Vampirella Writer Christopher Priest Educates Newsarama Editor Chris Arrant on Free Speech

Deathstroke writer Christopher Priest, who will also be taking on writing duties for the upcoming Vampirella series, shut down Newsarama’s editor Chris Arrant after he insinuated Priest was bigoted.

In an interview with Newsarama promoting his upcoming Vampirella series, Christopher Priest was extremely honest about what the new series would entail. In fact, he noted that Vampirella will be arriving in the real world.

Vampirella #1

To elucidate this point, Priest discussed how people would react when they see Vampirella wearing her classic costume designed by Trina Robbins.

“The basic argument is simple: where do you draw the line between women’s liberation and women’s exploitation, and who gets to draw it? Who gets to define femininity and why should an extraterrestrial have to submit to that definition?”

He would go on to provide context on a number of real-world happenings specifically the recent accusations against former Vice President Joe Biden.

“It’s like the world woke up in the last few years and realized we actually have two genders and both of them matter.
So we now have heightened scrutiny of themes and behaviors and that poor bastard Joe Biden gets caught up in the switches. I’ll confess, I’m terrified of women because I’m a Joe Biden. I was taught to pay a lady a compliment and open doors and I want to be friendly and accessible but I’m absolutely terrified of having my good intentions taken in a bizarrely paranoid light.”

Vampirella #1

He continued:

“It is comical to me that I am far too often seen as creepy by women – especially black women – because they have been conditioned by their personal experience and their media consumption to misinterpret a simple “Hello.” These days I cannot pay a woman a complement without a legal preamble and assurances that, no, I am not hitting on you and even then I get the skunk eye of suspicion.

Which is a little insulting because this “guilty until proven innocent” defensive posture presumes I am other people or that the bar is set so low for me that I’ll jump into bed with just anybody I happen to meet. It’s like we’ve just gone too far now to the point where women are not just being protected but being alienated to some extent because I have no earthly clue how to deal with them and I’m frankly scared to shake their hand.”

Priest makes it clear he intends to use the classic Vampirella costume.

“The one thing I won’t do is cover her up. I accepted the gig: write Vampirella. If you change the outfit, she’s no longer Vampirella. Frankly, her costume is the only thing about her (well, okay, that and her pansexuality) that makes her at all shocking or controversial.”

Priest then questions criticism of Vampirella’s costume while also praising celebrities like singer/rapper Lizzo and Beyonce.

“My goal, and the readers will have to let us know if we’re passing or failing, is to make this a book as much about femininity as about bloodsucking. The storyline is driven by women, mostly populated by women, of all shapes and sizes and ethnicities, and most of them dress as sexy as they dare. The singer/rapper Lizzo is a terrific example of this. Is her blatant sexuality liberating or is she being exploited? How about Beyoncé? Do we put Vampi in a raincoat but cheer Bey on?

See what I mean? I’m screwed either way.”

In a follow-up question about sharing a cab with Vampirella, Priest responds:

“I’d ask the driver to pull over and let me out. I’m a Christian, so I have these issues with all of that “fornicating in your mind” stuff. I don’t live a perfect life but I try to avoid cluttering up my conscience. Among the things the printed page cannot convey is the amazing, intoxicating glow and, yes, smell of a woman.

All women are beautiful, from 8 to 80, regardless of weight, height, or nationality. I wouldn’t share a cab with a woman as under-dressed as Vampi, which sounds hypocritical because I’m writing her. But I write Deathstroke, too, and wouldn’t share a cab with him, either.”

Following these responses, Arrant would ask a number of follow-up questions.

In his first follow-up question Arrant asks Priest:

“Yet empathizing with Joe Biden without citing the actual specific behavior he’s under scrutiny for, stating things like “the amazing, intoxicating glow and, yes, smell of a woman” and by offering you’re “often seen as creepy by women,” it seems like intentionally inviting the sort of reaction/assumptions you state you’re “afraid” of and inviting the same scrutiny Biden is under.

Was this was your intent and are you prepared for pushback to your words and questions to be asked?”

That’s when Priest shuts down Arrant. He first points to his Joe Biden reference noting that he mentioned Biden to make a point about “how hyper-sensitive and overly politicized our nation is and how it will impact Vampirella in he series.”

