Vampirella Interview: Christopher Priest Builds To A Bloody Conclusion
Jun 30, 2021
Interview by Troy-Jeffrey Allen
Previously on Vampirella...mommy issues, a head shrink, an airplane crash, lesbian killer nuns, a Panther woman, 60s kitsch, alien vampires, a half-brother, and...plenty of blood. And that's just scratching the surface. It might seem like a lot (and it is), but that's kind of the dizzying appeal of Christopher Priest's Vampirella run. The book seems determined to keep you on your toes, never leaving room for a dull moment. Instead, it always finds an opening for moments of biting (pun intended) humor and poignancy.
As writer (nee Christopher) Priest builds to what has to be a wild conclusion, PREVIEWSworld felt it was time to get a refresher course on the story thus far. However, Priest gave us a recap and more!
PREVIEWSworld: First things first. I’m sure a lot of people misinterpret the Vampirella comic at first glance. Can you give those new to the book a quick idea of what the comic is about?
Priest: You know, I had the same problem writing DEATHSTROKE. Only some small percentage of fans read DEATHSTROKE because it didn’t feature a superhero. It featured a truly violent guy with a big sword which was more evocative of CONAN (which I also wrote for several years) and, yes, had this exact same problem: people who’d never actually read the book assuming they knew what the book was about.
Priest: Taken at face value, VAMPIRELLA certainly appears to be a sexist bloody horror satire, which is in large measure what the series was created to be; the 1970’s science fiction satire Barbarella with fangs. But our series is so much more than that.
DEATHSTROKE really wasn’t about bloody murder. It was about the world’s worst dad. The series was about a man struggling with deep emotional wounds, a guy who desires to love and be loved but who is capable of neither. It was both very poignant and very funny, two things the unacclimated browser could not possibly know because the book always seemed to feature images of Deathstroke holding a bloody sword.
Priest: Likewise, our VAMPIRELLA run is, safe to say, like no other before it. When approached by Dynamite publisher Nick Barrucci, I’d struggled to find a theme and direction for the series. At the time, I was enthralled by Lena Dunham’s HBO dramedy Girls, which was, I suppose, Millennial Sex And The City featuring breakout performances by the show’s young adult stars. So, I thought to myself, just add fangs and stir.
VAMPIRELLA is a single gal trying to make it on her own in the big city. She wants what most Millennials want-- an iPhone and a cat. Only problem: she is a space vampire hunted by bloodthirsty denizens of the underworld. And her mom's a nut case. So the premise has an inherent conflict.
Priest: Vampirella is Casper The Friendly Ghost. You may be too young to know who that is. Casper basically wants what every kid wants: he wants friends, community, he wants to play, hang out, ride a skateboard. Only problem: Casper is dead. He is a dead baby. Dead babies scare people. And that is Vampirella.
Like DEATHSTROKE, our VAMPIRELLA series is unexpectedly poignant, thrilling, and funny. Maybe the only thing it really is not is scary. Scary is kind of out of my hands. Emotional content is a lot like music. I can write music but it is ultimately how the musicians present the score that matters.
Priest: I’ve struggled with “scary” for more than two years now. I personally have never read a comic book that actually scared me because there’s no music. There’s no way to set the pace or build to a shocking moment. In comics, scary is very hard, much harder than Hulk Smash.
PREVIEWSworld: In regards to writing VAMPIRELLA, how has the experience been for you?
Priest: It’s been exhilarating and enormously freeing. Dynamite has a different publishing philosophy than what I’d grown accustomed to. They grant creators a very wide range of creative freedom with respect to their properties. So Thomas E. Sniegoski has his view of Vampirella, Amy Chu has hers, I have mine, and none of us actually contradict one another.
PREVIEWSworld: Loaded question: Having read the first 2 arcs so far, I’m really into how you’ll occasionally break into vampire lore to give it a contemporary spin – or even a religious spin. Can you talk a little bit about melding those three things to inform VAMPIRELLA’s world?
Well, I am an ordained former pastor. I struggled with my religious conviction in accepting this assignment. I really don’t wanna write about the devil. I personally think the devil gets too much press as it is; too much credit for things that are simply human moral failure and too much blame for things that are simply human selfishness. I honestly don’t think the devil is nearly as big a deal as people want to make him.
So, the deal I made with Nick: I can write about the devil only if you allow me to write about God. Publishers rarely have a problem with stories about the devil. But stories about God scare the pants off of them because everyone sees God differently, and people can become very offended.
Priest: I was surprised that Nick didn’t hesitate. I mean, the man didn’t even take a breath, “Sure,” he said, “what else?” He agreed to my every condition. So, yes, there’s an awful lot of theology baked into this VAMPIRELLA series, especially issue #10 where a local parish priest tries to talk some sense into Vampirella and we have several brutally copy-heavy pages on Christian theology. I don’t know how I got away with that.
