A Writer's Commentary: David Avallone talks Twilight Zone: The Shadow #3, on sale now from Dynamite. Cover by Francesco Francavilla, interiors by Dave Acosta.
I'm relatively new to comics, and this was the first time I asked if I could suggest a cover idea. I would never want to intrude on the artistry of the great Francavilla, but the concept for this one popped into my head and I really wanted to see what Francesco would do with it. Giant hands and giant props feel like a classic pulp cover trope from the thirties, and I love the way it came out.
Narration. One of my very favorite things about this book is the opportunity to write in Rod Serling's "voice". Like most geeks my age, I grew up hearing those Twilight Zone narrations again and again, and loving that vivid style. I hope I captured it here.
Eagle-eyed Twilight Zone fans might recognize Art's boss from a classic episode. Hint: he's the actor who appeared in the most TZ episodes.
Pages two and three.
Dave Acosta is the best, as I will say to anyone, whether they ask me or not. In this sequence, the secretary bringing the martini is all him. I love touches like that: they bring the world to life.
Pages four and five.
I knew "Art" would have to spend a lot of this issue talking to himself, so why not his "Shadow?" When I was developing this series, I was caught between two very different styles of storytelling. The Shadow has a lot of action and intrigue. Lots of gunplay and fistfights and cars racing down streets. On the other hand, there are a lot of Twilight Zone episodes mostly made up of two guys stuck in a room talking to one another. Serling (and Matheson and Beaumont) were able to make that kind of thing crackle with tension. I make no such claims for my own talent but I wanted to have some of that Twilight-Zone-claustrophobic-one-act-play feeling in this series as well.
One of the touchstones for this issue was David Cronenberg's hallucinatory film version of NAKED LUNCH. Like Cronenberg, I have always found manual typewriters to be kind of fascinating things…
…and maybe a little creepy.
Another touchstone for this issue is Chuck Jones' classic "Duck Amuck" cartoon. Daffy runs around on a blank sheet of paper and has some serious issues with his creator. Hopefully this sequence is a little more chilling than hilarious. I think the rest of the book beautifully demonstrates Dave Acosta's ability to draw anything I throw at him.
My colorist, Omi Remalante, did a beautiful job creating a look here that could pass for a blank sheet of paper without just being a wash of white. Everyone rose to the challenge on this issue.
I've been doling out my own take on the Shadow's origins in this series, and here I go against a lot of the prevailing trope previous versions of the Shadow. It's such a cliché these days to have your white hero go to Tibet and learn mystic arts. Yawn. I have it on a good authority (Walter Gibson) that the Shadow spent a lot of time among an incredibly obscure Guatemalan culture called the Xinca (or Xinka.) Why not learn the mystic arts from them? Far less is known about the Xinca than is known about Tibetan Buddhism.
The Xinca appear in four panels in this comic book. I don't want to think about the hours I spent researching them to make sure these four panels had some kind of reality to them. Shout out to my Facebook friend Agathe Rigault whose education in pre-Columbian civilizations came to the rescue when I hit a wall. The illustrations here are based on the few photos I could find on the web of the Xinca. I like the poetic names of their gods, and I like that they laugh in Kent Allard's face for his cornball pitch.
I wasn't thinking about it when I wrote this page, but Kent Allard here reminds me a little bit of blissed-out Don Draper in the last episode of Mad Men.
I was trying to think of a creepy action bit to end this sequence: something that would metaphorically dramatize the whole struggle. Since Kent is stuck on a piece of paper, the giant typewriter bars smacking down at him was a natural thought. As for the word they're spelling out… and Kent getting tied down for the final blow… that came courtesy of Franz Kafka's short story "In The Penal Colony". It seemed apt to echo that here.
The first draft is often the story you tell your significant other, when they make the mistake of asking "what are you doing?" Note that there's a one new word on Art's sheet of paper.
And we're back to the beginning, now. Dave found the propaganda poster in his research, and added the rat. And we end as we began, with my most sincere attempt to channel the voice of a true genius, a great and moral artist, now lost to us but forever remembered… in the Twilight Zone.