Dynamite Entertainment has sent us a new writer's commentary by David Avallone for Bettie Page #5. The issue comes with covers by Joseph Michael Linsner and J. Bone with interiors by Bane Wade.
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I'll admit it. I've never had a comic run extended before. I found out that there was going to be an Issue Five when I ran into Joseph Linsner at San Diego Comic-Con in July and he offered to show me the cover to #5. It was a pleasant surprise.
I thought it would be best, after the four issue arc, to do a more self-contained story this time. The Bettie comic is my love letter to her, but also to everything I love about the early 1950s. So this time it's a tribute to the giant radioactive monster movies so popular in that decade. As always… here there be spoilers, so read the issue and come back for the behind-the-scenes story.
The covers: Linsner comes through with another gorgeous pin-up, this time in purple. J. Bone's cover was a complete surprise and made me laugh out loud. You can identify tributes to all sorts of sci-fi spaceships behind Bettie, including one Sputnik and a flying Illuminati Pyramid-with-eye. Bettie's joy on the cover is contagious.
Aftermath of Chapter Four. Bettie and McKnight are at the venerable old diner The Apple Pan… but of course in 1951 it was pretty new. If you're ever in Los Angeles, I highly recommend it. The pie is truly fantastic.
I haven't done a two-page spread in this comic yet, and I felt like we were overdue. Also, I thought it helped the story to see the whole airbase from the sky, because it all comes into play later in the story. Researching planes of the period I discovered the C-119, a fork-tailed cargo plane used by the USAF in 1951. I'd never seen one before, and that's usually a good enough reason for me to show something to the readers. Artist Bane Wade, who took over for this issue, did a great job translating my childish scribbled layout of these two pages into something beautiful. Colonel Pinfield is named after my High School physics teacher. Mr. Pinfield was a hardass, but I liked him. The airbase at Groom Lake goes by a more famous name nowadays. Ever heard of Area 51…?
I thought I'd try a parallel action panel design on these pages, and Bane indulged me. It seemed more interesting than showing all the tests and then having the conversation between McKnight and Bettie follow it. Panel two on page five is a reference to a scene in THE RIGHT STUFF, one of my favorite movies.
Bettie has never been a "you stay here while I check this out" kind of person, so she's behind McKnight as he charges into action and danger. The gag about her calling McKnight "Charlie" is based on a few things. One is a little reference to TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT, and Lauren Bacall calling Humphrey Bogart "Steve" even though his name is Harry.
Ace letterer Taylor Esposito gets to use ALL the sound effects, and we finally get the explanation of the title. It's silly. My favorite 1950s radioactive giant monster movie is THEM! So this is the more grammatically correct THOSE! If you've never seen it, go track it down and watch it. It's actually a very well made, very clever movie. James Cameron ripped off a lot of the ideas and imagery for ALIENS from THEM! True facts. Also, I would recommend NOT Googling hairy desert scorpions to see what the real ones look like. Even the ones that are only a few inches long are nightmare fuel.
Bettie has had enough of everyone's crap, particularly McKnight's. McKnight has the training to take any crazy thing in stride… but the rest of our cast of characters are in shock.
I was worried that the giant scorpions tearing the building to shreds in the second half of this issue would be very difficult to pull off on the page, but Bane Wade did an amazing job drawing all the crazy stuff I threw at him.
It happens every time. Even when you set out to write something kinda ridiculous… like a giant scorpion radioactive monster movie issue… in the end, if you're dealing with life and death situations, you have to treat that with a little honest respect for sacrifice and heroism. One of my very favorite quotes, from G. K. Chesterton's THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY goes like this: "The adventures may be mad, but the adventurer must be sane." So Bettie takes a minute to reflect on the gravity of the situation. (If you haven't, read that book. You'll thank me later. It's amazing.)
I'm sure there are those who will argue with my characterization of Bettie in this series, but from what I've read and understood she was a very brave woman, in a particularly oppressive time for women. She was also impulsive. Doing the right thing, regardless of risk, because you can't wait around hoping someone else will do it is the essence of heroism. That's the Bettie Page I want to showcase in this series.
Nope, I'm still not going to tell you McKnight's first name. (Really, really smart researchers might just figure it out for themselves…) But one thing… he knows the raw material for a great field agent when he sees it. Come back next month and find out what she said!