Comic Book / Project Superpowers

Public 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.

In 2015, a...sequel? Successor? Prequel? ...series called Blackcross ("From the Pages of Project Superpowers") written by Warren Ellis was published that sees the American Spirit stalking across a different, more familiar Earth attempting to prevent the heroes from crossing over into this world. As this is a book written by Warren Ellis, this plan involves brutally murdering the heroes' counterparts on this Earth, and isn't completely successful. As of issue 5, it's been revealed the new book takes place before the previous series, as the heroes are explicitly trying to escape from Pandora's Urn in it, but how (or even if) this effects the events of the original Project Superpowers hasn't been revealed yet.

Project Tropes:

  • Affirmative Action Legacy: American Crusader bequeaths his powers to his black caretaker.
    • The Blackcross versions of Death-Defying 'Devil and Lady in Red are black, as is at least one of the American Spirit's prior victims/potential superheroes.
  • 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 bee wasp.
  • 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.
  • Divine Parentage: Pyroman turns out to be the son of Zeus.
  • Dying Deal Upgrade: At the end of the first volume, Fighting Yank dies, but agrees to take his cursed ancestor's place in Hell in exchange for being granted sufficient power to save his friends from an ambush.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Claw is presented in this series as a giant monster made up of hundreds of normal people. Dagon might also count.
  • Face–Heel Turn: The American Spirit in Blackcross, now working to prevent the release of the heroes from Pandora's Urn by brutally murdering their counterparts on an alternate earth.
  • 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.
  • Implacable Man: Samson was this. Being a direct descendant of the Biblical Judge Samson, he was born with and shares all of his ancestor's strengths and abilities to the point where he could survive direct contact with an atomic bomb and boasted only God Himself could do him harm. Unfortunately for Samson, the god vulnerability wasn't limited to the one he worshiped and was later harmed and eventually killed by Captain Future (AKA Zeus)
  • 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.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Pyroman is Captain Future's son and he tells Future that.
  • Making a Splash: Hydro, who can transform his body into water.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": The entire team had this after Captain Future killed Samson, their oldest and their physically strongest member.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Powers as Programs: As well as superhero identities in Blackcross.
  • Precision-Guided Boomerang: Death Defying 'Devil's main weapons, other than his fists.
  • Prequel: As of issue 5, Blackcross is revealed to be this to the events of the original Project Superpowers series.
  • President Evil: President Gene West, a member of the Supremacy, formerly a superhero known as Power Nelson and wearer of an Eyepatch of Power.
  • 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.
  • Scarab Power: Scarab got his powers from a scarab-shaped ring. On the other hand, when Amon Khadul found the ring in modern times, he received no powers from it and thus sold it, but made a fortune on the sale, which he used to buy his way into the The Supremacy, the shadowy group which secretly controls the world. After realizing how evil they were, he then created a superhero identity for himself - the Scarab.
  • 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.
  • Touched by Vorlons: Every hero has powers now, including immortality. For those imprisoned, time in Pandora's box has magically altered them.
  • 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.