by Ann Nocenti 10/95
We are in a blue white glow, institutional beds float in the air, patients are strapped to the beds or walk zombie like dragging the electrodes of yesterday's shock treatments. The gentle, big-eyed, wispy "therapists" move like ghosts, murmuring with concern at everyone's pain. The ground is charred black and smoldering. It looks like a dream-version of an 18th century Bedlam.
In the center of this dreamy realm, our new, lean and mean MANTRA struggles as the ghostly therapists try to encase her in long billowing white bandages. Mantra is half-wrapped in white bandages, like a mummified strait-jacket. We see Mantra is a burnt bloody tattered mess. Her costume could also be added to according to the dimensions she's just been slicing through-- a few dollheads or baby skulls or demon charm bracelets or burnt Barbies she picked up from hell and other realms. With Mantra, the twisted-teen aspect is everpresent.
Her SWORD is slicing through the air, as if slicing time and space, with the appropriate crackles and sparks. We can't see the tip of the sword.
Mantra yells: I'M NOT INSANE!
captions, in "teen diary" scrawl:
Who am I?
I thought I was a normal, naturally blonde, sunny-side-up teenage girl living at surf's edge in peach-perfect California.
Hut I'm also a WITCH and now I realize what every stoned-out hippie always knew-- there are ZILLIONS of possible worlds, and I stand at the center of all of them.
Mom thinks I'm a sneaky, secretive, truant, disrespectful liar who dresses like a slutty vamp.
Mothers are always right.
I'm that, and more.
credits and title this page
pages 2 - 4
Cut to a forest clearing. The clearing is strewn with piles of bizarre things-- doll parts wrapped in barbed wire, burnt hands reaching up out of the ground to pick flowers, shattered mirrors that reflect nothing, or anything along this line. The piles represent the reality we can't seethe bizarro versions of our world that exist in alternate dimensions. RUSH stands in the clearing, staring as the air is being sliced open by the tip of a SWORD, the same tip we couldn't see on splash page. Rush thinks: First I find this bizarro junkyard, and now this!
The air itself rips open, and out falls MANTRA, her bandages unraveling, a few human-looking strait jackets fall out with her and land around her like injured ghosts. Rush rushes to her and catches her as she falls. "Hello sweetheart, I'm home," jokes Mantra as she collapses into his arms. "Talk about shop till you drop! Can I accessorize or what?"
You look like you've been to hell and back! says Rush.
Mantra looks over at some sizzling, smoking mushrooms and a blackened bunny rabbit stuck on a charred pitchfork skewer, and points at that spot. "Yeah, well, hell is about right there."
Mantra walks around, peeling off the white bandages, pointing at the various piles of bizarro junk, explaining things to Rush.
"This pile here came from a narcissist's dimension of endless mirror reflections, kinds like a designer hell final resting place for the Michael Jacksons and Madonnas of the universe.
"About right here there's a rip in space that leads to an orphan's dimension of busted toys..." (I'll adapt her descriptions to fit the piles you decide to draw)
"Some are easy to enter, I can access them anywhere, others are kinda site-specific."
"I think my ability to slice into dimensions is connected to what's in my mind at the moment. So I chopped and hacked up time and space till I found a fiery prison that will hold everyone I hate.
Mantra walks back towards Rush. She still holds her sword. Rush stands dumbly, in awe of her newfound cynical nonchalance in the face of such extraordinary concepts.
"I guess I must have been thinking I was losing my mind, 'cause the last place I sliced into was an asylum.
During the following conversation, Rush and Mantra move closer and closer to each other, until they end up lip-to-lip for an inevitable kiss. Manta does not notice that her sword is sparkling with excitement.
Rush: Wow. You think you're going nuts?
Mantra: "Crazier than a cricket in a spinning hubcap," as my Grandpa used to say. I mean, look at me! These powers are changing me. Warping me somehow. Last guy I battled, this sick Wizard guy called SCRATCH-- he stole my heart! Literally, he had one of his bitchy minions grab it right out of my chest!
Rush: That's impossible. If you didn't have a heart you'd fall over dead. So it must be voodoo.
Rush: Yeah. Power of suggestion. Like you stick pins in a doll and the person gets sick, but only if they BELIEVE that stuff. Or an Indian that decides to die, can will himself to death. Your heart is missing because you THINK someone stole it...
Their lips are about to touch, both have closed their eyes...
