"To the cafeteria... FOR JUSTICE!"PS238
is a comic book series about the eponymous first public school for metaprodigies — super-children, in other words
. That is, if you can call a top-secret underground school "public".
Created by Aaron Williams, who is also known as the maker of Nodwick
and Full Frontal Nerdity
— all of which can be viewed on Nodwick dot com
— it has been described as "Take the kids from Springfield Elementary
, give them X-Men
powers, and send 'em to Hogwarts
Basically concerned with the general, superpowered going-ons of a school filled with superpowered children (most of whom are the children of Lawyer Friendly Cameos
of various well-known Marvel
follows a small core cast of about ten to twelve kids, with plenty more who make cameos. The closest thing the series has to a protagonist is Tyler Marlocke, the notably only non-superpowered student on campus.
Needless to say, the series thrives on Super Hero
-related tropes, and indeed, tropes in general. Several characters are openly Genre Savvy
, including Tyler at times — though he would probably prefer if those tropes weren't
Originally a print comic, Aaron has followed the example of the Foglios
and released it as a webcomic. The online version has now caught up to the print version and new content is being released. In 2008, a licensed Role-Playing Game
using the Hero System
PS238 provides examples of the following tropes:
Name a superhero-related trope. Any
- Absurdly Powerful Student Council: Despite the fact that they could eventually end up with one that consists of absurdly powerful people, this is averted. When Tyler got elected Class President, the faculty had yet to figure out what responsibilities the Class President was supposed to have. So far, said duties have consisted entirely of participating in a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
- Academy of Adventure: They try to keep the super-trouble away, but the administrators seem to accept that it's inevitable.
- Academy of Evil: Praetorian Academy is a private school for metahumans that's not publicly traded, looks regimented and militaristic, dresses its students up in uniforms and faceless masks and gives them codenames, and its headmaster is a shadowy, enigmatic figure. Subverted, as the intent behind it involves anything but releasing more supervillains into the wild.
- Action Survivor: Tyler. Although, as time goes by, he is slowly approaching Badass Normal. He's already running toward danger of his own volition.
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Averted. Human AIs, like Doctor Positron, exist and they're all perfectly nice. The only exception was Prospero's robot companion, which was implied to have gotten damaged in the crash. The Singularity is pretty nice too, for an omnipotent extradimensional AI. Think of it as a sort of omnipotent schoolteacher with a somewhat quirky sense of humour.
- Alternate Universe: Tyler sees a few alternate versions of himself in the Castle Beyond Time and Space. One is a Jerkass Woobie who is one of the most powerful people on the planet but has a hair-trigger temper, another is more along the lines of what his parents wanted (but lives in a world conquered by aliens), and the third is a ridiculously powerful telepath who accidentally turned the human race into a Hive Mind he himself is unable to join, making him the last individual on Earth.
- And I Must Scream: A child-friendly version. The nameless ghost on Excelsior's front lawn was bound in place there by a curse, unable to move, die, nor remember anything he was proud of in life (hence he can't remember his name or much of anything of his life): Only performing an act of pure altruism that saves someone's life can save him. He's long since resigned himself to his fate, but obviously not very happy about it.
- Animal Eye Spy: The Flea and insects.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: A telepath exposed while holding political office, admits that he's used his telepathic abilities to defeat opponents, win elections, and get good deals on cars.
- Art Shift: One issue contains school reports from the superkids that are drawn by children of the same age.
- The Atoner: Cranston is attempting this but Toby may have inadvertently messed this up for him as a side-effect of his Reality Warper powers. Depending on how closely you're reading, the scene is either an Oh, Crap moment or a moment of Fridge Brilliance, because neither Toby nor Tyler realize the significance of the exchange demanded by Toby's powers, and thus Toby's statement passes without comment.
- Later lampshaded by Cranston as he is unable to reveal Durvin's identity as the Headmaster because Durvin knows his headband is non-functional and threatens to reveal that. Cranston wonders aloud if that would have been his 'atonement' for his Presidential bid.
- Author Avatar: While there haven't been any explicit versions of the author himself in the series, Miss Kyle is modeled after his wife.
- Badass Adorable: Many of the children are cute little ten year olds with the associated mindset, with powers similar to Superman, Green Lantern or Plastic Man, to name a few.
- Badass Longcoat: Cecil Holmes. The longcoat becomes Badass unto itself as well as making Cecil Badass.
- Badass Normal:
- The Revenant, Tyler's mentor (who bears a striking resemblance to Batman/Moon Knight, right down to most powered heroes not trusting him or thinking he's crazy).
- Tyler himself can be considered a Badass Normal in training. (A time-travel storyline offers a glimpse of his adult self in which he's Revenant's partner.)
- Bad Bad Acting: When Zodon sarcastically "acts" to keep up the illusion of being a normal child: "Oh, ow, ow, ow. My innards. I fear I shall never recover." Cue Face Palm from Ms. Kyle. Justified in that he really isn't trying, and is deliberately being bad to express his contempt for the whole thing.
- Batter Up: The supervillain The Sinister Shortstop was armed with a baseball bat that caused whatever was hit with it to explode. It recently came into the hands of one of PS238's students, who's held onto it because it complements her existing powers, which are entirely defensive.
