Superheroes: two book series and a movie

Not involving actual comic books or animations about superhero exploits, and not borrowing specific superheroes from these media, but all very much in the spirit of superhero comics. The first two (written for an audience of 8-to 12-year-olds, or perhaps a bit older) I owe to my grand-daughter Opal, with the help of her mother; the third is a movie (pretty clearly aimed at teenagers) I chanced upon on tv one night.

The line-up: the three books about The Ultra Violets, by Sophie Bell; the five Percy Jackson & the Olympians books by Rick Riordan (and supplementary volumes by him, and movies based on the first two of the books); and the movie Sky High, from Disney.

The Ultra Violets.  From the website for the books:

book 1. The Ultra Violets: What happens when four best friends find themselves splattered with a bubbling, genetically altering substance? They develop super powers that’s what! Iris, Cheri, Scarlet, and Opaline [nicknamed Opal] are destined to become… The Ultra Violets

book 2. The Ultra Violets: Power to the Purple: Bursting with glitter rainbows Iris must keep her crazy artistic skills a secret. Cheri and her sweetie skunk Darth Oder [pun alert!] smell something fishy and none of the math is adding up. High–kick, ninja cha–cha dance moves win Scarlet the lead role in the school play but even that isn’t enough to distract her from the truth.

book 3. The Ultra Violets: Lilac Attack: After a close encounter with Opaline’s pugnacious perfume at her baddie birthday party in book 2, the Ultra Violets realize they have a lot of cleaning up to do. When Iris lets her purple flag fly, the UVs decide to reveal their true colors to Sync City. Cheri is pleased with the applause, but after a little mathematical deduction, she knows the peace won’t last long…  Just as the skies are starting to look particularly stormy, Opal asks to be an Ultra Violet again. Can the girls trust their previously evil friend?


(The books are packed with puns, like “The fuchsia is now”, and pop culture references.)

The cast of characters: Scarlet, Opa(line), Cheri. Iris:


Publisher’s blurb, from

While on a sleepover at a supersecret lab, four second-grade friends are accidentally splashed with an experimental chemical. At the time, it doesn’t seem too important. But, four years later, when the girls reunite in middle school, the “heliotropium” exposure is producing astonishing changes. Iris has developed purple hair and the corresponding ability to affect colors around her. Scarlet has gained phenomenal dancing talents, and Cheri has extraordinary math powers and can communicate with animals. [Opaline eventually develops] terrifying storm-creating powers

Percy Jackson. From Wikipedia:

Percy Jackson & the Olympians, often shortened to Percy Jackson, is a pentalogy of adventure and fiction books written by Rick Riordan. Five supplementary books, along with three graphic novels, have also been released. More than 45 million copies of the books have been sold in more than 35 countries.

As of October 28, 2011, the series has been on The New York Times Best Seller list for children’s book series for 223 weeks. The first book was adapted into a film titled Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief in 2010, which was commercially successful, but received mixed reviews. An adaptation of the second book, titled Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Sea of Monsters, was released in 2013.

Development for both The Lightning Thief and the Percy Jackson series commenced when Rick Riordan began making stories for his son Haley Riordan, who had at the time been diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia. His son had been studying Greek mythology in second grade and requested that his father tell him bedtime stories based on Greek myths. When Riordan ran out of myths, his son suggested that he make up new stories using existing mythological characters and new ones. This led Riordan to create the fictional character of Percy Jackson and create the story of how he travels across the United States to recover Zeus’s lightning-bolt.

… Percy finds himself at Camp Half-Blood, a training camp for demigods like him. He discovers that he is a demigod son of Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea


Fans of the books who have seen the movies (orat least trailers for and clips from the movies) seem to think that the characters have been serious mis-cast.

Sky High. From a camp for demigods to a high school for superheroes. From Wikipedia:

Sky High is a 2005 American superhero comedy film about an airborne school for teenage superheroes. It was directed by Mike Mitchell, and written by Paul Hernandez, Robert Schooley and Mark McCorkle. The starring cast includes Michael Angarano as Will, an incoming freshman at the school, Danielle Panabaker as his best friend and love interest, Kurt Russell and Kelly Preston as his parents, Mary Elizabeth Winstead as a popular senior [who turns out to be the villain of the piece], Steven Strait as Will’s rival [a pyrokinetic], and Lynda Carter as Principal Powers.

Will Stronghold (Michael Angarano) is beginning ninth grade at Sky High, a high school that teaches super powered children. Will’s parents are The Commander (Kurt Russell) and Jetstream (Kelly Preston), the world’s most famous superheroes. Will’s best friend is Layla (Danielle Panabaker), who has the power to manipulate plant life.

Will is anxious about attending Sky High, located on a floating campus reached by flying school bus, because, unbeknownst to his parents, he has not developed any super powers. The first day he and the other grade nines are harassed by a trio of bullies: the super fast Speed (Will Harris), Lash (Jake Sandvig) who can extend his body, and cheerleader Penny (Khadijah Haqq and Malika Haqq) who can create duplicates of herself.

Because of his lack of powers, Will is slated to enter a curriculum for “Hero Support” and become a sidekick. His classmates include Ethan (Dee Jay Daniels) who can melt into a fluid, Zach (Nicholas Braun) who glows in the dark, Magenta (Kelly Vitz) who becomes a guinea pig, and Layla who joins the class in protest against the two track nature of the school’s education [all their powers turn out to be crucial in saving the school, and the world, from destruction]. The class is taught by The Commander’s former sidekick “All American Boy” (Dave Foley).

Also appearing as adults: Cloris Leachman and Bruce Campbell.


In the cast photo, left to right: Vitz, Winstead, Angarano, Russell, Preston, Strait, Panabaker.

An enjoyable, wonderfully silly, film, with well-cast kid actors.


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