So I decided to switch up my topic for today slightly, but I think it’ll be better this way. You see, I have a bit of an obsession with reading and buying Buffy the Vampire Slayer companions or guides - you know, the books that talk about the show, have interviews and trivia, analyze episodes, etc. I love just knowing everything about my favourite show! However, these companions can get pricey fast, and some honestly aren’t worth your money unless you are a collector. So I decided I’d dish the dirt on a few companions that I own, breaking down their content and worth and giving you some tips for selecting and buying a companion of your own.
Watcher’s Guides Volumes 1-3
by Christopher Golden (1), Nancy Holder (1 & 2), Jeff Mariotte (2), Maryelizabeth Hart (2) & Paul Ruditis (3)
About: The Watcher’s Guides were the first companions created for the show, and I believe they are the the only official ones. A nice touch is the stylized nature of the Watcher’s Guides, in addition to the standard coloured photos that are included. The pages have a consistent background, with call-outs and sidebars, and all three are designed beautifully. Overall, the Watcher’s Guides provide for some fun, basic reading, although they do provide a good behind the scene look at the show. However, don’t expect a ton of info in the episode guides or analyses - the main attraction for these books is in the behind the scenes info, interviews, a look at the production process, and in the last volume, essays. It’s also important to note that the volumes are larger than a standard book (think textbook size/shape), and each volume is pretty hefty - combined they total in at a little over 1,100 pages!
Each Watcher’s Guide has something different to offer Vol. 1 has:
Watcher’s Guide Vol. 2 follows a very similar format to Vol. 1, with a character and episode guide (seasons 3 & 4), cast profiles and the bands of Buffy. However, it also adds a brief section on pain and relationships, a large chapter on the production process of Buffy, and a few pages on merchandising.
Watcher’s Guide Vol. 3 switches things up a bit from the previous volumes. It jumps straight into the episode guides (seasons 5-7), including a very detailed analysis of season 5 episode “Restless”, but it does without character or cast guides and interviews, instead providing various essays on the show, such as “London Calling: Buffy from a British Perspective", and “Slaying the Big Lies: Love Conquers All and Other Monstrous Myths”. Personally, I found these essays enjoyable and interesting!
Good for: newcomers, collectors, those interested in behind the scenes info and turned off by a lot of episode analysis.
Also, Patricia (from Patricia’s Particularity) is hosting a giveaway for Volumes 1 & 2 on her blog right now (US Only)!
Bite Me!: The Chosen Edition The Unofficial Guide to Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Seven Seasons, One Book)
by Nikki Stafford
About: Bite Me! is a more recent Buffy companion that is pretty comprehensive, packing a LOT of info into its 397 pages. I first read this book after reading up on the show obsessively - and you know what? I still managed to stick 20 Post-Its into the book to mark things I did not know or that were interesting. That, in itself is a feat! One thing I really enjoy is the episode guide - it is more than just your usual summaries, as the author offers some analysis, her thoughts, and sometimes even additional research into the topics. Many times she has pulled out themes and underlying messages that I didn’t realize were there, but upon reviewing, understood.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. On Amazon there are some reviewers that say the author got some facts wrong or that the mistakes/goofs she noted in the show weren’t actually there, but I haven’t noticed many of these, and really, I’ve seen these comments for almost every Buffy companion guide I’ve looked up.
There is a good variety of information, trivia and analyses in Bite Me!, including:
If I had to choose between this one and the Watcher’s Guides to purchase, I think I’d recommend Bite Me!It’s smaller (and not three volumes, thus more affordable), but offers a lot of interesting info and more than just episode summaries. Also, if you do buy this one, make sure it is the one just with Sarah Michelle Geller on the cover and not the one with the image of Angel holding Buffy, otherwise you won’t have info on all 7 seasons.
Good for: those wanting a bit more depth to their companion, trivia seekers.
The Complete Slayer: An Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Every Episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer
by Keith Topping
Goodreads | Amazon
About: I actually have an earlier edition of Keith Topping’s Slayer books which only covers the first three seasons, but I have read this edition after taking it out of the library. Don’t buy the others - you’ll be wasting money - this is the only one with all 7 seasons.
This guide is a bit different than all the rest, as it feels like it is written from a true, enthusiastic fan with a strange sense of humour (that may be the British humour I’m always hearing about). Again, it has the required section of vampire mythology and an episode guide, along with a few extras. However, the real draw is the way the episode guides are done. Keith Topping provides a brief summary paragraph, and then has all these fun subheadings that he uses to talk about an episode, or provide trivia and pop culture tid bits. A sampling of these subheadings include: “Dudes and Babes”, “It’s a Designer Label”, “References”, “Valley-Speak”, and “Logic, Let Me Introduce You to This Window”. There are also quotes, notes, and a soundtrack listing. It is one of the more comprehensive guides (and is a huge paperback at a little over 700 pages!), but don’t expect a lot of analysis - this one is more reference/trivia oriented, and quite fun at that!
Good for: those looking for something a bit different, humorous fans, those interested in trivia.
The Girl's Got Bite: The Original Unauthorized Guide to Buffy's World, Completely Revised and Updated
by Kathleen Tracy
About: The Girl’s Got Bite is a rerelease of an earlier companion, with more content on the later seasons added in. It doesn’t offer much in the way of being unique, as it has the same old: Buffy from feature film to TV, profiles on the characters, a brief history of the vampire in mythology and media, cast bios and an episode guide.
What I do like this book for is its episode guides. There isn’t a huge summary for each one - about 2-3 lines describing the episode, which honestly, is enough for fans. Then the author breaks down the episode a bit more - highlighting “this week’s evil ceremony” (rituals on the show), “introductions” (or firsts), a few paragraphs of analysis which are often pretty good, an examination of “the real horror” (what lays behind the metaphorical monsters - my favourite part!), “it’s a mystery"” (critical questions that weren’t answered), bloopers, and “of special note” (trivia). However, despite what the “revised and updated” statement on the cover may lead you to believe otherwise, this book is not comprehensive - it awkwardly ends about halfway through Season 7, on episode 131 Never Leave Me. Really, the author and publisher should have just waited to re-release the book so it could have been completed!
Overall, the book isn’t flashy or even fairly unique, but it does provide a good amount of information without drawing it out, and the episode guide (although not complete) provides interesting analyses.
Good for: those looking for a quick read or reference guide for the show.
So I’ve highlighted the Buffy companions and reference books that I personally own and/or have used but I’m really curious about the ones below. Have you read them? What do you think?
The Q Guide to Buffy the Vampire Slayer
by Gregory L. Norris
Buying a Buffy Companion
Figure out what you are looking for - do you want a comprehensive guide that tells you all about the cast and details every episode? Or are you looking for more behind the scenes info and trivia about the show such as goofs? This will influence which book you will buy.
Try not to spend more than $20 on a companion. Most of these are out of print now, but you can find ones really cheap on Amazon or eBay used. Check out your local used bookstore as well!
Does size matter to you and your bookshelf? The three Watcher’s Guides take up quite a bit of room, versus something a bit smaller in size and page numbers, like The Girls Got Bite.
Previously on The Sunnydale Project…