Project Superpowers, by Alex RossPublic Domain Characters
galore! A couple dozen Golden Age
super heroes are thrown together in one continuity as planned by Alex Ross
, renowned fan of The Golden Age of Comic Books
and comicbook artist.
The story goes that, back in World War II
, the American government got Fighting Yank, a Super Hero
with Charles Atlas Superpower
, the ghost of his great-grandfather who gives him advice and a magic cloak, to retrieve Pandora's Urn from Nazi clutches. The mythology of Pandora's Urn goes that when she opened it, all the horror and evil in the world was released from it, but also "hope".
Fighting Yank's great-grandfather's ghost believes that if all the other super heroes currently fighting along side the American Army against the Axis were to be sucked into the Urn, them theoretically being "hope", then all the evil would go away too.
The other heroes, such as the Green Lama, the Flame and Death Defying 'Devil (the Golden Age
Daredevil), weren't too keen on the idea but Yank kept on with his great-grandfather's plan and secretly captured all the heroes, one by one, in the urn after the war.
Over sixty years later, racked by guilt, Yank is visited by the American Spirit, a spectral flag, apparently made of the blood of patriots, who tells Yank that the world is worse off without the heroes that the Yank had captured in the Urn and that Yank only had a short time to live. Against his Great-Grandfather's wishes, Fighting Yank decides to don his magic cloak once again and follow the America Spirit.
- Affirmative Action Legacy: American Crusader bequeaths his powers to his black caretaker.
- Ambiguously Gay: Lady In Red says she's not usually attracted to guys...
- Author Tract: The series takes a lot of thinly-veiled swipes at neoconservatives. Alex Ross is somewhat notorious for his hatred of the ideology.
- Badass Bookworm: The Black Terror, Hugo "Doc" Strange, The Target, American Crusader and a handful of others had professional vocations with various scientific qualifications before they got their powers and decided to drop everything to fight Those Wacky Nazis. They're largely pharmacists and metallurgists.
- Bee Bee Gun: Yellow Jacket, who has the power to control - wait for it - yellow jackets, a type of
- Beware the Superman - Captain Future has gone a little crazy since his time in the Urn.
- Blessed with Suck: Mr. Face, Previously known as The Face, a non-powered superhero who used a rubber mask to frighten criminals, he gained the ability to manifest anybody's greatest fear as a reality as long as he wears the mask. It's stuck.
- Cloning Blues: All the evil Crusaders are the result of the original being cloned thousands of times.
- Coat, Hat, Mask: Masquerade
- Cool Boat: Black Terror gets a ghostly flying galleon as a boon for freeing Mystico.
- Cool Plane: The Ghost is capable of summoning a spectral aircraft.
- Crapsack World: Since Fighting Yank captured nearly all the heroes, the world has become ruled by the Dynamic Family which controls a corrupt police force and uses Frankenstein-like technology to bring Soldiers back to life so that they can fight on for their employers after death.
- Charles Atlas Superpower: nearly every character has this power, sometimes along with something else to distinguish themselves from the others.
- Eldritch Abomination: The Claw. Dagon might also count.
- Flying Brick: Many.
- Frankenstein's Monster: the previously mentioned F-Troops were based on the Prize Comics version of the character (the designs are certainly similar)
- Freak Lab Accident: Black Terror and Tim got their superpowers when their attempt to create a Super Serum literally blows up in their face.
- Genetic Engineering is the New Nuke: At least one old hero has had his powers replicated to create a mercenary band of superhumans.
- A God Am I: Captain Future
- Green Thumb: Green Lama's powers enable him to summon plant life.
- Humanoid Abomination: Captain Future (AKA Zeus.)
- Human Shield: During Black Terror's series, poor Nelson Drew is used as a human shield by the titular character.
- I Love Nuclear Power: American Crusader was the first superhero who got his powers through this. Several other public domain characters eventually followed suit.
- Lawyer-Friendly Cameo - The original Blue Beetle appears as "Big Blue" to avoid trademark conflicts with DC Comics. Ditto several other characters those codenames are currently trademarked by Marvel or DC. They could have used the original names, but then, they couldn't have sold a Blue Beetle comic, Blue Beetle action figures, etc without getting sued by the current trademark holders.
