This past summer, Dynamite launched a new Vampirella ongoing series with writer Christopher Priest at the helm. Now, the writer is set to expand the world he has created, with characters and plot lines set up in the main series extending into a spinoff comic sacredsix. The new book features art by Gabriel Ibarra and Jae Lee. The first issue will also sport covers by Lee, José Ladrönn, Lucio Parrillo, Meghan Hetrick, and Rod Reis.
Ahead of the May debut, Priest chatted with The Beat about his deeper dive into Vampi’s universe.
Deanna Destito: Who or what in the Vampirella Universe made you want to expand and tell more about these other characters?
Christopher Priest: An email from Dynamite Senior Editor Matt Idelson. I was deeply flattered and surprised Dynamite wanted to expand our unusual spin on the Vampirella universe. I’ve been having a blast with artist Ergün Gündüz on Vampirella, maybe the most fun I’ve had since the old Acclaim Comics days working for Fabian Nicieza (Quantum & Woody). I’m not sure I’ve ever been more or better supported than I’ve been by Dynamite, from editorial through design, promotion, sales, and the suits, all of whom have put up with my diva fits and nursed me through my paranoia. That they wanted to double down on that experience made me doubt their sanity, but for me it was an easy yes: I’ve just been having so much fun, more fun than I’ve had in years.
Destito: While these women are obviously sexy and will appeal to a certain demographic, what other qualities do they have that make them a good, strong female team that will be attractive to a broader audience?
Priest: I’m not usually a fan of team books. There are, after all, only but so many pages in an issue and now there are all of these speaking parts and every character needs their bit of business and window of opportunity. I wrote Justice League for ten issues and thought I would lose my mind. Every third page I had stop and ask myself, “Where’s Aquaman?” I kept forgetting Aquaman. The JL experience was gratifying and ultimately a little too short (although I knew it was a caretaker gig when it was offered). I tried to bring a distinct realism to the JL that hasn’t been employed often, and to treat each character with the same level of interest.
The sacredsix women are all fully realized characters endowed with a great deal of depth and complexity. Their history and/or character arcs intersect at interesting places, creating stress points a writer can exploit in dynamic ways. What will hopefully make them attractive to a broader audience is their common goal: to be human, or to be part of the human equation. Most of us take this precious gift– our humanness–for granted because we have no objective perspective from which to consider it. We simply are.
Here are four women — Vampirella, Pantha, Nyx, and Chastity — three of whom were once fully human and one (Vampi) who is an extraterrestrial marooned here on Earth. A fifth, Draculina, IS fully human but is eager to relinquish that humanity in exchange for dark powers. While they each have their own story, their own perspectives and conflicts, the consistent quality among them is their envy of the very things we take for granted. For one reason or another, these women have become observers of the human condition rather than participants in it. This is a universal longing– to belong. To find community and acceptance.
The women arrive in this dead-end town in the middle of Nowhere, Georgia, for unique and disparate reasons, but find themselves drawn together mostly by the hand of their scheming, manipulative den mother/ersatz Professor X Lilith of Drakulon (Vampirella’s unhinged mom).
Our first story arc, “Numerology,” tells the story of how and why these characters– all of them literally bloodthirsty killers who hate each other and who are thrown together out of circumstance– choose to unite in order to defend this one-horse town where a settlement of peaceful, non-aggressive vampires have made their home.
Destito: Who is your favorite of the sacredsix and why?
Priest: Let me start by emphasizing “sacred” is a PLACE, the City of Sacred, Georgia, a gleaming, modern, shining city on a hill built for the specific purpose of effecting ethnic cleansing on the ramshackle town of Ashthorne. “The Six” are the BAD GUYS– Vampire Taliban, a fundamentalist militant wing of a shadowy organization called the Lumea Următoare, the “Next World,” bent on global domination. Obviously, Lilith intends to knock these folks off so our ladies can take their place. sacredsix (lower case, no space) is kind of a mantra, whispered or hissed repeatedly out of the darkness by the Lumea Următoare when the horde of evil vampires descend like locusts.
The complicated relationship between Vampirella and her mother is the anchor for the book. Beyond that, each character appeals to me and is my favorite whenever I am writing her. Pantha has been reimagined from a woman who can transform into a black leopard to being a black leopard who can assume human form. It’s a very different take, Pantha seeing humanity through the eyes of an innocent and learning to be human. Pantha is likely the purest soul in a cast of people juggling multiple agendas. Our reimagined Nyx, transferred from the pages of Vampirella, is a half-demon, half-human, whose dual natures are at war with one another. Over in Vampirella, Nyx has had the briefest taste of humanity and love, only to have had it torn away. She is now a deeply conflicted soul who comes to town to kill Lilith, but discovers an open door to what she craves most.