“Wow, there’s a lot to unpack, there. But let’s start by saying I seriously doubt anyone reading this is NOT aware of the Biden issue to which I am referring. I come neither to defend Biden nor to bury him, so I think you’re probably taking my “poor” Joe reference a bit too seriously. I wasn’t trying to litigate Biden, only to make a point about how hyper-sensitive and overly politicized our nation is and how this will impact Vampirella in her series.”

He then chides Arrant for taking his quotes out of context.

“Assembling disparate quotes to paint me as some kind of deviant makes that point for me. I stand by my statements. “…the amazing, intoxicating glow and, yes, smell of a woman…” is something difficult if not impossible to convey in literature (which was my point), but your question was about me sitting in a taxi with a near-naked woman and I answered that honestly. And my point was relevant to understanding the challenges and conflicts Vampirella will face in this series.”

Priest then makes it clear he was discussing the environment in which Vampirella will find himself in the new series.

“This is the environment Vampirella finds herself in, people misinterpreting her actions, words, and motives. This is why I mentioned it, to place the work we are doing with Vampirella into context.

Were a person like Vampi walking around in our world (or riding in a taxi with me), she would be misinterpreted, and every word she says would be drilled into looking for the worst possible interpretation of it. I can’t help but wonder why anyone anywhere speaks publicly because no words spoken by anyone can withstand this level of ridiculous scrutiny.”

Arrant then questions Priest’s comments regarding gender insinuating Priest is bigoted. Arrant writes:

“In another response you state “It’s like the world woke up in the last few years and realized we actually have two genders and both of them matter”. While not assuming your intent one way or another, it seems it to overlook genders outside the male/female paradigm. Can you speak to that?”

Priest once again shuts down his line of questioning.

“Gender: noun
1. either of the two sexes (male and female), especially when considered with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones. The term is also used more broadly to denote a range of identities that do not correspond to established ideas of male and female. “a condition that affects people of both genders”
I wrote an ecumenical commentary in support of gender and and LGBTQ issues, Chris. I invite everyone to read it.”

The Vampirella writer continued:

It was a simple interview. I was promoting a comic book and, as a really busy writer, I was typing really fast and speaking honestly while engaging with you.

Priest then stated he would not censor himself and pointed out that Arrant’s line of questioning is why “free speech is being compromised.”

“What I won’t do, not even for my own safety, is censor myself or try and anticipate every horrible way someone might choose to misinterpret something I’ve written or said. If anything, that just makes my point for me about how free speech is being compromised.”

Priest concluded noting that he has a duty to defend others’ rights to free speech. He also pointed out that the comic book industry has found itself in an “increasingly intolerant environment.”

“It’s a tough environment to publish comic books in because every publisher is terrified by the spectrum of extreme possible reactions from an increasingly intolerant environment where everybody’s playing “gotcha” and looking for the worst possible and most extremely negative interpretations of everything.

The whole point of free speech is my duty to defend others’ rights to have it, not to shout them down or demonize them.”

Priest’s upcoming Vampirella series will hit comic book shelves on July 17. Priest will be teaming with artist Ergun Gunduz. The series will feature a number of different covers. Cover artists include Frank Cho, Alex Ross, Joe Jusko, Guillem March, and a cosplay cover.

Here’s the official description for Dynamite’s Vampirella #1:

“In July 1969, the world was first introduced to Vampirella. 50 years later, she doesn’t look a day older!!!! Now, to celebrate her gold anniversary, Dynamite is launching a brand-new, ongoing series featuring the talents of Christopher Priest (Black Panther, Deathstroke, Quantum & Woody, Justice League) and European star/American star-in-the-making, Ergun Gunduz (Tales of the Great War, Taxi Tales)! You’ll experience the first, mysterious taste of things to come in Vampirella Free Comic Book Day #0, and the story continues here!!!”

What do you make of Christopher Priest’s responses to Newsarama’s Chris Arrant? What do you think about Priest’s view of how our world exists and how Vampirella would see it? What do you make of Arrant’s line of questioning? Do you think he was insinuating that Priest was bigoted based on his statement about gender?

Mentioned This Article:

More About: