Astro City is a comic book series written by Kurt Busiek, first published in 1995. It was originally published by Image, then moved to Homage/Wildstorm, staying with Wildstorm when it was bought by DC. When DC discontinued the Wildstorm imprint, the title was moved to Vertigo.Astro City is home to a great many Super Heroes. The series does not have one continuing arc or viewpoint character. The stories vary in length, from one to two issues up to a seven issue arc. Each story tends to focus on a different group or character, often taking the viewpoint of minor characters watching events unfold.Astro City is treated in a more or less "realistic" fashion, though the creator gently rejects the term "realistic", often focusing on the emotional and personal lives of the heroes, or of those who just happen to live in the same universe as superheroes and villains. This puts it in the same class as Watchmen, The Golden Age, Kingdom Come, and Busiek's own Marvels.The Back Story of Astro City goes back to at least the 19th century, with heroes like "the Old Soldier" (thought dead in 1863) and "Ironhorse, the Human Locomotive" (first seen since 1862).The list of superheroes and villains (individuals and groups) mentioned is extremely extensive.For a partial list:
Samaritan: The resident Superman analogue, but with elements of Captain Marvel, Busiek's own dreams of flying, and other sources. Originally sent back from the future to alter history. He succeeded in his task by preventing the Challenger disaster and has been stuck here ever since. He's kept incredibly busy; since he's a ridiculously nice guy and his Zyxometer (a kind of futuristic computer/sensing device) can detect trouble whenever it occurs, he's constantly rushing around preventing disasters. Thus, he barely has the time to just enjoy flying (which appears to be his greatest pleasure).
The Confessor: A mysterious vigilante, similar in style to Batman, but with more religious elements. Active since the 1950s, he is the subject of the first of the longer story arcs, where he stops aliens from taking over the world. He is also revealed to be a vampire. He dies at the end, but his sidekick Altar Boy takes up his mantle.
Winged Victory: A Wonder Woman analogue and feminist. An early story has her and Samaritan going on an abortive date in their civilian identities.
Jack-in-the-Box: A bouncy clown-themed vigilante with agility and an arsenal of clown-themed weaponry. One of the less obvious Captain Ersatz characters, Jack's loosely inspired by Spider-Man and by Steve Ditko's infamously oddball vigilantes in general.
The First Family: A Fantastic Four analogue, a family of interdimensional explorers and superheroes. Consists of Augustus and Julius Furst, the patriarch brothers, Augustus' twin children Nick and Natalie, Natalies husband Rex, and their daughter Astra.
The Apollo Eleven: A team of astronauts on the Moon found an alien artifact that transformed them into ambassadors for a Star League. They return to Earth to spread the message and to defend the planet from extraordinary threats.
As The Gentleman is a Golden AgeExpy of Captain Marvel, it's rather fitting that he's drawn to resemble Alex Ross's renditions of the Big Red Cheese (especially since Ross paints almost all of the Astro City covers).
Animal-Themed Superbeing: Most animal-based heroes don't appear in the comic long enough for their full power sets to be established, so most tend to be Type II (Animal Aliases) from what is shown.
As expys of Batman and Robin, the teams of Leopardman/Kitkat and Nightingale/Sunbird wear animal-themed costumes, but don't otherwise appear to have any abilities related to their respective animals.
The television character Crimson Cougar has an above-average leap and claws on his costume.
Palmetto of the Astro City Irregulars teen group resembles a giant cockroach, but hates to be called as such. Other animal-themed members include Stray, a heroic werewolf, and past member Alligator, a mutant reptile.
Animesque: Anime-inspired characters have crept into the series in the 00's - the new Hummingbird seems like a subtle example, with oddly huge eyes, while American Chibi is a more overt and over-the-top example.
Anti-Hero: Plenty, but primarily the Blue Knight and the Point Man.
Appropriated Appellation: The Samaritan got his name after he first appeared on the scene and identified himself solely as "a good Samaritan." The name stuck.
Similarly, Infidel took his name from the cries of the ignorant masses who opposed his research on the grounds that it was "unnatural", saying he would embrace the name to mock them.
The Atoner: The Confessor is strongly implied to be purposefully torturing himself by using a cross as his costume theme, as a form of mortification in penance for his killings as well as his self-loathing as a vampire.
Banging for Help: Done with a variation during the "Dark Age" arc. Seeking shelter at an arms cache during a citywide riot, Royal Williams finds his brother Charles dying from a gunshot wound. Desperate to attract the police despite the chaos, Royal fires off all of the weapons to try and warrant attention.
Bruce Wayne Held Hostage: A variation occurs in the story "Pastoral", where the secret identity of country-town hero Roustabout is an open secret to the locals. The visiting big city girl can't believe how blind everyone is in the small town, given how incredibly obvious his identity is.
See also "Shining Armor", where Irene Merriweather is constantly putting coworker Adam Peterson in peril in an attempt to prove he's really Atomicus. When Atomicus actually saves him once, she figures that's the end of it... until she sees a TV report of Atomicus showing off his newly discovered ability to create atomic duplicates.
Captain Ethnic / Captain Geographic: The further away a hero is from Astro City proper, the more likely they are to be one of these. Word of God confirms that this is quite deliberate, to allow for a strong sense of place when outside of the boundaries of Astro City.
Las Vegas' big hero is the neon-themed Mirage.
New York is defended by Skyscraper.
Boston has the Silversmith (after Bostonian silversmith Paul Revere).
