Writer’s Commentary: David Avallone On ‘Elvira Meets Vincent Price’ #3 From Dynamite Comics

by Olly MacNamee

David Avallone is back with another in-depth commentary on his most recent comic book for Dynamite Comics, Elvira Meets Vincent Price #3.

[+++ WARNING: Potential spoilers: Buy and read Elvira Meets Vincent Price #3, and then return here for some eerie commentary! +++]

Elvira Meets Vincent Price #3 is here… and now I can explain the Easter Eggs, inspiration, etc. As ever, this thing is wall-to-wall spoilers. Read issue 3, and you won’t be spoiled!

Covers: Great set of covers (yes, I said “great set,” shut up). Dave Acosta loves old horror movies, and I think he particularly loves Vincent Price’s THE WITCHFINDER GENERAL, which he recreates beautifully here with a very special “witch.” Juan Samu, our interior artist, has the advantage of knowing what actually happens inside the issue, and his charming cover shows Elvira and Vincent in the lobby of their Cairo hotel. Anthony Marques and J. Bone’s cover shows Vincent with Elvira on his mind – literally – and is delightful… as is the photo cover, of the lady herself blowing some bubbles. 

Page 1: 

Metafiction is the only fiction we do here, so panel one starts off with a joke about establishing shots in movies and in comics. Yeah, it’s Cairo. “No duh,” as we say in Gen-X. In panel two, we see a couple of background characters who might look familiar. I very much didn’t want to give Amunet Egyptian henchmen, and fall into all the racist clichés so common with those kinds of characters. So I went as far in the opposite direction as I could. I don’t actually remember why I chose this particular comedy duo – it might have been the memory of them in fezes for SONS OF THE DESERT.  There’s also something about characters who are slightly ridiculous and yet menacing at the same time: a rich tradition of comedy hit-men going all the way back to Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern, through the two clowns who come to kill Joseph K in THE TRIAL, the cops who arrest William Lee in NAKED LUNCH, and so on. Shakespeare, Pinter, Kafka and Burroughs. Yes. I AM that pretentious. 

It wasn’t until looking through this just now that I noticed Juan giving Elvira room number 666 in panel three.  Nice one, Juan. 

Page 2: 

Our title page. Truth to tell, I actually considered calling the whole series RAIDERS OF THE LOST SCHLOCK, but star power won out. It was Juan’s idea to have all her stuff flying around, including a pandemic mask with red lips on it, and what looks like a pair of panties with Frankenstein’s face.

In panel three, Elvira says “We’re here, we’re queer, we’re used to it…” This is a play on the old Gay Pride chant: “We’re Here, We’re Queer, Get Used To It!” I wrote this page many months before Cassandra came out and revealed – in her memoir – that she’d been in a relationship with a woman for 19 years. One might wonder if I knew something. Dear reader, I did not. I was playing off the old expression, off my understanding of Vincent’s adventurous sexuality, and to some extent – yes – I was guessing that Elvira/Cassandra would be maybe not quite 100% straight. When I handed in the script, I wondered if Cassandra would say anything about the line. She said nothing. So I suppose it was just a lucky guess.

Page One

Page 3: 

Vincent emerged in his “default” costume/persona… Edward Lionheart from THEATRE OF BLOOD, and now he transforms to something more appropriate. Not based on any particular character he played… just a cliché “westerner in Egypt” outfit. Elvira compares the look to Indiana Jones, but Price’s cultural references go back further… to H. Rider Haggard’s Allan Quatermain. (Which I spelled wrong, until Dynamite’s ace Editor-in-Chief Joseph Rybandt corrected me on it.) I had forgotten when I wrote this page, but later remembered another Easter Egg here: Cassandra Peterson has a role (not as Elvira) in ALLAN QUATERMAIN AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD, one of the two Quatermain movies with Richard Chamberlain from the eighties,

As I probably mentioned in a previous commentary, “Ahmed Alhazred” is clearly related to Abdul Alhazred, from Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos. Apparently writing cursed books that can bring monster gods back from lost dimensions is a family thing.

Pages 4-5: 

Given that Elvira once went to Hell – literally – and Vincent is a ghost, I wanted to find a spot for them to have a conversation about the afterlife. It seemed impossible they wouldn’t talk about it, and yet up until this moment there hadn’t been a quiet moment to put it in. The cab ride to Ahmed seemed like a good place for it.

Interested parties could read the second volume of ELVIRA: MISTRESS OF THE DARK, ELVIRA’S INFERNO, to better understand what they’re talking about. That said, if you’re going to write about Heaven and Hell and the Afterlife, you should have an idea of what you want to say about that. I’m not a believer myself, but I wanted to create a fictional Hell that made some kind of sense to me. You can read the book and see if it makes sense to you. But thanks to the long dead C.S. Lewis for that great and thoughtful quote. 

