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Power Pack was a 1980s comic book series by Marvel Comics that starred four child superheroes. While this concept is not unusual in Western Animation, it was new for the Marvel Universe. Unlike those of TV cartoon super-kids, most of the Pack's adventures were straight superhero action, with deeper real-world themes as well, such as child abuse, guns in school, bullying, and genocide - the kids were unwilling witnesses to the mass-murder of the sewer-dwelling Morlocks. The mood was lighter than other Marvel fare, but darker than typical super-kid stories.
The series was about the four children of one Prof. Power, a scientist who had invented an antimatter generator. However, a horselike alien named Whitemane tried to warn him that a similar machine had blown up his homeworld. Unfortunately, "Whitey" (as the kids named him) was mortally wounded by his enemies, the alien Snarks, and couldn't prevent them from kidnapping the children's parents.
Dying, Whitey had no choice but to pass on his superpowers to the Power children and hope that they could save the Earth and rescue their parents. With help from Whitey's living spaceship, Friday, they succeeded, and without their parents finding out about their new powers, to boot!
The four of them then decided to keep their powers a secret, and continued to adventure around New York City as the "Power Pack".
The kids, from oldest to youngest, and their (original) powers are:
- Alex -- age 12 original version, age 13 all-ages version -- who could control gravity by touch; he called himself Gee.
- Julie -- age 10 original version, age 12 all-ages version -- who could fly (leaving a colored trail behind) called herself Lightspeed
- Jack -- age 8 original version, age 10 all-ages version -- who could increase his body's density (thus shrinking down) or decrease it (becoming a living cloud) named himself Mass Master
- Katie -- age 5 original version, age 8 all-ages version -- who could turn matter into energy, called herself Energizer
They would later find out that they could switch their powers around--or even give them all to a single person--as well.
While never a major Marvel series, Power Pack lasted a surprisingly long time, even outlasting contemporaries such as the original X-Factor, and had a loyal following. At one point, Franklin Richards (son of Mr. Fantastic and The Invisible Woman of the Fantastic Four) joined them for a while under the name Tattletale (his godlike powers were at the time reduced to just telepathy, precognitive dreaming, and a ghost body.) The Pack met various other heroes, including Spider-Man and Wolverine. Strangely, for a long while few people called them on being superheroes at such a young age (Katie was only five years old!) or going around without adult supervision (unless you count Friday's) much less doing dangerous stuff behind their parents' backs.
Their parents do eventually find out, however, and the family has to deal with it - by going insane and turning into catatonic wrecks. It's later revealed that the race of space-horses (no, really) who gave the kids their powers created mental blocks to stop their parents ever realizing that the children were superheroes, even if they showed up with a teenage alien runaway and a talking spaceship in tow or something. Which they did.
Although canceled years ago, the Pack characters have resurfaced in other comics such as New Warriors and Runaways (as teenagers). There was an attempt in 2005 to reintroduce the team to regular Marvel continuity in an unashamedly all-ages series of books, but this was later sideways-retconned into an out-of-continuity series, as the writer of Marvel's Runaways comic introduced a version of one of the Pack characters in that book which didn't match up with the all-ages character - or even the character from previous appearances.
Now, it appears as a regular series of mini-series in Marvel's Marvel Adventures imprint and it seems to have found its niche with fun stories complemented with adorable mangaesque art.
There was a failed Pilot for television series version, but it was never aired in the US, though it did appear on overseas channels and has circulated as a bootleg among fans for years. As of now, Marvel's new owner, Walt Disney Pictures, is wondering if this kid team would be an obvious property to develop for a film.
Making a return in the pages of FF in February 2012 (the issue's title is even "The One Where Power Pack Shows Up"), the first time the whole team's been together in the mainline Marvel Universe in more than a decade (real-world time, at least).
- Ambiguous Gender: Sort of; Friday doesn't actually have a gender, but the kids use "him" or "her" according to their own gender.
- And Now for Something Completely Different: Issue 47 of the original comic is entirely about Katie entering a cartoon bizarro universe straight out of Little Nemo, and trying to escape. Continuity doesn't really reference it much afterwards.
- Arbitrary Skepticism: All over the first few issues. News of a UFO is readily dismissed despite several alien invasions by that point. Also, perhaps most Egregious, is the fact that at one point Jack dismisses the idea that his newfound ability to understand the Snarks' language must mean Friday built translators into their costumes as "too much like science fiction"--while he's a cloud-boy floating next to an alien spaceship.
- Badass Normal: In contrast to his mainline-Marvel counterpart, in the all-ages series, Franklin Richards has no superpowers (save perhaps for an intellect on par with his dad's and a whole lot of gadgets).
- Bare Your Midriff: Julie since her appearance in Runaways.
- Baseball Episode: Nearly an entire issue of the original series takes place at or near Shea Stadium, and a baseball game the "Mecs" vs. the "Clubs") figures into the plot.
- Bequeathed Power:
- BLAM Episode: Issue 34 of the original series. Not only is it never spoken of again, with Katie and Franklin (who feature prominently) wildly Out of Character, it's officially declared non-canon in the letters page of a later issue.
- Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Alex/Katie, Jack and Julie.
- Blue Eyes: The Power children.
- Body Horror: This happens to Carmody, who is transformed into a demon.
- Canon Immigrant: Franklin's Robot Buddy Herbie (all-ages version only)
- Cheerful Child: All the kids in the Marvel Adventures series are cute, but Katie is the epitome of cute as a button.
- Create Your Own Villain: The Pack's Arch Enemy, Douglas Carmody aka "The Bogeyman", is already something of a villain when we first see him (planning to weaponize Dr. Power's converter technology rather than using it to provide cheap power and calling Dr. Power a "hippie" for wanting to do any less), but he descends into full-blown supervillainy after the converter is destroyed, descending into madness, losing the remnants of his fortune, his marriage, and basically his whole life... which he blames the Powers for.
- Cute Bruiser: Katie
- Darker and Edgier: Even though Power Pack always took itself seriously and wasn't afraid to portray its young heroes realistically and even put them in violent danger, apparently this wasn't enough for some people. At one point, the comic took an angsty turn and started shoving Body Horror and Nightmare Fuel all over the place, which was ultimately retconned out of existence by the original creators in a "holiday special", which returned the stories to the "not too dark, not too light" mood it originally had.
- Gender Equal Ensemble:
- God Save Us From the Queen: Queen-Mother Maraud of the Snarks.
- Hair of Gold: Alex and Katie
- Improbable Age: While the characters are definitely childlike and think and act like actual children most of the time (a rarity in Kid Hero stories), they sometimes do things that are, at least, several years older than their age. Such as 5-year-old Katie's belief at one time that because she seriously hurt someone else, she didn't deserve to live (or something almost as dramatic).
- Instant Costume Change: The kids' costumes are stored in the alternate dimension of "Elsewhere"; saying "Costume on/off" instantly switches them with street clothes. (Conveniently, Elsewhere also cleans and repairs them.)
- Karma Houdini: Jack, in the Power Pack/Fantastic Four miniseries.
- Kid Hero: The whole premise, played mostly realistically.
- Klingons Love Shakespeare: Whitey's fondness for Lewis Carroll.
- Learnt English From Watching Television: The all-ages version has Whitemane learning English this way. It helps that he gets to be something of a movie buff.
- Lighter and Softer: The out-of-normal-continuity stories are unashamedly "all-ages." They're not bad, actually.
- Lonely Together: In the original series, at one point the kids' mother is badly injured, and their father spends Thanksgiving with her at the hospital. Figuring being lonely together is better than being lonely separately, Katie contacts a number of people the kids have met up to that point (Kitty Pryde and Wolverine, Cloak and Dagger, Leech and Annalee of the Morlocks, even Spider-Man) and invites them to Thanksgiving dinner. Though Spidey never shows up (and apologizes for it in a later issue), everyone else does.
- Magic Pants: The costumes are made of "unstable molecules" (or "pseudoplasm" in the all-ages comics), which allows for whoever has the density power at the moment to not have to worry about losing their clothes when they enter cloud form.
- My Suit Is Also Super: Functionally bottomless pockets, can (apparently) self-repair when switched off and back on, connected to a, um, pocket dimension...
