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A Dark Horse With Faith: An Open Letter from a Bad Fan

faith buffy comic

To Dark Horse:

Months ago I found out you, Dark Horse, decided to take Faith Lehane out of the Angel and Faith comic book. For open letter purposes, I’ll say Angel and Faith is the comic book that runs alongside The Buffy the Vampire Slayer book. So, it is now just called Angel and focuses on the once evil vampire’s past.

When I found this out, I fired off an email, saying I thought dropping Faith was a mistake. The majority of the comments that I saw on the news page also expressed this. Some had the dramatic fandom flare saying they would “never pick up a Buffy/Angel comic again.”

Fans: we are never happy. Especially fans that are so devoted to a particular fandom, or even worse, a character. During the 20th anniversary interview of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the cast was asked: “Where’s Faith?” The Internet had a mini-explosion over it. Eliza Dushku, who played Faith Lehane, explained: “The reunion interviews were for Scoobies (the regular cast) only.”

Many said she should have been there. People ranted. There was an article with a misleading headline that Dushku was offended. She wasn’t. People are still into Faith, Dark Horse. So, why do all of these fans still care about this character 20 years later? And does it matter if the numbers show these fans won’t buy the comic book?

I think fans were buying the comic book. I also think that the reasons they weren’t buying it may be different than you think. I didn’t do professional research on Faith fans. I was once a qualitative researcher. Now I’m just a busy working mom.

If anyone wants to give me funding to do Faith Lehane research, I’m down. But, I’m clearly biased. My iPhone cover says “Five by Five.” I think we still love Faith Lehane for the same reason anti-heroes continue to be loved. Faith Lehane is complex. She’s often polarizing and she’s unexplored. She is the old-school Dark Knight Batman to Buffy’s Superman.

As you may know, Dark Horse isn’t the first to let Faith’s story go. There was once a TV spin-off in the works. Some of the best Mutant Enemy writers wrote a script. But Dushku said: “I love Faith. She is my girl. She has been good to me, but I decided I wanted to do something else.”

As a fan, I was heart-broken. But as a woman who identified with the character of Faith, I completely understood. Being the reformed bad girl is exhausting. No one gets you. This was why fans will forever love anti-heroes. We want to get them. We want stories that get them. 

Life imitates art. If Dushku took the role she would be forever billed as “The Bad Slayer.” She would always be compared to Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Buffy. Eliza could sit on every talk show and say: “Well, Faith was bad once, but now she’s redeemed. You really have to watch…” and the talk show host would nod and say: “Eliza Dushku, the bad girl Slayer, everybody…”

Dushku is probably healthier for passing on Faith. She made Faith memorable by pulling from her own personal demons. It was the perfect storm of talent between her, Joss Whedon, and the Mutant Enemy writing staff. Dark Horse, why would you drop a gift like that?

It doesn’t seem like a healthy decision for you. I assume it has something to do with thoughts around sales of Angel and Faith. I don’t know, but if you are anything like Marvel, Dark Horse, I want to tell you that you don’t understand a lot of your fans. We are not the fans that comic book shop owners talk about.

I started writing this as an article before the Marvel interview broke. Now, I know Dark Horse isn’t Marvel, but the piece spoke to what my concerns already were, and it made some new ones.

I’m sure you know about Marvel’s vice president David Gabriel’s interview. Gabriel stated that he thought one factor to declining sales “could be” that readers were “tired of women and diversity.” It was also revealed that Gabriel got this information by talking to comic book shop owners who complained about “too much” diversity.

I’m sure someone else has already said that there is only one African American woman who owns a comic book shop in the entire country. I don’t know of any other female comic book shop owners. I’m sure someone does. As a researcher, I will say relying on comic book storeowners’ opinions will give you a very bad sample bias. From politics to comic books, if we live in a world where science isn’t “popular,” diverse opinions will somehow never show up as popular either.

But, I’m just a bad girl comic book fan. I’m sure someone may tell me I got something wrong in this letter. Fandom is hard on a lot of us “diverse” people, and yet we are still here, we always were. We are not a trend and we aren’t leaving.

I am aware that Faith Lehane should barely be considered diverse. Yet she is one of the more diverse characters in Buffyverse. (Maybe we need more?) She’s half-Albanian. She’s also most likely bisexual. Most notably, she continuously struggles with PTSD while being from the working class. Her character has shown how the struggle is real when one doesn’t have privilege growing up. Her character arcs also show the harsh judgment women receive in this situation as compared to men.

