Writer’s Commentary: David Avallone Discusses ‘Elvira In Horrorland’ #2 From Dynamite Comics
by Olly MacNamee
David Avallone returns once again with another peek behind his writing process and inspirations for his latest comic from Dynamite Comics, Elvira in Horrorland #2. With Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining homaged/parodied heavily and other Kubrick Easter Eggs too.
[+++ WARNING: Possible spoilers for Elvira in Horrorland #2! Buy and read the book, then return here for some creepy commentary +++]
Welcome back! This issue might be the most jam-packed with Easter Eggs and references of anything I’ve ever written… and if you know my work, you know that’s saying something. As always, nothing but spoilers below (for my comic AND for THE SHINING) so please make sure you’ve read it before forging ahead. Ready? In we go.
Covers: On this series we’ve really needed to coordinate the covers. There’s always some pretty obvious jokes to make, and we have to make sure every cover goes a slightly different way. Dave Acosta goes for the super iconic axe-through-the-door image, and continues our commitment to having dialogue balloons on every cover of this series. Stanley, of course, is Stanley Kubrick, director of THE SHINING. So much more about him later. Like last time… inks by Jason Moore. Colors, as with the interiors, by Walter Pereyra.
John Royle got the blood elevator/creepy little girls cover, and gave Elvira the axe. Inks by Jagdish Kumar, colors by Mohan. And interior artist Silvia Califano puts Elvira on Danny’s Big Wheel. She had a lot of great cover ideas, one of which I liked so much I wrote it into the script.
Page 1: Another horror movie about a hotel. I didn’t plan that… I was just going with the first horror movie classics that came to mind, that I thought would be fun to play with.
Silvia had the idea of putting Elvira, in panel one, inside the design of the Overlook carpet, which was great. Elvira gives us a bit of exposition as Silvia sets the wintry scene. In keeping with the long tradition of Mad Magazine, all the names are satirized for your protection. So the Overlook Hotel becomes the Overcooked Hotel.
Walter’s colors evoke Kubrick’s palate beautifully, as he does throughout the issue… and letterer extraordinaire Taylor Esposito gives us a title treatment reminiscent of the movie poster.
Page 2: A word about style and attention to detail. Silvia shares my obsession with getting this stuff right, and does an amazing job in this issue. I told her I wanted the comic to mimic Kubrick’s compositional style, which includes something called “one point perspective.” Here’s a great video showing its use by Kubrick:
You’ll be able to compare it with the comic, and see how wonderfully Silvia recreates this look in every panel, just as she lovingly recreates the interiors of the Overlook hotel from the movie. Elvira draws our attention to the elevators, which is a little thing we call “foreshadowing.”
Pages 3, 4 & 5: Elvira enters the Gold Room, starting with a triptych of panels meant to evoke Kubrick’s tracking shots, following Jack Nicholson as he crosses the room. The SAG rules she’s referring to: you have to pay actors a LOT more if they speak. You may notice in movies and TV shows, sometimes the lead characters will talk to “background” actors, who can only nod and smile in return. I used to do that gig sometimes. She also references the “call sheet,” which is a piece of production paperwork showing the day’s work, the order of the work, and everyone working that day.
Elvira tells “Floyd” the bartender she loved him in BLADE RUNNER. In THE SHINING, the part of Lloyd the bartender is played by the great Joe Turkel, who played Eldon Tyrell in that movie… but worked with Kubrick going all the way back to the 1950s.
Elvira is then started by the sudden WEDNESDAY title card. Kubrick uses these black title cards in the movie, usually cutting to them in a way that jolts the audience, which I’m making fun of here. Elvira then finds her way to “Nick Torrents” typewriter…
Page 6: I thought about this joke for a long time. In the movie, Jack Torrance has been writing for months, and his wife discovers he’s just been typing the one sentence “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” over and over, for hundreds of pages. It’s a great, shocking moment. So what would work here? Well… Stephen King famously HATES this movie, and vastly prefers the pretty lame miniseries made for TV years later. I mean. It’s fine. But it’s nothing special and it’s pretty goofy in spots. I thought having Nick type Stephen King’s opinion over and over was a good spoof of this moment. Once again, take a minute and appreciate Silvia’s work recreating this set. Her work on this series, and this issue in particular, is extraordinary.
