That single word was enough to strike fear into the hearts of even the most hardened, battle-ready of MAPPO’s genetically engineered Elephantmen army. Those simple syllables represented a one-woman war against the ferocious beasts that unflinchingly slaughtered countless human resistance warriors. It is the name of a soldier who died for her cause – but alas, she lives again.
In July, writer Richard Starkings and artist Moritat will revisit the character that helped make “Elephantmen: War Toys” such a standout success. Yvette emerges once more in a brand-new one-shot titled “Elephantmen War Toys: Yvette,” a 32-page issue that returns to the French warrior’s rampage against the Elephantmen. And while the character might not actually be coming back to life, it’s nonetheless a thrill to see Yvette going toe-to-toe against the animalistic soldiers for another round.
Richard Starkings and Moritat spoke with CBR News about the upcoming one-shot, their infatuation with the character of Yvette, and how the issue will influence upcoming events in the “Elephantmen” franchise.
CBR: What makes Yvette so compelling?
Richard Starkings: She’s a survivor, a young girl who learned to fight for her life because she had to, not because she wanted to. She’s fueled by anger, just as so many French Resistance fighters were motivated in World War II when the Nazis invaded their country and killed or imprisoned those who opposed or threatened them. It was left to those who were not seen as an immediate threat to resist the German invaders, and in “War Toys,” Yvette falls into that same category. The difference with the Elephantmen is that MAPPO’s orders were the total extermination of all survivors in Europe, so Yvette’s survival was always a matter of constant urgency.
Not a lot has been made public about the Yvette one-shot. Can you give us a basic sense of the issue’s story?
RS: Not without giving too much away!
Boo Cook injured his shoulder earlier this year and was unable to draw for a month. It’s the curse of “Elephantmen” – in previous years, the same thing has happened to both Ian Churchill and Moritat while they were working on the series! Yvette was a very popular character and when I needed a story to buy Boo Cook more time to work on “Elephantmen” #21, it seemed very natural to go back to Yvette. So that’s the story **behind** the story.
Did you feel there was unfinished business with her character?
RS: Actually, I always felt there was kind of a hole in her story, toward the end of the second issue of “War Toys.” Yvette is chased up the bell tower of a cathedral in Angouleme. A Chinese helicopter gunship crashes into the tower as Yvette faces off against the “horsemen” on the roof. We jumped from that climax to Yvette returning to the trenches looking transformed. I wanted to show the cause of that transformation – her descent from softhearted country girl to cold-hearted killer! I was listening to Laura Veirs’ album, “Saltbreakers,” and her song about a Nightingale singing despite the flashes and sounds of explosions partly inspired this issue.
Will we see more of the character’s back-story as detailed in “War Toys,” or is this one-shot just focusing on Yvette during the war?
RS: This story, called “Nightingale” after the Laura Veirs track, falls between issues #2 and #3 of the first mini series. But I’m fairly confident we’ll be seeing new stories featuring Yvette in the not too distant future. She’s not featured in the second mini-series though.
Will the events of this one-shot be felt in upcoming “Elephantmen” issues, or is this a one-and-done type of story?
RS: I think it’s safe to say that Yvette’s presence will be felt from time to time throughout the “Elephantmen” series. She makes a very brief appearance in the upcoming Boo Cook issue – in a flashback – and I think she’ll make some similar appearances later in the series.
One of the beauties about Yvette in “War Toys” is that, towards the end, she becomes almost a ghost story – her actions are seen and felt throughout, though her physical presence is largely absent until her final scene. What appealed to you about withholding her physical presence from the reader once she began her rampage?
“War Toys” was really about the invasion and the resistance, not about Yvette specifically, even though she became the symbol of the resistance against the Elephantmen. Holding back her appearance until the end allowed us to understand the effect she had on Hip and Obadiah, and the manner in which she helped shape their characters long before their rehabilitation and appearances in the regular series.
At the end of “War Toys,” Yvette is told that she’s not so different from the Elephantmen, but Yvette tearfully insists otherwise. Where do you stand on that issue?
RS: My intent was to blur the line. I think the only kind of line drawn in times of war is a blurry one because people’s behavior when their lives are threatened can be very animalistic. I do believe that there is nothing more barbaric than war and I wanted to show that barbarism. Yvette draws on our sympathy but when you stop to consider her actions, it’s clear that she has lost a piece of her humanity. In contrast, Yvette’s actions cause Hip Flask to start to discover **his** humanity.
In a very feminine gesture at the end of the first issue, Yvette prevents Gaston from killing Hip, but later her identity as a woman is almost completely lost. In issue #3 she is **just** a fighter, a survivor, a killer. She **is** a terrorist, no matter what she says. One man’s freedom fighter is another Elephantman’s terrorist.
What inspired Yvette’s design?
RS: I asked for a couple of resistance fighters in the script for “War Toys” #1 – a male and a female – and Moritat took it from there.
Moritat: One thing we noticed was during this year’s Emerald City Comic-Con, my friend Kamron Becwar stopped by the booth. Richard and I noticed that I must have subconsciously used her as a model for Yvette.
Richard, after writing this “Yvette” one-shot, did you feel an urge to continue writing stories with her? Did you regret killing her?
RS: Anyone that’s kept an eye on the unfolding history of the “Hip Flask” and “Elephantmen” comics knows that I appear to have a habit of telling stories in whatever order occurs to me. Some have accused me of being “chronologically inept,” nevertheless I like to tell stories in what I feel to be a very naturalistic manner. In life, we learn about people from those pieces of information that they or others share with us, and we’re rarely offered that information in chronological order. So “Elephantmen” is like life, right? So Yvette’s story doesn’t have to have ended!
What else can you tease about the Yvette one-shot?
RS: We have a terrific variant cover by Marian Churchland… there, I’ve already told you too much!
“Elephantmen War Toys: Yvette” comes out from Image Comics on July 22.