Chicago has The Untouchable.
Austin, Texas has Lonestar.
Atlanta, Georgia (home of Coca-Cola) has The Real Thing.
Detroit, the Motor City, has MPH.
Australia's most notable heroes include Kookaburra, Barrier, Bullroarer, and the Colonial. A later issue introduced another hero called Wolfspider.
British crime lords include The Red Queen, Clever Dick, the Toff and the Headmaster of Crime, while its heroes include The Lion and the Unicorn.
Africa has Anansi, who creates illusions.
India has a team of super-powered street urchins called The Unclean.
Brazilian heroes mentioned are the Birds of Paradise, a trio of flying, scantily-clad women.
City of Weirdos: Played with by having the residents treat the various super-heroics as part of the appeal of the city. Even when a gigantic Thunder God threatens to level the town, most folks get outside, pull up lawn chairs, and watch the show.
Comic Books Are Real: "Where the Action Is" examines the common comic book subtrope of superheroes' lives being documented by comic publishers in-universe. And establishes that all real-life major publishers exist in the series' universe. Some superheroes even attend comic book conventions and sign autographs. Supervillains sometimes read their own comic books and take their displeasure out on the publisher. At the end of the story, when one comic publisher switches to stories about extraterrestrial and "cosmic" characters to try to avoid further attacks from supervillains, their entire building is mysteriously annihilated. That's right, there is an Eldritch Abomination out there somewhere who reads comic books.
Comic Book Time: Averted; the Astro City characters age in real time. Notably, Astra, the First Family's daughter, is ten years old in a 1996 story and graduates from college in her own 2009 mini-series.
Continuity Nod: Frequent. By way of a particularly illustrative example, virtually everything from issue one is called back in future issues:
Samaritan briefly mutters "3.2" when he arrives to visit Steeljack in "The Tarnished Angel."
The Samaritan mentions that Honor Guard's alien detector is on the fritz. This seeming throwaway line is a critical plotpoint in "Confession."
At the Honor Guard meeting Cleopatra mentions the rising threat of "Gnomes" in the mountains. A few issues later a giant, Gnome-built robot squares off with some heroes.
Samaritan's fight with the Nightmare is the frontpage story for the Rocket in the very next story, "The Scoop."
And the Rocket's lead story in issue one is "Jack-in-the-Box captures Brass Monkey." Both Jack and the Monkey of course appear in future issues.
At the office, Asa's latest work assignment is about the First Family, who of course also make frequent appearances throughout the series.
A news story in "Confession" mentions yet another award ceremony in Samaritan's honor. And so forth...
The Cowl: Confessor, though unlike most of these he's not part of a larger team and doesn't associate with other heroes at all ever. Well, other than the club where he recruited Altar Boy. But he was off duty at the time and specifically looking for a partner.
Implied with Black Rapier, we haven't seen a lot of him but he appears to be Batman with fencing(or just a Captain ErsatzZorro) Plus Junkman describes him as a detective.
Crisis Crossover: In "The Nearness of You", a man becomes increasingly obsessed about a woman who keeps appearing in his dreams. It turns out it's because a minor villain caused a Temporal Paradox that threatened the universe and required all of the heroes to stop it — and the woman is his wife who ceased to exist in the repaired timestream. Yes, the Crisis Crossover is relegated to a background reference.
Also appears in the ending of the "Confession" arc, which is basically a Crisis Crossover as seen from the sidelines.
Cryptic Background Reference: Used liberally. Right from the first issue we're given all sorts of names and concepts that are not given direct exposition, it is simply expected that readers will fill in the gaps with their knowledge of comic book tropes.
In particular, the death of a hero named Silver Agent is referenced in quite a few issues, we even see a memorial at one point. Why did he die? Why does the memorial say "To Our Eternal Shame"? This would go unrevealed for a long, long time, until the Dark Age revealed that he was framed for murder by the Mad Maharajah, and the government executed him to show they still had control over superheroes. Using time travel, he saved the entire city mere minutes after his death, and saved the world several times years later, illustrating that he was a hero to the last. The kicker? The Mad Maharajah wasn't even really dead.
Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: Professor Borzoi threatens the Gentleman that he'll mess up his hair and crumple the flower on his lapel. Admittedly, these might actually be threatening statements to a dapper fellow like the Gentleman.
Deconstructed in the Steeljack arc. Steeljack points out that all of the villains he knows (including himself) made millions at one point or another, but he finds all of their widows living in run-down apartments. They all put their fortunes into their next crimes and extravagant spending sprees, telling themselves that the next heist would be big enough to retire on. To a degree, this corresponds to real-life criminal psychology. This is even specifically pointed out when he interviews the Chain's boyfriend, who mentions that he kept pushing the Chain to sell his invention (which allows him to transfer his mind into a metal body) for space or deep sea exploration, making millions in a perfectly legit way. The Chain would always shoot down the suggestions and insist he didn't understand.
It is also deconstructed in the Eisner Award winning "Show Em' All" issue. It shows that while supervillains COULD get rich from their creations or even by being more clever with their crimes, that's not why they do it.
Indirectly addressed in the story "On the Sidelines", a story about superpowered folks who use their abilities for regular jobs such as special effects, construction, and glassblowing.
Dark Age: Interestingly, Astro City's Dark Age took place in the 70s (eventually reaching its darkest depth in the early 80s) rather than the 90s, coinciding more with the real-world Bronze Age than anything else.