Page Two

Page 6: 

Abusir Pyramid Field is a real place. I thought Cheops and Giza are overplayed in pop culture, and when I stumbled across Abusir in my research it seemed perfect for my needs. Juan did a great job matching the photo reference: feel free to Google and enjoy pictures of the real thing.  With zero humility, I will say that “5,000 years ago this was essentially Disneyland” cracks me up, and has the benefit of being at least a little true.

And here we finally meet Arthur and Norvell, and hear their names. For no apparent reason, I will mention that Stan Laurel’s real name was Arthur Stanley Jefferson… and Oliver Hardy’s real name was Norvell Hardy. Isn’t that an interesting piece of trivia. Don’t know why I brought it up.

All kidding aside… Juan is a genius at likenesses, but in this case I asked him for Laurel and Hardy “types” but not a direct likeness. I think he created two fantastic characters. In some panels, there’s a touch of young Peter Sellers about Arthur. Sadly, in panel 2 I made a mistake and have Arthur call Norvell “Arthur.” Oopsy. It happens. 

Pages 7 – 9: 

Anipe! I love Anipe. Another great character design by Juan. I wrote that the shop had ancient Egypt knick-knacks for sale, and I love the way Juan rendered that. For “Old Ahmed” I suggested basing the design on the late, great Egyptian actor Omar Sharif, and Juan delivered there as well. Ahmed is being a little cheeky, implying that Giza was a tourist trap as far back as the 5th Dynasty. Vincent and Elvira bring Ahmed up to speed with some – hopefully – entertaining exposition. I tried, anyway.

Page Three

Page 10:  

Arthur has a 1895 Broomhandle Mauser, Norvell has a Luger. You know: villain guns. Meanwhile, I do a goofy fourth wall break with some background extras. The image on the man’s backpack – about a murderous… pig – is a callback to Tarzana Entertainment movie posters Juan put in issue 2. In that scene we saw what looked like posters for DEMON HAM and ZOMBIE HAM. Now… HAM RETURNS. All Juan touches.

Page 11: 

The Sun Temple of Userkaf is a real place, though once Ahmed starts with the secret doors we’re off in the realm of fantasy again. Meanwhile, our protagonists discuss the backgrounds of various magic phrases, cultural appropriation, and the Sons of the Desert make dumb puns. I tried to give them a relationship that would seem to go with their look.

Page 12: 

The page/panel design here is all Juan, I think: I had this broken down into separate panels and Juan made them all one image. I also love Juan’s fossils in the margins. 

Page Four

Page 13:  

More fanciful uses of real Egyptian stuff. I had to mention that Amun and Ra were separate deities who became combined because that sort of thing fascinates me. I apologize if you are not equally fascinated.

Page 14: 

I come out and say SONS OF THE DESERT, a classic Laurel and Hardy title, because that’s a perfectly good name for the modern Cult of Amun-Ra. Do I have to explain “Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs?” They still make those commercials, right? No? I’m just old? Okay.

Pages 15-16: 

I have previously established my “rules” about how ghosts operate in this comic. They can change their appearance. They can’t actually touch things. So, paying off the issue title, Elvira reminds Vincent of a good use of his power to startle and frighten, like the spirits escaping from the Ark of the Covenant. But no: he can’t actually melt anyone’s face off. Rules.

The exclamation “Jumping butterballs!” cracks me up, and it is from a 1930s comedy, so I gave it to Norvell. The character actor Donald Macbride says it in the great Marx Brothers farce ROOM SERVICE. I’m sure this has been referenced in many, many comic books you have read over the years and it’s just the same-old, same-old. (I kid.)

Page Five

Page 17:  

I love the ¾” page image of Elvira here. Again, not scripted, just Juan doing his usual best. Also, I am originally from New Jersey, and our pizza is still the best. 

Page 18: 

So Amunet appears, halfway between her fake “Cleopatra” look, and her final form as Amunet. Liz Taylor is, of course, famous for playing CLEOPATRA, getting sick during shooting, holding up the shoot and destroying an entire movie studio when the movie flopped. There’s a very pricey neighborhood in LA called Century City. It used to be the 20th Century Fox backlot. All those giant office buildings (have you seen DIE HARD?) exist because Liz Taylor came down with the flu. Not blaming her: it happens to the best of us. But it usually doesn’t create commercial real estate. 

Pages 19-20: 

Storytelling 101. We’ve reached the end of “Act 2.” AKA the “all is lost” moment. Amunet has triumphed, has all she needs to destroy the world, and she just vaporized poor Vincent. The fourth issue (of five) was originally going to be called GAME, SET, MATCH! (another Egyptian God joke), but I decided I liked Bastet better than Set, so we got the Tarantino reference instead. 

Tune in next time for the senses-shattering conclusion! (That’s what Stan Lee would call it, anyway.)

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