Chapter Two! We delve deeper into the mysteries of Bettie Page’s secret life in 1951, and see some of my favorite spots in Los Angeles. As always: spoilers abound! Read the issue and come back for the inside scoop.
As always, Linsner delivers a beautiful pin-up of Bettie, and Scott Chantler creates something hilarious. The big red “DEATH RAY” button kills me.
Pages One and Two.
Craig Cermak stepped in this issue to give a hand with the art chores, and he starts us off. We open with a tense group of GIs facing off against… Bettie Page? Of course, an attentive reader will know what’s going on here, but it’s fun to maintain the illusion for a few pages. Should a spacecraft ramp go “kreeeaaaak?” A Thompson submachine gun go “pokka pokka pokka”? Letterer Taylor Esposito and I had a lot of fun with this one. Also worth noting, right off the bat, the wonderful, vivid colors of Brittany Pezzillo.
Page Three and Four.
About this time, the reader is – hopefully – surprised that the dialogue is so incredibly trite. I love the dramatic, bloodless fall of the “dying” Space Commie in panel one of page three, the missed punch in panel two, the bending rubber rifle in panel four. It was all in the script, but Craig did a great job getting it across without making it too cartoonish. And then the Sarge hits the plywood flying saucer and the jig is up. We’re on the set of a bad sci-fi movie. I have a great affection for the movies from this period… and this one falls somewhere between THE MAN FROM PLANET X and EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS.
Burlesque queen and costume designer Penny Starr Jr. created the all the costumes for INVASION OF THE SPACE COMMIES, our film-within-the-comic. She’s got a decade of experience designing outfits for herself and for the crème-de-la-crème of the burlesque world, so she really brings something special to the book. (Of course I’m biased: she’s my beloved Bettie-Page-bangs-wearing-wife.) Penny has worked on low budget movies, and knows the limitations, and she asked herself, “what would a costumer be able to pull off with very little money in 1951?” The answer is a lot of stuff from hardware stores, and military surplus. Bettie’s costume in the first sequence is inspired by the kind of thing you’d have seen in FLASH GORDON comic strips and serials. My favorite detail is the bathtub fixtures on the Space Commie’s belts.
I’ve spent a lot of my adult life on low budget movie sets, doing one job or another, and memories of those experiences inform these scenes. I love the Space Commie in the background of panel four, who doesn’t seem to be enjoying his costume; another great detail from Craig. There’s also an unsubtle Coen Brothers reference on this page.
Back in the real world, and back in the able hands of Colton Worley… as Rick and Bettie start to look into a gentleman named Elroy Benway, nominal inventor of the Benway Wave Modulator and author of Sky Science.
Pages Seven and Eight.
All the locations for the rest of this issue are a mile or two from my home in Hollywood. The Pantages theater still looks very much like it did in ‘51. I took a nice drive one day and photographed three locations for Colton. This was the first.
Pages Nine, Ten and Eleven.
Shadowing is for professionals. We have yet to determine how professional Rick Chaplain is… and apparently Doc Benway doesn’t like to be followed. Colton does a great job with the action, the lighting and the location. My second stop on my Hollywood location scout.
I know I can’t completely get off the hook here by saying, “Hey, my wife designed that costume.” But she did. The producers of INVASION OF THE SPACE COMMIES do want to sell tickets, after all. Even so, Bettie isn’t standing still for any on-set sexual harassment, and makes her displeasure plain. In the real world, Bettie took a trip to Hollywood in her twenties, and declined the casting couch
Pages Thirteen and Fourteen.
Griffith Park Observatory… frequently used film location and one of my favorite places in Los Angeles. Third stop in my Hollywood location scout tour, and perfectly rendered by Colton here, and Craig later.
Bettie puts the pieces together maybe a little too late. The slate on page 14 pays tribute to two of my best friends from my low budget action movie days: Andy Sidaris, whose production company was “Malibu Bay Films” and his cinematographer (and later mine) Mark Morris. I also throw in a BATTLESTAR GALACTICA reference, for laughs.
Page Fifteen to Eighteen.
Back in the world of movie magic, Craig returns on art. I’m no artist, but I bet riots are not the easiest thing to draw, and Craig does a great job here. Why does Bettie chase the Space Commie? Is she going to make a citizen’s arrest? Bettie was impulsive and could have a bit of a temper. Here it maybe gets the better of her for a minute.
Pages Nineteen and Twenty.
Craig makes beautiful use of my location photos (I took a lot of them) to recreate the Observatory on the page. And then… a flying saucer. What the Hell? Did you see that coming? As the Space Commie makes his escape, I hope you’re excited to check in next time, when we “Take Mulholland!”