Comic Book: Astro City

Astro City is a comic book series (or, more accurately, series of series) written by Kurt Busiek and 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.

The titular location 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 in-universe Backstory of Astro City goes back to at least the 19th century, with heroes like the Old Soldier (believed dead in 1863) and Ironhorse, the Human Locomotive (first seen since 1862), and probably to prehistory, as Coyotl appears to have occurred in pre-Columbian America.

The list of superheroes and villains (individuals and groups) mentioned is really, REALLY long. The character page is here.

After an indefinite hiatus due to Busiek's health issues, the comic resumed publication in June 2013 as an ongoing monthly series published by DC Comics. It is part of their Vertigo line, but divorced from the new, Vertigo/Wildstorm-inclusive DCU.


Astro City provides examples of:

  • Action Girl:
    • Many of the female supers fall into this trope.
    • A notable subversion is Martha "Sully" Sullivan, who uses her telekinetic powers to do special effects for movies and television. Sully may not be a hero or a villain, but she's shown that she can kick someone's ass if she needs to. It helps that whenever some idiot supervillain doesn't get the hint that Sully and the rest of the Sideliners aren't interested in whatever they're offering, said villain grossly underestimates just what she and they are capable of.
  • Actor/Role Confusion: Crimson Cougar had this happen to him. He's an actor who plays a superhero on tv that, by chance, happened to stop a convenience store robbery while in his costume. This inspired a number of villains to come after him, to make sure he doesn't decide to become a superhero for real.
  • Adult Fear: When Astra goes missing in an early arc (see Face on a Milk Carton below) the First Family tears apart a number of alternate dimensions to find her. It turns out she was spending time at a local school with normal kids having fun.
    • Jack-In-the-Box meets three alternate versions of his unborn son; two of them became ruthless vigilantes after his death, the third one became a non-vigilante college professor. This realization that he would leave his son without a father the way he had prompts him to go into retirement, training one of the Trouble Boys to take his place as the new Jack-In-the-Box.
  • After-Action Patch-Up: Steeljack, at the end of his arc, gets some news from a policeman as the EMTs from the ambulance treat him.
  • Alien Invasion: The Enelsians (a Shout-Out to E. Nelson Bridwell; the first Enelsian invader even uses the pseudonym "Mr. Bridwell.")
  • All Crimes Are Equal/Knight Templar: The Pale Horseman, a vengeful spirit who incinerated hardened killers and jaywalkers equally.
  • All Musicals Are Adaptations: Crackerjack, in his civilian identity, mentions blowing an audition for the musical version of Inherit the Wind.
  • Alternate Company Equivalent: Most of the cast, really.
    • As The Gentleman is a Golden Age Expy 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).
  • Anachronic Order: "Waltz of the Hours". Each page is set on a different hour of a particular day, but not in linear order.
  • 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.
    • Members of Honor Guard include Hummingbird, Stormhawk, and Wolfspider.
    • 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.
    • The Lion and the Unicorn from Great Britain.
    • Kookaburra and Wolfspider from Australia.
    • The Mock Turtle is a villain in a Power Armor suit.
    • The Otter is a small-time crook in a wetsuit.
    • 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: 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.
  • Arcadia: The setting of "Pastoral". The heroine is a City Mouse sent to country relatives for the summer.
  • The Archmage: Several have appeared so far in the stories.
    • Simon Magus was a European magician who came to Astro City in The Seventies because he foresaw a time of great strife centered on the city. He helped exorcise the spirit of vengeance known as the Blue Knight and warned about The Continuum's judgement of Earth. After a great spell, he was transformed into the Green Man.
    • Magus' assistant, Grimoire, became a sorceress in The '80s after Magus disappeared. She appeared during the Rise of Kerresh the Devastator, and wrote a tell-all book about her relationship with Magus.
    • Currently, the Silver Adept is considered the most powerful magician of the forces of light in the Astro City cosmology. However, this means there are a lot of mystical matters that need her attention, keeping her busy enough to require a personal assistant.
  • Are These Wires Important?: Ultimately used by Supersonic to stop the fight in "Old Times".
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Winged Victory gives one of these to the Council of Nike in "Victory". When they criticize her association with Samaritan and Confessor she asks what she's supposed to teach; that men and women are equal or that women need to be alone to be strong? They have no response.
  • Artificial Human: A plot point in the "Victory" story arc involved civilians secretly replaced with plant-based copies. The doppelgängers were sufficiently human-like to give false testimony as part of a frame-up against Winged Victory, and evaporate into mist when cornered.
  • Ascended Fanboy: Altar Boy
  • The Atoner:
    • The Confessor is 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.
    • Eth, the narrator of "Sorrowsday."
      "I can live with it no longer. I surrender to your justice. What is my punishment?"
