Cover of the 2003 Brat Pack trade paperback.
Art by Rick Veitch.
|Publisher||King Hell Press|
|Publication date||August 1990 – May 1991|
|No. of issues||5|
|Created by||Rick Veitch|
|Written by||Rick Veitch|
|Brat Pack: Heroes From Hell||ISBN 0-9624864-4-2|
Brat Pack is the title of a comic book limited series by Rick Veitch (self-published under the company name King Hell Press). It is a dark satire on superhero sidekicks, influenced partly by the fans' decision to kill off Batman's sidekick Jason Todd, but also built on other long-standing rumors and undercurrents in the history of the superhero genre, prominently commercialism, homosexuality, pedophilia, violence, and the fascist tendencies inherent in superheroes.
Brat Pack was released as a limited series in 1990–1991.
The series opens with the villainous Dr Blasphemy calling in to a radio show, where local residents of Slumburg, Pennsylvania (the setting of the story) are venting about their dislike for the teenage super-hero/sidekick Chippy. The pink leather clad sidekick of the gay super-hero Midnight Mink is widely reviled, which leads to Dr Blasphemy challenging the host of the radio program to hold a call-in radio poll. The goal being that, if more people vote for Chippy and his fellow super-hero sidekicks to die, Dr Blasphemy will carry out the will of the people and murder them. Most of the general public, thinking the caller claiming to the villain, call in to vote for the murder of the sidekicks. Once the poll closes, Dr Blasphemy thanks the callers and announces he will carry out their will that evening.
While Blasphemy is holding court on the radiowaves, Chippy is meeting with a local priest where he talks about the cruelty of adult heroes he and his friends sidekick for. Leaving the confessional chamber, a young altar boy named Tony notices the teen hero leave and realizes that his priest knows the heroes. Father Berkeley ignores Tony's request to meet Chippy, stating that being a teenage sidekick is a taxing job.
That evening, Chippy meets up with his fellow sidekicks (Kid Viscious, Luna, and Wild Boy); all of which bully and take turns causing physical harm to the young hero out of a belief of him being a sissy. However, their tormenting of Chippy is interrupted by the arrival of Dr Blasphemy. As he taunts the heroes, there is a sudden explosion, killing three of the heroes and horribly disfiguring Chippy (protected by an accelerated healing power given to him by Midnight Mink). Horribly maimed, Chippy opts to go into hiding as he proclaims himself free from Midnight Mink and the life of a sidekick.
Midnight Mink, the racist Judge Jury, the misandrist Moon Mistress, and the drug addict King Rad meet to discuss the deaths of their sidekicks. The four heroes (known collectively as Black October) have merchandised themselves out to various corporations for vulgar profit; however their contracts state they must have teen sidekicks. They confront Father Berkeley, ordering him to procure four youths from the local community for the four to take on as the new Chippy, Luna, Kid Viscious, and Wild Boy. After they leave, Tony appears having heard everything and offers himself up to become the new Chippy.
The series then focuses on the new Luna, Wild Boy, and Kid Viscious as well as Tony's transition into becoming a super-hero:
Luna II is a spoiled sweet teenage girl named Annie who refuses to have sex with her fellow male classmates, is heavily involved in her local church group, and dotes on her single father. Moon Maiden murders her father and arranges to have her adopted by Moon Maiden.
Kid Viscious II is a lonely rich kid named Richard raised by a widow, who spends her time traveling the globe with her much younger mother. Richard spends his time alone, with only his family's Asian housekeeper and her daughter, to keep him company. Judge Jury murders Richard's mother and frames her boyfriend for the crime, then forces Kid Viscious (who he tortures in order to break him mentally, while pumping him full of steroids and other drugs that cause him to become violent and aggressive 24-7) to murder his housekeeper's daughter when he realizes that he has feelings for the girl.
Wild Boy II is a Hispanic skateboarder named Carlos, whose parents run a successful local grocery store. Unlike the other members of Black October, King Rad simply allows a fire caused by arsonists to go unchecked, killing Wild Boy II's parents and siblings that way rather than murdering them himself. Carlos is then made to indulge in harsh drugs against his will by King Rad, but ultimately starts using them wilingly after a search and rescue mission goes wrong and Carlos is unable to save a young boy from being torn in two.
