The Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic series, for those keeping score, is halfway through season 9. And to shake things up, Jane Espenson is bringing in Billy, a gay male Slayer!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer concluded its seventh and final television season almost 10 years ago, but luckily Joss Whedon and his writing team weren’t done with Buffy and the Scoobies, and Dark Horse offered them a chance to continue their story in comic book form. After training an army of Slayers and bringing about the obliteration of magic in season 8, season 9 sees Buffy, Dawn and Xander trying to rebuild their lives in San Francisco.

This year we have parted ways with Spike and Willow (who are each getting their own spin-off series), but a new character will be arriving shortly to help fill the void: a male Vampire Slayer named Billy. Yeah, we were shocked, too!

Seeing as how Joss Whedon’s number one reason for creating Buffy the Vampire Slayer was to turn the defenseless girl stereotype on its head by making the slight blonde cheerleader the thing monsters had nightmares about, what business does a male have being a Slayer?!

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Initially, fans were upset by the news, not only because having a male Slayer lessened the girl power message of the entire Slayer concept, but also because it seemed like he could only be a Slayer because he was gay, and therefore considered effeminate.

But speaking to Out Magazine, Buffy writer (and creator of the online comedy Husbands) Jane Espenson clarifies that this is not the case. Billy, who will make his debut in issue #14, is not an actual part of the Slayer lineage. He is brought into the series as a fan of Buffy’s work, who decides that he can be a Slayer despite being male.

Espenson further explains that Billy represents a different kind of femininity which the TV show didn’t get the chance to explore. “Billy actually predated the idea of doing a Husbands comic,” she says, referring to the recently announced spin-off comic of the online comedy which Dark Horse will also publish. “[There was] a line in season 1 of Husbands that really struck me about how Cheeks has an ‘exotic femininity’ that’s equated with weakness. I thought, ‘Gee, all the work we’ve done with Buffy is about being female, and how that doesn’t mean that you are lesser.'”

To combat this, Espenson explains, she wants to offer Buffy fans another example of feminine empowerment: that of the effeminate male who is also physically dominant. “If being feminine doesn’t mean that you’re lesser, then liking guys also doesn’t mean you’re lesser,” she says. “For very good reason, we’ve focused on the female empowerment part of Buffy, but I wondered, did we leave something out? What if someone in high school is looking up to Buffy as a role model, and we’re saying: You can’t be a Slayer?”

As any Buffy fan knows, of course, Billy can’t be an actual Slayer no matter his sexuality or personality, because Slayers must always be female. And don’t worry, Espenson recognises this fact. Speaking to io9 following the shocking reveal, she confirms that he will not possess actual Slayer powers. “He is a hero, Batman-style, who has taken up this mantle on his own,” she clarifies.

Fellow writer Drew Z. Greenberg adds that by writing in this male Slayer character, they are not saying that gay men are necessarily feminine, but they are making a point that some are. He says, “We find it so easy to make the leap from this comic-book story to ‘gay men are necessarily feminine.’ I have to be honest, I wish we could all try to remember that some gay men ARE feminine, and, by the way, what’s wrong with being feminine? Why is that ‘less than’?”

Essentially, then, Billy is a character similar to that of Xander or Wesley: a human demon hunter fighting to keep the forces of evil at bay, inspired by Buffy and other Slayers. The fact that he is not actually a part of the Slayer line should quell some fans’ fears, but there has still been an uproar in the Buffy community about even the suggestion that a Slayer could be male.

Check out a sneak peek from the issue introducing Billy, courtesy of Out Magazine:

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What do you think, Buffy fans? Are you relieved that a man won’t possess actual Slayer powers, and are you intrigued to learn more about Billy the Vampire Slayer?

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