In a really generous tradition, once again Wytches writer Scott Snyder has shared his essay with us as it will be appearing in the back of Wytches #5, drawn by Jock with colors by Matthew Hollingsworth and letters by Clem Robins, out this Wednesday from Image Comics. Snyder's essays in the single issues of the series have been illuminating and have tackled some heavy subjects, as well as providing delightful anecdotes that always contained their moments of humor as well.
This week's essay is both heavy and light, and Snyder characteristically presents something observable and true, then turns and considers the multiple perspectives one might take and what each perspective implies. Here he considers his time working at Disney World of all places, because he wrote it while visiting with his family recently, and the tale he has to tell digs deep into fear, responsibility, and the ambiguous role of violence in family relationships.The story this time ties in pretty closely to Issue #5 of Wytches where the relationship between Charlie Rooks and his daughter Sailor becomes crucial to determining their future, as they are fighting for any future at all, that is.
[Scott Snyder writes:]
First, I'd like to say thanks for reading these little pieces I've been doing in the back of the book. When we started, I figured I'd do one for fun, about the genesis of the series, and that would be it. But your (surprising) enthusiasm for them encouraged me to do more, and honestly, they've been a real joy for me to write. For one, it's a thrill to write prose again in any form, and also, they've given me a place to explore my own thoughts on the book, my own fears, my love of horror. They've become a place for personal disclosure – a scary place, but a bit wondrous, too, and I appreciate the opportunity. So thank you.
And, speaking of places scary and wondrous… I confess that I am actually writing this one from Disney World in Orlando. And, in the spirit of disclosure, I admit that was never the plan. Honestly, I'd intended to write this piece before I took this vacation with my family, but weather and school closures prevented that. So here I am, writing about horror at Disney World. The kids are asleep in the other room, surrounded by plush Olaf's and antenna toppers of hitchhiking ghosts. Cinderella's castle is visible from the hotel window. I can just make out the marching lights of the electric parade. In a lot of ways, there's no place less inspiring for a horror piece than this.
Still, I do have one Disney World memory that reminds me of this book – this issue even – and I'll tell it to you here. This story I'm thinking of, it happened while I was actually working at the Disney parks. I did this for the better part of a year, right after college. I was twenty-two, and I wanted to be a writer and was all about having experiences far away from New York or anything familiar.
Anyway, the story I want to tell happened when I was just starting as a character. Maybe a couple days in. I was hired for custodial at the Magic Kingdom and had worked in that department for a number of months before getting a chance to audition for characters. Custodial had been hard work, pushing a massive garbage trolley around in the sun – thirty-six cans worth of trash – so I was ecstatic to be a character now.
On this particular day, I was Buzz Lightyear. Out of all the characters I played – Eyeore, Pluto, among others – Buzz was far and away my favorite. For one, he was foam and mesh, so way less hot than the other characters. Don't get me wrong, they were all VERY hot – our coach, Bob, on the first day of training, he suggested we newbies sit in the parking lot in our cars with the engines off to train. But with some characters, like Rafiki, you were wearing huge ass pads and chest pads, tights, full fur, and carrying a fruit staff to boot. That was HOT. But Buzz was foam and mesh and also had great visibility. With certain characters, you only saw through the mouth or nose, which was like looking out at the world through a foggy periscope. On days I was those characters, I learned to swing my head from side to side as I walked to scan the way ahead and avoid stepping on kids.
But so I'm there as Buzz, stamping books, acting the super-hero and I feel something hit my leg. I try to swing around, and I look down through the neck of the suit and I see a boy, about six years old, giving me a hug. I hugged him back and tried to gently direct him to the line but he stayed beside me, telling me how much he loved me, and so on. Buzz was his favorite and he had a toy of me at home and on he went, adorably. My handler, an older man named David, asked him where his mother was, and the boy said he didn't know, so David began the process of calling this in. In the meantime, the boy – whose name was Chester, he said, hung out by my side, copying my actions, laughing. This little tow-headed guy making muscles and jumping around. I pretended he was my side-kick.
It was only about a minute into this that his mother showed up. She came running over, arms wide, and he ran to her, happy, telling her he'd found Buzz! He'd found him! And I was just about to wave when she smacked his face. I mean I heard it in my costume – SMACK – the clap of her fingers against his little cheek.
I was stunned. She was yelling at him now. Yelling right into his face – HOW COULD HE DO THAT?! HOW COULD HE RUN OFF?!!!
