After years of waiting, Buffy fans will discover the mysterious details behind the story's "Big Bad" this week, and best-selling novelist Brad Meltzer has the job of revealing it.
The masked villain known only as "Twilight" has been a mystery ever since Joss Whedon first created him 2007 in the pages of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, the Dark Horse comic that serves as a canonical sequel to the TV show. As other writers have worked on Whedon's series over the last three years, Twilight continued working to "end magic" and tear apart Buffy's army of Slayers.
The official reveal of the character's identity within the story takes place this week in Issue #33, but some readers already found out who's behind the mask. In January, an accidental internet leak of upcoming covers for the comic book series was picked up by Buffy message boards, revealing Twilight's surprising identity, although the character's motivation has yet to be explained.
Meltzer began his story arc in February with Issue #32, working with ongoing series artist Georges Jeanty to explore Buffy's new superpowers, giving the story a "comic book" flavor. But this week, the writer's second issue gives Meltzer the chance to reveal Twilight to the world and begin exploring what his identity means for the Buffyverse.
Newsarama spoke with Meltzer about the story, and the writer requested that we not name Twilight's identity, just in case there are readers left who haven't seen the leaked cover and still want to be surprised.
Newsarama: Brad, you seemed to find the voices of these characters easily – or at least you made it look easy. Was that because you were such a big Buffy fan? Or did you have to work at it?
Brad Meltzer: I just like the characters. And whether you own the property or not, the most vital thing is always being respectful of the characters. I know it sounds odd – as if these imaginary people are real – but they are real. We know them. We know how they speak. We know their behaviors. And we know when they're not acting like themselves. In fact, some of us spend more time with these imaginary people than we do with real friends. That says something about the characters. For me, the groundwork was laid on the TV show. That was the one thing I was determined to stay true to.
Nrama: Issue #32 has a lot of references to things us comic geeks enjoyed, with a lot of humor about superheroes as Buffy discovered her powers. Was that something you were told to do, or something you felt fit the story?
Meltzer: I couldn't stop writing the jokes. When we first talked about Buffy having powers, I told Joss about the faster-than-a-speeding-bullet joke. But as I sat with the page, I couldn't stop. Xander couldn't stop. They just kept coming... because let's be honest, if you read comics... that's the moment we dream of. The moment we realize we can fly. And then, greedy bastards we are, we want to know "What else we got?"
Nrama: How do you think Buffy having superpowers enriches her story? And will more be revealed about the cause of those superpowers?
Meltzer: People think the powers are a cute magic trick. But the powers are the story. Think of it. For a full season, Twilight has had powers. Now Buffy has powers. The question is: Why? All I care about is that big picture.
Nrama: There has been plenty of drama in the series, particularly now, but Issue #32 tempered it with a lot of humor. Looking back at your Justice League of America run or even the DC Universe: Last Will and Testament issue, you've been working on very serious comics lately. Did working on something lighter like Buffy challenge you? Or was it a welcome break?
Meltzer: I think the number one email I get about my novels is, "Yeah, I liked the thriller... but I was surprised it made me laugh." In comics, though, I think humor is harder. Brian [Vaughan] does it in Ex Machina and Y [The Last Man] with beautiful restraint. And a few others try here and there. But humor is hard to pull off. Thankfully, Buffy's always had that humor built in. But let me also say, I think my favorite part of writing this series has been the variety of genres we're able to tackle with each issue. Part 1 (issue 32) was certainly comedy. In part 2, you'll see the drama. In part 3... just wait. And in part 4, it's action and... just wait.
Nrama: What are some other differences about working on Buffy from other comics? How different has it been working with Joss, or dealing with the fans of Buffy?
Meltzer: I don't see a real difference between the two. But what I always love is when there's intelligence behind the passion. In both audiences, it's a real literate crowd, who gets every obscure literary/pop/religious reference I try to tuck in there. And there are few things more rewarding to me than being understood.
Nrama: The whole Buffyverse is watching Issue #33 because of the big Twilight reveal. Are you feeling a lot of pressure? Did that make writing your story more difficult?
