Skip directly to content

The Spike of Brian Lynch and IDW Comics

on Wed, 07/13/2011 - 00:00

The character of Spike has proven to be one of the most popular members within the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its offshoot Angel. When Spike first arrived on the scene during season two of Buffy, he was a snarky British vampire with platinum blonde hair, a full-length leather duster jacket and punk-inspired persona. Proclaiming himself to be the “Big Bad,” Spike was not one to follow orders, acted more on impulse than thought-through planning and had personally killed two slayers during his 100-plus years as a vampire.

Spike, however, was more than a worthy adversary of Buffy Summers—he also proved to be an occasionally reluctant ally. Spike’s contempt for authority figures included Angel, the vampire who spawned the vampire who spawned Spike, and the two demons were as much adversaries against each other as they were against the Slayer. Spike’s impulsive nature, meanwhile, caused him to be captured by a secret military organization and implanted with a chip that made it impossible for him to attack human beings. And despite the fact that his resume included the death of two slayers, he found himself falling in love with Buffy Summers during season five of the show and reclaiming his soul at the end of the following year in an attempt to have those feelings reciprocated.

That is obviously the simplified version of Spike’s biography, as his backstory and subsequent journey makes him one of the most complex and fully-painted characters of the Buffyverse. Yet through all the years that he appeared on Buffy and Angel, Spike was always a supporting character, a mere member of the Scooby Gang and Team Angel, no matter how hard the vampire himself may have denied such a fact to be true. In 2005, however, IDW Publishing secured the rights to issue Angel-related comic books and soon released a five-issue miniseries centered on Spike that was created by writer Brain Lynch. Entitled Spike: Asylum, the narrative features Spike playing the reluctant hero with his unique character traits—rebelling against authority, acting on impulse despite negative consequences and proclaiming himself “badder” than any other supernatural being—remaining intact.

Spike: Asylum was more than merely formulaic as it not only captured the essence of Spike but his “voice” as well, something that is often lacking in comic book offshoots of popular creations that originated in other media. More importantly, the character was finally able to spread his own wings under the tutelage of Brain Lynch and emerge a true champion worthy of standing side-by-side with the likes of Buffy Summers and Angel. Although not “officially” part of the overall television narrative, the story within Spike: Asylum easily fits into events from the series and feels like a natural extension of the Buffyverse nonetheless.

Apparently the man who created both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel felt the same way. The day before Spike: Asylum was released, Brian Lynch bumped into that man—Joss Whedon—at a Los Angeles restaurant and introduced himself. Whedon in turn read the book and contacted Lynch shortly thereafter about a sanctioned continuation of the Angel saga. “The voices,” Whedon told Newsarama at the time about what attracted him to Lynch as a potential writing partner. “Not just of the characters from the show but everybody. I knew from the moment Spike took the job he didn’t want because the guys thought he was Angel and he felt pissy that this was gonna happen with Brian.”

Over the years, a large number of fans have criticized the writers of IDW’s Angel comic books for not being “true” to the characters in terms of both words and actions. Joss Whedon and Dark Horse Comics, meanwhile, produced an official season eight Buffy the Vampire Slayer series utilizing many of the writers from the original television show, and some fans still leveled the same criticism. Surprisingly, Brian Lynch appears to be the one comic book crafter in the Buffyverse who has been immune to such comments. Like Whedon observed above, Lynch’s stories not only capture the voice of the characters but remain true to their nature and background as well, and this is most notable with Spike.

The official continuation of Angel the television series, entitled After the Fall, lasted a total of seventeen issues but Brian Lynch simultaneously created a Spike miniseries that more fully developed what happened to the blond-haired vampire immediately following the final episode of the show. Before After the Fall was released, Lynch penned another four-issue Spike-centric comic—Spike: Shadow Puppets—and in 2010 was given the reins of a longer Spike series that was reduced to eight issues when IDW relinquished the rights to Angel comic books to Dark Horse in 2011.

In the hands of Brian Lynch, Spike has grown from a reluctant hero content to remain alone to a champion in his own right that now understands the importance of camaraderie. Buffy Summers, after all, has had more success and lived longer than her slayer predecessors mainly because of her friendship with—and reliance upon—the self-proclaimed “Scooby Gang.” In the pilot episode of Angel, meanwhile, the title character is told, “It’s not all about fighting and gadgets and such. It’s about reaching out to people, showing them there’s love and hope still left in this world.”

In the opening pages of Spike: Shadow Puppets, the second vampire-with-a-soul proclaims, “For the first time in years, I don’t work side-by-side with anyone. And that’s the way it’s going to be for the foreseeable future.” Eventually, however, he is joined by Team Angel member Lorne as well as two Brian Lynch-created characters from Spike: Asylum—Beck, the emotionally damaged twentysomething female with the ability to control fire, and Betta George, a telepathic psychic who also happens to be a literal fish-out-of-water. It is only by working together that the group is able to defeat the antagonist of the series, and Spike sings a different tune by the end of the narrative. “All this time, following you and Buffy, I kept telling myself I couldn’t wait to go solo,” he remarks to a fake manifestation of Angel. “But now I get it. I’m people who bloody damn well need people.”

When Spike later embarks on his own in the eight-issue comic book that closed out IDW’s run with Angel, he immediately assembles his own team for assistance. Spike has grown by now into a leader, albeit of a different type than Buffy Summers or Angel. He is not afraid to retreat, for instance, in situations where the other two may have pushed onward, still enlists grandiose bluster in regards to his status as a “Big Bad” and continues to rely on impulse in regards to his actions, but he has evolved into a champion nonetheless.

“I never in a million years thought I’d play hero,” Beck says in Spike the series. “But he’s shown me that no matter where you come from, or what people think you’re capable of, you are what you want to be.”

With the license of Angel comics now in the hands of Dark Horse, Spike and Angel have been intertwined with the narrative of the show that spawned them, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Odds are the blond-haired vampire will no longer embark on his own nor recruit the likes of Beck and Betta George for assistance. “I don’t look back,” Spike comments to himself at the end of his last appearance within the pages of IDW. “Don’t want to see if they’re staring out a window at me. I said my goodbyes. It’s time to move.”

Although Spike may once again be a member of the Scooby Gang, he is also a greater asset to Buffy Summers because of his brief time with Brian Lynch. There are those that will argue that the Spike-centric creations of Lynch are not “canon” because they have not been officially blessed by Joss Whedon, but the realistic handling of the character in both words and actions, as well as the ability of the narratives to easily fit within the timeframe of both Buffy and Angel, cannot be overlooked.

The Spike of Brian Lynch is the Spike of Joss Whedon and vice versa—and to argue otherwise is a disservice to all three of them.

Anthony Letizia

Follow Geek Pittsburgh: Facebook - Twitter - RSS Feed