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DEANSPEAK
May 28, 2003
from Paul Dini

SPOOKY CHICKS

A few visitors to this column have asked me about an illustration that ran with the piece on my Christmas party. It showed a cartoon version of me blithely sauntering along about to be attacked by a variety of dangerous animals and people, including my witch character, Polly Green. Whereas most folks understood the significance of the people and animals (though they understandably raised some eyebrows about the validity of the ghost-girl, and I’m saving that story for Halloween) they didn’t quite get what Polly was doing there. I explained she was a stand-in for certain women I’ve met (and in some cases dated) who are deeply into mysticism, sorcery, wicca, voodoo, kabbalah, stage magic, real magick, and other variably arcane interests. That revelation prompted e-mails which ranged all the way from “Yeah, right!” to “Are you still on medication?” and finally to “What don’t you try going out with a human being for once?” I’m the first to admit I’ve made some spectacularly bad dating choices, but I also admit women who have skills and abilities beyond the realm of normal human experience (or who claim to) have always held a certain fascination for me. Then again I’m just as easily fascinated by a crumpled ball of tin foil dangling from a piece of string, so please take any opinions I have with a mine of salt.

If modern society is any indication, I’m hardly the only person ever intrigued by the allure of spooky chicks. Once confined largely to Halloween parties and Nick at Nite reruns, cute witches now seem to be everywhere. In popular imagery the broom-riding hag of childhood nightmares has been largely supplanted by the youthful, raven-haired temptress wearing little or nothing more than a sexy smile and the standard conical sorceress hat. Books of helpful spells relating to school, family and dating are very popular among teen age girls, every one a fledgling Willow, Sabrina or Hermione Granger. Even VH1 has jumped on the broomstick, picking up a show called “Witchcraft” which brings together 12 people who feel they have extraordinary talents, then teaches them all aspects of the craft. Rather ominously, one of the 12 will be eliminated each week, though reports were sketchy as to how they would be dismissed. I can just imagine the season finale; one beaming, prize-laden sorceress surrounded by eleven very pissed-off frogs.

Do I believe in witchcraft? No more or less than I believe in most other spiritual doctrines. Faith is faith and if it works for you, great. I will say I’ve generally gotten along better with the occult girls than I have with the few God-fearin’ women who tried to drag me off to church Sunday mornings. Besides, most women I’ve met who had Goth/supernatural inclinations have been intelligent, good-humored and extremely creative. And contrary to what I initially feared, not a one of them insisted I had to dress up like The Crow before they would date me. That said, I must add I’ve also encountered more than my share of walking nightmares. Contained herein are accounts of some of those more frightful relationships, all set down pretty much the way they happened. In order to save J. Bone the trouble of caricaturing a number of different women (and to stave off death curses and worse, lawsuits, from those daughters of Hecate who prefer not to be depicted) we’ve once again prevailed upon Polly to portray them all.

I dated my first spooky chick when I lived in Marin County, a hot bed of diverse spiritualism if ever there was one. She and I met in a bookstore/coffeeshop, in the paranormal section, not surprisingly. I was looking for a cryptozoology book on Mokele-mbembe, the legendary African dinosaur and she was reaching for a copy of The Necronomicon Spellbook. We got to talking about everything from casting runes to chupacabras and hit it off. On the surface she was a sweet girl into tarot cards and homeopathic healing. One rather unsettling thing though, she liked to collect body parts of her various boyfriends and make them into charms. Not vital organs like lungs or livers, but hair and nails, things like that. In her daytime hours, she worked as an orthodontist’s assistant and took home spare teeth whenever she could get them. In the brief time we were dating, she kept insisting that I have her doctor remove a crooked lower tooth of mine. “So you can wear it on a chain around your neck?’ I wryly smirked. “Yes.” She nodded, quite serious. “Wouldn’t you rather have a diamond or something?” I suggested, anxious to make a compromise. “No. The tooth has more power.” “You mean, power over me?” “Yes.” She replied, in a threatening deadpan tone that would have put shivers into Wednesday Addams. When I playfully asked what she would give me in return to ensure my power over her, all I got was an icy glower that said, “Dream on, Derwood.” When I said a final no to the tooth removal, she said a final good-bye to me. No doubt there is some happy, gap-toothed zombie staggering around Marin Country who eventually said yes to her.

