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The original 1980s series - unique and Too Good To Last
Call it an audience killer, or Too Good To Last, but the original 1980s Power Pack had a great premise going for it that ultimately was both what made it unique and unpopular: children who become superheroes and fight crime... except that they realistically act emotionally and mentally like the children they are, while dealing with serious threats. That's right, no overload of one-liners, no silly plots (well, very few silly plots), and generally believable characterization. Totally unheard of in a story that puts children in adventurous situations. Common in much children's adventure literature, but unheard of in comics.

It's not very surprising then that the letters to the editor came mostly from adult fans, some praising the comics for their realistic portrayal of child heroes. Occasionally a 12 year old kid would write in and express surprise that Power Pack turned out so well, when the kid was expecting it to be stupid because "it's about kids". Apparently the actual kids stayed far away from the series. Either they assumed it was too childish, or they checked it out and were dismayed that it was instead fairly serious.

For quite a while, Power Pack stayed in the "serious but not overdramatic or angsty" territory, until at one point, Marvel decided that maybe it would have more appeal if they made it Darker And Edgier. And did they ever. The last 7 issues of the comic's run angsted up the plot considerably, and had the oldest kid in the group slowly mutate into an alien. The fun was thrown out and replaced only with darkness. And the comic folded for a while.

The original creators came back a few years later and put out the Power Pack Holiday Special, which essentially Handwaved the inappropriate plot elements away and returned to the original "fun yet takes itself seriously" mood, in a glorious ~40 page story and several bonus short stories, ultimately allowing the original 1980s series to end on a bang, rather than the embarrassment of the end of its original run.

I recommend checking out the original 1980s Power Pack if you ever get a chance to. It did what few stories (outside of children's adventure lit) ever do: put child characters in serious danger and actually portray them (mostly) realistically, rather than dumbing down the action or story. It was a rare gem indeed.
I agree; I followed the series from the start (missing only the first issue, but that was typical back then, first issues were considered collectibles and thus sold out quickly) and I was surprised that it was a "straight" superhero story instead of a silly Kid Hero romp. And of course, the writing and the art were also very good! It had its flaws, of course, especially the fact that the kids got away with their heroics behind the adults' backs for so long (they didn't even wear masks!) You'd think Spider-Man or Wolverine would have insisted in informing their parents, but there you go. In fact I think explaining this away was the reason for the "brainwashed parents" plotline that turned out so bad. Honestly, I prefer the Pack in its own continuity, rather than as teenagers in the post-Marvel Civil War days. Maybe Disney will see fit to produce a PP cartoon now that they own Marvel? ;)
comment #1703 Sijo 20th Jan 10
Really the Power Pack should be consiered the proto-Runaways. You have a similar group structure in terms of personality and a similar outlook on the Marvel Universe as a whole.

comment #1710 Darkblade 21st Jan 10
I think if Disney made a Power Pack cartoon, they'd do what they did to, say for instance, the Famous Five cartoon. That is, throw away the serious mood and just make something fluffy and silly, ignoring what made it good in the first place.
comment #1723 BonsaiForest 22nd Jan 10 (edited by: BonsaiForest)
Just wanted to add that there are two TP Bs of the 80s Power Pack out: Power Pack Classic volume 1 covers issues 1 to 10, and volume two has #11-17, the X-Men issue they crossed over with, and Power Pack/Cloak and Dagger: Shelter From the Storm.
comment #2624 Laevatein 24th May 10
I checked out some of the newer Power Pack comics. Surprisingly despite the Lighter and Softer shift the stories are good in their own right. They ought to make a cartoon with this.
comment #2653 210.4.127.215 27th May 10
I've had it with Lighter And Softer. While I dislike Darker And Edgier, I want to see "not too light, not too dark", and I feel the original 80s Power Pack captured that feel perfectly. There were a few silly stories and some dark arcs (I actually really liked the one involving Inferno; I think that was Darker And Edgier done right), but the mood tended to avoid the two extremes.
comment #2654 BonsaiForest 27th May 10
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