Power Pack debuted on May 1, 1984. In honor of that day, I’m publishing a top 5: All Marvel series devoted to pre-teen heroes.

Surprisingly, there aren’t that many from ANY publisher. The first was Fawcett, who gave us the 12-year-old Billy Batson way back in 1940. And then, for 40 years, nothing.

Sure, there were teen heroes like Peter Parker. But pre-teen? Nothing.

Then in 1984 Marvel figured out that kids like to read comics so they’d probably like to see themselves in them. And on top of that, they hired a creative team who would not condescend: Louise Simonson and June Brigham’s early issues of Power Pack were genuine, heartfelt, and amazing. Groundbreaking. Very few series have come close since–and only a few have tried.

I can only name a few characters who are pre-teen from either of the big two. It’s rare to have someone age 12 or under. Damian Wayne. Hope Summers. Impulse. That’s about it, other than those who made my list.

Let’s look at the top 5 series about pre-teens. All are Marvel except one.

5. Franklin Richards Son of a Genius (Marvel). Non-canon, hilarious and charming. Written and drawn by Chris Eliopoulos, the character debuted in 2005 as a back-up feature in Power Pack and then got a series of one-shots. More of a strip than a series, although running gags would often tie the strips together.

4. Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur (Marvel). The “smartest character in the universe,” Moon Girl’s series is smart and rare: A black female character with top-billing in a series, and getting rave reviews based not just on diversity but on the quality of the series. It arrived in 2015-a half-Century after the birth of the Marvel Universe.

3. Hit-Girl (Icon). Unlike the other entries on this list, this book is NOT kid-friendly. Hit-Girl is also the only movie star on this list.

2. Power Pack (Marvel). The first of the lot, and the early issues are very close contenders for the best of the lot. But that honor goes to…

  1. Runaways (Marvel). The entire Runaways gang are not pre-teen, but at least one of them was really young–about 8 years old. This book had multiple iterations of varying quality, but that initial run by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona was genius. Excellent, realistic characterizations, a complex plot, incredible art…It was a book about kids but written both for older readers and young ones alike.

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