Teen Angels & New Mutants, Stephen Bissette’s treatise on “Rick Veitch’s Bratpack and the Art, Karma, and Commerce of Killing Sidekicks,” is really about the exploitation of youth for entertainment in all its forms, with erudite digressions on the history of comics, Frederick Wertham, and the porn industry. Bissette, most famous as an illustrator of Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, turned his back on comics for reasons laid out in this lengthy but endlessly entertaining treatise. He tears into the Big Two, DC in particular, for their cynicism, market exploitation, and in particular, the broken promises of The Death of Superman, which tricked millions of gullible fans into purchasing what they thought would be a seminal event only to be betrayed within months.
Bissette dissects Kevin Eastman’s Tundra imprint, where Brat Pack first appeared, and explains why it failed. He also provides a timely history of self-published comics, including Dave Sim’s manifesto. He charts the history of social conscious comics in the modern era, beginning with Denny O’Neil’s and Neal Adams’ Green Lantern/Green Arrow books. The first one, showing a shocked Green Arrow and Green Lantern finding Speedy shooting up, is one of the most famous covers in comics.
Along the way, Bissette takes a hard look at youth exploitation and the fate of such child stars as Sue Lyons, Corey Haim, and Brooke Shields, as well as scrofulous boy band impresario Lou Pearlman who was shocked when his boy bands actually succeeded. He just wanted a farm team for his pederasty.
If all this sounds a bit much, it’s not. Bissette’s observations are trenchant and amusing. “For a satirist like Veith, the Midnight Mink and Chippy were never expressions of either a latent homosexuality or homophobia, any more than Moon Mistress and Luna were inherently misoxgynist projections. They were, clearly, reflections of he tself, the anima and the animus.”
The only odd thing about this book is that Bissette never discusses what actually occurs in the pages of Brat Pack, but an appendix offers summaries of each chapter. Should be required reading for any serious student of comics. –Mike Baron