In its first release for the newly-minted “National Comics” line of one-shots, DC Comics set Jeff Lemire loose on Kid Eternity — a character that, while obscure, has anchored a number of series over the years. For its second go round, DC is digging a bit deeper into its cast of characters, but amping up the high concept twists to compensate.
On sale August 29, “National Comics: Looker” #1 by Ian Edginton and Mike S. Miller (under a cover by Guillem March) takes a fresh spin on both a longtime “Batman & The Outsiders” supporting character and the concept of vampires in the DCU. While the New 52 ongoing “I, Vampire” has taken a much more horrific look at how bloodsuckers function in the universe, this story has a bit more fun with the tale of a supermodel turned neck-biter who has to balance running a talent agency with the things that go bump in the night.
CBR News spoke with Edginton about the story, and the writer revealed that he’ll be vamping up the life of Emily Briggs with a little bit of ’80s TV style, a little bit of life-changing bloodlust and a little bit of high fashion drama.
So let’s start with the concept of “National Comics” itself! It’s a very cool, very rare kind of book — the one-issue anthology. Knowing you’ve done some work with DC’s West Coast office before, I assume this gig came from those parts. What can you tell me about how this job came about and what your first response was to the “National” concept in general?
Ian Edginton: Ben Abernathy, who was my editor on the “Victorian Undead” series I wrote for WildStorm, called me up, ran the idea by me and asked if it was something I’d be interested in. I loved the sound of the core concept — supermodel turns vampire — it’s got a kitsch, 1980/90’s TV show sound to it. You can just see the big hair and shoulder-pads! I knew that wasn’t what they were actually looking for, but just the notion of it was “out there” enough to get me hooked.
As for the “National Comics” concept, if functions as both a kind of pilot and also sort of a mid-season episode of a TV show. When you jump in, the “series” is already up and running. There’s reference to how Emily Briggs became a vampire, but it’s not primarily her origin story — that’s only a small part of it. When we meet Emily, her world and the people in it, they’re already established and interacting with each other. There’s an element of mystery and intrigue about what’s going on, who these people are and how what’s happened came to be. I want it to draw you in, carry you along and leave you wanting more.
Was this a character you were familiar with from Mike Barr and company’s “Batman and the Outsiders” stories, or did your attraction lay more in the general hook?
I was aware of her. I’d read the “Batman and the Outsiders” books back in the day, but really only had a vague recollection. I was ready to go back and do my research, but ultimately it wasn’t necessary. I was told that I just had to take the stripped down, core concept and run with it.
At its heart, this seems to be a more focused version of Looker for the New 52. Though she had a sometimes convoluted origin back in her original appearances, the idea of a vampire supermodel is pretty simple. Are you a vampire person in general?
There’s the feeling that post-“Twilight” (and even before that) vampires have been done to death. That said, series like “American Vampire” show that there’s still plenty of life in the old bloodsucking critters yet!
What appealed to me about Looker was that central idea. What’s happens to someone whose looks are their living when they can no longer go out in daylight? Or show up on film? How do they survive?
Emily is a tough and as hardnosed as they come. She’s supremely pragmatic, having survived and prospered in the fickle, predatory fashion industry right from her early teens. Compared to what’s she’s had to deal with over the years, becoming a vampire isn’t that big a problem. It’s just a new thing to endure and overcome.
Originally, Looker’s powers combined some general metaphysical tricks alongside vampirism to give her the attributes of a bloodsucker but fewer of the weaknesses. Is there a similar twist in how Emily’s powers manifest here?
I’ve cherry-picked from the vampire lore. Direct exposure to sunlight burns and can kill, mirrors and, by extension, cameras don’t hold reflections or retain an image. A stake through the heart will kill, although I’d defy anyone, vampire or not, to come back from that last one. Being repelled by religious symbols, being able to turn into mist, bats, rats or wolves, I’ve avoided for now.
Instead, we have some new twists that have arisen thanks to modern, social networking technology. For example, Emily can go out at night but she’s famous, people recognize her and take photo’s of her on their phones, which of course she won’t appear on. How do you deal with something like that?
Pre-New 52 Looker had a number of wrinkles and twists to who she was, but she also had a large cast she was associated with via the Outsiders. Can we expect to see past locales like Abyssia factor in or any appearances by the Outsiders over the course of this story?
Not in this story. It’s only a 32-page book, so for the sake of clarity, I’ve tried to keep it lean and linear. As to what happens afterwards, if this book proves to be popular enough, I couldn’t say.
What’s strikes you most about Emily as a character — both in how she views the world and how that affects how she uses her powers?
She’s very much the pragmatist. She’s not into hand-wringing or soul searching. Once she’s dealt with the fact that she’s become a vampire, she moves on to practicalities. She’s rich, but that won’t last forever, and given that she could live a very long time, she needs a source of income and a cover. Hence she “retires” through illness but establishes her own fashion agency — Looker. She also needs to feed but has her own unique moral code regarding that. More by accident than design, she also acquires an entourage, which turns out to be one of the best things that happens to her. Roma and Charles do more than just the day-to-day management of the Looker agency. Due to her interaction with them, they help ground her and make her more human.
During her warm days, Emily would do anything to succeed. It wasn’t enough that she had to succeed but that everyone else had to fail and she became very skilled at it. Now that she’s undead, all that goal chasing seems kind of redundant. Becoming one of the undead has forced her to comprehensively reevaluate her life.
These “National Comics” books are still a very new idea. How did you approach your issue in terms of telling the character’s origin vs. just trying to get a story you thought was indicative of what could be done with the concept?
The two weren’t exclusive. They weren’t either/or. Emily’s origin is part of the actual story. It’s the vehicle by which we’re introduced to her and her world.
You’ve written comics in a number of formats — graphic novels, serialized stories, webcomics, miniseries, etc. What do you find most challenging and most rewarding about the single-issue format? How did “Looker” meet your expectations for how this kind of comic comes together?
The challenge is to tell a solid, entertaining, stand-alone story within the allotted space. To some degree, it’s very much a technical exercise. It’s a matter of keeping the story lean and tight and making every page, every panel count. It can be tricky, because invariably there’s material, scenes or dialogue exchanges and so on, that you really like but practically there’s no room for them, so they have to go. At the end you’re left with a neat, self-contained story that works as a single issue but also whets your appetite for more. The book’s a window onto Emily’s world that you’re eager to know more about.
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