- Morality Pet: Katie is this to, of all people, Wolverine.
- This is par for the course for Wolverine, though.
- Most Writers Are Adults: Handled far better than in most series involving Kid Heroes. The characters actually act like kids and show childlike reactions to the things that happen around them and to them much of the time, but not all of the time. Personality-wise, they act childlike enough to be believable, while still being competent heroes. Dialog-wise, they're... a little smart for their age, though they still say childlike things. Of course, they are the kids of a genius.
- Mother Nature, Father Science
- Never My Fault: Carmody refuses to accept any responsibility for the converter not being ready and nearly blowing up the planet, instead blaming the Pack and carrying out a vendetta against them that is implied to have destroyed his career and even his marriage.
- Never Wake Up a Sleepwalker: Invoked. The children bring Franklin back to Avengers Mansion after witnessing the Morlock Massacre. When the adults find out about this, Franklin claims he was sleepwalking, and the other children say that they didn't wake him because it would be dangerous.
- One Person, One Power: Played straight for the whole main series, with the kids getting one power each. However, it turns out that someone could easily hold all four at once, just like Whitemane did.
- Parental Obliviousness: At one point late in the story, enforced by mental blocks.
- Powers as Programs: The list of powers is what they started with. They exchanged powers a number of times.
- Puberty Superpower: Averted; the oldest of them was 12.
- Redheaded Hero: Julie
- Reptiles Are Abhorrent: The Snarks are reptilian.
- Sapient Ship: The group had a sentient "smartship" called Friday.
- Sapient Cetaceans: In a particularly Anvilicious Green Aesop story, the Powers run into a whole pod of these.
- She Is All Grown Up: In the Avengers crossover mini-series with the future story, future Katie has traded her cuteness for smoking Hot Amazon.
- Shout-Out: The Snarks are named after the Lewis Carroll poem "The Hunting of the Snark"
- Sibling Team
- Sixth Ranger: Franklin, and later Kofi.
- Super Family Team:
- Temporal Paradox: Happens in the new all-ages series, specifically in Avengers & Power Pack Assemble #4. The Pack are thrown 10 years into the future by Kang the Conqueror who goes on to defeat The Avengers and other heroes and conquer the world. The Pack meanwhile encounter none other than their future selves 10 years older.
- Touched by Vorlons: An alien gives the kids their special powers in the first issue.
- Translator Microbes: It's implied that the kids' costumes have universal translators built in.
- Trial Balloon Question: Seeking assurance from her mother, Julie (who has super-speed and flight at the time) is told she would still be loved "even if you grew wings and flew".
- Very Special Episode: The Pack starred in one special anti-child-abuse comic book.
- As well as another with Cloak and Dagger centering on runaways.
- Wake Up, Go to School, Save the World
- What the Hell, Hero?: Whitemane's entire race gets this when the Power Pack discovers what was done to their parents, in addition to discovering certain... glaring moral deficiencies in their society.
- Among other things, this includes Kofi's uncle essentially tricking the Power Pack--who are a bunch of primary-school children--into fighting against fully-trained adults in a gladiatorial arena without any form of defined limits or even actual consent.
- Not to mention they have grown so used to artificial environments as a consequence of destroying their world that natural environments are actually repellent to most of them. Whitemane, it seems, was not a typical example of his race.
- Wolverine Publicity: Both exemplified and inverted. Wolverine was a regular guest, even notoriously showing up on a cover of Uncanny X-Men looking as if he were about to skewer Katie like an olive in a martini. But everyone guest-starred in their book during its original run, and the new miniseries are almost all team-ups.
- Write Who You Know: The Kids' parents are based off of Marvel creators Louise & Walter Simonson.
- X Called. They Want Their Y Back.: Taskmaster's reaction to the Power Pack's costumes. More specifically, "1991 called, they want their big metal boots ba-AAAAAAAAAAACK!"
- Your Favorite: When Franklin and Friday head into space to rescue the Powers, the Fantastic Four search for him. Some Avengers and Jarvis are staying at the Baxter Building; Jarvis, hoping they will find Franklin (and who at that point knew and loved Franklin as well as any of his family), buys as many of of Franklin's favorite foods as he can remember to welcome him home.