CONJURELLA FRANKENHEAD & THE 827 MYSTERY
or HOW THE WONDER WOMAN GIRL LOOKED
by T. Casey Brennan
This is the story of the music of the abominations.
This is the story of 827, which was a magical place where you simply could not fall off your skateboard, no matter how bad you were, or how hard you tried, where the men were all punk rockers, where the girls were all wonders of the defiant culture of the 21st century, as radiant, bold, and inexplicable as the newschoolers code of art which they followed.
This is a skateboarding story about how I joined a band and got hit by a car, and another story about how I sold my soul to the devil. In the 1970s, I had written Vampirella stories now immortalized in the 1992 Harris Publications trade paperback, VAMPIRELLA: TRANSCENDING TIME & SPACE. I did not create Vampirella, but rather, inherited her from the late Archie Goodwin, who had infused an initially satirical comic with overtones of Lovecraft, a "Cult of Chaos" which mimicked the black magic cult of pulp fiction, a cult some swore, was real.
Long ago, great serpents we now call dinosaurs ruled the earth. As we all know from reading comic books and various hippie religious scriptures, these did not all die out before man appeared. So, in those days, when both man and serpent walked the earth, the legend of Solomon appeared, claimed by both believers in god, and black magicians. And Solomon banished them in a day and a night, telling them, "After these signs, you may return. First the crucifixion of the Christ, then the stoning of the prophet, then the revelation of the golden tablets, then plague shall sweep the Earth, then shall man's reign upon the world be ended, then shall the old ones return. Then shall they come forth from the old places, then shall they swoop down from the skies, then shall they spew forth in slime from the earth, then shall they come up from the sea. Then shall their serpent yearning be ended; then shall they rule eternal."
Some of the great serpents fled to the stars, some went into the great caverns of the earth, some went into Einsteinian paralell worlds, always to yearn for the day that they would return and take back their ancestral home. They are gone, but not gone, and when they return, their absence shall be but a moment. It shall seem that they were always here, that they never left, like an errant lover that returns to our welcoming arms. As we all know, sometimes they are far beneath the surface, but sometimes in the Earth only inches beneath our feet, yearning, always yearning, to claw up, to return, to reclaim their serpent glory. As we all know, they lurk in dark, secret places, waiting.
So the Vampirella series had tied my name irrevocably to the Lovecraftian pulp mythos, and, knowing that, I had played that card in the late 1990s, as I began writing a series of autobiographical stories that would allege my own, and my family's, unwilling association with the JFK assassination, under the direction of the CIA's now outlawed and exposed MK-ULTRA program. The first of the stories, called CONJURELLA, can be found at: http://www.geocities.com/avalard/brennan/conjurella.html
Though devoid of occult references, it had been followed by a host of sequels, all recalling the pseudo-Lovecraftian philosophy which my past association with Vampirella had validated. And suddenly, my comic book work of the 1970s had taken on a new importance, as I booked such varied appearances as the Motor City Comic Con in Novi, Michigan and the X-Zone nationally syndicated radio program.
So on February 1st, 2003, in one world, I was heading for an 8:00 pm appointment, at 5:00 pm, with the 1990s Ann Arbor underground band, Frankenhead, where the extra time could be utilized for further planning on the Frankenhead CD we had planned, with me, the comic book writer in a state of lateral expansion, doing cover vocals for rock classics. In another world, I was painfully early to see Frankenhead guitarist Jim McGee, he would not be home, or consider it an imposition to come just after 5:00 for an appointment at 8:00 pm.
But in still another world, which was the real one, I was struck by a car at 5:00 pm on Washtenaw, as I entered Ypsi on foot. I was hurled through the air and knocked to the pavement, regaining consciousness only as I was being taken into an ambulance. Had I been on a skateboard, and had mastered the ability to push off, I would have cleared her left front bumper in time. But, in the real world, I had time only to make one leap before her hood caught me in the abdomen in mid-air.
A long time ago, on another trip, before everything happened in Dallas, before I was ever a comic book writer, when Mama and Daddy were still alive, we went to Detroit. We didn't go to Detroit very often, since we lived in the country in Avoca, Michigan, so it was a big trip. My late parents were paragons of The Peter Principle in action. The Peter Principle, from a how-to-succeed-in-business paperback, said that people are always promoted to a position they can't quite handle, then stay there. So, while living a life of rural poverty, my late parents both became nationally known authors and local school board officials.
So it must have been before the Kennedy assassination that we made the trip to Detroit to see the doughnut place, since Mama and Daddy were still nice, which they weren't, for long, after Dr. E got a hold of them. Dr. E had used both my parents, known to the world as paperback author Alice Brennan, and St. Clair County, Michigan, Board of Education member, William James Brennan, for his experiments. Dr. E had pills for us all to take, they were bad pills that made us either pass out or think we could do whatever we wanted. Eventually, they made Mama and Daddy as bad as Dr. E himself, but that hadn't happened yet.