Then there was the witch/vampire/Goth fanatic here in LA who drove a hearse, slept in a coffin, sported a mostly vinyl wardrobe (looked fantastic in it, too) and kept a house filled with caged rats, snakes, lizards and toads. “Mostly former pesky neighbor children or ex-boyfriends who’ve pissed me off.” She explained with a not so innocent wink. “Uh, yeah....” I said, making a mental note to file that bit of too much information away and use it in a story sometime. (And I did- check out Zatanna – Everyday Magic, still on sale!) Like my former flame in Marin, this girl also favored offerings from the body, expressing a fondness for drinking a partner’s blood during sex. “Don’t worry.” She’d say, trying to assuage my fears as she twirled a hypodermic with all the expertise of Manolete about skewer a bull. “I promise it’s a sterile needle. I’ll take just a little bit, squirt it into a shot glass and drink it as we climax.” “Not on your undead life.” I vowed. “Okay then, I’ll use the fangs.” She said, displaying the two pearly spikes she kept in an onyx box next to her bed. “I had them custom-made razor-sharp and they fit nice and snug over my teeth. I guarantee all you’ll feel is a slight scratch, if that.” “How does this sound?” I counter-proposed. “Next time I skin my knee, I’ll run over and you can lick it off while we make out.” Vampirella was adamant –if she got no penetration, then neither did I. All things considered, I didn’t feel too bad about keeping our relationship platonic.

I have to say, Vampi was one girl who really worked the Goth bit down to the last detail and then some. One night at my place she found a bottle of absinthe that I had won as a door prize at a particularly decadent Halloween party the year before. Instantly enraptured by the allure of the forbidden elixir much prized by artists, rock stars and other manic-depressives, she begged for a sample. I told her if she was craving a fast brain blast, any one of my single village mezcals would do the trick just as well. “Tequila just makes me drunk!” She whined. “I want visions and hallucinations in the style of La Belle Epoque!” I briefly considered bopping Lady Marmalade on the head with the bottle, thus ensuring better visions than she’d ever get from the absinthe, but relented. I may write cartoons, but when the mood strikes me, I can play the brooding, suicidal poet, too. If she wanted decadent, then decadent she would have. “Okay, anything to keep you from opening one of my arteries.” I said. “Sit tight while I get the sugar cubes and glasses.”

I was gone maybe thirty seconds and when I returned, I was horrified to see her chugging down the last of the wormwood infused liquor like it was Hamm’s beer. “Jumping Jebus on a pogo stick!” I screamed. “Put that down!” “Relax! I’m fine.” She said, wiping her jet-black lips. “Really?” I said, raising an eyebrow and looking at the drained bottle. “Relax! I’m fine.” She repeated, a bit more strained. “Who am I?” I asked. “How many fingers am I holding up? Name any of the four Marx Brothers or seven dwarfs.” “Relax! I’m fine.” She mindlessly blurted as her frozen body careened off my couch and crashed onto the coffee table. Followed many agonizing trips to the toilet. Later, when she stopped vomiting and it looked like a run to the emergency room had been narrowly avoided, I asked her what possessed her guzzle such a potentially dangerous spirit. She said she wanted to see the Green Fairy, but all she saw before the barfing started was Hello Kitty and a couple of Smurfs.

My more rational friends, and yes, I have one or two, ask me where I find these Creature Feature cuties. I explain that sometimes they find me. Case in point: I was writing scripts for a popular Franchise Hero TV show when my partner Bernie and I were assigned a new production assistant just out of film school. For discretion’s sake, let’s call her, oh, I don’t know, Polly. When she started working with our crew, Polly seemed like a somewhat shy, pleasant and otherwise unassuming girl. Then a few weeks later, she casually mentioned that she was a practicing sorceress and soon thereafter a near-magical transformation began to take place. Blonde hair turned black, sensible denim skirts became tight leather shorts, and her now ebony-lacquered nails began sporting poison rings and finger talons. All of that was fine except she also began telling me over and over of her burning desire to be a writer and how she would do anything, and she meant anything for a script assignment. Uh-oh.

This was about the time Polly’s attitude around the studio changed from sociable to kind of mean-flirty. You know, when you say “Good Morning” to someone and they just hiss back, or when they breeze through the copy room, loudly exclaim “I’m mad at you” and keep going while you’re trying to work the fax machine. All that wacky “pay attention to me, I’m acting cute” high school stuff. More manipulation than magic, but she was getting her point across.

