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, including villain, anti-hero, trickster and romantic interest. 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. The character was intended to be a brief villain, with Whedon originally adamant to not have another major "romantic vampire" character like Angel. Marsters says "Spike was supposed to be dirty and evil, punk rock, and then dead." However, the character ended up staying for the second season, and then returning in the fourth to replace Cordelia as "the character who told Buffy she was stupid and about to die.
Within the series' narrative, William was an unsuccessful aspiring poet in the Victorian era who was mocked and called "William the Bloody" because of his "bloody awful" poetry. Sired by the vampire Drusilla (Juliet Landau), William became an unusually passionate and romantic vampire, being very violent and ready to battle, but not as cruel as his companions. Alongside Drusilla, Darla (Julie Benz) and Angelus (David Boreanaz), Giles thinks William acquired the nickname Spike for his preferred method of torturing people with railroad spikes, but it is revealed it is because his poetry was "so bad you could stick a railroad spike through your head." He was noted for killing two vampire Slayers; one in China at the end of the 1800s during the Boxer Rebellion, the other was Nicki Wood in 1977 New York, where Spike acquired his trademark leather duster. During the second season of the series, 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, reacquires his soul to prove himself to Buffy and dies a hero in the show's series finale. He is subsequently resurrected in the first episode of the fifth season of the 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 books and tie-in novels. Following the cancellation of Angel in 2004, Whedon considered creating a Spike film spin-off. Canonically, the character appears in issues of the comic books Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight (2007–11), Angel: After the Fall (2007–09), Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Nine, Angel & Faith (both 2011–2013) and several Spike limited series, spinning off from both Buffy and Angel. Currently the character is in the canonical comic Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eleven (2016–2017) and in Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Twelve (2018).