Title: The Dead Boy Detectives
Author/Artist: Jill Thompson
Publisher: Vertigo Comics
Summary: They’ll do anything to solve the case.
Rowland and Paine, the dead British detectives who first appeared in Neil Gaiman’s THE SANDMAN: SEASON OF MISTS, travel stateside to investigate a strange missing-persons case at a posh International Academy for Girls.
Naturally, the inquisitive duo is forced to go undercover – in drag – if they’re to have a hope in hell of solving the case. It’s time for dark secrets, food fights, and spies as the Dead Boy Detectives learn a lot about life from the precocious daughters of rich ambassadors and rebellious rock stars.
OH IT’S CHRISTMAS TIME AND IT’S CHRISTMAS TIME, CHRISTMAS, CHRISTMAS, CHRISTMAS TIIIIIIIIIME!
Finally, December, my favorite month of the year because it’s both Christmas AND my birthday. I love doing stuff for Christmas. I love shopping, I love decorating, I love the music and the God awful Christmas specials, and because I love doing stuff for people on Christmas, I’m going to be doing a bunch of extra recaps for Point Horror, all for yous.
First off, we’re starting with a little something written and drawn by Jill Thompson, my all time favorite professional comic person. Jill’s done just a little bit of everything, she’s done pencils in Wonder Woman, Sandman, Black Orchid, Simpsons, GOOSEBUMPS (that she did the comic adaption of “One Day In Horrorland,” one of my faves, makes me love her more), Batman, X-Men, Thor, Beasts of Burden, and of course there’s her phenomenal “Scary Godmother” series.
(Indrina, Michiko, Frederika, Kanene, Fiorenza, Vanya. And in the back, Dream of the Endless)
“The Dead Boy Detectives” is an OEL (Original English Language) manga one-shot story published by DC’s Vertigo imprint. It’s a sort of follow up from “Death: At Death’s Door,” another OEL manga that served as an interquel for Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman” and is one of several works Jill has done for the Sandman franchise. Jill’s an incredibly versatile artist and knows how to express her art in several different styles. I wish DC would hire her to write and draw something Titans related because she’s also one of the few comic artists out there who knows how to draw teenagers that don’t look like porn stars (looking at you, Ed Benes).
[Wing: Though my siblings want to smack me for this, I’m not much of a fan of The Sandman (or of much of Gaiman’s work), but this sounds like a great addition to that franchise. I love Thompson’s art, and I can’t wait to see how this goes.]
Once upon a time, Dream, one of the seven Endless, journeyed to Hell to retrieve his lost helm. In the process, he caught the ire of Lucifer Morningstar, who swore he would one day destroy the Dream King. One day, Lucifer decided he’d had enough and closed Hell’s gates, kicking out the damned souls and the demons to the Earthly realms, and gave the key to Dream. Representatives of many pantheons came to Dream’s realm hoping to gain ownership of Hell for themselves, until finally Dream handed over the key to Remiel and Duma, the Angel of Silence, thereby placing Hell under watch of Heaven once more.
All this was happening while Charles Rowland was spending a solitary break at his boarding school with only the headmaster and one teacher to keep him company. When Hell closed, many past students, one headmaster, and certain others who’d died at the school or were connected to it in some way, returned. As the only living student present, Charles caught the attention of Barrow, Cheeseman, and Skinner, three brutes who’d previously tortured and murdered young Edwin Paine as part of a Satantic ritual way back in 1916. When the three of them died (a mixture of war and disease), the demons in Hell didn’t care what they’d done to Edwin and gave them nothing. Outraged at how short their lives were, the three decided to take out their frustrations on Charles, and proceeded to torture him the same way they did Edwin. After Charles passed out and his tormentors lost interest, Edwin showed up and tried to hide Charles somewhere so he could tend to his wounds. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much Edwin could do, and after several days, Charles finally died.
That’s when Death of the Endless arrived to collect Charles’s spirit. Charles asked what would happen to Edwin, but Death explained she’d already taken him. Charles refused to go anywhere unless Edwin could go with him, and Death, already worn out from having to deal with all the other dead people who came back, decided she’d come back for him later. Charles decided to leave, and convinced Edwin to come with him. Leaving the school, and by extension Hell, behind them, and not sure of how long they have until Death returns for them, the two ghosts figured there was only thing they could do with their time.
Open a detective agency!