One day as I was eating at the food court near our building, Polly plopped herself down at my table and wanted to have a heart to heart talk about why I was so blatantly ignoring her “friendly overtures.” I told her I was just winding down a relationship and not ready to see anyone. Also, I felt office romances were a bad idea in general. “Oh, I see.” Polly nodded. Then she added, “You probably shouldn’t drink that”, indicating my cup of Hawaiian Punch. I glanced at the powdery white foam oozing over the ice, and then to the open poison ring on her finger. “What is that? What did you do?” I said. “Don’t worry.” Polly smirked. “It wouldn’t have killed you, just made you sick and susceptible to my will for an hour or two. I wanted to let you know I could do that to you any time any where.” She gave me an impish little wink, then skipped off, presumably into some handy alternate dimension. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh, scream, or call the Exorcist. Finally I tossed the drink out and went back to my office. “It was probably just Lik-em-ade.” I told myself. “Yeah, sure. Lik-em-ade.”

I tried to forget the incident, then the next day Polly stormed into my office unbidden and unannounced. She leaned seductively against the just-slammed door, flipped her glasses onto my couch and fixed me with a look so direct even I couldn’t mistake her intent.

Five minutes later I staggered into my partner Bernie’s office, my hair a mess, the top two buttons torn off my shirt, my face smeared with brick red lip gloss. “What the fuck happened to you?” He wondered.

“Well, almost just that.” I stammered.

One thing you should know about Bernie, he has a hearty, goofy laugh, very much like the sadistic bulldog in the Tex Avery cartoons. “Wuh-huh-huh-huh!” He chortled. “Are you serious?”

“Yeah!” I nodded. “Our P.A. Polly was just in my office. She locked the door and threw herself on me!”

“No!”

“Yeah!”

“Wuh-huh-huh! Why?”

“I dunno! She just went nuts!”

“What did you do?”

“Well, I tried to push her off my lap…”

“She was on your lap?!?”

“Yeah!”

“Wuh-huh-huh-huh!”

“I’m serious! She grabbed my hair in one hand, forced my head back and started clawing my chest with her other hand!”

“Wuh-huh-huh-huh!”

“Meantime, she slammed her mouth over mine and started grinding her ass into my lap as hard as she could!”

“Wuh-huh-huh!”

“Really!”

“Okay! Wuh-huh-huh!”

“I mean hard! I think you can still see the outlines of her back pockets pressed into my skin!”

“Wuh-huh-huh!”

“Look at my shoe!” I said, displaying a punctured Nike. “Her heel went right through the toe and kept going! She drew blood!”

“I think she likes you. Wuh-huh-huh!”

“Will you shut up?!? I am seriously freaked out here!”

“So what happened?”

“What do you think happened?!? I’m sitting there going ‘Polly, stop please, no, don’t…this is inappropriate…no, you’ve got to…oh, that feels good…no! Stop, please! Now!!!’ I shoved her off me as gently as I could and told her to leave. She stalked off, blew me a kiss and stormed out the door.”

“You could report her to Human Resources.”

“I’m not sure what I saw in there was human. Besides, you know how strong the fraternization rules are in this place! No inter-office dating, and if there is, the man is always the one that gets nailed.”

“Wuh-huh-huh! That’s right!”

“Who’d believe that I didn’t make the first move?!?”

“Wuh-huh-huh! Not a blessed soul!”

“It’s like that cartoon where Sylvester has to get Tweety away from another cat. The second he sticks the bird safely back in the cage, Granny comes in and figures Sylvester’s been trying to eat him again. I’ll be sold to the violin string factory!”

“I think you’re making too much out of this. It’s clear Polly is attracted to you. I think you should go with it.”

“Well you know, I was sort of considering that as she was forcing her tongue down my throat. I was telling myself, ‘Shit, I’m not married, dating’s sort of dull right now, and what the heck, she sure seems open to the idea of a relationship.’ But then I remembered how much she wants to be a writer and truthfully, I’m sure it’s more about a potential job than it is about me. We’d start messing around and then she’d hit me up for a Franchise Hero writing assignment, and I’d feel guilted into giving her one. You’d jump down my throat for doing that, and before you know it, we’re fighting and she’s enjoying the battle. Or, if I told her I’d rather not mix business with personal, she could turn around and lodge the mother of all sexual harassment suits with HR.”

