Writer’s Commentary: Christopher Priest Gives A Frank Account Of ‘Scaredsix’ #7
by Olly MacNamee
I love it when I receive a ‘Writer’s Commentary’ piece from Christopher Priest. He really tells it like it is, warts and all. And this illuminating commentary on scared six #7 is no different. If you’ve missed any of his previous piece then I really do recommend you read them here and then dive into this latest one by one of comicdom’s best and boldest!
[+++ NOTE: Potential spoilers! Buy and read scaredsix #7, then come back here for some cosmic commentary! +++]
Obligatory Newcomer Info appears at the end. If you’re new to this book, scroll down to the end for the basics!
Issue #7 begins our second story arc, which I considered to be our second swing at introducing ourselves to a market deeply strained by the COVID-19 crisis shuttering many retailers. This book also encountered serious production challenges with multiple artists beset by scheduling conflicts and personal issues, resulting in a kind of Wheel of Misfortune for our beleaguered artists and production team.
In my experience, it can take anywhere from four to six issues of a book for the creative team to find their voice. I mean, if you go back and view the pilot episode of most any one of your favorite TV shows, you’ll see what I mean. The haircuts are wrong, the actors haven’t quite found their characters. Spock is smiling.
So every time we had to call for help it was like starting over, with an enormous primer on sacredsix’s ensemble cast, most of whom would seem a bit out of character because it’s New Artist Day all over again. With the conclusion of our first story arc in issue #6, I looked forward to the fresh start issue #7 would offer.
We are joined here by fan fave artist Stephane Roux who begins telling a tale of our deeply-reluctant hero Nyx (formerly “Mistress” Nyx). Nyx has the distinction of being the only character in Vampirella history to have actually killed Vampirella, impaling our girl on a mystical spear. I’ve obviously gone my own way with the character here in our “Kelvin Universe” Vampirella revisionism, but I prefer not to deny any existing continuity but instead work with it any way I can.
So this is a callback to issue #4, wherein we first meet Nyx. Having absorbed a random woman’s life force to fuel her own, Nyx takes possession of the woman’s wallet, car keys, clothing, apartment – and what she discovered inside the apartment: this woman’s child.
Her demon half having been satiated by the mother’s death, Nyx becomes vulnerable to her human half’s empathy and cannot bring herself to murder the child, though she is repeatedly tempted. Posing as the boy’s “Aunty Nyx”, she settles in for the night, allowing her human flesh to refamiliarize herself with simple pleasures like bathing and perfume, and she ends up bonding with the boy. Page One of this issue is Nyx’s idea of a bedtime story for a ten-year old.
Nyx’s conception, fathered by the Mad God Chaos who allegedly raped Lucrezia Borgia, is loosely based on alleged history of 16th century orgy-led fetes at the papal apartments.
Pages Two and Three
Here we find Nyx many years later leading a band of Landsknechte — German mercenaries — in an assault against the Swiss Guard. She’s trying to retrieve a trophy for her demon father, the bejeweled Papal Tiara.
The Landsknechte, furious about having not been paid by the Vatican, are toting Bushmaster M4’s and driving a Toyota Prius. In the 16th century. In Dynamite and Harris mythology, Nyx is described as an “interdimensional” demon, which suggests an ability to move across dimensions and, therefore, alternate realities and even space and time. So why not have a mashup here? After all, “Chaos” is her father’s name!
Here’s our Mad Max sequence with Papa Demon directing the slaughter while Nyx reclines on the Prius. I love Priuses! Actually, I think everybody loves Priuses. Loyal to a fault, Nyx enters the Vatican to grab the tiara but —
– her human side gets distracted by one of Jude Law’s elegant vestments. Rather than grab the hat and split, Nyx becomes enthralled by the fancy getup which is when the floor, badly riddled by gunfire, gives way; a classic signpost of an adventure about to begin.
I want to pause parenthetically to gently point out Nyx is not African American. Nyx is a fire imp. She is literally burnt, a human s’mores. Several artists, seeing the egregious degree of blackness Vampirella artist Ergün Gunduz invested in Kelvin Universe Nyx (whom he created), have backed off from the ultra-black skin tones and scabs to a more politically correct Luke Cage complexion–which is wrong and has been wrongly interpreted to mean Nyx = a black woman.
sacredsix cover art is generated from multiple sources and somehow this notion got into the artistic bloodstream that Nyx = a black woman who apparently turns white in her human form which complicates my life exponentially.
Additionally, many fans have this notion that the writer (especially the writer) has creative control over a project and is therefore to be credited for a home run and booed for a foul ball. Comics are put together by whole bunches of elves in a lot of different trees and sometimes details get missed. And once something gets into the artistic mindset (Nyx = black) it’s really hard to track down and kill that virus because most artists are using reference from existing books where, look — right there on the cover — Nyx is a black woman.