    • The Street Angel becomes this after turning Darker and Edgier during his time with Black Velvet; in remorse, he left Astro City to do humanitarian work in Africa, before returning to the city to help inner-city youths.
  • Atrocious Alias:
    • 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.
    • Then there's Glue-Gun, an Expy of Marvel Comics' Paste-Pot Pete.
    • One issue has The Majordomo, who clearly intends to be an impressive rule-the-world villain. As another character dryly points out, it might have come off better if he hadn't named himself after a servant.
    • Brian doesn't care for "Altar Boy," but doesn't get a vote in the matter.
      Confessor: "Altar Boy or busboy. Your choice."
  • Backstory: Just about everyone has one. Whether or not the readers ever see it is another matter.
  • Badass Normal: Not surprisingly, many of the veteran crimefighters are regular folks coupled with a few gimmicks (Jack-In-the-Box, Crackerjack, Altar Boy), but who have trained their reflexes up to bullet-dodging levels.
    • Deconstructed with Quarrel; she constantly realizes that she's a Badass Normal in a world of super-powered beings, armored villains, aliens, and gods, and compensates for it with lots of training — to the point where she cannot sustain any sort of normal relationship because of the commitments required. She's only with Crackerjack because she doesn't care that he Really Gets Around, and he doesn't care if she forgets his birthday.
  • Bad Powers, Bad People: Point Man, Black Velvet, and most other Dark Age "heroes"
  • Bad Powers, Good People: Confessor, Hellhound
  • 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.
  • Barbie Doll Anatomy: Beautie, literally.
  • Barrier Warrior: Samaritan can manipulate an "Empyrean field", which is strong enough to repulse a tidal wave.
  • Beast Man: The supervillains. Team Carnivore, in "Pastoral", who attack the carnival in search of Roustabout.
  • Berserk Button: Bugman Palmetto hates being called a roach. It's implied that this is actually because that's an ethnic slur against Latin-Americans, rather than because he's a giant roach man.
  • Book Ends: The episode "In Dreams" begins and ends with Samaritan dreaming about flying.
  • Bouncing Battler: The Bouncing Beatnik.
  • Bounty Hunter: In the Astro City legal system, some superheroes make a living by registering as bounty hunters with the local authorities. They are sanctioned to capture criminals (super-powered and otherwise), and are paid by picking up checks made out to their real identities.
  • Brand X: "Beautie" dolls, "Beefy Bob's" burger joints, and "Astro-Mart" convenience stores.
  • Brought to You by the Letter "S": Not done frequently, but still used by some heroes, most notably Quarrel and the First Family.
  • 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.
  • Bus Full of Innocents: Team Carnivore exploits this, menacing a crowd to force Roustabout to reveal himself.
  • Call to Agriculture: Supersonic spends his golden years tending to his rose garden.
  • Cape Busters: E.A.G.L.E. became this during the "Confession" story arc.
  • Captain Ersatz: Nearly everyone is either a Captain Ersatz or an Expy of another publisher's superhero. Justified in that the series as a whole examines, deconstructs, and reconstructs longstanding superhero tropes, which are not limited to a single company's character.
  • Captain Ethnic / Captain Geographic: The further away a hero is from Astro City proper, the more likely they are to be one of these. 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.
    • Los Angeles has Starpower, a Chrome Champion wearing an oversized film strip.
    • 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.
  • Cat Up a Tree: The first story has Samaritan rescuing a cat from a tree on his way to another emergency, and castigating himself because the thirty seconds he spent comforting the kid almost cost someone's life.
  • The Cavalry Arrives Late: in "Tarnished Angel", the Honor Guard gets to cart off the villain and get medical attention for Steeljack.
  • Chess Motifs: The Chessmen are a team of high-tech villains who wear chess-themed armor. For a while, the armor was stolen by The Red Queen.
  • 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.
  • Clear My Name: "Victory" centers on Winged Victory being falsely accused of masterminding villainous activities to promote a pro-feminism agenda.
  • Close-Knit Community: In "Pastoral." the heroine is freaked out by how everyone knows everyone else.
  • 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.
    • Astra, the First Family's daughter, is ten years old in a 1996 story and graduates from college in her own 2009 mini-series. In the interval, her uncle Nick has gotten married and has super-powered twin children of his own.
    • The Black Rapier, a longtime leader of Honor Guard, retires in a 2014 story and even mentions his 45-year-long crime-fighting career (aided by a rejuvenation serum).
    • Being Badass Normals, Quarrel and Crackerjack are acutely aware of the effects of advancing age on their bodies and reflexes.
  • 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," and Maddie in "On the Sidelines".
    • 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...
  • Corporate-Sponsored Superhero:
    • Some of Honor Guard's members qualify, as the team has a stipend available (via N.R.Gistics) for those who need financial support to offset their time being heroes.
