David Avallone has a Writer’s Commentary on Bettie Page Unbound #2, on sale now from Dynamite Entertainment. He writes; Another dimension, another planet, another new version of Bettie… and another bunch of spoilers. Go read the issue and come on back so we can speak freely.
Acknowledgement up top to Kevin Ketner for his full-service editing, and Joe Rybandt and Nick Barrucci for letting me play in their sandbox.
Covers: John Royle gets to do the real “Bettie as Vampirella” cover, and it’s gorgeous, as always. It also – in my opinion – reveals a little something about the creation and design of Vampirella. Deep down… she was always Bettie Page, wasn’t she? Scott Chantler’s cover made me laugh for five minutes the first time I saw it, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled. The “Crisis on Infinite Betties” was always my joke title for this arc, going back to the pitch… and here Scott recreates George Perez’ iconic issue one cover for Crisis on Infinite Earths. His “Infinite Betties” show the ones we used in the series, and even some ideas I had that we didn’t use. But here’s the crazy thing: I didn’t tell Scott those ideas, so he must have made some VERY good guesses. David Williams flips the script a little to give us a great Vampire-hunting Bettie, while Julius Ohta honors my very first comic writing job ever, and I can’t remember if it’s intentional. My initial gig was a “Steampunk Vampirella” series set in Bill Willingham’s “Legenderry” universe, and our version of V looked not unlike what Julius has done here.
Inside Front Cover: In previous Bettie volumes I didn’t bother with issue-to-issue recaps, but this is a very complicated story, so I have Col. McKnight giving the “what has gone before” every time. I like the inside-cover design of Julius’ hitchhiking Bettie from his cover of #1.
Page 1: Speaking of Julius Ohta… I mean. Look at this page. In this series I challenge Julius a lot: a new world and a new dimension every issue, for four issues. And he comes through every time with beautiful, sci-fi spectacle. “Vampiron,” is, of course, a play on Vampirella’s homeworld of Draculon. Bettie’s internal monologue ponders her transformations, but she hasn’t caught on to the new deal yet. In the last commentary I talked about Julius’ great “take” on Vampirella’s costume, and you get to see it in action for the rest of the issue.
Page 2: Ellie Wright, our colorist, also has to create a whole new atmosphere every issue of this series, and again, she excels in this issue. There are very few colors on this page, but it manages to evoke an alien world, and feel like those old Vampirella stories from the 1970s.
Page 3: I never want Bettie to sound like a middle aged sci-fi nerd comic book writer. Maybe I don’t always succeed in that… but “I’m a Dracula lady?” cracks me up. I can’t imagine Bettie Mae Page saying “I have been metamorphosed into a vampire” or whatever. I thought this was funnier.
Pages 4 & 5: Bettie takes on some crusaders, who we later find out are called “Saturdays.” In some of the research I did about old vampire myths, the men who hunted vampires were called “men of the Sabbath” or variations on that theme. So I adapted that to “Saturdays.” Julius’ costume design is a cross between a stormtrooper and a knight of the crusades. In spite of modern uses of the “deadlier than the male” cliché, Bettie is quoting Rudyard Kipling here, from a 1911 poem. Lots of fun and imaginative lettering effects on page 5 from Taylor Esposito. I like the uniform shape of the “tzadts”.
Pages 6 & 7: “Barbarian sword-lady” is Bettie’s description of Red Sonja, of course. I wrote a script years ago for a movie that never got made, where the main character referred to the villain’s henchmen as “bowling pins,” and I’m glad to get a chance to use that here. Also, these guys literally have bowling-pin looking heads.
Pages 8, 9, 10 & 11: Benway! You remember him from our first volume, right? If not… his name is a little tribute to the eternal supervillian from William S. Burroughs’ work, and his character is… tribute is the wrong word… inspired by a certain 20th century public figure. In that first volume it was a little easier to figure out who that was. This is Julius’ first time drawing him and he does a fantastic job honoring the work from before and also doing his own interpretation. His presence in this story is also meant to tell the reader that on the parallel worlds she’s visiting, Bettie may run into echoes and reflections of the people she’s known from home.
Pages 12: I’ve always loved that Vampirella can magically sprout giant bat-wings, so I like to use them when I can.
Pages 13 & 14: More impressive sci-fi spectacle from Julius, beautifully colored by Ellie. The floating book is whatever passes for the Necronomicon on this planet. The “fella” for whom it didn’t “end well” is the artist Pickman, who Bettie saw eaten alive by a Shuggoth in the Halloween Special that kicked off this entire plotline.
Pages 15: The Vampiron council and soldiers have a kind of Atlantean feel to me. That all comes from Julius. As with the Halloween issue, the chanting will actually translate into semi-coherent strings of words if you know where to find the R’lyeh dictionary. I promise it’s not just gibberish. Well, I mean… it IS just gibberish, but it’s authentic H.P. Lovecraft gibberish.
Pages 16 & 17: Yog-Sothoth is back. I love the third panel, where he’s looming over the council. Panel five is a deliberate echo of Bettie’s Yog-Sothoth nightmare in issue one of Volume Two, aka part one of The Princess and The Pin-up. Bettie remembers her Lovecraftian gibberish from the Halloween Special, but it won’t help her this time.
Pages 18 & 19: Even immortal space demons feel a little sting when you fire blasters into their “face.” In the real world, Bettie – for all her sexual freedom as a model – didn’t smoke, drink or curse, so even in this moment she can’t help but chastise Yog for his stray “damn.” Bettie escapes with the help of her batwings again.
Page 20: What the…? Bettie has found a new world more insane than “Vampiron,” and apparently her new persona is a “Princess of Xenon.” On the periodic table, Xenon is a “noble gas.” Other famous noble gases: Krypton. And… Helium. Next issue’s title is “Planetary Romance,” which I discovered fairly recently is an old term for a specific genre of science fiction adventure story. The kind Edgar Rice Burroughs used to write, for example…