Tony is raised by a single father, who spends most of his days drunk and forcing Tony to fend for himself for food and basic needs. Midnight Mink murders Tony's father in a staged robbery, then "adopts" Tony.
As the series progress, the four heroes systematically break their young charges mentally and physically through extensive physical abuse (Judge Jury), drug addiction (King Rad), and psychological manipulation (Midnight Mink and Moon Mistress). While they do so, they discuss the missing fifth member of the group: Overman.
A being of pure energy, Overman personally trained Moon Maiden as a hero, was best friends and lovers with Midnight Mink, and who brought the wildcards Judge Jury and King Rad into his orbit to stop a war between the two and Overman and his friends, to allow them to become the sole protectors of Slumburg.
However, Overman became jaded with humans and ultimately left the Earth. However, before he left, Overman discovered that Midnight Mink had contracted AIDS and performed a blood transfusion. The transfusion cured Midnight Mink of AIDS, but also granted him (and anyone who is exposed to his blood in transfusion form) super-human endurance to pain and injury, along with the ability (over time) to heal from any wounds inflicted upon them. When Tony proves himself a worthy replacement as Chippy after several battles, Midnight Mink performs a blood transfusion granting him the same power.
By the end, all four teen heroes are irrevocably broken mentally just like their predecessors: Richard is now a steroid addicted bully, Carlos a drug addict, Annie a completely jaded, teenage slut who performs a coat hanger abortion on herself after having sex with Richard and Carlos. Meanwhile Tony finds himself repeatedly visiting Father Berkeley, as he reveals that all three of his fellow sidekicks hate and despise him due to the fact that Midnight Mink, does not overtly abuse and mock Tony like the other heroes do. He further states that he has become irrevocably jaded with the life of a hero and the sociopathic tendencies of Midnight Mink and the other members of Black October. Midnight Mink interrupts the confession, as he reveals the full control he has over Tony by having him leave the priest to return home with him. Midnight Mink then tells Father Berkeley that the only reason he doesn't kill him/allows his various sidekicks to vent their anguish and suffering to him, is that Midnight Mink gets off on knowing that the priest can do nothing to save his sidekicks or any of the sidekicks, from the hell that is their lives as super-heroes.
The original five issue mini-series had the following ending that is only available in Brat Pack #5.
After leaving Father Berkeley's confessional, the opening scene from the first issue plays out again with the other sidekicks attacking Tony. However, there is a loud scream from the church as the heroes storm in and find Dr Blasphemy waiting for them with a large coffin: he orders the heroes to open it (after flinging the dying remains of the original Chippy at Tony) and reveals it full of contracts and legal documents for merchandise, comics, tv shows, and movies.
Dr Blasphemy reveals that the kids are pawns of corporate America: they require the psychopathic heroes have teen sidekicks to make them appear wholesome and fatherly/motherly to the masses and then reveals that their partners murdered their parents, so they could ensure that they did not have to split the money from the merchandise deals. Chippy inspects one document and discovers a clause in it that chills the already jaded young man to the bone: when the sidekicks become legal age (18), the heroes must then start splitting the proceeds from their lucrative merchandise/media deals with their sidekicks. Chippy then realizes that Midnight Mink, Judge Jury, King Rad, and Moon Mistress were responsible for the bomb blast that killed their sidekicks, all of whom were on the verge of turning 18 years old. However, before they can do anything a bomb is dropped on the church by a plane flown by Midnight Mink and Black October.
Storming the bombed out remains the church, Father Berkeley (about to hang himself in the bell tower), finds a bag and a note telling him to open it. Inside, he finds Dr Blasphemy's hood which he puts on as he hangs himself. The Black October go to the bell tower and find him hanging, but quickly realize that he's doesn't have the full costume of their enemy. Suddenly the electrical storm reaches its peak as Over Man returns at long last. The hero murders his former friends and teammates by trapping them under the church bell which he melts on top of them, as King Rad tries desperately to reach out to his faithful butler (who also served as a servant for Black October) for help. Final shot shows the church in ruins as the radio station from the start of the story, declaring a state of emergency and everyone to stay indoors until the lightning storm is over.
Trade Paperback Ending
When the series was released as a trade paperback, Veitch redid the entire ending from scratch for the series.
