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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Back-Issue Spotlight: Bratpack TPB

Happy Hump Day...















....And welcome to the first 2015 edition of  Back-Issue Spotlight.e Spotlight.
Today I'm covering the collected trade version of the highly controversial and influential work by writer/artist Rick Veitch.


Two weeks ago I happened by a store called 2nd and Charlie's that buys and sells new/used items like comics, books, trades, games, etc.
Amongst a bunch of really good and cheap finds, was this trade collecting all the issues of Bratpack, a very famous and influential piece of work I've heard about for awhile, but never saw in print.
I bought it for only 6 bucks, and now I get to review it.

Now to get some quick historical context of Bratpack, I'll briefly explain where the idea of Bratpack came from and what was going on at the time.

Bratpack came about because of two major occurances in the professional life of Rick Veitch;

1). In the process of writing Bratpack, but before any major work was actually done, he was currently writing DC's Swamp Thing. He  had recently taken over the writing reins from Alan Moore, and was well into his run, when he hit a snag. Swamp Thing #88 to be exact.



Apparently Veitch had Swampy going backwards in time, where he visted famous historical characters, both DC and real historical figures.
Well for issue 88, SW was supposed to meet Jesus(but going by the name Nazarene instead).
Nothing too conroversial there.....untill then DC president Janette Kahn and some of the other higher-ups @ DC read the part at the end of the script where Nazarene would be crucified with Swampy standing in as the cross he gets crucified too.

Despite numeous prior viewings by his editor and others, he was green-lit to run with it.
But then Kahn saw that one little part, and all of a sudden Veitc and that entire issues was labled blasphamous and DC refused to publish it. Even with some minor changes.
So, Veitch quit right there and then, and hasn't worked for DC ever since.

2). The second event that directly led to the creation of the Bratpack, was the infamous 1988 "Death In The Family" Batman storyline where readers voted to kill off the Jason Todd incarnation of Robin.



Simultaneously surprised and shocked that comic readers would actually vote to kill of such a character like Robin(even if it wasn't the original) was enough to get Vetich thinking about the actual absurdity of sidekicks in comics.

So with that in mind.....here's my quick review of Rick Veitch's Bratpack.





















The story starts off in the ficitional city(well aren't they all?) of Slumsberg.

Right off the bat, Veitch lets the reader know what they're in for.

The whole story starts off with the lead "villain" of the story, Dr. Blassphemy, calling into a local radio station and innocently asking "What about the children?", in reference to the group of super-hero sidekicks in the town, the Bratpack.

This surprisingly brings a lot of hate and negative reactions in regards to sidekicks in general and why they even exist.



 Oh yeah, Veitch is defintiely bringing the meta-commentary here, and he' laying that shit on extra, extra thick.

From there, we're introduced to Cody Batson, who just happens to look like every dark-haired kid sidekick out there, and it's very much intentional.

Seems Cody's a big fan of the Bratpack and their mentors, who are every bit as perverted and whacked out as you get from a comic that satarizes the whole kid sidekick thing.

How perverted?
Basically Veitch takes and channels all of Dr. Fredric Wertham's bizare and fucked up criticisms and insinuations, like Batman and Robin being gay and shit, and turns it all into a reality here.

-The Midnight Minx is a Batman analogue who's openly gay and is portrayed as a perverted and leacherous rich guy, who enjoys molesting his sidekicks.













-King Rad is an analogue for the Green Arrow(with a good bit of a very cynical Tony Stark thrown in there). He's a rich drunk, with plenty of toys like planes, cars, and all sorts of shit to ride around in.
He also has no qualms whatsoever about killing people, and is about as far from being a bleeding heart liberal as one can be.


-The Moon Maiden is the Wonder Woman analalogue, and is shown here as a man-hating harpy warrior who loves to fuck/fight/castrate men.


Lastly, there's Judge Jury. He's the Captain America analogue who's a sadistic and overt racist and major steriod junkie/enthusiast.









 They're basically the mentors from hell, who enjoy treating their sidekicks as nothing but cheap disposable entertainment.


