon, Star Wars canon. These canons have been more clearly defined than the Buffyverse canon.
  2. ^ a b c Faraci, Devin, Exclusive Interview: Joss Whedon, CHUD.com (September 22, 2005)
  3. ^ Brady, Matt, "Joss Whedon talks Angel, After the Fall", Newsarama.com (April 26, 2007).
  4. ^ a b c d Naso, Markisan, Jeff Mariotte: Cursed, Silver Bullet Comic Books (2005)
  5. ^ Allie, Scott "An Interview with Scott Allie". Stakesandsalvation.com (May 16, 2007)
  6. ^ Whedon, Joss "Joss to never learn how to work site!". Whedonesque.com (November 09 2005)
  7. ^ a b Rudolph, Ileane,"Buffy the Vampire Slayer Is Back: The Complete Joss Whedon Q&A". TV Guide (December 7, 2006)
  8. ^ Nazzaro, Joe, "Interview with Joss Whedon", Starburst #48 (June 2001). Cited from fanficcafe.
  9. ^ Whedon, Joss, "Chosen", Buffy TV episode (2003)
  10. ^ Golden, Christopher & Sniegoski, Thomas E., Monster Island, Pocket Books, (March 2003)
  11. ^ Whedon, Joss, "Conviction" Angel TV series (2003).
  12. ^ Bratton, Kristy, "Behind the Scenes with Christopher Golden", Cityofangel.com (2000).
  13. ^ Bratton, Kristy, "Dragon*Con 2000", Cityofangel.com (2000).
  14. ^ David, Peter, "Spike Comic", Peterdavid.malibulist.com (March 12, 2005).
  15. ^ Barrera, Rachel, "City of Angel - Jeff Mariotte: Armed with Pen and Stake", Cityofangel.com (2000).
  16. ^ Hsiao, James T. (archiver), "Bronze VIP Archive" The Bronze (January 17, 1999).
  17. ^ Lynch, Brian (2007-07-27). "Comments on 13845: (SPOILER) First smidgen of info from IDW's 'Angel:After the Fall' panel at Comic-Con.". Retrieved 2007-07-31. 
  18. ^ Ervin-Gore, Shawna, "Dark Horse; Joss Whedon" darkhorse.com (2001).
  19. ^ Topping, Keith "Slayer". Virgin Publishing, (December 1, 2004), p7
  20. ^ Ken, P., "An Interview with Joss Whedon", filmforce.ign.com, page 10 (June 23, 2003).
  21. ^ Wight, Eric (2003). "Sunnydale High School Library: Visual Development". Ericwight.com. Archived from the original on 2 April 2007. 

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