David Avallone’s Writer’s Commentary on The Shape Of Elvira #2, on sale now from Dynamite.
Say it with me now: if you plan to read the comic… go read the issue and come back. These things are full of spoilers.
Covers: All the covers are gems. The photo cover… well… I think that speaks for itself. We’ll always have the loveliest cover model in comics. Francesco Francavilla’s cover is almost too poetic and haunting for a comedy book, and he captures Elvira’s beauty perfectly. Almost. If haunting and poetic aren’t your cup of tea… there’s J Bone’s wonderfully funny cover. Finally, my long-time collaborator, and creative partner on ELVIRA: MISTRESS OF THE DARK with a little mad monster party. Everybody’s there: look closely for the Invisible Man.
Inside Front Cover: I just wanted to draw your attention to the dedication to Julie Adams. The vivacious, iconic star of CREATURE OF THE BLACK LAGOON passed away between the publication of issue one and two, and I wanted to honor her legacy, and her enormous influence on what we’re up to here, with a dedication. This dedication will stand for the rest of the series. I re-watched CREATURE in preparation for writing SHAPE OF ELVIRA, and Julie Adams was, for me, the most impressive element of the movie. She’s sharp and grounded and her performance is more natural and modern than you usually see in B-movies from the period. She was really something, and she’ll be missed.
Let’s start the issue proper talking about Fran Strukan’s atmospheric art. Fran manages to catch the “horror movie” setting without sacrificing the humor, or Elvira’s glamor. Not an easy balancing act to pull off, and he does it very well. As for the title? No. I’m not at all ashamed of it. I’ve spent a lifetime making bad puns and writing Elvira comics is where it ALL STARTS TO PAY OFF. This is also a good spot to point out Taylor Esposito’s fantastic lettering. I gave him the genius and super helpful direction “come up with a cool lettering treatment for Gill”, and what he came up with is excellent. Taylor always delivers.
While we’re praising the art team, take note of Maxim Simic’s colors here. The transition from the greenish water tank to the purplish bar… Maxim has strong command over mood and setting throughout. Last issue, I already confessed to the obvious connection between Yours Truly and Eddie here. (You can dig up the previous commentary for explanations about the origin of the character name, and the life experiences I’m accessing to write this series.) Tl:dr… I have been a low paid hack ghostwriter on B-movies for years. Other than that… some jokes about method actors and professional scruples on film sets.
The Macabre Mobile makes another appearance. Elvira references SCARLET CREST, which is obviously CRIMSON PEAK.
The film-within-the-comic starts shooting. Because of the setting, and my 32 years out here in Hollywood, this issue in particular has a lot of cameos from old friends. The doctor in panel two is my old friend, Samurai Jack/GL John Stewart/Travolta-accidental-shooting-victim Phil LaMarr himself. I wanted the “part” to be played by someone great, from the real world. He’s also, like Cassandra Peterson AKA Elvira, a graduate of the Groundlings, a legendary LA improv group/school. I thought that made him perfect for it. I called Phil up and asked permission, and he graciously agreed. (He told me I wasn’t the first: I think Mike Allred used him in something years ago.) Here, he’s playing a part in the movie, but the character in the comic IS Phil LaMarr.
Page 9 — 11:
Phil’s on-screen character is “Doctor Delany,” a reference to legendary sci-fi writer Samuel L. Delany. Yes, Elvira’s character is named “Doctor Fisher.” No one said this movie was subtle. I love the Gill-Man’s ass sticking up after he’s trank-darted. Funny detail, and all Fran.
You used to say “check the gate,” after you cut. The “gate” is what the film goes through, and you had to check it to make sure there wasn’t some crap in there ruining what you just filmed. Well… they’re not shooting film… as almost no one is… so nowadays you check the file to make sure it all got recorded without a glitch. That said, when I’ve been a first AD, I have called out “check the gate” to the assistant camera people and the data tech as shorthand for “confirm we got it so we can move on.”
In panel three, that’s my old friend Michael Papajohn, a great actor and stuntman. We met on a movie right before he got cast as Uncle Ben’s killer in Sam Raimi’s SPIDER-MAN. Just saw him in TRUE DETECTIVE more recently. A great guy, a pleasure to work with, and I wanted to give the stuntmen a little hat-tip after that action scene you just watched.
Speaking of things that have changed in the film industry… there used to be a lot of drinking during wrap. So dangerous. You rarely serve champagne to people who’ve been working 12-14 hours any more. But then again, Billy Bullworth isn’t all about employee safety, as we’re learning. Eddie and Elvira talk about Phil and the Groundlings a bit.
Pages 14 – 15:
Dream sequence. I really wanted to have more of this kind of thing in the series, because Fran is really good with Moebius-esque alien vistas and creatures. There weren’t a lot of opportunities in the story, but I did what I could. Nods to various incarnations of Aquaman here, and to the “Beauty and the Beast” story. Gill-Angela-Landsbury still cracks me up every time.
Pages 16 – 17:
What the what? I guess Gill wants to know if she’s aqua-curious or something. The last panel on page 17 is intended to raise, not answer, a question as to Eddie’s loyalties. Fran did a great job with it. Also love Maxim’s night shade here.
Pages 18 – 20:
The Macabre Mobile gets a little bit of a car chase, and we see the issue’s last cameo by an old pal. Jon Polito was one of the great character actors of all time. I was lucky enough to meet and befriend him a while back. He passed away recently. (It probably wasn’t that recent: it just feels that way.) Anyway, one of his many roles was as a “Fish and Wildlife” agent in the movie THE FRESHMAN, and I’m referencing that part here. Next issue opens with a whole scene with Jon (and Agent Roberts,) and it was a delight to spend time with him, in a way, when I wrote it.
Thanks for reading! More horror host hijinks next week in ELVIRA: MISTRESS OF THE DARK #5… ELVIRA’S INFERNO part one!