Christopher Priest talks Vampirella #1, on sale in JULY from Dynamite!

BYRON BREWER: Christopher, how does it feel to be part of the legacy of an iconic character like Vampirella?

CHRISTOPHER PRIEST: Too early to tell. It’s great to be invited to the party, we’ll have to wait and see if I fit in or if Nick Barrucci calls the bouncer.

BB: LOL! … What can you, without spoilers, tell us about the new ongoing series you will be writing celebrating Vampirella’s 50th anniversary? Issue #1 will publish exactly 50 years later, in July, I understand.

CP: Yes, that’s correct. Our story arc questions Vampirella’s motives and reasons for her existence on Earth. Who is she? Why does she do what she does? Why risk her life battling evil? What does she want out of life and can she find it here, on what is to her an alien planet? These are the fundamental questions every Vampirella writer has to grapple with before we can begin to conceive of a plot: who is she and what does she want?

The innocent in “Seduction of The Innocent” is Vampirella herself. My investigation of the character has led me to conclude that she is, in many ways, a far more guileless and better adjusted soul than many if not most of us. In my interpretation, Vampirella is an immigrant from a much healthier society than our cynical, paranoid and deeply divided culture. Were it not for the blood-sucking and the bat wings, Vampi would be a lot more like Wonder Woman (albeit a sexually active version); a visitor whose values and motives are essentially benign.

Yet, unlike Wonder Woman, who lives in an unrealistic Gardner Fox universe where there’s no trash on the streets and none of the superheroes seem even remotely concerned about the lead in Flint, Michigan’s water, Vampirella, in my series, lives here -- in Denny O’Neilville, where Green Arrow nearly died crawling to a pay phone as he bled to death. That’s a world superhero comics publishing rarely visits, stories rarely explored, because most of us (myself included) are fans and fans are more invested in whether The Hulk can beat The Thing than we are in the water in Flint. But the much wider audience, the multi-billion-dollar mass audience, is anchored to the real world and the numbers reflect that: there is exponentially more money being made off of super-hero stories written more realistically.

Seduction” uses an airline crash as an allegory to examine Vampirella’s motives and values. The story depicts Vampirella settling into a community of friends and lovers and finding meaning in her battles against evil, only to have all of that questioned or even destroyed as a consequence of this tragic event, and her subsequent efforts to push past her grief and regain what she has lost.

BB: A character like Vampirella, and even during her Dynamite years, has gone through many changes. As your Vampirella series begins in July, tell us about your iteration of this space vampire. Who is Vampirella as a character, a woman to you as writer of this new series?

CP: I’m glad you called her a “space vampire.” (Smiles) A lot of people seem to have either forgotten that or have re-translated Vampirella into a creature of the occult, which she is not. She is not from “hell” or whatever. The Vampirella premise has always been one of satirical science fiction, Barbarella with fangs. I have nothing personal against the occult and, for sure, witches and werewolves and other slimy creatures will indeed populate the book because they, like many readers, mistake Vampirella for one of their ilk. But she’s not. She’s not “un-dead,” and grates against being labeled as such.

For my at-bat with the character, I chose not to propose a retrospective narrative -- here’s an homage or commentary on the character’s legacy -- but instead asked to do what most every writer before has done, explore the character and premise in my own voice. While I’m sure a more nostalgia-themed storyline might be more satisfying and even appropriate for Vampirella fans, I myself as a reader wouldn’t be as intrigued by that as I would by the prospect of a new interpretation. Sting Sings Cardi B.

A legacy theme is safer ground, but I’d rather swing the gate open for readers who’ve never been into the character before; even those who might be reluctant to read the book given the premise’s risqué imagery.

Rather than look back or even to be overly self-referential, I thought it best to approach the comic book in similar fashion to the way another medium might approach it. What might a Netflix Vampirella series be like? Netflix would not assume its viewers have a 50-year intimate familiarity with the character, but would introduce the character as new, presuming nothing, and reinterpret the premise for its audience.

The trend in superhero interpretations for film and streaming media has been to filter out the sillier or illogical aspects of these properties because, without doing so, much of the genre would translate as camp. So Netflix presented more sober visions of Marvel characters while Jon Favreau, whose Iron Man remains the gold standard of superhero movies, along with Zack Snyder, Christopher Nolan, Patty Jenkins, Ryan Coogler, the Russos Brothers and others have created these living comic books containing all of the magic of the legends we all grew up with while making them all the more believable and credible to a modern adult audience.

BB: What other characters may be important for the reader to know as this series begins?

CP: None. You don’t have to know anything at all about Vampirella or her history. Zip. I’ve taken basically the same approach I took with DEATHSTROKE, which (if you start with Rebirth volume one), you need know absolutely nothing about the character or the premise. In fact, I wrote that launch for readers who’ve never even read a comic book before. VAMPIRELLA #1 should, ideally, be similarly as accessible.

BB: Can you introduce some of your other protagonists here?

CP: Well, sure, I could, but I don’t think it would be particularly helpful out of context of the story. Suffice it to say there will be a number of new faces in her supporting cast, but talking about them here will be like, “So?” (Laughs)

BB: … And a big-bad?

CP: DEATHSTROKE notwithstanding, I’m not much of a villain guy. I think the Star Trek film franchise was totally weighted down by the studio’s persistent attempts to re-create the definitive of those feature films, The Wrath of Khan, the only film in which a “villain” actually worked. The best of the Star Trek TV stuff, regardless of iteration, typically featured no bad guy but explored the human experience through allegory. I hope to do that with Vampirella.

Having said that, it is her 50th and most of her classic rogue’s gallery will be making her life miserable as we go. Virtually all of them, however, will be tweaked in (hopefully) interesting ways.

BB: Talk a little about working with European star/American star-in-the-making, artist Ergün Gündüz.

CP: He’s amazing. What an awesome gift. I told editor Matt Idelson, “This Ergün guy makes me look like Brian K. Vaughan,” whose laptop I am not worthy to plug in. While my prose writing (shameless plug stands on its on, my comics writing is only as good as the person illustrating it. The illustrator has enormous influence over and impact on the reader. Ergün’s wit, creativity, and breathtaking color work powerfully embellishes my scripts which are, in the early running for most any writer, mostly me thrashing about trying to find the soul of the character. When I see Ergun’s visuals, those characters spring to life and start talking back to me.

Thanks to Ergün, the book has a very cool underground look to it which, along with letterer Willie Schubert’s special “extra-round” open balloon style (borrowed from his stint on The Question), creates a very different flavor overall from what readers might expect from me. That’s because none of it really comes from me, it comes from us. Comics are a team effort; Willie and Ergün shaping my opinions about the world and the characters in it.

BB: Will Vampirella #1 be a good jump-on point for new readers unfamiliar with this character, celebrating her golden anniversary?

CP: Absolutely. No homework required. Bring your sense of adventure and your sense of humor.