    • Jack-In-The-Box III (Roscoe James) technically counts, as he gets paid by his predecessor so he can earn his way through college without resorting to handouts.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: the TransGene executives in "Pastoral", according to Roustabout's story
  • The Cowl:
    • The 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 Ersatz Zorro). 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.
  • Curious Qualms of Conscience: Several characters
    • An alien spy wondering whether he should tell his spy masters knowledge that will help the invasion
    • A mob member wondering whether to use an alien artifact in accordance with his life-long rule to always go through an open door.
    • A girl all set to betray a Secret Identity because the hero is a fugitive from justice and there's a reward offered, who can't bring herself to do it.
  • 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.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check:
    • 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.
  • The Dark Age of Comic Books: 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 a real-world version of the 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.
  • Darker and Edgier:
    • Possibly justified in the Dark Age story arc 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.
      • 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."
    • 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 Is Evil: Invoked in the "Dark Ages" story arc, when a dark energy from another dimension enters people's minds as they revel in Darker and Edgier behavior.
  • 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.
  • Day In The Life:
    • "In Dreams", which covers Samaritan's nonstop heroic-filled day, due to his Chronic Hero Syndrome.
    • "On the Sidelines" covers a relatively typical problem for a super-powered civilian.
    • "Waltz of the Hours" does this with a transdimensional being.
  • 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.
  • Dented Iron: Shows up from time to time, typically after a Badass Normal superhero's had a particularly tough fight.
  • 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.
  • Despair Event Horizon: El Hombre crosses this when the girl he loves marries someone else and he realizes that he is a vain Glory Hound who needs the adulation of the public. He sets up a Monster Protection Racket to rejuvenate his public stature, but it backfires on him and turns him into a shameful fugitive. It gets worse when he becomes the villainous Conquistador, recruiting villains in an Engineered Heroics plot that would end with him killing them all and becoming the city's newest hero.
  • Destructive Savior: Played for drama in "Old Times".
  • Determinator:
    • 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.
  • Dimension Lord: Krigari Ironhand, an interdimensional tyrant and emperor who's already conquered several realities before the heroes have even heard of him.
  • 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...
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • The villains care about what you write about them. Yes, even the cosmic ones.
    • The Blue Knight kills all of the criminals he encounters, whether mob bosses or Mooks transporting goods.
    • Gloo stuffs a family of litterbugs into a wastebasket (they survive), and two dozen Mooks into a compact car (they don't).
    • And the Pale Horseman is worse; dispatching supervillains and jaywalkers alike. He incinerates a pair of teen boys for shoplifting candy.
  • Dolled-Up Installment: The Dark Age started life as a proposed sequel to Marvels to be called Cops & Robbers (later Crime & Punishment).
    • "Wish I May..." began as an early '80s Superman story proposal set in Clark's early college years.
  • 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.
  • Dream Spying: One lawyer involuntarily dreams of Blue Knight's killings simultaneously with their occurrence, until the last night, when the Blue Knight speaks to him.
  • 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.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?:
    • Altar Boy's motive for superheroing is to get respect. He learns better.
    • The Junkman pulls off a bank heist so perfect none of the heroes have any idea who did it, and then retires, secure in the knowledge that he outsmarted everyone. But then someone (not knowing who he is) tells him that the heroes must have caught that thief, even if it wasn't on the news, because everyone knows the heroes always win. This makes Junkman realize that his victory isn't really worth anything if no one knows he outsmarted the heroes, and he sets about enacting a plan to fix that.
  • Dumb Muscle: Jitterjack can literally tear a person apart with his bare hands, but his Hulk Speak and other mannerisms indicate serious mental difficulties.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Played straight with the Williams brothers during the "Dark Age" story arc. After seeing their parents gunned down during a super-hero fight, Royal becomes a jaded petty thief, while Charles becomes a By-the-Book Cop who gets shot In the Back by Dirty Cops; the two eventually become vigilantes in a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against their parent's killer. They abandon their quest after realizing what they've become, and retire to run a chartered fishing business instead.
  • Eldritch Abomination:
    • The Hanged Man is seen fighting one at the end of the "Confession" arc. It's implied that Shadow Hill may house or imprison more.
    • Specifically, a Shadow Hill resident's daily routine includes ignoring a tentacle monster as it retreats from the daylight while she walks past it on her way to work.
    • The story "Thumbtacks & Yarn" introduces the Blasphemy Boys, a government agency out to contain such horrors, such as the Batrachi. It goes badly for them.
    • Later on in the same issue we see a glimpse of what looks like one that's been imprisoned.
    • Whatever the 'Oubor' is that the Broken Man is so afraid of sounds like one.
  • Empowered Badass Normal: The second Confessor uses magic to supplement his Badass Normal training, as he lacks the vampiric abilities that his predecessor used.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas
    • Glowworm (who is African-American, though his skin color is obscured by his constant Power Glow) 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!"