(No but seriously they were just gonna how much they could make of life before Death came back for them again.)
[Wing: Well, that’s the first thing I would do to fill my time waiting for Death to come for me again: detect all the things!]
Charles and Edwin have left England for Chicago, U.S.A., on the behest of one Annika Abernathy. Annika is a 13 year old student of the International Academy, and wrote to the boys (not knowing they’re ghosts, obviously) that her best friend Elizabeth Parker has gone missing. None of the teachers have been any help, and many of them are pretending they have no idea who Elizabeth is. Since none of the adults are willing to aid her, Annika and her friends sought the services of someone their own age to find Elizabeth.
Once in Chicago, the boys have trouble finding out where the International Academy is. Since Annika mentioned in her letter she had a good view of the city from her room, they rode the trains for a few hours trying to catch a view of the school. When that didn’t work, they figured to search on foot. Since it’s December, it’s freezing cold, and Charles hasn’t been dead long enough to forget what cold is, while Edwin mentions thinking of being cold only reminds him of when he was trapped in Hell. The boys leave the train station just in time to see someone get hit by a car, and panic when Death of the Endless shows up to collect the person’s soul. Worried she’ll see them, they hide in a nearby comic store and are shocked that the adult who runs the place can see them (only kids can usually see them if they’re incognito). When the owner muses on the amount of kids who play hooky, Charles gets the idea to ask if he’s seen any girls from the International Academy in the area because they’re “Meeting them for lunch.”
It turns out some girls from the Academy are skating in the park, where it just happens Charles and Edwin manage to find Annika and her friends Fiorenza (Italian), Michiko (Japanese), and Frederika (German, who’s the youngest at age 6 or 7). Charles is immediately smitten by Annika, and Annika thinks it’s “Double cool with knobs” that the boys are British like she is. Annika is amazed at how quickly the boys came to help find Liz, while Fredi scolds them for not even wearing jackets or warm clothing. Annika’s sure the boys are staying at a hotel, which catches Charles by surprise since, hello, ghosts don’t need to worry about things like that. Instead, Annika and the girls assume the boys came all the way from England with no concern for themselves and, touched by their sincerity, are gonna sneak them into the Academy. Edwin, a real learn-o-phile, falls in love with the prestigious institution of higher learning and asks to be shown to the boys wing. Annika finds that hilarious because why would there be one in AN ALL GIRLS SCHOOL? [Wing: I love Annika.]
Charles is scared they’d be caught, Edwin’s more worried how it’s “Not proper,” but the girls have them covered.
The girls test the disguises by bringing them to the dining hall, and almost immediately their cover is blown by none other than the lunch ladies, shocked by how the boys don’t put anything on their trays. They think they’ve found a pair of… DIETERS!
These two are my favorite in the whole book. You go, lunch ladies.
Freaking out at how skinny Charles and Edwin are, and thinking it’s TV’s fault, they take it upon themselves to ensure they eat properly.
Also this is my favorite panel in the whole comic and I can’t not think of a good reason to use it.
Annika steps in and hastily tries to assure “Oh fave chefs of the world” her “Cousins” from England aren’t used to such a delectable array of international, gourmet delights are were simply too overwhelmed to try anything. [Wing: No, really, Annika is the best, and I am utterly charmed throughout this story.] Their egos satisfied, the lunch ladies eagerly load Charles and Edwin’s trays with a little bit of everything. Annika explains Mrs. Calderone and Levar are super proud of their cooking and get upset when no one eats their food, so it’s best to keep your trays full to avoid suspicion. Unfortunately, Edwin trips and spills his food on the floor, which also catches the ire of three very nasty, older students (henceforth referred to as “Les Itches-bay”). As Edwin picks his head up, they order him to clean a tiny smudge on the leader’s shoes. The sight of the three towering over Edwin with contempt triggers a flashback, and Edwin remembers all too well when he was targeted and tortured by Barrows and the others. [Wing: Heartbreaking.]
The leader, Kaitlyn, is literally about to kick Edwin to make him clean the smudge before Annika tells her to back off. The Itches-bay find it amusing Annika’s got “Another cause celebre.” Fredi gets defensive and shouts “Leaf him alone” in her heavy accent, and Kaitlyn laughs her ass off.
So yeah you know these are assholes. [Wing: MURICA. Also, yes, I can see why everyone at the international school should speak USA English.]