Meltzer: You mean do I feel any pressure that I'm revealing the moment that people have waited nearly a decade of their lives for? That the whole series is built around? That has been overhyped and revealed and therefore commented on before anyone knows anything? Let me answer honestly: The only pressure I felt was to Joss. I just didn't want to let him down. He placed his trust in me and all I cared about was that one set of eyes. If you worry about what every other person out there thinks about you, you shouldn't be in this business.
Nrama: When you found out who Twilight was, what did you think? Were you surprised?
Meltzer: When you really think about, it should be no surprise at all.
Nrama: At what point did you find out about the leak of Twilight's identity? And were you disappointed by that? How do you think it will it affect the impact of your storyline?
Meltzer: I think after [Dark Horse editor] Scott Allie had his heart attack, he called Joss, then me. From his voice, I thought he was shot in the chest. And for sure I was just... bummed makes it sound so stupid – but after I was over the initial "that sucks," I just couldn't shake one thought and that was: Man, I just feel bad for Joss. In the end, this is his story. His secret. And I remember on Identity Crisis when we spent two years holding that secret. Or JLA, when we spent a year not telling anyone who was on the team. And then to just see that secret spill out there because someone clicked the wrong button... That was a secret that a small group of us were carrying for three years. How could I not feel bad?
Nrama: How did you decide to approach the anticipation in the issue for the Twilight reveal? Was your approach changed at all by the fact that some readers will already know who Twilight is?
Meltzer: It's always about the story. It has to be. But when someone tells you the secret in the middle of the mystery, the mystery just has to lose something. The only good news was, to me, I was always less concerned with who Twilight was. I cared about the why. Why is this happening? What's the big picture? And what does it mean to the characters?
Nrama: Can you run through how the reveal and explanation will work as far as your issues go? How much will we understand at the end of Issue #33? After Twilight's reveal, where does the story go?
Meltzer: The reveal is on page 15. And there are some hints of the big picture in Issue #33. But the next issue is where the Buffyverse mythology really comes into play. And that mythology is what I love.
Nrama: Without naming who is Twilight, suffice it to say that it's someone who has turned toward the dark side before. Is this the same kind of thing?
Meltzer: This is different than those.
Nrama: We've been told that Joss had an outline that he gave various writers. How much freedom did you have in your story arc? How involved has Joss been?
Meltzer: I have a plot brain. I know how to plot – that's what comes naturally to me – and then I hang the characters on that plot like clothespins on a clothesline. But what I've always admired about Joss's writing is that he has such a character brain. That's what comes naturally to him. And that's what intrigued me about the series. So three years ago, when he asked people what characters they'd like to work on, I sent him my big wild dreams about the Buffyverse. It was filled with everything my plot brain could think of. I waited for a response. And he said: I like some things, I don't like other things, but you're going to write the penultimate arc. And without question, his involvement, and input, and commitment to these characters has been the very best part of working on the series.
Nrama: For those of people who still can't believe the spoiler, is there a possibility that the "leaked" reveal of Twilight is a set-up? That you'll reveal someone different?
Meltzer: My God, you're a suspicious bunch. Think! You'd kill us if we took it back now.
Nrama: Since you're getting to write the big reveal of the "Big Bad," will there be anything left for Joss to do in the final arc of the season?
Meltzer: The best, as they say, is for last. Just wait.
Nrama: You've built up quite a fan base among comic book fans, particularly writing about characters in the DC Universe. Is there any chance we'll see more comics from you after your Buffy run ends?
Meltzer: If I can dig out the time, I hope so.
Nrama: Since Issue #32 was so well received by fans, is there any chance we'll see more Buffy comics from you in the future?
Meltzer: If I can dig out the time, I hope so.
Nrama: Fair enough. What else are you working on that you can tell your fans about?
Meltzer: Putting the finishing touches on my first non-fiction book – Heroes For My Son, a collection of heroes throughout history (Jim Henson, Rosa Parks, Mr. Rogers, etc) that I've been collecting since the day my son was born. If we time this right, the site is now officially up (heroesformyson.com) so people can stop by there or Facebook or Twitter and let us know who their real life heroes are.