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Thomas Sniegoski and Jeannine Acheson show us 'Vampirella: Dark Reflections'

Comic Books

Thomas Sniegoski and Jeannine Acheson show us ‘Vampirella: Dark Reflections’

Vampirella’s reality-hopping adventure kicks off this week.

If anyone knows Vampirella, it’s Thomas Sniegoski. He’s been writing the gothic avenger for some 30 years, when he took over for Kurt Busiek circa 1993 as part of the Harris Comics “era.” Vampirella, is, according to Sniegoski, a character with a surprising amount of depth and range.

“I find her incredibly versatile in terms of the kind of stories you can tell with her,” he said in a recent Zoom call. “And I don’t think I’ve reached the end yet. I don’t think I’ve got to the point where I go, ‘Yeah, that’s it. That was the last Vampirella story I got in me.’ And even if I think that way, a lot of the times, after two or three weeks, that ain’t the case. Like, ‘Oh, wait a minute, I could do this with her.'”

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Sniegoski added, “I think the editor that I was working with at the time at Harris just really trusted me. She was like, ‘You know what, what would you do?’ We go to be as weird as [we] wanted and be as action-packed as [we] wanted, even be a superhero if [we] wanted. It just really gave me that leeway to really stretch my story muscles at that.”

But even with his long history and deep affinity for the character, even Sniegoski recognizes that Vampirella isn’t always an easy sell.

“I think her costume does her an enormous disservice,” he said. “I’ve always loved the costume, but I really do think when you’re telling somebody, ‘Oh, I’m writing Vampirella,’ and they’re not 100% sure of the character and then you show them. They’re like, ‘Oh, that’s what you’re writing.’ Their brain goes off into a completely different place.”

So, how does he counter some of that bias and uncertainty? By leaning into the character’s rich history and compelling background.

“Usually the way I shore that up is, ‘Yes, she’s been around since the ’60s,'” he said. “And then you talk about Trina Robbins, who designed the costume. So you can get people to maybe accept the character a little bit more than just not as a cheesecake, bad girl type character.”

But Sniegoski has another secret weapon for battling those nasty Vampirella non-believers: Jeannine Acheson, with whom he’s written several Vampirella projects, including the 2022 Vampiverse miniseries and Vampirella Valentine’s Day Special 2021.

Thomas Sniegoski and Jeannine Acheson show us 'Vampirella: Dark Reflections'

Cover by Marcos Ramos. Courtesy of Dynamite.

“I mean, just having Jeannine around made that easier,” said Sniegoski. “I don’t want to say having a female writer [lends] credibility. But I think that it just shows that like this character is so, so much more than some dumb costume. I think maybe she’s one of the most interesting, the most textured fantasy anti-heroes and there’s so many layers.”

For her part, Acheson, who worked for many years as a school teacher, has Sniegoski to thank for her introduction to Vampirella and even comics at-large.

“I feel like all of the stories that we’ve been telling, like in the Vampiverse…I would say probably 90% of them, if not all of them, are kernels that [Sniegoski’s] started and it just snowballs from there,” said Acheson. “He was my gateway drug into comics. And I would never have done any of this had it not been for Tom.”

Like Sniegoski, Acheson feels a similarly deep affinity for Vampirella.

“I think the thing that speaks to me about her is that Vampirella just turned 50 [in 2019], and being a woman of a certain age, I feel like she’s got real staying power,” said Acheson. “She’s lived almost as long as I have, and she’s still around and she’s still relevant. We can do anything with her, especially with regard to the Vampiverse because there’s all different kinds of Vampirellas.”

And it’s that element — of exploring the lineage of Vampirella and playing up her singular history — that Sniegoski feels is essential to his partnership with Acheson.

“But at the same time, I really do think that that’s yet another really cool aspect to the character is that we can bring this feminine side to it as well,” he said. “I’m not sure how many women have written the character. I know there’s been a few, but I’m not as not as many as guys. So I think it’s always nice to have that other side of it. I think it helps bring a different perspective to the character and to the world that we’re creating.”

The duo’s “world” now includes another new title, Vampirella: Dark Reflections, which is due out this week (June 5) from Dynamite. (The book features art by Daniel Mainé.) In the miniseries, the Sniegoski-Acheson team continue to expand the Vampiverse, with a version of Vampirella interacting with a version of her daughter Lilith, who works for a multiverse-policing outfit called the Reality Corporation.

Thomas Sniegoski and Jeannine Acheson show us 'Vampirella: Dark Reflections'

Variant cover by Lucio Parrillo. Courtesy of Dynamite.

“The Vampiverse enables us to tell different types of stories for different types of Vampirellas,” said Acheson. “And that’s the thing that I like about it, we’re not married to a specific continuity, like Tom’s run of Vengeance of Vampirella or Vampirella Strikes or whatever. We get to pick and choose what we like and what interests us. And I don’t know, I think for me, it’s fun to have a character and be able to tell different types of stories for her and with her.”

Acheson went on to say that Dark Reflections further sees Sniegoski “tap into his feminine side” for a story she describes as “very, very, very feminine.” And it continues to be a compelling channel for Sniegoski as he extends his relationship with and the larger confines of Vampirella-led stories.