“Wuh-huh---hmmm…”

“Right-o.”

“You think she’d do that?”

“I think what I’m dealing with here is a very cool character who knows exactly what she wants and how to get it. A student of Anton LaVey’s “The Satanic Witch” if I’m not mistaken, as much of her technique seems to follow that book pretty closely.

“That stuff is written down in a book?”

“Yes. And being single, and male and straight and stupid, I have no defense for that kind of ‘magic.’ Besides, she nearly poisoned me in the food court. I don’t think this girl is about boundaries.”

We agreed the best thing to do was to play it cool and keep quiet. Treat it like an isolated incident and no one need be hurt or embarrassed. I also instructed Bernie that just in case anything like that ever happened again, I would give out with a loud signal from my office, such as yelling his name or tossing something heavy at the wall. Bernie assured me that he’d hear it and run in to save me.

A couple days later, Polly reappeared in my office (keeping the door open this time), looking sheepish and apologetic. She said she was just goofing around before and was glad I had taken her “joke” in the spirit it was intended. Equally anxious to dispel the whole thing, I said no harm had been done and the incident was forgotten. “Oh hey, what’s this?” Polly said, noticing a stack of brightly-colored Xeroxes on my desk. “Are you having a party?” I grimaced, wishing I had better hidden the invitations for my fast-approaching 33rd birthday party. Not wanting to give this girl any more reason to be pissed off at me, I handed her an invite and said she more than welcome to drop by. Besides, I figured, what did I have to lose? Pretty much everyone from the studio was going to be there, and with luck, she’d meet some cute guy her own age and leave me the hell alone.

Saturday night arrived at my house and so did Polly, decked out in red and looking like a Marc Silvestri illustration come to life. She was the first to show up and seemed genuinely astounded when other people did, too. “I thought you said it was just going to be us?” She whispered as she sidled up to me at the bar. “I said everyone on our show had been invited.” I shrugged. “Did you think I was kidding?” Not a word left her throat but she deliberately formed the words “Hate you” with her lips as she took her Cosmopolitan and went to sulk in a corner. I caught sight of her several more times throughout the evening, bitterly glaring at me as she fiddled with the anhk and pentagrams on her charm bracelet. I was sure that somewhere there was a voodoo doll of me that would be riddled with pins by the night’s end.

Monday I was back at work when, with stunning predictability, my office door slammed shut and Polly was once again leaning against it and glaring at me with all the forced intensity of a spurned soap opera diva.

“No!” I said, in a stern tone of voice one reserves for the golden retriever when it has chewed up a favorite pair of flip-flops. This time however, Polly was not to be denied.

“Who was she?” Polly hissed as she stalked forward.

“Who was who?” I stammered, playing for time as I reached into my desk for some miracle device that could stave off my impending destruction.

“The girl you like. At your party. Who was she?” Polly spat with disgust as she leaped knee-first into my lap. “I want her name so I’ll know whom to curse. And I will curse her, I promise.” Polly twisted around and gave me a hard bite-kiss on the lips. “Oh great,” I thought. “She’s playing rough. That’s unfair and even worse, it almost always works.”

Fumbling around in my desk drawer, my hand closed on a thick metal spray can. Thank God. The heavy-duty pepper spray I bought for my photo shoot in Alaska. If it works on grizzly bears, it’ll work on a psychotic obsessive Goth girl. Even the sight of it should be enough to frighten her off. I pulled out the cylinder and saw it was actually a replacement can of Spider-Man toy web-shooter fluid. Goddamn cartoonists, we really do suck ass.

“It was that little brunette, wasn’t it?” The Empress of Evil said, breaking long enough to give me some air. “The one who kept going through your art books.”

“That was my sister. She’s an art professor. You can ask anyone. You can ask BERNIE!!!” I said, raising my voice to a yell. To add punctuation, I picked up my Franchise Hero coffee mug and threw it at the wall. There was a muffled “Wuh-huh-huh!” from the other side, followed by “I’m on the phone with the network!” and then silence. Wonderful. My hero to the rescue.

“Oh.” Said Polly, undeterred as she began to grind her boot heel into my foot once more. Swell. There go another pair of Nikes. “Then it was that tall girl. That Lana. Or that other blonde, Allison. It was Allison, right?”