Dark Age of Supernames: Although the regular heroes avoid this trope, it was invoked (usually briefly) for characters who appeared during the series' "Dark Age", such as Stonecold, Broadsword, Hellhound, Pale Horseman, Hollowpoint, and Gloo.
One character specifically notes the phenomenon when he sees Street Angel beat up a bar full of bad guys and thinks about how he used to be all smiley, telling jokes all the time and using gimmicky throwing halos. When he sees that the halos he uses now are "high impact ceramics with a steel core", he thinks it's a perfect metaphor for Astro City in the 70s.
Another character mentions that while he didn't appreciate the previous generation of heroes, "at least they seemed to mostly care about helping people."
This appears to be justified in the Dark Age story arc (part 4) as an extradimensional energy that enters people's minds as they revel in Darker and Edgier behavior. Lampshaded when some characters wonder if the energy turned people Darker and Edgier... or if it was simply attracted to them because of it.
Jack-In-The-Box's two bad-future possible sons are perfect examples of the absolute worst kind of "heroic" characters from the Dark Age of Comics- one is a Sabertooth expy, the other is a cyborg killer (with a spring-loaded head, no less), and both are absolutely convinced that they are entitled to kill anyone they want because they are the good guys. Jack spends the rest of the story arc moving heaven and earth to make sure they never come into existence.
Dark-Skinned Blonde: Infidel is a black man with a platinum blond beard - implicitly his hair changed color as a side effect of time travel much like Samaritan's did. Note that when he uses his powers, his hair turns emerald green, just as Samaritan's turns sapphire blue.
Deconstruction: Busiek denies the assertion that the comic is "realistic" since superheroes are inherently fantastical and he believes that reconstruction should always follow deconstruction. While the comic generally doesn't veer into the Darker and Edgier territory associated with deconstructions, the superheroes and villains are given convincing, human characterization and deal with the sorts of day-to-day problems and personal demons that would logically be experienced by people in their place. Meanwhile, Astro Citizens react to happenings around them as one would expect considering that heroes have been around for over seventy years.
Depleted Phlebotinum Shells: In the "Confession" story arc, a squad of alien invaders is armed with holographic crucifixes, restraining cables soaked in holy water, and a two-handed stake-launching revolver. They are thus armed because they know that the nocturnal Confessor is actually a vampire.
The Blue Knight, who once hunted Royal Williams over several months for the crime of unloading stolen merchandise., even chasing him down while the planet was literally shaking itself apart
In the "Dark Age" arc, Charles Williams becomes one when his brother Royal found the man who killed their parents.
In the "Tarnished Angel" storyline, Steeljack becomes one when he finally figures out what's going on. An 800-pound man made of steel is pretty darned unstoppable when he wants to be.
Diesel Punk: Astro City is a gleaming art deco metropolis full of pulp heroes.
Dirty Cop: In the "Dark Age" story arc, Charles' partner Lannie takes weekly bribes from the criminals to overlook their activities. Charles refuses to get involved, rejecting the bribes but refusing to report Lannie to Internal Affairs. He gets shot In the Back as a result.
Disposable Superhero Maker: Appears repeatedly, such as a superpower-making scientist's body being recovered after being killed by Black Velvet, Steeljack's superpowered vending machine wanting to keep to individual and unique results, Mock Turtle being the crazed mad scientist who finds out it'd be better to keep his work to himself...
Dragons Up the Yin Yang: "The Dark Age" featured The Twin Dragons, a brother-sister martial arts team. Each sibling had a dragon tattooed along one arm; when put together, the two summoned a spiritual dragon to attack their foes.
Drill Sergeant Nasty: One appears in the Pyramid training camp that Royal infiltrates in The Dark Age. He even sports a 'Smokey the Bear' hat.
Glowworm (who is African-American) is specifically incensed that his mother was exposed to the Jack-in-the-Box comic that depicted him as a white supremacist. Manny Monkton tries to appeal to reason somewhat by asking how she feels about him robbing banks, and that probably didn't help.
Steeljack's efforts to reform are partly an effort to live up to the standards his mother set, and he visits her grave repeatedly during his storyline.
Every Episode Ending: Most stories end with a street sign reading "You are now leaving Astro City. please drive carefully." Issues that are part of a larger arc end with "Astro City Department of Public Works - Under Construction."
Except for "Pastoral", which ends with "Caplinville City Limits - Come Back Soon!"
Evil Twin: Brief mention is made of the Worst Family, evil versions of the First Family from another dimension. The simple fact that these situations can happen motivates a defense attorney to turn a hopeless case on its head by bringing up the incontestable idea that maybe it was his client's evil twin who killed that woman in front of 59 eyewitnesses.
Fad Super: Occasionally employed in a self-aware manner.
Flashbacks to The Fifties might feature an appearance by The Bouncing Beatnik.
Word of God is that the Bouncing Beatnik actually changes identities to social trends of the time. There's been three known (in-universe) incarnations of the Beatnik, though only two have appeared in stories to date. The first Vertigo issue's last page implies we may have seen a fourth, very meta identity
The "Dark Age" story arc references the Real Life kung fu fad of the '70s with the Jade Dragons, and the space race with the Apollo Eleven.
Older stories have featured brief glimpses of the Frontiersman, complete with coonskin cap.
In a flashback, Maddie Sullivan reveals that as a teenager, she briefly considered becoming a super-heroine, "Mind Over Maddie". Her costume consisted of a tie-dyed shirt with a domino mask and a brown vest.
