This concept is absolutely genius and the execution is one of the funniest things I’ve ever read.
A few years ago, Ethan Nicolle was playing with his five-year-old brother Malachai and decided it would be fun to take Malachai’s imagined play and illustrate it as a superhero comic. It all started when Malachai took a toy police officer and added a firefighter’s axe. They grabbed another figure and the nearest weapon-like implement at hand—a recorder, which led to Axe Cop’s first partner, Flute Cop—and went to chop off the heads of dinosaurs and other sundry bad guys.
In his book Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Super Heroes, and Make-Believe Violence, Gerard Jones argues that the young use violent fantasies as a way of coping with their real-life powerlessness, smallness, and helplessness—the point is not mutilation and bloodshed but power, a desire to have some kind of ability to control their circumstances: Young people [use] fantasies of combat in order to feel stronger, to access their emotions, to take control of their anxieties, to calm themselves down in the face of real violence, to fight their way through emotional challenges and lift themselves to new developmental levels. The violence is pretend in its purest form and in no way reflects any desire to do actual harm; it’s all about wanting to deal with forces beyond their control.
So in Malachai’s Axe Cop fantasies we see plenty of violence, but all in the quest for more power to vanquish scary bad guys. And because he is only five, we get none of the worries about logic or consistency or reality that too often limit the imaginations of older writers, with wild and hilarious results. Axe Cop doesn’t just have a pet T. Rex, he has a pet T. Rex that breathes fire, has a super-duper fast bite, wears cop glasses and a cop badge shaped like himself, has robot-machine-gun arms, feeds on bad guys, can fly to catch bad guys on the moon and sun, and has spikes that only stab you if you are bad (and whose worst enemy is a lamp that comes alive early in the morning). Axe Cop is constantly holding tryouts for more partners to make himself more powerful and even gets a part-time job at a fruit stand so he can afford to buy more guns. When he encounters a giant robot with two swords and one eye that is too big for head-chopping with an axe, Axe Cop from nowhere pulls out a baby with a magical unicorn horn to throw at the robot’s eye and explode its head. Axe Cop doesn’t just chop off the heads of bad guys, he also shoots them, blows them up, poisons them, and uses any other form of death-dealing Malachai can imagine. He also never rests because he spends each night sneaking into bad guys’ houses to kill them in their sleep. But don’t worry, there’s a morality to it all—if he could do anything he wanted, he would make a bomb that only kills bad guys and would make sure to turn all the aliens evil before killing them all, so that no one undeserving has to die.
Ethan takes these wild imaginings and brings them to life splendidly. His illustrations are fun and he does his best to accurately portray Malachai’s intentions without parody or satire, so they end up more “realistic” than cartoonish or stylized. If only all five-year-olds had someone like Malachai to bring their imaginations to life this way, because the opportunity to share in them is a joyful delight.