BIG shot of Rush and Mantra, clinging in teenage-grope style, spinning and kissing, as they fall into the swirling tunnel at the center of a tornado, eyes suddenly open wide but neither willing to give up the swooning kiss.
Both spring into action, Mantra slicing the dimensional pocket back open, Rush grabbing her and using his power to rush/bounce/fling the two of them out.
They collapse back in the clearing, little baby tornadoes still swirling around them, broken hearts wrapped in thorns-- she's found yet another dimension.
Rush is ecstatic: Wow! Kissing you is wicked! You're my kinda girl!
Mantra: Talk about the sin of lust and instant punishment. I could do a show-and-tell for Sunday school.
Rush says (prophetically): No kidding. A guy could get a complex hanging out with you...
Suddenly Mantra is sad. So if my power is hooked into my mind, I can't ever lose control. Oh, god, that means I can't ever kiss anyone without falling to hell!
Mantra, upset, goes to fly off. Rush calls after her.
Rush: By the way-- Where are all these people you hate so much you want to put them in fiery prisons?
Mantra: I'll know when I see smoke. Where there's smoke, there's the fire of a crazy little pyromaniac I'm looking to whack.
She flies off, Rush watching in intimidated admiration. She is thinking about what Rush said about voodoo and the power of suggestion. Could she WILL her heart back? With this revelation, from now on, Mantra/Lauren will be slowly heading back to her normal rosy healthy self.
Cut to Mantra landing just outside the playground where her GIRL GANG meets. As she lands, her Mantra outfit fades away, leaving her normal clothes-- a hot pink dress, that she notices is all tattered and burnt from her adventures.
She wonders: Why did I come here? I should be using my tracking powers to find that pyro. I guess I just need a dose of Girl Gang normalcy before I go off on a hunt for vengeance.
We establish DOLORES and TRACY, in their usual geeky, slumpy, who-gives-a-shit style of dress, and the dreadlocked BILLIE, dressed in hipster style. Establish typical teen contraband-- cigarettes and liquor. The girls are having their first drunk.
Lauren swaggers up in her burnt pink dress, her hair a mess, junk still sticking in her hair, dragging a burnt dollhead, face smudged with hell's brimstone. She looks wicked cool.
The girls all high-five. Tracy and Dolores are happy their friend made it to the Friday night meet. Billie deadpans: Some threads. You got your own style, girl.
Tracy gets sober: "I heard about your Mom's house burning down. Too bad. Some runaway kid was hiding in your attic, right? Good thing your Mom made it out in time.
Lauren slumps to the ground. "It was all my fault. Remember that kid I told you about? I found him in the woods, took him in, trusted him. And he burnt my Mom's house down.
Billie: The kid with the wicked rage?
As Lauren tells her tale, the girls pass the bottle, wincing at the horrible tasting stuff. They pass a cigarette, trying unsuccessfully not to cough. Increasingly, they slump down further, stumble, spill things, slur their words.
Lauren: So listen. Help me figure out this mystery. The kid hates liquor. He also talked about a burning book in a TV set.
Billie: That's easy. The burning book would be a bible. Tracy: If it were in a TV it could been a preacher show.
Dolores: So maybe his dad is a TV evangelist drunk.
The three girls get excited by trying to solve the mystery, standing up and waving bottles, as if ready to go to battle for Lauren.
Tracy: So all you gotta do is look for him in the churches. He's mad at something, he'll go attack it.
Dolores: Maybe not directly. Like my brother, he gets mad at my Dad, he doesn't show it. He just gets all quiet and goes out to the raceway and crashes cars.
Billie: Yeah. Rage is creative. Use this guy's rage against him. You can USE someone's IMAGE of themselves AGAINST them.
Lauren gets lost in her thoughts: Wow. I wonder if that would work against Scratch? He's got a wicked image problem...
Lauren looks back and begins to say: Thanks. You guys have been a great help....
But she sees Tracy has passed out and Dolores is puking and Billie stares at them, blind drunk and slurs: What's this, the Junior league? before she too slumps over...
pages 9 and 10
Cut to Lauren in her dirty burnt crispy pink dress, munching politely on cookies, looking insanely out of place in the typically clean suburban home of JACOB ROME and his son JOHNNY (Rush). There are tables set up, pizza boxes, sodas, decorations-- but there are no party guests. Johnny threw a pizza party and no one came-- except Lauren. Lauren thinks: By coming here, I must be getting bigtime brownie points towards winning by heart back.
