It was recently announced that Joseph Michael Linsner and Kristina Deak-Linsner were teaming up for a new Vampirella miniseries for Dynamite that would take the character back to basics. I had the opportunity to speak to the husband-and-wife creative team about Vampirella: Roses for the Dead, how the project came about, and what it's like working together.
DAN WICKLINE: Vampirella is coming up on her 50th anniversary next year — you've done some work with her in the past and now have this new series coming up. What is it about the character that draws you to her? What makes her stand out among the all the other female comics character, and what is your favorite part of working with her?
JOSEPH MICHAEL LINSNER: I love her look. Being an artist, I am naturally drawn towards characters who have a bold image. Vamp's look is iconic. She is super-sexy — in fact, she may be the first comic character whose sex appeal was right out in front. It was never a matter of subtext. Vampires have always had an erotic edge, and Vampi was designed to be the queen of them all.
DW: Your working on this new series, Vampirella: Roses for the Dead, with your wife Kristina Deak-Linsner. How did this project come about and what made this the right one to have Kristina write?
JML: The whole thing started with Kristina. She had the idea, bounced it off of me, and I thought she should pursue it.
DW: What was your familiarity with the Vampirella character going into the project? How do you approach crafting a story for an iconic character with so much history behind her? What do you see as the key elements to making a good Vampirella story?
KRISTINA DEAK-LINSNER: Oh, I am very familiar with Vampirella, having been a huge fan since I was five. The fangs, the bloodlust, the attitude, the overall sensual nature of Vampi — even her flying like a bat! But that said, she has to have some sort of an element of mystery involved in her storytelling process. I approached this with a "classic revenge tale" sort of lineage. I wanted to write her also re-visiting with her roots, and the old ways (Warren era). So, I made a mental note of all of the things I first loved about Vampirella. It's been really fun so far.
The key to good story telling is to keep the reader engaged. I have taken elements of my own life and things that have happened to friends as well, and blended them with a mix of the most classic elements of Vampirella. I think that all folds together quite nicely. The task of creating a totally new archetype is of course, a daunting one, so, I was very fortunate to have a character like Vampirella with a full history to work with. I absolutely never grow tired of her.
DW: You have known for writing and drawing on the majority of your projects. What is the creative process like with Kristina? Is she doing full scripts or more of the Marvel-style with paragraph descriptions and then dialogue after the art is done? How different is this process from when you are working from your own writing?
JML: I almost never do any comics "Marvel Style", I always prefer to work from a full script. In fact, the only time I've really worked Marvel-style has been with Stan Lee himself! I did a short story for the charity HERO (back when they were called ACTOR) that Stan provided a synopsis for — "The Day The Superheroes Quit" in Actor Comics Presents #1. I fleshed it out, and then he scripted it. Working with the master himself, it came out great. But ordinarily I always work from a full script because I love good dialogue scenes and I want the faces and body language to match the words the characters are saying. Also, knowing the full text helps me with the layouts — I know where to leave room. So Kristina has been writing full scripts and I've been bringing them to life with ink.
KDL: This is the first time I have actually written a story from a blank page and given it to Joe to translate into his beautiful way of storytelling. We work out the layout of the panels together from my script and he draws the images from there. I am super pleased with the results so far.
DW: What can you tell us about the new series? Dynamite has called this getting the character back to basics and we know she starts on the trail of a sexual predator… how much does this harken back to the days of the Vampirella Magazine? What is the mood and feel of the series?
KDL: Vampirella is tracking a sexual predator who has an odd calling card. He always leaves a rose at the scene of the crime. She is also confronted during her hunt by Evily the Witch. The two clash, and must decide — do they hunt for him alone, or combine their forces? Clare is a recent victim of his, trapped in a comatose state, and also a key figure in Evily's life. She is a ward of hers, and is a very powerful clairvoyant who was just learning to utilize her skills under Evily's careful guidance.
As a horror anthology series, Vampirella Magazine featured stories and art by giants like Richard Corben, Frank Frazetta, Jose Gonzalez, Archie Goodwin, Neal Adams, Wally Wood, and many, many, more. While we don't have a time machine to hop into and re-visit with those days, we do have the classic elements of Vampirella to borrow from, and the masterful illustrations of Joseph Michael Linsner to help tell the new story. Each issue of Vampirellla Magazine normally contained one story featuring Vampirella as well as several non-Vampirellla stories which she introduced usually. This is different in the terms that we are telling just one story, and she is featured in it rather than just introducing it as a horror hostess. I sat with some of my collected editions of Vampiella, and my Dynamite reprint edition books early last summer, read them front to back. I really let that sink in. I tried to take all the features of a Vampirella story from those days and re-write them in the present day. I paid careful attention to the details that might be long missed by fans, or passed on over the current years. Approaching this story, I put myself in the shoes of a fan first, and a Writer second. I hope the series is a success.
The current mood of the series is very dark, and a crime mystery that unfolds into a revenge tale. The panels are carefully set against the almost claustrophobic nature of the Philadelphia city scenes as the narrative space. Philadelphia is my town, and with it's historical archetecture mixed among the modern landscape, has such a great schizophrenic way of setting a mood.
DW: The solicitation for the series mentions Evily the Witch, a character that first appeared in Vampirella #2 in 1969 and has made a handful of appearances over the years. What can you tell us about her and how does she fit into the new series?
KDL: I am so pleased that Nick Barrucci asked me to include her. I got the chance to write her character, as well as redesign her overall look, giving her the purple cloak and slightly different coloration. Evily is a bit of an empty slate, because she hasn't seen too much action in the Dynamite era. But I wanted to give her a backstory, re-invent her origins, and bring her more personal depth. I think she has a potential opportunity for great things in the future. Being a witch, the idea of her as a character resonates deeply with me. Evily fits perfectly into Vampirella's spooky world. I mean after all, she's a witch! I wanted the two to be written as equals, not just Evily written as a sidekick to Vampirella. I think the character is strong enough to offer that with a little re-tweaking, and I'm confident in my redesign of her. Hell, I've grown to love her. I want her to have her own series after this tale is told.
DW: With Vampirella being around for almost 50 years, most people know of her, but how would you pitch this series to someone who doesn't know her or what to expect? In a sentence or two, why should a newcomer pick up Vampirella: Roses for the Dead?
JML: "A vampire and a witch walk into a bar…" We're telling a classic revenge tale, so I hope the readers have a fun ride and enjoy the experience. We're aiming for some subtext, but the main point is to tell an entertaining story. That is always the number one goal – to entertain. Anything beyond that is pure gravy.