Nyx is not a black woman. Not a brown woman. She is a burn victim, a living s’mores. She does not have pupils, she does not even have a mouth unless we need to see it (her face is usually obscured in shadow).
Here is our fresh start with a terrific new artist, Julius Ohta, an amazing talent whose storytelling is clean and dynamic and whose brushwork fits this book especially well. These days everybody’s using a computer, with mixed results. Not everyone can get a Wacom pen to recreate the fluid brushstrokes classically rendered by quill-tip pens and actual brushes on actual paper. But somehow Julius pulls it off. This is just gorgeous stuff, ably abetted by Ms. Mohan, our colorist and mistress of the creepy horror flick color palette.
I wanted to start again, which meant going back to the Brady Bunch theme: Here’s a story, of a lovely lady… This is how you introduce a book to new readers: you lay out the premise and explain everything as if, well, telling a bedtime story to a 10-year old.
So, here on this page, we echo the original scene from page seven of issue #2 wherein Lilith, the instigator and magnet for this non-team of non-heroines, surveys the downtrodden vampire village of Ashthorne, Georgia while conversing with a rat.
In this new version, Lilith is gone, having been arrested and dragged back to Drakulon for trial (I mean, you are reading Vampirella, yes…?). So now we have not Lilith but her daughter, whom I am reluctant to refer to as Vampirella’s “evil twin,” although that description is pretty much correct.
The character of Draculina has been a particular challenge for me. Forrest Ackerman’s original concept for the character was as frivolous as that of Vampirella herself. “Draculina” appeared to be merely a story narrator, with not a whole lot of thought given to who she was or why she was appearing. It wasn’t even clear that Draculina was evil or, for that matter, in any way different from her (presumed) sister Vampirella.
Given my extreme OCD, along with the opportunity Dynamite gave me to freely interpret all of this IP, I wanted to keep Draculina off the board for Year One of our run and build a theology around her that would provide real depth of character for us to explore and a journey for Draculina to be on.
That story arc began with our 2019 Free Comic Book Day edition, Vampirella #0, eight pages of WTF that confused everyone, wherein we followed the adventures of a wayward preteen vampire groupie named Katie. Here on Page Seven, we see the fulfillment of that whiplash-inducing eight-pager.
Here is Katie, all grown-up, talking with Stan The Rat. Stan is not actually a talking rat, he is a demon inhabiting the rat. Sometimes Stan is on our side, sometimes Stan is leading angry mobs to kill us. Katie’s journey culminated in Vampirella #12-14, where we explored Vampirella’s Kelvin Universe origin by first exploring Lilith’s origin, the birth of her first child – Draculina – and her obsession with finding Draculina after she is stolen from Lilith by a demon and lost somewhere in the time stream.
Katie, our preteen runaway, is an alt-reality version of Draculina, one of thousands of possible fates Lilith’s child might have suffered. The grown-up version of Draculina did indeed suffer many of the same hardships our pint-sized version did, growing embittered and hateful from indescribable abuse at the hands of the demon Belial and subsequently fending for herself once she became lost in time.
The two versions of Draculina are bound together by a Cursed Candle. When lit, they do a Shazam! bit, swapping realities between our kid and Vampirella’s evil twin.
So, with Mom having been hauled off to the Drakulon pokey, Draculina finds herself suddenly thrust into our reality, appearing in Ashthorne and musing over what mischief she might incite in order to cause grief to her mother and sister. Stan the Rat explains the premise of the series to her (and to the new readers, see below), and we’re seemingly off to the races —
– when the Mystic Egg Timer From Hell pings Draculina back into the astral plane, leaving a very confused Katie in her place.
If you missed last issue (and, really, how dare you?!?): after Lilith got herself busted by the Drakulon cops, a furious Vampirella stormed into Mayor Drake (a.k.a. the vampire Drago)’s house, where Pantha has been staying. Vampirella did not know Pantha was there, but was delighted to see her old friend —
– who did not recognize her and thus mauled our beloved space vampire, leaving her for dead. Julius did an amazing job here, which, ironically, is actually difficult to look at.
This is simply gorgeous. Amazing artwork and color here. The artists Ohta and Mohan capture the emotional gut punch Drake/Drago experiences. Drake is in love with Vampirella despite her being, in a sense, his (distant) half-sister. Here the art team really knocks things out of the park.
This continues here, with the deeply-conflicted Victory, struggling to rid herself of the demon ring that grants her occult powers. Few artists can portray wide-eyed panic the way Julius does and I so love Mohan’s earth tones here as Victory moves from depressed self-absorption to Red Alert.