- Legacy Character: The 'Devil inherited his costume from an Aboriginal tribal chief. American Crusader eventually passed on his powers to a young black man.
- Making a Splash: Hydro, who can transform his body into water.
- McGuffin: Pandora's Urn, that Fighting Yank used to capture most of the heroes.
- Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: After realizing that the Supremacy sees him and his "family" as nothing more than expendable machines, Dynamic Man decides to turn on the Supremacy and aid the heroes.
- The Mole: This series has several:
- Scarab is a mole within the Supremacy.
- "Tim" is actually Dynamic Boy in disguise, spying on the Inheritors.
- Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: F-Troop (not that one) are zombie Super Soldiers! Yank's grandfather is a racist ghost!
- Word of God says that Black Terror is "pirate Superman". Hell yes.
- Offscreen Moment of Awesome: It's stated that the 'Devil came closest of all the heroes to stopping Fighting Yank from capturing him. The resultant fight promises to be awesome (Boomerang flinging Badass Normal vs a superstrong Nigh Invulnerable Brick, and the Badass Normal almost WINS!). However, all we see of this is some narration and the image of the Yank's Urn lying on the ground next to one of 'Devil's bloodstained boomerangs.
- Of course, as a later issue indicates, we didn't really miss anything - 'Devil simply gave up the costume and walked away.
- Older than They Look: All the heroes from the Urn would be old men and women were it not for spending some sixty years in suspended animation.
- The Omniscient Council of Vagueness: The Supremacy, which consists of the Dynamic Family, President West, the Clown (a sadistic Joker-like Golden Age villain) and a handful of other as yet not really fleshed out villains.
- Precision-Guided Boomerang: Death Defying 'Devil's main weapons, other than his fists.
- President Evil: President Gene West, a member of the Supremacy, formerly a superhero known as Power Nelson and wearer of an Eyepatch of Power.
- Powered Armor: Scarab's gimmick, also worn by the Police Corps.
- Power Incontinence: Burning Eagle (currently always on fire) and Black Owl, who seems to be constantly radiating some sort of miniature Negative Space Wedgie. Mr. Face's fear-manifesting mask that doesn't come off.
- Public Domain Character: Every character is in the public domain and free to use. A few have had their names changed, though, like Yellow Jacket (Who's just became "Jack") due to potential conflicts with trademarked characters.
- Rape as Backstory: It's implied that the reason Kitten follows the Cat around is because he saved her from a sexually-abusive relative.
- Religious Bruiser: Samson.
- Resurrective Immortality: All of the heroes are cursed with this as a result of being trapped in the urn.
- Ridiculously Human Robots: Dynamic Man and the Dynamic Family.
- Secret Public Identity: Doctor Hugo Strange (Doc Strange), William Battle (Captain Battle). Magno the Magnetic Man is an interesting case - he has no civilian identity at all. In all his appearances, he is always referred to as Magno and he never appeared out of costume (not even when he relaxed in his home)
- Sidekick: Most of the characters have had one at some point or another, mostly teenage versions of themselves. One of Black Terror's current motivations in following Fighting Yank and Green Lama is to find his sidekick, Tim.
- Yank & Doodle, a teenage superhero duo, are an interesting subversion. They started out as independent superheroes, but when their father became Black Owl II, they started working together with him. When he revealed his identity to his sons (they were unaware of each others' secret IDs at first), they became his sidekicks.
- The Straight and Arrow Path: The Arrow
- Stripperific: Bloodlust.
- Super Serum: the source of Blue Beetle's/"Big Blue", Black Terror's and Tim Roland's super powers, plus a handful more of the Heroes (the full list would require a separate paragraph). Beetle got his "Vitamin X-2" from Dr. Franz and Black Terror, an accomplish pharmacist himself, formulated "formic ethers" to give him and Tim powers.
- Terrorists Without a Cause: "The Claw", a mysterious organisation named after a Golden Age Yellow Peril villain. Currently causing troubles in France.
- Twofer Token Minority: Dare is an Asian Muslim.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Rather, what happened to this series?
- Yellow Peril: The original Claw was one of these. Emperor Seng II might also count.