In our regular Dynamite Comics’ Writer’s Commentary posts we have David Avallone giving us a deep dive into the writing process behind Elvira Meets Vincent Price #1. A fun comic featuring two of horror’s most loved and larger-than-life characters and out now from Dynamite. Not only does Avallone gives us his thoughts on the issue he also regals us on as the backstory to the series’ and his time working in Hollywood as well! It’s a fascinating read and offers a good deal more than your average writer’s commentaries. So, read on… if you dare! Bwah-ha-ha-ha!
[+++ WARNING: Possible spoilers ahead! Buy & read the book, then come back here for some colorful commentary! +++]
Welcome back, friends. We had a little break there for the world to sorta end – and we did a Kickstarter comic about it, Elvira: The Omega Ma’am – but now me and Cassandra Peterson (the “real” Elvira) are back at it with another monthly!
Ready? As always, this commentary will be wall-to-wall spoilers. You’ve had time to get a copy of Elvira Meets Vincent Price #1, so no excuses…
Background: I had kicked around a few ideas for the next Elvira series, but nothing really stuck until someone – I think it was Cassandra and/or her manager – pitched “Elvira Meets Vincent Price.” That sounded great to me, and I started watching old Vincent Price movies to try and find a good premise for the plot. (One of the best things about my job: watching a bunch of fun old horror movies is “research.”) Nothing was really clicking, and then the magic of coincidence happened. My friend Valerie D’Orazio published a blog about an infamous “missing” Vincent Price movie. I had never heard this crazy story before, and I instantly realized it was the perfect set-up to my new series. I thanked Val, and ran with it.
Here’s the blog, if you’re curious: https://fantasymerchant.com/2019/09/12/the-vincent-price-movie-that-never-existed/
So with that in hand, I got to work on the plot, and we were off and running…
Dave Acosta has been the artist on ELVIRA: MISTRESS OF THE DARK (E: MOTD) and ELVIRA: THE OMEGA MA’AM, but he wasn’t available for this series. When that happens – as with SHAPE OF ELVIRA (trade out now!) – I always want Dave doing covers, for a kind of continuity connecting all the comics. Dave did a great Elvira-as-Hamlet on stage with the ghost of Vincent, and that’s our A cover. The other two – partly because we had so much lead time on this comic – are that rarest of creatures, comic covers that actually depict something that happens in the issue! The great John Royle rendered the scene where the Ghost of Vincent comes to life from a TV screen, and interior artist Juan Samu’s cover shows Vincent and Elvira in the front seat of the Macabre Mobile (with a pendulum ominously overhead.) All three artists really captured the likenesses, and beautifully set the table for what’s inside.
Inside Front Cover:
Do you read the recaps? You should. I try to keep them funny, though in this one I’m just trying to get you to buy the previous trades. Not that anyone cares, but believe it or not I AM keeping a continuity in all the Elvira-verse.
I really wondered if Cassandra would nix this scene, because it can’t be a pleasant memory. Right before I started writing this series, it was reported that she had pitched to Netflix and Shudder, and out of that grew… this. Her pal Eddie Mezzogiorno is back, and they’re basically pitching the plots of all our previous comics. Panel 2 is the plot of E:MOTD #1-4. Panel 4, Eddie refers to “Elvira In Hell”, which is the plot of E:MOTD #5-8. But no one is buying.
You can read about all that here.
Our excellent letterer, Taylor Esposito, will always find the right font to support my punny titles, and this issue is no exception. In this issue, he’s working with Elizabeth Sharland. The “Elvira Vs. The Witches” thing Eddie is talking about happened in E:MOTD issues 9-12. I originally called the company “SetFlix” in the first draft, but Cassandra came up with the stronger “DeathFlix.” I’m sure you can guess who “Valkyrie Prime,” “WhoLoop” and “Shiver” are supposed to be…
Elvira comes home. Good page to point out the work of new interior artist Juan Samu. It’s a fine line to draw Elvira as the stunningly beautiful woman she is, but still catch the full range of her emotions – and occasional goofiness – and Juan really captures her in totality. Further, our regular colorist on the series, Walter Pereyra, is back… and just look at that sunset. I have no idea what’s in a “Midsommar Margarita”, but my suggestion is… don’t drink it wearing a bear costume. Finally, note the HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL poster in Elvira’s living room. This is what we professionals call “foreshadowing.”
