The Mistress Of The Dark Discusses Resurrecting Elvira's Classic '90s Comics [Interview]

After winning over horror hounds' hearts by being the cheekiest and creepiest horror host in town, Elvira moved into the world of comics in 1986 with DC's "Elvira's House of Mystery #1." Like her stage and television persona, Elvira's comic character hosted DC's spooky tales. However, she didn't see much of the campy action until the character found a new home with Claypool Comics in 1993. Debuting shortly after Elvira's first film, "Elvira: The Mistress of the Dark," hit theaters, the "Elvira: Mistress of the Dark" comic series finally let the Queen of Halloween play a pivotal part in her title, facing off against monsters, giant ant aliens, and even the dreaded telemarketer. Legendary comic artists, like Nightcrawler co-creator Dave Cockrum, brought Elvira's stories to life. Notoriously, these creepy tales have been difficult to find — especially after Claypool Comics stopped printing operations in 2006.

Thankfully, Dynamite Entertainment resurrected these tales by re-releasing them into a two-part omnibus collection titled "Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, The Classic Years." The first crowd-funded book came out in 2021, and now its second book, "Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, The Classic Years Vol. 2," has launched its crowdfunding campaign. In celebration of Elvira's comics rising from the grave, I chatted with Cassandra Peterson about Elvira's 40-years of adventures and how it feels to see her character kicking butt in comics.

Decade after decade, Peterson has protected and grown her dynamo persona into a celebrated icon for our queer horror community. After starring in a Shudder special, rereleasing her classic '90s comics, coming out in a poignant and vulnerable memoir, and landing a starring role in Rob Zombie's upcoming "The Munsters" film in just over a year (!), it's clear that neither Elvira nor Cassandra are slowing down anytime soon. And I learned there's a chance that the actor and persona might be co-starring together soon.

'I grew up being a comic book nerd'

Elvira first appeared in the world of comics underneath DC Comics. At that time, she was definitely more Elvira, the horror host. When Claypool came around in the '90s, the Elvira comic character became the star of her sci-fi and horror adventures, all while looking fantastic –


– which is also incredibly important for Elvira! I would love to know how it felt to see her starring in her own comic for the first time.

Yeah. It was awesome because I grew up being a comic book nerd. I was really into Superman when I was a little kid and then later, sorry to say, Archie and Veronica — just before puberty hit. [laughs] I loved comic books. So the fact that I could be in a comic book was pretty damn thrilling for me.

The Claypool comics came a couple years after your feature film "Elvira: Mistress of the Dark." After writing and starring in that film, how did it inspire what things you wanted Elvira to take on in the comic world that maybe she couldn't do in a movie form? The scale is so different.

The great thing about comic books is you have all the budget in the world. In the film, of course, we had a fairly low budget by industry standards and our special effects weren't that special. Let's just put it that way, because we didn't have the money for it. But we had to develop the character a lot for the movie because prior to that, she had only been hosting horror movies. She'd mentioned a few little glimpses into her life, like that she had a macabre mobile. We didn't know what it looked like or anything. Nobody knew what she was, where she came from, why she looked the way she did. So that all had to be developed for the movie, and that was a really fantastic launching pad for all the comics that came after that. 

There was a Marvel comic book of the movie right when it came out, and that pretty much set out the storyline. But then after that, with comic books and animation, you're able to go to the moon. You're able to go to hell. You're able to go and do anything you want. So it opens up such an incredible world. Like I said, it doesn't cost any money to turn Elvira into a rat [laughs] or anything you might want.

'The next movie we had lined up was Elvira goes to hell'

Throughout the decades of Elvira's comics, have there been any moments where you're like, "Take that, CGI! I dare you to try this on-screen"?

[laughs] Oh gosh. Well, I think one of my favorites was when Elvira went to Dante's "Inferno" in "Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, Elvira's Inferno." I did go to hell. I met up with Divine and a lot of different characters. That was really fun, because I had this idea, if Elvira Mistress of the Dark would've gone into a series of movies — which was the plan in the beginning, like the Ernest movies. I don't know if you're familiar with those?


Yeah, we wanted to continue it. The next movie we had lined up, we wanted to call it "Elvira Goes To Hell." When that issue came out, it was really fun for me because it was like seeing that idea that I never got to do, only done with lots of things I could have never afforded to anyway.

