In Defense of Riley by Jane Espenson
A one-shot is a lot of work. It requires panel appearances of up to six per page, page after page. Sometimes there are difficult and complex stunts involved, and unlike on television, in a comic book the character’s face is almost always clearly visible during the shooting, jumping, falling, or being blown up. There are no stunt doubles here. Not every character is up for this kind of punishment. The final frame of the issue alone required a great measure of personal sacrifice on Riley’s part.
Comic-book work is also highly technical. Characters have to take care that their lines are not only spoken correctly, but spelled correctly as well, and placed carefully to avoid obscuring other objects in the frame, all without pausing the action. Characters are aware that their motions and gestures have to take into account the size and orientation of the panel containing them. A real professional will know exactly when his action should—or should not—actually break the edge of the panel, and what sort of sound effect, if any, should be produced (such as blam, blamm, whamp, nok, or shlurrp). It’s a subtle art, and one that Riley has taken to heart.
This isn’t to say that the others aren’t excellent comic-book characters as well. They obviously are. Xander has been turning in magnificent work despite the challenge of the eye patch, which has never, not once, migrated from one eye to the other between panels. Giles is always solid, and speaks well on the page despite being saddled with space-consuming dialogue that might squeeze a lesser character to the edge of the panel. And Dawn has of course blown everyone away with her tour-de-force changes during the run of Season Eight. Her arc as a giant was obviously particularly challenging—not just panels, but even whole pages were uncomfortably cramped for her. Like a true pro, she drew on the discomfort and put that energy into her performance.
And I think Warren’s work deserves special praise, as he is quite obviously the best skinless performer in comics today. A character’s skin was once seen as absolutely essential to his performance, but Warren has made it clear that sometimes an epidermis is like any other barrier between character and viewer—better stripped away.
So, obviously, there will be one-shot appearances for other characters in other seasons. But this is Riley’s turn. He’s put in the work and he’s ready to show you what he’s got. Riley . . . sir . . . please take the center stage. It is your time.
The Buffy the Vampires Slayer: Riley One-Shot is in store now!