Charles tells the trio to back off and gets shoved to the floor for his troubles. Kaitlyn once more orders Edwin around when POW! Mashed potatoes to the face! Courtesy of Indrina (Indian, possibly Native American), Vanya (Russian), and Kanene (African American). As the three girls pummel Kaitlyn with food, and of course food war breaks out in the dining hall. Vanya helps Charles when Principal Gorse, a no nonsense, intimidating woman, marches into the hall and gets everyone to stop dead in their tracks. Surprisingly, and amazingly, she zeroes in on not Annika’s group, but Les Itches-bay, and orders the three of them (further identified as Chase, Jameson, and Norris) to start cleaning as punishment for not setting a good example for the younger students. Of course Ms. Gorse cancels the rest of the evening activities, which includes dessert. No one is more upset than Fredi, traumatized by the sight of all that chocolate cake smeared on the floor. [Wing: You and me both, Fredi, you and me both, unless you’re traumatized because it is supposed to be German chocolate cake, which is not actually German, but is instead named after Samual German, an American baker. Witness me in my random trivia.]
Annika and the others thank Indrina, Vanya, and Kanene for the save, and these three can tell right off Charles and Edwin aren’t her “Cousins.” Annika admits the boys are helping them such for Liz, and they reconvene in Annika’s room to discuss their game plan. Fredi’s still upset about the cake, which the girls attribute to her being the youngest (Babies like sweets, to which Fredi argues she’s not a baby), [Wing: Adorable.] and Edwin apologizes for getting the girls sent to bed without food. But not to worry, because they use Fiorenza’s personal panini maker for a late snack or, as Annika puts it, “She’ll be squishing us a feast of Emeril-like proportions post haste.”
Charles and Edwin have no idea what she’s talking about.
The girls thank Fiorenza on a hasty meal, and have managed to sate Fredi into a chocolate-and-peanut-butter coma. After granting Indrina delayed congrats for that mashed potato flyball, Edwin gets down to business and asks for more background on Liz and what the Itches-bay were talking about when they mentioned a “Cause celebre.”
Elizabeth Parker was, it seems, a super serious student who was buddy buddy with the teachers, totally “Ultra noodle.” Annika thought she had the worst luck in roommates, so she never really hung out with her. And Liz’s nerdisms made her a prime target for the Itches-bay. That all changed one day when, after gym class, the Itches-bay were playing keep away with Liz’s, who at the time was soaking wet and in a towel, clothes in the locker room. When one of them smacked Liz in the face with her skirt, Liz finally retaliated by busting out some karate moves and mopped the floor with them. When Annika congratulated her that following evening, Liz passive aggressively called out how nobody else was going to stick up for her. Chastised, Annika admitted she deserved that for not helping her, although Liz follows up by saying she knows people who help the bullied become targets themselves. Annika doesn’t buy that and apologizes for not teaming up with Liz in the past, and empathizes saying she always thought those girls were “Poo princesses” too. Liz thought that was hilarious, and the two started over. From that point, Liz taught Annika some of her moves, while Annika shared fashion tips and brought Liz into her circle of friends (who eagerly accepted Liz as one of their own).
Edwin and Charles put the Itches-bay at the top of the suspect list. When Annika asks what they believe the three could’ve done to Liz, Vanya immediately answers “Murder.” Annika doesn’t want to think it, but Edwin attests, from personal experience, that the one thing bullies truly hate is getting shown up by their victims. Annika then asks why none of the teachers have done anything if they know Liz might be dead. Vanya and Kanene answer with a question of their own: would your parents allow you, or rather, would they pay, for you to attend a school where a student was murdered? If Liz was indeed killed, the staff would keep it a secret to make sure the school stays open. [Wing: Where are Liz’s parents in all this? Any family at all? If the school is basically pretending they don’t know a Liz and trying to hide things, why aren’t the family members raising a fuss?]
The girls are forced to flee when lights out begin, and Annika hides the boys underneath her mountain of plush toys when one of the teachers does a bed check. [Wing: OMG ADORABLE.] Annika tells the boys to get some sleep, but the gravity of the situation finally hits her and she starts silently crying thinking about Liz. Charles assures Annika they’ll find her, and Annika calms down enough to fall asleep. The boys proceed to go over their notes, and the similarities between their bullying and Liz’s bullying. If Liz IS dead, they check the attic first and ghost up there to see if Liz’s spirit is still hanging around. She’s not, but Edwin points out Death might’ve collected Liz, but they’re unable to find a body. What they do find is a covered basket full of junk food, a book with Liz’s name in it, and a heavy chain and padlock on the attic door. So, it looks like Liz WAS here, but since the door is chained, how did she get there and how did she get out? [Wing: Werewolf?]