  • Everything's Cuter with Kittens: the one thing Cammie's willing to admit about the farm: the kittens are cute.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: Sticks, a talking gorilla who wants to be a drummer. Kurt Busiek commented on Sticks' first appearance:
    "I've always said that a superhero universe that doesn't have talking gorillas in it simply isn't finished yet, so it's good to get such an essential element established here after almost twenty years."
  • Everytown, America: In "Pastoral", Cammie - a girl from Astro City - gets sent to spend the summer with her cousins in the country. Caplinville, the small town she ends up in, feels very much like this.
  • Evil Inc.: TransGene in "Pastoral"
  • Evil Parents Want Good Kids: The original Quarrel was a small-time crook with a gimmicky bolt-blaster. When his first child was born, he cheerfully hands out cigars to his villainous colleagues and declares that she won't be a criminal like himself.
  • 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.
  • Extra-Strength Masquerade: Cammie feels caught in one in "Pastoral"
  • Face on a Milk Carton: The cover of Astro City #3.
  • 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.
      "It was The Sixties. I also wanted to be one of The Doors."
    • A story set in the late 19th century featured Steampunk heroine Dame Progress, going up against nimble-footed Anti-Villain Mister Cakewalk.
  • Fag Hag: Beautie, 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.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: Pretty much anything fantastical exists in some form, somewhere.
  • Fight Off the Kryptonite
    • 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 
  • Flying Brick: Many characters have this as a default power set, most notably Samaritan, Beautie, and The Gentleman. The generic nature of these powers is lampshaded when a character describes another superhero, Roustabout, as having "real vanilla powers".
  • Follow the White Rabbit: Downplayed in "Pastoral" — follow the kitten.
  • Fountain of Youth: Crackerjack looks for something to restore his youthful physique once he starts becoming incapacitated due to his advancing age.
  • 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.
  • Friendly Neighborhood Vampire: The Confessor.
  • 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.
  • Gadgeteer Genius:
    • Beautie's origin is revealed: she was built by a girl Gadgeteer Genius, the still more brilliant daughter of another Gadgeteer Genius. Her father's reaction leads to Bad Things for both Beautie and the daughter.
    • Not to mention the Junkman, who uses stuff that's been thrown out to create his devices (as he considers himself cast off by society because of his age).
    • Then there's Jack-In-The-Box, who is the CEO and lead inventor at a toy company, and whose weapons are enhanced versions of his various products. He's also smart enough to cobble together a quick-freeze spray from leftover car parts in a junkyard.
  • Gang of Hats: Astro City has lots of these, usually serving as Mooks and background color.
    • The Sweet Adelines are a gang who dress like members of a barbershop quartet.
    • The Dopple Gang are shapeshifters who commit crimes as celebrities.
    • The Menagerie Gang are bank robbers who wear animal-head masks.
    • The Dominos are mob enforcers who wear black full-body suits adorned with dots.
    • The Robber Barons commit crimes while dressed in black robes and Victorian powder wigs.
    • The Skullcrushers are a high-tech group of mercenaries in skull-shpaed Powered Armor.
  • 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.
  • Gentleman Thief: Ned of "Deep Dark Woods".
  • 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.
  • Girl Next Door: Silver Agent explicitly describes his first girlfriend this way.
  • 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.
  • Glory Days: One character in "Old Times" has a hard time admitting that he could be passed it, and facing this.
  • Glory Hound:
    • 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.
  • Glory Seeker: Altar Boy
  • Godiva Hair: Infidel's female homuculi.
  • 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 Williams' ex-wife Darnice. 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: Many of the heroes are reasonably nice even as they foil the villains' plans, but the Gentleman is arguably the quintessential example — he is unerringly polite, and was still smart enough to avoid capture by alien invaders who had imprisoned almost all of the other heroes.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: Quarrel and Crackerjack, very much so.
  • Go Through Me: At one point in the "Dark Age" story arc, Royal Williams is trapped on a rooftop as the Blue Knight prepares to shoot him. Suddenly, his brother Charles appears, standing before Royal and insisting that the Knight will have to shoot him first if he wants to get Royal.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Most of the Furst Family — siblings Nick and Natalie, her daughter Astra, and Nick's twins Karl and Sasha.
  • 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...
    • Glowworm fires blasts of radioactive green energy from his hands.
    • Nick Furst uses his hands to manipulate and control the energies inside his body.
  • Happily Married:
    • From the First Family, there's Natalie Furst to Rex, and Nick Furst to Darcy. They've all had super-heroic kids of their own.
    • Zachary Johnson, the second Jack-In-The-Box, is married to Tamra Dixon, a local television news anchor.
    • Michael Hendrie (M.P.H.) is briefly mentioned as being happily married to a woman named Sally. Their relationship has not yet been shown, but given how M.P.H. has been seen treating his girlfriends, it's hard to imagine them having any sort of drama.
    • Duncan Keller, aka Starfighter, is married to Illula, Seven-Fold Empress of Jarranatha. They have a son and daughter.
  • Hate Plague: When Black Velvet is mortally wounded by Jitterjack, her body releases black energy that infects the populace and starts a riot.
  • Hermetic Magic: Simon Magus was specifically designed to look more "European hermetic" than "carnival prestidigitator".
  • Heroic BSOD: Street Angel has one after Black Velvet confronts him with the Fridge Logic of Thou Shalt Not Kill. Specifically, she pointed out that for all of his nonlethal combat tactics, it's not like he ensured medical attention for every internal injury he caused and that many thugs likely died in cold alleys because of Street Angel's beatings.
  • Heroic Bystander: An entire crowd in "Pastoral"
  • 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.
  • Heroism Won't Pay the Bills: Averted; not only does Honor Guard offer a stipend for members who need financial support, but superheroes can also register as Bounty Hunters with local law enforcement agencies.
  • 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.
  • Holding Both Sides of the Conversation: Atomicus using his self-duplicating power to conceal his (rather obvious) secret identity.
  • Homemade Inventions: This is The Junkman's gimmick; all of his weapons are cobbled together from leftover toys, appliances, and whatnot.
  • Horrifying Hero: The Hanged Man, who wears a black bodysuit, a burlap sack over his head, and a hangman's noose around his neck. He also kinda just...floats around listlessly. Pretty creepy.
  • Hulk Speak: Jitterjack, Gloo.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The Hanged Man.
  • Humans Are Special Bastards: An alien infiltrator evaluating Earth for possible conquest decides to observe Crackerjack as his "make or break" example of humanity, and moves from personal contempt of Crackerjack to a grudging admiration - that in spite of Crackerjack's egotistical and half-assed approach to heroism, he's still genuinely trying to do good. And then Crackerjack's identity is revealed and the self-righteous old bags in the same apartment building who had looked down on his civilian identity suddenly started talking about how much they loved him and how proud they were... and enraged at this sudden hypocrisy, the infiltrator sends the invasion command.
  • 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 Have Many Names: The Dancing Master and the Hanged Man.
  • I Just Want to Be Special:
    • 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.
    • Matt Zimmer, Astra's boyfriend, uses this to excuse why he was secretly recording his dates with her, then selling the information to gossip media.
  • I Know Madden Kombat: The Golden Age heroes included the football-themed All-American and his sidekick, the baseball-styled Slugger.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: the title's actually Kurt Busiek's Astro City. Lampshaded by the town's main television station, KBAC.
  • Innocent Bystander: The villains in "Pastoral" menace the carnival's attendees, to draw out Roustabout.
  • Innocent Bystander Series: Many of the stories are about what it is like being an ordinary citizen in Astro City.
  • 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, even as he flirts with Nightingale.
  • It Only Works Once: The "Dark Ages" story arc featured the Innocent Gun, a powerful mystic superweapon that was left behind by alien Precursors to be used to protect humanity from a vaguely unspecified future threat, and was crafted so that it could only be used once. Unfortunately, the Point Man ended up using it against another Big Bad, leaving the gun unavailable for future use.
  • It's Not You, It's My Enemies: The reason Silver Agent gave his first girlfriend for breaking off. In reality, he had learned that he was sterile, but he knew if he told her the truth, she would try to stifle her desire for children for his sake.
  • It Tastes Like Feet: Energy Being Astra Furst says her specially-prepared synthetic 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.
  • I Wish It Were Real: Loony Leo and Beautie.
  • Jerkass: The Point Man, the obnoxious Guy Gardner-like 1980s anti-hero.
  • Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: The Broken Man arc is shaping up this way. Issue #5 is nothing but intriguing, frustratingly bizarre story fragments.
  • Killer Space Monkey: The Gorilla Swarm, a pack of gorilla monsters with insect heads and a Hive Mind.
  • Kill Her Already: Mortally wounded and unleashing a Hate Plague across the city, Black Velvet begs the Silver Agent to stop it by killing her.
    Silver Agent: "I can ease your pain. Take it away. Do you want me to do that?"
    Black Velvet: "W-will I... live through it?"
    Silver Agent: "I'm sorry. That, I can't do."
    Black Velvet: "G-good... Do it. Please. Now."
  • Law of Conservation of Normality:
    • 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: Many — Cleopatra, Jack-in-the-Box, The Blue Knights, Quarrel, the Silver Centurions, the Confessor, Starfighter.
    • A villainous example is Goldenglove; the first one was a small-time crook with a pair of alien gauntlets, while his daughter plans to use them to become a classy burglar. With help from Steeljack, she ends up learning to be a hero instead.
