In the Limelight

Elvira has headed back to comics for the quarantine-themed Elvira: The Omega Ma’am. The 48-page comic was created by Cassandra Peterson (Elvira herself) and written by David Avallone. The comic starts with Elvira waking up from a coma to find Los Angeles has been deserted. As Elvira and her dog wander through the city they discover that they are not actually alone – there are zombie-like survivors who have ingested cleaning products that altered their DNA.

As the comic was finishing its funding campaign on Kickstarter, Avallone gave Scoop a behind the scenes look at writing the comic. He previewed some of the content, talked about Peterson’s involvement in the project, and discussed future projects.

Scoop: Given that the book is titled The Omega Ma’am, it’s clear that The Omega Man was an influence. What other comics, books, or movies did you use for inspiration?
David Avallone (DA):
There’s a lot. Obviously, every version of Richard Matheson’s classic I Am Legend novella fed into it.

I had watched The Last Man On Earth before I proposed the project, researching Vincent Price for something else, and that may have helped it be in my mind when Dynamite asked me to come up with a project while we were all on lockdown. Like Robert Neville, in a way.

But there’s a whole “fashion show” page where Elvira tries on different post-apocalyptic outfits... and that gives away a lot of the other influences. Escape From New York, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Shaun of the Dead, Akira, and, yes, Zardoz.

There was a higher level of collaboration with Cassandra Peterson this time – but also, because we didn’t have a tight deadline for once in our lives – a higher level of collaboration with [artist] Dave Acosta, too. I think some of those costumes were his idea – we kicked around which six to use for a bit.

And the idea of Elvira not being in her classic costume, but a new post-apocalypse one, came from Dave. He created a beautiful Mad Max-inspired outfit, and Cassandra loved it. She had one tiny (and very smart) tweak, but Dave is pretty stoked he got to design an Elvira costume.

Scoop: That leads into my next question, how involved was Cassandra, Elvira herself, in the project?
From the beginning, Cassandra has always approved my scripts and given me notes. Mostly it has amounted to her improving a joke here and there, which is always welcome. She’s been very kind and wonderful to work with.

For this project, I was told she wanted to be involved in shaping the story from the very start, and I was excited to work even more directly with her. We had an epic two-hour-long phone call. And in among the show biz gossip and mutual appreciation, we kicked some story ideas back and forth. I think I had the vague outlines of a post-apocalyptic/Omega Man type thing before we spoke, but she loved it and added a lot to it.

It was a wonderful conversation, and I got a lot out of it. We also talked about a ton of ideas she had for future Elvira comics and projects, and if we get to do half of them, I’ll be very happy.

As I wrote the script, I sent her about ten pages at a time for her notes, and of course we sent her the art. She loves telling people that the panel on an early page showing her naked behind was something she had to talk me and Dave Acosta into. But we didn’t protest too much...

Scoop: I bet that was an entertaining conversation.
She is delightful. Cassandra and Elvira are distinct personas, but there is, of course, a lot of overlap. They’re both hilarious, both whip smart, and both the most charming human you could possibly meet.

Scoop: From comics to TV shows, a lot of people are writing about the pandemic. What was your goal for this comic?
I don’t know if I had a “goal,” back in April when we started work on it. Something absurd was happening, something natural for comedy. I knew people would make jokes about it... but I knew that through Elvira – and through the vehicle of science fiction/horror as social commentary/allegory – I would have a take on it that no one else would have.

It was risky, and I’m keenly aware of that. I still am.

Scoop: It’s interesting to see the different ways people are writing about it. Some drama, some comedy. Allegory, some farce.
The disease has killed over 230,000 people. That’s not funny at all. But I use Dr. Strangelove as an example. Nuclear War is not funny. What’s funny is the human idiocy that gets us there. The comic does not punch down at humanity struggling with COVID. The comic punches up at the official response. Which was and is nightmarishly incompetent. We should never stop talking about that, never stop mocking it.

Scoop: At the time of this interview, the Kickstarter campaign is coming to a close. Has it been successful?
It has! I don’t want to say, “beyond our wildest dreams,” because I’m well aware of Elvira’s popularity. But it’s at over $136,000 right now. People seem to dig the idea.

Scoop: On the Kickstarter, Dynamite stated, “When it came time to create another Elvira comic, we here at Dynamite decided it was time to pull out all the stops and combine the talents of David and Cassandra to make an Elvira comic that REALLY services the fans.” Can you elaborate on what that means?
I think that’s a reference to how Kickstarter involves the fans on a more intimate level than just going into a comic shop and buying an issue. I’ve done a bunch of Kickstarters – I technically have two going at the moment we’re speaking – and the fan investment is more than just money. There is, no kidding, a real sense of being a part of the process, and in a very real sense they are. When we began this, back in April, comic shops were closing, companies were “pencils down,” and there was a real fear for the future of the industry.

I can’t speak for Dynamite, but I think doing this project as a Kickstarter was a way to keep the Elvira series alive no matter what: we might not have comic shops open to sell it, we might not have Diamond to distribute it... but the fans could keep the whole thing going. And they very much came through for us.

Scoop: Will the comic be available in stores after the Kickstarter?
I haven’t been part of those discussions, but I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t be. My guess is that it will solicit at some point after the Kickstarter supporters get their – well deserved – advanced copies of it.

Scoop: Can we expect more Elvira comics in the future?
There was a new Elvira miniseries half written when Covid hit, and I was told to stand by. It’s a really fun story and a wild ride, and I can’t talk about it publicly just yet: the ink is not entirely dry on the contracts. We haven’t even hired an artist yet, to be honest. But I imagine once the Kickstarter concludes this will be announced pretty soon thereafter. And regardless of any and all other considerations, Elvira and I have a lot of comics we want to make. I don’t think we’ll be stopping any time soon.

Scoop: What else are you working on right now?
In comics: I have the upcoming Nightmare Theater anthology, which has an eight-page piece of mine called “German Chocolate.” It’s a self-contained story, but it’s kind of a pilot for a series/graphic novel I’ve wanted to do for ages. It’s a cross between Band of Brothers and The Princess Bride. Think about that for a while.

I’m finally finishing up issue 8, the finale of volume two, of Drawing Blood, and we have a completed 40-page Radically Rearranged Ronin Ragdolls special we’re waiting to roll out. (“We” being me and [Kevin] Eastman.) After that, we’ll look into finally getting out the trade paperback of Volume One, which was supposed to go on sale April 29 this year, and didn’t for obvious reasons. Once all that is done, we’ll be looking towards a launch date for Volume Three.

I have been doing a little bit of development work for movies. I can’t talk about it much, but I can reveal I’ve been giving notes on drafts of the upcoming Red Sonja movie, and that’s pretty exciting.

And the pandemic trapping me at home with no social life has resulted in me doing two podcasts.

The Writers Block is me and Rylend Grant talking to (usually) two other creators about comics, and generally shooting the breeze. It’s meant to recreate the feel of being at a bar after a long day on the con floor, but without the drunks and the gropey creeps.

Pulp Today is me reading from my favorite books and talking about them. I use “pulp” in the broadest term, and its original sense: anything first printed on crappy paper. I have guests on sometimes to talk about (and read) their favorite passages from their favorite books.

Scoop: Well, that’s all the questions I have for you today. Thanks for chatting with me about the new Elvira comic.
Always a pleasure to talk to you, Amanda! Hope you and yours are safe and sound.

Scoop: It’s always great talking to you too. Stay safe!