[Wing: YES I KNOW IT IS NOT A WEREWOLF STORY.]
At an assembly the next morning, “Charleen” and “Edwina” [Wing: FUCKING ADORABLE.] are given a rundown of all the teachers and whether or not they may be potential suspects.
- Mr. Bourne, a.k.a. “Mr. Snoggable,” the hot teacher. Most the girls have crushes on him, except Fredi because she thinks kissing boys is gross. Bourne’s supposedly super nice to everybody and Liz was pals with him. Charles is immediately suspicious of him.
- Ms. Caine, world literature teacher and the only one who didn’t like Liz. She was always giving Liz demerits which everyone thought was weird since Liz was “Miss Scholastica USA.” It was like Caine hated Liz.
- Ms. Foley, music teacher. She’s head of the Christmas pageant. Liz tried out for a singing part, but the good roles were given to Les Itches-bay even though Liz had a better voice. Liz wasn’t too upset though, and volunteered for props and set decoration.
- Mr. Drake, science teacher, a much older guy who looks like Einstein. Everybody likes him because his classes are fun, and the girls can do all kinds of silly experiments as long they’re learning.
- Professor Pimm, history teacher, kind of an imposing guy. Was really interested in Liz’s term paper, but the girls don’t know what it was about.
Ms. Gorse takes the stage and announces she considered cancelling the pageant as punishment for the food fight debacle the previous evening, but “Reconsidered” because of all the parents and prestigious alumni who’ll be flying in to attend the show. The mention of parents leads Edwin to bring up the topic of Liz’s, but Annika believes they might be dead. Liz never got phone calls or mail from home like the other girls, and since Liz is also very quiet about certain things Annika decided not to pry. [Wing: Amazing, my questions are actually being answered.] Gorse finishes the assembly by announcing the students will spend the weekend volunteering at soup kitchens in the city, to teach them a lesson about how many starving people out there who would’ve gladly wanted the food they wasted.
The girls are told to meet Ms. Deirdre, the gym teacher, for their assignments. Annika stops by her room to get something first, and runs into Mr. Jones, the janitor, leaving her room. Jones claims he was cleaning up a leak in Annika’s bedroom, but Annika doesn’t believe him because A: there wasn’t one before she left, B: she doesn’t have a sink, and C: he doesn’t have any cleaning supplies or tools with him. Jones immediately tells Annika to keep her smart mouth shut and stop asking questions, which prompts Charles to break out his “Haunting” routine and scare the shit out of Jones.
Since Charles and Edwin were standing behind the girls, none of them see the ghastly face he makes so his secret’s still good. The girls meet Ms. Deidre for their soup kitchen assignments, but Charles and Edwin bolt the minute they finally meet the gym teacher, because she looks far too similar to Death.
In fact, they think she IS Death and is probably following them AND Liz, even though they’ve got no proof Liz is alive or dead. For their sake, Charles and Edwin will keep a wary eye on Ms. Deidre and keep their distance. As luck would have it, the boys are outside the janitor’s closet, perfect for investigating Mr. Jones. They find a small notebook with floral patterns on it, which is too out of place for what they’ve seen of Jones. Charles and Edwin bring the book to Annika, who confirms it’s Liz’s diary based on the handwriting. Annika always thought it was a bit old-fashioned in an era of blogging, and is ashamed she forgot about the diary until now. Why would Mr. Jones have it, and also, someone’s torn out large chunks from several pages. The only parts they can make out is Liz saying “I should tell him how I feel” and “No one must ever know.” Annika and the boys assume Liz had a crush on someone, but the only guy she was close to was Mr. Bourne.
Saturday comes and Annika’s group are working at a soup kitchen, with Fredi handing out (and helping herself to) the chocolate chip cookies. Charles and Edwin show up, having borrowed winter clothing from the girls (and Charles claims he’s getting the hang of eye makeup), but the girls tell them they didn’t have to disguise themselves because kids from an all boys school are volunteering as well. Charles and Edwin reveal they technically don’t have any other clothing, but once again, the girls have them covered and whip out their credit cards (except Fredi, who holds up a chocolate bar). [Wing: Fredi, you are my ridiculous fave.] Charles and Edwin get decked out in some cool new clothing, which the girls call an early Christmas present.
