It wasn’t difficult to see a Vampirella spinoff coming. Dynamite Entertainment, the company that has launched a myriad of Green Hornet titles, has been publishing an ongoing Vampirella since November, and in May are debuting the five-issue miniseries Vampirella and the Scarlet Legion.
Written by Joe Harris (Ghost Projekt, Slingers) and illustrated by José Málaga, Dynamite president Nick Barrucci says now is the right time for a new Vampirella title. “We've been able to ship the main series and there are 4 issues in stores, and the fans and retailers have been able to read the series and the sales have been rewarding. Obviously, the fans and retailers will determine, but with the sales growing, this should be a nice success as well.”Newsarama talked to Harris about exactly who the Scarlet Legion are and whether they mean good news or bad news for Vampirella, the historical significance name, and how this series relates to Dynamite’s ongoing.
Newsarama: Joe, first question is a simple one — what made you want to write Vampirella? What do you like about the character?
Joe Harris: Honestly, it was Dynamite landing the license to relaunch Vampirella into the marketplace that presented the possibility. We'd been looking for something to potentially do together and when they asked, of the wide and very cool range of properties they were publishing, what I was interested in adding my voice to I was pretty automatic in my answer: "Vampirella. She's a jewel of a character."
What I like about her, myself, is that I know there's so much more than the cheesecake… even if you embrace that initial image of her which I, personally, think is fine. She's a very strong character. She's a badass. I don't see her as under anybody's, man or woman's, thumb. I like that she's overtly sexual and sensual without there being anything sleazy about the books. There's power in how she presents and projects. I also love the more fantastical elements of her mythology. She's not your typical vampire with the typical trappings of the genre.
Nrama: In your own career, you've written your fair share of horror titles, but Vampirella is definitely a unique entity on its own. Would you say that this comic is similar in tone to anything you've done before?
Harris: She's unique in that, while a vampire with the fangs the bats and the thirst for blood, she's got a mythology surrounding her that's steeped in both the classic elements of that genre, as well as science fiction, while also having what feels like a superhero universe and continuity surrounding her. I've written a lot of horror in a variety of mediums, but I've never been able to use any of my superhero-y chops to do so. To start with horror as a base — you know, dark rooms and demonic presences and frightening shit in the dark — then build out an adventure story with an assembled team of seemingly mismatched characters who have to come together to battle this fantastical threat is a very appealing thing.
The creator-owned horror and supernatural thriller stuff I'm doing Oni Press right now (Ghost Projekt and the forthcoming, Spotaneous) are very different in tone. I guess the closest I've come in the past is a B.P.R.D. story I wrote for Dark Horse some years back.
Nrama: Dynamite has an ongoing Vampirella series running now, written by Eric Trautmann. How — if at all — does your series tie-in with that one (other than, y'know, same main character and all)? The press release said your book will "serve to complement" the ongoing, which could mean a lot of things.
Harris: Well, Vampirella and the Scarlet Legion is set before the events in the ongoing series so this book, among other things, should orient Vampirella in the direction of seeking out the evil organization, Chaos. I've also peppered in some 'lost years' sort of stuff envisioning that my series takes place in that nebulous period between the cessation of her last publishing embodiment and the events of the new Vampirella #1.
Interior art from
Vampirella and the
Scarlet Legion #1.Nrama: Vampirella is a character with a long history — is there anyone's work on the character you're specifically looking at for inspiration with this series?
Harris: The old Warren books are what really inspired this series. When I first started talking with Dynamite about doing something with the character we immediately went back to the old Archie Goodwin stories. I love the fantastical stuff. The dark horror associated with chanting cultists and diabolical power brokers who see vampires as a means for them to potentially cheat death and live forever. I'm not a very "street-level" guy when it comes to horror, and horror comics. I really respond to stuff with more of a sweep to it. And those early books really went for that.
It's the old Frazetta covers too. I've got to be honest. And not just because Frank Frazetta is obviously incredible. But the vibe he gave the entire property and mythos… the idea that Vampirella was and remains this mythic character borne of dark fantasy and adventure, not just horror. That's what attracts me and what inspires me. She's a warrior doing savage work in a world that only responds to such strength and ferocity.
Interior art from
Vampirella and the
Scarlet Legion #1.Nrama: Moving to more plot-type questions, the Scarlet Legion clearly play an important role given the title of the comic. For those unfamiliar, what's the history of the name "Scarlet Legion"?
Harris: "The Scarlet Legion" is the name of the old Vampirella fan club and we wanted to use the name, which is a great name really, to brand and develop the character's supporting cast of characters into a potential team that helped, or hindered (depending on how things shook out) her never-ending struggle as it were.
Nrama: Staying with that topic — it's early, but what can you say about the Scarlet Legion as they appear in this comic?
Harris: Well, I came up with this notion of a strike force backed by the Vatican and comprised of both members of this holy team of vampire slayers Vampirella has tangled with in the past, The Sisterhood, as well as characters from Vampirella's more longstanding mythology. In borrowing from the Warren concepts and characters, we expanded our mining operations into the Grant Morrison/Mark Millar run on the title from the Harris Comics days. They'd created this team of, essentially, holy warrior nuns who hunt down vampires and form an alliance from Vampirella. Building out that concept a bit, I envisioned a super, über-elite squad of slayers convened to battle the forces of Chaos whenever history calls for that dire task. Aside from some of these slayer nuns, such as characters longtime Vampirella fans might recognize as Brittney and Mother Superior, I've brought back other allies and adversaries such as Vampirella's longtime friend and ally, the magician, Mordecai Pendragon and her former lover, Adam Van Helsing… as well as some more diabolical folks from the past.Interior art from
Vampirella and the
Scarlet Legion #1.Essentially, Vampirella stands between our world and the forces of Chaos -- a religious cult of death, demons and destruction devoted to this hierarchy of 'gods' topped by the titular "Chaos," known by followers as "The Mad God," himself. The seeds and initial flesh on the bones of these elements, concepts and characters mostly date back to the classic Archie Goodwin-written period of Vampirella as published by Warren way back in the day. Essentially, this group who in the past referred to themselves as "The Companions of Chaos" set about attempting to bring the old gods forth onto this plane for their own brand of Armageddon by means of human sacrifice. The gods demand souls and the death of innocents offered as tribute help sort of grease the skids to bringing about this particular sort of hell on earth. But our story concerns new revelations regarding Chaos and the cult's ceaseless efforts to bring their gods forth, as well as a heretofore unknown role that Vampirella may unwittingly play in bringing about that hell on earth. The Scarlet Legion, while comprised of old friends and staunch allies, are assembled to actually hunt poor Vampirella down and she's going to find herself squeezed between the apparent good guys who want to destroy Chaos and those dedicated to serving the Mad God. Cut off from any help and with really no place left to turn, she's going to find herself turning to old enemies for help… all the while hoping to somehow triangulate these relationships, clear her name and save the world. But destiny is a bitch, really. And no matter what Vampirella does, and no matter how hard and fast The Scarlet Legion pursue, they're all going to keep finding themselves playing a game of one step forward and two steps back… all while Chaos' plans progress and that prophecy ticks along.
Nrama: In the ongoing series, Vampirella has been seen sporting a (considerably) more conservative outfit as of late. What look will this series use?
Harris: As this series takes place before the ongoing, we thought we'd continue with the classic costume all the way through.
Nrama: And on the visual side of things: José Málaga is on art — how has working with him been thus far?
Harris: José 's stuff keeps getting better and better as he turns in pages. I've written some wild stuff coming down the pike full of blood and monsters and demons and more blood and I'm really excited to see this trend continue.