Dress to Kill in the Bettie Page Halloween Special

Bettie, makeup smudged and running from her eyes but with a determined look, says, "I surely do, sir. I surely do."

Bettie Page Halloween Special

“Pickman’s Supermodel”
David Avallone (writer), Taylor Esposito (letterer), Julius Ohta (artist), Ellie Wright (colorist)
“Haunting in Hollywood”
Taylor Esposito (letterer), Valentina Pinto (colorist), Fernando Ruiz (artist), Leah Williams (writer)
Dynamite Comics
October 2018

Supermodel-turned-undercover-agent-for-the-FBI Bettie Page doesn’t just deal with mobsters and the common criminal element. This Halloween, she confronts evil from a whole other dimension in “Pickman’s Supermodel” and braves one hell of a haunted house in “Haunting in Hollywood.” Both stories remind readers that everything is just a little bit weirder on the left coast, especially on Halloween.

Cover; Green-skinned ghoul-Bettie emerging from a mirror from a recoiling human-Bettie in a tiny purple dress and black stockings.

They say “Keep Austin weird,” but I’m not sure Austin has anything on Los Angeles in the weirdness department, and it seems Dynamite agrees. In the Bettie Page Halloween Special, Bettie finds herself involved in a pair of deeply weird cases with decidedly different tones. “Pickman’s Supermodel” is for fans of the Cthulhu mythos who wouldn’t mind tossing its deeply problematic and racist founder straight into another dimension – it’s unsettling and heavy and dark. “Haunting in Hollywood,” on the other hand, serves up a slapstick sort of horror reminiscent of Gremlins or Young Frankenstein. Bettie rises to the occasion in each in her inimitable Bettie way.

The art for the two stories is as different as the tone of the tales themselves. While “Pickman’s Supermodel” oozes glamour in a film noir nod, the 1960s vibe of “Haunting in Hollywood” gives this caper a Scooby Gang feel.

In the first story, Bettie visits artist Richard Pickman, who has discovered how to communicate with eldritch creatures from another dimension, in a classic red A-line dress and impeccable makeup. And when things go sideways with Pickman, she pulls a gun from a lace thigh holster in a move highlighting an alluringly defined bare leg that doesn’t take away from her cool professionalism. After meeting the eldritch horror summoned by Pickman, the gorgeous black of her eyeliner and mascara are a smudged mess. I love that artist Julius Ohta and colorist Ellie Wright included that detail and stuck with it. “Pickman’s Supermodel” plays on Bettie’s stereotypical beauty and sex appeal, but it doesn’t exploit them.

For “Haunting in Hollywood,” artist Fernando Ruiz and writer Leah Ruiz riff on that sex appeal for laughs with a punny costume that barely leaves anything to the imagination. But again, it doesn’t feel exploitative; it’s part of who Bettie is and it’s fun. Pairing the costume with Bettie and Lyssa’s slapstick flight down the hallway of the haunted house and near-pratfall into a pit of spikes takes the special’s second story into very different emotional territory. It takes little effort to imagine the scratch-off of heels running in place before gaining traction to carry both Bettie and Lyssa away from the danger charging their way. Wile E. Coyote himself would be proud.

The Bettie Page Halloween Special delightfully showcases Bettie’s range, from sex kitten to warrior, from somber to hilarious, all while celebrating the strangeness and weirdness that is Halloween in Los Angeles. It would be easy to turn her into a caricature of herself, to overplay her sex appeal and throw her in a “sexy ____” costume, but the creators didn’t fall into that trap. Instead they pulled together a pair of great, weird stories that are perfect for the season.

Laura Stump

Laura Stump

I'm a constantly sleep-deprived writer who mostly prefers the company of cats to people, although cats (curse their lack of opposable thumbs!) can’t fetch beer from the fridge the way people can.

One thought on “Dress to Kill in the Bettie Page Halloween Special

  1. Thanks for the kind words. I also loved the "smudged mascara" thing, and it wasn’t in the script: I had her shedding tears for Pickman but that detail came from the artist.

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