zaterdag 14 september 2013

The Making of a Slayer: book review

I finally got around to reading The Making of a Slayer, the official guide by Nancy Holder. As a fangirl, I was really looking forward to this. The book is described as follows "Celebrating the 15th anniversary of Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series, this lavishly produced book is the first authorized, fully illustrated retrospective of the hit show. Offering in-depth commentary on the making of the series, the book explores characters and mythology of the Buffy universe and follows the evolution of all seven seasons. Die-hard Whedon fans will also find insider information on his involvement in other projects, including Angel, Firefly, and more. Housed in a foil-stamped slipcase, this volume features more than 120 images, including rare behind-the-scenes photo's, sketches, props and memorabilia from the Twentieth Century Fox archives, along with stills from the most pivotal on-screen moments. Tucked in the inside of the case is an envelope holding 'Slayer Lore: Texts and Magicks for the Battle'. These 13 removable pieces are replicas of the ancient spells and prophecies the characters used on-screen to defeat vampires, demons, and other monsters, making this the ultimate treasure-trove for every Buffy fan." Clearly, I HAD to have it ;-). Unfortunately I didn't have enough money at the time, but luckily my parents told me it could be a delayed birthday present (my birthday was in may, while the book released in december 2012). I didn't have any birthday wishes at the time, so this made my heart jump!

Let's start at the beginning
If anyone had any doubts this book would be for Buffy fans, it would be gone by the time they read the foreword. It is written by Buffy actress Amber Benson (she played Tara) and she perfectly understands what it means to be part of such a cult show and how the audience views it. Some of my favorite quotes were her opening words "Alyson - who will forever be enshrined in the science fiction and fantasy lexicon as Buffy Summer's best friend, Willow Rosenberg - was trying to explain to me how I was now part of something that wasn't just entertainment, but a bona fide way of life." Having met Amber myself at HalloWhedon I know what an amazing person she is and that she really means it when later on she says "little did I know back than how much this 'sci-fi television show' was going to change my life." She explains perfectly that Buffy transcends its medium and how it became a worldwide phenomenon. Truth be told, it might be a bit unfair to have Amber write the foreword though... considering she's a wonderful writer. But she knows just how to say it and she understands the fan community. And that's what makes it the perfect way to start this book. In short: The book had me at the beginning. Amber Benson's foreword was pure perfection and shows just how well she knows her audience.

The Making of a Slayer
The book is devided into very clear chapters. Chapter one is 'Birth of Buffy' which pretty much contains anything before Buffy was brought to television. Focusing on Joss Whedon's history, his high school and university, his work as a writer and the Buffy movie. It explains how Buffy came to be and how much love Joss already had for it. It also specifies on what his intentions were for Buffy. How people were talking about Girl Power, without actually showing it and was time that someone showed what everybody was talking about. 
The second chapter is 'High School is Hell,' which pretty much sums it up. It's about the first three seasons which focus on their high school years. With character descriptons and where they are now segments, which is really up-to-date. It also focuses on what the crew learned while working on it, as well as on the special effects, make-up, costumes and how for example the library, Sunnydale and such were made.
'College Magic' is about the seasons four and five, while chapter four 'Beyond' discusses seaons 6 and 7. While these chapters basically sum up everything that happend in the seasons, they also provide a little more information about the themes of the seasons, as well as Buffy getting a sister, fighting Dracula and a God, not to mention Dark Willow and the nice little references about going back to the beginning in season 7. The last chapter also provides a little information about 'Beyond Buffy', concerning comics, Firefly, Serenity, books written about Joss Whedon, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, Dollhouse, The Avengers and Much Ado About Nothing.

Of course the most fun for fans are fun facts. Or lovely quotes. And special photo's of props or sketches of the sets. 'The Making of a Slayer' has it all. A couple of the fun facts are that Sarah Michelle Gellar (who played Buffy) was originally offered the part of Cordelia. Or that Seth Green's character Oz, was originally 'scheduled' to be the character Angelus kills, instead of Jenny Calender. Other than that there's some behind the scenes knowledge about writers and how they came to be on the show and how they worked. Another thing I really liked about the book is how up to date it is. It tells that grainy copies of the twenty-minute presentation pilot of Buffy has been uploaded on YouTube, as well as mention what every cast member is currently working on.

But there's one thing about the book that really bugged me... And that's that the book, unfortunately, didn't have that much new information. Most of the information can be found in DVD commentaries or interviews and such. Therefore if you're a real Buffy fan, you've probably already heard or read it before. Though it might be true for fans that don't own their own boxsets on DVD yet, I think that for the most Buffy fans this book isn't exactly in-depth commentary or inside information. It just sums it up very nicely. Honestly... I just expected more.

I'm not really sure how to call them, but in between the chapters, there were special sections that focused on other issues. Such as the creative process of Joss Whedon, the writers room, producers or special episodes like Hush, The Body and Once More With Feeling. These provide some extra insight/additional information for those who care for some more background information about certain aspects of the show, episodes, the academics who study Buffy and crossovers and such.