- Beehive Barrier: When Aurora's "ghost" attacks Ambriel, her Deflector Shield is briefly visible as a geodesic crystalline dome.
- Berserk Button:
- Don't rip Julie Finsters' cape.
- As for Victor Von Fogg:
Sign written by Zodon: VICTOR CAN'T CALCULATE PI PAST THE 3,000th DIGIT WITHOUT USING HIS FINGERS.
Victor: Oh, it's on, now!
- Beware the Superman: The Revenant mentions early on how metahumans often tend to dismiss baseline humanity, and it eventually comes into view that humanity has developed several checks and balances in an attempt to curb metahuman domination of society. The Headmaster claims it's not going to be enough and that evolution of powers will see metahumanity grow beyond human control, which is why he founded Praetorian to try and do something about it.
- Blessed with Suck: Lyle can't turn off his ability to "see patterns in things" and he spends most of his time in a featureless white room to keep his brain from overloading. On the other hand, he is effectively omniscient and at one point he begins to set into motion a complicated scheme to allow himself and his classmates to escape unharmed from a pair of dangerous kidnappers several issues before the kidnappers have even decided to show up.
- Bonus Material: "Dr. Positron's Science Corner" in some of the print issues, written as an in-universe educational message expositing on some of the alternate history or superscience of the world.
- Brick Joke: A really weird one across two of the creator's comics, Full Frontal Nerdity and this. In FFN, the gamers play a supers game and end up getting metaphorically clotheslined by the discovery that a lot of the "Muggle" NPCs have been developing powers in reaction to living in a world of supers, including abilities like sensing supers and subtle mind-control of supers as a kind of camouflage. Then in PS238, Cecil turns up with the "sensing supers" power and one starts wondering what other of these abilities joked about in FFN will also turn up...
- Bungling Inventor: Angie. In a variation, her gadgets all work, but they're too powerful. Tim Taylor Technology is her Hat.
- Butt Monkey:
- Zodon. He deserves it.
- Tyler has moments of this as well, but in his case, it's more to toughen him up.
- Cape Wings: Cecil
- Captain Ersatz: PS238 is made out of this trope. Two of the more outstanding examples are Atlas and Emerald Gauntlet, although both have developed points of distinction from the originals as the series progresses. Among the students, there's also "Murphy", the "Prince of Daydreams" (whose older sister is often mentioned in passing...), and Victor Von Fogg, heir of the Von Fogg family of supervillains.
- Casual Danger Dialog: The Revenant is perfectly able to take calls while in the middle of fighting bad guys, and has been known to make them as well.
- The Chessmaster:
- The Revenant is involved with practically every storyline in the comic one way or another, although so far he's avoided trying to bring them all together.
- The Headmaster is in the middle of a decades-long project to prevent the destruction of Earth by a future metahuman arms race, and founded Praetorian as one way to prevent it. He currently looks to be using the Von Foggs as pawns in his scheme.
- Chewing the Scenery:
- Von Fogg junior is especially prone to this in his first appearances, and would probably count as a Large Ham if he didn't eventually mellow down in later issues.
- American Eagle and Patriot Act also act like this on-camera.
- Cloning Blues: Averted. Tyler's clone gets a name (Toby), develops cosmic powers, and is adopted by his parents, who are delighted — to the point where Tyler is worried they'll like his new "brother" better. However, Cecil rejects Toby, though he remains close friends with Tyler.
- Combat Uninterruptus: Happens all the time with the Revenant and Tyler.
- Comes Great Responsibility: Repeatedly used as An Aesop towards the children. Also, somewhat ironically, what the evil-looking Praetorian Academy claims is its founding principle. They're genuine about it.
- The Comically Serious: American Eagle during her tenure with Tyler's impromptu "superhero team".
- Competence Zone: Averted; the kids' teachers are presented as intelligent, competent, and perfectly aware of what's going on around them. This being a comic about the kids, though, the kids still do most of the day-saving. Most of.
- Conspicuous CG: Quite intentional with the Determinant and the Balagan, Entity of Order and Aspect of Chaos respectively, hinting at You Cannot Grasp the True Form. Later depictions are just drawn, rather than being CG'ed onto the page. Whether this is supposed to represent something or is just a cost-cutting measure is unknown.
- Conspiracy Theorist: Cecil Holmes. He actually gets pretty close to figuring out the truth about PS238, but Tyler derails him with alien stuff. Ironically, Cecil can unconsciously detect superpowered beings (who he thinks are aliens) unless they are, in fact, aliens. He thinks Propero, the resident alien kid, is a normal, if weird and foreign, kid.
- Contagious Powers:
- Tyler's parents are sending him to the school based on the theory that eventually this trope will kick in.
- Cecil goes for a "trip" with Malphast and ends up with a pair of wings (plus a lot of other Eldritch Abomination traits that are suppressed as long as he's in the human world).
- Cool Pet: Argo the super-dog
- The Revenant. He has a box under the seat in his jet just in case he suddenly needs to go into space.
- And Tyler is learning from the best. As of the Rainmaker story he's gotten pretty good at thinking ahead and is getting better. Exaggerated the first time Tyler teams up with the Revenant, as he deliberately loads himself with equipment to the point that he can barely move in an attempt to avoid having to actually fight crime.
- Crimefighting with Cash: The Revenant
The Revenant: I sometimes think access to cash is the greatest superpower of all.
