David Avallone’s Writer’s Commentary on Elvira: Mistress Of The Dark #8 – Channelling Gustave Doré

David Avallone’s provides his Writer’s Commentary on Elvira: Mistress Of The Dark #8, out now from Dynamite. He writes,

You know the drill: SO MANY SPOILERS BELOW. Don’t ruin all the crazy surprises. Read and come back, if you haven’t already.

Covers: Joe Jusko gives us a funny look into Elvira’s home life. Seems accurate. Craig Cermak has the rare cover that somewhat reflects the actual comic, with Elvira stalking an imp in hell. Should we tell her that her knife is fake? John Royle provides what seems to be a look at Elvira’s prom night. And as always, the photo cover speaks for itself.

Page 1: Elvira meets Lucifer. Or rather, Lucifer’s hoof. He’s a little hard to take in all at once, which is why God gave us two page spreads.

Pages 2-3: Two page spreads like this one. This image, by the amazing Dave Acosta (like all the rest of the art in the book), is directly based on the Gustave Doré illustration of Satan from the original Dante’s INFERNO.

Through the whole series, we’ve employed two page spreads to keep driving home the vastness of Hell. New colorist Walter Pereyra does an amazing job in this issue, but I particularly love the contrast between the icy plain and the cold red sky. Doré had Satan lying directly on the ice, but Dave and I decided he could have a throne.

Page 4: As Mephistopheles says here, and again this is straight from Dante, Lucifer is munching on Betrayers. Dante gave Lucifer only three to snack on (Judas, Cassius, and Brutus), but I figure that was a few centuries ago, and there’s no shortage of Betrayers… so Dave and I gave him a cauldron of sinners to chew. The guy in panel 2 is speaking Latin, and saying “The pain is terrible”. The Latin implies that those legs could belong to one of Dante’s Romans. Also worth noting in that panel, is the evocative quote “chomp, chomp, chomp” from our always-excellent letterer Taylor Esposito.

Pages 5-6: Elvira gets Lucifer’s attention, and he takes on a new form to speak to her: Mr. Emery, her high school gym teacher. It will probably surprise no one to learn that Mr. Emery was the name of my high school gym teacher. Here’s the weirdest part: I provided Dave Acosta only the sketchiest description of Mr. Emery… and yet damn if that doesn’t look JUST like him. I guess it’s a universal type.

Page 7: Since Lucifer has complete control over his domain, and can change shape at will, I imagine talking to him would be extremely disorienting. So for this one page he’s created a dank medieval courtroom to further intimidate Elvira.

Pages 8-9: We find ourselves in a theatre, watching the squabbling married couple of Faust and Helen of Troy. In previous commentaries, I’ve explained how these characters evolved from being Faust and Helen, to Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor… and how they ended up here, as George and Martha from Edward Albee’s WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOLF. The dialogue in panel 1 is directly from the play: I thought it was funny how well if fit. Lucifer, for Faust’s benefit, transforms into the classic theatrical Devil he will be able to recognize. On the top of page 9, Elvira speaks for me on the subject of lame Rolling Stones references. “Sympathy For The Devil” is a great song but enough already. For the rest of the page, Faust begins a recap of the whole series from his POV.

Pages 10-11: The recap continues, and now – hopefully — you know what was motivating Faust all along. We leave Faust and Helen, and they go back to Edward Albee’s dialogue.

Pages 12-13: If you write about Hell, you can’t get around discussing its origin and purpose. In these two pages, Elvira and Lucifer inevitably have to talk about it. I can’t claim the conclusion they come to is the most original: it’s philosophical question that’s been debated for millennia. That said… even as a non-believer… this is the conclusion that makes sense to me. Lucifer refers to Milton, the oft-repeated and misunderstood quote, “It’s better to rule in Hell, than serve in Heaven.” Glenn chimes in with a C.S. Lewis quote I came across in my research for this series, which I found very compelling.

Pages 14-15: When Lucifer tells you something is easy, of course he’s got a trick up his sleeve. In this case, it’s Elvira’s greatest fear: the zombie soul of Vlad the Impaler. Again, I don’t pretend it’s too original to stress the importance of overcoming your greatest fears. But what else is it all about, really? Vlad quotes EVIL DEAD 2, as one does, but you’re not going to intimidate Elvira with quotes from one of her favorite movies.

Pages 16-17: Elvira reaches a very nice waiting area in Purgatory, as me and Dave Acosta hold off one more page revealing who Glenn is. Of course, as some of you guessed, Glenn is based on Glenn Milstead, more commonly known by the single name Divine. She is pictured here wearing the famous gown from John Waters’ PINK FLAMINGOS. In panel 3, Divine finally makes the pun I’ve been building up to for 3 issues. Unbelievable as it may seem, when I was trying to come up with a famous dead person to be Elvira’s tour guide, Glenn Milstead occurred to me before I realized the connection between his famous drag name and Dante’s DIVINE COMEDY, of which INFERO is the first part. In panel 4… I’m probably not the first person to connect the work of Ed Wood with the Wizard of Oz, but Glenn or Glinda was too good to resist. In panel 5, we complete the pop culture overload on this page with an Elvira-flavored CINDERELLA reference. Lastly, it was Taylor’s idea to have Elvira’s final word balloon fade out, indicating the transition.

Pages 18-19: And so we arrive back at the beginning. Issue 8 Elvira encounters issue 1 Elvira, and pushes her into the Time Coffin, closing the loop. If you go back to issue one again, you can see that we did plan this in advance, and those are Elvira’s hands pushing her into the coffin.

(panel from issue 1 of ELVIRA: MISTRESS OF THE DARK)

Page 20: We wrap up this eight issue story arc with Elvira, stronger than ever, ready to get back to work. Since issue one came out, I had the opportunity to give Lloyd Kaufman a copy, and show him the character “Floyd Mankoff.” To my surprise, Lloyd loved it and did not sue.

Thanks for joining us on the long strange trip of Elvira’s Inferno! Next time, a brand new arch and an issue titled inspired by SCHITT’S CREEK’s Alexis Rose: VROOM VROOM, WITCHES.

About Rich Johnston

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.

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