That's right. The Bratpack are truly Disposable Teens.
*Cue Marilyn Manson
So yeah, that.


In fact Veitch further illustrates this by showing them pissed off when their sidekicks from earlier in the series are blown up and killed by their arch-nemsis Dr. Blasphemy.
It's not they're pissed because their sidekicks are dead; no they're a dime a dozen, very easily replaceable.
No they're pissed because Dr. Blasphemy made them look bad....and the fact that have to keep recruiting new sidekicks to keep recieving those nice royalty checks.


   It's Sad, and very unexpected that the Superman analogue here, Maximortal, is the only decent one out of the whole group......and he's dead.

Yep. These superheroes sold out and bought in. Perfect metaphors for large comic publishers/corporations that own our childhood heroes.

It occured to me, that these twisted evil fucks, are what the Earth-3/CSA versions of the JL should really be and act like.
Sure they may not seem as powerful, but they're far, far more corrupt and perverted than the CSA could ever hope to be.

And trust me, if you think the main "good guys" are fucked up, wait to see the Bratpack themselves.

-Wild Boy is Kid Rad's sidekick, so he's Speedy....

....if Speedy had long hair, had a serious drug and alcohol problem and rode around on a flying surfboard like those cool future kids from Back To The Future 2.

-Luna is Moon Maiden's sidekick.

She's become indoctrinated to also hate men, yet simultaneouly looking like the very epitome of their sexual desires.

-Kid Vicious is the steriod-fueled, raging sidekick of Judge Jury.

Poor bastard is so doped up on steriods, he has to gobble down pain pills like tic-tacs, while pissing blood.
He's also the epitome of every jock you ever met.

Finally, there's Chippy.

 

He's the Robin to the Mink's Batman.
And yes, he's as fucked up mentally and emotionally as Wertham believed.

Veitch really does his best here in this series to pervert and twist the wish-fullfillment and innocence aspect of of wanting to be a sidekick.
And nowhere is that more apparent than the way he takes the replacement sidekicks recruits and twists them and their dreams of being superheroes.
Trust me, once you read just how far they all spiral down the rabbit whole in order to be superheroes, you'd wish they never had. Just like they eventually do.



You really should give this a series a read if you can find it.
It's has all those nasty sterotypes and criticisms that have pervaded comic book heroes for years made manifest.

 
It's distrubing, true, but so dead on about the attitudes,commericalism, and all the bad connotations that exist underneath the surface of our childhood memories.

In fact, despite being published back in 1990, it's still very much relevant to today's society.
Very much the perfect companion to The Watchmen and the Dark Knight Returns.










2 comments:

The King of Thessaly said...

Rick Veitch is the man! I remember hearing about that Swamp Thing story before- never saw the pictures though! Awesome. For me- his masterpiece / best Watchmen comparison is The One on Marve's Epic line. I've never read Bratpack before though... I'll keep an eye out. I'm currently tracking down all of The Maximortal issues. I guess there was even a Bratpack / Maximortal Super Special
in '97...
I also hear his Supreme was pretty dope. Ahhh, Supreme- whenever someone wanted to tell a weird Superman story but couldn't/wasn't allowed- there was always Supreme!
Great post!

Dale Bagwell said...

Thx King.
The Bratpack was one of those works I'd always heard about, but never got a chnace to read it in person until very recently.
It's really really good, but so depressing. It just makes you fel kinda' dirty after reading it, but he's right though. Fans were and still are like that.
Taking for grnted and even calling for the end of certain characters to die or whatever. And once that happens, they'll all like "Well I guess he or she wasn't all that bad". Instant flip-floppage.

Moore Veitch's Supreme was commerically and creatively better than the original incarnation, but they were pretty much using him to write Superman stories.
They could've really done something different and unique wit him, but instead just turned him into the Pre-Crisis Superman.
So while the quality of artwork and stories wre better, it wasn't anything that hadn't already been done before with the original source.

They're America's Best Comics imprint @ DC was a muh better example of them being innovative.