Fag Hag: Beautie, a a human-sized robotic fashion doll, has an apartment above a gay bar and is friends to the local gay community because they understand what it's like to feel separate from the norm (if in a different way from Beautie). It also helps that they don't try to proposition her.
Fail O'Suckyname: The Otter, possibly the cutest supervillain name ever. Mind you, he does run around dressed as an otter, so the name clearly doesn't bother him. Maybe he should have called himself the furry old lobster instead.
The Confessor's Heroic Sacrifice involves taking on men armed with hologram cross-generators, guns that shoot giant wooden stakes, holy water, etc. and succeeding in revealing the Alien Invasion despite all this.
And don't forget he wears a shirt with a big, shiny cross on it because the constant pain this causes helps him overcome the vampiric bloodlust.
In the "Tarnished Angel" arc, once the conflicted Steeljack finally realizes what he's fighting for and that he's the only one who can save everyone, he's able to overcome the special "vibro-magnetic" weapons that were used to take him down before.
Fish Out of Temporal Water: Samaritan is a time-traveler who averted the Challenger disaster, but rewrote his history so that he has no place in the future. Also Infidel, Samaritan's arch nemesis, is a time-lost villain whose own timeline was inadvertently destroyed by Samaritan's actions. Interestingly, neither of them has much trouble adjusting. note Samaritan had to study our era extensively, while Infidel despises his home time period as being full of ignorant plebes, so it was easier than you might think.
Fourth Wall Observer: The narrator of the first Vertigo issue, the enigmatic Broken Man, is well aware of the true nature of his world and how to manipulate it so that the readers can affect the outcome of the issue's story.
Fusion Dance: Jitterjack is a villainous composite example; he appears as two bisected men joined together lengthwise, with more than double the speed, reflexes, and agility of a normal person.
Gang of Hats: The Sweet Adelines, a gang made up of barbershop singers.
There's also The Menagerie Gang (bank robbers who wear animal-head masks) and the Dominos.
Don't forget the Doppel Gang, who commit crimes while impersonating celebrities.
Genre Deconstruction: Astro City is a deconstruction and a reconstruction; it focuses on the impact of superheroes on regular people, but also on the inner thoughts of heroes and villains. Even more so, it deals with those issues in ways that are not just negative or cynical as deconstructions often are. For example: One comic deals with a parent bringing his children to Astro City, and deciding that, after a chaotic night full of alien gods, the strength and idealism of the city was exactly the message he wanted to send his children even considering the danger. Sometimes. Other times, we see results like a woman spending decades blaming herself for driving off one of the world's most powerful heroes, or a lawyer's manipulation of super-hero cases in a trial leading to deep danger for his entire family. And some stories switch gears midway. Kurt likes to keep his fans guessing.
Genre Savvy: The Junkman is well aware that no matter how clever his lethal toys and traps are, there will invariably be a trick the super-hero will use to disarm them. Thus, he plans for their inevitable escape accordingly.
The Ghost: The occult serial killer in the Confessor arc is never seen or even named. Except for a brief glimpse at the end, as a gigantic Eldritch Abomination fighting the Hanged Man.
Give Him a Normal Life: Inverted in "Serpent's Teeth", after Jack-In-The-Box is attacked by evil future versions of his unborn son (they turned evil because he died and wasn't available as a father). Jack eventually decides to semi-retire from super-heroics to raise the child; he recruits a replacement and relegates himself to Mission Control support.
Giving Them the Strip: 'Eyes' Eisenstein gets tied up to a fence by Jack-In-The-Box's entangling confetti. He manages to escape by twisting out of his jacket; leaving it still tied to the fence.
The Conquistador in Tarnished Angel, who is actually the disgraced superhero El Hombre, who misses being famous so much that he stages a supervillain attack so that he can stop it and become famous again.
Crackerjack, a vain hero who loves signing autographs.
Go Karting with Bowser: Samaritan and Infidel eventually realized the futility in continuing their feud when it became clear that there was no way either of them would ever be able to win, and thus set up a yearly meeting along these lines just to compare notes and talk. It's interesting to note that at this point they don't even seem to regard one another as enemies. There's a lot of mutual respect in that arrangement. Though it should be noted they're still indulging in stratagems to wear the other down, psychologically and emotionally. And Infidel himself admits he isn't sure who will be the victor of that battle.
Gold Digger: Charles' wife Darnice from the "Dark Age" story arc. She flirts with anyone who has money, spends his earnings on personal luxuries, even encourages him to take bribes as a way to supplement their income, then leaves him when he refuses to be a Dirty Cop.
The Golden Age of Comic Books: Often referenced, especially in flashbacks and by older supers. One in particular, fighting an ultra-modern superbot, thinks about how "Back in the day, I'd probably whip up a sonic tornado, get him out into the atmosphere or something." Instead, he just punches the shit out of it. With a water heater. And lays waste to six city blocks.
Good Guy Bar: The lowbrow Bruiser's Bar, complete with popcorn, longnecks, and arm-wrestling, and Butlers, with formal eveningwear and elegantly catered meals.
Good Is Not Dumb: The Gentleman is implied to be this — he apparently was smart enough to avoid capture by the Enelsians, at any rate.
Hand Blast: The villain HandGun had an arsenal of specialized gauntlets which fire different types of energy beams. When he's killed, his wife is stuck wondering what she's going to do with all that gear...
Hate Plague: When Black Velvet is mortally wounded by Jitterjack, her body releases black energy that infects the populace and starts a riot.
