BYRON BREWER: David, since October’s issue #4 is the final Hollywood chapter of The Secret Diary of Bettie Page, I have been wanting to ask you to tell readers a little about how scary and dangerous a time 1951 was in the real world: for America, and especially for those living and working in Hollywood. If you would please …
DAVID AVALLONE: A lot of the worst things happening in 1951 don’t touch upon our story. The anti-Communist witch hunts and Hollywood blacklists had started in the late forties and really hardened into place a year earlier, in 1950. The Korean War was going particularly poorly for the United Nations forces, falling back before overwhelming Chinese forces. The Soviets had exploded their first atomic bomb in 1949, kicking off the Cold War and the Nuclear Arms Race.
But besides all that… over in Southern California, two seemingly opposite “industries” were growing in power, and strangely intertwined with one another: new religious cults and advanced aerospace development. Our story takes place at that bizarre crossroads. I’ve changed all the names to protect the innocent, and to protect myself from the most litigious people on Earth.
BB: I know we are dealing with fiction in the comic book, but what has your research showed about how the REAL Bettie Page coped during this tumultuous time? Is that reflected in the comics series?
DA: Bettie’s adventures are wholly fanciful in the series, by intention. She had been to Hollywood prior to 1951, but did not have a good time there. (She refused the casting couch and was therefore refused any roles, despite looking fantastic on film. Obviously.) In the 1950s Bettie had a few small run-ins with prudish locals while doing nude shoots out in the country, but nothing too bad. That said… she was a smart, independent woman in an age that didn’t value them terribly much. Particularly if they were unashamed of their own nude bodies.
BB: So, back to our scheduled comic book interview, what challenges does Bettie face in issue #4?
DA: I have to be careful about spoilers here (given when this will run), but Bettie is in a pretty tight spot at the end of issue #3… she’s outnumbered and outgunned, but she has a great new friend by her side, and she can handle anything.
BB: Give us your non-spoilery take on Joe Stalin as it pertains to the series.
DA: Joe is on someone’s side… but whose? Rick Chaplain or Elroy Benway? You’ll have to read and find out.
BB: As you approach the last pages in Bettie’s “diary,” was there any story threads you were unable to use? Research which inspired some predicament for her that page count reality just did not allow?
DA: I always start with way more material than I can use… but I have a feeling I’m not done telling secret stories about Bettie Page just yet. Stay tuned.
BB: Hmm … Along those lines (sort of), David, what can fans look forward from you next?
DA: Aside from the hint above… I just launched a Kickstarter for something I’ve been keeping secret for long time: I co-created a whole new comic with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman. Kevin is a comic book genius, a gracious friend and a joy to work with. We’re raising money for a 100-page graphic novel, to kick things off. It’s called DRAWING BLOOD, and it’s a dark-comic look inside the life of a famous cartoonist on the skids. Check it out at drawingbloodcomic.com.