- Crossover: In issue 39 it was revealed that the events of Nodwick take place in the distant past of PS238. Thanks to some time-travelling and a Predestination Paradox, some of the characters from PS238 briefly meet the main characters from Nodwick.
- Cut Lex Luthor a Check
- The Crystal Skull, an ex-supervillain, has since turned his intellect to taking money from people legally, and runs one of the higher-class casinos in Las Vegas.
- A minor supervillain known as The Headmaster (no connection to the Headmaster of Praetorian Academy), who had the power to detach his head and throw it at people, retired from a fairly unsuccessful life of crime to become the spokesman for a chain of bowling alleys.
- Daddy's Little Villain: Alexandria Von Fogg, Victor's sister and a student at the Praetorian Academy.
- Deadpan Snarker:
- Miss Kyle resorts to it sometimes:
Victor Von Fogg: (to Zodon) You will pay for this, oh, yes...
Miss Kyle: Let's keep the vendettas down to a dull roar, okay?
- The Singularity
Singularity: Approach, chosen of Argos, chosen of the Emerald Ones!
Julie & Kevin: Who, us?
Singularity: No, I'm talking to the two other people standing behind you.
- The Dog Was the Mastermind: The leader of the plot against the Masquerade casino was Beryl, the desk clerk.
- Drool Hello: When Malphast accidentally summons a tentacled thing, it naturally drools on Tyler.
- Drunk with Power: Subverted. Victor von Fogg obtains a machine that grants ultimate power over the shape of the universe, but it also grants him perspective. He is frustrated that he is incapable of doing anything evil with it.
- Dumb Muscle: Bernard
- Equivalent Exchange: The basis of Toby's Reality Warper powers. Doing things much more complicated than flight creates an after-effect to balance out what he did, for better or worse.
- Evil Chancellor: Dax-Ra
- Evolutionary Levels: Discussed and sort of justified. In one of the "Science Corners", Dr. Positron hypothesizes that the relatively high frequency of the Flying Brick powers may indicate a more stable metahuman gene complex that will eventually provide the baseline for all humanity. Given later developments that inarguably demonstrate a cosmic force of some sort influencing the development of powers, evolution may actually be set with levels and goals.
- Exposition Beam: Tyler learns of Principal Cranston's backstory when his headband is damaged by reliving his memories.
- Almost every character who is not an outright Captain Ersatz is an expy of a known superhero comics archetype, without blatantly referencing any one single comics character. An example would be Herschel Clay, who turns out to be an expy of Iron Man.
- The classic definition of an Expy as being reusing elements of your own characters applies to The Singularity, who's a high-tech version of the Powers What Is from Nodwick.
- Tyler, being the baseline normal stuck in the middle of practically all trouble with little else recourse than to snark at it, is very similar to Nodwick himself. Although one that doesn't get treated nearly as badly.
- Face Palm: Frequently used by Ms. Kyle and the other teachers.
- Fantastic Racism:
- Between metahumans and normal people. According to Revenant, Tyler's own parents have expressed the (frankly rather ugly) opinion that non-metas have no business trying to change the world, despite making up the majority of the world. It puts their relationship to their son in an uncomfortable light.
- On the flip side, metahumans are apparently forbidden from holding higher political office in the US. Though given that the only time this comes into play was when dealing with a telepath, it might just be that certain powers, such as telepathy and mind-control, disqualify you. They're also not allowed to serve in the armed forces while they maintain a superhero identity, though this is more pragmatism than prejudice (the army needs to know the superpowered being in their midst is a soldier first and everything else second).
- Argosians look down on everyone who does not have Flying Brick powers. Normal humans are treated as an inferior underclass; other metahumans as outright threats.
- Fantasy Kitchen Sink: As usual for a Superhero setting, they have Mutants, magic, aliens, gods, beings from Another Dimension, time travellers, and Schizo Tech galore.
- Fastball Special: Rockslide and Micro Might.
- Fate Worse Than Death: Zodon manages to convince the otherwise mild-mannered and rather cowardly Flying Brick, Forak, to guard a dimensional portal while he's on the other side with some of the other kids. The threats he makes are spoken of only in whispers, but Forak is terrified enough to even stand against the Creepy Child Alexandria Von Fogg when she shows up to disrupt matters. Towards the end, Hershel convince him to tell him what was said. Turns out that Zodon threatened to delete all his Achievements if he didn't do as he was told. Terrifying!
- Five-Man Band: Tyler's impromptu "team" in his first fight with Charles Brigman.
- Flying Brick:
- Deconstructed as being a F.I.S.S. (flight, invulnerability, strength and speed). This package is so common that F.I.S.S. heroes are just given a number. Julie, one of the current PS238 students, is number 84.
- Further deconstructed when Earth makes contact with Argos. Flying bricks rule the planet in noble houses with normal people (called "softies") as an oppressed underclass. All other superpowers are referred to as "ferals" and are implied to have been culled from the Argosian gene pool long ago.
- Follow in My Footsteps:
- Tyler is expected to do this, despite the fact that he didn't inherit his parent's superpowers.
- Ron feels pressure of this nature as well.
