Dennis O’Neil: Tooth-Rotting Superheroes!


Feeling of anxiety in my torso as though some malevolent, weaselly little troll’s taken up residence there. Gonna pop out into Marifran’s face, like the little bastard in the first alien movie? No, but if it did at least it would be gone. Been snarking around for months. Why? What have I got that it might want?

Could the time of year have some relevance here? When I sat down to write this, it was Halloween, the holiday that, according to some savants, the barrier between the living and he dead becomes porous and allows those Who Have Passed Before Us to visit the realm of the breathing and… I don’t know – give the finger to the girl who dumped you in high school? Scare the living hell out of granny? Reap mountainous profits?

Ah, that last one. Like virtually everything else, Halloween, which began as a modest little wingding with religious roots, has become monetized and so parents buy loads of tooth-rotting sweets to hand out to the neighbors’ offspring and costumes for their own cuties to wear as they foray onto the block in quest of rotten teeth.

Sometimes the costumes are kind of traditional – ghosts, witches, princesses – but, it seems to me looking through the wrong end of the telescope, that more and more trick-or-treaters are opting for outfits adapted from the garb worn by the superheroes of movies, television and, and – what am I neglecting? Oh sure – comic books for those who prefer a touch of the archaic in their entertainment. Profits a’waiting, for sure.

But the comicbook/Halloween synergy isn’t all that links holiday with comics. (All hands brace for comic book trivia!) For a few years in the past century, a smallish Vermont town called Rutland staged an annual Halloween parade and encouraged paraders to dress as comics characters. A Rutland resident named Tom Fagan upped the ante by inviting comics professionals to participate in the shenanigans and – surprise! some of us did. A town full of cheerful citizens, partying with colleagues, maybe something to eat and drink and maybe even the inspiration for a comic book or two, down the line… anybody see anything not to like? Thought not.

The festivities ended somewhere north of midnight when Tom opened the doors to a big old mansion he owned and invited all and sundry to find a place to sleep. We did, and the next morning we drove through the glorious New England autumn back to the real world.

And I was scared of what, exactly? I’d encountered my share of spookies in the previous 24 hours, but they had been more likely to generate giggles rather than screams.