One thing comic readers respond to is a major return, and in the world of Dynamite Entertainment’s “Vampirella” there’s no name with more history on the character than writer Tom Sniegoski. In the ’90s heyday for the vampire vixen, Sniegoski penned more issues of her regular adventures than any other writer, and its that familiarity that Dynamite hopes will bring readers to the six-issue “Vampirella Strikes” mini series the writer is prepping with artist Johnny Desjardins for January.
But the writer is coming back the heroine with a different skill set under his belt has he’s spent the better part of the past decade writing novels for the Young Adult and sci-fi market. Comic readers still see Sniegoski’s work gracing the occasional series like “Angel” or “B.P.R.D.: The Hollow Earth,” but he spends most of his days crafting prose such as the expansion of Jeff Smith’s “Bone” called “Quest For The Spark” and older faire like “The Fallen.” Still, it was that experience outside of comics that led to his Vampirella return, even as he recalled the fan enthusiasm that led him to the character in the first place.
“I was primarily a huge fan of ‘Creepy’ and “Eerie,’ and ‘Vampirella’ was on the periphery,” Sniegoski told CBR News of how he started with the character. “I was familiar with it, but I really, really got into the reoccurring characters that were in ‘Eerie.’ I’d met Meloney Crawford Chadwick who was the Editor-in-Chief of Harris Comics. At the time when I met her, Harris were just familiarizing themselves with what they’d acquired from Warren. So my knowledge of this material was useful to them, I think. They said, ‘We think we’ve got the rights to all the Warren characters’ and I just started chattering away at them. Meloney saw potential in that ‘This guy knows stuff about this material we don’t…let’s hold onto him!'”
Talk of his expertise eventually led to Sniegoski wrapping Harris’ first run of “Vampirella” before embarking on a 26-issue run on “Vengeance of Vampirella.” “I think what it was was the fact that given the opportunity to work on the character, I realized how cool she really was and how versatile she was,” he said. “In my mind at the time I was asked about it, I was like, ‘Vampirella. Huh.’ I had no spark of inspiration, but I went back to the black and white stuff that Archie Goodwin had done, and it made me realize that this is the type of character that’s very similar to the stuff I loved in comics from my childhood like Marvel’s ‘Werewolf By Night’ or ‘Tomb of Dracula.’ Those monster books would mix horrific situations with cool action scenes and sci-fi stuff. They were really fun books, and that was the attitude I took with Vampirella -Â here’s a character you can do anything with.”
Since then, Sniegoski said that his time as a YA novelist has changed how he approaches comics and, by extension, Vampirella. But it hasn’t changed things too much. “I think writing comics in general is a separate part of my brain. I always return to a very specific part of my brain for comics because they’re my first love. Yeah, I’ve written close to 40 novels, but comics is what is fun. Comics is one of those things where when I wake up in the morning and it’s a comics writing day I’m excited. And I always approach them in a similar way,” he explained. “My approach may be a little different just because I’ve been doing books for so long. I think I’m making certain characters a little deeper and a little more layered, certain plots more complex than I normally would have done at Harris. Those were really straight-ahead action story arcs, and this new story has all that, but it has a little more to it as well. That comes when you write books every day. It’s the kind of writing where that stuff seeps its way into the work.”
“Returning to Vampirella was a little daunting because I haven’t worked on the character for so long. It’s like that saying ‘You can’t go home again.’ I was feeling like, ‘Hopefully I’ll still understand her.’ I’d say a few hours into plotting and laying out the first issue was like getting back on the bike. It was fun again! I was going back to the last issue I did for Harris and was picking up where I left off.”
The writer will pick up from the Dynamite’s new take on the character rather than follow directly on his previous work, however. “I wanted to approach this as if it was my first crack at the character. I didn’t want to go back to what I’d done originally and continue. I don’t think Dynamite’s President Nick Barrucci wanted that. I think he wanted this fresh but also a little familiar. I didn’t pick up any of the continuity I’d established in my original run. I read all the new issues from Dynamite so I could see where the character is and what she’s been up to, and then I brought my original voice from the Harris take to it.”
Meanwhile, the core of “Vampirella Strikes” revolves around some heavenly story themes Sniegoski has built in his novel writing career. “Nick was familiar with a lot of the YA and adult books I’ve been writing now and that I have a certain following for them,” he said. “Of the two big book series I write now, one is called ‘The Fallen’ which I do for Simon & Schuster. It involves fallen angels. Then I also write a series for Penguin featuring a character called Remy Chandler who is an angel private investigator. So I have a reputation as a guy who plays with a Christian mythology, you might say, with angels and devils and God and all that. So Nick said, ‘Why don’t you introduce something like that into Vampirella? Let’s take her someplace that nobody else is playing with, and maybe some of your book audience will follow you over and give Vampirella a try.’ I was all for that since I have more than enough ideas and research I’ve done to create a kind of religious niche for the character to play in.”
On the art side of the equation, the writer is joined by another Vampirella veteran, though one of a more recent vinage, in Johnny Desjardins. “When I started to get pages, I was literally floored by how good he was. He kind of has that classic Vampirella style that I haven’t seen from anybody in a long time. He has that feel of the’70s artists that DC brought over from the Philippines -Â Nestor Redondo and Alfredo Alcala and the like. Johnny has that approach but with a modern spin. There’s a certain look in the way he uses shadows and action that’s reminiscent of that classic ink work you’d see on John Buscema’s ‘Savage Sword of Conan.’ It’s really powerful, but also very modern with a little bit of the Whllce Portacio style to his art with the angels and the monsters wearing armor.”
Overall, Sniegoski said that he’s happy for “Vampirella Strikes” to mark his return to the character for hopefully more stories to come. “Depending on the book stuff, if time permits I’d love to do more Vampi or more comics in general. I’ve always considered comic book writing more fun, and I could use more fun,” he laughed. “I’m hoping a lot of the old fans of my work come back out for ‘Vampirella Strikes,’ but I’m not sure how many of them there will be. So I’m trying to make this a book that anyone can come and pick up from out of the cold. Anyone can come in, get a general idea of who Vampirella is and go along for the ride.”
“Vampirella Strikes” #1 ships from Dynamite Entertainment this January.