Johnny sits there sullen and embarrassed, while Jacob talks to Lauren, politely ignoring what a mess the girl is.
Jacob: I'm sorry about your home, Lauren. Hut I want you to know as this area's ULTRA enforcer, I'm going to spend all my waking hours to find this dangerous new Ultra and bring him to justice.
At these words, both Johnny and Lauren look nervous.
As he leaves, Jacob says: I'll let you young people have your party alone. I'll be back at midnight, son.
Johnny and Lauren drink sodas shyly.
Lauren: Your dad is nice.
Johnny: Look, I only threw this party so my dad would think I was trying to make friends. I'm embarrassed no one came, but I also couldn't care less.
Lauren: I know what you mean. High school is all about trying to be popular, but like Groucho Marx said-- I wouldn't want to belong to any club that'd have me as a member.
They laugh and toast sodas to that thought, and begin to giggle and talk.
Johnny: Who needs those dweebs.
Johnny: Grindy little dirtbags.
Lauren: Squirrel brained maggot breaths.
Johnny: They're a few chromosomes short of brains.
Lauren: A few beers short of a six pack...
Lauren thinks: This kid Johnny is fun, but he's no RUSH.
Johnny thinks: This girl Lauren is a kick, but she's no MANTRA.
Suddenly they hear an explosion and look to the window to see smoke in the distance. Lauren yells-- I gotta go!
pages 11- 12
Caption: THE PAST.
We are with CRAZE as a very sweet, sensitive young boy. He stands in a deadbeat bar, watching a few bar floozies and old drunks stare at their drinks. The TV shows an Evangelist preacher.
Little Craze approaches on a drunk, sloppy woman in a flimsy dress, and says: Ma?
The women stares back at the boy, not understanding: "Who?" she says.
Cut to little Craze helping his drunk mother home, half carrying her, as she drunkenly apologizes for being such a lousy mom. Her tragedy is almost beautiful, it is so tenderly sad and lost. "I'm so lonely, son. Your father is married to god. I'm a widow but the damn guy is still alive."
They enter a simple apartment, and are instantly blasted with the fire and brimstone voice and image of the Preacher, who may or may not be the same one on the TV in the bar. He rages about the sins of liquor, the sins of lust, how he will burn down that bar with all it's sinners.
Mom passes out on the floor. Little Craze cowers in the corner. Preacher dad approaches his son. Forget her, she's past redemption. But you we can still save! he yells. Why do you cower in fear? If you fear something, conquer it!
He grabs a candle. Afraid of fire? Put your hand in the flame!
Little Craze shrinks away, as his father yells: put your hand in the flame and you will be free!
Caption: THE PRESENT
We are in the same type of bar, similar old drunks and floozies. Similar Evangelist on the TV. But this time, the older CRAZE is blasting away-- he TORCHES the TV set, he BURNS the rows of liquor bottles, he BLASTS the jukebox. Some of the patrons slink away to safety, others are so gone in alcoholism they just sit and drink, staring with vague curiosity at the fires burning around them.
Suddenly MANTRA flies in, crashing through the swinging bar doors like a super-cowboy.
She grabs the watery elements in the room and drenches Craze, but the high-liquor content only makes him burn brighter.
He blasts her.
Pages 15 – 17
Mantra gets consumed in fire, and at the last second we see one of her "bubbles", her protective shields, burst off her flinging the fire away with it.
Note: As CRAZE and MANTRA battle, and the bar begins to burn down around them, a few of the drunks don't pause in their drinking, don't budge off their stools.
Mantra's at a disadvantage now and Craze is about to blast her to a crisp. She hesitates. She can't seem to control his fire, and wind would only fan his flames, and water didn't work... she is at a loss.
He blasts her, and she becomes intangible so that it looks gruesomely like he's killed her but she really only let the fire pass through her.
She blasts him with her magick blast, (whatever the hell that is.)
Craze doubles over in pain, momentarily stunned. At the same time RUSH arrives. He remembered what Mantra said about waiting to follow smoke, so he did too.
When Mantra sees Rush, she manifests her Sword of Fangs, at the same time handing Rush one end of her SASH, and commands him to "HOLD THIS! Give me ONE minute, then YANK it!" Mantra looks INSANE-- as inside her head she's keying in to the asylum dimension.
