With Dark Horse Comics recently announcing the return of Alex de Campi’s Grindhouse series this November with Drive In, Bleed Out, we decided that now was as good a time as ever to grab a few words with long-time BCP favourite Alex about what we can expect from her next season of ‘exploitation opuses’. Here’s how the conversation went;
Big Comic Page: Grindhouse is back with Drive In, Bleed Out. What brought you back?
Alex de Campi: Because you can’t kill the monster properly until it comes back one last time at the tail end of the third act. But seriously… I just wasn’t done. There are so many subgenres of exploitation that I love, that the original four stories in Season One wasn’t enough to satisfy my itch for sleaze and gore. At the end of this series, though, we’re really done. I may be back every so often for a Grindhouse Annual or something, but I want to end strong. In fact we’ll go out with a bang — all sorts of bangs, in various positions — as our final story is a space sexploitation tale.
BCP: Opener ‘Slay Ride’ comes over like a brutal supernatural western. RM Guera must have seemed like the perfect fit?
ADC: Rajko and I worked together on a chapter of Ashes, the second half of my giant spy thriller Smoke / Ashes from Dark Horse. I adore his work, and he is also just a lovely human, and brings such enthusiasm and care to all his projects. Hell, if I had to illustrate the phone book, I’d call Rajko first, but for a rural horror / western? Yep, perfect fit.
BCP: What do we have to look forward to in the other three stories?
ADC: Up next after SLAY RIDE is my and Afua Richardson’s Blaxploitation story, LADY DANGER: AGENT OF B.O.O.T.I. When Americans are in danger abroad, the President no longer sends in the SEALS… he sends in one black girl. The Bulletproof Bae protects and defends us, but not everyone is cool with that. I love Lady Danger and I would love to spin her out into a little miniseries at some point. Most of Lady Danger was thought up at my table in Phoenix Comicon, with the express aim of making Ed Piskor weep bitter tears of envy. I think we’ll have succeded. (Ed was right across from me at Phoenix. He is good people.) Then comes BLOOD LAGOON, the Garcia sequel, a tale of fathers and sons (Wayne is going back to his home town to tell his father, who he is estranged from, about his upcoming marriage to Sergei; Garcia comes along for the ride) and the giant, bloodsucking insects that bring them together. Finally, LE VOYAGE FANTASTIQUE DE VERONIQUE aka NEBULINA, my badly-dubbed French/Italian cinecitta space sexploitation epic.
BCP: The Bee Vixens From Mars are back again. Why did you choose that story for a sequel?
ADC: Chris Peterson, Nolan Woodard and I have so much fun working together. I basically exist to send Chris rrrreally disgusting photos as reference for the books. Chris and Nolan loved Garcia and wanted to do a sequel (in fact somewhere there is a facebook thread under a shared pic of an abattoir waste pool, where Chris and Nolan come up with both the title and the sketch of a story. I would have loved to do a couple of the other “coming attractions” from season one in this series — specifically SWAMP TRAMP with Luca Pizzari and one of Eric Kim’s — probably BLACK RUSSIAN or SISTER JUSTICE. Maybe in the future as annuals!
BCP: ‘Prison Ship Antares’ was a real standout of the last series. How did it feel when Image’s ‘Bitch Planet’ was announced?
ADC: It was really weird! Especially as Prison Ship was on the stands when Bitch Planet was announced, and obviously everyone at Image knew because the PR people didn’t once use the word “grindhouse” in any of the releases… but Kelly Sue apparently had no idea about my series. But another grindhouse series can only be a net positive, as if Bitch Planet is a huge hit, then more people will try Grindhouse, and if it crashes and burns, people will say “you should read Grindhouse instead”. So any way it lays, I win. I actually emailed Kelly Sue about a crossover, but her response was a negative.
BCP: Grindhouse fare is gross, violent , sexy etc. But where is your line? And how important is it that there is a line from a storytelling perspective?
ADC: There is no line. Well, we try to keep it away from full X because that would affect our sales. Though Nebulina might get an X… Some stories are more porny and/or gory than others. It really varies — I happily embrace sex and sexiness/sexuality in my work, but (for example) in the rape-revenge story, I treated sex very differently and much more bleakly than I did in, say, Bee Vixens. As for gore, I try for at least two really good shocks/scares per story. How important is it to have a line? Ehn, it’s hard to say. It’s more important to have a story. I’ve never really read or watched anything where I think, “Right! That crosses the line, I’m out”. I have thought plenty of times, “This story is pants. I’m out.” The sex thing is really important because it balances out the violence. It’s why mainstream comics that co-opt the language of explotation films are all so dull (look at AXIS — 20 pages of boring people shouting at each other every month, and apathetic uber violence). Bad story, and just the misery. No love, no sex, just checks.
