It’s one of the things kids do most often. It’s essential role playing, really. Whatever it is you’re interested in that week, that’s what you’ll be when you grow up. Having fun with football? You’re going to the NFL. Something of a dolphin in the water? Swimmer. Recital go well? Ballet dancer, of course. Anything and everything is fair game, as long as it holds your attention.
There are, of course, those rare children who show exceptional potential: the Olympic hopefuls, the child prodigies. Kids whose early ability is more than a moment’s wish, it’s an achievable goal. If they recognize that (or, more often, if an expert like a teacher or a coach does), they wind up exploring their careers earlier than most of us manage to encounter algebra.
And in the Marvel Universe, it only makes sense to add to that list “super-hero.” For most kids, this would be a passing dream, but what about the kids who actually have the potential? How young is too young when you’re clearly possessed of the ability?
Power Pack, then, on this level, takes a look at what the Marvel version of child prodigies might look like. Just like with the real thing, initial excitement is often marred by all the actual work involved in a career. The kids time and again face the fact that this isn’t like the games and fantasies they had before gaining powers (of course, there are any number of times when it is like that, or better, generally when meeting their own super-hero idols).
It’s work. You have to stay up late, you wind up missing classes (and teachers aren’t all of the understanding sort), and, well, as Jack discovers early on, you’re not always going to love the uniforms.1
In a lot of ways, this is one of the elements that works really well at making Power Pack a truly all-ages book. Children (and not a small number of adults) can watch the fantasy of “I wanna be” fulfilled, but the more … grown-up reader can also watch as the Power children (and later Franklin Richards and Kofi Whitemane) learn that you don’t, actually, get to do everything you want when you’re a grown-up. I think one of the more important elements of good children’s lit is that it’s not just a recreation of some timeless “childhood,” but rather that it’s about children growing up, about the fact that childhood (like much of life) is one long transition.
1. The “Power Pack as star athletes” comparison seems to break down when you consider their parents don’t know about their gifts. But then, super-hero convention teaches us that one of the primary skills of the field is the ability to fool your loved ones. As such, the Power parents–with the later added benefit of the mindfix–are actually the prototypical “stage parents” for a budding super-hero, no?↩
Original version published at Trickle of Consciousness