“Look, it’s really none of your business who I…”

Smack! Polly’s poison ring hand slapped hard against the left side of my face. “It is Allison, isn’t it?” Polly said as she forced herself around to glower viciously at me. “I could tell by the way you were staring at her ass all night.” Smack! Once again she slapped my face, right on the long scar that bisects the length of my left eyebrow.

I must explain that earlier that year, a couple of fine young citizens in LA sports team attire had surprised me on the street late one night and proceeded to hold their gangsta initiation on my face. It took a plastic surgeon the better part of a week to reconstruct the damage done to the left side of my head, and as a result, I was understandably sensitive about being touched there. No, strike that sensitive stuff, Polly’s slaps had brought me right to Bruce Banner furious. I guess I conveyed that effectively enough as I swatted away Polly’s third slap so soundly that she shrieked “Yipe!”

“If you ever pull this shit again,” I said in as cold and direct a voice as I could muster as I shot daggers into her widening eyes, “I will see to it that you are fired. Regardless of what kind of a spin you put on it, or what lies you attempt to tell, you will be out. This is completely unacceptable behavior, is that understood? I told Bernie what happened the first time, and other people as well. You are here solely because I wanted to forget what you did last week and give you a second chance. Got it?” She nodded, scared, then defensively added, “Sorry. I was PMSing.”

“Door.” I said, pointing toward it. Polly exited without another word. “Wow.” I thought as I settled back into my chair. “That actually worked. I guess virtue can win out over evil, especially if one’s career is at stake. Too bad she wanted to be a writer. She looked so cute in those shorts. I wonder if there’s any way I could…ah, careful, Br’er Rabbit. Don’t go sluggin’ that asphalt dummy again.”

And that, I’m happy to report, was that. I had no further trouble with Polly in the remaining months she was on our crew. Oh, I did hear she eventually worked her seduction bit on a guy at another studio, and their relationship quickly ended in the same tempest of scandal and hurt feelings that I foresaw for myself. I didn’t need witchcraft to tell me that one was coming. Eventually Polly tired of television production and left the west coast. Last I heard she was running a haunted house attraction back east and enjoying it very much.

While setting down thoughts for this column, I recounted these stores to a happily married friend who shook her head in disgust and said “Well! I just hope those experiences shock you out of dating oddball women!” I shrugged and said “I don’t know, compared to the rock singer, horse trainer, girl magician, foot model and five or six actresses, they seem to be pretty much par for the course.” “Maybe,” my friend countered, “still, it’s one thing to hang out with girls who claim to be witches, but can you actually imagine bringing one of them home to meet your family? They’d bar her at the door!”

I don’t agree with that. Sure, I’ve dated some extreme personalities, but my family is, for the most part, pretty open-minded. I don’t think they’d be intolerant of witches, pagans, Martians or any other women who would hold beliefs different from their own. And yet I can still imagine them whipping out the crosses, hex symbols and other good luck charms the second we entered the house. It wouldn’t be to ward her away, though. The truth is they are still creeped out to have a cartoonist in the family.

Dean


PAUL’S UPCOMING APPEARANCES

I never know if this guy is coming or going, so here he is to tell you in his own words where he’ll be popping up. PD?

Thanks, JB. I was going to take this entire year off from conventions, but Boss Ross is crackin’ the whip so I’m showing up at San Diego (July 17-20) and Chicago (August 8-10) to sign the DC big books with Alex. I’ll be solo at the Wizardcon in Dallas (Nov.21-23 ). Like I’m going to pass up a free trip to Texas? I don’t think so! Come on by, say howdy and I’ll sign your copies of Mutant, Texas, Zatanna: Everyday Magic, Witchblade Animated, JLA: Liberty and Justice, Simpsons Treehouse of Horror 2003, (whew! I have a lot of stuff coming out this year!) the BRAND NEW 100+ page Jingle Belle graphic novel (about which I’ll have more to say next update), and, last but not least, you’re hearing it first here folks….the first issue of a long-awaited mini-series featuring two lovely, lethal ladies very close to my heart. If I say more, I’ll have a spring-propelled boxing glove hurling toward my head. Besides, if you can’t figure it out from those clues, then, to paraphrase Tweety, “You don’t know me vewy well, do you?

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