By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Of course, the ass kicking is only part of it; the rest of the story, or much of the rest of the story, is one of sisterhood, which is powerful, of teamwork, loyalty, duty, responsibility, chores, homework, slumber parties, hide-and-seek, coloring and ý tooth care. The girls squabble and tease, as sisters do, but at the end of the day they sleep together in one bed, and they have one another’s back when the death rays, the meat rays, the dog rays start firing.
IT IS TWO YEARS AGO THIS MONTH THAT THE POWERPUFF GIRLSbowed on Cartoon Network. It’s been five years since the first fully realized pre-series shorts were seen on the network’s World Premiere Toonsprogram, eight years since Craig McCracken finished Whoopass Stew, his three-minute proto-Powerpuff student film, and a decade since he first got the idea.
Yet for a long time, I had thought them somehow my personal property, my own thing, my secret discovery, a phenomenon known only to me and "the well-meaning but often imperiled people of Townsville." And then one day I looked around, and it had become without my noticing a Powerpuff World. I went to a pop festival and saw their faces multiplied on Mylar balloons. I went to a toy shop and saw their image graven in PVC and squeezable plush. I went to Doug’s house, and his little daughter Franny showed me the Special Product Preview of Puff Stuff that came with her already dog-eared first issue of The Powerpuff Girls Powerzine. In the window of a gas station in South Carolina I saw a plush Buttercup for sale. I went on the Internet, where the Powerpuff Web Ring lists 192 member sites with names like Welcome to Townsville, Blossom’s Crime Fighting Palace, Powerpuff Hotline and Pokey Oaks Fanfic Library (named for the school the girls attend), where the rules for submission include "no extreme, realistic violence," "no excessive blood," "absolutely no mutilation of children or animals," "no swearing" and "no sex." Their official Web site, powerpuffgirls.com, logs upward of 4 million page views a month. Their audience includes children of all ages. Says Cartoon Network vice president of animation Linda Simensky, "I think the official breakdown is two-thirds kids, one-third adults, but since there are no Nielsen homes in college dorms, I figure there’s another decent percentage of college students watching."
Their profile is international. The latest broadcast technology and the frightening reach of the Time Warner infotainment empire — Cartoon Network is now available in 14 languages and 145 countries — have sent their image around the globe. In France they’re Les Super nenas, Belle, Bulle and Rebelle, et elles ont pour mission de protéger le monde des vilains et cela avant l’heure du dodo. In Spain they’re Las Supernanas; in Latin America, Las Chicas Superpoderosas, Bombón, Burbuja y Bellota (Chocolate, Bubble and Acorn). In Italy, quando il pericolo incombe su Townsville, the authorities do not call for Hercules; no, it is for Lolly, Dolly and Molly, Le Superchicche, that the hot line rings. In Poland they are Atomówki: Bójka, Bajka and Brawurka.
The show won an Emmy this year for art direction. Next month production begins on the reported $25 million Powerpuff movie, the first Cartoon Network theatrical feature, produced in collaboration with corporate kin Warner Bros. and slated to arrive in theaters sometime in 2002. They are a DC Comics comic book. They are a Little Golden Book, written and drawn by Craig McCracken himself, with his drawings painted in classic Little Golden Book style by Team Powerpuff member and old school chum Lou Romano. "Those were big influences on a lot of us," says McCracken. "When we were at CalArts, everybody discovered the great design from those books." In February a Powerpuff-sponsored car raced in the Daytona 500. There was a Powerpuff presence in the Ladies Lounge of this summer’s Vans Warped Tour, and at the Boarding for Breast Cancer snowboarding festival in Lake Tahoe. Since July, Delta Airlines has been flying a Powerpuff 737, with the girls painted large upon its flanks and tail. That same month, Rhino Records (an "internal partner," in the corporate parlance) released The Powerpuff Girls: Heroes & Villains, a "sonic adventure" produced by Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh and Bob Casale and featuring contributions from Devo, the Apples in Stereo, Frank Black, Cornelius, Komeda, Shonen Knife and (on a hidden track) the Dresden Room’s Marty and Elayne, who cover "Love Makes the World Go ’Round," which the girls themselves performed in "Mime for a Change" to bring color back to Townsville. And there is an extra-long version of the superpowerful Powerpuff theme, by Scotland’s Bis:Blossom, commander and the leader Bubbles, she is the joy and the laughter Buttercup, yeah, she’s the toughest fighter Powerpuffs save the day
Craig McCracken knew it was a Powerpuff World the day he was driving along and saw Powerpuff piñatas for sale on the roadside. He pulled over, not to say "Cease" or "Desist" but to buy some. He was excited! It was a pop-cultural seal of approval. When he found a fan selling homemade Powerpuff Pez dispensers, he was excited again. Because it’s one thing to sign contracts with toy makers and clothing manufacturers to commercially exploit your images, but it’s a whole other thing, and in its way a cooler thing, to be ripped off, to have one’s copyright violated. Piracy is the sincerest form of flattery. It’s the free-market reflection of the voice of the people. "The weirder, more bootleg obscure stuff is always my favorite," says McCracken, who likes all the official, less weird stuff as well.
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