Last week, the most prolific reviewer on the Pullbox Crew, Paul, did a bang-up review of Professor Dario Brava in Murder Vibes from the Monster Dimension. The book is beautiful and fantastic! While strictly in the “Mature Readers” category, I wanted to dig into the mind of the creators and see what makes them tick.
Phil Mucci, the writer/colorist/letter, of the book was kind enough to take a few minutes of his time to answer a few questions for us.
Q1: First I want to say you’ve got a beautiful book with a great story! Where did this idea come from?
Thank you! The character Professor Dario Bava (PDB) actually first appeared in the retro music video “Sorrow” we did for the band Huntress. Played by Sir Ian Mackay, the self-proclaimed “paranormal playboy” was so entertaining that we decided to develop more stories for him in an alternate late 60’s world of time-travelers, monsters, and free love.
The first story I wrote was Orgy Of The Blood Freaks (books in production now!), in which ex-Vatican exorcist Professor Dario Bava enlists the aid of a precocious young nun, Sister Sadie, in his investigation of a haunted abbey where his (former) assistant was decapitated by supernatural forces. Though we all loved it, we felt it was too long for a one-shot introduction to the world — and in hindsight, rightly so!
I had already written character backstories for Dario Bava and the main “team”, the Sisters of Tomorrow, so we decided to do an anthology that featured some of these origin stories, with a framing story that would connect to Orgy Of The Blood Freaks.
In terms of the influences for Murder Vibes From The Monster Dimension, they range from the Hammer horror films of the early 70’s, to continental Euro-sleaze horror gothics and Italian Exorcist rip-offs, to pre-Star Wars sci-fi B-movies. PDB became a playground for us to explore our retro genre passions and give them a modern twist!
Q2: How did creators you and Mike Dubisch connect and start on this crazy adventure?
Dan sent me a collection of Mike’s stuff and I was blown away. While he was very adept at horrifying, Lovecraftian monsters, he was equally skilled with human characters, imbuing them with a sense of energy and offbeat humor that was perfect for PDB.
I have to confess that, Murder Vibes being my first graphic novel (as writer/colorist), I had a bit of a learning curve in regards to the process, but I’m happy to report that after a few missteps, Mike and I have found our rhythm. After Murder Vibes, he contributed the cover and the bulk of the inside art for the PDB: Occult Activity Book (and Spirit Board!), and we’re now in the middle of the first PDB limited series, so hopefully the results speak for themself.
Q3: This is seated squarely in the horror genre and does push the envelope from what we usually see in current American horror comics. The Pullbox Crew considers it a comic that would have made the Hammerest of Hammer Films proud! How do you balance pushing that boundary and keeping it accessible/attractive to a broad audience?
That’s kind of you to say, but I’m not sure that we have!
We always knew the world of PDB was “adult”, and would probably have a niche appeal to readers that would recognize those same cinematic influences that you mentioned. Younger comic fans often stare at you blankly when you say “Hammer Horror”, but we think there’s enough weirdness and modern sensibilities to pull them in.
While I was influenced by those films as a writer, the misogyny and sexism in a lot of them (not all) was something I was very conscious of and wanted to subvert. In a way, the entire story of PDB is that of a man leaving the established patriarchal structure of The Church to save the world with a group of very strong women. If there’s a broader appeal to the world, it probably comes down to that. These stories are about more than the titular “hero”. They’re about this whole group of characters and how they’ve overcome their individual obstacles and traumas to work together for the common good… all without skimping on the sex and violence and having a few laughs!
Q4: Without a doubt, one of the most amazing parts of this book is the alternative cover by the master of Italian Erotic Horror, Emanuele Taglietti. Can you tell us what that experience was like?
I mean, fantastic! He’s such a legend that I was more than a little intimidated to talk to him. We had our Italian friend (and “Sorrow” co-star) Nadia Lanfranconi translate for us on our Zoom chat, and Emanuele was just the warmest, sweetest guy you could imagine. He reminded me of my own Italian grandfather! He was very excited about the project and the rough comp I had put together for him. He asked for some specific photo references for the characters and some of the props, which we compiled and sent to him after that first talk.
A few weeks later, we got a couple of gorgeous full-color watercolor “sketches” of his take on the cover design, and we were floored! We loved them so much that we included them in the final book in a special section dedicated to Emanuele. Not only that, but his wife Katia took lots of behind-the-scenes photos and videos of Emanuele working on the final cover painting, which in today’s content-hungry world, was pure gold.
It was such a great experience on Murder Vibes that we asked him back again for the main cover of Orgy Of the Blood Freaks #1!
Q5: Shameless plug time! What project do you have coming up?
This year we started the first PDB limited series, Orgy Of The Blood Freaks #1 (of 3). As I mentioned, the bulk of this story was written well before Murder Vibes but has since been expanded and improved. The digital edition is already finished and has gone out to our crowdfunding backers, who’ve had nothing but great things to say about it— which is a relief! The last thing you want after a successful debut is a lackluster follow-up, so we’re psyched everyone’s onboard.
We’re also working on a new character and limited series, Gringo Loco, a supernatural spaghetti western. Super-producer Dan Simpson scored AGAIN on this one, landing the legendary Vicente Alcázar (Eerie, Creepy, Vampirella, Jonah Hex, etc) for the inside art! Vicente really embraced the story and once he signed on, immediately took over the page layouts, cranking out pencils, character designs — even a map of the town the first story takes place in! He’s an incredible talent and I feel super lucky and honored to be working with him.
We currently have an Indiegogo campaign running for a printed double-issue of PDB: Orgy Of The Blood Freaks #1 and Gringo Loco: Dead Late And A Dollar Short in one volume with two covers, a fun design concept involving flipping the book over for a whole new monster trip! We plan on doing a crowdfunding campaign once a year to help us produce the three double issues, with the first printed book due in the spring.
You can back it now at: https://igg.me/at/bloodfreaks