We bad girl fans are obsessed with stories that have strong women like this. For Buffyverse fans, we want what we didn’t get to have in the show. As a Faith Lehane fan, I felt I got it for a very short time, in dribs and drabs. If there were any reasons for a drop in Angel and Faith sales, I would say that it was introducing too many new concepts and not concentrating enough on the most interesting character, Faith.

I hope you hear me when I say something positive: When Dark Horse gave Faith’s character time they always nailed it, and it’s not easy.

Faith is considers herself “hard to get close to.” Yet she was able to have female friendships with Slayers that Buffy could never endure. In Faith’s Buffy comic appearance, she was willing make hard moral choices that Buffy’s friends shielded her from. Buffy Summers is the strongest woman alive unless she feels she is morally compromised. Then she completely falls apart. 

Faith never had such luxuries as an anti-hero. She isn’t interested in saving the world. She is more interested in saving you as the world falls down around you both. This is why we love her, and Dark Horse writers showed this! Faith’s Buffy story arc also showed the difficult dynamic of female competition and friendship. Buffy continues to only see Faith as her darker half.

I know Faith is now slated to appear in this Season’s Buffy #8. I am super excited to read this, especially if she gets to hang out with Spike, just a little bit. I know too much would get us all in trouble. Like I said I am a bad fan. I just want someone to realize Faith is her own person and not just “the other” Slayer, damn it! It would be cool if it was Spike, but I guess I should be happy that Faith is around at all.

I’m so bad. I have to confess something even worse than treading on Spuffy. I found out about Faith being dropped from the comic book late. I wasn’t buying the comics as they came out. So now comes the old argument: us “bad” girl fans love to bitch but we never put our money where our mouth is. We’re too busy buying shoes. We say we want to see a badass girl, but what we really want is the tortured alpha male hero. Right?

No. First off, I did and do buy the comics. I just buy them when the season is done in volumes. When I buy them individually, I end up searching my home frantically to review the issue. I just did this with Buffy Season 11 #1. I found my daughter was playing with it because she loves dragons.

Second, I would much rather see Corinna Bechko, the current writer of (just) Angel write a Faith Lehane comic. I don’t dislike Angel but I’ve seen so much of him already. As a writer, Bechko has shown she knows her stuff with Tomb Raider. She also does Illyria/Fred’s voices so well. 

Not that Angel can’t be invited, but if the boat were sinking I’d pick Faith every time. But, why is the boat sinking? It seems with all of the entertainment industry there is this black-and-white thinking. The Marvel interview showed that attitude: you have to pick between “diversity” or no diversity. Of course, anything not white and male is diverse.

What’s worse was learning my purchases may not even be counted. Vox reported that comic book companies count sales based on pre-orders from local comic shops. Most were not in “urban” areas. I have no idea how Dark Horse records its sales. But, I will say this is not how I buy comics. This is not how most people I know buy comics. This is most likely how collectors buy comics.

Most comic storeowners would say I’m not a real comic book collector. They’re right. I’m not because I’m not getting them to wrap them in plastic and put them under my bed to sell. I’m not buying them for a simple superhero escape. I’m buying them to keep because the character’s stories reflect something in my life while also offering an escape.

Again, I don’t know how Dark Horse is recording sales. I’m not claiming to. I’m just saying if Dark Horse wrote a lone Faith Lehane comic book series, I would crawl over broken glass to get it. Furthermore, I may not crawl over broken glass for any good female anti-hero comic, but I’d walk over it with my newly bought shoes.

I think the difference between the Buffyverse that read the comics and the ones that don’t is that the comic fans like risk and change. I meet new young Buffy fans all the time. I think young Buffy fans are far more sophisticated than a late 90s TV network audience. I know us ancient fans are.

Dark Horse used to be true to its name. They did unexpected things in comics and came out of nowhere. I feel like they need to do this again, especially when it’s so clear that other comics are fighting “diversity” while they claim to embrace it. Of course, I want them to do it with Buffyverse and Faith. I know and love that Joss Whedon considers the comics to be canon and have the final say. As a fan I, would love it if he kept his character continuity genius, but just let the writers actually mix things up.

I would love to see Faith’s journey continue. Nadira, a Slayer and a woman of color was the best new character in Angel and Faith. Maybe we can see her and Faith again in 2019? Maybe Faith and Nadira can go into Faith’s past and she can fight those nuns from catholic school she talked about. Maybe Faith could get some romantic action? Maybe Faith would surprise everyone and be far less casual about a lesbian “fling” than Buffy? Not that Faith needs anybody. I was just kidding about the Spike thing for now, but… I’d just be happy for anything more.

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