- Foreshadowing: The alternative universes Tyler glimpses in the mirrors at the Castle Beyond Time and Space foreshadow later events, such as the alien virus that turns humans into aliens and Tyler (or rather his clone) becoming the most powerful meta-prodigy at PS238.
- For Great Justice: "To the cafeteria... for Justice!"
- A Form You Are Comfortable With: Anything to do with Order and Chaos.
Lord of Order: When you observe the actions of an imp and cherub who influence the clone of Tyler Marlocke...
Lord of Chaos: ...what you see them doing isn't truly real. It's just how your eyes try to explain what's going on to your brain, which is sensitive and doesn't do metaphysical stuff if it can avoid it.
- Fun Personified:
- Flea, who is probably a collective Expy of similar characters Deadpool and Ambush Bug. (He also has elements of Spider-Man, The Tick, and the most recent Blue Beetle — there's a whole big arthropod-themed hero mashup going on here.)
- Also Poly Mer: "If I inflate myself, I can make a fart noise that lasts for an hour!"
- Gadgeteer Genius:
- Herschel Clay/Mantium
- Genre Savvy: Many of the heroes and the villains. One even notes at one point that he has read the Evil Overlord List.
- Geometric Magic: Alec, who ends up being able to do magic with scribbled runes after some exposure to Malphast.
- The Ghost: A metahuman-hating Senator Durvin, who apparently was a political opponent of Cranston, is mentioned several times during the comic without ever appearing. Turns out he's The Headmaster.
- Glamour Failure: Zodon attempts to adjust his personal hologram to impersonate an adult, so that he can play blackjack in Vegas. Instead, he retains his "kid" form, but stretches his face until it's four feet high. Hilariously, he doesn't seem to notice until someone points it out to him.
- Gone Horribly Right: An alternate universe version of Tyler with powerful telepathy tries to "touch" every mind on Earth. He succeeds, but ends up permanently linking everyone's mind together except for his own in a Hive Mind. The effects seem to be positive, with wars abolished, and everyone working together for the betterment of all. The only truly unfortunate effect we see is Tyler being lonely, as there is no single other person to talk to anymore.
- Grappling-Hook Pistol: Tyler's still getting the hang of it. Hilarity Ensues. Interestingly, it's about the size of the MythBusters model, and thus is worn as a sizeable forearm bracer rather than sitting in the utility belt. The winch on that thing is incredibly powerful, able to pull creatures that outmass Tyler by at least 100:1 — by the tooth (Which also implies a lot about how strong the tooth was).note
- Guardian Entity: Ambriel's power. She talks to her force field and treats it as if it were a living thing, but initially there was no sign that it's anything but a force field that automatically intercepts anything harmful. However, after she dies and comes back, the field seems to be more selective. When one of her classmates insults her, the guardian angel throws something at them in retaliation. It also makes her and her companions invisible to surveillance systems whenever it would benefit her to not be seen.
- Guile Hero: Tyler. Whatever you do, don't take his business card.
- Harmless Villain:
- Healing Hands: Dr. Newby, the school medic, has this — fortunately for Tyler. He needs it. A lot.
- Her Code Name Was Mary Sue: When the pupils are reading their creative writing assignments, Dylan's story features a very handsome and powerful version of himself defeating Victor's father and saving the world, while his rival Jenny is completely useless. It ends abruptly when Jenny and Victor sets his essay on fire.
Dylan: I consider this an assault on my basic freedoms and liberty.
- Heroic BSOD: Captain Clarinet suffers one — preceded by a quick bout of What Have I Done — after punching out Charles.
- High-Class Glass:
- Victor Von Fogg's headgear comes with a lens giving the effect of a monocle. Just like his father.
- The Headmaster of Praetorian Academy also has a lens over one eye as part of his cyborg gear.
- Hive Mind: The Commonality, created by an alternate universe version of Tyler. He had such powerful telepathy, he decided to see if he could touch every mind on Earth at once. It worked, but he was unable to stop the link once he made it. It's also a rare (at least relatively) positive example of the trope — the Commonality seems entirely benevolent, and has made rapid strides toward improving not only people's lives, but the planet itself.
- Holographic Disguise: Those PS238 students who can't just change into normal clothes (because they're part-machine, or bright blue, or whatever) get image emitters to help them blend in with the oblivious above-ground muggles.
- Hurl It into the Sun: Issue #40 revolves around an installation that uses this method of disposing of dangerous super-gadgets.
- Hurricane of Euphemisms: You know one is supposed to be happening when Zodon starts singing "Oklahoma!".
- I Have Many Names: How Murphy introduces himself.
- I Just Want to Be Normal: Captain Clarinet. Or so you'd think. Subverted.
- Immunity Disability: Guardian Angel suffers from this. She's never experienced the feeling of rain until Harold neutralizes her power. Due to her power protecting her from everything, she's never developed any immunities and she essentially dies due to a common cold, which is made worse by the fact that when her power comes back, it prevents her from being injected with anything that might cure her.
- Implied Love Interest:
- Julie "84" Finster to Tyler Marlocke. Though, as both of them are eleven, it's more like "implied childhood crush".
- After the Mister Extraordinary issue, it's implied that Tom keeps going back to the past to visit Naomi, leaving her gifts and even taking her to other time periods, and, much later, it's heavily implied that they will be married or at least in a relationship as adults.
- Instrument of Murder: Captain Clarinet's clarinet.
