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Literature / The Posterchildren

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There were protesters at his father’s funeral.
— The opening line of The Posterchildren: Origins.

The Posterchildren, by Kitty Burroughs, is a series of YA Superhero novels, and short stories, with LGBTQ themes and more puns than you can shake a stick at. The first novel follows four characters: Mal Underwood, June Hovick, Ernest Wright, and Zip Chance, alternating between each of their points of view as they go through training at Maillardet's Foundation for the Future of Humanity.

The description for the first book, Origins: "Nestled in the Cascade mountains in the Pacific Northwest, Maillardet's Foundation for the Future of Humanity is widely accepted as being the premiere training facility for young posthumans. The Academy accepts superpowered posterchildren from ages six through seventeen, guiding them through the training that they'll need if they want to become legally licensed heroes. Maillardet's Academy advertises itself as being for all types, welcoming the offspring of the greatest heroes of today — like Ernest Wright, the son of the Commander — along with new posters just learning to control their powers — like Juniper Hovick, a temperamental New Yorker with a flaming menagerie. Maillardet's is where the heroes of tomorrow are assembled today, so the pressure to perform is high. For disgraced legacy poster Malek Underwood, the third block of his training begins with him being knocked from his pedestal as the top student in the school, then paired with an almost-failing lesbian speedster named Zipporah Chance. Though they come from different backgrounds, Ernest, Juniper, Malek, and Zipporah all have the same goal: surviving the year. If they're ever going to become heroes, they have to make it to finals, first."


The Posterchildren was funded entirely through an Indiegogo Campaign that ran from December 2012 to January 2013. The first book, The Posterchildren: Origins, was released online April 26, 2013. The second book, The Posterchildren: Retcons, is due to be funded and released sometime in 2015.

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The Posterchildren contains examples of:

  • Action Duo: Zip and Mal, June and Ernest.
  • Adults Are Useless: Refreshingly averted. The staff at Maillardet's serve as mentors to the kids.
  • Affably Evil: Well, more Affably Chaotic Good than evil... but the fact stands that outside of Mal's perspective, it can be hard to remember that Marshal is the ruthless vigilante who turned his baby half-brother into a punching bag and murdered Tygr, one of the Rook's Rogues, due to his dorky nature and almost puppy-like tendencies around those he likes.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Only Ernest is allowed to call June "Junebug." Roz and her little sister Libby call Jack Abuelito, which is Spanish for grandpa. Jack in turn refers to Roz as Weena.
  • Animal Motifs: Many of the characters are related to or compared to animals. The Underwoods, including Ellie, have a bird motif. Zip is referred to as a cheetah both in-universe and out, June has the tigress, Maks is compared to a monkey, and Ernest is actually based on a golden retriever. Additionally, Ofelia has sea lion physiology.
  • Badass Family: The Underwoods, obviously.
  • Badass Normal: Sheriff Galán-Grant is baseline human, yet Sheriff of Foundation. If that doesn't tell you all you need to know, she also became sidekick to one of the hardest hitters out there.
    • Estefania, inspired by Roxy's example, actually leads a BPHA Cape Collector squad.
  • Bad Powers, Good People: Ernest’s mother Gloria had passive pheromone powers she could not control. It only spiraled from there.
  • Bare Your Midriff: Justified with June's roommate Jenny. Her powers open a portal over her abdomen so she can't wear anything over it if she needs to use it.
  • Big Eater: Zip needs to eat a lot as a result of her enhanced metabolism. It is apparently common among posters, to the point that Maillardet's allows kids to eat any time in order to keep them from fainting in the halls.
  • Captain Patriotic: The Commander is portrayed as this to the public more or less. He's said to be America's favorite hero by June.
  • Chess Motifs: The Set, founded by the Queen (Amira), the Rook (Corbin), and the Knight (John). Other members, past and present, adhering to the motif include the Bishop and Chet Kingsley. Also, little pictures of chess pieces break the gap between POV switches.
  • Circus Brat: Maks comes from a circus family and it shows.
  • Code Name: At the beginning of their third block of training, all students at Maillardet's are asked to choose a moniker, a code name to be used in the field. Most students already have monikers picked out long before their third block, while new students are given a year to decide.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Power types among posthumans are labeled by color. Red for Element Kinesis, Orange for Body Control, Gold for Transportation, Green for Energy Control, Blue for Reality Manipulation, Purple for Psionics, and Pink for Support/Passive.
  • Combat Clairvoyance: Ida Mae Sullivan has a limited precognitive ability, allowing her to see about five seconds into the future and thus predict where her opponents will be and what they will do next.
  • Cute Kitten: Several, most notably Qitt, Mal's cat.
  • Death by Origin Story: The first book, Origins, begins with Corbin "The Rook" Underwood's funeral.
  • Death Is Cheap: Mal’s powers in a nutshell. As a blue-band Alpha with traumatic event negation, Death literally has a reset button for him.
  • Domino Mask: Ernest wears one for the Night Games. He used to wear it as Champ, too. June notes that it isn't meant to keep his identity secret (since no BPHA-certified hero has a secret identity), but rather to look professional and also provide night-vision, thermal-vision, and be used as corrective lenses since Ernest wears glasses.
  • Doom Magnet: There’s a reason the Underwoods have a specific tag for them on Tumblr titled “A tragic flock of Underwoods”.
  • Elemental Powers: A power category all of its own, designated by red bands.
    • Blow You Away: Cindy Dunn has the power of aerokinesis (specifically oxikinesis).
    • Green Thumb: Bice Cortadino's power of spermatophyte manipulation allows her to control any seed-bearing plant.
    • Making a Splash: Ofelia D has the power of hydrokinesis.
    • Playing with Fire: June Hovick has the power to create and control creatures made of fire. Kenneth McKay also has pyrokinetic powers.
  • Emotion Control: Jack Willard's power of empathic emotional manipulation allows him to project his own emotions onto others. When he's happy, so is everybody else around him. When he's frightened or angry, all hell breaks loose. There's a reason his moniker is Riot.
  • Everything's Better with Sparkles: Maks, who has the ability to store and manipulate bioelectric energy, trails sparkly blue motes when his power is active.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Copy Cat chops off her long hair and dyes it bright pink halfway through Gunsmoke. It helps signify her coming into her own instead of tailoring her looks to fit societal norms.
  • Expy: Mal is very similar to Damian Wayne, including a black sheep red-headed stepchild older brother a la Jason Todd.
  • Fat and Proud: June is large and curvy and fabulous.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Jack Willard was an underage soldier fighting in WWII before he got temporally displaced and wound up in the present.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Corbin Underwood was a good man, but he was also a bastard. He's referred to both in-universe and out as a "fuckstick."
  • Got Me Doing It: Spend enough time with Maks and you'll be rattling off puns too. June can attest.
  • Hurricane of Puns: Most, if not all, of the characters have puns in their names. Also, Maks in particular seems to embrace puns. "But I tigress."
  • Invisibility: Clay Dillinger has the power to manipulate light in order to make himself or other objects appear invisible.
  • It Always Rains at Funerals: It was raining during the Rook's funeral. Mal even lampshades this, commenting that it was either the best or worst day to have a funeral because of the rain.
