Writer’s Commentary: David Avallone Discusses ‘Elvira In Horrorland’ #1 From Dynamite Comics

Writer David Avallone returns to give us an insight into his latest Elvira-helmed comic book, Elvira in Horrorland #1 from Dynamite Comics. And, as ever, his commentaries are always entertaining, insightful and informative, with the usual list of movie and pop cultural references you may or may not have picked up on.

[+++ WARNING: Possible spoilers! Buy and read the book, then come back here for some great commentary! +++]

Cover by Dave Acosta, Jason Moore, Walter Pereyra

Hey, gang! This new series is, even more than usual, wall-to-wall references. Obviously the premise lends itself to issue-long Mad Magazine style parodies of the movies that Elvira will visit. So here’s a spoiler warning: I’m not only spoiling this comic… I’ll probably be spoiling multiple horror classics (some of them a half-century old, like this issue’s PSYCHO…) over the course of each commentary. Now that you’re warned… we begin! Mother is really Norman Bates!

Cover by John Royle, Jagdish Kumar, Mohan

Covers:

I started my Elvira journey with one of the greatest creative partners you could have, Dave Acosta, and as such I have always required that he contribute covers to the issues he’s now too busy to draw… and he doesn’t disappoint, with a riff on the most famous scene in the movie. One subtext of all of Dave’s covers for this series: once upon a time, it was INCREDIBLY common to have dialogue balloons on covers, and that seems to have vanished. Well… we’re bringing it back, baby. I think Dave wrote this gag. Inks by Jason Moore. Colors, as with the interiors, by Walter Pereyra. 

John Royle couldn’t resist the shower scene either, but his take is Elvira distracted from “Mother” by a fuzzy bunny. Inks by Jagdish Kumar, colors by Mohan. Interior artist Silvia Califano, about whom much more later, originally sent me some great – and I will confess, pretty sexy – prospective covers for this issue, also of the shower scene… but later decided to go with a pastiche of the original PSYCHO movie poster.

On the left, Silvia’s inspirations, designed and created by the legendary Saul Bass. On the right, Silvia’s beautiful “update.” Take note of that title treatment. You’ll be seeing it again real soon!

The covers are rounded out by a fun photo cover of a joyous Elvira, her negligee fluttering behind her like wings. The other covers are works of art… but I forgive you if you buy that one. Why not get all four, though? 

Page 1: Picking up from the cliffhanger from ELVIRA MEETS VINCENT PRICE #5 (trade is dropping in July, no pressure), Elvira finds herself standing in front of an iconic setting, and in glorious black and white.

No, she’s not at Universal Studios Theme Park, smartass. For legal and for parody reasons… it’s Bloch’s motel. The late great Robert Bloch – full disclosure, an old and dear family friend – was the author of many things, but most famously, he wrote the novel PSYCHO, and created Norman Bates, The Bates Motel, Mother, etc. I considered rolling the dice and using the original names… but the long arm of copyright convinced me to stick with the Mad Magazine approach and change the names to protect the guilty. I don’t think you’ll have any trouble figuring out who’s who, somehow, thanks to the beautiful caricature work of Silvia Califano. Her art on this series, and what she accomplishes… I can’t wait for you to see it all. She’s amazing, and I couldn’t be luckier to have her.

Elvira in Horrorland #1 Page 1

The covers are rounded out by a fun photo cover of a joyous Elvira, her negligee fluttering behind her like wings. The other covers are works of art… but I forgive you if you buy that one. Why not get all four, though? 

Page 1: Picking up from the cliffhanger from ELVIRA MEETS VINCENT PRICE #5 (trade is dropping in July, no pressure), Elvira finds herself standing in front of an iconic setting, and in glorious black and white.

No, she’s not at Universal Studios Theme Park, smartass. For legal and for parody reasons… it’s Bloch’s motel. The late great Robert Bloch – full disclosure, an old and dear family friend – was the author of many things, but most famously, he wrote the novel PSYCHO, and created Norman Bates, The Bates Motel, Mother, etc. I considered rolling the dice and using the original names… but the long arm of copyright convinced me to stick with the Mad Magazine approach and change the names to protect the guilty. I don’t think you’ll have any trouble figuring out who’s who, somehow, thanks to the beautiful caricature work of Silvia Califano. Her art on this series, and what she accomplishes… I can’t wait for you to see it all. She’s amazing, and I couldn’t be luckier to have her.

Speaking of the black and white… colorist Walter gets a shout-out here (I think it’s his first in the many Elvira books he’s colored.) But don’t be fooled by the joke: Walter does incredible work in this book, on every page. His shading transforms Silvia’s black and white art into movie magic, evoking the work of cinematographer John L. Russell.

Elvira in Horrorland #1 Page 2

Pages 2 & 3:

Remember what I said about the title treatment? As always, champion letterer Taylor Esposito doesn’t need me to tell him to Saul Bass our title on this page. In panel two, Elvira is talking about the movie’s opening scene, featuring a tryst between Janet Leigh and super hunky John Gavin. The man almost played James Bond, but he REALLY should have played Superman at some point. Elvira also references the missing magical remote control of Federico Fellini, her only way out of these movie dimensions. Hitchcock enjoyed using a plot device he called a MacGuffin: the thing everyone is chasing everyone for in an action/thriller movie.  Think “Death Star plans” or “ruby slippers” or “Lost Ark of the Covenant.” In this movie there actually isn’t a MacGuffin… or rather… very cleverly… the MacGuffin is also a Red Herring – a thing that seems like the most important thing, and isn’t at all. Marion Crane thinks she’s in a movie about that money she stole. Norman Bates has a whole other movie in mind.