Heroic Bystander: Pete Donacek from "Newcomers", a former hockey player and a hotel doorman at The Classic. He once saved a little girl's life during a giant robot attack. He sees her every day walking home from school, but has never talked to her and doesn't even know her name — yet knowing that he did that kind of thing for someone, that he went to Astro City and lived the dream of being a real hero...
My name is Pete Donacek. I live in Astro City. I wear a uniform, too.
Heroic Self-Deprecation: Samaritan is prone to this, on the few occasions you can get him to settle down for dinner and talk.
Heroic Vow: Appears in flashback in "Old Times"; in his heyday, Supersonic pledged to himself to always use an original method against each of his opponents. When he's called out of retirement to stop a rampaging robot, he feels shamed because his impending senility has reduced him to simply hitting it until it stops.
Hero of Another Story: Just about everyone at one time or another, since the stories rarely focus on the big, planet-shaking battles that characterize traditional superhero comics.
He Who Fights Monsters: Charles Williams gets to wondering exactly how much difference there is between the current generation of "heroes" and the criminals they fight.
Hive Mind: The Gorilla Swarm is an army of insect-headed primates with a hive mind. The story "Everyday Life" has them being controlled by a villain (The Silver Brain), making this a double instantiation of the trope.
Humble Hero: Samaritan attends tribute dinners and accepts awards only because he doesn't want to hurt the feelings of the people who give them to him.
The Hunter: Mordecai Chalk. A cyborg monster hunter whose missing body parts were destroyed by occult creatures, Chalk makes quite an impression for a character who was only 'on screen' for a handful of panels.
Hyper Destructive Bouncing Ball: The Junkman has trick marbles that are attracted to a target and adhere to him. The more the target tries to dislodge, the faster he attracts them.
I Just Want to Be Normal: Astra of the First Family has some of this going on; she doesn't want to be normal so much as she wants to be treated as if she were.
More a case of "I Don't Just Want To Be Special". Yes, Astra is an extremely powerful Energy Being, but she's spent most of her life helping to save the world, while remaining isolated from her peer group for one reason or another.
The villain Mock Turtle spent his childhood trying to find his way into a magical world like Oz or Narnia or Wonderland. As an adult he became an engineer and finally snapped and became a supervillain after learning that he wouldn't be allowed to pilot the battle suit he had created. His childhood sweetheart may have had something to do with it as well...
"The Tarnished Angel" indicates that most B-grade supervillains suffer from this. They're often ordinary folks who happen to come across some sort of Applied Phlebotinum, then try to leverage it into riches and power.
I Know Madden Kombat: The Golden Age heroes included the football-themed All-American and his sidekick, the baseball-styled Slugger.
Instant Awesome, Just Add Ninja: One issue of the "Dark Age" story arc starts off with a martial arts fight between two kung-fu superheroes and a team of flying jetpack ninjas.
Intrepid Reporter: Samaritan's civilian identity is as a fact checker at the Astro City Rocket.
I Resemble That Remark: Crackerjack laments that his on and off ladyfriend Quarrel is mad at him for flirting with other women, as he flirts with Nightingale.
It Tastes Like Feet: Astra Furst says her breakfast tastes "manganese-flavor" (after her mother tells her it is supposed to be grape-flavor). Still, if anyone is going to know what manganese tastes like, it's probably Astra.
Astro City refines this to a fine art. The story "Welcome to the Big City" had a recent immigrant to the town (from Chicago) witness to an attack by a gigantic storm elemental. Heading to the roof to watch the fight between the monster and all of the town's superheroes, he sees a bunch of the people in his building have gathered to watch the spectacle. When he asks one woman where her kids are, she tells him that they're working on their homework, since if the city isn't destroyed, there'll still be school tomorrow. This almost terrifies him into leaving town the next day, but when he sees how quickly the place is cleaned up and how everyone pitches in, it charms him into staying.
And the story "Newcomers" reveals that this isn't the case for all new arrivals — a fair few just can't take it and will go somewhere else. There are superheroes and villains in other cities, but Astro City is just an exceptional Weirdness Magnet.
Pete: But that's okay. Somebody's got to live in all the other cities.
How does Honor Guard, the world's greatest super-hero team, stay on top of the millions of emergency calls sent in every day? Easy! They have a call center. With thousands of operators employed. Other than the building having matter transporters, materializing at locations around the world for secrecy, and occasionally being a key component in defeating super-villains, it's more or less just like any call center one's ever worked for or interacted with.
Legacy Character: Cleopatra, The Confessor, Jack-in-the-Box, The Blue Knights, Quarrel, The Silver Centurions
It's suggested that the Assemblyman might be one, as there is both an earlier villain and a modern hero with the same name.
Also Jack-in-the-Box II, as the current Jack initially took up the mantle to capture the crime boss his father died pursuing.
Le Parkour: Practiced by the Trouble Boys, a bunch of young men who admired Jack-in-the-Box. When you can practically keep up with a guy on springs, you're good.
Let's You and Him Fight: Happens between Samaritan and The Confessor at one point, though The Confessor knows the fight is pointless because he doesn't think Winged Victory is guilty of anything. But, as he tells Samaritan, someone in his position can't allow the ultra-powerful to push him around.
Loads and Loads of Characters: Even excluding one-shots and background cameos, the lack of a single main character/team (along with the Cryptic Background References and Continuity Nods) causes Astro City to have several dozen characters with regular appearances scattered throughout the series' run. This is especially true in extended story arcs like "Tarnished Angel" and "The Dark Age", which often star characters who only get a brief appearance in other stories.
