A Classic Revenge Tale: Joseph Michael Linsner & Kristina Deak-Linsner On Vampirella: Roses For The Dead

by Hannah Means Shannon

In June, a new four part Vampirella series will be arriving in shops from Dynamite Entertainment, written by Kristina Deak-Linsner and illustrated by Joseph Michael Linsner, a series that’s set to lead the character in to her 50th anniversary year in 2019.
Many of the character’s “classic” attributes will be part of the celebration in “Roses for the Dead“, both visually and in terms of personality, but this is also a very focused revenge story wherein Vampirella, with help from Evily the Witch, track down a sexual predatory. Set in Philadelphia, the story will find Vampirella and Evily facing the need for an alliance, and acknowledging similar goals.
Both Kristina Deak-Linsner and Joseph Michael Linsner join us today to talk about the series, the classic allure of the character, and their journey bringing her to the page in Vampirella: Roses for the Dead.

Hannah Means-Shannon: What do you find most compelling about Vampirella as a character, and why do you think she’s been so enduring?
Joseph Michael Linsner: Vampirella has a great name and a great look. Comics are a visual medium, and if you put Vampi on a cover, it’ll grab your eye from across a crowded room. The marriage of brilliant visuals and wild adventures has kept Vampirella alive and vital for almost 50 years. She can be serious or satirical, and still bounce back. I think you could place her into any kind of story and it would work.
HMS: Within the tradition of Vampirella, how much room do you think there is to vary her aesthetic presentation and appearance? In this series, what kind of “look” have you chosen, and how did you decide on it?
JML: She has a few signature looks in my opinion. Jose Gonzalez really set the standard. All of her best qualities are displayed in his work. Strong and sexy, with a devilish twinkle in her eye. Frank Frazetta gave her a fleshy accessibility. His work made me think of Sophia Loren – could you imagine her in a Vampi outfit? The screen would melt! My version of Vampi draws from those two templates. I prefer the fuller costume, not the ultra skimpy version that looks like red tape. It’s already cosmically sexy – why ruin the great lines of her suit by chipping away at them?
Kristina Deak-Linsner: I confess, I am not a fan of everything that’s been done aesthetically with Vampirella. (Through the Harris and Dynamite years) The “dental floss” version of her outfit is one example. I believe that it’s very clear now, that women should not be objectified, period, no matter what they choose to wear. Society pushes this silent, or sometimes not-so-silent, sort of “virginity praise” where women are taught they are only worthwhile if they refuse to be sexual. We are harassed for being sexual, while at the same time we are pushed to be sexual. It’s all very confusing. So, I wanted to portray her as sexy but strong, and comfortable within her own sexual identity. The strength of Vampirella is more than just her sexuality. To me, a huge part of feminism is owning your own sexuality. Vampirella walks freely within that world. I know a lot of women, men, and transgender people who find the character very empowering, as do I.

[Vampirella: Roses for the Dead #1 Cover B by Billy Tucci.]

HMS: Can you tell us a little bit about collaborating on this 4 part series? How did you generate the story, and what kind of back and forth brought us the story as we’ll see it upon release?
JML: Everything started with Kristina. The story is all hers. I’ll let her elaborate
KDL: Vampirella is tracking a sexual predator who has an odd calling card. He always leaves a rose at the scene of the crime. She is also confronted during her hunt, by Evily The Witch. The two clash, and must decide: do they hunt for him alone? Or combine their forces? Clare is a recent victim of his, trapped in a comatose state, and also a key figure in Evily’s life. She is a ward of hers, and is a very powerful clairvoyant who was just learning to use her skills under Evily’s watchful care and guidance.
This is the first time I have actually written a story from a blank page, and given it to Joe to translate into his beautiful way of story-telling. We work out the layout of the panels together from my script and he draws the images from there. I am super pleased with the results so far.
HMS: In what ways does this story, leading into Vampirella’s big anniversary year, have classic elements and settings to it? How did you choose what kind of story to tell given how much story exists concerning her?
JML: I got to draw a Dawn/Vampirella crossover in 2016, but I’ve always wanted to draw a Vampi solo tale. This story touches upon all of her classic elements and adds upon them.
KDL: I have taken elements of my own life and things that have happened to friends as well, and blended them with a mix of the most classic elements of Vampirella. I put them together with a more recent focus on important events happening within the media right now. I have long wanted to explore the idea of a sexual predator, and what it takes to track and catch him, and eventually serve him justice…it’s just something that has been in the back of my mind forever. I had the seed elements of my story in place back in August 2017. It’s just the timing of the release now that makes it seem like it’s aligned with the #metoo movement. As for classic elements? She’s back to her classic roots in terms of look, and she flies like a bat, for example. Vampirella’s most basic need is that she must feed to exist, and I feel I have also tied that together nicely within the storyline.

HMS: It looks like we’ll see Vampi facing off against some competing desires—for revenge—and for dominance perhaps in the case of a rival witch. What kind of personality traits in her do you think come out most in this story?
JML: Vampi & Evily started out as rivals in her first appearance in 1969, but we’re doing a reboot of her character. I think they work much better as allies than rivals. Evily is a witch, so she’s a scholar and is very internal. Vampirella is more external, and is all about the hunt, her quest for blood. Ultimately, they both want the same things, even though they go about it in very different ways.
KDL:  Evily and Vampirella are not necessarily rivals in this series. In fact, they haven’t been rivals since 1969. Nancy A. Collins didn’t write them that way either for Dynamite.
Vampirella is an iconic classic. She’s proven again and again to be intelligent, witty, emotional, passionate, sarcastic, and primal. As for Evily, I am so pleased that I got the chance to write her character, as well as redesign her overall look, giving her the purple cloak and slightly different coloration. Evily is a bit of a blank slate, because she hasn’t seen too much action in the Dynamite era. But I wanted to give her a backstory, re-invent her origins, and bring her more personal depth. I think she has a potential opportunity for great things in the future. Being a witch, the idea of her as a character resonates deeply with me.
HMS: What did you most want to accomplish in working on this book and what do you hope readers will take away from the experience?
JML: We’re telling a classic revenge tale, so I hope the readers have a fun ride and enjoy the experience. We’re aiming for some subtext, but the main point is to tell an entertaining story. That is always the number one goal – to entertain. Anything beyond that is pure gravy.
A very special thanks to Kristina Deak-Linsner and Joseph Michael Linsner for sharing their thoughts in this interview with us.
Vampirella: Roses for the Dead #1 will arrive in comic shops on June 6th, 2018. But also make plans now to order a special Roses for the Dead #1 Box Set Exclusive, featuring all-new cover art by Kristina Deak-Linsner and signed by Linsner.
The Box Set Exclusive will contain:

* Roses for the Dead #1 Box Set Exclusive Cover featuring limited cover art variation by Joe Michael-Linsner and signed by Linsner
* A Complete Set of All Regular Edition Covers – by Billy Tucci and Joe Michael Linsner – of Roses for the Dead #1
* A Complete Set of all Retailer Exclusive Covers – by Billy Tucci and Joe Michael Linsner – of Roses for the Dead #1
* The Roses for the Dead #1 Blank Authentix Cover
* A limited-edition print featuring the cover art of Roses for the Dead #1 Billy Tucci cover signed by Tucci
* A limited-edition print featuring the cover art of Roses for the Dead #1 Joe Michael Linsner cover signed by Linsner
* A special Vampirella-themed box!
Strictly limited, this box set is only available from Dynamite and limited to initial orders only.

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