Christopher Priest has a writer's commentary on Vampirella Vol 5 #10, out from Dynamite Entertainment now.
So I get asked a lot how an ordained former pastor can justify writing a book like VAMPIRELLA, with its violence, nudity, language, and occult themes. Well, this is how– Father Gutiérrez is a no-nonsense Christian street fighter modeled after Robert DeNiro's Father Bobby in the Martin Scorsese film Sleepers. Father Bobby was a staunch conservative and a deeply compassionate man who was nonetheless not afraid to settle problems in the street if it came to it. I'm no tough guy, but I am a guy who shows up. God's man, if he truly belongs to God, shows up. Facebooking and tweeting are cheap: show up. This is what we see now, people of all genders, generations, races, and creeds finally realizing the struggle belongs to all of us, showing up and pushing back against intolerance, injustice, and unfairness.
PAGES ONE TO THREE
When Dynamite publisher Nick Barrucci approached me about taking the book on, I said the only way I could write about the devil is if I'd be permitted to write about God. Most publishers would blanch at the mere suggestion of "God," in anything other than the mythological Norse sense, showing up in their publications because "God" is so divisive, whereas everybody gives the devil a pass. I can write 1500 versions of devil stories with no red flags, but "God" scares the daylights out of most publishers because the last thing we want to do is divide our readership.
To his credit, Nick didn't hesitate. He didn't even breathe. "Done. What else?" This kind of shocked me, but he's been true to his word. Issues of faith, from Benny's pseudo-Wiccan beliefs to the secret Catholic society Vampirella works with to the Evangelicals oppressing Ashthorne's peaceful vampires in our new sacredsix books, have provided a much-needed ballast to the plethora of occult themes dominating the Vampirella franchise.
Here, in issue #10, I am laying it on thick. Way too thick. Gutiérrez is an old school conservative who snapped at Mother Mary pretty hardback in issue #4 over the issue of Mary's romantic obsession with Vampirella. Gutiérrez is far from intolerant, but he is a priest, and that's what the book says. Here we get to explore Gutiérrez in a bit more depth to move past the conservative stereotype as he attempts to pastor a vampire.
We've been moving around in continuity quite a bit, which I don't always pull off well. "Flight Plan" is a kind of prequel to issue #1 that explains how and why Vampirella moved to Atlanta and sought out a psychoanalyst. This issue reveals both were done as a result of Father Gutiérrez's counsel.
For his sermon, here on page one, I am channeling one of my dear friends and former pastors Eric Mason so shout out to Eric, whose conservatism is tempered by a deeply enriching compassion and real-world application of his faith. Eric could have built himself a megawhopper cathedral, but instead, he opened a coffee house and founded a street ministry in not the greatest neighborhood, ministering with blue jeans and a guitar to street people and college kids.
PAGES FOUR THROUGH SIX
Mother Mary was the leader of "The Six Marys," a radical militant group of vampire hunters and crazy religious zealots. They regarded Vampirella as their "scout," using her to help hunt down her own kind much the same way British and Colonial armies recruited Native American scouts during the Revolutionary War. Mother had a one-night stand with Vampirella, which, as such things frequently do, blossomed into a full-on obsession with Vampi, which ultimately caused Mother to be outed and killed by her team.
In this scene, Victory, Vampirella's more recent romantic interest, is playing dress-up in one of Vampi's old costumes, blackened by fire in issue #4, along with fake fangs and white-out contact lenses. Long-time Vampirella fans may have some inkling of where all of that is going, or you could cheat by picking up sacredsix #1.
Mother's murder intercepts Drago's warning about Lilith's tampering with the passenger jet, none of which will make sense to you if you haven't been following the series. Our story arc is about a tragic airline disaster, its causes, and the reasoning behind those causes. The airline crash effectively destroyed Vampirella's entire world, killing one of her best friends and severing any connections she had to a community. Had Mother not been murdered, she'd have delivered Drago's warning in time for Vampi to prevent the crash.
PAGES SEVEN THROUGH EIGHT
"Flight Plan" was supposed to be two issues, a prequel to the series explaining why Vampirella moved to Atlanta. But as artist Ergün Gündüz was breaking the stories down, I realized I'd forgotten about the nuns. It was impossible for Vampirella to leave Los Angeles without first avenging Mother Mary's death. So we bumped part two into issue #11, and I created this, Vampirella doing her Wolverine thing as she vents her anguish and rage.
Page eight's full splash is, to me, the essential conflict of Vampirella: her compassion for humanity juxtaposed with her bestial nature. It's worth noting that, as I see the character, I think it a bit silly and unrealistic for Vampirella to leap into action wearing nothing but a bathing suit. I mean, I get it, I'm sure that's titillating on some level, but it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Kate Leth and Eman Casallos' "Hollywood Horror" battle suit is gorgeous, and it made sense to me that if Vampi knew she was heading into a fight, she'd suit up (asked and answered: I think she's wearing her normal sling bikini beneath it). It also gives me an opportunity to acknowledge Vampi's many other brilliant writers, including Nancy A. Collins' Drago, Grant Morrison's Baron Von Kreist, and Thomas Sniegoski's villains.
Things get a little weird here because, as writers tend to, I'd written myself into a corner. I had to deal with Victory and have Victory run into Lilith before the end of the story, so Vampirella leaves Gutiérrez only to return a few pages later, which wasn't the best pacing.
My review copy has an unfortunate blooper here on panel two, where two of Gutiérrez's balloons are attached to Vampirella's speech. Whups.
PAGES FOURTEEN THROUGH EIGHTEEN
And so the Vampi-Victory relationship crashes to an end. Not sure I'd call it love and, as you'll see, Victory is not the lovesick puppy Mother Mary is, but she's getting dumped pretty hard here. This likely owes as much to Vampirella attempting to keep Victory safe as anything else. At least, if you've ever been cruelly dumped, that's what you tell yourself.
Of course, buttoning up this scene with Lilith's arrival portends great mischief to come…
PAGES NINETEEN AND TWENTY
Back to Father Gutiérrez, where we at least partially explain Vampirella's offhanded reference to an incestuous relationship with her half (quarter? 1/125th?) -brother Drago. By the way, I don't think these Vampiri literally shape-shift so much as I think they have a supernatural power of post-hypnotic suggestion, making us believe we're seeing them in whatever appearance they wish to assume. At least that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.
Adam Van Helsing is Vampirella's, classic great love. He likely won't be appearing in this run, but Thomas has him on ice over in Vengeance of Vampirella, so check that out.
Gutiérrez makes a final push to send Vampi away and urges her to seek help, which will lead us into this story's conclusion next month and Vampi's first visit with our dear Dr. Chary. It's possible the Cardinal will transfer Father Gutiérrez to Ashthorne, Georgia, as we go deeper into our sacredsix spinoff, so stay tuned. By the way, any resemblance between Gutiérrez and the intensely taciturn Lt. Castillo from Miami Vice is purely coincidental.
Thank you, Editor Matt Idelson, Exec Joseph Rybandt, and Nick for letting me hang out my pastor's shingle for an issue filled with blood, gore, gunfire, and G-strings. The best is yet to come…!