- Intercontinuity Crossover: Sort of — the Revenant was created by Michael Stackpole for the Tabletop Game Champions and was "donated" to the PS238-verse. The Stackpole version also appears in the short story "Peer Review" and in In Hero Years, I'm Dead. The Revenant mentions this role-playing game to Tyler in passing.
- Is This Thing Still On?: Doctor Von Fogg's pre-recorded gloating in issue #10.
- Zodon (funny version)
- Charles (less so)
- Jerkass Has a Point: For all Praetorian Academy's jerkishness, their actual goals (training metahumans to behave With Great Responsibility and averting the potential of a Goo Goo Godlike scenario leading to an Earth-Shattering Kaboom) are highly desirable.
- Kinda Busy Here: The Revenant, every time Tyler calls him for advice. But he's so badass he can whomp supervillains and give career counselling simultaneously without breaking a sweat.
- Landslide Election: Tyler becomes Class President in one of these, despite the fact that he wasn't running. This is because nobody in the class liked either of the actual candidates, so they voted for him as a write-in candidate.
- Last of His Kind: Atlas. Or so he thinks...
- Laughably Evil: Zodon and Von Fogg again.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
...and I'm even writing a story for a comic book about a character I played on television. Neat, huh?
- Little Professor Dialog: From Gadgeteer Genius kids, supernatural kids, and politically backed kids.
- Loads and Loads of Characters
- Look Ma, No Plane!: Captain Clarinet starts out with a pathological fear of flying, due to having repeated nightmares of being sucked into a jet-engine. It doesn't particularly improve matters when Zodon "helpfully" reminds him that his invulnerability ensures that, should that happen, he'd come out on the other side unscattered... while the plane plummets to the ground in flames with the passengers aboard.... And then Zodon plays a "practical joke" on him that results in it happening in real life. It backfires spectacularly in that it ends up curing the good Captain of his phobia instead of compounding it when he is forced to use his flight to put the damaged plane down safely.
- Loophole Abuse: The Crystal Skull weasels out of giving Zodon $100,000 by giving him store credit instead of cash, since his lawyers noted that they never specified what form the payment would take. Technically this would actually be more expensive due to the way casino gift shops work, but the Crystal Skull was probably worried about 1) not giving a budding super-villain a leg up, and 2) staying in the Revenant's good graces.
- Magic Pants: Funny in-universe example, with a dash of Late to the Punchline:
I'm glad I don't have to worry about costumes. Julie Finster:
You don't? Poly:
Nothing. Just... nothing.
- Magnetic Medium:
- Satori Deacon, one of the Excelsior kids who turns out to have a power, can see ghosts and other supernatural phenomena. She hates it, because as soon as any given ghost figures this out, they will bug the living crap out of her with requests from beyond the grave.
- And Cecil, the conspiracy theorist who thinks the PS238 kids are (all) aliens, turns out to be able to sense metahumans. This being the series that it is, he gets what he sees, which sparks the conspiracy theories, presumably because he gets some sort of "otherness" feeling when the sense goes off. Notably, he doesn't seem to recognize Prospero, the actual alien. Most likely because, while Prospero is an alien, he's a normal alien and not a meta-alien.
- Maligned Mixed Marriage: Malphast's parents, an angel and a demon who have kept their relationship, and particularly the fact that it has issue, secret because they expect unpleasant consequences if they're found out. It turns out that their superiors had known all along.
- Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex:
- Masquerade: The presence of PS238.
- Metaphorically True: When Cranston used to be president he was accused of using a telepath to read his opponent's minds, and he swore that he had no telepaths of any kind on his payroll. He didn't. He wasn't on his own payroll after all.
- Mood Whiplash: There are some surprisingly dark and serious elements to the series, which is also more thoughtful than you might expect, based on the description at the top of the page.
- Most Common Superpower: Averted. The one character who could probably conform to this trope is revealed to have had "work" done to look that way. Of course, most of the cast is grade-school age. Then again, Spell Siryn certainly looks to be in very good shape, especially since her powers are magical, not physical (of course, it's not like the right magic couldn't help keep her in shape). Micro-might seems to have a normal, even slightly stocky build, though her power (becoming smaller and denser) might be partly responsible, and we never see her wearing anything but loose dresses except for times when she is using her powers.
- Mugging the Monster: The school bullies above ground have the bad habit of picking on the wrong metahumans.
- Mundane Utility:
- Inverted with the original Project Rainmaker, which was meant to find military uses for the powers of metaprodigies who don't have combat-oriented powers. The project got its name for its original subject, who could make it rain (or stop raining) at will.
- The modern Project Rainmaker has been brought in line with the rest of PS238, teaching kids with non-combat powers to handle their powers responsibly. They're still separated from the other students, because they rarely have powers that allow them to handle the sort of punishment that the regular students deal with on a daily basis.
- The kids with combat-related powers also manage to find ways to put their various strengths to mundane use. For example, whenever Poly Mer gets bored, she can use her tongue as chewing gum.
- Mutant Draft Board: Averted, as PS238 is just a superhero-flavoured school and is, if anything, less sinister than the regular kind. Praetorian Academy, meanwhile, is not an aversion.
- My Friends... and Zoidberg:
Tyler: ...he says if he sees me at school again, he'll splat my friends. Oh, and Zodon, too.
