Ask Chris #126: Who Will Survive And What Will Be Left Of Them?
Over a lifetime of reading comics, Senior Writer Chris Sims has developed an inexhaustible arsenal of facts and opinions. That’s why each and every week, we turn to you to put his comics culture knowledge to the test as he responds to your reader questions — and as Halloween approaches, we make those questions spoooooky.
Q: The superhero team of your choice is stuck in a deadly, haunted mansion. Who dies first? Who survives? — @drawesome86
A: That kind of classic slasher movie setup has been on my mind quite a bit lately — more than creepy mansions full of deathtraps and lurking horrors usually are, I mean. It’s mostly because I finally got around to watching Cabin in the Woods this week, a movie with a pretty incredible premise rooted in exactly those sorts of scary movie archetypes, and because I’m gearing up to spend Halloween watching Nobuhiko Obayashi’s House.
I’ve actually had that one on DVD for a year and I’ve been legitimately wary of watching it because people have told me that there are some genuinely disturbing bits and I’m ridiculously easy to scare. On the other hand, it’s a movie about Japanese schoolgirls with names like “Gorgeous” and “Kung Fu” trapped in a haunted house, and there’s only so long I can resist that premise.Anyway, back to the question at hand. Adding super-heroes into the mix makes for a pretty interesting challenge, because there actually is a certain dynamic that you need to have to make that kind of story work. The Justice League, for example, just wouldn’t make for a good creepy haunted house story; it’s pretty difficult to convey an atmosphere of terror, isolation and unseen danger when you’ve got the World’s Greatest Detective, a guy who can leap tall buildings and a fighter pilot with a magic glowing wishing ring that he got from outer space tromping around looking for trouble. Any one of them could probably work on their own, but get two or more together and you’re pretty much asking for Leatherface to get punched out and hauled off to Arkham in about five minutes.
Besides, Aquaman has to deal with the soul-crushing horror of being Aquaman every single day of his life. Getting some dude to chase him around with a chainsaw might actually be an improvement.
So really, picking the right team is half the battle in this case. The obvious choice is, of course, the Teen Titans. Not only do they fit the standard-issue roles of a group of teens hanging out without any adult supervision, but the classic lineup that they used for the cartoon actually hits a lot of those specific slasher movie archetypes. You’ve got your creepy goth girl in Raven, your (literal) party animal in Beast Boy, and Robin’s definitely the kind of kid who would fearlessly volunteer to check out the root cellar once everyone started hearing creepy noises.
But that’s also sort of the problem. I mean, Robin basically lives in a gigantic creepy basement full of blood-sucking animals anyway, and when you have a utility belt, the reanimated corpse of some wayward archaeology professor tends to be a little less problematic. Throw in the fact that Raven could pretty easily identify the source of any supernatural troubles and that there’s no way in Hell that Cyborg’s dying first, and the whole horror movie thing is broken beyond repair.
The X-Men seem like they’d fit a little better, but when you get there, you run into the problem that Wolverine is pretty much a horror movie villain already. Seriously, the dude has knives for hands and can sit up right after you shoot him in the head and turn your back. It’s amazing that he spent so much time with Jubilee and Kitty Pryde without straight up chasing them around Camp Crystal Lake.
The more I think about it, the more I think that there’s really only one team that could fit right in without much trouble. So as weird as it might sound, I’m going with the Fantastic Four.
Yes, they’re cosmic-powered superheroes who have been to the future and fought a guy who eats entire planets for breakfast, but they fit those archetypes better than any other team. There’s the Brainiac, the Tough Guy, the Girl-Chaser, the Deceptively Powerful Girl, the… uh… robot butler… okay, so maybe they don’t fit perfectly, but I think the point stands. Besides, their greatest enemy is an actual evil wizard.
That’s one of the great aspects of Dr. Doom. He’s not just a guy who built a time machine and an army of robots that think they’re people, he’s also gotten into sorcerous battles against Mephisto and walked around wearing armor made of mystically enchanted human flesh for a hot minute back in 2003. Dropping his enemies into an Amityville situation is perfectly in character, so long as he had a nice view of the action.
The team would really need to be separated, and since the FF aren’t exactly new at this, they’re not going to decide to split up and explore the house on their own. They’d have to be either tricked or forcibly removed from each other, put into different sections of some sprawling, creepy mansion, preferably something out of a Resident Evil game where you needed to find six crests just to get to the bathroom. Then things could really begin.
As for how it would go down, I think it’s pretty obvious that Johnny would be the first to go. It’s always the young lovers that get the worst of it in horror movies, and the Human Torch fits that to a T. All it would take is one of those classic giggling, half-glimpsed girls running around the corner and he’d be led deeper and deeper into the house, herded to his eventual doom. Perhaps he’d eventually find the girl, only to learn that her beauty hides something older and more terrible than he was expecting. Something that had felt flames before and remembered the hate that caused it, and fed on it. Something that would drag him into darkness, never to be seen again.
Reed’s next. With him, it’s less the stretching that’s his power than the intelligence, but as is usually the case in these situations, that great strength would end up being his downfall. It’s pretty easy to see how, too. I mean, an actual haunted estate would be fascinating, full of phenomena that defied science. Reed wouldn’t be frightened, he’d be fascinated. So fascinated that as he stretched upstairs for a better look at bleeding walls and mirrors that reflected things that shouldn’t be there, he wouldn’t notice the house moving around him, trapping him, pulling at him until it found his limits and things began to rip.
Ben’s a little tougher, but the thing about the Thing is that he’s actually pretty easy to scare:
As a result, I’m pretty sure that he’d be the first one to have a full-on freak-out, especially if he was somewhere beneath the house, in ancient and forgotten crypts full of dead things that never should’ve lived, with nothing to smash through with all his face. He’d be trapped and terrified, lashing out at anything and everything until he finally wore himself out, and became easy prey for whatever it was that was stalking our heroes.
That leaves Sue, and of all the FF, she’s the one who has the powers most suited for surviving a haint. She’s virtually impossible to detect when she wants to be, and she can create force fields that can keep anything out — or box anything in until she wants to let it go free. But there’s another power she has that rarely comes up that just might be her undoing: Sue Storm can make things visible just as easily as she can make them disappear.
She’s also every bit as curious as her husband, and when you put those two together, it’s easy to imagine that she’d go with the sound strategy of finding out what she was up against. But when you’re dealing with hellish powers beyond the ken of man, that’s not really advisable. When she saw what was unseen in that house, she’d be overwhelmed by the sheer horror of it, paralyzed with fear, unable to maintain the concentration that was keeping her safe, until…
Well. Until she heard “IT’S CLOBBERIN’ TIME!” from underneath the floorboards and the Thing busted through the floor and started punching eldritch horrors in the face. What, you thought he was really going to die in a haunted house? He’s a rock monster! I don’t care how scary Freddy Krueger is, until he gets a set of jackhammers on his glove, he’s just another Yancy Streeter. That’s Ben Grimm’s real power. The dude just does not stay down.
Once that happens, it’s pretty much all over for that place. Even a spooooky haunted house can’t stand up to invisible force fields and cosmic rock monsters smashing through the walls. It’s a shame about Reed and Johnny, though.
I mean, yeah, they’d come back in six months, but still!
That’s all we have for this week, but if you’ve got a question you’d like to see Chris tackle in a future column, just send it to @theisb on Twitter with the hashtag #AskChris, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with [Ask Chris] in the subject line!