Keith Davidsen, writer of Reanimator #3, talks with writer David Avallone about Legenderry Vampirella #5, both on sale now. Cover art by Sergio Davila.
KEITH DAVIDSEN: With the five-issue LEGENDERRY: VAMPIRELLA series now complete, when you look back at its development — what was your original vision, and did the end result fulfill that vision, or evolve into something slightly different?
DAVID AVALLONE: Funny thing… just yesterday I re-read my original pitch just to see what I’d had in mind for starters and how it compared to where I ended up. I wasn’t too far off the park in my pitch: the beats fell in slightly different places than I thought they would. The love story came to the fore a little more than I expected, and I think that was a good thing. Also, I hadn’t foreseen how much I’d enjoy writing Rupert of Hentzau, and his friendship with Jones. Kurtz became more of a Charles Foster Kane homage as the book went along, too.
KD: VAMPIRELLA strikes me as the most easily translated character from her traditional incarnation into the Steampunk LEGENDERRY incarnation. What do you see as the common traits between the two incarnations, and are there personality differences?
DA: I’ve said this before and it bears repeating: my hope for this series is that it proves there’s more to Vampirella than a red monokini. I think the main differences turned out to be cosmetic… I tried my best to keep her essential character the same. Granted, I have not read every issue ever published of Vampirella since the 1970s, but I think her basic character in LEGENDERRY will be familiar to any of her fans. In keeping with the setting, she speaks in the more formal manner of the “time”, otherwise she’s the same tough independent woman she’s always been. I wish I could have spent some time exploring what it’s like to be a tough independent woman in that world, but I had a story to tell.
KD: The original LEGENDERRY concept was to bring various characters that might otherwise never cross paths together in a Steampunk setting. The VAMPIRELLA spin-off continued that concept, reimagining (for example) The Black Bat for this world. Behind the scenes, how did The Black Bat become part of the story, and what do you feel this character brings to the LEGENDERRY universe?
DA: The Black Bat joined the “cast” in a very organic way. One of my villains is HG Wells’ Doctor Moreau. Given the connection between vampires and bats, I thought it was appropriate for Moreau to make a Bat-Man-Beast to fight her. When the Dynamite editors saw this idea in the upcoming script they reminded me they had the license to Black Bat, and this would be a natural place to reference him. So I take no credit: that came from Joe and Molly. I always find it more fun and interesting when references are complex and overlapping (like the Kurtz/Kane stuff), so I was very happy to use this. I read a few Black Bat issues to refresh myself, though mostly we were referencing him in the costume.
KD: The demonic creature Black Mass serves as a menacing background character throughout the LEGENDERRY: VAMPIRELLA series, and this final issue reveals a surprise about the extent of his involvement in the events of the series. What are your thoughts about his motivations, his methods?
DA: I hope it was a surprise, and I really hope that it tracked for the readers. I dropped some hints here and there, though they were intentionally very subtle. I will confess that at the base of this character and his arc is a trope that I’ve enjoyed in everything from classic Star Trek episodes to Phillip K. Dick novels… the concept of an alien being imitating a human so perfectly that their own persona gets lost in the process, and they behave in ways they never imagined. I think Black Mass was locked up in another dimension for some dreadful length of time… and when released, he finds himself ensconced on a throne and waiting for blundering minions to bring him what he needs. Even in Bill’s original LEGENDERRY series I could see that a giant power like Black Mass would find these people boring pretty quickly, and would go out into the world and get a (literal) taste of life. It’s worth mentioning that Jack Kirby’s Darkseid (and in some ways ONLY Jack’s version) is one of my very favorite comic book characters. He’s a nightmare and a dictator and a monster but there’s something thoughtful and poetic and deeply strange about him as well. Black Mass is Kirby rebooting that idea/character, and I was really looking forward to writing that character when I got this book.
KD: The Victorian aesthetic, the clockwork mechanics… all the Steampunk visual details that define the genre — how did those come into play in your script-writing? Did the desire to see these visual elements inform how the story played out, or did the story always come first with the visual components added later as enhancement?
DA: That’s a great question. Story is the prime motivator, but just like with film scriptwriting, you always have some images bouncing around in your mind that are compelling and find their way into the project. For example, I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of airship travel. The image of Vampirella standing alone on the platform, on top of a skyscraper, a zeppelin looming over her, was probably the first thing I came up with for the series. The isolation of coming home from a victory and there’s no brass band, no friends waiting at the terminal… just you and your steamer trunk. That helped define her for me, and make her a living person in my mind. So I guess the answer is that it all evolves together: the story and the visual elements. Sometimes the story suggests a visual, sometimes a visual will suggest the story.
For more information on Legenderry: Vampirella #5, click here.