- Mystery Meat: According to Prospero the food in the cafeteria is evolving. According to Malphast it's amazing how readily it animates into a homunculus.
- Nanomachines: The "ghost" of Aurora.
- Several pieces of super-technology, including some programmed by Clay Industries for quick construction which were stolen by the Headmaster to build Praetorian Academy, and which fused with him to make him a cyborg.
- Nosy Neighbor: Cecil Holmes, who doesn't know the school secretly has superhero students, so is convinced it's being infiltrated by aliens in disguise. Later, it's been established that Cecil can detect metahumans. He's very disappointed that "the aliens were a lie."... But not for long.
- One-Way Visor: Emerald Gauntlet; Patriot Act
- Only Sane Man: Tyler, regarding Paper-Thin Disguise.
- Our Ghosts Are Different
- Overlord Jr.: Victor Von Fogg
- Papa Wolf: You do not kidnap the daughter of Mister Extraordinary (the first recorded metahuman). He will rip your car apart then beat you over the head with the largest part left.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: In the PS238 universe, a simple mask can fool your best friends and family into thinking you're a completely different person. Tyler is highly worried by the implications this has. Notably, it only seems to work on people who are part of the whole "superhero" shtick — even teachers and super-intellects are fooled by it, but Cecil isn't. Cecil has jokingly suggested that Tyler's inexplicable ability to not be recognized by any of his metahuman acquaintances when dressed as Moon Shadow is his superpower.
- Patriotic Fervor: Parodied with "American Eagle" and "USA Patriot Act".
- Pensieve Flashback: While mentally linked to Principal Cranston, Tyler relives the latter's memories of his short tenure as President of the USA, while seeing himself in Cranston's spot.
- Picky Eater: One of the Emerald Gauntlets apparently does not like Chinese food. Which is how the younger one knows about Take a Third Option.
- Pimp Duds: As a practical joke, some tampering with Zodon's holographic disguise makes him look like he's wearing Pimp Duds.
- Power Incontinence:
- After Principal Cranston's headband is damaged and removed, a hex to punish removal kicks in. Instead of him being able to hear other's thoughts, now his thoughts are projected out. The one who placed the hex has to help control this, as the removal of the limiter was justified at the time.
- The Rainmaker can invoke this in other metahumans.
- Power Nullifier:
- Cranston's headband is also supposed to be one of these, but it doesn't work completely — he can still lift pens and push buttons while wearing it. (Telekinetically, that is — his hands work just fine either way.) It still visibly hurts him to do even that much, though.
- Powers via Possession: Satori
- Precision-Guided Boomerang: Patriot Act's discs.
- Psychic Static: The Revenant is fond of using The Alan Parsons Project music. He specifically mentions "Sirius", the instrumental lead-in to "Eye in the Sky", which featured the repeated line "I can read your mind". (And the album, also called Eye in the Sky, had a mystic symbol on the album cover which looks suspiciously similar to the Revenant's Chest Insignia.)
- Reconstruction: As much as Williams enjoys deconstructing superhero tropes, his affection for them shows through and he often follows up by quickly reconstructing them all over again. Not everything is rosy for the heroes and often Reality Ensues from their powers and experiences, and some have rather shallow motives and fairly Jerk Ass-ish behavior (such as within the Finster extended family). Yet at the same time they remain firmly committed to doing the best they can as well as they know how, and remain heroes that they and their families and friends can respect.
- The first new story since moving online focuses strongly on Julie, AKA 84, and is busily reconstructing the "generic good guy" attitude around the F.I.S.S. (Flying Brick) types, though it's been building up to this for a while now. As the most common super type, many of them are very social and supportive partially to spite the low opinion others have of their power set, partially because they've gotten over the self-importance found in so many other supers, and are really just good people. They're also starting to fall prey to When All You Have Is a Hammer less often as a result.
- Remote Body: Toby was originally one for Tyler.
- Restraining Bolt:
- Zodon's "Barry Ween" chip to prevent swearing.
- Cranston's headband. Also an Explosive Leash.
- Retired Badass: Most of the PS238 teachers are former superheroes. They're more than capable of getting their hands dirty to protect their students, although they tend to suffer from The Worf Effect to allow the students to shine.
- Running Gag: Whenever anyone new shows up, Zodon and Von Fogg will hand them minion application forms sooner rather than later.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: Aurora, one of the former members of the Union of Justice, 'haunts' the school's basement as a ghost made of Nanomachines. She's kept in there by solid-steel walls with EM fields. It's currently unknown why she's locked in there, though judging by her current personality she underwent a Heel-Face Turn at some point.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Averted; one of the main problems for the Revenant is that many of his wealthy cover identities have problems with tax evasion charges.
- Secret Identity:
- All superpowered students at the school are required to practice having a secret identity (those that end up going into hero work are expected to discard this "practice identity" when they start their careers.) They must appear as normal humans aboveground, and wear their costumes in the secret underground classrooms.
- Moon Shadow subverts it by being a normal human with a secret identity to hide who he is from the supers.
- Serious Business: Foursquare.
- Shout-Out: Apart from all the superhero homages, there are also homages to non-superhero comics, including:
- Zodon's human disguise makes him look like a character from The Far Side.