  • Kid Sidekick: Roxy Galán-Grant was a teenager when she became the Commander's sidekick, Li'l Champ. Ernest inherited the name from her at the age of nine. Both Marshal and Mal Underwood have served as their father's sidekick.
  • Large Ham: MAKS.
  • Legacy Character: Mal, Ernest and Rosario are all legacy posters with heroic parents. Mal was the Little Bird to his father's Rook, taking over the sidekick role that was originally his brother Marshal's. Ernest serves as his dad's sidekick, Champ (formerly Li'l Champ), a name he inherited from the Commander's original sidekick, Roxanne Galán-Grant. It is suggested that Ernest will ultimately take over from his father as the Commander, and that June will work alongside him in a similar capacity to the Queen.
  • Make Me Wanna Shout: Ellie Lark's posterpower allows her to convert sunlight into sound energy; she can use this to shriek loudly enough to burst eardrums.
  • Meaningful Name: Pretty much everyone! The more you look, the more you find.
    • Elouise "Ellie" Lark has birdlike wings, reminiscent of a sun lark's. The name Elouise is sometimes associated with the Greek word "helios", meaning "sun" — particularly appropriate as Ellie's posterpower derives from sunlight.
    • Malek Underwood's first name means "king" in Arabic, which is rather appropriate for the son of the Queen. Likewise, Amira means "princess."
    • Aside from the obvious speedster pun in Zipporah "Zip" Chance's name, "Zipporah" means "bird" — you could say that she and Mal (Kinglet) are birds of a feather.
  • Missing Mom: Ernest was raised by his father.
  • Nice Guy: Ernest is essentially a golden retriever in human form.
  • Non-Powered Costumed Hero: Sheriff Galán-Grant, a baseline human, used to be the Champ to John's Commander.
  • Not Good with People: Mal Underwood.
  • Personality Powers: By the boatload.
  • Photographic Memory: Amira bint Balqis, the Queen, has perfect recall as a side-effect of her powers; she is unable to forget anything. Her son, Mal Underwood, has been passed an eidetic memory.
  • Poisonous Person: Bice started displaying this while still in the womb. Her mother died as a result, and Bice, abandoned by her father, was raised by the Foundation. All her caretakers had to wear Hazmat suits, and she didn't manage to rein in her abilities until she was nearly seven.
  • Power Copying: Catherine "Copy Cat" Newmeyer can mimic and master any physical action she sees provided it's within her own physical bounds. This applies to everything from hand-to-hand combat to ribbon dancing.
    • Corbin, being a powerful shapeshifter, was able to mimic simple orange-band abilities, but usually avoided this. 'It'd be like someone who has never played basketball suddenly gaining the height and athletic form of an all-star — he might have the goods, but he doesn't know the rules.'
  • Power Levels: After power types, posthuman abilities are ranked by strength and usefulness. Labels go from Alpha (rarely exhaustible/highly reliable) to Delta (mostly useless/extremely limited). However, these labels are stated to be flawed as they tend to be biased towards male posters (Alphas are by far usually male) and are often assessed by a poster's leadership potential (which is more difficult to determine at a young age, especially as assertiveness, aggressiveness and physicality at play are more socialized in boys). Additionally, physically different posters tend to be ranked lower. Ofelia, who has sea lion physiology, is ranked a Beta when her hydrokinesis alone would be considered an Alpha power.
  • Power Nullifier: Rosario has the power to suppress other posters' abilities.
  • Pungeon Master: Maks is the indisputable king of them amongst the kids.
  • Romantic Asexual: It's revealed at the end of the first book that one of the main characters, Mal Underwood, is gray-asexual heteroromantic.
  • Shapeshifting: Corbin Underwood had this power.
  • Shrouded in Myth: In-Universe the truth about what happened to Mal and his Dad during their three year disappearance has an entire forest of Epileptic Trees surrounding it. For perspective, the more believable rumors revolve around ancient cults and/or brainwashing. They're not entirely wrong...
  • Sidekick Graduations Stick: Thoroughly lampshaded as part of a Maillardet's programme, sidekicks literally graduate from being sidekicks.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Amira bint Balqis, a young chess prodigy whose success ultimately led to her recruitment into a British intelligence agency.
  • Super Hero School: Maillardet's Foundation for the Future of Humanity. Also, there are apparently other similar institutions, but Maillardet's is considered the best, being the first.
  • Super Speed: This is Zip's posterpower.
  • Super Strength: Ernest and his father, John, both have this power.
  • Super Toughness: Ernest and John Wright both have this power.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Roxy Galán-Grant pretended to be a boy named Roy Grant back when she first worked with the Commander as the Champ. She did so to avoid the Unfortunate Implications of a teenage girl working with a man in the 80s, and her fear that he wouldn't have taken her as a sidekick knowing she was a girl.
    • Sweet on Polly Oliver: Double Subversion, Sophia Galán fell head over heels for "Roy" and was only upset that she'd have to find a way to tell her parents she was dating a girl when she learned the truth.
  • Thinking Up Portals: Jenny Chambers is able to create portals between any surface she can visualize, and her abdomen.
  • Triang Relations: Maks/June/Ernest aka Three Ring Circus is a Type 8. Kitty doesn't make any effort to hide the pairing's status as eventual canon.
  • Troperiffic: Acknowledged by the author and obvious to a reader with even the most basic knowledge of comic books.
  • Winds of Destiny, Change!: Nurse Bliss has the power to affect quantum probability, which means good things tend to happen when she's around.

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