So we all went to Detroit to see the doughnut place. We lived in the country then, and sometimes, at night, we could look into the distance and see a dim glow, almost like a sunset. Daddy looked at that glow once, and said "That's Detroit!". And it was.
The doughnut place covered, I think, three floors. A big sign on the wall said: "The optimist sees only the doughnut; the pessimist sees only the hole."
We kept going back - I don't know why, and my dad got to like the guy who owned it. Or maybe he knew him to begin with, I don't remember which.
So in the other trip, the new trip, I had been hit by the car after months of preparations for a kind of merger with Frankenhead. Initially, I had intended only a horror comic book based on the band's name. Jim McGee and I had produced ashcan editions of a FRANKENHEAD comic, reminiscent of my old Warren stories,posted in part, at: http://www.geocities.com/frankenheadlives
Warren was the publisher of CREEPY, EERIE, and VAMPIRELLA -- the latter, best known for a 1996 made-for-television movie starring Talisa Soto and Roger Daltrey of The Who.
But at the May 2003 party, at the Novi Doubletree Hotel, Jim and I performed a karaoke rendition of WILD THING on stage. Everyone loved it, and everyone knew of the tie-in to the collectors item comics I had autographed all week-end. Ironically, though now penniless and unemployed, fans flocked to dealers tables at that convention, bringing me a variety of items to autograph, paying as much as twenty dollars for items ranging from vintage Warren comics containing my work, to the more recent trade paperback, VAMPIRELLA: TRANSCENDING TIME & SPACE, by T. Casey Brennan and Steve Englehart.
But May had brought an end to my stay with FRANKENHEAD, and I found myself taken in by the magical commune known as 827. Those early weeks had found me barely able to walk after being hit by the car, and sometimes I had to be helped to my feet. But at other times, I was able to stand on a skateboard in 827's deep carpet and do knee-bends, or do drift warily down 827's inclined sidewalk, still unable to turn or push off -- capable only in my stance and my ability to stay on. In better days, I had spread my legs instantly in a karate stance, once, at a party, while bailing. But at 827, I had taken my only fall not on my feet, from a skateboard -- I fell into an upholstered chair, in a sitting position.
That was the magic of 827. 827 was an aura, a bold reflection of a culture somehow both sociopathic and ethical, a culture where skateboarding was a revolutionary act, where "goth" had become a subculture, not the vague cross-section of shoppers who had purchased my Vampirella comics, and my late mother's gothic novels in decades past. It was one such novel, CASTLE MIRAGE by Alice Brennan, that had been reprinted in Leicester by a company known both as Ulverscroft and F.A. Thorpe, that launched the CONJURELLA autobiographical series in which I alleged my own, and my late parents' unwilling involvement in the Kennedy assassination. Propelling me back into the public eye, I launched into a variety of convention appearances, radio interviews, and write-ups in fan publications and websites, including the Austin, Texas rock magazine SALT FOR SLUGS, which included me in their Winter 1998 issue.
So this was how it all ended. The day before the black-out, 827 closed and I was never to see it again. Instead, on August 14, 2003, I sat on a porch with Jim McGee of FRANKENHEAD in a darkened Ypsilanti, not far from where I had been hit by a car. A kind of glowing fog hung low on the darkened streets, and roaming bands of dazed zombies walked about aimlessly with flashlights. Always the band's composition was the same -- white youths, a pretty girl in the lead, and seven to eight able-bodied male companions. All this, of course, had followed a day of unbearable heat, and a sky glowing unnaturally reddish-purple, almost ultraviolet in its hue, but somehow beyond that in its odd blasphemy of sunlight.
As the night wore on, the bands become more hostile, and, as I sat on the porch and watched, flashlight wars would develop with repetitive shouts of "Take that flashlight off of me!" and "Not until you do!". All of that, and 827 was no more.
And, in the old times, the nice doughnut man closed up forever. Then Mama and Daddy made a deal with Dr. E, like I said in CONJURELLA, and they got me involved like a stooge passing out right-wing pamphlets in Peck High School, in Sanilac County, Michigan, then they drugged me and kidnapped me and made me fire first from the Texas School Book Depository Building in Dallas. Later, I wrote about it, and started autographing my old comic books like I hadn't done since the '70s, then, at last, entered the magical commune of 827. And then, long afterward, I went to visit the man who had begun it all, who had begun 827.
The Wonder Woman girl was there, and this was how she looked: The Wonder Woman girl wears a veneer of intellectuality like Wonder Woman's secret identity, Diana Prince. It is not that it is not genuine, it is only that it conceals, but for a moment, an exquisite delicacy of features, a lithe form, a face adorned with a wavy curl of dark hair that falls down upon her face on the right, though her hair is pulled back and tied. Somehow, that one strand of hair has burst loose, and now adorns her. As the evening progresses, more and more strands of dark wavy hair join their lustrous companion, and it is a slow motion cascade, as, one by one, the strands fall along the side of her face.
The End . c.2004. T.Casey Brennan