Jun 8, 2018

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 1199: Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Willow & Tara: Wilderness #1, July 2002

https://www.comics.org/issue/102204/

I should admit, right off the bat, that I've never been a fan of the Buffy comics universe. It seems like a no-brainer for me. I love the show. Like, love love the show. But the comic has always simply left me cold. Even when the story was "officially" continued in Season 8, it was never at the top of my list. As I consider it now, I think that the comic never quite embraces the level of camp that the television show, as a result of effects technology, had to. The comic doesn't have to worry about its effects budget, and this would usually be a pro as far as adaptation goes. But Buffy the Vampire Slayer, right from the title, embraces its ridiculousness, its campiness. It's a similar problem that I see in contemporary superhero films, Deadpool and Ragnarok aside, perhaps, that refusal to embrace the silliness of the superhero.

But that's beside the point for our purposes today. Let's talk about the iconic relationship that is Willow and Tara. One of the first out and proud lesbian relationships I ever saw on television. Two badass women who took no shit from anyone, loved each other soooo much, and were imperfect, flawed, and human. Today's comic takes place, I think, just before Buffy returns in season six, and Willow and Tara are in their best Moms mode with Dawn. I have to say it's my favourite period for the couple. They've stopped being awkward, both with each other and to the rest of the world, they trust each other implicitly, and, Buffy's death aside, life seems to be going pretty well.

As with Batwoman's story, Willow and Tara's queerness is not central to the plot of today's comic, and really is only evident in a few panels. And the expression on Willow's face when the ladies decide to save their naked witch dancing for later, to save Dawn the embarrassment, is really all you need to see to understand their relationship. They just love each other. But the expression of that love is almost a throwaway moment - it's deployed to set up the punchline of the naked dancing later euphemism. Not that this is a bad thing. Really, it's the type of joke that any relationship can, and often is, used to set up. The knowing wink and the "We'll have dessert later" exchanged between husband and wife in a sitcom, for example. So having this kind of simple humour set up by a queer relationship is, in some ways, a wonderful example of mainstreaming or normalizing.

Willow and Tara. Leading the pack again.

More to come...

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