David Avallone writes about his comic book Bettie Page Vol 2: Model Agent, published by Dynamite.
Go read Bettie Page Vol 1: Bettie in Hollywood, and then come back and we can get started.
Finished? Good. Fun, right?
It was a lot of fun for me too…. but the original plan was to stop there, at the end of the fourth issue. To our joy, the four chapters which make up Volume One did well enough to justify extending the series. I myself had fallen for our plucky star and was thrilled to spend more time with her.
I chose to spend the rest of the run continuing what I did in the first volume: paying tribute to all my favorite 1950s culture, through the eyes of a kickass real-life icon… and those four issues are collected in Volume 2: Model Agent.
First up – after I reveal where to get the best apple pie in Los Angeles — I thought it would be fun to throw Bettie into a classic giant radioactive monster movie. So the opening chapter is a (mostly) stand-alone story that pits Bettie against mutant creatures at Groom Lake, the future site of Area 51. Bane Wade’s terrific art brings the necessary jolt of energy to a crazy, action-packed episode.
The remaining three issues are a single story arc, the one that gives the volume its title. Art chores are split between Esau Figueroa and Matt Gaudio, both of whom do a remarkable job telling the story and maintaining a consistent look and tone.
Bettie gets in a little training, returns to New York, and waits for an assignment. After a brief sequence connecting issue six with the special six-page story Joseph Michael Linsner and I created for Playboy Magazine, we get into the story proper. Bettie takes on the lead role in Pygmalion… and if you know the play, or the musical that it inspired, you can see the parallels with her relationship with Agent McKnight.
I like to lay the seeds, quietly, for future crossovers in the “Dynamite-verse”, even if they are highly unlikely. Some are more obvious than others. Bettie’s pal Lyssa Druke is a good example: her last name is one of the more subtle connections to the world of pulp fiction. Her dad had kind of, you know, a shadowy employer.
More obvious is the reference to McKnight’s buddy whose office is on the 86th floor of the Empire State Building, who is “out of town a lot.”
For the final arc, I wanted to send Bettie on a Bond-like adventure in another country, but with some sci-fi overtones, as in the Bettie In Hollywood story. I chose the 1952 Cannes Film Festival for a lot of reasons, but mostly I was pretty sure no one had ever done a comic book set in that specific time and place. And with Bettie established as a b-movie starlet, it seemed like a natural extension of what I’d already set in motion.
On top of all that… I am a big movie fan, and a veteran of 30 years in the film industry, so Cannes was an opportunity to have fun with all that. I feel pretty comfortable asserting that this is the only comic book adventure you’ll read this year with a lot of allusions to Italian Neorealism, though I also can promise you won’t need to recognize any of those Easter eggs to enjoy the story. There are Russian spies and boat chases and fist fights and beautiful, funny characters in attractive clothes in a glamorous location.
So in Volume 2: Model Agent, Bettie will protect the army from giant insects and the glitterati from the oblitterati (not a word). Will she manage to get Gene Kelly’s autograph and save the world from an alien artifact?
Only one way for you to find out.
But one last piece of crucial secret intel I have to pass along: This fall, Bettie is coming back…