Eight-year-old Grace Gibson is the new girl in the town of Catastrophe, a disaster-prone locale where volcanoes erupt, giant robots run amok, meteors plummet from the skies, and escaped inmates from the Asylum for Crafty Criminals plot world domination on a near-daily basis. Grace has trouble fitting in at school, where her father’s the headmaster, until a chemistry experiment gone awry leads her to brew an arsenal of bubblegum with superpower-imbuing properties.
Determined to bring order to the chaos around her, Grace adopts the crime-fighting guise of Gum Girl. Along with Billy Fisher, her classmate-turned-best friend with a knack for getting into scrapes, Grace metes out justice with humor, optimism, and unflagging joie de vivre. Gum Girl may be pink and bubbly, but she also has brains, gumption, and gum to spare—plenty useful when the adults around you are as clueless as they are incompetent.
Catastrophe Calling is the first in a series of four original graphic novels written and illustrated by Andi Watson under the imprint of London’s Walker & Company. Split into three stories, Catastrophe Calling isn’t just frothy adventuresome fun, it also provides a glimpse into social quagmire that is growing up.
In “Hair Scare,” Grace despairs over her less-than-flawless coif. Consulting a magazine, she braids her hair to induce thick waves, but she falls asleep in her lab while investigating the activities of the Evil Geniuses After-School Club, a misstep that results in a wild mess of tangled locks the next day.
Before anyone has the chance to tease her, however, a long-locked villain by the name of Rapunzel bursts into the classroom, firing a volley of razor-sharp hair clips and explosive “bola bobbles” onto the hapless schoolchildren.
Gum Girl may be pink and bubbly, but she also has brains, gumption, and gum to spare.
Grace disappears, then reappears as Gum Girl, wrestling to tame her hair even as she grapples with the enemy.
As Billy struggles in Rapunzel’s clutches, Gum Girl uses her noggin—literally—by rubbing a gum bubble on her mane, then zapping Rapunzel with a burst of static electricity.
“You got your old hair back,” Billy tells Grace the next day.
“I used this crazy contraption,” she replies. “I think it’s called a brush.”
Billy eyes her warily. “All right, but don’t end up like those three,” he says, pointing to a group of girls primping in a corner.
“I mean, you wouldn’t see Gum Girl stopping in the middle of a fight to faff with her hair, would you?”
Grace flashes a knowing smile.
“Nah,” she says.