Pages 7 & 8: We finally meet “Nick Torrents” and “Mandy Torrents.” Excellent Mort Drucker-style caricatures by Silvia. In the movie, “Nick” is just coming from his encounter with the sexy woman who turns into a rotting corpse in Room 237… so it’s natural for him to assume this is going to be another bait-and-switch. Elvira tries to explain her time-space travels, and Silvia gives us a funny visual of very glamorous Tardis-es. Note that Nick refers to Room 237 as Room 2001. Because… Stanley Kubrick. More foreshadowing.
Page 9: This design was entirely Silvia’s idea. I had it broken down to panels, but she wanted to echo Kubrick’s use of long Steadycam takes as Nick stalks Mandy up the stairs. Very tricky, but she totally made it work. Elvira’s “You’ve got the high ground!” is a little foreshadowing, too. We’ll get back to that later.
Page 10: Stanley Kubrick doesn’t like it when you try to mess up his movies, and he’s here to give Nick the axe. Literally.
Page 11: So in THE SHINING… once Jack loses it, he starts quoting fairy tales, the Tonight Show… weird pop culture stuff. How to best parody that? I thought it would be pretty funny if Nick spends the rest of the issue spouting quotes from Jack Nicholson… sorry, I mean Nick Jackelson… movies. First up is “You can’t handle the truth” from A FEW GOOD MEN. Then “Never rub another man’s rhubarb” from BATMAN. “You make me want to be a better man” is from AS GOOD AS IT GETS.
Kenny, aka Danny, famous for his backward speak “Redrum/Murder” is, of course, chanting “Arivle!” I won’t insult you by explaining that.
Page 12: We recreate the famous “Here’s Johnny!” moment, but this time he’s quoting the Joker from BATMAN again. In return, Elvira comes back with a particularly ridiculous quote from BATMAN herself, when Keaton/Bruce Wayne brandishes a fireplace poker at Nicholson/Joker. Hats off to Taylor for making a big deal out of “Let’s get NUTS!”
Page 13: Nick is back to quoting A FEW GOOD MEN. Elvira refers to a particularly creepy and baffling shot from THE SHINING, which has haunted/nauseated everyone who saw that movie for decades. Then Scatman Crothers/Hallorann shows up… and I make a joke about the laziest possible satire version of his character name.
Page 14: I’ve always thought it was goofy and disappointing, how quickly Scatman gets killed in the movie. Well… NOT ON MY WATCH. I promised Barry Lyndon in the solicit, and I’m a man of my word. BARRY LYNDON, of course, is the title character of Kubrick’s movie… a charming scoundrel. But not much help against an axe-murderer.
Pages 15 & 16: We meet the Grady Girls, and the reader realizes why I changed Danny’s name to Kenny… for the stupid SOUTH PARK joke here. Nick is back to BATMAN (“This town needs an enema!” and “Go with a smile.” Elvira wraps things up with her own Jack Nicholson movie quote, from CHINATOWN.
Page 17: Yes, that’s Ewan MacGregor, star of DOCTOR SLEEP, wondering if it’s his turn yet. Of course our heroine calls him “Obi-Wan,” as is her wont. To wrap things up, Scatman tells Elvira she must visit… Room 2001. Again, another Kubrick set beautifully recreated by Silvia.
Pages 18 & 19: Look, I love 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, so there was no way I was missing it in my Kubrick issue. Of course, the scabby tub lady has been replaced by Christ-like astronaut Dave Bowman/Keir Dullea… who quotes Hal 9000, in his “enthusiasm for the mission.” He leads her into the hotel room which was his own terminus in 2001, and the remote is now merged with the mysterious Monolith. Dave quotes himself from 2010, as Elvira steps through the vortex. Silvia’s cover idea – Elvira in the famous final shot of THE SHINING, the old photo – appears as she makes her transit to…
Page 20: …the airlock of the starship Nostromo (“Nostrohno”), with Sigourney Weaver and Ian Holm pretty surprised to see her. I’d like you to notice how Walter Pereyra has subtly shifted the color palate from Kubrick to Ridley Scott, in the turn of a page.
The titles of next issue are, of course, plays on “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” and Geiger Counter, in this case with the names of the film’s director and alien creature designer (H.R. Giger) swapped in.
Come back next time, because in space no one can hear you… well… you know.