Hanging out at the Chicago Christmas Tree, Annika wishes she’d been able to bring Liz with her to see it like they planned. Edwin notices Fredi is happy to see the big tree, and asks what she hopes Father Christmas will bring her. Fredi excitedly declares she wants Edwin to be her “Lovable husband!” Kanene chides Fredi for being so clingy, and Fredi gets insulted when they say she’s hanging onto Edwin like a baby.
“I’m not a baby! I am six! I go to big girl school!”
Edwin suddenly remembers back when he was first sent to boarding school. His mother desperately tried to talk his father out of going through with it, but Paine Senior believed it would be good for Edwin because it would make a man out of him. Keep in mind, Edwin was FIVE when this happened. He never saw his mother again. Back in the present, Edwin says a good detective can always use the support of a “Lovable wife” and offers to take Fredi to get some hot chocolate. Awww.
The group runs into Mr. Bourne, and assume he’s chaperoning an afternoon group. Of course, Bourne gets nervous and says “Impossible” when the girls say they’re in the city for the same reason he is. At that moment, someone’s phone begins to ring. It’s obviously coming from Bourne, who awkwardly tries to pretend the noise isn’t coming from him. The girls check their phones and verify it’s definitely not them. Bourne claims it’s a “Wrong number” even though he didn’t even take his phone out to check. Bourne decides to make a hasty exit to do some more “Volunteering,” but he’s heading in the opposite direction of the soup kitchen. The kids chase after Bourne as he enters the subway. His bag gets snagged on the turnstile, and as it gets it yanked free out spill dozens of photos… and they’re all of Liz.
“I have to tell him how I feel…”
“No one can find out…”
The boys believe Liz IS alive, but now they fear something worse has happened. The evidence is now pointing to Bourne having a relationship with Liz, and the girls are disgusted with themselves that they ever liked Bourne. At breakfast the next morning, the girls overhear Professor Pimm and Bourne about to discuss something, but when Bourne motions to the girls, Pimm immediately thinks they should talk elsewhere. Since it looks like Pimm knows something, the kids investigate him next.
Michiko offers to help clean up Pimm’s classroom when he’s late for a staff meeting. A book with Liz’s name in it falls out of Pimm’s briefcase as he runs to the meeting, giving Michiko and the boys more incentive to search through Pimm’s desk. Their goal’s to find Liz’s term paper, knowing Pim was so interested in it, but all they find are receipts for fast food and takeout and an architecture magazine. Liz’s book is about architecture as well, and is full of sticky notes and circled passages. Also inside the book is a receipt for… a flashlight, rope, and duct tape. No one wants to think of these implications.
Michiko and the boys hide under Pimm’s desk, waiting for him to return in order to discreetly follow him to see if he knows more about Liz. [Wing: Not sure hiding under his desk is the best place to hide before following him, but sure. Why not.] They follow Pimm into one of the student lounge areas, but he’s somehow disappeared. The only other way out of the room is the fire exit, and he couldn’t have gone through there since the alarm didn’t go off. Michiko suddenly recognizes the fireplace in the lounge is the same one from one of the highlighted pages in Liz’s book, and there’s a paper stuck in the back. Michiko pulls on it, and suddenly the back of the fireplace opens to reveal a staircase and a trail of papers going up to the attic! Charles and Edwin climb the stairs and hear Pimm declaring “I’m afraid you’ll have to go, my sweet!” The boys briefly consider phasing through the walls and scaring Pimm to death, until they realize if he dies they’ll only bring Death’s attention. Thankfully, the girls show up armed and ready to kick ass. Vanya is able to remove the door by knocking out the pins from the hinges with her hammer, but by the time they finish, Pimm, and possibly Liz, is gone. The chained door is wide open though, and it leads to a supply closet in the auditorium. They overhear Pimm arguing with Ms. Foley, and Pimm promises to “Make it worth Foley’s while.” When Foley finds the girls in the supply closet, Fredi pretends she came for rehearsal while the girls play off their various makeshift weapons as “Props for Santa’s bag.” Of course, when Foley is curious as to why they’ve got scissors and hammers…
“For Dad! Who… does D.I.Y. And… Mom who likes… cutting things.”
