Now I love the old superheroes as much as the next nerd, with their utility belts, S&M gear and fascistic tendencies. But with Bats and many of his super friends now in their eighth decade isn’t it time for what Entertainment Weekly would call ‘A new generation of superhero’, or even better a ‘new science hero’?
It’s strange that a genre which is still primarily aimed at young people is so dominated by the middle aged. In recent years Kick Ass and Damian Wayne’s Robin have filled this gap, but now they’re gone it was going to take something equally intelligent, stylish and high concept to continue their work.
I wrote about Battling Boy creator Paul Pope a little while ago, looking at a comic that took the ageing superhero to it’s logical conclusion – Batman Year 100. He’s edgy and arty – and not a candidate I would have considered would be looking to launch a pre-teen superhero. I was wrong. Battling Boy takes his hyper kinetic style and smears it brilliantly over a retro-modern world of monsters and men.
Like a junior Thor, our hero is a young god sent on a rites of passage in which he must rid the human world of a terrible threat. The great city of Arcopolis has just lost its one hope, the techno hero Haggard West to a band of bandaged monsters. The political elite seize this young god to its busom, parading him out on a victory float with a beauty queen and a stupid new name – Arco-Lad.
It might sound like classic (i.e. old) stuff, but Battling Boy comes with Pope’s unique twist – little moments of madness that make Battling Boy so memorable. For example the boy is more or less powerless without one of his collection of cool creature T-Shirts that allow him to take on the powers of a dinosaur, fox, elephant, orang utan etc. It’s both silly and potentially great marketing – make mine a gryphon tee please.
The supporting cast are great too, particularly Aurora, daughter of the dead hero Haggard West. She acts as a Hit Girl to Battling Boy’s Kick Ass – battle ready and completely exasperated by the hopeless young god.
Any new series needs great baddies to make it memorable, and Paul Pope really delivers with his monsters.These child snatching nightmares live far underground, in some kind of Escher-like art gallery / cum dive bar that makes the Star Wars cantina look like All Bar One on a Monday night. It’s the sort of place that serves paint thinner, with uranium gumball.
Representing the girls of the future-present is 15 year old Detective DaYoung Johansson of the New York Teen Police department. Rocket Girl is proper high concept stuff, taking its cue from my favourite ever time travel movie, Back to the Future 2.
It’s 2013, but not as we know it, rather as science fiction movies of the 1980s imagined it. This alternative future is policed by teenagers and run by a mega corporation called Quintum Mechanics. DaYoung discovers that in 1986 Quintum changed history with something called the Q-Engine, and sets out to put things right – potentially wiping out her own reality in the process.
Rocket Girl is the creation by Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder, artist for a brief time on the super classy Batwoman series. It shares with that title the rare distinction of a lead female character who isn’t a boob powered fantasy figure. Reeder’s Rocket Girl is just plain cool; small and athletic with those big expressive Manga eyes and G-Force style jumpsuit.
We’re only one issue in to Rocket Girl (#2 is out on Wednesday) and Battling Boy returns in 2014, but on these strong openings I’m hopeful they’ll be with us for a while. They might not last eighty years, but here’s hoping they’re just the first in a new wave of science heroes.
Next Time: We end this little season of kid’s sci-fi with a look back at the domestic horror of Chocky and Grinny.