This week we welcome writer Ani-Mai to our regular Writer’s Commentary, dicussing the debut issue of the newest Bettie Page miniseries, Bettie Page: The Alien Agenda. And all courtesy of the good people at Dynamite Comics.
[+++WARNING: Possible spoilers! Buy and read the book, then return here for some cosmic commentary! +++]
After having Bettie track down Bigfoot, I had to continue the supernatural trend with probably one of the most fascinating beings, aliens. I’d definitely say that I’m a believer of at least something existing besides ourselves in the universe. I think it would be a bit egotistical to think there wasn’t. I’ve also always been fascinated with the momentous strides in technology we made in the decades following the Roswell crash. I’m not saying that they are directly related but it would be a fitting way to explain how our technological skills grew so quickly. Who knows?
I loved picking out the hotel that Bettie was staying at. I wanted to find somewhere that was really swanky in the 50’s so I picked the Beverly Hills Hotel. Where else would the pin-up queen stay? And I also had to give her my favorite drink, a mojito. The final two panels are my favorite. I wanted this split face look and Celor even added a little playgirl air to it. I almost see a little mischievous Bunny from The Big Lebowski in her eyes.
Colonel Westbrook is a tribute to my dad who passed away in 2013. This is my way of making sure he lives forever. Plus, he’s the reason I started reading comics so it was really fitting.
I love my little cow sequence. It has this classic 80’s Spielberg sci-fi feel. It’s the perfect entrance into to this explanatory flashback. If you can’t tell by now, I’m a huge movie fanatic and when I write my scripts, it’s almost as if I’m writing down the movie that’s playing in my mind at that moment. It becomes more like story boarding to me.
I had a lot of fun getting to play with the Roswell conspiracy theories. I think there’s always been a fascination with what really happened back then, which was a perfect jumping off point for this plot. What if there really had been a crashed spaceship? What kind of things could we learn from these new beings? And I think the biggest question that everyone asks is, are they here with good or bad intentions?
Since Bigfoot Bandits was where we were first introduced to Colonel Westbrook in Washington State, it seemed natural that his connections would be within that area. Having Sofia as a professor at the University of Washington was the perfect setting and I already knew the campus. Go Huskies!
I wanted Bettie’s clue to be something so mundane to other people, yet something Bettie would pick up on. What better way than utilizing construction equipment, which is everywhere? I think we also needed a little bit of humor after all of the information we had received in the previous panels.
I don’t think you can really have an alien conspiracy story without including the infamous “Men in Black”. I remember writing in the description that you wouldn’t be able to see his face, or if you did, it was very generic and also unmemorable. (I really gave Celor a puzzle with that description.) The fact that Celor kept him at a distance or just showing a portion of his face, was perfect for keeping their mystery intact. Add the fact that Bettie is never able to catch up to him no matter how quickly she runs makes for a great supernatural being on its own.
This is where we get to meet the new characters I created. I wanted a multicultural cast of women who captured both sides of Bettie herself. You have the smart and determined, Sofia, and the playful and fun, Young-ja. I based Young-ja a bit on one of my friends who shares quite a few of the same personality traits, especially her love of eating and her sassiness. Sofia is more the no-nonsense “mom type” who has been dying for adventure while also striving to be taken serious professionally in an era where women, and especially minority women, in academics were still often disregarded. It was important for me to make sure they were accurate for their time period, not just in how they looked or dressed but also their personalities and struggles.
I love that all three women seem to have an almost instantaneous friendship, bonded by their love of mysteries. It’s that moment in Step Brothers where they look at each other and say, “Did we just become best friends?” And before it gets noted, yes, Young-ja is nineteen and having a glass of wine, which seemed appropriate for the time and situation, since most states made their own age restrictions at that time. (See, I did my research.)
I did a lot of research for this part of the comic. I wanted to make sure that all the clues the ladies followed actually made sense historically, following the timeline of human history from great civilization to great civilization. The obvious place to start would be ancient Egypt, which is not only one of the oldest civilizations in the world, it has a beautiful culture filled with fun mythology to play off of. Plus, there has always been theories about aliens helping build the great pyramids, so why not?
The Pyramid of Djoser was the first stepped pyramid created in Egypt and the background of it seemed to work perfectly. The walls of the complex provided the perfect protection for the pyramid in which the “alien secrets” would reside. There is also this mystery of over forty thousand jars being found inside, inscribed with the names of past kings, which would have been a fun way to incorporate some sort of “ghost guardians” if I had more pages to work with.
Once I knew where I wanted Bettie and the team to go, it was a matter of figuring out the clues that would get them there. It was much like putting together a puzzle, but backwards. I also had to make sure that it would make sense to someone that doesn’t already know the answer, thus making it seem obvious. So I would often pass the ideas by my husband first as a guinea pig, just to be sure.
Luckily, I could make clues work out due to the quality of the relics we have now. It’s easy to add in a boat symbol when the artifact we have is worn away. At that point, the possibilities are endless.
I definitely see Young-ja as the comedic relief of the comic. She seems cocky and self-sufficient but, at the end of the day, she’s still a young adult and isn’t quite as brave as you’d think. Much like Sofia’s need to be the ever professional, there’s going to be a lot of growth in both their characters as their adventures allow them to grow as individuals and as a team.
Bettie Page: The Alien Agenda #1 is out now from Dynamite Comics