Locked into Strangeness: Samaritan has his hair turn blue after the Time Travel incident that gives him his powers. He can change it to white at will, but apparently not back to its original black. His archenemy Infidel's hair also changed color as a result of the same incident, going from black to green, though when not using his powers it's blonde.
Logging Onto The Fourth Wall: "Pastoral" featured a character looking up the hero Roustabout on herocopia.com. If you looked up herocopia.com at the time, you got taken to the same page as in the comic. For a time, herocopia.com was a sanctioned fan site, until a database error erased most of the wiki. For a while, it was reduced to a spam haven, but it has since been restored, even better than ever, & is now the most extensive wiki for the series online.
Mad Scientist: Infidel combines this with the "Mad Alchemist" and "Mad Wizard" subtypes.
The Mafia: The main crime syndicate in Astro City is run by The Deacon. The "Dark Age" story arc included a gang war between groups led by The Deuce, Bamboo, and Josef "The Platypus" Platapopulous.
Meaningful Name: Lots, but these are probably the least obvious examples - Charles and Royal grow up to become a cop and a robber.
Also, the Silver Agent was active during the Silver Age of comic books, which ended when he was executed for a crime that he didn't really commit.
Miles Gloriosus: Subverted by Crackerjack. An alien assumes his arrogance and bragging indicate his true character, and even when seeing his heroism wrestles with the idea that he might really be The Hero. The subversion is that while he may not as good as he thinks he is by a long shot(it wouldn't take a huge leap to wonder if he thought he were on par with Samaritan), Crackerjack is still genuinely heroic and a highly effective hero.
Missing White Woman Syndrome: Briefly referenced in "Confession", when a series of ritualistic killings becomes worthy of a public panic only after an archetypal blonde high-school sweetheart becomes one of the victims.
Crackerjack doesn't know this, but the old women in his apartment building think he's gay because he's a "theater type" with long hair.
Nightingale and Sunbird also face rumors of lesbianism after an unlicensed comic portrayed them as "closer than sisters" and strongly implied there was something going on there.
Molotov Cocktail: An angry mob uses them while attempting to storm Shadow Hill during the "Confession" arc.
Monster Clown: the Box and Jackson, evil versions of Jack-in-the-Box's son from the future. Indeed, even Jack-in-the-Box himself, though a hero, meets the qualifications for this trope from the villains' perspective.
In the first issue of the "Dark Age" arc, Royal Williams, one of the viewpoint characters and a petty criminal, is part of an armoured car robbery that is foiled by Jack In The Box; the whole thing is played like a horror movie monster attack, with Royal cowering in fear under a truck while Jack takes the others apart.
Jack In The Box has a tendency to skip the 'mook' and head straight to the horror show.
Mundane Utility: "On the Sidelines" focuses on a community of superpowered people who use their powers for mundane jobs, like construction and special effects, rather than heroics or villainy. Examples include a telekinetic who controls things for stunt work, a fire-manipulator who's a glassblower, an empath who's a club deejay, and a man with Super Strength who works in construction. Then a super-villain comes along who thinks their lack of world-breaking ambition makes them ripe for exploitation...
My God, What Have I Done?: Happens several times in the "Dark Age" story arc, first with Black Velvet and the Street Angel, and later with Royal and Charles Williams.
A depressingly large number of characters in the Dark Age arc, but subverted by one of the first Darker and Edgier heroes Hellhound, who, despite having the demonic background, monstrous appearance, torn leather and chains costume and "edgy" name, is actually a Noble Demon who had nothing but respect for the Silver Agent and worked alongside and was friendly with the old-school heroes Jack In The Box and Mirage.
By the end of the Dark Age arc, the protagonists Charles and Royal Williams have become this in their obsessive quest to kill the man who murdered their parents.
Noodle Incident: For the longest time, this was the unexplained fate of the Silver Agent (complete with memorial statue inscribed "To our eternal shame"). It was finally revealed that he had been unjustly executed for apparently murdering a supervillain (who later turned up alive after Silver Agent had been executed) while under mind control, at least in part because the government wanted to make people know they still had control over metahumans... and he still returned to save the world several times afterwards.
Not Me This Time: The story "Adventures In Other Worlds" plays this to eleven. When Astra Furst goes missing, the First Family hunt down all of their usual super-villain enemies, convinced that one of them has captured her. Each villain's latest scheme gets disrupted, even though none of them are guilty of kidnapping Astra... who, instead, has run away from home to experience elementary school (and learn how to play hopscotch).
Not Worth Killing: Happens to actor Mitch Goodman (who plays the "Crimson Cougar" on TV) in "Great Expectations". He gets attacked in public by the Dark Centurion, who easily pummels him. When Mitch begs for mercy, the Centurion sneers that he's Not Worth Killing and leaves. It was a ruse set up by Mitch and his friends so Mitch could stop being a high-profile super-villain target.
One Last Job: In "The Tarnished Angel", Steeljack finds that almost all of his fellow low-rent supervillain peers are constantly lining up for that one last job, the one that will lead them to greatness and riches... but it never works out.
"Oh, there was always a new job. And always a sure thing, too. This time was the big one, always. This time, the one that'd end all our troubles."
Phantom Zone: Samaritan has access to such a dimension, but rather than use it for criminals or epic battles, he uses it as... a storage closet, mainly holding all the awards and plaques he regularly receives. It's also a convenient place to change his clothes when no phone booth is available.
