Death of Elvira Writer and Cassandra Peterson Discuss Horror Hostess’ Final Adventure
After being in the limelight for 40 years, Dynamite Entertainment has decided to take Elvira on a journey to… the afterlife?! Written by long Elvira the writer David Avallone, Death of Elvira is a super-sized comic that follows the hostess of horror losing that deadly reel for something more appropriate. But this graveyard case must first wait for her to solve his murder. Mystery part whodunit and part reflection of the life of the queen of Halloween, Death of Elvira brings joyful puns, killer anecdotes, and a thrilling new chapter that will delight diehard fans familiar with Elvira’s story. As Elvira, aka Cassandra Peterson, warned, “Don’t panic horror dogs, there’s more to this mind-blowing story than meets the eye!”
During an exclusive interview with CBR, Death of Elvira Writer David Avallone and Cassandra Peterson discussed shaping the mystery of Elvira’s murder. They reflected on how they chose the ghouls and girls to appear in this tale and celebrated bringing a mystical dimension to Gonk. Also included with this interview is a preview of Death of ElviraThe inside pages of are drawn by artist Silvia Califano and the cover by Dave Acosta and John Royle, respectively.
CBR: Within the Death of Elvira, there is an opening sequence with many people who have been part of Cassandra’s real life. How did you determine who would or would not be there?
Cassandra Peterson: Oh, well, that was pretty much up to David. David, you did all that.
David Avalone: Yeah, the backstory is that it was going to be the 40th anniversary, and I thought it would be a good idea to honor the whole life story of Elvira and Cassandra. We got together for a drink, and I said, “Tell me all the ridiculous stories. And she told me what ridiculous stories could fit into three martinis.
Pierreson: Well, it was you. [laughs]
Avalone: [laughs] It was, yeah. I’m the drinker… That’s pretty much what defines it. There are major anecdotes that are really funny that involve famous people. And that made it really easy to cut back. It’s not something I spent a lot of time thinking about. It was more a question of if I have these 10 stories, how do I fit them into 32 pages?
Yeah, I was surprised Vincent Price didn’t come this time!
Pierreson: Well, we just covered a little Vincent Price, in the last how many comics…? Five?
Avalone: Five! Vincent got his due, so we were able to keep him out of this one.
Cassandra, I recently read your memoir, Sincerely, Elvira, and I was curious if through this experience of writing about Elvira’s legacy and your life, were there any moments that were standouts for you in this comic? Anecdotes that you would like to explore a different or more wacky facet like the trip to Rome for example?
Pierreson: My God, I don’t know. I gave it to David. We talked a lot about this stuff and then he decides what happens, whether to blow it up or just keep it a little bit lower. So this part, I just feed him and he understands…
Avalone: …of the raw material of life. [laughs] Yeah, I’m trying to think if there was an anecdote I heard that I failed to cram, and I don’t think there was. But it should also be noted that Sincerely, Elvira was not done. One of the reasons we had to have a drink is that I couldn’t read cruelly yours, and I certainly didn’t get to read it and finish the comic. So I thought, “Give me the meat! Tell me the story.” So, I think Cassandra was preselecting by what are the things at the top of her memory? What are the things that really stood out? And yes, the book is much darker in the time of Rome than the comic. But it just wasn’t that kind of comic. We weren’t going to go too far in the dark stuff —
Pierreson: — especially in a comic, everyone likes that. [laughs]
Speaking of some of Death of ElviraIn the lighter moments, I loved how Gonk had his own point of view and we even get to see Snoopy-style animations!
Pierreson: Yeah, I loved that too.
I’d love to hear both of you talk more about why it was so important to include Gonk here and let him speak.
Pierreson: Yeah, that was one of my favorite parts. Honestly, David, you kicked ass with that.
Avalone: I have to give credit – I always had the idea that Gonk would be the narrator of childhood and would quietly explain that these dogs passed their life story to each other, somehow, like by magic. But the idea of the visual was entirely Silvia Califano, the artist.
