Writer’s Commentary: Stephen Mooney On ‘Bettie Page: Curse Of The Banshee’ #1
by Olly MacNamee
Dynamite Comics launched their latest Bettie Page series with Bettie Page: Curse Of The Banshee #1 by writer Stephen Mooney and artist Jethro Morales. And, as its favoured comic book new-site of choice (thanks, guys!) we get to share with you Stephen’s very first writer’s commentary for this all-new series and its debut issue, out now from Dynamite. Get to know the thought process, and writing process, behind the comic book straight from the source. So, take it away Stephen:
[+++ WARNING: Potential Spoilers! Buy and read Bettie Page: Curse Of The Banshee #1, then come back here for the commentary! +++]
I was delighted to be asked to contribute to Bettie’s wonderful, globe-trotting adventures. Series editor Joseph Rybandt reckoned that this book would be right up my street, due to the pulpy, action-adventure stories I tend to lean towards in my writing and I couldn’t have agreed more. I’ve been a massive fan of Bettie and her larger than life personality since reading The Rocketeer way back in the nineties. Since then, in the Dynamite comics, Bettie has gone on to star in some incredibly fun and compelling tales, written and drawn by several of comics’ very best. And now there’s me!
Bettie lends herself so incredibly well to so many different genres of storytelling; from detective noir to light-hearted romp. Anything and everything is possible with this gal and that’s the main attraction for me. This lady flies under almost every radar due to her looks and disarming, while somewhat (intentionally) flighty, personality, but look under the hood and Bettie is packing some serious chops. Aliens? No problem. Commies? Easy. Monsters? Got ‘em licked in time for afternoon tea with the queen.
So – what’s THIS story about? Well, I’d been a big fan of the direction Dynamite had been taking Bettie of late; as somewhat of a novice monster hunter. I wanted to lean into this aspect of her fledgling secret agent career, while keeping all of the fun and light elements of her personality intact. CURSE OF THE BANSHEE strikes me as a 50/50 split between The X-Files and Scooby Doo.
Right off the bat, we establish our scene and setting – Ireland, 1954. Artist Jethro Morales delivers on the setup beautifully; immediately spooky and unsettling, while establishing a very accurate look for the scenery (I should know – I grew up not far away, in Dublin).
We go pretty big right from the off on page 2 – SLAM. Something has come for our poor victim and it sure doesn’t seem natural. Cut to title!
I really enjoyed writing this scene in McKnight’s office. It gives us plenty of space to re-introduce Bettie and McKnight to readers that may not be familiar with the core characters, as well as establishing just what it is Bettie does for a living. Some nice room for a bit of back and forth between Bettie and her boss, as well as Lyssa when she enters. I love Lyssa as a foil for Bettie – the two bounce perfectly off one another and have a genuinely sweet friendship as well as being such capable partners. As soon as I knew I’d be writing a more long-form Bettie series, Lyssa was second on the call sheet.
The banter between the three is playful and quick, but never in an overtly disrespectful way to McKnight. All three know and accept their roles and are quick to take responsibility.
So, our premise is established and we’re underway. McKnight recommends that the women get some sleep before their early flight, so the gals of course hit the bar for a drink. Jethro does a great job here in establishing just how desirable Bettie is to the opposite sex, as the men sitting at the bar watch her wistfully. She remains potentially oblivious, although it’s a fairly safe bet that she knows exactly the power she wields in that regard. Throughout our story, Bettie will use her natural charisma and influence over both sexes to further her own agenda, but never in a nasty or malicious way. The woman oozes charm.
Here we gently recap/mention Bettie’s previous adventure, also written by me: KING APOTEQUIL’S RING. A one-shot set in Peru a few weeks prior, it was more of a swashbuckling, Indiana Jones-inspired treasure hunt. Good fun – you should check it out! But then, I would say that…
The ladies arrive in Dublin, Ireland and immediately head to meet with their designated liaison – Máire Dineen. Máire is a similar age to Bettie and Lyssa and plays as a nice contrast to the Americans. She’s immediately sceptical about this whole ‘Banshee’ business and not shy about letting them know as much. That said, she’s a professional and readily does what she’s been tasked with, which is to aid the Agents in their investigation. First, by explaining what little Banshee lore she knows and then by taking the women to observe the crime scene.
*Side note – this scene takes place in the library of the world-famous Trinity College; where both my mother and my wife studied. Jethro did a beautiful job of capturing the look and feel of the venerated old place.
Back to the crime scene. Bettie and Lyssa take stock of what little evidence they can locate, but don’t learn too much. Jethro again does a wonderful job on the locations and acting, with the gestures and mannerisms of each individual character readily identifiable and clear. Not easy!
Pages 13 – 15
Now onto that most Irish of solutions – the pub! This was probably my favorite scene to write in the issue and Jethro executed it wonderfully. Culture shock slaps the girls in the face as they realize women aren’t allowed into the pub, but they nonetheless persevere undeterred! This is the first of many scenes throughout the series where Lyssa is just disgusted by the backward, archaic attitudes that very much still pervaded Ireland at the time. She reacts in a rather… volatile manner when challenged by the aul’ lads in the pub as to her presence. She gives ‘em a couple of real presents – her fists. All great fun to put on the page and all still essential to furthering the story; so it’s gravy.
The girls find the subject of their search, Fintan O’Malley, brother of the first victim, drowning his sorrows at the back of the pub. Fintan is fully convinced that a Banshee killed his brother, even whilst the girls (save perhaps Bettie) are still very sceptical. They’re about to find out whether or not this monster really does exist..!
Stakeout. Bettie, Lyssa and Máire surround the O’Malley house and wait to see if the Banshee will in fact appear. They’re using Fintan as bait, after a fashion, which perhaps isn’t the wisest course of action…
Bettie and Lyssa discuss their thoughts on Máire while they wait. They certainly have different opinions on the flame-haired young Irish scholar.
The reveal! What looks, smells and sounds like an actual Banshee? I think Bettie is definitely convinced now, assuming she lives long enough to parse the information!