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Elvira's wild comic book history
Cassandra Peterson is no stranger to camp, and even going all the way back to her early days as a performer, one-liners and fourth-wall-breaking tendencies defined a lot of her onstage persona. Her dynamic presence and tongue-in-cheek delivery solidified her status as one of the great horror hosts of her era, paying tribute to those that came before, like Vampira, while offering the world something completely new.
There is no arguing that Elvira is an icon, and her impact on comedic horror can't be understated. She first showed up as a horror host in the early '80s with a new combination of a Valley Girl persona filtered through cheesy horror staples and classic camp. Yet, it's not only the big and small screens that benefit from her presence but the wild world of comics, as well. Though it might seem strange, Elvira has actually appeared in well over one hundred comics over the last four decades, making her not just a cult TV star, but comic book royalty.
DC was the first to take up the reins on an Elvira ongoing, though it would prove to be a short-lived attempt. Elvira's House of Mystery tied into DC's early horror comics and occasionally featured her interacting with Cain and Abel, who were once comic book horror hosts that ultimately became major players in Neil Gaiman's Sandman Universe. This series utilized Elvira as a horror host, but the stories themselves had very little to do with her, nor were they particularly horror-themed. Though there are some classic Elvira gags in the pages of Elvira's House of Mystery, it falls a little flat by mostly omitting the character that brought us to the book.
Claypool Comics debuted their Elvira: Mistress of the Dark series in 1993 as one of its flagship titles. Like the DC series, it was run as an anthology book, but the stories actually starred Elvira this time around. Creators like Jo Duffy and Kurt Busiek penned short, comedic tales that fit in more with her movie personality, dropping her into chaotic situations and leaving her to quip her way out of them. Despite running for a highly impressive 166 issues, tracking any down these days usually entails some digging, but it's worth it for how the creators were able to capture what makes Elvira such a fun character. The stories are all in black and white and the art can seem pretty rushed at times, but translating Cassandra Peterson's animated personality into a series of still images remains an admirable feat.
There was supposed to be an Elvira series in 2013, but it never materialized, so her next appearance in the comics wasn't until Dynamite's Elvira: Mistress of the Dark. This series focused on Elvira being dropped in the middle of the famous party at Lord Byron's where Mary Shelley came up with the idea for Frankenstein. The story is a campy romp that sees Elvira hopping her way through horror history. More importantly, Dynamite books allowed some of Peterson's previously scrapped ideas to see the light of day. According to her, Elvira going to Hell was a full concept that Peterson had years before it showed up as one of the main plots of Mistress of the Dark. In the follow-up series, The Shape of Elvira, the character felt truly at home parodying a modern film like The Shape of Water.
After years of various creators bringing Elvira comics to life, Elvira herself is finally about to write one of her own. Her story The Omega Ma'am just closed its Kickstarter, which cleared its $6,666 goal by more than 100k. These surprising numbers led Peterson to joke, "I better start doing a Kickstarter for a movie, or something. [...] I'm gonna do a Kickstarter for my next vacation." Along with the prior Elvira creative team of writer David Avallone and artist Dave Acosta, The Omega Ma'am will focus on Elvira waking up from a hairspray coma in a post-apocalyptic world. In short, it's exactly the Elvira story we want to read right now.
Cassandra Peterson is a beloved icon, but she's also an independent artist who has done the work to keep Elvira in the public consciousness. When she couldn't find a studio to back the sequel to Mistress of the Dark, she ultimately went all-in and made the thing herself, and that's the kind of can-do attitude we appreciate in a horror host. For longtime fans, it's beyond exciting to think of what more Peterson-penned Elvira comics will look like. Elvira comics have been a lot of fun so far, and with Peterson taking more of an active role in the books, it can only get better from here.