Dream sequences are fun, and it gave me a way to work a classic Vincent Price set-piece into the first issue. I also thought if a spirit from beyond was trying to contact you… they might start in dreams. And if that spirit is Vincent Price, the dreams would look a lot like old Roger Corman movies. In the reveal of Vincent, he’s looking a lot like Frederick Loren… and we’ll see why soon enough. I like the “ghostly” balloon treatment Taylor and Elizabeth gave him. Throughout the series, I have Vincent quoting Poe and Shakespeare, and ‘A Dream Within A Dream’ is one of my favorite poems by Edgar Allan Poe. I think Walter added the zip-a-tone look in the final panel of the dream sequence, and I love the old-timey comic book feel of it.
We met Elvira’s agent, Jill Van Nuys, in issue one of THE SHAPE OF ELVIRA, just like Eddie Mezzogiorno. Have you read that one? You totally should. “The Trades” is what Hollywood folks call The Hollywood Reporter and Variety.
I don’t think I specified Eddie in a tux in the script, but I thought it was a nice visual idea. The whole “Billy Bullworth” thing is also from THE SHAPE OF ELVIRA. Billy is short for William. In Spanish, that’s “Guillermo.” Bull in Spanish is “Toro.” Just some absolutely unrelated language facts for you.
Cassandra always says her favorite horror movie is THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, so of course I had to make it central to our plot. In my script, the hanging woman’s line is delivered by the severed head Vincent in holding in the poster, but Juan thought this was a better layout and he was right.
Vincent pops off the screen, and of course he’s still “Frederick Loren.” He’s also still in black and white. Once again, Juan’s gift for likenesses is really something and he really has Vincent down. And as we get our plot proper going, I start laying down the rules for how ghosts will “work” here. Some writers believe fantasy and horror are excuses for “anything can happen if I need it to for the plot.” I prefer to have ground rules (spoken or not), and not break them. It keeps you honest. It keeps you from doing “apparently Superman can kiss you and make you lose your memory of specific events” type stuff.
Apparently Elvira has also read Val’s blog. For those that haven’t, she recaps it quickly here. Naturally, for our purposes THE ARIES COMPUTER has been changed to RISE OF THE RAM.
Vincent reveals that he can break a fourth wall just as well as Elvira, and I’m with him on this one. Most “refusal of the call” scenes are badly written, and it’s just annoying watching the hero say “no” for one scene just because someone convinced the writer they have to follow Joseph Campbell to the letter, every time. A GOOD refusal of the call feels genuine. I absolutely believe Luke Skywalker can’t imagine running off with a dude he just met to fight the power structure he’s grown up in… until they roast his aunt and uncle. But not all “refusal of the call” scenes work that well.
Also on this page, I allude to the fact that Elvira and Vincent were close friends, and this isn’t a meeting, it’s a reunion.
Road trip! Well, cross town at least. Vincent mentions that Roger Corman studios used to be down in Venice. (I should know: I worked there for a year or two back in the late eighties.) And here we set up another one of the parameters for ghosts: Vincent shape-shifts depending on what Elvira is thinking about. He turns into what she expects to see. And Shakespeare makes her think of my favorite Price character, Edward Lionheart from THRONE OF BLOOD. It was also Vincent’s favorite, as he says here, and for those reasons you’ll see that his “default” look for this comic will be Edward’s red-lined cape and black bowtie, and flamboyant mustache.
This page starts with a VERY inside joke. I used to work for a low-budget film producer and distributor who had an office in Silverlake, and a company called Silverlake International Pictures. While I was working for him, he moved his offices to Tarzana, but of course the company was still called Silverlake International. I always thought that was a little funny. At the bottom of the page, Vincent continues to break fourth walls. I love Juan’s detail of Vincent sprucing up his bowtie before meeting Eden.
Steven Eden is based on a LOT of guys I have met and worked with in my life. It always seemed like the guys making the most violent and misogynist movies would always have a Bible on their desk. I never knew if it was a guilty conscious, hypocrisy, or what. It just always cracked me up. Being handed the script to “Bloody Breasts Part Two: The Bloodening*” over a copy of the New Testament. Vincent, also quite aware of this hypocrisy, quotes scripture to Eden. As for Eden’s hair… you’re smart. I’m sure you can figure out what and of whom it reminds you.
*not a real film.
“He sure makes a lot of noise when he comes.” There’s always one panel per Elvira comic where I think “too far” and at the same time think “there it is.” So who’s the Ram in Rise of the Ram? How good is your Egyptian mythology? Come back next time and find out…