I wanted to go over and say something, but there were kids I was interacting with, and before I knew it Chester and his mother were gone. Lost in the crowd. I told David after about it, about how angry the mom had been at Chester, and to my surprise, he looked at me and said, "Yeah. Get used to it."
And he was right. Not about the smack; any form of hitting I rarely saw again. But the fury parents displayed toward lost children, now found…. That I saw play itself out over an over again. A parent bearing down on a child, rage in the parent's eyes as he or she grabbed the little shoulders.
At the time, I didn't really understand it. There were systems in place for lost children at Disney. Nothing terrible could really happen, could it? So why the rage? But typing this now, my kids asleep in the next room, that electric parade snaking slowly along, I completely get it. Because there is no worse feeling than failing to keep your child safe – especially when you're right there with them, in a place that's supposed to be as safe as can be. A place you've taken them yourself. You're at the playground, holding your kid's hand and he falls and scrapes his chin to shreds. Your kid is standing next to you on the steps of a pool and you turn for a moment – less than five seconds – to say hello to your friend and you turn back and your child is underwater. The little hands, flailing above the surface.
Bad things shouldn't happen when you're there next to your child. It's upsetting. But maybe what's most upsetting about incidents like these is the notion that your child now knows you can't keep them safe. You can't keep them from getting lost or hurt, not if they're not careful themselves, and maybe not even then. It's all an illusion. You can't stand between them and the monster. All the rides here, all the pretending things are going dangerously wrong – you're in a train in a mine that's caving in! You're trapped in haunted house with no way out! – all reinforcing the opposite sentiment – leading to the safe landing on the other side. They turn danger into something to be laughed at. So how infuriating when danger finds its way (on your watch) into your child's life.
Admittedly, I've been that furious parent. I've never hit my kids, but I've certainly wanted to when they've put themselves in danger while I was watching them. I've wanted to shake them until they could somehow promise me they'd always stay safe. Promise me that I hadn't failed them and would never fail them, nor would they fail me. They'd never get hurt, never get sick, never die.
The thing that I try to remember is that other side of it, too. Because the fear you feel as a parent in those situations is awful. The rage and guilt. But what I saw as a cast member – the only part I really saw and understood – was the kids' faces when parents came at them that way. Chester looking back at his mother as she yelled into his face… The horror there. A child looking up and seeing that his parent has become the danger… the monster lurking there all along.
[As a late night postscript – Because you sat through that, I will tell you my favorite moment working at Disney. It happened the final day of training for characters. I was in a group of three other young people, and all week we'd been practicing. Learning how to move like our characters. Learning how to have fun with the guests, but get off stage quickly. All of the practical stuff. I was Pluto, the young man in my group was Chip and the young woman was Mickey. They were both actors, and they were unequivocally great at their characters. This guys got Chip perfectly. He was all hyped up energy and joy. And the girl just WAS Mickey. She had the friendly, modest pomp down pat. We were in this gynamsium we'd practiced in most of the week. So now it was the last day and our coach, Bob, was congratulating us, telling us to go out and knock them dead and so on. But, he said… he had a treat for us.
Then pulled out this boombox and put a CD in (this was 1998). Bob looks at us and he says conspiratorially: "They don't like it when I do this, but I think it's crucial. So keep it between us, but for the duration of this song, you dance however you want." Micky looked at Chip who looked at me. I could barely see through my fogged dog eyes. "Well go on," Bob said. "Get it out of your darn system now, because you'll never get to do it again. For this moment on, you'll always be in character when you put that costume on. But right here, right now, this is a moment out of time and space."
He pushed the button. "Rumpshaker" came on. That saxophone. The record scratching, the beat… Chip began to dance. Mickey began to dance. I shuffled around, trying not to pass out. I moved around a couple seconds, turning and such, and then I saw Mickey… Mickey not just shaking it, but like… working it. Dancing up on Chip, grinding… It was like a car wreck. I couldn't look away and then…Mickey turned to me. I looked away, dancing sheepishly. I looked back, and Mickey was still coming, like stripper dancing coming. And that image – Mickey Mouse working it, coming toward me to the sounds of rumpshaker… It is one of my most cherished memories.]
Wytches #5 hits shelves this Wednesday, March 25th, as the first of a two-part first arc finale for the series. Don't miss out! Bleeding Cool ran an Advance Review of Wytches #5 right here.