Friday 10 March 2017

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Twentieth Anniversary Retrospective ~ Part 7

In 2002, in time for the seventh and final season, Dart Flipcards Inc. produced a line of Mini Lunch Boxes (8.25cm x 5cm x 2.5cm) filled with chewing gum, and with licensed images on them. Although the images were not directly tied to the final season, they still demonstrate how Buffy firmly remained on the pop culture radar.  

That same year, in a release that truly indicated how Buffy the Vampire Slayer was able to transcend the limitations usually associated with a TV series, Rounder Records released a Soundtrack CD for the episode ‘Once More with Feeling’ from season six. Chief executive of Rounder, John Virant, told the Los Angeles Times, "I remember watching the episode when it aired last October, and after it was over, I said to my wife, 'That's the best hour of TV I've ever seen. Someone should put that [soundtrack] out.' With a gorgeous cover by noted comic book artist Adam Hughes, copious liner notes by Joss Whedon, lyrics, and various pictures from the episode, Rounder Records succeeded in producing a first class product.

Alas, all good things must come to an end, as Entertainment Weekly pointed out in their March 7, 2003, issue. By now, the quirky little mid-season replacement was a bona fide pop culture phenomenon, able to command the entire cover of a major magazine. And though the televised adventures of Buffy Summers and her ‘Scooby Gang’ went off the air May 20, 2003, the ensuing fourteen years have not shown any decrease in the number of collectibles being released. Perhaps we all want to own a small piece of something we so loved? Regardless, in honour of that fateful night twenty years ago when Buffy Summers was first introduced to the small screen, let’s all dust off our DVD players, drop in "Welcome to the Hellmouth", and press play…


Thursday 9 March 2017

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Twentieth Anniversary Retrospective ~ Part 6

Season five (September 26, 2000 - May 22, 2001) was a momentous one for Buffy the Vampire Slayer: it was the final season to be broadcast by the WB before Buffy moved to UPN, and the season finale also happened to be the 100th episode! Needless to say, to have survived as a mid-season replacement was amazing enough, but to reach 100 episodes was almost unprecedented. In honour, the Hollywood Reporter magazine ran a special issue in celebration of this feat.

After the move to UPN Buffy continued to push creative boundaries. One of the most notable of these episodes was the genre-blending ‘Once More with Feeling’, aka ‘the musical episode’ (November 6, 2001). Writers agree that the episode was risky and could have failed spectacularly. Critic Jonathan Bernstein writes "What could have been, at best, an eccentric diversion and, at worst, a shuddering embarrassment, succeeded on every level”. This large promotional poster demonstrates UPN believed, as well, that the episode was noteworthy. In 2009 TV Guide ranked the episode #14 on its list of "TV's Top 100 Episodes of All Time".

The switch of networks didn’t affect the enthusiasm of Dark Horse Comics, either, who continued to find creative ways to bring Buffy to the masses. In 2001 they released Pop-out People: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Consisting of nine perforated figures of Season five's cast printed on heavy card-stock, and a two sided background, the set came (as was the norm for Dark Horse) with either photo or artwork characters.


Coming up next: Lunch boxes, CDs, and more!!

Wednesday 8 March 2017

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Twentieth Anniversary Retrospective ~ Part 5

By the year 2000, Buffy merchandise entered a bold new era with the release of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer video game for the Game Boy Color handheld game console. It was the first video game based on the franchise to be released, and the only Buffy game to be rated 'E' by the ESRB. Although the game itself is generally poorly reviewed on game websites, it is still a historic piece of Buffy memorabilia. 

Buffy related confectioneries also entered a bold new era in 2000 when True Confections debuted their chocolate bars based on characters from the series. Their thematic recipes included dark chocolate and raspberry crème (Buffy) and chocolate & crispies (Spike), among others.

As season four continued, with Buffy now enrolled in college at UC Sunnydale, in the year 2000 we see the first collectibles appear with images of Riley Finn, soldier of the Initiative and erstwhile Buffy love interest. This year we also see a growing iconography associated with Buffy, the animated-style image emblazoned on this t-shirt far removed from an image more easily associated with the TV show, like those being produced only a few years previous.


Coming up next: 100th episode, UPN, and more!!

Tuesday 7 March 2017

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Twentieth Anniversary Retrospective ~ Part 4

Although Buffy the Vampire Slayer was not the highest rated program on TV, both it and the WB Network did a very effective job reaching a youthful demographic. Often advertisers have difficulty trying to reach this elusive group, and one of the cleverest campaigns to capitalize on this popularity was the Barq’s Root beer ‘Barq’s Has Bite’ tie-in. 

Coinciding with the start of season four in the autumn of 1999, not only did Barq’s release a collection of Buffy the Vampire Slayer root beer cans, but the whole promotion culminated in the ‘Barq’s Halloween Bash’ as advertised on point-of-sale displays and t-shirts (I wonder who won the trip to Hollywood to party with “members of the cast”?).

1999 was a banner year for Buffy the Vampire Slayer related merchandise, and saw the release of a variety of items by several manufacturers. Dark Horse Comics continued with creative promotions, such as the Buffy the Vampire Slayer #1/2, a limited edition comic book presented in conjunction with Wizard Magazine, complete with a certificate of authenticity. Varner Studios released a series of 9" collectible figures, and even body art was represented with Temporary Tattoos distributed by Mehndi Body Art of California. 


