Amanda Conner is one of the most popular and accomplished artists in comic now, but back in the early ’90s, she was known mostly for drawing Barbie – incredibly, it was one of the few jobs that was readily available for women who drew comics at the time. She started breaking out in 1996 with a run on Vampirella, the horror comic published by Harris Comics. Although it was part of the regrettable “Bad Girl comics” trend, Conner’s humor, storytelling and approachable sexy take on the character elevated it from the pack.
Although she’s long since moved on to her groundbreaking run on Harley Quinn (with husband and collaborator Jimmy Palmiotti) and work on such characters as Power Girl, Conner recently returned to Vampirella with a 50th Anniversary variant cover that’s available on IndieGogo with a myriad of variants and extra stuff, including trading card, published by Dynamite. The cover itself adorns a reprint of two of Conner’s ’90s Vampi tales: “Vampirella: New Monthly #1” (1997) written by Grant Morrison and Mark MIllar, no less, with inks by Palmiotti, and the “Vampirella Halloween Special” (2004).
We had the chance for a quick chat with Amanda about her history with the character and her switch from Barbie to Vampi:
THE BEAT: Were you a fan of Vampirella back when you started your iconic run? Were you a horror fan in general?
AMANDA CONNER: Yes, I was a fan of Vampi pretty early on. I can’t remember when I first saw a Vampirella comic, but I had friends in junior high and high school who collected them. I have a friend with an older brother who collected a lot of the horror and sword & sorcery comics, and we used to sneak a lot of those comics out from his room and read them. That’s probably when I first discovered Vampi.
As far as horror goes, I was a fan since I was really little. My dad and I used to watch a lot of horror movies and monster movies when broadcast TV would show them on weekends. When I was that age, my mom was a bit hesitant about the scary movies, probably because she wanted to make sure I could sleep at night. But she was totally okay with me reading horror stories and horror classics. She especially encouraged me to delve into Edgar Allan Poe and Charles Addams and Edward Gorey.
THE BEAT: You’d been typecast as a Barbie artist, so a switch to horror was a big change. What were your thoughts about making this kind of career change back in the ’90s?
CONNER: I was so ready for that change! It was kind of frustrating being typecast, and I had been wanting to make the switch for a while. That might be one of the reasons that I remember loving the ‘90s so much… I got a chance to flex my artistic muscles more than I ever had before, and Vampirella really gave me that opportunity. Once you get to draw a bunch of vampires feasting on innards, you don’t get pigeonholed as a Barbie artist quite so much anymore.
THE BEAT: What’s it like coming back to the character at this point in your career?
CONNER: It’s great to revisit a character that I had such fun drawing, and who helped launch me into being seen as an artist who is able to tackle a wider range of genres. All these years later, she’s still really fun to draw!
THE BEAT: Vampirella always seems to be in the middle of some trend: she launched as part of the black and white horror boom, then came back as part of the “Bad Girl” era, and now she’s crowdfunding. What do you think makes her so enduring?
CONNER: In spite of being a character who is able to work within certain trends, Vampirella is a classic. People love horror, people love a strong and mysterious woman, and people love an anti-hero. She fits all three of those things, and more.
THE BEAT: You and your partner, Jimmy Palmiotti, have used Kickstarter for a lot of projects. How does crowdfunding fit in to the projects you want to work on?
CONNER: Jimmy has been the Kickstarter whiz in our house for the past few years, with me doing some covers and sketches for his campaigns. Now that Jimmy and I are working on our creator-owned stuff, I’m going to be involved much more in the crowdfunding process, and I’m really looking forward to it! Although I’m looking forward to it with a little trepidation, because I’ve seen what a tremendous amount of work goes into delivering a successful campaign. Thank goodness we have Patrick, our wonderful manager who helps us through it. Still, I feel like I might need to take extra vitamins and work out for five hours a day in order to help deliver a kick-ass Kickstarter.