Ronn Sutton on art, Poe, Elvira, and the 'horrors' of lesbian vampires

On the first day of Fan Expo, Ronn Sutton and Janet Hetherington stopped by the OH table. Lucky for me they did, as with the hectic four day romp I did not get a chance to peruse my surroundings until the last day. Had I missed a chance to meet and talk with them, I would have regretted it sorely!

At their table, beside all of the wonderful Elvira comics was some beautiful pin-up art by Sutton. Lining the walls of the 2011 Festival of Fear, most in artists alley were horror-related so the classic style of his girls stood out. 

"The woman that modeled for my third Honey West issue commissioned me to do this pin up portrait of her as a birthday gift for her boyfriend. He was in Afghanistan at the time, so it was a birthday present framed for him when he came back."

"For years, my drawings of women use to look like men with long hair and boobs basically. I ended up working on Savage Dragon, an animated series, and that involves hundreds and hundreds of drawings and they gave me a lot of the character She-Dragon and suddenly my drawings of women got really good really fast. Then all I was offered was female characters specifically female vampire characters and specific to that, female lesbian vampire characters..." 

"Draculina, Vampira, Luxura - I did a ton of them and finally Elvira came along and saved me from a career of female lesbian vampires." He then went on to create the Vampira comic that was destined to go with a documentary film, so 'saved' is a relative term! He drew Elvira for nine years, and illustrated about 50 stories for the series he happily describes as a 'real machine'.

Speaking about one of his memorable collaborations, he moved to Saugerties, New York in 1972. At first living with Bernie Wrightson (NOTLD Tar Man), one of his favorite artists, then getting an apartment nearby. "The last thing that we worked on together was in 2001 there was a comic called Night Terrors. Bernie was editing it, he did the cover and the first story in the book.  Bill Stout had a strip in it and I had a strip in it as well."

"In the early 70s it was kind of up and down. In the 80s I ended up working various places as an art director for magazines and contributing to mainstream newsstand magazines as a freelance illustrator. Finally, I stopped that and I started freelance for animation, then met Janet." Relocating to her base of Ottawa, the pair began working  from their home studio. 

Ronn Sutton and Janet Hetherington @FanExpo 2011

When asked about other artists and collaborators in the Ottawa area, he says that he is pretty much on his own here. "My studio is in my basement, so I sort of go from the bed to the kitchen to the studio and sometimes never out the front door." Something many artists can relate to, especially when in the throes of a new project or a long-term engagement. 

"The latest thing I have is with Graphic Classics, it just came out and it is in Edgar Allan Poe Tales of Mystery (win a copy here right now) and I have my adaptation of the Tell Tale Heart which was actually done 15 years ago for one publisher who paid me then went out of business, then it was coloured for another publisher who then went out of business, then it actually appeared in a small digest, and now is finally in full colour."

As a Poe fan, this was one of the issues I bought and must say he did a great job. Not only has the story been modernized, he has applied a little gender bend. "After reading it (the original Poe story) a few times, I realized that not once was the sex of the protagonist described. I read it a few times more to be sure and decided that would be an interesting twist, then twisted it further to make her a punk girl." It certainly works, especially with a tale that has been redrawn, animated and retold countless times. 

Next, he will be working on three more issues of Honey West, and the next book with Janet. As described in Heartthrobs and Hellraisers, she had penned an intriguing crossover with Honey West and Kolchack that he will be illustrating.

Can't wait? No patience? Want your lesbian vampire or Elvira fix? Meet this daring duo at the upcoming Montreal ComicCon September 17-18, 2011.