Margaret Wise Brown, the same person who wrote Good Night Moon, also wrote a book called the Dead Bird, a picture book about a group of kids who find a dead bird in the wood, bury it and sing a song.
It is actually more of mediation about the acceptance of death than the start of a cult or the origin of a bunch of serial killers. I still find it an unsettling work, although I will grant that it does teach a necessary lesson.
A few years ago, I came upon a comic book called Plutonia that could honestly be described as some saying ‘What if we rewrote the Dead Bird but made it a dead superhero instead?’
Five kids find the body of local hero Plutonia in the woods after she is apparently killed by one of her many foes. Things go dark from there.
I read the first issue but it was years before I found the rest.
I had heard that the story culminates in one of the kids getting beaten to death by the others so I was all set for a Lord of the Flies scenario. Instead, said kid had gone nuts and was trying to kill the others. The nicest character hits him in the head once with a log to save the other kids. Self defense instead of mob violence. Quite a different scenario and one that actually ties back in with The Dead Bird comparison since they then shamefully bury him in the woods.
The kids, who are in turns petty and scared and completely out of their depth, are believable. That helps sell the story, as well as make it more uncomfortable to read. It’s not a superhero story but a story about kids. Unlike the kids in the Dead Bird, these kids do not come to terms with death but, to be fair, it’s a much more extreme situation.
Plutonia is a meditation about children trying to cope with death. Just not a happy one.
Post Script: Plutonia, who isn’t actually dead, is a fascinating character developed in flashbacks. She has Superman’s powers with Batman’s working arrangement with the police and Spider-Man’s problems. Spider-Man as a single mom isn’t a new concept but Plutonia did a good job using it.
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