Buffy's Romp: Marketing Ploy or Part of the Plot?

Buffy finds herself in bed with another woman in the latest issue of the comic.


March 6, 2008 — -- Buffy Summers has now done it all.

After spending nearly a decade slaying vampires and demons and carefully juggling her schoolwork with her budding teen romances, Buffy of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" now also knows what it's like to have a one-night stand -- with a woman.

In the latest installment of the comic book series "Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight" -- which continues the saga that began in a 1993 film and then continued during seven seasons of a hit television series -- Buffy takes a break from her vampire duties to jump into bed with Satsu, a fellow slayer.

"Wow," says Buffy in the comic, hand on sweaty brow, naked body wrapped in tangled bed sheets. "That was ... that was ... Wow."

"'That was wow' pretty much covers it," responds Satsu, who, also dripping with sweat, clutches Buffy's 20-something body.

The comic's illustrators -- seemingly inspired by the sexy narrative -- litter the bedside with discarded bras and panties.

While the scene, which was first reported by The New York Times, may initially come across as a little too sexy and a little too soft porn, Joss Whedon, executive producer of the strip, told ABCNEWS.com that the story line flowed naturally and is nothing to gape at.

"We had already established that there was this character, Satsu, was in love with Buffy and that Buffy was kind of lonesome," said Whedon. "[We decided] it would be fun if they just went ahead and did it, rather than have it be a 'will they won't they' situation."

Despite Whedon's assertion that Buffy's adventurous sexuality is nothing new -- after all, her best friend on the show, Willow, came out in Season 4 -- industry insiders still aren't convinced that the latest plot twist isn't anything more than a marketing ploy.

Having gay characters in comic books is not a new concept, according to comic guru Matthew McAllister, but central characters who stray from heterosexuality may be.

"We've definitely seen gay characters in mainstream comics over the past 10 to 15 years," said McAllister, who co-edited the book "Film and Comics." "But usually those tend to be secondary characters, not leads."

Dark Horse Comics, the publisher of Buffy's comic strip, estimates that since the comic's inception in March 2007, more than 1 million issues have been sold, approximately 120,000 each month.

While according to the publisher the audience includes "lovers of television and comics of all ages," McAllister says that Dark Horse is known for aiming its material more toward older teens and readers in their mid-20s.

Because the comic was the spawn of a popular movie and television series, McAllister bears on the side of Whedon, who asserts that Buffy's gay romp was more about character development than revenue.

"It's not like Buffy hasn't explored these issues before, so in a way it goes with the basic sensibility of the characters and the universe of Buffy," McAllister said. "'Buffy' is a metaphor for teenage life, and one of the issues teenagers face is the questioning of sexuality. Now [Dark Horse] is trying to explore it a little bit more."

A representative from The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation familiar with the comic welcomed the plot twist, lauding it as yet another example of the "Buffy" enterprise including "multidimensional lesbian characters in the Buffy universe."

"'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' has always been an inclusive series, both on screen and now on the page," said Damon Romine, the entertainment media director for GLAAD, in a statement e-mailed to ABCNEWS.com. "We look forward to seeing how Buffy's emotional and physical connection with Satsu plays out, since the creators always take us in surprising and compelling directions."

"It made logical, emotional sense and it was an opportunity for drama and character exploration," said Whedon, who told ABCNEWS.com that while Buffy has not "all of a sudden turned gay" she is not "completely cut off from that particular enjoyment."

But for Stephen Krensky, author of "Comic Book Century: The History of American Comic Books," it's not so clear that Buffy's gay romp was a true advancement of her character and not just a way to freshen up the comic and keep it from its demise.

"Comic books are competing now with video games, DVDs and 'Guitar Hero' for the attention of the audience that, let's face it, they had [during the 1960s]," said Krensky. "Now it's, 'how do we get attention' and 'how do we find a niche?'"

Buffy is not the first comic to stray from its original form, Krensky said, and he added that sometimes he wishes comic writers would let the story "run its course" rather than go off on endless tangents.

"Superman" writers, said Krensky, went as far as developing "Superpets" to extend the comic's story line.

"This is just the latest installment of [a comic] pushing the envelope," said Krensky, who was once a fan of the "Buffy" television show. "It disappoints me if the only reason they do it is because they're looking for new wrinkles to just have something to write about."

Whedon says that's just not the case -- and that he wouldn't continue writing storyboards for "Buffy" if he didn't think it was truly advancing the story.

"I don't need to push the envelope. The reason I'm [still writing it] is that we love it and we couldn't stop telling these stories," Whedon said.

He said he's confident fans won't stray from the comic and will understand Buffy's desire to experiment.

"We have a glut of ideas, but that doesn't mean everyone is going to like them," Whedon said. "But eventually, if the comic doesn't feel like it's artistically valid or if it's not selling, then we'll stop making it."