She slices open a dimension, and shoves Craze and herself through.
Suddenly the room is empty of chaos. Rush stands there feeling like a supreme jerk, holding the string that floats in the air only to disappear into nowhere. A few drunks, sipping drinks off the burning bar, stare at him. "I know she's more powerful than me, he thinks, but this is ridiculous." He looks quite foolish, clinging to his string to nowhere like a dainty leash to an invisible dog. One drunk toasts to him ironically.
Mantra has again found the asylum dimension of the splash page, and orders the therapists to strap CRAZE down. As they bind him like a mummy, he recovers consciousness from her blast, only to find himself bound up.
WHY!? he yells at Mantra.
Did you kill your parents? she asks.
It was an accident! he answers. You don't understand!
Mantra: Someone tried to care for you, a girl named Lauren, and you burnt down her house.
Craze: I'm sorry! I can't help it! It's the home-- I end up hating it. I have to burn it down!
Well you can't burn down anything anymore: yells Mantra.
Don't leave me here! Please! he yells.
Mantra hesitates, not sure she's doing the right thing, when suddenly she is yanked out of the dimension and finds herself back in the burning bar.
That wasn't a minute! She yells at Rush. But she hears the cop sirens and understands why, and they run out.
Page 19 -21
Cut to them arriving in the bizarro junkyard clearing, where Mantra hears a familiar voice: "Well done, my dear."
She spins to see SCRATCH, standing, in all his arrogant glory, looking like a pleased teacher who is deigning to give a student an "A." We notice he stands next to the blackened bunny impaled on the pitchfork (from page 2). Mantra looks like a tattered mess, but she looks glorious nonetheless, the haggard effect of thinking she has no heart is gone, she is full and healthy and glowing. She still holds her sword. Watching these two, Rush feels dwarfed, and backs off to watch from a distance.
You tricked me, says Mantra. "You're slime."
Scratch answers-- But I'm a very fine, sublime slime, aren't I?
Mantra: You're a creep.
Scratch: But a brilliant "creep," wouldn't you say? I TRICKED you, but it WORKED. You learned, didn't you? Learned to shape yourself from WITHIN.
Suddenly Mantra seems to change, lose her anger.
True, she says, moving closer to him. "I found out the source of my power is within me. I found I could shape it. You are wonderful. I learned so much from you." We see the burnt bunny on a pitchfork looming behind Scratch.
Mantra, practically swooning in gratitude before him now, he all puffed up with pride. She continues, "I feel like you CREATED me. You are my Pygmalean, I owe you my LIFE." She moves closer to him, dragging her sword as if she's forgotten about it.
Cut away as Rush watches, horrified and grossed out, torn between jealousy and revulsion.
Scratch revels in the compliments and accolades. She is purring as if in love. "You are BRILLIANT, you are like a GOD..." and when she is practically pressed up against him...
...she slices open the HELL dimension she found earlier, and yelling SUCKER! she shoves him in.
He is consumed in fire, and as the portal shuts, she yells at his surprised and terrified face: "I learned how you can use someone's IMAGE of themselves AGAINST them-- and fortunately you've got a big fat EGO. You didn't teach me THAT one, did you, CREEP!"
We fall into hell with Old Scratch as he screams in terror. First he smashes through a million fragmented mirrors, then he is grabbed by hideous versions of the same hands he grabbed Lauren with in issue one. (Or any such devastating hellish tortures you want to draw. Basically we just have fun hurtin' him bad.)
Back to Rush and Mantra. Mantra stares at the spot where Scratch just was, the burnt bunny seeming to mock her with its twisted, cute, sick innocence. Like herself. Rush approaches her, and she collapses into him.
Rush looks sullen and distant. He asks her: Are you sure you know what you're doing, putting these powerful beings in these dimensional pockets? What if they get out?
Mantra answers: Oh, I'll take care of it if they do, as if brushing off his question. As if he isn't in her league when it comes to these matters.
"Oh, god," she moans, "Death is so horrible, it makes me want
She moves as if to kiss him, and is shocked and hurt to feel him push her away.
Manta asks: What's wrong?
Rush looks away. He glowers and kicks a stone sheepishly.
He says: You're so confident. You're really powerful. I don't know... It makes me feel small. Maybe... I don't want to kiss you anymore.
Rush walks away, leaving Mantra alone, alone to understand the price of being a powerful woman.
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