(Images from Power Pack #1 and #50.
Art by June Brigman / Bob Wiacek and Jon Bodganove / Hilary Barta, respectively).
Probably one of the better twists in Simonson’s run on Power Pack was the infamous Power Switch. Sure, super-heroes had swapped bodies before, and people with external powers like armors or rings had passed those on, but this was, I think, the first time an entire team swapped abilities, and not just for a single storyline, but for an extended stretch. It was something of a coup by super-hero standards. I mean, could you see DC swapping the entire JLA’s powers for over three years? How about Marvel doing that with the Fantastic Four? When the end of Power Pack #24 announced that things were about to change forever, then, it wasn’t just overblown hype.
One of the most important factors of children’s literature is that children grow. Probably moreso than their adult counterparts, we expect children to change. They grow up, and in doing so both their bodies and their personalities evolve. Simonson understood that, and the power switch was one of the ways in which she explored those changes in a super-hero context.
Consider the original powers with their owners. Alex was a straight-laced analytical thinker; he got the straightforward on-or-off gravity power. Julie was the dreamer; as I’ve said before, flying is the purview of the dreamer. Jack was a stubborn blowhard of a child; shifting between a physically ineffective cloud and a super-dense miniature seems perfectly matched. And Katie? Well, she was a little spoiled and prone to throwing tantrums; a power as volatile as the energy power was tailor-made for her.
In the course of two years and a tick, however, Simonson had done her work in character development. Of course, while the new powers helped point to changes in the children, the changes in the children similarly influenced their use of their new gifts: Alex’s volatile pubescence made the energy power all the more explosive, Julie’s malleable sense of self lead to even more permutations for the density power, Jack’s natural showmanship made gravity dynamic instead of binary, and the kinetic child that was a growing Katie made for an even more frenetic application of flight.
The great thing about the power switch, then, was that it was both a surprising, unexpected hook and the most natural thing in the world. It’s just the sort of thing you’d expect to arise from the unique mesh of super-hero and children’s lit that was Power Pack at its best.
Original version published at Trickle of Consciousness