    • It's suggested that the Assemblyman might be one, as there is both an earlier villain and a modern hero with the same name.
  • Legacy Immortality
  • 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. Fortunately, it has since been restored and is now the most extensive wiki for the series online.
  • Longing for Fictionland: As a child, the Mock Turtle always was trapped in wardrobes. Everyone thought he was an idiot. But he was trying to find a portal to Narnia. If he could have found a twister or a rabbit hole, he would have tried that too. Once he is an adult and gets to Astro City, where the super human community saved him from some assassins and accepted him, he gets to a building's roof to see all the city, put in her green visor, and all the city looks like an Emerald City.
  • Loser Son of Loser Dad:
    • In "Confession", Brian wants to be a superhero to avoid this trope.
    • In "The Tarnished Angel", Yolanda Costello — daughter of the super-villain Goldenglove — vows to avoid this by being a smarter crook than her dad was. In the end she learns to be a hero instead.
  • Love Is in the Air: What the Dancing Master causes, stirring up the sparks of love in the hearts of those around him.
  • Lower Deck Episode: Some of the most memorable stories are of this trope.
  • 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.
  • The Man They Couldn't Hang: Played with by The Hanged Man, who is implied to be the victim of a hanging several centuries ago. Whether or not he currently counts as alive is another matter...
    • It's subsequently implied in "Waltz of the Hours" that he's not what he's assumed to be, that he's been known by other names in other times and places, and that "The Hanged Man" is merely his most recent name.
  • Married to the Job:
    • Samaritan is so devoted to helping others that he barely has time to sleep or maintain a civilian identity. His idea of a good day is one where he manages to get nearly a minute of flight time.
    • Winged Victory prefers to stay in her transformed superpowered form all the time, possibly because it's a refuge from her original frail form. She can't even recall the last time she visited her mother, noting only that it's been years.
    • Quarrel effectively has this, as part of her deconstruction of a Badass Normal. She constantly realizes that she's outranked in a world of super-powered beings, armored villains, aliens, and gods, and compensates for it with lots of training — to the point where she cannot sustain any sort of normal relationship because of the commitments required.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Teased with the Blue Knight; it's unclear if he's a vigilante with high-tech gadgets and a skull mask, or a policeman empowered by the ghost of a police officer killed in the line of duty. It's eventually implied to be the former.
  • Meaningful Background Event: All over the place, and often from the perspective of someone in the background. It's especially evident in "Confession," however, when several of these lead to The Reveal of the Confessor's true identity.
  • 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.
  • Miscarriage of Justice: Silver Agent was executed for the murder of a villain / diplomat while being mind controled. Said villain turned up alive not long after, as the person Silver Agent killed was a body double.
  • 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.
  • Mistaken for Gay:
    • 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. Nightingale definitely didn't take it well...
  • 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.
  • Monster Protection Racket: El Hombre.
  • Mook Horror Show:
    • 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.
  • Motive Decay: Winged Victory's villain, Karnazon. According to WV he used to be a Visionary Villain who did things like rob Fort Knox, but eventually flanderized himself into a one note chauvinistic douchebag who only cared about proving the superiority of men over women, just to needle Winged Victory.
  • Multinational Team: The Apollo Eleven, as shown here.
  • 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.
  • Nebulous Evil Organisation: Pyramid, a recurring worldwide evil organization with an Egyptian theme.
  • Nice Guy: Many of the heroes would fall under this trope, but the Trope Codifier in the verse is The Gentleman, who's completely and unflappably polite, no matter how dire the situation — after rescuing a news helicopter that endangered itself by flying into a battle against a storm elemental, he simply smiled to the crew and politely suggested that they might want to get to safety and not endanger any of the bystanders on the streets below.
  • Nice Guys Finish Last: MPH tries this on Quarrel when she breaks up with him and goes back to Crackerjack, and she shuts him down immediately, pointing out she isn't "all women," she's herself, and she simply wants different things in a relationship than he does.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The Point Man, a brash, relatively new hero, firing the Innocent Gun and tearing a hole in reality. With supreme effort, the tear was fixed... almost.
  • Nineties Antihero:
    • 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.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: The Green Man, in addition to being a Swamp Thing Captain Ersatz, is also heavily inspired in appearance by Alan Moore, the best-known writer of Swamp Thing.
  • No Fourth Wall: The Broken Man, a (possibly) insane being who directly addresses the readers to enlist them in his quest against the Oubor.
    "Look, I can't explain everything all at once — we'd be here for like a dozen issues and your eyes would glaze over!"
  • No Guy Wants to Be Chased: Atomicus was just trying to find love and acceptance in a world he couldn't understand, but Irene just had to keep pushing and pushing...
  • 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 So Different: Samaritan and Infidel.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: In "Pastoral", people feign being unable to notice a Cover Breaking Super Power.
