…While Visions of Pumpkin Guts Danc’d In My Head…
I’ve always been a Hallowe’en kind of kid. Christmas, yes, fine, but Christmas doesn’t give you the opportunity to coat yourself to the elbows with pumpkin gore. Nor, in anticipation of 12/25, does one feel authorized to spend large amounts of money on cosmetics that aren’t used in a normal social context anywhere excepting the better geisha bars, and maybe some parts of Dixieland. Yes, Hallowe’en is a green light for every morbid-minded, artsy, exhibitionist kook to inflict their aesthetic on a world that otherwise has very little place for people whose favorite movies universally involve some combination of Tim Burton, Danny Elfman, and Johnny Depp 1.
Hallowe’en groupies â€“ who should be rapidly distinguished from Goths2, who are Hallowe’en groupies who commit the mortal sin of taking themselves seriously â€“ have not always been content to leave it to the end of October. This has resulted in some travesties committed in the name of year-round spookiness (Scooby-Doo leaps to mindâ€¦), but has also produced some real winners, particularly in the land of comics. I could go off for quite some time about print examples, like Scary Godmother, or online torch-holders like Scary-Go-Round (punnish titles seem to be a happy prerequisite in this field), but somebody else here is probably already doing that. Click any link in this story and soon enough the characters will have pointy facial features and striped tights.
I myself am numbered among Hallowe’en groupies who’ve branched beyond buying mini-Snickers the minute they hit the shelves3. My first significant venture in the world of long-term commixing is my screwball vampire webcomic, Bite Me â€“ yes, I even meet the pun requirement â€“ and was intended as a loving parody of romantic, quasi-historic vampire lore. In the immediate sense, it was the result of reading Interview with the Vampire and Tale of Two Cities in close succession, and having very little freestanding social life in high school. In the universal sense, it was the result of being brought up by old-school Hallowe’en groupies. By the time I was nine, I had seen my father painted entirely green and cackling evilly at small children (who later had to be consoled); he once organized a father-daughter bonding session that consisted of renting every version of Dracula that the local video store had.
This is not to say that my mother is innocent of similar proceedings â€“ it’s just that most people don’t really think of "kooky" as being a desirable adjective in their primary-care physician, so she has an image to maintain. I have nonetheless seen her display a suspicious enthusiasm for making cobwebs out of cotton wads, and she admits to having a suppressed affection for Sleepy Hollow (she cheered at the scene where Christopher Walken’s flesh devours his skull).
My parents think this vampire hoozy-honka is positively great, therefore. They’ve lived through a long succession of childhood Hallowe’en costumes that lend a new inadequacy to the phrase "elaborately conceived"; a page a week of neck-puncturing gags and thinly veiled Lestat wannabes is comparatively low-commitment. The fact that I’ve also acquired something resembling a loyal fanbase this way gives them a sort of proud parental glint in the eye that you normally only see when kids get a 1600 on their SATs4.
And a very Hallowe’en groupie fanbase it is, too. H.G.s are, not surprisingly, the sorts of people who have an encyclopedic grasp of obscure folklore, and every now and then I’ve been actively amazed at the sheer wealth of knowledge I don’t possess. I’ve been witness to a three page-long forum thread dealing exclusively with the technical ramifications of beheading a vampire. The only geek meme I’ve ever provoked to top that one was when I posted the opening line of "Magic Dance" from Labyrinth in my journal and got 118 replies5.
All the fun aside, my comic is now heading into its final chapter, and by next spring I could be looking at a world without double entendres involving the word "grave". I might do more in the same vein (ha-ha) further on down the line, but I have a senior thesis to think about next year, which should be something seriously considered and academic in tone6. I’m stepping down from the city council of Hallowe’entown and retiring to a quiet, civilian life, away from the noise and the publicity.
…oh man, the trick-or-treaters in this town aren’t gonna know what hit them.
2 The argument has been made that Goth is the child of Glam, but the great thing about glam was that David Bowie knew that he was screwing around. In more than one sense, if you want to be literal-minded about it.