Elvira lands the role of a lifetime in hotshot director Billy Bullworth’s new film, but her costar seems… different. In the first issue of Dynamite’s four-part series Elvira: The Shape of Elvira, the Mistress of the Dark finds herself working opposite an actor who is a little too comfortable breathing underwater. She also uncovers some interesting secrets about the Hollywood filmmaker as she traipses through his massive mansion. Written by David Avallone (Elvira, Bettie Page), and with art by Fran Strukan (Barbarella) and letters by Taylor Esposito of Ghost Glyph Studios (Red Hood and the Outlaws, Atomahawk), the story perfectly captures the legendary Elvira (made famous by actress Cassandra Peterson) at her best—quick-witted, flirty, and wise-cracking no matter the situation.
The story parodies the Academy-Award-winning film The Shape of Water, Guillermo Del Toro’s love story about a woman and her amphibious lover. From page one, the iconic voice of Peterson’s Elvira is there. Avallone’s script also promises plenty of references and riffs on films and celebrities throughout the run.
Recently, the Beat had a chance to sit down with Avallone to talk about the first issue of The Shape of Elvira, which comes out on January 16th, 2019.
Deanna Destito: The first issue is very funny and definitely has a classic Elvira feel. Cassandra Peterson has been involved in past Elvira series and has given input on dialogue. Was she involved in this one, too?
David Avallone: I’ve been a fan of Elvira since she first appeared on the scene, so I’ve had a while to learn her “voice” even if I didn’t know it was homework at the time. It didn’t feel like homework. As with Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, [Peterson] will read and approve every word in this series — and tweak a joke here and there as well.
Destito: The play on The Shape of Water is a lot of fun. What inspired you to choose this specific movie reference?
Avallone: I couldn’t honestly say why this specifically popped into my mind, other than pure timing: it is a very successful recent horror movie that also harkens back to old classic films and has a sexual/romantic undertone. That seemed to make it perfect for Elvira. Also, given Del Toro’s whole career, it seemed like there was a lot to riff on aside from Shape of Water. If I was asked to pitch something for Elvira this week I might have done something with Suspiria, or the Halloween reboot. (I have a feeling we may get to those, too, someday…)
Destito: Were you able to draw on your experience in Hollywood for this series more than other comics you’ve written so far?
Avallone: Absolutely. The first arc of Bettie Page last year took place in Los Angeles, and that certainly was informed by some of my life and experience… but it was set in 1952. Shape of Elvira is set in the Hollywood of today, and I’m a 31-year resident of that town, and show business veteran. (Or is the word “casualty?”) At one time or another I’ve held most jobs in the film industry. I invite anyone to go look at my IMDb page and come up with a short answer to the question, “What is it that you do, exactly?” The one job that doesn’t show up on IMDb is “ghost writer” for obvious reasons… which is a non-subtle clue about which character in Shape of Elvira is tenuously based on my own personal experiences.
Destito: Who is Billy based on?
Avallone: To be absolutely clear, aside from their filmographies, Billy Bullworth has nothing else in common with Del Toro, who is a great writer and filmmaker. Billy’s personality (and need for a ghostwriter) is based on a handful of other people I’ve known and worked with over the years… who I won’t name.
Destito: Any teasers you can share for the rest of the series?
Avallone: I don’t think “more laughs! more horror!” is much of a teaser… but I can’t say much more than that. In issue 2, production WILL begin on The Heart Is A Black Lagoon, famous movies and actors WILL be parodied, and we’ll see if we can spare some panels to address how (choosing my words carefully…) cockeyed the whole industry is. Stay tuned!
Elvira: The Shape of Elvira #1 goes on sale January 16, 2019 and features five different variant covers, including a photo cover of the Hostess of the Macabre.