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Casey Gilly and Joe Jaro on going 'Elseworlds' with 'Buffy the Last Vampire Slayer'

Comic Books

Casey Gilly and Joe Jaro on going ‘Elseworlds’ with ‘Buffy the Last Vampire Slayer’

Exploring an older, equally compelling Slayer.

BOOM! Studios has released a new Buffy the Vampire Slayer series like you’ve never seen or read before. Written by Casey Gilly, and with art by Joe Jaro, Buffy the Last Vampire Slayer (out this week) is set in a brand-new universe where vampires have taken over, but live in peace with humans.

If it sounds like a crazy premise, it mostly is — and that’s why its magic works. Buffy is alone as the only remaining slayer, and yet she co-exists with vampires in what appears to be a boring dystopia. Still, there’s something more here to the story, and it’s a unique take on our beloved Slayer. Consider it this canon’s version of, say, Old Man Logan.

Listen to the latest episode of our weekly comics podcast!

I recently brought up those dystopian vibes with the creators during a lengthy Q&A. We also discuss the unique Elseworlds approach, how Gilley’s day job in HR affects the narrative, Jaro’s visual style, and how superhero metabolism is a major problem in comics.

Casey Gilly and Joe Jaro on going 'Elseworlds' with 'Buffy the Last Vampire Slayer'

Courtesy of BOOM! Studios.

AIPT: Congratulations on The Buffy The Last Vampire Slayer coming out this week, for fans of the series is this in continuity or an alternate reality Elseworlds story?

Casey Gilly: Yes. It is definitely not within the main continuity. Yeah. Definitely informed by it, and there is a lot that will feel familiar. But yes, Elseworlds.

AIPT: What research or background work did it take to write a series like this?

Joe Jaro: I was a big Buffy fan. When it was airing on TV, and then I binged it again Hulu. So I’m familiar with the whole series from beginning to pretty much end, as well as, you know, the spin-off Angel series as well. That’s pretty much the research I’ve done. Like when I first got the gig, I was like, “Alright, I’m good. I don’t really need research.”

CG: It was the same for me. I mean, there were a couple of things I had to look up where I was like, “oh, yeah, like, I think it went like this. But I need to make sure.” I was such a big Buffy fan. And I was a teenager when it was airing and I probably watched the series 10 plus times all the way through. I haven’t watched it lately, in honestly, in years. And when I found out that I got the job, I was like, “am I going to still remember the language?” Do I still feel fluent in Buffy?

It was a really surprising but exciting moment, I wrote the first issue so fast. Like it just came out of me really quickly. And I was, in fact, still very fluent in Buffy, and retained all of it. And it was all there just waiting to be accessed.

One of the great things about it being like an Elseworlds story is that we don’t have to be so married to what has happened. And for me, the most important part was having the character’s voices be accessible, especially in the dialogue since that is such a pillar of what makes Buffy iconic. I wanted to have the voices translate. I wanted to have the humor there. And I wanted to add something to it, of course, but I’m almost embarrassed to say I didn’t do any research.

The Buffy The Last Vampire Slayer Casey Gilley Joe Jaro

Courtesy of BOOM! Studios.

AIPT: This is a fish out of water story and it flips things on Buffy his head. You see that in the first scene in the bar, that you do so well with Joe, including Joanna Lafuente’s colors.

JJ: Yeah, I love the colors that she’s picked out. It sets the mood. Definitely.

CG: There’s a moment in issue two that we just reviewed. When I saw the page, I legitimately gasped, Joe, there’s a pizza scene where they’re at a pizza place. And the lighting in it, like, I actually had a hand to my chest.

AIPT: I also like how you guys are subtle like you’re not hitting us over the head with how the world works. There’s like a really well-placed sign that says Vampire Human Workplace Alliance, for instance, and you get this idea that there’s a culture there. Is there a library of just content you guys have developed to flesh out the world that we may not see on the page?

CG: No. Here’s a fun fact. In my day job, I am an HR manager. So a lot of the signage was sort of an inside joke with myself. When I read books, or watch movies, and they’re in a retail store, or a bar, you know they’re missing some OSHA signage, this shouldn’t really be here. Like, it’s just sort of this mode that my brain has. And I thought that it would be a really fun narrative device that made sense and would not be overdoing it. It’s something that you would naturally see in the progression of that first issue chase scene. And I thought it was a fun way to just play with comics, without having to have somebody say, “As you know, we have this and less and less.” It was a little bit more passive and a little bit tongue in cheek, but I thought it would also just be fun for Joe to have another like moment of design and to make the world be a little bit more lived in.

JJ: The description of what I’ve seen out there is like a post-apocalyptic story and you get this sense and picture in your head already. And I do like how Casey just flipped it. There was an apocalypse, basically, something big happen. But these vampires, they live, they have their day-to-day life. But they just want to be in charge. So the world is still almost the same, but it’s just geared more towards that they’re on top. Yeah, you know, HR and like, just little restaurants here and there.

The Buffy The Last Vampire Slayer Casey Gilley Joe Jaro

Courtesy of BOOM! Studios.

AIPT: There’s a really good subreddit called a boring dystopia. Its kind of is like that, in that you’d think that there’d be a fire in the streets, but no, actually, there’d be just vampires dressed as matadors at the restaurant.

CG: [Laughs] That’s what felt right. I didn’t want to make this big Fury Road–smoking asphalt, people living in sewers and like, barrels of trash–I love all of that, but that did not feel natural to where Buffy would find herself. I really just didn’t see that. It definitely is a boring dystopia.

AIPT: Joe you mentioned a second ago the signage in the restaurant in particular. I think it says something like “I vant drink your seven-layer flavor.” Was that in the script?

JJ: That was yes. The whole imagery was definitely from Casey. She definitely put the humor in there. And I’ll just take in a little bit of what I thought would look funny. My little contribution was one of the servers, some young vampire dude with his fake vampire hair and his little bristling mustache and in, you know, just like what you would see if you went to a restaurant now.

CG: You do such a good job, Joe, that page is my favorite because it is so funny.

AIPT: It’s also funny like Buffy has got food on her face. Like she’s not around people a lot. I guess.

CG: One of the things that always bugs me about superheroes or like anybody with powers is that I feel like their metabolisms would be absolutely wild. And they would eat all the time. The fact that we don’t see Superman eat that much?

AIPT: Or Flash?

CG: Yes! Buffy exerts so much energy, even if she were just an average woman who was in that kind of physical condition, she would need to have such a high caloric intake to maintain her muscle mass and to sustain like all of the exertion she does. And like you said, she’s not around people much. Nobody expected her to live this long. I also think about what wouldn’t she have learned in her formative years if people really didn’t expect the Slayer to be around this long? So yeah, she eats constantly.

The Buffy The Last Vampire Slayer Casey Gilley Joe Jaro

Courtesy of BOOM! Studios.

AIPT: About how old is she in the story?

CG: Fifties.

AIPT: Knowing that she’s much older than what we’ve seen in the show did you consciously try to change the voice in the dialogue so that it was like an older person?

CG: That’s a good question. I am 41 and I still talk very similarly to how I spoke when I was in my 20s. I think that there are some things that are elevated, and she definitely has learned the value of the strong, silent communication. And I just don’t think she has as much to say as she once did. I do you think she’s a little tired. I feel like everybody can relate to the fact that you can only say something so many times before you’re just done saying it. So that did factor into it. I kept her humor, similar. She’s still very sarcastic. And she still loves a good pun. But I really relied on Joe to give her such a great vessel that has seen battles and had experiences so that even if it were the same dialogue, it still hits differently when you see it coming from this Buffy.

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