Now it’s time for the group to gather their evidence, having found Liz’s paper in the attic.
- Mr. Bourne is possibly a child molester and had his eyes on Liz, since she had a crush on him
- Professor Pimm has got a lot of receipts for junk food and stuff Liz likes, as well as a receipt for tools to restrain someone
- Liz’s paper was about old Chicago architecture, that got refurnished and moved to new locations like the Academy. And since some of the pieces included hidden panels, Liz speculated during her research the architecture might have hidden works of art inside them.
- Edwin remembers a word from one of Liz’s diary entries, “Reasure,” might’ve been “Treasure.”
Charles deduces Bourne and Pimm are working together, having realized through Liz’s term paper that there might be artwork hidden in the school. Pimm gets Bourne to exploit Liz’s crush to make her help them look for the artwork hidden in the school’s architecture. If Liz’s parents really are dead, Pimm and Bourne would’ve known this so they wouldn’t have to worry about people asking questions about Liz’s disappearance. But as to why Bourne would help with such a risky endeavor, it’s possible Bourne really IS a pervert and was being blackmailed by Pimm. Foley covered for Pimm because the teachers are all in on it (you know, because teachers get paid jack shit), and got Jones to dispose of any evidence Liz left behind.
Fredi bursts into tears over how horrible this seems, and Edwin tries his best to comfort her. Edwin reasons Pimm and Bourne haven’t found what they want just yet, so Liz is still alive. Edwin offers to bring Fredi to the kitchen to get something to snack on, but Fredi decides to make something for him and slices up a banana into some rice pudding. Unfortunately, because Edwin’s a ghost, he can’t eat, and since he doesn’t want to hurt Fredi’s feelings, reveals he can’t eat it because he’s dead. Fredi, of course thinks he’s lying at first and is trying to “Divorce her,” until Edwin puts her hand on his chest to show he’s got no heartbeat. Fredi, surprisingly, isn’t scared, and tells Edwin he’s still her lovable husband because he’s smart, nice, and polite to her. And because he’s not at all like Jacob Marley or the Ghost of Christmas Future. [Wing: FREDI. You are the most adorable.] That gives Edwin an idea, which he repays by kissing Fredi on the cheek, much to her delight even if his lips are cold. Fredi realizes Charles is a ghost as well, and asks Edwin if being a ghost is painful.
“Only when I can’t sample my dear wife’s cooking.”
EDWIN YOU STOP BEING SUCH A SWEETHEART RIGHT NOW OR I SWEAR TO MARY DAKOTA FANNING MAGDALENE I WILL KILL YOU ALL OVER AGAIN.
Late at night, Charles and Edwin ghost their way into Pimm’s office. Pimm has passed out on his desk while in the middle of grading papers. The boys decide to pull the “Jacob Marley” routine and haunt Pimm, menacingly declaring “WE KNOW WHAT YOU DID” in order to guilt trip him. They do such a good job, their subconscious haunting summons forth Dream of the Endless, who brings alongside him the Corinthian. You guys won’t know this, but the Corinthian is Dream’s top nightmare, his dark mirror meant to reflect everything humanity tries to deny about itself. Oh and he looks like this.
The Corinthian dissolves into Pimm’s head and gives him a first rate nightmare. Pimm wakes up in a horrified sweat, and the boys THINK he’s going to free Liz. Nope. Pimm’s just throwing out what looks to be more junk food wrappers and boxes, anything that might connect him with Liz. Sorry boys.
They report to Annika, and she asks if he had time to dispose of… well, Liz. They don’t think he did, especially since tomorrow is the holiday pageant, so if Liz IS dead and they got rid of her body, if it was found the day of the pageant it would cause too much of a spectacle. But, having realized the teachers would be in the front office all day for the pageant, that means Liz and the girls have time to prepare for a sting operation.
The night of the pageant, Ms. Foley preps Les Itches-bay as the grand finale, the trio of angels who’ll sing the last song of the evening. It turns out Foley gave them the roles because one of them promised to show Foley’s demo tape to her recording president dad. Of course, once Foley’s out of earshot, it turns out she’s got no intention of following up on that because Foley’s “A big fat idiot!” She only said it because everyone who’s anyone will be at the show, and it’ll get the three of them in the papers. That’s all Annika and Vanya, armed with bats, needed to hear.
