by Ann Nocenti 10/95
Part one: SCRATCH
(Finalized Mantra artwork by Steve Lightle)
We open on a dark tease-- a burnt black smoldering thing in the shape of a boy is blasting randomly-- crushing walls, bending bars, ripping apart shackles, frying humans, screaming: "No more rules no walls no pills no tests no more!"--
credits and title this page
--action continues, as the creature continues to scream and destroy. It hears a voice and spins-- there stands a scared-but-brave therapist in a lab-coat. The Burnt Boy pauses for a moment. The therapist says: Please. This is the breakthrough we've been working towards. You may be in a rage, but at least you're COMMUNICATING. Please..."
A look of unholy, ghoulish anguish twisting a face that is more like a cratered cinder, the creature seems to smoulder and burn even more as it howls: "Too late!" and it launches itself out of what looks like an institutional prison and rockets away like a burning meteor, leaving a raging fire in his wake.
We cut to a calm, bucolic California town. Partly to practice her "magic tracking" power, partly just to get away and think, MANTRA floats high above her hometown, suspended in a bubble, in the lotus position-- this is a new daily ritual of hers. This intro shot of her should be large, maybe even a splash.
NOTE-- about magic. Every magician has his own "visual style" to his magic, for example, Dr. Strange has those cool, almost post-mod Ditko-designed symbols. "Magik" (Illyana), as she was connected to Mephisto, had a very fire-and-brimstone demonic style. MANTRA should have her own "style," almost like a graffiti artist. I suggest a kind of "twisted teenager" style--i.e., shattered hearts and dying flowers and bunnies with teeth. Pretty little angels with barbed wire halos. The typical romantic girl adolescent style gone bad. OR, it could be hipper, punkier, more MTV- influenced style. (You, dear artist, can decide, as you will have to draw it.) These flittering design things are insubstantial, more like just a half-seen glitter, an AURA, a dusting of a vibe that resonates around her and sparks out of her when she conjures her magics. It should reflect that this power was just dumped on her-- she may very well have a proclivity or talent for it, but until she understands what she's doing and trains and meditates more, her manifestation of her powers will be wildly chaotic.
Anyway, so as she floats, the very ethers she floats on or bubble she floats in or winds that keep her buoyant have glimmers of this "style." Subtle at first, because this is new, but it should build over the trilogy till it is her signature style. So it is a progressive thing, that could even reflect her mood -- more twisted when she's in a foul mood, darker when she is angry, etc.
About Mantra: The way she has been drawn she looks too adult to me, too Barbie-doll. She can be "developed," but in a more Lolita-nymphet kind of way-- an unconscious sexiness-- she is in turn, awkward and hip, impulsive and shy, cool and tomboy-like. She is sexy but PRE-adult. Think Juliette Lewis.
Her thoughts this page will be about how she feels very protective of her hometown, and every day she scopes out any "bad vibes" that should be investigated. Her ritual is a bit disturbed today, as she's nervous about an oral presentation she's got to make before history class. She's written about her new favorite topic-- witches and other dopplegangers. Funny, she thinks-- school become EASY when you're DRIVEN to learn-- in this case she wants to find out about her OWN magic powers--what are they and where do they come from?
She reviews her paper in her mind, and then, reverting to pure-girl, she thinks: Should I wear high heels and look hot up there in front of the class, but risk falling on my face, or...
Pages 4 - 6
Suddenly she sees a streak down below, and her heart does a flipflop-- it's that RUSH, that arrogant little ULTRA boy that she thinks she just hates but then again maybe she's got a crush on him. Funny how the two feelings are so close...
She soars down to join him. (the streak behind her from flying kicking up a few warped hearts...)
He's playing chicken with a rocket train, and dares her to also.
They race the train, and in this game we establish their powers, and establish that RUSH is a bit irresponsible, a risk-taker, and MANTA is more level-headed and sane.
(Rush is a typical SPEEDSTER in the Flash and Quicksilver vein, but he is not as fast, and is bouncier, more like a ball in a pin-ball machine)
Rush chases the train, catches it, clings to the top, and does a suicidal flip right down in front of the speeding engine.