Coming up next: Game BoyRiley Finn, and more!!

Monday 6 March 2017

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Twentieth Anniversary Retrospective ~ Part 3

The third season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer averaged 5.3 million viewers, the show’s highest rated season, undoubtedly helped by the fact that both Gellar and Alyson Hannigan had hit movies out (Cruel Intentions and American Pie respectively). By this time Sarah Michelle Gellar was appearing on numerous mainstream magazine covers. On July 13, 1999, the season finale was broadcast in which the ‘Scooby Gang’ graduates from Sunnydale High School. A great souvenir of this season finale is the commemorative “Class of 1999” t-shirt.

Also in 1999 came the initial release of the action figure line produced Moore Action Collectibles. Series One consisted of Angel, the Master, Willow Rosenberg & Buffy Summers. In addition to the ‘standard’ figures, Moore also offered a constant supply of ‘limited edition’ figures. One of the first of these was the ‘Willow Variant Figure in Tight Red Pants’ made available through the online retailer Another Universe. These ‘exclusive variants’ functioned to keep collectors interested and allowed retailers to capitalise on the public's burgeoning interest in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Chupa-chups, a popular Spanish brand of confectionery, had some sweet tie-ins, with both tins and boxes of various types of lollipops available. The ‘Fantasy Ball’ variety, in particular, appealed to collectors as the inside of each individual wrapper contained a small sticker.


Coming up next: Root beer, tattoos, and more!!

Sunday 5 March 2017

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Twentieth Anniversary Retrospective ~ Part 2

An early convert to Buffymania were the good folks at Dark Horse Comics. Buffy the Vampire Slayer #1 was released September 23, 1998, a week before the premiere of the third season. Written by Andi Watson, with interior art by Joe Bennett (p), Rick Ketcham (i) & Guy Major (c), the comic featured either a photo cover, or a cover with artwork by Art Adams. So anticipated was this new series that it was featured as the lead story for Comic Shop News the month before its release!

1998 also saw the launch of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Official Fan Club! For a nominal fee, which included a subscription to Buffy the Vampire Slayer Magazine, the new member was sent a welcome package chock full of glossy ephemera. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Magazine was also published by Dark Horse Comics, with its premiere issue hitting the shelves in September 1998. For the ardent fan who signed up for the fan club, the real reward of membership was often the “special cover version” of this magazine, which was put to good use showcasing great photography of the cast.

To serve this growing fandom, 1998 also saw the release of several other items by various manufacturers. These included a bedroom doorknob hanger produced by Antioch Publishing of Ohio, t-shirts, and, of course, the first release of Buffy the Vampire Slayer VHS tapes for the home video market!


Coming up next: graduation, action figures, and more!!

Saturday 4 March 2017

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Twentieth Anniversary Retrospective ~ Part 1

March 10, 2017, will mark the twentieth anniversary of the debut of the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer! As described by Wikipedia, the series follows Buffy Summers (played by Sarah Michelle Gellar), the latest in a line of young women known as "Vampire Slayers". Aided by a Watcher, who guides, teaches, and trains her, Buffy battles against vampires, demons, and other forces of darkness. The series received critical and popular acclaim, usually reaching between four and six million viewers on original airings, and this success led to hundreds of tie-in products, including novels, comics, and video games. Much of this merchandise has been produced in the years since the series went off the air, to capitalise on the growing popularity of Buffy as a “cult” series. To celebrate the twentieth anniversary of its television debut, however, over the next week we are going to have a look back at some of the merchandise released during the original 1997-2003 run of the series.

The first season consisted of only 12 episodes (March 10, 1997 - June 2, 1997), and was aired as a mid-season replacement on The WB Network. Perhaps it was this short season, or perhaps the lingering memory of the 1992 movie caused many to underestimate the series, but no contemporaneous memorabilia appears to exist from the broadcast period of the first season. In fact, the first example of Buffy the Vampire Slayer merchandise seems to be the novels published by Archway Paperbacks starting in September 1997 to coincide with the start of the second season. Since the release of ‘The Harvest’ (an adaptation of the episode of the same name), there have been over eighty additional novels published, written by dozens of authors.

By the time the second season was drawing to a close, notice was starting to be paid to the Buffy phenomenon. Sarah Michelle Gellar netted her first Entertainment Weekly cover in March, 1998, in recognition of the fact Buffy had quickly climbed to the top of The WB ratings, and was destined to be one of their highest-rated shows for the remainder of its time on the network.

During this period other notable collectibles made their debut. In 1998 Inkworks released the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 1 trading cards. With a base set of 72-cards, the set recapped all 12 episodes of the first season, had subsets for character profiles, backgrounds on different types of monsters, and one called "Slayer Speak." A title card and a checklist rounded out the set. 

One of the rarest chase cards in this set was the Coffin Card (1:108 packs), a die-cut card that flips open to explain how one might go about slaying a vampire. Another great addition to this set was the mail-order binder designed to house the cards.


Coming up next: Dark Horse, door knob hangers, and more!!