First is with Mordecai Chalk, a cyborg monster-hunter with iron- and silver-enhancements, assorted mystical runes, weapons that fire anti-monster ammunition, and an onboard database that references thousands of occult tomes. He tries to fight an occult serial killer and barely manages to survive.
Second is an alien squad fighting a vampire with holographic crosses, holy water-soaked cables, and a two-handed stake-launching cannon.
Power Fist: Goldenglove's gloves gave him this power, but his daughter discovered they were capable of a lot more.
Protector Behind Bars: Steeljack breaks free in "The Tarnished Angel" arc when he thinks the Honor Guard won't act on what he told them.
Reed Richards Is Useless: Usually played straight, as Kurt Busiek wants to keep the stories recognizable as our world. Averted in Samaritan's origin (which involves him stopping the Challenger space shuttle disaster) and the development of superhuman-related legal defenses in the story "Knock Wood".
Reformed, but Rejected: Steeljack is the poster boy for this trope, with his metallic skin representing the ever-present stigma of an ex-con.
Scary Shiny Glasses: Simon Magus' glasses give off a constant glow, as if they're hiding some great power behind them.
Science Hero: Augustus Furst of the Furst Family. While the rest of the team charges into battle with their super-powers or BFGs, Gus will hang back and analyze the enemy's weakness to six decimal places, then whip up some Applied Phlebotinum to finish it off. His brother Julius may also qualify, managing to hold his own against all kinds of nasties that give his super-powered niece and nephew trouble with home-built Ray Guns and a big cigar.
Shame If Something Happened: Played completely straight in "Knock Wood": a lawyer uses a genius defense to acquit the son of a mafia boss, who then wants to recruit him permanently. When the lawyer refuses, the boss says the trope name nearly verbatim to threaten his family if he turns down the offer...
Shout Outs: Almost all the streets, neighborhoods and locations in Astro City are named for notable comic book creators.
The Blue Knight is the subject of much rumor and speculation. An ex-cop with a holographic skull face, an actual avenging spirit, etc. Whether or not he's 8 feet tall or has a skull collection is also disputed.
The Confessor originally existed as little more than a legend because no video footage or photos of him had ever been taken. This is because he's a vampire. The fact that after Altar Boy succeeded him there were photos made criminals even more confused on the matter, thinking that he's somehow immune to traditional vampire weaknesses and that he'd come back from the dead rather than making the more obvious connection.
Silent Scapegoat: The Silver Agent makes no effort to defend himself in his murder trial, and makes no appeal or request for clemency. Two minutes after he's executed, he saves the city via time travel. Later, it's discovered that the man he was convicted of murdering had staged the event using mind control and a body double. The Agent's motives for silence are unclear.
Silver Age: The debut and death of the Silver Agent (note the name) both coincide with the start and end of the real Silver Age (1958-1973) and represent the beginning and end of Astro City's own glory days of heroism before they're recaptured in the time of the Samaritan.
Sinister Minister: Subverted by The Deacon, who is the undisputed boss of all organized crime throughout the city, but not an actual religious figure. This is balanced by his greatest enemy, the Confessor, not only also being religiously themed, but actually being a real priest.
And then subverted again when the Confessor is outed as a vampire, to the horror of all who didn't know him.
Skull for a Head: The Blue Knight wears a face mask that projects a holographic skull.
Slave to PR: Explored by Samaritan in "In Dreams", where he forces himself to make public appearances and accept awards — instead of using the time to save more people — so that the public won't think he's aloof and uncaring.
Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: It varies by the viewpoint character. Busiek seems to be experimenting with stories where neither the idealistic nor the cynical characters come out constitutionally certain that their core beliefs are correct as the series progresses (e.g. the Infidel and Beautie one-shots).
Small Name, Big Ego: Crackerjack is genuinely a fantastic physical specimen and often shows himself to be a true hero, but his grandiosity is too much for any amount of skill to back up.
Socially-Awkward Hero: Samaritan suffers from this when his super-heroic peers maneuver him into a dinner date with Winged Victory.
Starfish Language: The Enelsians. Their speech amongst their own kind is represented by alien glyphs... which are actually part of a cypher in English. Translating what they are really saying is a fun little puzzle, if you have the time...
The supervillain Slamburger appears to be made of ground beef. Get it?
See also the Crossbreed: David (the giant), Daniel (the lion-man), Peter (rock-skinned stone manipulator), Mary (winged flyer), Joshua (sonic screams) and Noah (commands rain and lightning). Though in this case, the characters make it deliberately clear that these are religious references, not much stealth utilized.
And the astronauts-turned superheroes in the Apollo Eleven. Why, yes, they did land on the moon. Word of God is that the name came first (from Alex Ross), and the characters followed.
Confessor. Vampires are stereotypically associated with bats. So he is a bat-man.
Sticky Situation: Glue Gun (who is regarded as a joke by the entire superhero community)
Suicidal Cosmic Temper Tantrum: Infidel narrates that he once destroyed the universe in a "fit of pique." After discovering even that wouldn't kill Samaritan (and Samaritan realizing the same for Infidel), they collaborated to put everything back together. Once that was done, they decided to have lunch together once a year.
