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Marvel’s Power Pack

I’ve written before how I was an avid Marvel Comics reader circa the mid to late 1980s. Mostly I was into the “X books” (X-Men, X-Factor, New Mutants).

But there was one “kids book” that my brother and I loved, because it was anything but “kiddie.” Power Pack was about four siblings who receive alien powers and have fantastic adventures.

It was created by writer Louise Simonson and artist June Brigman—a newcomer to comics whose clean, uncluttered style was a visual delight. It was full of imagination, heart and, above all, a faithfulness to the actual emotions and preoccupations of a pre-teen audience.

Brigman only lasted around a year and a half on the book—she said the monthly schedule was too demanding—after which Jon Bogdanove took over (at the start of his illustrious career), who I also liked.

Unfortunately, the book sputtered after issue #25 or so: the kids’ powers were switched around after an alien adventure (the new lineup was not as fun); Marvel decided to go direct-market only with the book; but mostly, Simonson left and nobody else seemed to have a knack for writing the kids.

I remember there being endless fill-in issues published on a weird schedule, the books arriving all soggy and folded in our rural mailbox (via subscription, as we didn’t have any comic shops on Martha’s Vineyard outside of a short-lived one circa 1988)...and I also think I outgrew it.

Recently I discovered that Simonson and Brigman reunited in 2019 for a special “reunion” issue, which I want to get my hands on. And they did this interview at which I enjoyed reading.

I had the pleasure of meeting Simonson once at Amherst College. Her husband, the legendary artist and creator Walt Simonson, is class of 1968, which I happily discovered while a student there in the 1990s, and I interviewed him for the school newspaper. Walt and “Weezie” came up for a talk one time (in our gorgeous “Octagon” building) which I happily attended.

I’ve long wondered why they don’t make a movie of Power Pack. There was an unsold TV pilot circa 1991 which is unfortunately dreadful, and was leaked (completely with temp score) to YouTube. Seriously, I couldn’t sit through more than a few minutes—and I’m a fan—so good luck:

A modern movie adaptation would be hard because you have to cast four kids as siblings. It’s demanding enough relying on one kid actor for a franchise—but four? I think only the Narnia films have attempted that (and reviewers enjoyed making fun of the fact that the four kids seemed to have four different U.K. regional accents).

Also, unless you’re planning on having the kids age with the storytelling (like in Harry Potter), you’d be lucky to do two films before they’re old enough to drive.

Also, one creative choice Simonson made which is, uh, highly debatable today (and was back at the time, in the book’s letter columns) is that the kids kept their powers secret from their parents.

Hey, this was the 1980s—no helicopter parents! We’d go outside and play with dirt all afternoon and evening, and my mom would yell from the porch, “Dinner!” Really!

Somehow, the kids keeping their powers secret resonated to the audience (of which I was one), because kids all have secrets that they don’t feel like they can share with their parents.

And yet—that’s rough. The whole series was built on a lie that the kids perpetuated to their own parents. Hard to believe Disney getting behind that.

But the problem is that once the kids do tell the parents (which seems inevitable), it really becomes a story about the parents, doesn’t it?

So maybe the book just isn’t adaptable. But it sure was a delight to read in that golden Stranger Things era.

There’s also a podcast interview with Simonson and Brigman I should make time to hear. And here’s a print interview with Brigman from Syfy.

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