On stage, the pageant’s in full swing and everyone’s having fun, even Ms. Gorse. The audience is declaring how they’ll double, no, triple their donations, as Ms. Gorse calls for the descent of the angels. Not knowing, of course, that Les Itches-bay have been fucking beat unconscious with bats and tied up. [Wing: Seems like that escalated quickly.] So Indrina, Annika, and Fiorenza deliver that time honored Christmas classic.
Naturally, Pimm is horrified. Bourne is horrified. The fucking AUDIENCE is horrified. [Wing: I am DELIGHTED.] Yet surprisingly, the comic focuses on Ms. Deirdre being horrified after Bourne. Hmm. Ms. Gorse screams for someone to cut the mikes, but Vanya and Kanene sure as fuck ain’t, and Fredi starts kicking Pimm’s shin. Ms. Gorse demands to know what in the holy hell is WRONG with Annika, when Annika starts shouting through angry tears what a disgrace Gorse and the teachers are for how none of them tried to help find Liz. Annika says the girls did investigating on their own and just exposed it all for everyone to hear. Gorse suddenly says she hopes everyone BACKSTAGE heard too. Huh?
It turns out there are some celebrity guests this year, in the form of… THE WELLINGTONS. Everyone’s favorite dysfunctional rock star family and stars of the reality TV show “Family Values,” including Parker (the dad), Helen (the mother), Jake (the son), their camera crew… and LIZ?!
[Wing: WAIT WHAT?]
The girls can hardly believe their eyes and glomp Liz, overjoyed she’s not dead. Liz is utterly confused and asks why anyone thought she was dead. Annika reminds Liz she just disappeared without a word, and explains the teachers began acting like she never existed, at which point Helen, Liz’s mother, reveals that’s because they were PAID to.
Liz’s family loves her very much, and wished to respect her desire not to be in the limelight by enrolling her in the International Academy and paying the staff to make sure Liz’s background remained a secret. HOWEVER…
Mr. Bourne, who is actually part of the paparazzi, found out and snuck into the school as a teacher to get access to potential stories on the Wellingtons. Liz isn’t happy to find out he was a reporter, OR that he had all those pictures of her, AND that the girls thought he pulled a “Lolita” on her. Helen calls him out on being a creep.
Okay so I kind of love Helen too as she starts pummeling Bourne. At that moment he whips out a camera and takes some pictures of Helen’s onslaught. He can see the headlines now.
WHEN “HELL”-EN ATTACKS
OUT OF CONTROL ROCK STAR MOM ONCE MORE EMBARRASSES NORMAL DAUGHTER
Parker has to restrain Helen from committing TOTALLY JUSTIFIED murder.
Bourne got so weird when the girls saw him the other day because he was planning to see Ms. Deirdre. They’ve been dating in secret since teachers aren’t allowed to go out with each other (which is also why she freaked during the song, she thought they meant her). But since he’s not a teacher…
Charles and Edwin are happy she’s not actually Death, but that doesn’t make up for her shit taste in men.
The thing Bourne and Pimm wanted to talk about away from the kids was which of them should play Santa for the pageant, and weren’t sure if any of them still believed in that sort of thing and didn’t want to, you know, destroy the whole childhood wonder thing.
The food receipts and Pimm saying “You’ll have to go my sweet” were because he’s a closeted junk food addict. The girls overheard him devouring the last of some Halloween candy he’d been saving. Turns out he was so interested in Liz’s paper because all that talk of secret passages meant he had a place where he could stuff his face in secret.
Ms. Foley was going to “Cover” for Pimm because they’re on the same diet plan. The lunch ladies have them on a low carb, low fat meal plan, and Foley encountered Pimm with a mouth full of candy bars. She promised not to bring it up at their next weigh in since it’s the holidays, but isn’t happy to find out he had a hiding place where he could gorge to his delight.
Mrs. Calderon and Levar aren’t happy either.
Mr. Jones is actually a bodyguard Liz’s parents hired to watch over her. When Liz was whisked off for her father’s latest concerts, she forgot her diary and it had entries that mentioned her family by name. Jones went in and retrieved the diary, as well as ripping out the parts referring to the Wellingtons. Liz chides Jones for how overboard he went since he only needed to TAKE the book. The missing pieces reveal Liz’s entries about “Him” were her talking about how she doesn’t want to be on camera 24/7 like her dad and mom.