If you don’t know, and shame on you if you don’t, Victory used to be Vampirella’s lover until Vampi unceremoniously dumped her. She would normally resent or be a bit jealous of Drake/Drago–who has no shot at the cookie either — but here the demon ring’s teleportation ability is the only thing that can save Vampirella.
Drake uses Vampire Vision (TM) to hypnotize the ER docs, who are at first unwilling to waste time on an obviously dead woman.
Here we catch up with Jordan and Malik, the two kids who provided the framing sequence to our first microseries, the origin of Pantha. Jordan has been recently orphaned, her grandfather murdered by the half-vampire Chastity. Jordan believes it was Vampirella who murdered him because Vampi confessed to the crime in order to prevent a bloodbath in Ashthorne.
Malik makes the same mistake we all did as teenagers: a nice boy trying to sidle up to a girl he’s infatuated with while trying not to scare her away. He doesn’t realize teenage girls can be dumb about these things. Real dumb. They often don’t do subtle and “nice” can be misinterpreted for platonic ambiguity. They respond much more to directness and courage, the pretty boy jocks who get right to the point. So poor Malik is trapped in The Friend Zone, although he had been making slow progress just before Jordan’s grandfather, Ashthorne Police Chief Allen, was murdered.
Jordan spots Katie – a white girl – walking the streets of Ashthorne alone after dark, and her instinct is to warn or perhaps save her but, as we will see, Jordan and Malik become distracted with something else —
– namely Nyx and Chastity, who are trying to boost the Chief’s pickup truck, left abandoned at City Hall, in order to leave town. Here we see one of the denizens of Ashthorne who is nothing like she seems, but is reason enough for the two women to want to boogie on Reggae Woman, given that their benefactor, Lilith, is no longer there to guide or coerce them into protecting the town.
Nyx is particularly tempted. She needs to absorb human life force in order to sustain her own. Without her human half, her demon half will die (and vice versa), so Nyx is jonesing for a kill that her human half, now greatly infected by humanity, is fighting against. Which is where they meet Katie.
Stan the Rat waves Katie off from touching Nyx’s hellfire scepter. He knows Nyx and warns Nyx to not bother with Katie because Katie belongs to Lilith. To prove it, Katie pulls her own version of the sacredsix white costumes out of her knapsack, a costume given to her by the vampire Zylaven (presumably on Lilith’s orders; Zylaven and Lilith were in cahoots) in Vampirella #18, but we have yet to actually see it.
Before we can see the Vampirette (which will actually be her code name) try it on, Jordan crashes the party with a shotgun.
This begins the final turn of Victory’s character arc, taking her from a Mary Jane (Parker)-esque frivolous party girl and Vampirella’s casual lover to embittered sycophant to Lilith. She manipulated her loopy and seriously naïve roommate who ultimately committed suicide because of Victory’s rejection. This became a major turn in the road for the character who, now having found the woman she truly loves near death, and stuck with this demon ring (she keeps throwing it away only to awaken and find it on her hand again), crash lands in her bathroom —
– where Victory finally stops being a self-absorbed jerk and looks up. This portends a major turn in the road for the character and the series.
Pages Eighteen to Twenty
Here we meet Leviticus, a crusader who may or may not be working for or with the religious bigots inhabiting the City of Sacred. Levi, a Hebrew Israelite, leads the Sons of Aaron, Christian zealots who have banded together to go vampire hunting, just as our ladies of Ashthorne are trying to make their exit…
Thank you all for reading. Stay safe, wash your hands, get a shot, wear your mask!
OBLIGATORY NEWCOMER INFO
Skip this if you already know: “sacred” is a PLACE, the City of Sacred, Georgia. The Six are the BAD GUYS — a fundamentalist militant wing of a shadowy organization called Lumea Următoare, “Next World”, bent on global domination (think: Vampire Taliban). sacredsix (all lowercase) is a Hatfields vs. McCoys story about an enclave of peaceful vampires who are being oppressed by religious bigots who have built their own super-modern Epcot Center up the road. The Six have vowed to protect Ashthorne from the Sacred bigots and advocate wiping out that city.
DRAGO, Ashthorne’s vampire mayor, asked his mother LILITH, a powerful sorceress from the planet Drakulon, to help him protect the town. Lilith, in turn, lured the half-vampire bounty hunter CHASTITY, the fire demon NYX, her “adopted” daughter Victory (whom she has re-named DRACULINA), as well as her biological daughter VAMPIRELLA to Ashthorne where Lilith engages in saber-rattling against The Six.
(Minor spoiler here.) Now, where we’re going is obvious: to prevent the peaceful vampires from being wiped out, Ashthorne will obviously need Wyatt Earp and his clan to defend it. It should, therefore, be fairly obvious that The Six will ultimately be replaced by our ladies, hence the title. (End minor spoiler.)
END OF OBLIGATORY NEWCOMER INFO