Elvira has seen and done it all, facing off with witches, monsters, shady Hollywood types, and even Satan himself. Now she may have met her match—rabid comic-con fans. The horror hostess has a new tale currently running on Kickstarter thanks to Dynamite Comics, Elvira: The Wrath of Con. The campaign’s goal was reached in record numbers, displaying just how much fans love the Mistress of the Dark and the creative team of writer David Avallone and artist Dave Acosta.
The Beat chatted with the woman behind the cheeky character, Cassandra Peterson, and Avallone to get the skinny on the new series.
Deanna Destito: What inspired this story?
Cassandra Peterson: Well, I sort of came up with the idea because there were no conventions and I do lots of conventions a year, generally around a dozen. And it’s been so bizarre in the last year and a half, almost two years, not to have conventions to attend because it’s my way of connecting with my fans. It’s so bizarre. So this kind of came out of that. But then David is the one who really ran with the whole idea.
David Avallone: For both of the Kickstarter projects, Cassandra and I have jumped on the phone and talked about ideas and what we wanted to do.
Peterson: And went out to have a drink. You forgot that.
Avallone: That’s the project we can’t talk about yet! But yeah, both of those Kickstarter projects we’ve done so far started with phone calls. And Cassandra wanted to do a sequel to last year’s project, which was The Omega Ma’am. And we talked about ways to do it. And she wanted to do it about cons, and we particularly made it be about San Diego Comic-Con in particular, because, of course, that’s the ultimate con. I moved to L.A. in ‘87. I think I went to San Diego for the first time in ‘89 and I haven’t gone every year but I’ve gone easily 20, 25 times in the past 35 years, I’d say.
Peterson: Me too, brother. I went to San Diego Comic-Con when it was in the basement of some motel and I’m literally the only woman there, I think. Maybe there was one other.
Avallone: I can guarantee you who the other woman was. It was Wendy Pini dressed as Red Sonja. And by the way, it should go without saying, but in case it doesn’t, the way the gatekeeping has dropped and now conventions are easily 50% women, if not more, is a fantastic thing. And I couldn’t be happier. But I remember in the ‘70s and in the ‘80s, there was so much grotesque nerd gatekeeping that you’d go to a Star Trek convention or a comic book convention, and I used to say there would be two women there: the one dressed as Red Sonja and the one not dressed as Red Sonja. After I made that joke for about 20 years, someone said to me, “and the woman dressed as Red Sonja was always Wendy Pini creator of Elfquest.” And I was like, oh, my God, you’re right. That was Wendy every single time. But yeah, it was a bizarre thing.
And like I said, I can speak from experience, and I’m sure Cassandra can too. It’s not like women weren’t fans of Star Trek and comic books and sci-fi and Star Wars. It’s that they didn’t feel comfortable in those places and they were made to feel uncomfortable in those places.
I’m not saying our convention special is about that, but, you know, we deal with the idea that we love the fans and the fans are the greatest. And there’s also this tiny little section of fans who try to make everybody miserable. So, you know, every story needs a villain. This is a love letter to the fans who support and uplift and not a love letter to the fans who don’t.
Destito: What do you like about putting Elvira in the comics medium?
Avallone: I think what I really needed to get into the series and to get into writing it was I remembered it was a comic book and I didn’t have to keep it confined to what I could shoot on a low budget Elvira movie budget and go, ‘no, she can time travel.’ She can literally go to Hell.
Peterson: And that’s the important part about comic books and animation. You really, really have to take them as far as they can go because, when you have that venue handed to you, that means of running a story, they allow you so many cool things that you could never do in a movie or a TV show.
Avallone: [Comics] actually kind of demands you to dream a little bigger.
Destito: Is this a creative dream team?
Peterson: It is for me!
Avallone: I would say that Dave is probably my best friend who I’ve never actually met in person, which is a classic comic book industry thing. He lives in or around Dearborn, Michigan, and he has not been able to get out to a convention on the coast. I haven’t gone to any convention in the Midwest in the last five years so we’ve never met, but we chat constantly and he sends me every sketch, every pencil drawing, every inked page.
Peterson: I call them the Double Ds.
Avallone: Which I try not to interpret as her calling us her boobs.
Destito: David, after working with Cassandra on so many books, can you now play Elvira?
Avallone: I think I would look terrible in the dress.
Peterson: You’re missing a couple of important things—the wig and the dress.
Avallone: Yes the wig and the dress, but yeah, I mean, even all the Nair in the world would not make my chest look appropriate for that costume. But there’s no danger of me putting on the costume. All that said, it is an enormous joy to write the character and you can drop her in any situation.
Peterson: I was amazed how much you’ve got the character and how much you captured the voice and everything. I will say after seeing so many different writers, David, you really, really run it.
Avallone: I mean, it’s such a well-defined character. And that’s all you, Cassandra. You created a character that’s so well-defined that I’m never like, ‘gee, I wonder what Elvira would say in this set of circumstances.’ No, you know exactly. And look, it’s not just me. The readers would also know. They just might not write it.
Peterson: This isn’t an interview. This is a mini love fest between me and David.
Destito: Why was Kickstarter the right avenue for this?
Peterson: I was a little skeptical at first.
Avallone: I had the opposite experience. I did a Kickstarter for a project I co-created with Kevin Eastman, who also has a zillion fans worldwide because he created the Ninja Turtles. And the thing about Kickstarter compared to just a book they can buy in the comic book store is…companies look at Kickstarter and go “free money! This is amazing!” But, you know, on top of that very obvious motivation, people invest in Kickstarter, both literally and emotionally and psychologically. There is a difference between a book that exists because Dynamite published it and paid me to write it and paid Cassandra for her likeness and all that, and a book that the fan goes, “I produced that book. I gave them $25 and they dispersed it and I get a copy of it, but my name is going to be in it and I’m a part of it and it’s a part of me and it’s a part of the Elvira-verse for want of a better word that I helped bring into creation,” and the degree to which Kickstarter is as much a platform for building a fanbase and an audience and in the case of Elvira, a place to bring together and join up a fanbase and an audience. It’s unparalleled in that way.
Destito: Is there anything Elvira won’t do?
Peterson: Wear a muumuu and vote Republican.
To back Elvira: The Wrath of Con, click here. The campaign runs until Friday, August 13, and has a ton of stretch goals for top fans.