Spike, played by James Marsters, is a fictional character created by Joss Whedon for the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Spike is a vampire and played various roles on the shows, ranging from villain to comic-relief to anti-hero. For Marsters, the role as Spike began a career in science fiction television, becoming "the obvious go-to guy for US cult [television]". For creator Whedon, Spike is the "most fully developed" of his characters.
Within the series' narrative, William was originally an unsuccessful aspiring poet in the Victorian era. Sired by the vampire Drusilla (Juliet Landau), William became "William the Bloody", an unusually passionate and romantic vampire. Alongside Drusilla and Angelus (David Boreanaz), William acquired the nickname Spike for his method of killing; in time he became noted for killing two vampire Slayers. In the 1970s, Spike acquired his trademark bleached blond Billy Idol haircut and leather duster. In 1997 Spike comes to Sunnydale hoping to kill a third Slayer, Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar), with whom he later forges an uneasy alliance. Over the course of Buffy, Spike falls in love with the Slayer and acquires a soul to prove himself to her, dying a hero in the Buffy series finale before being resurrected in the fifth season of spin-off series Angel.
Considered a 'breakout character', Spike proved immensely popular with fans of Buffy. The character appears substantially in Expanded Universe materials such as comic book and tie-in novels. Following the cancellation of Angel in 2004, Whedon considered creating Spike film spin-off. Canonically, the character appears in issues of the comic books Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight and Angel: After the Fall in 2007, several Spike miniseries, and a Spike ongoing series in 2010.
Spike's story before he appears in Sunnydale unfolds in flashback scattered, out of sequence, among numerous episodes of both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. The first flashback occurs in Buffy Season Five's "Fool for Love", and reveals William as in fact a meek, effete young man (and an aspiring poet) who lived in London with his mother Anne. Anne would often sing the folksong "Early One Morning" to her son when he was a baby, right up until the time he was turned into a vampire. William's surname is given as "Pratt" in the non-canon comic Old Times and is written on the label of his jar of blood in the comic Spike: Asylum #002. The name William Pratt may allude to horror actor Boris Karloff, whose birth name was William Henry Pratt, and can also be understood as the British slang term "prat", describing a person of arrogant stupidity. Spike is one of the youngest recurring vampires on the show; he claimed in Season Four that he was 126, although in "School Hard" Giles read that he was "barely two hundred".
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