Unpacking the Pack
Preview of Teen Angels & New Mutants, Now On Sale!
Cover art by Rick Veitch; cover design and color by Cayetano Garza, Jr.; cover imagery ©2011 Rick Veitch and Cayetano Garza, Jr.; Brat Pack® is a registered trademark of Rick Veitch and King Hell Press, used with permission.
The following is excerpted from the Foreword to Teen Angels & New Mutants: Rick Veitch’s Brat Pack® and the Art, Karma, and Commerce of Killing Sidekicks by Stephen R. Bissette (Black Coat Press, March 2011)—now available to all bookstores and libraries via Ingram and Baker & Taylor; available to Direct Market shops via the upcoming April Diamond Comics Previews; and to individuals now via
“The killing of comic book sidekicks was becoming big business in the late 1980s, when Rick Veitch first conceived Brat Pack, but it’s definitely big business now… Veitch knew this, and wove this element into the narrative itself. “Look at these figures—they’re robbin’ us blind!” King Rad wails as the corrupt heroes scrutinize their own merchandizing figures, anticipating the motivating factor in the creation of the creator-owned Image Comics coalition a few years later.
In a curious way, Brat Pack provides an ideal vehicle for analyzing what the traditional American comic book industry has become in the 21st century—hence, this book….
This is admittedly a bizarre book… Granted, to write a book of this length, breadth and depth on a single graphic novel—particularly one as overlooked and underappreciated as Brat Pack—is absurd. Then again, having done so, I would argue any graphic novel of substance and merit deserves, perhaps demands, such analysis. We are too quick to accept superficial discussion of creative works that draw from more than individual creative careers and lives, from our collective cultural experiences, as being somehow sufficient. I found in Brat Pack rich subterranean aquifers that resonated within the imagery, literary, cultural, and pop cultural components of Veitch’s creation—and, as I explored those, still richer associations with the rest of Rick’s body of work, and our shared generational experiences, appeared.
Odder still, what follows is not an analysis of Brat Pack, the graphic novel. I will leave such dissections to others; this was never intended to be anything except a detailed overview of how Brat Pack became Brat Pack.
What Teen Angels & New Mutants is intent upon is the history of Brat Pack, which is—like most histories—in fact many histories, a tapestry of histories, and each thread essential to the whole. They all feed and lead to Brat Pack—not as the be-all and end-all of these histories, of course, but to more fully grasp what Brat Pack was, is, and why it still resonates….
…But it’s the wider tapestry, the more invisible but essential threads, that interest me most, and that I think necessary to bring to your attention.
You’ll have to put on your comics geek hat at a few points, ditch that for a visit to the psychiatrist, be prepared to wade through some oft-unpleasant highs and lows in the careers of certain Hollywood teen stars, divas and 1990s boy bands, and ponder the adult exploitation of youth so central to 21st century pop culture.
Along the way, we’ll meet plenty of true-life “teen angels” who burned brightly and either succumbed to the ebbing of fame or died young. We’ll meet some of the real-life “new mutants,” at least two generations of children and teenagers who seem almost genetically bred (they are certainly embodying new behavioral mutations) for previously unimaginable stretches, heights and depths of exploitation of their uncanny athletic abilities (the Z-Boys), performance abilities and talent (child actors, teen and pre-teen rock stars, etc.), and their own empire-building and self-exploitation (the Olsen Twins, the Sprouse twins, Justin Bieber, etc.). We’ll also consider the markets for a new mutant generation, catering to young girls hitting puberty as early as eight and nine years of age: a 21st century sexual revolution that has been bagged, tagged, cultivated, commercialized and pre-packaged as a consumer class.
At times, it won’t be pretty, and I apologize in advance for some of the extreme behavior and misbehavior we’ll have to attend to en route.
We’ll also be exploring the life and career of Brat Pack creator Rick Veitch and all that entailed and entails (which I can speak to from hard experience for much of that path, having experienced much of it with Rick from 1976 to the present). For that, I won’t apologize; it is, in fact, the reason for this book, and its most celebratory center.
Like his hero Jack Kirby, Rick was a product of hardscrabble streets, too; sure, there were huge differences between Kirby’s urban roots and Veitch’s rural bedrock, but Veitch had his own part to play in the “boy gangs” of Bellows Falls, Vermont.
That, too, informs Brat Pack.
In short, to appreciate Rick’s Brat Pack, there are many, many other “Brat Packs” to consider—in life, on and off-panel, and on and off-screen, rumbling in numerous nooks and crannies of the pop culture.
Die with your mask on.”
“This book grew out of an article I commissioned from Steve Bissette when I was planning a special hardcover edition of Brat Pack a couple years back. I asked Steve to write a short history of what was going on with me, the comics scene and my co-publisher while I was creating the original Brat Pack. Steve dug into it deeper than I could have ever imagined, producing a voluminous manuscript that threatened to dwarf the graphic novel part of the book… Steve kept on going and, relying on his encyclopedic knowledge of film and comics, his vast reference library, his access to the author (me) and his passionate views concerning the exploitation of children in media, he has produced what must be the most comprehensive, contextual, far-reaching and in-depth analysis of a graphic novel ever written. It’s also an entertaining and enlightening journey through the cultural landscape in the company of a master storyteller.”
Brat Pack® is a registered trademark of Rick Veitch and King Hell Press. All Brat Pack cover art ©1990, 1991, 2011 Rick Veitch, all rights reserved.