Rush makes the normally pragmatic Mantra feel reckless, and he eggs her on till she too gets daring.
She too flips down before the speeding train at the last second she slices a dimensional pocket, (a chance to see her unique magicks-style) and slipping in and out of it, not only escapes harm but stuns and impresses Rush. It also makes her feel a bit guilty, using her power for such a silly, vain reason.
(note to artist: the point of this is a flirting, reckless display of their powers, if you hate trains, we can come up with an alternate kamikaze game)
They collapse laughing on a pretty hillside, watching the residue of fireworks from Mantra's use of magic.
We the reader watch the sparkling little thread of magic energy streak away like a piece of lightning.
Mantra and Rush suddenly hear a wail and see something scurry away.
They look into the woods and see nothing but a dark scorched trail that leads nowhere.
Suddenly Rush says: Hey you know how there are billions of alternate universes? You know how if you turn left instead of right your whole life might be changed? Like if you didn't eat those four twinkies and wash it down with two yoo-hoos and instead used the money to buy the new Bogmen CD, maybe your whole life would have changed? Well that little energy storm you just created, do you think it could have some kind of horrible irreversible repercussions
somewhere? Like that little animal that just wailed and ran-- maybe it got zapped by you. Maybe it will return as a big slavering beast!
Mantra stares at Rush. These thoughts are sobering to her. She sinks into a gloomy, guilty, depression. She turns to Rush.
Mantra: You know, your brain works too fast. It's like it rushes.
Rush: Side affect of my powers, I guess.
Mantra and Rush have one of those very thoughtful, very adolescent, almost trippy like they smoked a joint, philosophical conversations about the world of cause and effect, and find they have a lot in common. When you lead a double life, it is a relief to finally be able to talk to another duplicitous being. Mantra is wandering if she has any right to use her powers, as she isn't sure how she affects the rest of the universe.
Rush knows how she affects him, and, "rushing" things, leans over to grab Mantra.
Angry, she throws him off, a little too violently. (she's more powerful, I presume)
She thinks: how immature he is! Is this guy younger than he looks? Rush wonders: How humiliating. How can I go out with a girl who could kick my ass?
They split up in anger, both lying about where they have to go, inventing cool lives that don't exist. Rush, thinking: Dad will kill me if I'm not home to take out the garbage, but what he says is: I gotta go run a race with some other speedsters. Mantra, thinking: I got to write my history paper, but says: I gotta save a witch from a burning.
Cut to school in session. We are in the girl's room toilets with Doloros Cambio and Tracy Simpson-- Lauren's little geek gang. (Jerald-- enclose reference?) They are together in one stall, Doloros sits on the toilet with her skirt hiked up, while Tracy gives her a home-made tattoo on her leg. They use a needle wrapped in thread, and dip it in an ink jar, using this as the tattoo-needle. Tracy is making the "Anarchy" sign: an A in a circle. Tracy smokes a cigarette.
Between "ouch's" Doloros is asking Tracy: Did you tell her to meet us here?
Tracy: Yeah. She should be here any second. Let's really riff on her, she deserves it.
As if on cue, LAUREN (Mantra as a normal girl-- somehow smaller, geekier, with glasses, a la Super-man/ Clark Rent) comes into the bathroom.
Lauren: What are you doing? Tracy, you shouldn't be smoking: A tattoo: That's permanent you know!
Tracy: No duh. That's the POINT. You're gonna have to get one too if you want to stay in the gang.
The tattoo finished, the girls put out their cigarettes and get up to go. They are really snubbing Lauren, and she is getting hurt by it.
Doloros: Yeah. We're starting a band, too.
Lauren: You can't play any instruments.
Doloros: So? Neither can any of my favorite bands. We're gonna be called the Sisters of Affliction, after some nuns I used to know. We got some really BAD HABITS.
Tracy and Doloros laugh at this. Lauren does not.
Tracy: Yeah, our first single's called "Kill Your Parents."
Doloros: I'm writing a song now called "Beat me."
Lauren: Why are you acting like this?
