Blood Queen vs. Dracula #4 Writer's Commentary by Troy Brownfield
Here we are again, this time for the last time on this particular mini. I'm Troy Brownfield, writer of Blood Queen vs. Dracula. The artist is Kewber Baal, the colorist is Kirsty Swan, and the letterer was Marshall Dillon. The original editor was Molly Mahan, and Hannah Elder brought us in for a landing. The feudal overlord of Dynamite editorial is Joseph Rybandt, and the High King of Dynamite is Nick Barrucci. I'd like to thank them all. Let's get started . . .
Pages 1 and 2 – This is a textbook example of the old "end an issue with a character in dire peril and then have them escape as the next issue begins" school of writing. It has a long and glorious history weaving backward in time through '60s Batman through film serials and on to Odysseus and earlier. As stated previously, I really wanted issue 3 to reflect the sensibilities of a stalker/slasher-driven horror film with Elizabeth as the "Final Girl". Putting her at the mercy is part of the convention. Having her break that hold and blast Dracula across the room is the twist on the old approach that makes doing this kind of thing fun in the first place.
Pages 3 thru 10 – Writing these pages represented the most fun I had in the entire series. Dracula and Elizabeth are both talkers. Of course they're going to be giving each other a ton of shit while they duel. I also wanted to bring all of their strengths to the fore. Dracula is using various transformations. Elizabeth is using her magic in creative ways. Then she goes for the sword, which Dracula first takes for desperation, and Elizabeth shows that she's no amateur at that either. Each character gets to show off a bit, and that's important. In a "versus" series situation, no one should overwhelm the other completely OR immediately. In the first issue, we focused on Dracula, seeing Elizabeth as a mystery from his POV until she gets her big entrance. In the second issue, we see that Elizabeth was already thinking ahead, planning to ambush the dark prince; to his credit, Dracula turns the tables and puts Elizabeth on the defensive throughout three. After that, she evens things up on page 2 of this issue. It's an ebb and flow, which leads up to . . .
Page 11 – Ottoman assassins! As noted previously, the Ottoman Empire was the historical enemy of the entire region occupied by Dracula and Elizabeth Bathory (Transylvania/modern Romania, Hungary, etc.). Sihirbaz Burak and his general brother (from issue #2) were created to give a personal face and stake to the antipathy that the Ottomans would have for Dracula. Sure, the empire hates Vlad and his late father, but these guys REALLY hate Dracula and aren't fond of the Blood Queen for also fighting the advance. I also knew that I wanted a window into a resolution that didn't necessarily lead to one of the leads having to kill the other. Hence, extrapolating from the Transylvanian attack on the Ottomans in the first issue and following that rivalry as a natural progression until Dracula and Elizabeth had to grudgingly combine forces.
Page 12 – One of my favorite Dracula lines is his casual mention of having killed Burak's father. It's the entire motivation for the Burak brothers, but Dracula is like, "Eh. I kill people all the time. I'm friggin' Dracula."
Pages 13 thru 17 – A lot of things in four short pages. First, I wanted Sihirbaz Burak versus Elizabeth for a straight-up wizard's duel. Original Blood Queen readers will remember that she took out Vespasian in issue #6, so this is no new thing to her. She's ready for it, and even spares a moment to essentially save Dracula while she's doing it. As to why she'd save him? Elizabeth is an incredible opportunist. She's intelligent, cunning (there's a difference), and very skilled at spotting openings. Elizabeth knew that if she acted on Dracula's behalf, even for a moment, that would be something that she could pocket for later use. If Dracula has a weakness in the series, it's that he allows himself to underestimate Elizabeth more than once. Remember, this is 1582 Dracula; he's still got 311 years before he makes his famous trip to London. He's been a vampire for more than 100 years at this point, but he's so used to winning that he occasionally miscalculates. At any rate, Elizabeth defeats Sihirbaz Burak and then gives him a hard time over the stake that his brother made. Reminder: she is not a nice person.
Page 18 – I sense that there's a "But" coming . . .
Page 19 thru 21 – Elizabeth proves her wits here by talking Dracula out of further engagement. She knew that she barely escaped at the top of the issue, and even though she just killed Sihirbaz Burak and would make a go of it against Dracula, she's not entirely certain that she could take him at this moment. And Elizabeth does not like to be uncertain. So she goes with the long game and presents an attractive option: if he lets her live, she'll keep fighting the Ottomans, and she'll add to the glory of his name. Dracula is, of course, no dummy. He sees the value in this, and he would rather have a weapon like Elizabeth pointed away from him than toward him. To his people, it'll look like he visited the Blood Queen, won her to his side, and returned. To Elizabeth's people, she'll appear even more powerful ("The legendary Dracula stormed our castle, and our Queen still stands! AND she dispatched a group of Ottoman assassins! By the way, has anyone noticed that all of the young women keep disappearing? That's so weird . . .").
And finally, Page 22 – Dracula has a plan? Of course he has a plan! He's Dracula! He's the original Batman!
Bonus Answers: I frequently get asked if we'll do more with Blood Queen or Dracula at Dynamite. I don't know yet, but I would like to. Yes, I would indeed address Helena's Rebellion directly. Yes, I would also do a comic adaptation of the Prince Dracula novel I wrote for Dynamite if asked. If you haven't read The Blood Queen #1-6 or The Blood Queen Annual, they are all readily available at Comixology.
Thanks for reading! It's been fun to do the commentaries, and it's been fun to write this series. A last few hat tips to Kewber Baal, who drew this magnificently; Kirsty Swan, who may never want to use red again but nonetheless used it gloriously; and Marshall Dillon, who did smashing work through all the appearances of Elizabeth (as did Kirsty). I literally couldn't have done any of this without them. Thank you.
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