  • Odd-Shaped Panel: Camilla at the carnival in "Pastoral" features panels like a ferris wheel — with the borders being lights.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: This is a mainstay trope of many Astro City stories; since the focus is on the emotional or personal growth of the characters, earth-shattering events are often reduced to mere background color.
    • "Everyday Life" has the First Family repeatedly tearing through armies of Mooks in search of their missing daughter, yet each battle is relegated to one or two frames, to better focus on her efforts to learn hopscotch.
    • "Confession" has a worldwide alien invasion with dozens of heroes against an army of shape-shifting extraterrestrials, with a dozen panels devoted to the actual battles themselves.
    • "The Nearness of You" turns a Time Crash Crisis Crossover into a background reference, summarized in a handful of panels across a single Splash Page.
  • Old Superhero: Several, due to the comic's aversion of Comic-Book Time — Supersonic, The Black Badge, Ironhorse...
    • The Black Rapier eventually retires to avoid this trope, prompting Quarrel and Crackerjack to realize the effects of time on themselves.
  • 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."
    • This attitude eventually destroys Ned Carroway's marriage.
  • Orphaned Punchline: Crackerjack gives us "...so the woman says 'You idiot — This is a duck, not a pig!' And the bartender says "I was talking to the duck!'"
  • Overly Long Name: The Working Group on Unsettling Anomalies Classification and Contamination, otherwise known as the Blasphemy Boys.
  • Patchwork World: The Gordian Knot, a reality nexus where millions of different planes of existence are caught in mid-collapse.
  • 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.
  • Planetary Romance: A major part of Starfighter's past adventures.
  • Plant Mooks: In one story, the villainous group Pyramid was growing an army of plant-soldiers inside a secret creche in Burma, only to be stopped by the Point Man. Another story refers to plant-based Artificial Humans created with technology from the Garden Gnome.
  • Plant Person: The Green Man, who was formed when the mage Simon Magnus accidentally melded with Earth's biosphere. He stands about fifty feet tall and bears more than a passing resemblance to Alan Moore.
  • Playing with Fire:
    • The villain Flamethrower is this, with a touch of Pyro Maniac thrown in.
    • There's an alien species called the Thermians who are Wreathed in Flames and wear backpacks that let them manipulate fire.
  • Poke the Poodle: Among the curses Mr. Malefic wishes upon the Silver Adept are that her feet be covered in blisters, her toenails cut too short and her lips be forever chapped.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Doctor Egyptus, who kidnapped dozens of African-American folks and planned to use time-travel to take them back to before the American Civil War and sell them into slavery.
  • Post-Modern Magik: Appears twice in the "Confession" story arc.
    • 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.
  • Rage Breaking Point: A lifetime of being insulted and ignored finally spill over when someone just walks into Ned Carroway, who lays into the man, before stealing his clothing.
  • Reaction Shot: At the end of "Pastoral", we see Cammie's reaction to what she saw in the barn — including her going back to the house and writing an entirely new email that shows she has decided to become a Secret Keeper — before the last panel reveals what she saw.
  • The Real Heroes:
    • Samaritan says this in "In Dreams" when receiving an award from the fire service. He really believes it, though he wishes he could skip the ceremonies and spend more time saving civilians instead.
    • There's also a poster seen in one story of the Silver Agent next to a police officer. "Silver Agent says salute your local heroes!"
    • "Since the Fire" is all about this.
  • Reconstruction: A major point of the series, and arguably its biggest appeal.
  • Recursive Reality: "Sorrowsday" introduces the Moleculands, an entire set of microscoping realities like Subatomia and the Quarkrealms.
  • Red Right Hand: Royal recognizes Aubrey Jason as his parents' killer by his distinctive facial scar.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Julius Furst is red to his brother Augustus' blue.
  • 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".
  • Ret Gone:
    • In the Tear Jerker short "The Nearness of You."
    • Also the result of Samaritan's first mission. He eliminated the Bad Future and all the loved ones of his original timeline.
  • Retired Badass: "Hero's Reward" is about Duncan Keller, aka the hero Starfighter, adjusting to being this.
  • Reveal Shot: The end of "Pastoral" reveals what Cammie saw that made up her mind.
  • Ridiculously Fast Construction:
    • A newspaper clipping from the "Local Heroes" TPB mentions that Honor Guard often uses alien technology to quickly repair damages after super-powered fights.
    • It is also mentioned that quick repairs to the city's infrastructure is Serious Business to the Astro City Department of Public Works.
  • Rings of Death: Street Angel's halos.
  • Samaritan Syndrome: A lot of the heroes have shades of this, but the Samaritan has it the worst.
  • Scary Black Man: Hellhound
  • Scary Shiny Glasses: Simon Magus' glasses give off a constant glow, as if they're hiding some great power behind them.
  • Secret Identity: Played with every way possible.