The story "Knight in Shining Armor" is a deconstruction of Lois's brand of Superdickery in the Silver Age Superman/Lois Lane relationship. Irene Merriweather tries to prove herself worthy of Atomicus' love by repeatedly trying to exposing his secret identity, but when she finally succeeds, he gets pissed off and leaves Earth forever — he never wanted to play that game with her, but was too afraid to admit it. To reiterate so that the gravity of the situation: Irene was so obsessed about discovering Atomicus' secret identity that he, the greatest hero of the Atomic age, left the planet forever. What's more? In her initial inquiries into his identity, word started spreading and Adam Peterson's house was blown up by the local mafia. Afterwards, she still kept trying to prove he was Atomicus.
There was also a brief mention in the story "Old Times" — Supersonic, after an adventure that temporarily gave him 16 exact doubles, took his Lois-type girlfriend Caroleen to a dance as Supersonic and had one of his doubles come as his secret identity of Dale Enright. He did this just to mess with Caroleen.
Subverted with Samaritan, who has a Phantom Zone that he uses only as storage space for the many awards and souveniers that he receives, and which merely gather the extradimensional equivalent of dust.
Played straight with the Trophy Room in Honor Guard's flying base.
The Furst Family also have a lot of odds and ends lying around, but how many are trophies (as opposed to Cans O' Evil or "thingummies-Augustus-wants-to-tinker-with-at-some-point") is as of yet unknown.
Super Registration Act: In "Confession", the city government starts a registration act to calm the public during a wave of serial killings. It does not go well. It turns out the Mayor was an alien shape shifter who was trying to contain the heroes before their invasion.
Strawman Political: Some citizens of Astro City view Winged Victory in a distinctively negative light because of her strong advocacy for women's rights and independence. Similarly, the Crossbreed are typically dismissed as religious fanatics because they believe their powers are a gift from God and proselytize when not fighting super-villains. Characters who get to know them, however, realize they're far more complex and sympathetic than the stereotypical view.
The heroic Assemblyman is suggested to be one of these, and he has been shown controlling machines and reconfiguring them into various weapons.
Magda, from "On the Sidelines," who can communicate with machines and persuade them to do her bidding. She uses her powers to restore old cars.
Then Let Me Be Evil: Infidel took his name as a badge of honor when people rose up against him as a monster and a jerk and a heretic and, yes, an infidel. note Granted, the guy really is pretty darn evil long before this.
This Means War!: Played for drama in "Serpent's Teeth", when an alternate-timeline version of Jack-in-the-Box's son uses Jack's "Of course you realize, this means war" as motivation to become a Knight Templar on the city's criminals... without realizing Jack was quoting Bugs Bunny.
Time Crash: Is a background element in "The Nearness of You."
Top-Heavy Guy: Krakkaboom of the 80s Astro City Irregulars, whose bombastic proportions are evidently a side effect of his powers.
As well as the amusing "Voice of the Turtle", which is part of a larger arc starring a small-time superpowered hood.
Villain Team-Up: Villain Teams seldom appear, and when they do, it's often as peripheral detail instead of the focus of a story:
The Unholy Alliance is a recurring team of villains who team up for various reasons, though the members also work on their own. The roster changes a bit from story to story, but core members tend to be Demolitia (team lead), Slamburger, Glowworm, and Flamethrower.
In the "Tarnished Angel" story arc, Steeljack has a brief flashback to when he was part of the Terrifying Three — Cutlass, Steeljack, and the first Quarrel.
Steeljack: "We didn't last, and fought each other more'n' anyone else — but we were friends, I guess."
With Great Power Comes Great Perks: "On the Sidelines" (issue #4 of the Vertigo run) introduces "sideliners", superpowered people who don't become heroes or villains, but instead use their powers in their work - e.g. a heat manipulator who's a glassblower, or a super-strong guy who works in construction.
Wonder Twin Powers: The Jade Dragons are a brother/sister martial arts team who can summon a giant dragon by lining their arms together.
You Are What You Hate: Done intentionally in the "Astro City: Dark Age" story arc. Royal cops to the fact that while he and Charles didn't care for superheroes and villains, by the mid-80s they had almost become a vigilante team of their own. Eventually Royal starts to see that at that point there was virtually no difference between them and Aubrey (and Stonecold and the Blue Knights and even the Street Angel).
You Can't Thwart Stage One: Humorously deconstructed in "Show 'Em All" — the Junkman pulls off a major heist without a hitch, and lives a life of luxury while everyone wonders who was the brilliant criminal who committed the robbery. However, he is soon frustrated at not getting recognition for the coup and the public's assumption that the heroes caught the criminal somehow. This drives him to repeat the plan again — albeit with deliberately-included minor flaws — until he becomes famous for the initial robbery. He is eventually arrested and sits through a high-profile trial, at which point he escapes the consequences anyway.
You Killed My Father: Aubrey Jason, a Pyramid agent, killed Royal and Charles Williams' parents during a fight with the Silver Agent. When Royal learns his identity twenty years later, he uses that information to give his dying brother Charles the will to live on.
You Know I'm Black, Right?: A boisterous, money-grubbing comic publisher did not know that the supervillain Glowworm was black before depicting him as a white supremacist in a Jack-in-the-Box story. The results were not pretty.
Your Mind Makes It Real: In one story, the Golden Age villain Professor Borzoi uses a Belief Ray to make a giantgorilla attack the crowd at a movie theater. A side effect of the ray brings the cartoon character Loony Leo to life. When Leo smashes the ray, he and the gorilla start to fade away, but The Gentleman convinces the crowd to believe in Leo and saves him. That's how Leo's troubles began...