David Avallone, writer of Legenderry Vampirella #5, talks with writer Keith Davidsen about Reanimator #3, both on sale today. Cover art by Francesco Francavilla and Andrew Mangum.
KEITH DAVIDSEN: It's funny — I could answer this question several ways.
My first exposure to Lovecraft would admittedly be the VHS cassette box for the RE-ANIMATOR film, found at my childhood supermarket's movie rental section. I was too young to watch the film (as I generally hung out in that section when I snuck away from my Mom during grocery shopping like a brat), but the film's cool name — on par with TERMINATOR or PREDATOR — stuck in my mind.
My first introduction to Lovecraft-style storytelling is a bit of a mystery, but apparently his work had such an effect on popular culture that I wrote a clearly Lovecraft-influenced (perhaps through several degrees of separation) horror story for a high school senior year English project. Intrepid American cave explorers delve into a mysterious pre-Native American tunnel system, only to be stalked by some inhuman monstrosity and picked off one by one. I hadn't read Lovecraft yet… but there were invisible threads between my work and the weird fiction he'd pioneered.
My first actual introduction to Lovecraft proper was in my adulthood. I'd been working at Diamond Comics and a co-worker, who was well-versed in horror and fantasy fiction, recommended where to start. The classic HERBERT WEST – REANIMATOR (the literary source upon which Dynamite's REANIMATOR is based) was the first, as it's a relatively easy introduction to the author's work. From there, I tore through THE CALL OF CTHULHU, THE OUTSIDER, RATS IN THE WALLS, AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS, and the list goes on…
DA: Herbert West seems like a fun character to write. In all your work, who's the character you most enjoy writing?
KD: Herbert West definitely ranks among the best (he's so cold and calculating, and plays so well against more emotional characters)… but I think I best enjoyed writing a character who was his exact opposite. I used to contribute stories years ago to the cult-favorite comic book series POISON ELVES, originally created by the late Drew Hayes. It's a gothic fantasy story, equal parts LORD OF THE RINGS and THE CROW.
In POISON ELVES, there's this madcap character called Parintachin (strange spelling, I know), an escapee from Hell who resides within the main character Lusiphur's brain and takes an appearance like a skull-faced jester. He's this wildly unpredictable, lovably insane goofball, spouting never-ending streams of jokes. Think Marvel's DEADPOOL crossed over with Pennywise from Stephen King's IT — that's Parintachin. What an absolute joy to write.
DA: Have you always been a horror fan? What's your favorite horror movie?
KD: Sure, I was a horror fan ever since I first saw SCOOBY DOO and GHOSTBUSTERS. Those kid-friendly introductions to the spooky and the macabre led me to read tons of horror fiction throughout my life, and build a pretty impressive movie collection.
My favorite horror movie? I used to proudly claim ARMY OF DARKNESS as my favorite, but Bruce Campbell's portrayal of Ash Williams is so delightfully comical that it's hard to put it forward as a serious contender for "favorite horror film".
So… I'll go with Ridley Scott's ALIEN. Such a relentless and fearless film, featuring an H.R. Giger-created monstrosity so far from human design, stalking through a space vessel and wiping out its human crew one at a time. The intense music, the intense acting, the threat of a killer and a betrayal from within, the sense of being completely alone and trapped ("In space, no one can hear you scream")… all this makes for fantastic horror.
DA: I'm a big Lovecraft fan and I think I would have a hard time keeping the big guns (the Great Old Ones) off stage for a long time. Is there a temptation to have Cthulhu wade in and Kaiju things up?
KD: Definitely… but how big can the scope of a four-issue REANIMATOR series get — one that already incorporates Louisianan Voodoo, BREAKING BAD-style drug manufacturing, undead science experiments, hybrid creatures stitched together from scorpion and snapping turtle anatomy, psychic emanations from Elder Gods, and brainwashed hitgirls wearing fetish outfits?
As it happens, one of the cover concepts I pitched to Franceso Francavilla was to have Herbert West and his assistant Susan Greene as tiny figures in a corner of the front cover, facing off against Cthulhu in all his giant monster glory, standing a thousand times the height of his human adversaries. I loved the idea of teasing West's steadfast reliance on science vs. an overwhelming supernatural foe… and the mad scientist appear supremely confident in his abilities to overcome. Herbert West is pure intellect — I have no doubt that he'd hold his own. We ultimately chose a different image, one where the REANIMATOR takes a more prominent position on the cover (check out Francavilla's phenomenal results as the cover to issue #4), but I still think quite fondly of that concept: West vs. Cthulhu.
DA: I get the impression Herbert West is a favorite of yours, but what character would you most like to write that you haven't written yet?
KD: Oh, man. That's quite a door to throw open. Years of geekdom are completely flowing back… As a lifelong fan of Marvel and DC superheroes, I think I'd choose either GHOST RIDER or FLASH
I grew up thinking that Dan Ketch — the 1990s Spirit of Vengeance — was the most badass thing ever. So much potential with GHOST RIDER, a horrific abomination in his own right, taking on awesome evils like Deathwatch and Blackheart, stuck in a world populated by more heroic characters in spandex that didn't get what he was about. A tragedy-stricken kid with this powerful alter-ego, one he needed but could never control. Classic Marvel hero stuff.
THE FLASH during his Wally West era was also awesome. So many cool applications for his powers besides simply running fast — speed healing, freezing time, vibrating molecules to eruption, lending momentum to other characters and even inanimate objects — all kinds of different powers to explore in combat with his Rogues Gallery, one of the best in comics.
But since I'm a Dynamite guy these days, I'd be remiss in tossing my hat in that ring, too. So… EVIL ERNIE. The classic Chaos Comics bad boy. I'd revel in the opportunity to bathe those comic pages in sex and violence, all the sinister swagger and blood-spilling that made those 1990s horror comics so great.
For more on Reanimator #3, click here.