“In the Vampiverse mini-series, we introduced the character of Lilith, who is a daughter of a Vampirella who has died,” said Sniegoski. “She died in the course of that story. So the fact that we have this grown-up version of Lilith [in Dark Reflections] who is working for…a [police] for the various Vampirella universes…having her as a direct contact with another Vampirella, like somebody who could very well be her mom, it introduces something neat. Like, ‘I know my mother’s gone, but you really are my mother.’ That strange conflict of you are who I think you are, but you’re not who I think you are. And on the flip side, the Vampirella of the world that we encounter in this series has lost her daughter. So it’s kind of like…filling in the gaps in their lives and stuff.”

And while this is very much a Vampirella story, both Sniegoski and Acheson really emphasize the role and significance of the younger Lilith.

“I think the beauty of the Lilith character also is that there are similarities with Vampirella, but at the same time, there are differences,” said Sniegoski. “So I think you could tell the kind of stories that you would tell in a Vampirella story, but they would be different. There would be something that wouldn’t be quite the same.”

Acheson, meanwhile, thinks there’s something extra special about these versions of Vampirella and Lilith that star in Dark Reflections.

“I think the thing that interested us about having this Vampirella in this world be downtrodden and beaten down is the juxtaposition of Vampirella with Lilith,” said Acheson. “Lilith is just starting her career; she’s very excited. And poor Vampirella is just at the end of hers. And she’s like, ‘I’m just done with everything and everybody.’ It was kind of interesting to explore the two sides of that.”

Vampirella

Art from Vampirella: Dark Reflections #1. Courtesy of Dynamite.

If you want to further understand some of the work and objectives in Dark Reflections, you can also look at the pair’s Pantha: The Blessed and the Accursed from January 2023. Not to be confused with the DC comics hero, this Pantha dates back to the ’70s and is very much in the same vein as Vampirella (even if Pantha’s not quite as established). But that’s exactly why Sniegoski and Acheson wanted to tackle Pantha in the first place.

“And I believe Christopher Priest was doing more with the character in [Sacred Six],” said Sniegoski. “So we took what he had started and then at the same time looked at some past stories and things like that to see what might have not been being used or might deserve a little bit of extrapolating on. She was really interesting because of the fact that if you read the ’70s stuff, it’s really not quite that good. It’s a little goofy. I think what Priest started and let us pick up from where he left off was it was all very fertile.”

Not only did Acheson enjoy the character’s Egyptian connection/backstory, but she saw significant connections with Vampirella.

“I love taking something from maybe that time period and looking at it and saying, ‘All right, what works? What doesn’t work?’ What can we do to keep this thing familiar but at the same time make it feel fresh,” said Acheson. “Which I think is exactly what is happening with Vampirella. I think Vampirella was maybe a little more well written over the years, but I think it’s that same concept of there’s real potential here. You just have to find it and move some parts around and there it is.”

And moving things around is fun if not always so easy. Despite their overall cohesion and shared ideas and goals, both Sniegoski and Acheson admit that they have a playfully contentious relationship.

“It’s all butting heads,” said Sniegoski of their collaborative process. “It’s a constant butting of heads. I’ve got scar tissue on my forehead.”

Acheson, who was the comics rookie coming in, feels like she’s learned a lot from her partner — to the point that she’s no longer just the sidekick.

“I remember when we first started writing, the first thing we tackled together was a novel over Skype during the pandemic,” said Acheson. “And I remember specifically saying to him, ‘I defer to you.’ If we had any differences of opinion on things, I’ll defer to [him] because you obviously have so much experience and you’ve done this before. And I think that lasted probably all of a couple of years, right?”

Vampirella

Art from Vampirella: Dark Reflections #1. Courtesy of Dynamite.

Added Sniegoski, “It was two weeks, maybe.”

To which Acheson responded, “I now have actual opinions about characters and situations and things like that. And so I wouldn’t say we actually butt heads. We discuss things more.”

Between Vampiverse and Dark Reflections, there’s no denying the end results. Their partnership has been so fruitful, in fact, that Sniegoski and Acheson have heaps more projects moving forward. And they scratch an itch that still persists in popular fiction.

“So there’s Vampirella. We’ve written Pantha. We have another comic book with Mad Cave Studios. And we have our novel and we’re writing a novella,” said Sniegoski. “All of the main characters are female. It’s not an obvious thing or it’s not a specific choice. But I think they are all strong women, which is another kind of similarity that they have.”

They’d also like to do more with Lilith, with Sniegoski saying she could “handle a book” and Acheson noting that “she’s got lots to do.” But for now , they’re primarily focused on Vampirella and Dark Reflections, and trying to keep people on their toes so that everyone knows just how unique, powerful, and versatile Vampirella is in the hands of the right creators.

“I think for teasers, people might be surprised to see who shows up in this world,” said Acheson of Dark Reflections. “There’s one character in particular, from actually from the earliest days of Vampirella. They will show up, but not the way you think they’ll show up.”

Issue #1 of Vampirella: Dark Reflections is due out June 5 via Dynamite.

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