Elvira Mistress of the Dark’s wickedly witty sense of humor and drop dead looks are on full display in this reprint of the 1993 series sharing the titular character’s name. But will it attract new fans and readers?
Elvira is known for her comedic commentaries on B-horror movies, think Mystery Science Theater 3000 with a host who’s playing into a persona that is equal parts horror buff and ironically idiotic. After many successful years hosting her late night movie program and releasing a film, Elvira Mistress of the Dark was released with an opening issue by co-creator of Harley Quinn, Paul Dini!
Coming in as a fan of Elvira already, I knew to expect her signature borderline raunchy humor, femme fatale looks, and overall personality of a valley girl. I did not expect the writing style to sound as close to the voice of Elvira as it did! While Paul Dini’s opening issue did almost feel like his Harley, the following writers of Richard Howell and Kurt Busiek really brought Elvira to the page. The overall story of the volume is fairly simple, with issues having two narratives split between an overall ongoing story and a more simple arc that can end every few issues. Elvira works at her local station, just as in real life, and must contend with the ever-increasingly frustrating demands of her boss Rosalind Wyck. Wyck and Elvira are at odds most of the first half of the volume, until Elvira finds a clever way to promote her up the ladder. The back-up stories mostly deal with Elvira trying to secure new avenues of funding such as filming her own Godzilla/Kaiju style role or trying to help stop the evil Bingo Hall taking money from everyone in town.
The art is rendered in a black and white, with color photographs of Elvira gracing the cover. I was surprised to learn that the artists changed throughout the book as, overall, I found the style to be very consistent. Either way, the character of Elvira comes to life on the page with many of her mannerisms and poses feeling evocative of the character herself. Elvira will say a joke with a wink, or wave her hands through the air to emphasize a joke, and for a fan of the character it feels true. With this attention to the character’s authenticity however, comes a few fan service scenes with Elvira sudded up in the shower just to entice the straight male gaze.
With this all said, how does the comic hold-up? Is it relevant for all libraries today, or a bit more selective? I’m sorry to say it’s more the latter, as dated references throughout and some choice racial character stereotyping really ages the piece. I get that B-horror movies deal with the racial tropes as well, but it was kind of sad to see some of these in the comic. To name a few we have: the roaming gypsies who curse the white boy, the boy calling himself Hopeless and dressed with a native headdress, and the Taoist vampire issue.
I would recommend this volume only to those libraries that have an extensive horror graphic novel collection for adults. Elvira will appeal to those who grew up with her, and some 20/30 somethings, as well. Teenagers and those who are more attuned to sensitive issues may take offense to some of the portrayals within. Contains issues 1-26 and bonus material for a page count of just over 600 pages.
Elvira Mistress of the Dark Classic Years Omnibus, vol. 1
By Richard Howell, Kurt Busiek, Paul Dini, Frank Strom
Art by Dan Spiegle, Louis Lachance, Tom Simonton, Kristofer Ritchie
Dynamite Entertainment, 2022
Publisher Age Rating: 16+
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+)