The girls leave the bathroom and head out into the halls.
Doloros: Like what?
Lauren: So aloof. So dark.
Tracy: Oh, we're too dark for you? You can't be dark, can you? Now that you got a shot at "cheerleader heaven."
Doloros: Yeah, where you can worship God, the Almighty Football.
Lauren: What are you talking about?
Doloros, angry now: Don't lie to us. You got invited to the big jock party this weekend. A prerequisite to hanging with that crowd is that you can't be seen with US.
Suddenly a too-pretty, too-perfect, too-tall, too-blond, couple, the Cheerleader captain and Football captain themselves, breeze by and shout to Lauren: See you Friday!
Suddenly the mood is more like a funeral, as Lauren insists she won't go to the party, but Doloros and Tracy don't quite believe her.
Cut to Lauren, deep in thought, reciting her oral presentation in her head, when she hears laughter behind her just as she passes some of the jock crowd.
She spins to see JOHNNY ROME is following her. (this is RUSH, but when he's de-powered, he too looks smaller, geekier) He is carrying some bright xeroxes, and hands her
one, inviting her to a pizza party he's having this Friday night. There is a strange tension between them, that they don't understand but can't help feeling.
Lauren looks around and sees the bright papers blowing across the schoolyard-- obviously everyone he's invited just tossed the invite away.
She looks at this nerdy guy two years her junior and thinks: why can't I just use my magic right now to make this geek VANISH.
Everyone's watching her. Lauren, a kind-hearted girl, decides to just thank him and take the invite. He is very grateful for this small kindness, and now twice as smitten with her.
pages 12- 13
Cut to Lauren before her history class delivering the end of her lecture on witches. She is making some good points about how everyone has other "selves", doubles, other personalities. Sometimes things that seem to be madness are actually very creative. She believes this splitting of the self is where witches come from, and was reinforced by how witches had to hide or be burned.
She finishes, and has reached the Q&A part. She asks for any questions, and is surprised at the intolerant "burn them" attitude of the class against any such deviance.
One kid makes that point that anyone with "powers" has an unfair advantage over the rest of the average humans. Other kids pipe in about how you could never trust them.
Finally, one rotten kid actually starts yelling: Burn the witch!
Lauren suddenly gets paranoid: Do they know about her powers? Just as the class gets ugly, to her relief it is interrupted when the school principle enters, and whispers something to the teacher.
An announcement is made: Class is being dismissed early. Everyone is being sent home, by escort. A young girl was found murdered in the woods nearby.
Cut to all the kids, some scared, some sad, some acting too tough to hide fear, as they are herded on buses as Lauren sneaks away.
She decides she will walk home, and just hope the pervert comes after her. She'll teach him a lesson, she thinks, as she tightens her sash.
Cut to Lauren walking down a long empty lonely road. She is angry. She feels that as the protector of this town she has failed, she feels it is her fault someone got killed. Unbidden, an image of a poor girl being tortured and killed in the woods comes into Lauren's mind. She shudders the thought away. Maybe she should quit school and devote herself full time to keeping watch? She also thinks about her talk on witches. Her fellow classmates showed her if she ever revealed herself to them as Mantra, they'd burn her at the stake.
A black car slowly pulls up behind her, stopping.
A dark figure, cloaked and hidden behind sunglasses, asks her if she wants a ride.
Sure, she says. She gets in. This should be REALLY scary. This is a super-hero story and this will turn into a superhero fight, but the mood and resonance of these scenes should be that of the "real" world-- this is a pervert, who symbolizes the kind of creep that would molest, torture and kill a young girl.
Lauren thinks: this is it. This is the killer. Now what do I do?
The man lites a match and blows out the flame, breathing deeply from the matchhead.
I adore the smell of sulfur, he says. Don't you?
Lauren just stares at him, as if hypnotized. His eyes are handsome, deep, and promise forever and ever.
The man says: Mind if I smoke?
Curiously, the man does not lite
s a cigarette, but rather
his body itself seems to smoke.
He reaches over and begins to pet Lauren, a leering, perverted smile.
She slaps him away, and...