'Elvira could do almost anything'

These days, the connections between comics and movies are so interesting. Aside from the MCU, DC Horror did a comic that tied-in to "The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It." Would you ever consider doing a tie-in comic to an upcoming feature film? Would that be something that you would love to do?

Well, we're actually ... I probably can't get into the details. [laughs]

[laughs] We'll skirt around it...

But we've been talking about a graphic novel that is a tie-in with a project I've done recently. And it's very exciting, but unfortunately I don't think I'm supposed to really talk about it until it's progressed along a little bit.

Well, it's fantastic to hear it's coming along!

Yeah, it's a good idea...

'Elvira works when she is a fish-out-of-water'

In a lot of interviews, you've talked about how artists and writers take on Elvira's character in comics — and what a character! She's sassy. She's a dynamo. She's basically a drag queen and a horror hostess monster slayer all-in-one!

True. Exactly. That's great. I think you hit the nail on the head there.

You've talked about how you never want to see Elvira cooking dinner. That's not something we want to see in the comic world. Is there anything else you want to steer your character away from doing?

Changing baby diapers — no. No.

So no domestic duties! [laughs] Anything else?

Pretty much, no. Elvira could do almost anything. 

After I did my first movie, we decided Elvira can be anywhere, any time, any century, any time period, whatever. When we did the followup movie, which was "Elvira's Haunted Hills," we decided to put her in the 1800s in Romania. I still don't think it worked as well. Elvira works when she is a fish-out-of-water. When she was in the first movie juxtaposed against the super straight, morally ... whatever the word, I don't know what it is. But when she's up against that, that's when the fun ensues. When you put her in the element of...

Gothic horror?

Yeah, yeah, and all of sudden, there's not as many laughs. There's not as many jokes. 

But the nice thing is, with the comic books, she can go in and out of that stuff real quickly, wind through this century, that century, this movie, that movie, and it's always changing. So it doesn't get into that aspect where she's just in a dark and gloomy castle trying to be the Addams family. So I think she just does work better when she's juxtaposed against the normal world a little bit.

'I need really old, cruddy movies'

I wanted to bring up Dynamite Entertainment's "Death of Elvira" comic. This is a bit of a spoiler, but it gives us a Cassandra Peterson cameo! It was great seeing you on page alongside the persona you created. Do you ever imagine furthering that with writer David Avallone? I loved seeing that!

Oh, well, thank you. That's an interesting idea. So, the project we're working on has little elements of that ... possibly. So, that might be something that is going to be coming up, but again, I can't really get into it. [laughs] I'm sorry.

You've hosted so many horror films over the years. Are there any older films that you never got to cover that you'd like to? Or newer ones? It was great to see the horror host come out again in "Elvira's Very Scary, Very Special Special" this past Halloween season on Shudder.

You know, I hate to tell you, but I think I've tackled every damn old movie that ever lived. [laughs] Man, I'm not sure there are any left that I haven't done. 

The new movies, I enjoy them, but they're not as easy to host because they're too good. Back in the day, there was a lack of budget, but there was also this naivety that people just weren't hip to all this stuff that was going on — giant leeches and all that. It wouldn't really play now, except for camp purposes. The new horror movies are really, really difficult for me to host, doing what I do — making fun of them. When they're too good, you certainly can't make fun of them because everybody says, "What are you talking about? That looks great." So, yeah, that's a difficulty. For me and my line of work, I need really old cruddy movies.

'Elvira is 100 percent a drag queen'

As someone who has a background in stage shows, burlesque, drag, singing, and has worked with the likes of Peaches Christ, do you have any advice for either fellow drag queens or queer stage performers that you wish someone would have told you earlier? Whether it's about stage work, behind the scenes things, or just how to get up on the stage and do it every night?

Yeah. I would say pick a more comfortable outfit than I have. [laughs]

[laughs] The tassels aren't comfy?

'Cause you might be working in it for 40 years. [laughs] Start out with lower heels and less makeup and hair. That doesn't really play so well for drag queens. But man, that's 90 percent of the battle — your look. Be very smart about the one you choose, because you will be doing it a lot. Elvira is 100 percent a drag queen. The only difference between me and a drag queen — I always say this — is that I don't have to tuck. Other than that, exactly the same. But I wish I wouldn't have started out with six inch heels. I wish they would've been sensible kitten heels or something.

Ghouls looking to find out how to purchase "Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, Classic Omnibus Vol. 2," can find out more information on the book's crowdfunding site.