X-Men Vignettes #38 (1989)
“Strangers on a Lift”
Writer – Ann Nocenti
Art – Kyle Baker
Letters – Bill Oakley
Colors – Glynis Oliver
Edits – Edelman, Harras, DeFalco
From: Classic X-Men #38 (October, 1989)
Y’all ready for something weird? Cuz… today, we got a weird one. We’ve also got Ann Nocenti back, which I don’t remember approving. Oh well.
Before we get into it though… how ya like my fake-ass cover, eh? Pretty spiffy? Y’almost can’t even notice how horrid the transparency on the logo is!
So, we open… and, I guess Ann wanted to have her say with Dazzler in the Vignettes as well, cuz this is another one starring Ali. Anyway, it’s late at night, and she’s shuffling her way into an elevator at a multilevel parking lot structure. Inside the tin box stands a very portly fellow. If this were a movie, he’d probably be the racist sweatshop owner, or the dude who acts all moralistic… later being discovered as having a refrigerator full of body parts in his basement. You know the type, yes? He’s the Elevator Man. He asks where Ali’s headed… she tells him to take her to the top. The elevator whirrs into action… and, things get weird. The Elevator Man gets pretty close into Ali’s personal space while attending to the lift-box’s mechanism… while creepily leering, square in her eyes.
Moments pass… then, the lights go out. When they come back on, the fella is stood like right up on Dazzler’s back. I’m sure she’s getting a nose full of stale stogie and liverwurst. Ali begins to panic and asks what the dollar store Kingpin is up to… he simply tells her that he’s the Elevator Man… and he’s running the lift.
They reach the top level, and Ali goes to leave. The E.M. insists that he walk her to her car… since it’s late… and, ya know, dangerous. He really impresses upon her how dangerous it is for her to be up here alone. As she begins her walk to her hooptie… another car hammers the gas and drives right toward her. The Elevator Man grabs her, pulling her out of harm’s way… then… uh, handcuffs her to a metal pipe? Um, what?
The Elevator Man tells her it’s all a joke… then, checks his pocket — realizing that he’s left the key to the cuffs somewhere else. He leaves to go fetch them. No sooner does he waddle away than Alison uses her Disco-paffin’ to break herself free.
She then rushes to the power box and shuts off all the lights to the structure… leaving our fat friend just as confused and outta sorta as she was on the elevator. Next, she runs over to her car… flips on the radio… and prepares to engage in some Disco Dazzlin’.
What follows are a couple pages of Kyle Baker pencil candy, during which the Elevator Man gets bombarded with terrible music and light. Our gal introduces herself to her would-be fake-ass attacker… which takes us to our ending.
In which the Elevator Man reveals that… while he works as a humble Lift Operator, his true passion is film… and his obsession is fear. Ya see, this whole scene was orchestrated so he could observe and study “true fear” for his next film. He drops to his hamhock-sized knees and apologizes. Alison asks him, after what he’s just experienced, if he now has enough “material” for his fear-film.
Toldja this was a weird one. Thing of it is… there ain’t all that much to say about it. Least nothing off the top of my head. It was interesting to look at, even if the story itself kinda read as nonsensical. Like, we know the Elevator Man’s “goal” was to study true fear… but, really, at what cost? You pull a stunt like this… your ass is going to jail, right? Maybe that was his goal… he wanted to know the fear of being a literal cushion of a man in jail? Heck, even if that was the case, there’ve gotta be easier ways of going about it.
Up to the “grand reveal”, Ann and Kyle did a great job of evoking the kind of fear and dread we might find ourselves with, when all alone… in the dark… away from our (non-current-year) safe spaces. The tone of the story is pretty great. Part of me wonders how a John Bolton would’ve drawn this… but, I’m more than pleased with Baker’s take.
The title of this story is likely a play on the Hitchcock film, Strangers on a Train — which, outside of the similar title, doesn’t appear to share a single other thing with this story. Speaking of the title… here’s an irrational “Chris Problem” for ya… use of the word “lift” instead of elevator by an American. Though, I suppose if we’re replacing the word “Train” in our homage title, we gotta find a monosyllabic word to fit the bill. To me though, it always makes me think that the writer is trying to appear more “cultured”. Like I said, irrational Chris Problems… they are debilitating. It’s a wonder I’m able to pull myself outta bed every morning.
It reminds me of a comics podcast I used to listen to… back when I still had the time to listen to comics podcasts. It was hosted by an American and a Brit, and oddly, the Brit — perhaps knowing that most of their audience was American, would use words like “elevator”, “apartment”, and “bar”… whereas, the American co-host would say “lift”, “flat”, and “pub”. It always struck me as funny. Oh well.
Overall — this is about three-quarters of a good story… which, at least for me, falls apart pretty hard at the end. How this Elevator Man didn’t wind up arrested at the end of it makes zero sense. Plus, who was in the blue car that barreled at Ali? Was that part of the plan… or, just a happy coincidence? Also, what was E.M. planning to do to Ali when he returned with the keys? Lotsta silly questions… but, no answers are comin’.