Elvira in Horrorland #1 Page 3

Pages 4 & 5:

Enter “Norbert Bloch.” For the purposes of this series, exact likenesses aren’t important, but classic caricature – reducing someone to their essence – is what I asked for and very much got. Elvira scrambles Norbert’s brain because she knows the dialogue from this movie backwards and forwards. A few great Silvia touches: page five panel two, where the spinning VERTIGO-like space-time portal appears behind Norbert as he struggles… and at the bottom of page 5, as the background to Elvira’s fairy tale about Bloch’s Motel looks like a child drew it. I particularly love the floating pies. 

Page 6:

Speaking of Silvia’s amazing touches… see the musical notations behind Elvira in panel one, where she’s talking about “the showers?” That is, of course, the sheet music for a little piece called “The Murder,” by Bernard Herrmann… the musical accompaniment to the famous “shower scene.” You’d recognize the screeching violins anywhere. A brilliant, witty visual joke, and that’s all Silvia. It wasn’t in my script.

Page 7:

Panel one has a reference to “divorce from Stony Curtis.” The lead actress in Psycho was, of course, Janet Leigh. She was getting a divorce from Tony Curtis (father of Jamie Lee Curtis.) On the prime time cartoon THE FLINTSTONES, for obvious reasons, they called him “Stony Curtis.” In panel two, Elvira references those “screeching violins” Silvia showed visually on the last page.

Pages 8, 9 & 10:

Elvira faces the dilemma that will come up in every issue. Should she stand back and let the murders happen… or get involved in the unfolding story which is fated to go the same way every time? Of course she choses to save lives, even fictional ones.

In the movie, Janet Leigh is “Marion Crane.” I changed to that Helen Gull (another kind of seabird.) And Elvira comes out and calls “Norbert” a psycho. Silvia’s likeness of Janet Leigh is charming and lovely, just like the real thing.

Helen name-checks Charles Addams, the legendary cartoonist/creator of The Addams Family, and really the primary visual reference to anything “goth” in the time period this movie was filmed.

Page 11:

I’m pretty easy-going and open-minded about how an artist visually interprets my script. But for this page? I REALLY wanted to recreate one of the most famous scenes in the history of movies. I went through PSYCHO and screen-grabbed exactly the frames I wanted Silvia to recreate (with an ever-so-slight difference). Here’s what I sent her.  You can see what an amazing job she did, if you compare to the comic.

Page 12:

And the payoff! Elvira and Helen turn the tables on Norbert. I don’t have to explain the RuPaul reference, do I?

Page 13:

Elvira and Helen go looking for the MacGuffin in the “villain’s lair,” which Elvira has decided is the basement of the house… where “Mother” is kept. Walter does a great job with the moody tones of the dark houses.

Page 14:

I had the idea that once you disrupt the flow of events in a movie universe, things start to fall apart, and other dimensions that are nearby – ie. other related movies – start getting sucked in. In this case… there’s another “Norbert Bloch” out there… and he’s in color. Don’t blame me. Blame Gus Van Sant. 

Pages 15 & 16:

We recreate the famous reveal of Mother’s face… for laughs. Of course.  And Color Norbert Bloch is here to make more chaos. At the bottom of page 16, Norbert is nonsensically repeating lines from the wrong movie. Not even the wrong Gus Van Sant movie. He seems to be giving his trademark pep talk to a corpse, instead of Jon Favreau. 

Page 17, 18 & 19:

Helen and Elvira overcome Color Norbert.  If I remember correctly, I noted that ceramic vase when I rewatched PSYCHO, to get ideas for something they could knock out Vince with.

Of course, when a whole universe starts to fall apart… its chief architect might show up and try to put things back the way they’re supposed to be. Hitchcock refers obliquely to how Elvira’s experience mirrors that of so many of his lead characters. Silvia gives Alfred a backdrop similar to the courtyard of REAR WINDOW, and in the last panel of Page 18, shows the famous profile which used to open the weekly Hitchcock TV show.

At the bottom of page 19… more Saul Bass designs, this time the poster from VERTIGO shows up as the time-space portal. And we’re off to…

Page 20:

The cliffhanger setting up next issue, as Elvira finds herself in front of a very familiar hotel. With zero humility I’ll tell you that the title of issue 2 is one of my favorite dumb jokes I’ve ever come up with. For youngsters… there’s a famous song called ‘Brick House’ by the Commodores, from 1977. The lyrics could easily describe Elvira, Mistress of the Dark:
“She’s a brick… house.
She’s mighty-mighty, just lettin’ it all hang out.
She’s a brick… house.
That lady’s stacked, and that’s a fact. 

Ain’t holding nothing back.”

So when it came time to title the issue in which we’ll parody THE SHINING… it seemed pretty natural to go to “She’s A Kubrick… House.”

See you in thirty!

Elvira in Horrorland #1 is out now from Dynamite Comics

Writer David Avallone returns to give us an insight into his latest Elvira-helmed comic book, Elvira in Horrorland #1 fromCOMICONRead More

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