BCP: The schlockier side of Grindhouse cinema gets a lot of stick for misogyny, but your Grindhouse comics have a strong female readership despite not pulling any punches at all. Why do you think that is?
ADC: Because…. I’m… a… woman? I don’t like being the punchline of stories, or the punching bag. Women as action heroes are still under-represented in both comics and films. And all the grindhouse flicks I love have kickass women in them. Seriously we have gone BACKWARDS in our portrayal of women, especially women of colour, in mainstream film. And frankly, the genre of “white boys doing stuff” is really oversubscribed in comics. I’m not going to fight for that dollar. It has enough books fighting — I actually originally typed that as “whiting” — for it already. (Will you walk a little faster, said the whiting to the snail, there’s a porpoise close behind me… &c.) But the funny thing is? Lots of your standard, stereotype comics readers looooove Grindhouse. So I am actually getting that dollar that Hollywood says only spends money on stories about white boys dong stuff. I’m getting lots of those dollars. Because, Gamergate (aka House of Cads) aside, people are generally more awesome and flexible / experimental than we give them credit for. Also, everyone loves boobs and gore.
(I have actually picked up #1s of comics and then never bought more because after I read it, I was like, “this is just white dudes doing stuff. Snore.”)
BCP: You direct music videos and commercials. Any plans to get into features? I’d love to see a horror movie with your name above it…
ADC: Oh, and I’d love to direct one. But realistically, I live in the back of beyond, and can’t even afford a decent DSLR (which breaks my heart) so I’d have to get a lot more successful at this writing malarkey before anyone will give me money to make a film. I’d totally just make some super low budget flick on a DSLR up here in the piney wilds of the Stephen Kingdom, where I live… but as noted, I’m too broke to even have a camera right now. And you know I’m going to be a dick about lenses. The film will have no budget, but it’ll be on vintage uncoated primes.
BCP: If there was ever a film or TV adaptation of your Grindhouse comics, who (other than yourself) would you like to see involved?
ADC: I’ve had a lot of weird experiences with Hollywood. At this point I don’t give a flip who’s involved, as long as they pay me enough option money that if they totally fuck up my story and it makes me sad, I can just roll around in a big pile of hundred dollar bills until I feel better. Although I would quite like to see Nicholas Cage play Sheriff Jimmy from Bee Vixens.
BCP: Were you around in the grindhouse era? What’s your memories of it? And what are your favourite films from that time?
ADC: Yeah, I was alive in the 1970s and early 80s. I watched a lot of TV, and saw a ton of films I probably shouldn’t have on the local TV channel (29 in Philly, before it was a Fox station). I loved war films. When I was 10. Because reasons. I also loved the Cleopatra Jones films, which they played a lot. And of course all the horror/slasher stuff we’d go over to each other’s houses to see on purloined VHS tapes.
BCP: You’re probably the most diverse writer in comics at the moment what with Grindhouse and My Little Pony How different is your writing process for them?
ADC: People need to get over me being able to write a kid’s story AND a horror story. Hey, I like Black Sabbath, and I like Beyoncé! And I listen to classical music all the time, too. HOW DOES THAT WORK?! The funny thing is, Grindhouse was a direct reaction to me doing two big literary graphic novels (Smoke/Ashes , and the as yet unpublished Margaret the Damned) and wanting to cut loose a little. My Little Pony was because I have a kid, and I wanted to write something she could enjoy. As for my writing process? I sit down and bang my head against a notebook until a story comes out.
BCP: What would a Grindhouse Pony crossover be like? My Little Grindhouse?
ADC: Nerd, please. GRINDHORSE.
BCP: Will there be another series? Are there any genres you’d still like to cover?
ADC: See above. I may be back for the odd Grindhouse Annual. We’ll see. Gonna get through this series first before making any more plans.
BCP: What else do you have coming up?
ADC: I have a supernatural horror story, SEMIAUTOMAGIC, with Jerry Ordway starting in Dark Horse Presents #4 (? The one on stands in the first week of Nov. Look for Jerry’s cover — the gal with the axe). Then in April I have Archie vs Predator which is going to be AMAZING. And I have about three miniseries coming out in 2015 that haven’t been announced yet! Plus, every Wednesday, you can get a new chapter of my supernatural thriller Valentine on Comixology! It is also serialized weekly on Thursdays at Thrillbent.
Also…my Lady Zorro miniseries — swashbuckling adventure, with sex and some hardcore violence — also just wrapped at Dynamite Comics. That was a ton of fun.
BCP: Thanks for your time, Alex.
Grindhouse: Drive In, Bleed Out #1 is on sale November 12, 2014, in comic shops everywhere (where it’s not banned)!
The Writer of this piece was: Jules Boyle
Jules tweets from @Captain_Howdy