The mistakes
Being a gigantic Buffy fan myself, I notice little mistakes. Of course being a fan and knowing this stuff, to me... they are huge mistakes. Nobody is perfect, but when you make mistakes about things like episodes, it really gets me though. I mean, if I can know these things - without looking them up - how come other people can't take the time to verify this? I'm not blaming anybody, because honestly, some descriptions could have been written by other departments and what not... And I have to be fair: Buffy is one of my main passions, so I like knowing these things, while for others... it was just work. Anyway... enough complaining, here are some of the mistakes that made me itch:

page 31: Holder states that "Unaware that another student, Xander Harris, is lurking in the library, Giles sets the scene for season one: Sunnydale was founded by Spanish settlers who originally called it Boca del Infierno." It's true that Xander was lurking in the library in the first ep and overheard Giles talking to Buffy about being a Slayer, BUT it's only in the second episode that THEY start doing research and Giles KNOWINGLY tells Buffy, Willow and Xander the story about the Spanish settlers... This is later partly rectified in the photo description on page 37, where it's indeed the exposition scene between the four of them.
Page 50: It's written that in this picture Buffy 'meets' her mother's new boyfriend... Though I understand the choice of words, it's not actually their first meeting. I would have just used 'and'. 
Page 55: The photo description states that "Angel loses his soul and becomes Angelus again." My problem is that this picture is from Enemies, in which Angel PRETENDS to be Angelus to find out if Faith has gone over to the dark side... He didn't even lose his soul. Arrrgh!
Page 71: The photo description says/references that the Mayor's face splits open in Graduation Day Part 2, while this was actually in Bad Girls. *sigh*
Page 73/76: In this picture the Hunga Munga is shown which Buffy ONLY used in the season three opening episode Anne. On page 76 you can read "the unusual ax-like weapon Buffy is holding in the credits of season two." Which of course isn't possible... But it was in the credits of seasons three, four and five.

page 76: It's mentioned that Giles was given a sword fight to get rid of his stuffy image, but this wasn't in Band Candy like the book said. It's actually in Bad Girls when Wesley first appeared.
Page 113: Though this isn't technically a mistake, you can see that Sarah and the other actor are waiting to play the scene, while the descriptoin says that 'Buffy face off against one of the Knights of Byzantium'... It just didn't feel like the right description to me for this particular picture, but I might be wrong.
Page 116: I don't really have a problem with this description as we are all meant to believe that it's Buffy, while it's actually the Buffybot. 
Page 123: The picture shown was actually right before they start singing 'Walk through the Fire', not 'led by Giles, the gang theorizes about the cause of the singing' which happends in 'I've Got a Theory' which was at the beginning of the episode while this is near the end. 
Page 130: While the Evil Trio is actually spying on Bufy in the episode Life Serial, in this picture they just discoverd free porn I believe... You can see why the description doesn't really fit for those in the know ;-)
Page 152: The description states "Here, Faith listens to Buffy's speech to the Potentials in 'Chosen'". Buffy does explain the plan there, but it's to the group and not the potentials... I admit, that this wasn't easy to spot, because Faith is wearing the same outfit. But you can see it in the background (wallpaper). 

Slayer Lore - The extra's

There's this beautiful envelope in the case, which contains several replica's of things used on Buffy. And I have to admit: It's pretty awesome to hold the Ritual of Restoration (to make Angelus Angel again) in your hands. Or an excerpt from the book about the Slayer's origin from Get it Done as well as the shadow puppets (made out of paper) which tell the story!!! It would be too much to describe all of them here, but just to give you an idea of the other items in here are: the page with Lethe's Bramble, text written in the Nezzla demon language, the word of Valios, newspaper articles about Lowell, the page about The Harvest (with drawing), the floor plan of City Hall and even a never-before seen page from the Watchers Diaries about a previously unknown Slayer named Rebecca. I think there are a couple of things I left out right now, but I think you get the point ;-).

Even though I had trouble with the mistakes that were made and the book didn't offer that much new information for me, I can highly recommend this book. Especially the version with the Slayer Lore and all these little collectibles. It's amazing to see so many pictures on the set and the book shares some eye opening moments as well as fun facts about the beginning, the running and the ending of the show. The pictures are beautiful, but the a lot of them are official photographs. Therefore it's the sketches and behind-the-scenes poloroids from make up departments and the like that give it something extra. It even had me wishing that I could own one of the props like the Sunnydale map, which is featured in this book on a double page picture :P. This book has it all. It is (and will probably always be) one of my most prized collectibles.

2 opmerkingen:

  1. Nice review! I've just bought it and can't wait for it to arrive! :D

    1. Thanks! Apologies for the late reply. Have you read it yet? What did you think? :-)