Bizarro Back Issues: Mills And Armstrong’s Moonchild Has… The Power! (1978)
I love Halloween, but in terms of entertainment, the season presents me with a bit of a minefield for one simple reason: I don't like scary movies. I can deal with horror comedies, I love Army of Darkness, I'm pretty solid on almost everything that involves Dracula and I can make an exception for the not actually scary but definitely awesome tetralogy that is Phantasm, but straight up horror just freaks me right out. Even the goofiest, most low-budget jump scare slasher films will keep me awake for weeks.
So, as I have done with so many things in my life, I turn instead to comics. See, while horror movies bug me, horror comics present no such problem, allowing me to indulge my love of spirits and haints at this spookiest time year --- and this year, I'm glad to say that it's allowed me to close a gap in my pop culture knowledge. I mean, still haven't seen Carrie, but I have read Pat Mills and John Armstrong's Moonchild, and as I understand it, it's pretty much just Carrie.
Well. Carrie as filtered through the lens of British comics in 1978, anyway. Moonchild was one of the strips that ran in Misty, which was originally conceived by Mills as a sister title for 2000 AD, complementing the sci-fi directed primarily at boys with supernatural spookiness aimed at girls. Unfortunately, Misty wasn't as successful, and was later merged with a similar title, Tammy, before finally getting the axe in the mid-'80s.
The good news, though, is that thirty years after its last issue, Misty finally saw a reprint this year, and while its take on the popular horror of the day isn't quite as over-the-top as, say, Judge Dredd's take on America as a concept, it's still well worth checking out.
Which brings us to Moonchild, a serial that ran through Misty's first thirteen issues --- of course --- and thrilled readers with the story of a girl who had... the power.
The power, incidentally, is telekinesis, and spoiler warning, but before we're done, there's going to be a ruined party dress and a cleansing fire.
One more word of warning before we go on: This thing starts off dark, by tackling child abuse, and doesn't get a whole lot cheerier for the duration.
We'll get to all that eventually, though. For now, we are introduced to young Rosemary Black, and we're meeting her while her mom is on trial for beating her with a stick. The judge has no sympathy for Rosemary's plight, and after Moms Black --- we'll eventually find out that her name is Julia --- is acquitted, she goes right back to telling Rosemary that she's wicked and that she needs to be punished lest she give into... the power.
For her part, Rosemary has no idea what ominous (the) power she has yet, and is instead just trying to make her way through a truly miserable existence. Not only is her mother physically abusive, but she also forbade any modern technology in the house, making Rosemary an outcast and an easy target for her ridiculously horrible classmates.
And they are horrible. The ringleader is a girl named Norma who's constantly claiming that her father has whatever profession is most likely to get her out of trouble, from lawyer to shop manager and all the way down to pro wrestler. She also has a girl gang, and listen: there is a lot of lesbian subtext here, even when adjusted for the baseline lesbian subtext of girl gang stories in general.
You know, just making your two friends swear wedding vows to you at the local coffee shop. Gal pals!
Norma will be our villain of for the evening, with a series of pranks that fall somewhere between "cruel" and "literal felonies." At one point, she ends up setting Rosemary's hair on fire, which reveals for the first time that Rosemary has a crescent moon-shaped birthmark on her forehead. Even Rosemary herself is surprised at this reveal, which means that she somehow made it through thirteen years of her life without ever seeing her own forehead.
Unfortunately, the reveal of the birthmark does not mean that Rosemary is the reincarnated Princess Serenity who fights for love and justice. Instead, it's a mark she shares with her grandmother, who also had... the power. It seems magical telekinesis skips a generation. And since she's been reflexively telekinesising all over her classroom, she ends up going taking a trip to the school doctor to get checked out.
I have to say, this doctor might actually be my favorite character in the entire story, because he just goes straight to, "Oh, you have telekinetic super-powers," like this is just a thing that happens. Then again, I suppose that the evidence here is a little overwhelming.
As Rosemary begins to secretly develop and harness... the power alongside her friend Anne, Norma and her crew of flunkies are plotting against her. Rather than just the usual pranks, though, they decided to take a long-game approach, with Norma sending her minion Dawn in to pretend to be Rosemary's friend so that they can find out what she wants most of all and then completely ruin it. it's a very complicated plan, involving waiting for Rosemary's doctor's appointment so that they can take Anne out with a particularly vicious "accident" during field hockey...
... but for all of their complexity, they're not exactly subtle about it.
While all that's going on, we find out a little more about Rosemary's mom. It turns out that grandma was pretty casual about using... the power for things like laundry. When her husband was called away to the war, though, she ended up using it to kill a burglar by flinging an iron at his head, only to find out --- in a truly Gainesian twist --- that it was her own husband who had gone AWOL to come back to his wife and daughter. That's one of the reasons she's so mad all the time, but as we find out when Rosemary's grandmother shows up, having gotten out of prison for telekinetic murder, it's mostly just that she's jealous of Rosemary for having... the power when she doesn't.
Anyway, it emerges that what Rosemary wants more than anything is a party for her thirteenth birthday, full of good friends and good times, and a pretty dress that she makes herself, and unfortunately, she shares this information with Dawn. She does not, however, make an offhand mention of having the ability to crush skulls with her mind, so when Dawn reports back to Norma, they see no reason not to just continue with the plan.
And what a plan it is. They even go as far as making a full-on birthday cake out of rotten ingredients and clearing out one of the parents so that they can have an uninterrupted evening of torment, something Rosemary remains blissfully unaware of.
The party is, of course, a disaster. Norma "spills" soda onto Rosemary's dress, locks Anne away in a closet, shoves the rotten cigarette-butt cake into her face, and then literally blindfolds her and shove her off a balcony.
And it is at that point that they realize that they have hecked up real, real bad.
Rosemary starts tearing things up with her mind, and Norma, ever the opportunist, decides that immediately running away is the better part of valor. She only makes it one room, however, before she stops for a cigarette, which immediately sets the whole house on fire.
Everyone makes it out all right, and with that, everything more-or-less works out okay. Norma's arrested, Rosemary's mom decides to bail on the whole motherhood thing and leaves, and Rosemary herself gets to move in with Anne and her parents, who treat her like a beloved second daughter, and we all learn a very valuable lesson:
When people start sincerely quoting Wolverine at you, you know that you've done something very, very wrong.