I was sitting and wondering, “How do you draw Elvira at eight without being offensive and weird and scary?” And he sent me this drawing of Elvira like Peanuts‘ Lucy van Pelt and Gonk as Snoopy and said, ‘I was thinking about that for the flashback. I was like, “Holy shit. This solves a problem we haven’t even discussed yet.”
Pierreson: I know, I like it. I laughed so hard when I saw this. I thought that was hilarious. And it’s so funny – going back to the Gonk thing – I have fans who are always like, “How’s Gonk?” [laughs] Gonk would be 45 right now in human years, not even dog years —
Avalone: — It’s true, he would be about 400 years old in canine years.
Pierreson: Anyway, I love that you were able to bring him in and have an explanation of why he’s still there.
Avalone: Sometimes I wish I was the kind of writer who could write that and just brush off the fact that the dog is 400 years old. It’s just like, “No, come on! We have to be on at least the fourth or third Gonk. There’s no way it’s going to be the same.”
Pierreson: Yeah, I was like, “This is getting weird because people are going to believe Elvira is dead but not why Gonk is still alive.” They’ll be like “Hey man, Gonk can’t be alive yet.”
Speaking of Silvia Califano’s work, are there any particular panels that took your breath away or that you can’t wait for readers to see?
Pierreson: I have to go back to the Snoopy and Lucy panels. There were a lot of signs that I really loved. But this one made me laugh so much.
Avalone: I don’t know if we should spoil it… But I bet you like the cameo on the last two pages.
“I bet you didn’t know this model was available in red. What a beautiful line! It was fantastic.
Avalon: Thank you.
There are so many good one-liners in Death of Elvira. There’s one where Elvira basically says, “I’m lucky Rick Baker owed me a favor.” I was curious if this was just a fun one-liner or was it referencing a story that didn’t make it into the comics?
Avalone: It was literally just a throwaway to explain how she had such amazing and convincing makeup in the bar scene –
Pierreson: It’s funny because Rick Baker was a judge on my reality show, The search for the next Elviraso I don’t know if that would mean he owes me a favor or that I owe him one.
Avalone: Maybe that’s why he was in my head instead of 100 other makeup artists. A lot of the most famous guys I grew up with like Stuart Freeborn and Dick Smith are gone now, so Rick Baker was kind of the last man standing to do that gag.
Pierreson: Yeah, and for me, Rick Baker’s number one.
You’ve both worked on the voice of Elvira for so many years – and I know you’re a little humble Cassandra saying “Oh, that’s it, David”, when you’ve always had artistic control on your voice and that the comics have been a joint partnership. For you two, what are the rules you have for nailing Elvira’s voice?
Pierreson: For me, the voice of Elvira, for any project, I honestly consider myself a teenager — being smart, not making fun of anyone, a know-it-all, even if I don’t know anything, but Elvira acts like she knows everything and can do it her way.
Avalone: For me, when I accepted the gig, and came back and watched Elvira: mistress of darkness, what struck me was what was so different from all previous versions of this character. All similar characters like Lily Munster and Vampira and Morticia Adams are all languid, European and mysterious. Elvira has that look talking like a Jewish Catskills comic doing a blues set after midnight, the one that’s not for your child. For me, it’s the tension between this beautiful woman in a revealing dress who looks like every languid horror character from a Hammer Horror movie — but these women are still sleepwalkers and not very talkative. Instead, she pumps out these two-way/stand-up comedic jokes and it’s that tension that’s funny. She’s the character, a very attractive woman who has the personality of a 50s comic book working in blue – no real swearing, but a ton of sexual innuendo and as goofy as can be.
Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about Death of Elvira?
Peterson: Yes, I’m still alive!
Peterson: This is the most important thing for everyone to know.
Avalone: When I first proposed it to Dynamite and Cassandra, I literally said, “Look, it’s like the Death of Superman, don’t worry about the title. She comes back in 32 pages, I swear to God.”
Pierreson: Yes, I was a little alarmed by the title… [laughs]
Avalone: [laughs] Yes, of course!
Elvira’s death The Indiegogo campaign ends Friday, April 15 at midnight PST. Contributors can expect to receive their spooky copy in June 2022.
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