- To Doctor Who:
- The time-traveller Tom Davidson is named after two of the stars of the show (and the cover art for issue #12, in which Tom features heavily, includes a homage to one of the old Doctor Who title logos).
- In another issue, Murphy quotes Leela in "The Robots of Death".
- And the Revenant acquired a familiar-looking ultrasonic tool from an unnamed man in return for help the Revenant gave him in a defunct timeline.
- One humorous two-panel joke has the Revenant decrypting the names "Wayne, B" and "Grayson, D".
- Phil Foglio and his family appear as supervillains. He gets another Shout-Out when Zodon gets his hands on a Heterodyne Tachyon Generator.
- Revenant's Alfred Ersatz is named Cranston, most likely a reference to Lamont Cranston, a.k.a. The Shadow. The Revenant also uses the alias Kent Allard, which happens to be another secret Identity of The Shadow. Allard's character design also has a notable resemblance to author Michael Stackpole, the creator of Revenant.
- Toby being simultaneously bossed about by Order and Chaos is represented by him as Captain Kirk — complete with Star Trek Shake.
- Bernard has a Skull doll.
- Spell Syrin tells off her magic students for trying to start a Quidditch game.
- Tyler uses the Stargate Verse to convince Cecil that one of the "aliens" is on their side.
- Tyler finds himself in a TRON costume from his clone's superpowers leaking out.
- When Alec's drawing causes the Headmaster's computer to crash, it begins to sing "Daisy, Daisy".
- The Trans-Dimensional Defense Division's seal contains the number forty-two.
- When Cecil confronts Zodon and tells him that he knows he is an alien, Zodon replies "The truth is out there, kid, so why don't you go find it?"
- Coach Rockslide's real last name, Krutz, is a reference back to Nodwick, where it was itself (not much of) an anagram of Scott Kurtz.
- The Headmaster measures the ability of students to deal with the vindictive and competitive politics of the Praetorian Academy on the Vetinari scale.
- The 238verse seems to use Slavic Mythology the way DC Comics uses Greek Mythology and Marvel Comics uses Norse Mythology. Veles is an opponent of Atlas, presented as a cross between Mr Mxyzptlk and Marvel's version of Loki.
- Shrouded in Myth: Moon Shadow gains a near-mythical reputation amongst the PS238 students.
- Similar Squad: A trip "sideways to the seconds, underneath the third and fifth dimensions" takes Malphast and Cecil to a school occupied by tentacled aardvark-snouted children ... two of whom, arguing about who will kneel before the other's intellect, are the bowler-hatted Von Phtago and the thick-spectacled Zodthulu.
- The Slow Path: Zodon takes it to get back to the present day from ~10,000 years ago, Human Popsicle style.
- Smoke Out: Moonshadow improves this trick with a smoke rocket, making Argosians believe he took flight — while he legs it.
- Special Guest: In a very bizarre but hilarious situation, Wil Wheaton guest stars in the comic about superpower career day, as the representative of meta-humans who go into the Entertainment industry. In the PS238 universe, he not only played Wesley but single-handedly used his psychokinetic superpowers to do most of the special effects for Star Trek: The Next Generation, which apparently helped cancel out some of his character being a Creator's Pet in this universe. Zodon still hates him, though.
- Spider Limbs: A supervillainess that the Revenant is fighting while mentoring Cecil.
- Stable Time Loop: Vashti "Spell Siryn" Imperia's origin story. She was kidnapped by a witch as a little girl (In the era of Nodwick), and eventually stole the witch's spellbook and used it to become a powerful mage. Thousands of years later, she ended up going back in time, where she kidnapped her younger self, and deliberately left a copy of her early spellbook lying around to be stolen.
- Stage Mom: Tyler's parents are utterly convinced they can micromanage their son into becoming the World's Greatest Super Hero (when they aren't ignoring him).
Ultima: To even think otherwise is to defy the will of the Universe.
- Stranger in a Strange School: Tyler doesn't pretend to be anything else, but between the fact that both his parents are legendary superheroes and the school being a constant Weirdness Magnet, he has no choice but to become an Action Survivor in order to, well, survive. Currently in training to become Badass Normal.
- Straw Character / Pompous Political Pundit: Jenny (American Eagle) and Dillon (USA PATRIOT Act) both sound like they learned how to speak from political sound bites and 24-hour news channels. Neither one's backing party is explicitly identified, though Dillon's dialogue would fit comfortably with a conservative Republican, while Jenny reads like a conservative Democrat.
- Suddenly Fluent in Gibberish: Angie can somehow understand what Prospero is saying. Nobody knows how. It might be because she's a super-intellect who is smart enough to build rocket ships out of scrapped cars in her spare time. She spends a lot of time with him, and picked up the language quickly.
- Superhero School: Naturally, the eponymous school. Praetorian Academy is a privatized version, as well has having heavy military-school overtones.
- Super Registration Act: Averted. None is enforced, though many superheroes choose to anyhow. One of the early comics, a mock advertisement, indicates that "full disclosure gains access to scholarships, grants, and placement assistance".
