Spotlight On: Norma
Whenever I get into a conversation with someone about female villains, especially female horror villains, they’re always surprised when I say that one of my all time favorites is Norma, The Trailer Park Queen.
Sadly, that’s because a lot of people, even hardcore fans of the genre, have never heard of the indie comic book, Trailer Park of Terror, published by Imperium Comics, or the low budget movie of the same name that it inspired back in 2008.
So it’s no wonder that almost nobody has heard about the sassy, chain-smoking, white trash horror hostess that is at the center of both iterations.
Allow me to remedy that.
I could go on and on about the movie, which, to spite it’s low budget (or maybe because of it) has some awesome looking practical monster makeup and gore effects in an age when stuff like that has more or less become a thing of the past, but I’m not the movie guy here, I’m the comic book guy, and so I will try to stick to mostly talking about the character that the comic and movie both have in common: Norma.
Norma (no last name ever given) in the comics is something of a mystery, as is the titular trailer park she lives in. She appears to be a woman in her mid to late forties who looks like Peggy Bundy’s older sister only a little rougher around the edges.
I say “appears to be a woman”, because, much like the other residents of the trailer park, Norma isn’t quite human. She has a unique quirk that she shares with the likes of Dr. Phibes and the Djinn from Wishmaster in that she can put on and remove her face like a Halloween mask. Most women hate being caught without their face on, and Norma is no exception, so you don’t get a look at her more monstrous form very often.
Beyond that, though, she’s perfectly normal. She does the kind of stuff we all do: hang out with aliens, zombies, and serial killers, duck stalkers, baby sit the anti-Christ, etc. She also tells tales of terror and misfortune the likes of which would make the GhouLunatics sit up and take notice.
As a matter of fact, one of them did. The Crypt-Keeper (looking like his HBO incarnation) actually appeared in the trailer park more than once obsessed with destroying/becoming/dating Norma. Much to her annoyance.
The creators of the comic clearly have a love of EC Comics and the MAD sense of maniacal humor they brought to horror, because Trailer Park of Terror has the exact same self aware, self referential attitude that Bill Gaines pioneered way back when. Norma and her cronies at the park reference horror movies new and old, current (at the time) pop culture icons like Anna Nicole Smith and Dr. Phil, as well as their own creators and real world limitations related to the comic they’re in, like the fact that the first three issues were printed in black and white and then went to color, starting the numbering system back at one.
In the movie, directed by Steven Goldmann, who sadly passed away of cancer recently, Norma is played by Nicole Hiltz, although you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s Jamie Presley the first time you see her performance, because Mrs. Hiltz is totally channeling Joy Turner from My Name Is Earl in her portrayal of the trailer park queen. And it’s absolutely perfect for the character, who is a much younger (looking), but equally brassy Norma than her comic book counterpart.
Unfortunately, Imperium Comics seems to be defunct these days as its website only lists Trailer Park and one other title, Pierce, as having been published by them and the last issue of either comic was back around the time the TPoT movie came out. The only contact info on the website is an outdated yahoo email address. Back issues of the comic are not necessarily hard to find. Ebay and Amazon always seem to have a few issues available that go for anything from five bucks to twenty in some cases, so if you’d like to read an issue, I’m sure you can one way or another. Just don’t try ordering the comics from the website. I did and I waited about a month before I realized I wouldn’t be getting any kind of reply or what I ordered and so had to cancel the payment which was never even processed.
The movie is much easier to find as you can pick up a copy of the DVD pretty much anywhere you buy movies relatively cheap. It gives Norma and the trailer park an origin that the comic lacks and I really dig it a lot. I won’t spoil it here. You just have to go watch the movie, which keeps the EC-esque tone of blending blood, guts, and laughs with a lot of self aware references to it’s funny book origins.
No matter how you choose to expose yourself to Norma (and believe me she’s down for whatever) you are bound to have a good time and will soon be joining me in lauding this funny and frightening female who belongs in the annals of horror hostery alongside the likes of Vampirella and The Old Witch.