Mark Rahner, writer of The Twilight Zone: Shadow and Substance #1, talks with Eric Trautmann about Vampirella Feary Tales #4, both on sale now.
ERIC TRAUTMANN: I did miss her, as it happens. I had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, to the property when I first wrote it—horror/supernatural fare wasn’t a genre I had played around in much. Joe Rybandt, the series’ editor, just wouldn’t take no for an answer. I felt like I’d done some good work building a fairly accessible and stable status quo for her by the time I left the book, and didn’t have any serious plans to come back, but when I was asked to contribute a story for Vampirella #100, I was surprised at how much it felt like a homecoming.
MR: Tell me about your story in Vampirella Feary Tales #4. It’s for kids, right?
ET: Sure. It’s a wholesome tale of axe murder and eating too many sweets.
MR: When you think about it, fairy tales are pretty disturbing on their own. What was your approach?
ET: I was given a list of fairy tales that had been spoken for by other writers, and the one I most wanted to do was not on that list, so it was simply a matter of extrapolating out from the end of the fairy tale in question (and I’m not immediately naming it to avoid spoilers), and just adding Vampirella to the mix to make sure there was plenty of murder-ness.
In terms of approach, I wanted to take the general level of weirdness and amp it up just a little; there’s always a hint of whimsy and humor in fairy tales, and as you’re already quite aware, humorous Vampirella stories work very well.
ET: It actually does, doesn’t it?
MR: Your story in Vampirella #100 is called “The Vodnik.” I was excited because I thought it had to do with vodka. Can you please explain yourself?
ET: Sadly, no, it isn’t about vodka. It’s about murder, tobacco, gambling and other vices, though. Your continuing disappointment in me is just one more cross I have to bear, I suppose.
MR: What can you say about the folklore without spoiling too much?
ET: When I sat down to write my chapter of Vampirella #100, I knew that space was an obvious consideration, so I wanted to do something atmospheric, character-driven—there wasn’t a lot of room to develop a big conspiracy plot or some such. An excerpt from a book of folklore being run over Vampirella dealing with a minor monster infestation seemed to fit the bill.
And, as often happens, I started researching weird monsters and ran across the Vodnik—a Czech water troll. There’s actually a statue of one near the Charles River bridge in Prague, and it just felt right. Then I started looking for a U.S. location to have a Vodnik hole up, and the bridge I chose (in Chicago) is actually being torn down. The story just sort of wrote itself from there. Like you said: Just add Vampi.
MR: I grew up loving short stories – Matheson, Ellison, Fredric Brown. It’s a dying art, and I think it’s harder to write short than long. What do you think?
ET: Sometimes it’s alarming just how similar our influences are, especially Richard Matheson and — in my personal “canon” — most especially Harlan Ellison.
That said, I’m much more comfortable working long form; my first comics work was 32 pages, no ads, and that spoiled me for life. It’s challenging to stretch my long-dormant short fiction muscles. I had the good fortune to be asked to contribute to Vampirella Feary Tales #4, Vampirella #100 and Red Sonja #100 at roughly the same time, so it was a pretty effective refresher course.
MR: Would you care to say a few words about Vampi’s costume? Just briefly, of course … since it’s a subject no one has anything to say about … and I wouldn’t want to waste the time of people who don’t feel strongly about it.
ET: I had been accused of “hating” Vampirella and her costume when I kicked off the Dynamite “era,” which isn’t true. There were specific reasons I chose to downplay it (despite it showing up on every cover, and later, re-appearing in the course of the story), in part to make it easier to adapt to film or television. I have fondness for the costume, but the tone of my roughly twenty issues was darker, more “realistic” (for lack of a better term) and it made it tougher to justify someone running around not really wearing clothes. People wear costumes for special occasions, not everyday walking around town. Some people loved it, some people hated it.
The irony here is that, after the pseudo-“controversy” of redesigning Vampirella’s costume in “my” run on the main title, I wrote “The Vodnik” from her point-of-view; we see the story almost totally through Vampirella’s eyes until the last page. I fully expected her to appear in her traditional “costume” rather than the street clothes, and didn’t specify a costume in the script.
So Dave Acosta — who did a magnificent job illustrating both this and the Red Sonja #100 piece — drew her in the Armani anyway.
MR: What’s next for you? Is it vodka?
ET: I’m more of a scotch guy.
The next comic project from Dynamite I contributed to is Red Sonja #100, which comes out in February (and is more of a horror/weird tale than anything I’d written for her before).
For more on Vampirella Feary Tales #4, click here.
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