Resurrecting Television Through Comics

Something that’s become popular of late is continuing defunct and canceled television shows in comic format. Joss Whedon is the biggest player in this game, continuing the stories of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Season 8 from Dark Horse) and Angel (After the Fall, IDW). Farscape has seen a string of miniseries from BOOM! Studios continuing its story. Pushing Daisies is going to see a continuation in comic form from DC. Ditto for Jericho from Devil’s Due.

I am of two minds when it comes to this phenomenon.

Generally, I think it’s great. Most of these shows (with the exception of Buffy) were canceled when they still had a lot of life in them. There are stories left to tell, stories that their creators, no doubt, still have rattling around in their heads. And in the cases mentioned above, those creators are intimately involved with these comics, either writing them directly or at least guiding their development. This is a good thing. It lends the comics legitimacy and promises that you will be getting the series as the creators had intended it. These works are ‘canon’, as authentic as the television series that birthed them.

But there’s something that stops me cold. Something that prevents me, a comic reader, from picking up an issue or even a collection of one of these series. And that’s the medium.

Don’t think I’m dissing comics, because I’m not. But comics are not television just as they’re not films. To me, a television show is more than just plot, dialogue and visuals. To me, the actors are an integral part of a television show. Would Captain Malcolm Reynolds, of Firefly, be as engaging a character without Nathan Fillion playing him*? I think not. And even if it was Whedon writing Mal, anything that Fillion brought to the role is lost in the pages of the comic. Likewise for the chemistry between characters—like Aeryn Sun and John Crichton from Farscape. You can write it, and show it in static images, but it seems to me that it would never quite match the crackle between the live actors. And I just can’t bring myself to check out a watered down version of a series I love.

I realize that I may be in the minority here. And I do find myself wondering where the creators would take the show. I’m tempted to pick up Buffy Season 8 or the Angel series and revisit the characters and the world that I watched so faithfully. But then I see those characters on the page, trying so hard to look like Sarah Michelle Gellar and David Boreanaz and somehow that kills my interest. It’s a strange paradox—the more they look like the people on television, the less interest I have. Because maybe those characters don’t really have life apart from the actors who play them.

So I put it to the readers—how do you feel about these comic continuations? Do you find it better than nothing at all? Or is it as valid as the television show to you? Or is Joss Whedon just writing fanfiction in his own universe? Does anyone else share my peculiar aversions to these? I’m interested in your opinions.

* While Firefly is not one of the series that Whedon has continued in comic format, Whedon has written Firefly/Serenity comics that bridge the period between the series and the movie.

Rajan Khanna is a graduate of the 2008 Clarion West Writers Workshop and his fiction has appeared in Shimmer Magazine. He lives in Brooklyn with his two cats, Chloe and Muppet.


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