With all that said and done, Parker whips out his guitar and decides it’s time to rock, starting with “My Baby Girl Liz-Bef,” much to her horror. [Wing: OH MY GOD THIS FAMILY.]
Annika and the girls can’t believe how completely WRONG they were about everything, and are ready to face some serious detention.
“Circumstantial evidence and an addiction to Law & Order.”
They are happy Liz is okay, but notice Liz is leaving the pageant most likely to get some space from her family. She’s not.
THE OTHER REVEAL
Back in the supply closet, Liz is tearing the place apart trying to find something, when Charles and Edwin, who were absent for most of the reveal, appear on top of the shelves holding up a small portrait. One of the hidden pieces of artwork she talked about in her term paper. Liz demands they hand it over since she found it, but the boys point out the school owns it since it was in the mantle they bought. Liz doesn’t care, because it turns out she’s really a devious little art thief. [Wing: WAIT WHAT WHAT?]
The receipt for the rope and flashlight? That was all Liz. She tried out for the pageant and got into props so she’d have an opportunity to use the secret passage to investigate the back of the fireplace and find the hidden art for herself.
Liz begins ranting about how hard it is for her to not draw attention with a family like her’s. All she wanted to do was to be left alone, but even being unpopular got her attention because it made her a target. She says she wanted to be left alone to pursue her own interests. Like, as Charles says, selling stolen art on the black market. [Wing: NO, LIZ IS MY FAVOURITE, OH MY GOD.] Liz says the boys can’t stop her, when Annika shows up, almost like an avenging angel, and proclaims she and the girls will. Liz, rather surprisingly, doesn’t back down, and says as much as she doesn’t WANT to fight the girls, she will. Annika realizes they can’t stop Liz, but they CAN tell on her. Liz thinks that’s hilarious since no one would believe any of them after what they just did on stage. So it’s a good thing Liz doesn’t realize her family and the cameramen are ALSO there and heard the entire fucking thing. Rest assured, Parker and Helen are fucking outraged, because they might be a family of tattooed, out of control, violent rock star freaks, but damn it they’ve got standards!
“ELIZABETH PARKER! We might be lewd, crude, and tattooed, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have any FAMILY VALUES!”
[Wing: I AM DED. DED. DED.]
Liz’s parents drag her away, admonishing her for stealing from the school, and it’s all on camera. Sucks to be you, Liz.
A few days later, Annika and the girls must bid their goodbyes to Charles and Edwin. The girls are spending Christmas break at a tropical resort Fredi’s father has purchased, and expect the boys’ parents are gonna want them home for the holidays. Back at their treehouse fort in England, Charles yearns for Annika even as Edwin reminds him romance between the living and dead never works out. However, our story ends on a happy note when the boys receive another letter from Annika and we find out “Where Are They Now?”
Turns out one of the alumni attending the pageant is a bigwig in the publishing industry, and was so impressed by the fucked up shit Annika and the girls came up with regarding the teachers and Liz, the group’s been hired to pen a series of girls’ mysteries together. Liz, meanwhile, has been doing community service on “Family Values” and is currently the most popular member of the cast. Which is making her absolutely batshit miserable. She’s now officially “TV’S FAVORITE JUVENILE CRIMINAL MASTERMIND.”
P.S. Fredi sends hugs to her lovable husband.
I love Jill Thompson so much like, like SO much you guys. That I’ve only been able to commission two sketches from her since 2011 makes me feel like I’m a failure in so many ways.
I really loved how the moment the girls believed Mr. Bourne was doing something awful with Liz they immediately thought he was scum, not because they were jealous but because they know that kind of shit is WRONG and because he’s possibly hurting their friend. So their crushes on him were superficial ones and even they knew it.
The reveal about Liz comes out of left field a little, but we did have a couple of hints. Remember the summary mentioned daughters of “Rebellious rock stars?” and how Liz supposedly had the best singing voice? Of course she would if her parents are professional musicians, she’s probably had lessons.
If there’s one thing I’m disappointed in, it’s how the world lit teacher angle didn’t go anywhere even though she was said to hate Liz, which I guess makes sense because if she knew Liz is the daughter of famous rock stars she probably assumed Liz was a spoiled diva brat.
And even though by now the obvious references to the Osbournes has become dated, Liz’s parents, especially her mom, are still hilarious.
[Wing: I want to read a billion more adventures with these kids, and all the books the girls are ghost writing, and pretty much all the stories ever about them. This is the most adorable.]