Victory, Vampirella’s self-absorbed, neurotic love interest, has been co-opted by Lilith and re-named “Draculina.” Their relationship having long ago surpassed its sell-by date, Draculina represents an unwelcome complication for Vampirella and an effective tool for Vampi’s maniacal mother. Chastity hates all vampires, whom she blames for the deaths of her parents and the transformation of her brother into the living dead. Due to a freak accident, Chastity, a quick-tempered MMA-type, became a “half” vampire, having all of a vampire’s powers and none of their weaknesses. Losing half her humanity has left her embittered and friendless. She doesn’t know any of the other women and enters the series as an antagonist out to wipe out all vampires in Ashthorne.
Destito: How has it been having Jae Lee involved?
Priest: Like everyone else, I’ve admired Jae’s work for many years. He and I discussed working together a few years back and went around for a month or so pitching ideas back and forth, but couldn’t settle on something we both wanted to do. When I heard he’d accepted this assignment, illustrating Pantha’s new origin story, I was thrilled. I’m hoping this is just the first of many things Jae and I might take a swing at.
Destito: How has it been working with the main creative team?
Priest: Gabriel Ibarra has been an amazing surprise. His moody, intense line work is bound to impress a lot of people and quickly make a name for himself in this business. I love working with hungry people who bring their A-game, and Gabriel’s ultra-realism creates a fantastic platform for the wide range of visuals shifting from the City of Sacred’s “New Genesis”-style modern gleam to the town of Ashthorne’s impoverished darkness. I’m really jazzed to have him aboard and anxious to see each page as it arrives.
Destito: Any surprises you can reveal (characters, plot points, etc.)?
Priest: Plot elements of sacredsix were planned since we began work on Vampirella. The sacredsix plot actually begins in Vampirella #4, wherein Drago, the vampire mayor of Ashthorne, appeals to Vampirella for her help in quelling the conflict between the town of Ashthorne and the City of Sacred. Embittered by their complicated history, Vampirella turns him down, and Drago has no alternative but to turn to his mother, Lilith, for assistance.
Victory, Vampirella’s loony love interest, was developed to become the new Draculina from day one. We always knew her character arc would ultimately lead her to Lilith and into the supernatural life she craves as a rival and foil to Vampirella.
The book itself is a morality play that takes a deep dive into complex questions of humanness and existence. One example: the vampires of Ashthorne are not evil, shadow-dwelling predators. They are the victims of evil vampires, preyed upon and transformed into the undead. In that light, as victims rather than predators, don’t they deserve our sympathy? Do the undead have civil rights? Don’t they deserve equal protection under the law? What about their sacred lands– burial grounds in active use by the undead? Can the county simply direct a new interstate to divide their town, usurping their sacred lands?
Clothed in metaphors of vampires and angels, sacredsix is about us–all of us. Palestinian versus Israeli. Christian versus Muslim. Black versus White. Conservative versus Liberal. Straight versus LGBTQ+. It’s a franchise as old as humanity itself– Capulets vs. Montagues. Hatfields vs. McCoys. Them, whomever “they” may be, and us, whomever “we” are. Tribes and tribalism, superstition versus empirical science. It’s about the stupid and petty ways we fritter away our own humanity by bickering with each other and forcing our point of view on others.
In issue #1, two small boys from Sacred go missing, which sets off a major alarm in Ashthorne miles down the road. It is unlikely the boys were ever in Ashthorne but that hardly matters. Two missing boys–missing human boys–is more than enough excuse for authorities to bulldoze Ashthorne looking for them.
Now, how much abuse can or should the peaceful vampires of Ashthorne take before they finally start fighting back? Striving to keep peace, Mayor Drago struggles to prevent the vampires from returning to “the Old Ways” and wiping out the bigots in Sacred who continually provoke them. However, the mystery surrounding the children’s disappearance becomes the catalyst for our first story arc, with events rapidly snowballing out of control with our Ladies of The Night caught in the middle. Welcome to Ashthorne, Georgia, Deanna. Buckle up.
sacredsix #1 is available for preorder at your local comic shop this month and has a release date of May 27. Check out more and order online on Dynamite’s website. For digital versions of sacredsix, head over to Comixology, Kindle, iBooks, Google Play, Dynamite Digital, ComicsPlus, and more.