Similarly, back to DEATHSTROKE, issue #20 of that series featured an ersatz born-again Slade Wilson using scripture to manipulate Power Girl, a devout Christian teen, into joining his Dark Titans team. Besides the issue being very funny, with some simply amazing artwork by my team of Carlo Pagulayan and Jason Paz, I assumed the issue would be rejected for all of the proselytizing going on, including Doomstroke, a Hulk-sized murderous creature who also happened to be a gay devout Christian, stalking through the shadows beneath the narration of Isaiah Chapter 53. How the hell did I get away with that?! LOL!
Priest: VAMPIRELLA #4 has gun-toting nuns, one of which Vampi has a lesbian affair with on the altar of a Catholic church. The nun is also rebuked by the same parish priest, which likely caused some readers to assume the priest’s hardline anti-gay stance is my own, which would be untrue. I wrote an ecumenical treatise on the subject that has drawn fire from both sides of the issue.
PREVIEWSworld: So, “Interstellar” forces VAMPIRELLA to choose between humanity and the Vampiri. Without giving too much away, what’s her mental state exiting VAMPIRELLA #20?
Priest: We actually extended the arc by an issue, wherein Vampi and company end up trapped on Arcadia, the planet neighboring Drakulon, for nearly a year. By the time that is resolved and Vampi ends up back on Earth, her main conflict as regards protecting Earth or saving Drakulon is largely taken out of her hands. In other words, I copped out. When in doubt, have a moose T-bone your vehicle at the nearest intersection.
PREVIEWSworld: Does this impact sacredsix?
Priest: No. “Interstellar” takes place, in its entirety, after the current SS arc. we will see Vampirella leave for the Interstellar arc in SS #10.
I tried coordinating sacredsix with VAMPIRELLA but it was worse than teaching cats to dance. Production schedules are minefields and we quickly discovered how hard it was to line up the various shots so that events occurring in one book don’t give away spoilers in the other. My hat is off to all the Spider-writers who have pulled off that trick for decades now.
PREVIEWSworld: The intention was originally to wrap this up in issue 20? Is that right? If so, what made you want to extend the “Interstellar” arc?
Priest: Well, in comics, things rarely turn out as planned. A better idea often if not usually comes along during the creative process. The arc got off to a slow start, featuring two issues that really did not directly impact the space adventure. And then, just when artist Ergün Gunduz and I started to really have fun, it was over. So I asked for an additional issue to wrap things up and Dynamite graciously agreed.
PREVIEWSworld: “Red Mass” follows “Interstellar.” Looking forward, what can readers expect from the “Red Mass” arc?
Priest: My Vampirella 50th Anniversary run concludes with “The Red Mass”, a story arc leading up to our special 25th issue and casting the shadow of the most infamous vampire of all in the runup to the wedding of the century. To save the soul of the man she loves, Vampirella must sacrifice her own and unite, in unholy matrimony, with a resurrected Vlad the Impaler—Dracula.
This will be a Dracula we’ve never seen before, which I know sounds like a hollow threat. But our take on Bram Stoker’s legendary character is a fresh one and equally as quirky as our spin on Ackerman’s lady space vampire.
PREVIEWSworld: Issue 25 is around the corner. Any big plans you can talk about?
Priest: Spoiler alert: the wedding will actually happen in Vampirella #25 LOL! This should be great fun and I’m really looking forward to sinking my teeth into our anniversary’s finale!
Christopher Priest and Ergun Gunduz's Vampirella is in comic shops now. It is available to order monthly using PREVIEWSworld Pullbox! Keep an eye on PREVIEWSworld.com's Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram for more from Dynamite!
Now, to celebrate her gold anniversary, Dynamite is launching a brand-new, ongoing series featuring the talents of Christopher Priest (Black Panther, Deathstroke, Quantum & Woody, Justice League) and European star/American star-in-the-making, Ergun Gündüz (Tales of the Great War, Taxi Tales)!
"Seduction of The Innocent" continues, taking us back to where the series began--the doomed flight of Affirm Air 1969. A warning comes to Vampirella too late as a cadre of her greatest foes execute their plan to destroy the life that she's built for herself on Earth. But who's really behind them? Lilith, or Vampirella's half-brother, Drago? Collecting issues #9-14 of the critically acclaimed series by Christopher Priest, Ergun Gunduz & Giovanni Timpano.
Contains Vampirella #15 thru #19.
Troy-Jeffrey Allen is the producer and co-host of PREVIEWSworld Weekly. His comics work includes MF DOOM: All Caps, Public Enemy's Apocalpyse '91, Fight of the Century, the Harvey Award-nominated District Comics, and the Ringo Awards-nominated Magic Bullet.