- Superpowerful Genetics: Well, duh. The school's full of children of superheroes who have one or more of their parents' powers, alongside a few "first-generation" metahumans (whose parents were normal), and Tyler, a subversion by being the only non-powered child of metahumans known to exist. This gets deconstructed later by "Big Bad" The Headmaster, an anti-metahuman Well-Intentioned Extremist, who considers superheroics a form of courtship display meant to showcase the superpowers of the individuals involved. He argues that eventually, competition for mates, evolution of powers and crossbreeding of metahuman with metahuman will lead to the piling on of powers over several generations, creating more and more powerful superpowered children until eventually a Goo Goo Godlike scenario and the probable destruction of planet Earth.
- Suspiciously Specific Denial:
- Take a Third Option: "We want a hamburger, I mean, another option!"
- Teleporters and Transporters:
- The Earth Defense League has a teleporter linked, among other places, to the principal's office of PS238.
- Time Abyss: The Singularity.
- Timey-Wimey Ball
- Too Much Information: The kids' reaction to the explanation of the toilet facilities during their field trip to the moon. EEEEEEWWWW!
- Transforming Mecha: Prospero's spaceship.
- Turbine Blender: Captain Clarinet is afraid of this happening to him if he flies. That is, until Zodon points out that he'd be the one blending the turbines. (It doesn't make him feel better, mostly because Zodon goes on to describe what happens to the people on the plane.)
- Unusual Euphemism (mixed with Tongue Tied): Whenever Zodon tries to cuss, the chip in his head causes him to say a random innocuous word instead. If he goes on a rant-length obscenity crawl, it switches into "Showtunes Mode"... "Oklahoma!", for example. Or "Man of La Mancha"... Or "The Music Man". Lampshaded by Victor Von Fogg once."And you swear like a G-rated sailor."
Zodon: I'm going caroling apebeans!
- Weird Trade Union: The Flying Brick heroes, following Julie's example of pride in her power set, are in the early days of what looks like one of these organizing. At the least, some of them are starting to spread the social and political consciousness seen in the early days of real trade unions as they realize their value as the workhorse of the meta community, providing an excellent base of power that the other metas have gotten used to taking for granted.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: The Rainmaker. And The Headmaster.
- Wham Episode: Issues 25-27 (Invasion Day, Quarantine, and Remember When I Was President?). Several major plot threads come together as: aliens openly invade Earth with a "bioforming" retrovirus; Tyler is infected as Patient Zero to spread it to the rest of humanity and has to be quarantined in stasis; one of Zodon's plots comes to fruition; we learn the secrets of PS238's faculty and how (and why) the school was founded; the school is heavily damaged and nearly destroyed; and we even get to see Revenant's face (...maybe). A lot of important new plots, character developments, and changes to the world arise from the fallout of this story. It remains one of the biggest climaxes the series has had.
- What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?: Beautifully averted.
- The children in the Rainmaker program are all in possession of powers that are pretty much useless when it comes to things like fighting crime or saving the world. However, the purpose of the program is to give them an opportunity to explore using their powers in the private sector. A perfect example is a kid who can make any object as edible and nutritious (and tasty) as he wants; he won't be fighting any supervillains any time soon, but several restaurant chains are already lined up to headhunt him. Not to mention the job offers from Hollywood for the one who can change the distribution of body fat in people.
- Wil Wheaton used a modest telekinetic talent (think "can lift a trashcan" level, not "stop bullets with his mind") to allow models to remain competitive in the special effects department.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Satori almost becomes violent when confronting the healer who brought Ambriel back to life. She claims "how would you feel if after being born, you were dragged back to where you were before you were born?", but Satori was talking to Ambriel before and at the moment of her resurrection, and knows this is not true, at least in this case. She knows perfectly well that Ambriel was very unhappy with her situation and will be overjoyed to come back to life. No explanation is given for Satori being so furious that the teacher actually has to physically pull her away from the healer.
- When All You Have Is a Hammer: A lot of adult supers outside the school are extremely full of themselves, even the good guys. Those with flashy or mystical powers are especially bad. Put a problem in front of them and a lot only think of throwing their powers at it. The ability to think around others' powers have allowed normal humans like Revenant to stay competitive.
- Wingdinglish: Alien tongues are in strange font, but otherwise readable. Prospero's walls of text in his introductory chapters starts off with "If you can read this" and goes on with Monty Python quotes, a recipe, etc, to avoid heavy spoilers, but in the rest of the series, his utterings are often hilarious. (some of them are available here.)
- Wise Beyond Their Years:
- Most of the children super-intellects, like Victor and Zodon.
- Tom Davidson.
- Murphy straddles the line between this and Cloudcuckoolander.
- The Worf Effect: The teachers often suffer this to allow the kids to take center stage. Partly justified if one of the kids has a power far better suited to a situation. Also justified in that the teachers are all former famous superheroes whose powers were well known, so villains who've done their research know what to expect from them. The students, however, are mostly complete unknowns and therefore aren't as easy to predict.
- "World of Cardboard" Speech: By Ron.
- Wrench Wench: Angie
- Write Who You Know: In-universe. Every one of the class' "creative writing" exercises is a story that is rather transparently about the person who wrote it (though Tyler's classmates don't see this in his story about Moon Shadow). Most of them are describing events that actually happened.
- Your Head Asplode: Tyler's clone has a bomb inside the control device that lets Tyler uplink with it. Victor's immediate response to hearing that the clone is no longer needed is to trigger it — fortunately the device was outside the clone's head at the time.