Suddenly a hundred hands reach out and clamp hold of Lauren, and the insides of the car look like the tunnel to hell, and the Man next to her howls with laughter and reveals himself to be a dark sorcerer.
Note: we need to design what could be a formidable and ongoing villain for Mantra. She is a child, and her world is young. This creature, in contrast, is very old, and has the experience of centuries. This is Mantra's fate, to a certain degree. Even if she stays on the "white" side of magic, she will become irredeemably more experienced, she will by what she has become lose her innocence faster than a normal girl. So he is dark, decadent, decayed, perhaps bound in black with little spurs accenting his outfit. At the same time, as he will function as Shrink, Father-figure, and Evil-Mentor for Mantra, he must be handsome, seductive, appealing. Think Dark Elvis. As "Scratch" is a kind of street name for the Devil, he has demonic aspects. He also has a very distinctive scar running across his face, a "scratch" that could be reminiscent of the A for anarchy that the girls naively tattooed on themselves.
The interior of the car seems to become infinite and over these next pages they have a raging battle, as one by one the Sorcerer reveals each of Mantra's powers to be a sham trickery:
Anything goes, visually here. Again, this is HIS magicks, so this is HIS visual style. Smouldering ruins, barbed-wire rivers, boney hands reaching out of the earth, burning crosses, toxic towers, as gruesome and apocalyptic as you wish to get.
Mantra, yelling "Growth change power!" rips out of the grip of the hands and FLIES away, only to find she has not been heading into the sky but has been tunnelling down into endless MUD. Suddenly the MUD becomes the embrace of the Sorcerer. Terrifying, as if he is about to rape her.
She BLASTS the Sorcerer, only to find she blasted a MIRROR, and her power bounces back and blasts her. She falls, and to her horror, falls into his ARMS.
She manifests her SWORD OF FANGS, slices open a new dimension, and slips into it, only to find the new dimension in a CAGE, perhaps a cage made out of teeth and fangs, a prison she created for herself.
She makes herself INTANGIBLE and exits the cage, only to be attacked by the Sorcerer again. She takes all the ELEMENTS: fire, wind, earth, water, and hurls them all at the Sorcerer, only to watch him twirl them around each other until they serve his artistic purpose in sculpting for him a beautiful GEM. This he tosses at her, and it slips on her finger in mockery of a romantic gesture.
Just when she thinks all is lost and she is as good as dead--
-- the car snaps back to where the hundred hands still grip her and she feels insane and wonders if they battled at all or if it was just all in her mind?
The Sorcerer mocks her for a novice. Saying yes to an invitation to enter a demon's realm? Not recognizing the scores of warning clues he sent out? Wake up and smell the sulfur, girl. Those were like, basic no-no's every budding warlock learns in Avoiding Dracula 101. There is an entire hierarchy of wizards and warlocks, and sorcerers and witches out there, he says. You cannot just gallivant around using magics without knowing your place. You don't even know the CLICHES of magic: Use magic and it uses you. Not to mention the Faustian bargains involved-- do you even know where your power comes from? For all you know, it comes from hell. Sure you were given some powers. But power is NOTHING without a strong MIND to wield it.
"That's the thing about magic-- it is everything, and then it's nothing. It exists-- and then it doesn't." he tells her.
The Sorcerer reaches over and whips off her SASH, laughing.
The sash disintegrates in his fingers. Idiot, he says. You never needed this. "Growth power change!" he mocks, "How trite."
Lauren closes her eyes and thinks: He's gonna kill me now. My power is gone. I'm Mantra no more. I'm a fool, an idiot, a bug he's going to squash. God, I wish I had kissed that cute RUSH just once before I die. I can't believe I'm going to die without ever having been kissed. Here it comes. Hope it doesn't hurt too bad...
Just as she opens her eyes he reaches over with a long curling finger-nail and scratches a long scratch across Lauren's face. For some reason it doesn't hurt at all, in fact, it feels wonderful, like a caress. And the Sorcerer himself, looks stunningly handsome. This paradoxical feelings have Lauren in a confused swoon.
"My name, by the way, is SCRATCH."
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