After Midnight Mink's confrontation with Father Berkeley, Tony encounters the original Chippy outside the church; his injuries too severe for his healin factor to fix, he finally dies but gives Chippy his mask before he passes. Meanwhile, after being told that Midnight Mink allows his sidekicks to confess the abuse they endure at the hands of the heroes because he knows the priest can do nothing to save the young teens from the abuse, Father Berkeley pulls out a gun and shoots Mink. Chippy responds by rescuing the hero and overseeing his recovery; going so far as to perform a blood transfusion, so his own healing factor can help speed up Mink's healing process.
Afterwards, the sidekicks are forced to attend a convention where they sign autographs and meet their fans. An overtly angry fan of the original Chippy mortally wounds Tony, revealing his healing factor power to the other teen sidekicks. Once he has healed up, they lure him to the alley behind the church where, like their predecessors, they take turns tormenting and brutalizing Chippy to force him to give up the secret of his healing powers. The torture is interrupted when Dr Blasphemy appears and lures the teens inside. A coffin is then presented to them, claiming to hold death and a secret. While Richard, Annie, and Carlo all proclaim that they hope it is their mentors, Tony realizes the truth. He reveals that the coffin is a bomb and quickly disarms it before opening it up to show the explosives inside. Annie, Carlos, and Richard realize they know their heroes have access to bomb-making equipment and realize that their mentors want to kill them, just like they killed the previous sidekicks they replaced. Bleeding from the beating, Tony grabs a nearby sacrament cup and fills it with his blood, so they can share in his healing factor. He then states the truth: the original sidekicks were murdered simply because Blood October and its members could do it. Pointing out how utterly corrupt and evil they were, Tony warns that they need to either flee town or prepare for a final showdown with their mentors. At which point, from his plane, Midnight Minx drops a bomb on the church.
The rest of the ending plays out as it did in the original book: Black October go into the church, where they find Father Berkeley having hung himself while wearing a Dr Blasphemy mask. Overman then appears to kill his former teammates, but due to the blood they consumed, the teen sidekicks watch with glee as they reveal that Overman is upset with the utter corruption and evil of his former friends as he executes them for their crimes. However, before the comic ends with the shot of the ruined church and the radio calling for citizens to stay indoors, it is revealed that Dr Blasphemy was Fredo, butler and major domo for King Rad and Black October.
The main characters of Brat Pack are:
- Midnight Mink, a homosexual vigilante and his sidekick Chippy
- Judge Jury, a fascist, white supremacist, steroid-using murderous vigilante, and his sidekick Kid Vicious
- Moon Mistress, a man-hating warrior woman, and her sidekick Luna
- King Rad, an armored hero bent on living the ultimate rush, and his sidekick Wild Boy
Brat Pack is Rick Veitch/King Hell's top-selling title, with the fourth edition selling out in late 2007. Veitch released a fifth edition in 2009. Comics reporter Heidi MacDonald considers Brat Pack the third part of "the troika of immortal works dissecting the superhero genre, with the other two being Dark Knight and Watchmen. Indeed, for those brave readers looking for a follow-up to Watchmen, Brat Pack could be just the thing."
Neil Gaiman, from his introduction to the trade paperback:
|“||Rick Veitch thinks dirty, grotesque, and completely unfair thoughts about costumed crimefighters. He remembers Green Arrow's ward Speedy, and Wonder Woman's protégé Wonder Girl, Captain America's sidekick Bucky, and the 1940s Sandman's assistant Sandy the Golden Boy. He remembers them and the hundreds of others like them. Innocent kids out there swinging from tall buildings with their vigilante mentors so the kids reading would have someone to identify with, so the heroes could have someone to explain the plot to.||”|
- "A Death in the Family," Batman #426-429 (1988).
- Veitch, Rick. "BRAT PACK: Free Download!" RickVeitch.com (March 2, 2009).
- MacDonal, Heidi (October 7, 2008). "BRAT PACK back". The Beat. Publishers Weekly.[permanent dead link]
- 1992 Will Eisner Comic Industry Award Nominees and Winners, Comic Book Awards Almanac
- Gaiman, Neil. "Introduction," Brat Pack (King Hell, 2003).
- Johnston, Rich (October 9, 2010). "SCOOP: From The Makers Of The Black Dynamite Movie… Rick Veitch's Bratpack". Bleeding Cool. Retrieved October 9, 2010.