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Jerwa Does Double Duty With “Pantha” & “Vampirella”

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When she first sunk her teeth into the comics world on the cover of magazines from Warren Publishing in the 1970s, Vampirella was instantly a memorable horror culture character thanks to a scantily clad, striking design by Trina Robbins. But with the contributions of co-creator Forrest J Ackerman and creators like Frank Frazetta, Archie Goodwin, Jose Gonzalez and others, she soon developed a weird world of adventures all her own that have kept her active in comics on through to the modern Dynamite Entertainment series.

That world of characters gets a news spotlight from a new writer starting today as Brandon Jerwa launches “Pantha” — a new ongoing series starring the cat-metamorphing heroine from Vampi’s world — before taking over the regular “Vampirella” title with the incoming issue #21. No stranger to properties that mix horror and sex appeal, Jerwa spoke with CBR News about his plans for both series, delving into his early exposure to the world of Vampirella, his love of the depth that world holds including the team of “weirdo superheroes” that will appear in “Pantha” amidst ongoing crime and ancient Egyptian story turns and his plans to shake up “Vampirella” in time for her milestone 25th issue while not throwing out the reinvention brought on by his frequent writing partner Eric Trautmann.

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CBR News: Brandon, the Vampirella world is one that by now has a long and varied history within comics, and with a book like “Pantha” we’re starting to see a rebirth of characters beyond Vampi under Dynamite’s watch. What’s your particular origin with characters as a reader and how have those early encounters impacted your work here?

I had jumped in to write issue #11 and the first Annual, so I’ve been in close communication with Eric about story for months now, even before there was an inkling of me taking over the book. I think people who have been reading the book since the early days of the Dynamite relaunch will probably be amused to see how some story points from those two issues are going to spin off into “Very Big Things” before Eric even finishes his run.

There will be some unfinished business to deal with in my first story arc, but believe me when I tell you that I’m hitting the ground running. You can pick up my issue #21 as a first-time reader (that’s always crucial to me) but you’d be missing out on some great stuff by Eric in the issues that precede it. By the last page of issue #25, however, everything will be different. There’s a very distinct feeling of “no turning back” in Eric’s last issues, and that leads beautifully into me taking a baseball bat to the whole shebang.

One of the main additions to Eric’s take on Vampirella was her new sidekick, Sofia. Is that point of view character someone you’ll be sticking with as the new issues begin to role out, or will we be seeing Vampirella’s world from a new angle?

Sofia is about to become a very major figure in the series, and we’re going to see exactly how intense an effect she’s had on Vampirella since she first debuted. My pal Mark Rahner is writing “Vampirella Annual” #2, and even though it’s a done-in-one, it definitely draws from that aspect of the overall story.

The first arc you have on the book is called “Inquisition” which promises to bring a lot of change to a series that’s already been full of blood and religiosity. What can you tell us about the Inquisitor coming to threaten our lead, and how is the whole world of vampires and creepy creatures she inhabits tied to this conflict?

I don’t want to give too much away right now (sorry), but I will tell you that there are powerful forces beyond our world who watch everything, and they’re worried that Vampirella doesn’t have her head on straight anymore. The balance between Chaos and Order is tilting pretty badly, and Vampi’s going to have to prove that she’s on the right side of the fight, lest she be forcibly removed from that fight. Permanently.

Artist Heubert Khan Michael is coming back to the book to kick off the series with you. What does that kind of creative continuity mean for you as the new writer on the block?

Heubert has been amazing. It really is like he can see inside my head sometimes. That’s been especially rewarding for me, because it takes the pressure off of trying to communicate the established bits of visual language of the book in my scripts, and lets me focus on the actual writing.

Overall, both of these characters come from a particular part of comics history and have a shared tone and sensibility. When you look over all their past exploits separate and together, you’ve got to be thinking of them as a pair. What can you say about the future of the Vampirella world and where “Vampirella” and “Pantha” may intersect in the future?

For me, these characters are really a blast to write. They’re monsters, superheroes, adventurers, and sci-fi heroines, all wrapped up into strong female leads.

I know there will be people who look at the covers of the books and immediately dismiss them as hyper-sexual-exploitation-titillation-whatever. I would invite those people to judge the books as an entire package, and then see how they feel. Vampirella is a fantastic character with an amazing history of creative talent on her pedigree, and her supporting cast will be a big part of my stories as we move ahead. I genuinely hope that I’m writing Vampirella’s adventures for years to come, because I’m having a great time.

“Pantha” #1 is on sale today from Dynamite Entertainment. “Vampirella” #21 goes on sale next month.