Elvis is a certified global icon who has been elevated to near sainthood for his endless contributions to the musical forms of gospel, soul, R&B, and good old rock 'n' roll.
Celebrating the timeless attraction to the Mississippi-born singer, a little cult horror film from 2002 titled Bubba Ho-Tep reimagined the King as a fearless monster hunter in bell-bottomed jumpsuits and high-collared shirts. It was directed by Phantasm's Don Coscarelli and starred The Evil Dead's Bruce Campbell as an aged Elvis who awakens in a nursing facility and becomes embroiled in a comedic plot involving the curse of an ancient mummy preying on the retirement home's silver seniors.
Now a racy new Bubba Ho-Tep prequel comic series is strumming its way into comic shops today from IDW. It resurrects Elvis as a Swingin' Seventies superhero called upon by Tricky Dick to help save the planet from blood-chugging extraterrestrials bent on world domination.
Co-written by original novella author Joe Lansdale and Joshua Jabcuga (The Mummy, Scarface), with art by Tadd Galusha, the premiere issue has a super sweet '70s vibe and a hip horror swagger to match.
Warning: Potentially NSFW material on the horizon!!
SYFY WIRE chatted with series artist Galusha (Godzilla: Rage Against Time, TMNT/Ghostbusters 2) to hear about diving into the Elvis scene, his memories of the cool cult film starring Campbell, and why the legend of the King will live on forever.
After the chat, check out our provocative 6-page preview with variant covers and character concept art in the gallery below. IDW's Bubba Ho-Tep and the Cosmic Blood-Suckers #1 invades comic shops on May 16.
Where did this Bubba Ho-Tep project originate, and how did you become involved?
TADD GALUSHA: I’m not sure on the exact origins of the project, but I had been working with IDW to find a more lengthy art gig for me. What I should say is that IDW was wonderful enough to want to have me work on a project that they thought would be right for my art stylings. They approached me with Bubba Ho-Tep and I said “YES! What do I need to do to make this happen!”
What can readers expect from this sexy, twisted Elvis story, and what sort of research did you dive into while creating the art?
I’ve always been a fan of the late '60s-'70s films. There are a lot of cult and grindhouse films from the era that unbeknownst to a lot of people still visually linger in the cultural zeitgeist. So I leaned on that material as reference. So don’t be surprised if there are visuals that parallel Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! or even The White Buffalo. And if people are wondering, “What are these films?”, they are the films of my youth and are definitely worth checking out. I should probably add that I watched a lot of interviews with Elvis from the '70s on YouTube, especially the “karate” stuff. Pure gold!
Were you a fan of the 2002 Bruce Campbell film, and why did you think it would make for a compelling comic?
I loved the original film, so the idea of doing a prequel seemed really compelling. Whenever I see an interesting character I always end up wanting to know more about how they got to that current juncture in their life. This project was not only an opportunity to do that with a character that’s already incredibly layered, both in fiction and real life, but for a film that I completely adored. “Come on, man, who doesn’t want to ride shotgun with the King?!” Hahahahahaha!
What was your collaboration process with Joe Lansdale and Joshua Jabcuga like?
Collaboration with the writers was essential. I mostly worked directly with Jabcuga. Adaptations from novels are extremely difficult to do. They are just packed with so much information that unless you have an unlimited page count and nonexistent deadline, it’s almost impossible to include every little detail. So working directly with the writer was essential to ensure that all of the world/story-building properties from Joe’s original book were clearly there and translated smoothly onto the comic page.
How did you decide upon a particular tone and art style to best serve the comedic horror tale?
Style and tone, huh? Honestly, I just go with my first impressions. I knew that I wanted to spot a lot of heavy shadow, but most important was the body language and expression of the characters. There is a lot of story development in the beginning, so I needed to make sure that I visually made the characters true to their dialogue. The big thing was getting Elvis right. Even if he was just in the background of a panel I really wanted to make sure that I drew him correctly, so that when he appeared people know, “Yup, that’s ol’ Elvis right there.”
Ryan Hill's flashy colors are an integral part to your art in this nostalgic sci-fi adventure. What references did you give him in your color choices, and are you pleased with the end result?
Ryan’s a total pro! I’d seen his work on the Judge Dredd book, so I knew I was in good hands. I just made sure that he had my character concepts and I provided a few notes here and there for ideas I had on lighting a few scenes. The good thing is at this level you know that the people you’re working with have a similar mindset as doing the best they can, and it usually reflects in the work.
Why does the Elvis phenomenon still hold such sway over pop culture?
You know, since working on this I’ve used what little free time I’ve had to try and get a better understanding about the man. He is completely fascinating. You could argue the first world superstar that almost half century later is still fairly relevant in some shape or form. I think what makes his presence so resilient is his story. A man who literally came from nothing, and then accomplished through, not just talent, but passion and hard work what (especially at the time) seemed unfathomable. The man’s impact is something to be studied. That’s pretty impressive for a poor country boy playing a few tunes.
Do you have a favorite song or movie of the King?
I’m not a huge fan of his flicks, but I always liked Kid Galahad. Elvis plays the tough boxer, which looking at him he obviously wasn’t, hehe. All while you had a little unknown actor at the time, Charles Bronson, a legit tough dude playing his trainer. It was just an odd pairing, especially since Bronson was the only guy in the flick who looked in shape enough to actually play a boxer. It’s a solid flick, but my sister would argue that it's no Blue Hawaii.
I just hope people enjoy the series. I really want to give the Bubba Ho-Tep fans what they’ve been waiting all these years for and hopefully bring in some new fans who might not be aware of original film and novels. It’s structured in a way that it just builds with momentum, like any great grind film, in my opinion. So if you like the first issue you’ll probably enjoy the second issue even more and the third issue even more than that, and so on and so on!
It’s Elvis, man! He’s the king!
Strut into the NSFW preview below, then let us know what you think!