    • Some supers have their identities publicly known and are treated like celebrities, such as with the Furst Family.
    • Others are shrouded entirely in myth and feared or shunned, like The Confessor or the Blue Knight.
    • And still others have revealed their identities to the authorities while keeping them secret from the public at large, such as the Street Angel and Quarrel.
    • Roustabout has, in reality, a public identity in the Close-Knit Community of the carnival and the towns it visits, but because he wanted by the law, the community acts as a large-scale Secret Keeper and even feigns Obfuscating Stupidity as if it were a Extra-Strength Masquerade.
  • Secret Keeper: the entire town and carnival in "Pastoral"
  • Secret Relationship: As Roustabout is on the run from the law, he and his girlfriend naturally keep quiet.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Technically speaking, Samaritan qualifies.
  • Sentient Cosmic Force: The dark energy that infested Astro City during The '80s is implied to be this. It's an energy field that is implied to be attracted to (or induces) feelings of vengeance and malevolence in others, and can empower beings like The Pale Horseman and Lord Soverign with paranormal abilities.
    • The Lorus that empowers Starfighter is this, a cosmic force associated with patterns and shapes.
  • Settle for Sibling: Silver Agent's first girlfriend got over him and married his brother.
  • Sewer Gator: One of the outcast heroes who was recruited by Bravo to become a founding member of the Astro City Irregulars was a mutant alligator that lived in the city sewers, with the unoriginal name of Alligator.
  • 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:
    • Astro City as a locale is one big Shout Out to the comic book industry; almost all the streets, neighborhoods and locations are named for notable creators, and with the massive Mount Kirby as the most prominent landmark.
    • Julius Furst of the First Family is based on DC Comics' creator Julius Schwartz.
    • A race of shape-shifting aliens is named the Enelsians, after MAD magazine writer E. Nelson Bridwell.
  • Shrouded in Myth:
    • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • Size Shifter: Natalie Furst of the First Family and Max O'Millions of Honor Guard can make themselves grow to enormous size.
  • Skull for a Head: The Blue Knight wears a face mask that projects a holographic skull.
  • Slice of Life: Many of the stories focus on regular civilians as they go through their days in a world full of superheroes and whatnot.
  • 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).
  • Socially-Awkward Hero: Samaritan suffers from this when his super-heroic peers maneuver him into a dinner date with Winged Victory.
  • So Proud of You: Many characters have this; even the retired villain Quarrel admits that he's proud of his daughter's heroic career.
  • Spock Speak: Several characters, most notably the robot Beautie.
  • 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...
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Played for drama in "Her Dark Plastic Roots".
  • Stealth Pun:
    • The supervillain Slamburger appears to be made of ground beef.
    • 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.
  • Steampunk: Dame Progress, an early twentieth century hero of Astro City.
  • Sticky Situation: Glue Gun, who is regarded as a joke by the entire superhero community.
  • Straw Feminist: The Council of Nike that empowers Winged Victory criticizes her for her relationship with Samaritan and for joining the Honor Guard, which is led by a man, believing that any association with any sort of man at all makes Winged Victory look weak and undermines her message.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Superdickery:
    • The story "Knight in Shining Armor" is a deconstruction of Lois Lane's brand of Superdickery in the Silver Age Superman/Lois 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 is clear: 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.
  • Super Hero: The focus of the series is largely the adventures of the various superheroes that populate the city, and the people who live with them.
  • Superhero Packing Heat: The Blue Knight. Several other examples appear in The Dark Age.
  • Superhero Trophy Shelf:
    • 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.
  • Super Villain: It being a superhero genre series, there's scads of supervillains running around, from Infidel to Glue Gun.
  • Steal the Surroundings: Manny Monkton vanishes with the entire building.
  • Talking in Your Dreams: The Blue Knight addresses a lawyer who's been dreaming of him in the last dream.
  • Tearjerker: "The Nearness of You".
    No one forgets. No one.
    • There's also "Sorrowsday," which reveals why Honor Guard gets a mysterious delivery of delicious alien baked goods once a year.
      "So we tell them the story. All of it. Our fear. Our shame."
  • Technopath:
    • 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.
  • Testosterone Poisoning: Karnazon, a massive, over-the-top muscle-bound Long-Haired Pretty Boy Walking Shirtless Scene with a Manly Chin. A Foil to Winged Victory, his goal is to defeat her and assert the inherent superiority of men over women.
    "Accept the inevitable, as a woman should, and surrender!"
  • 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 
  • They Just Dont Get It: In one story about a doorman at a high class hotel, the doorman explains that when people come to Astro City the first time, they just don't understand how different it is. This included a snobbish agent who was trying to contact Samaritan and almost got herself killed, a normal crook who didn't understand the rules of the underworld in Astro City, and a family that was stopping there during a layover. Everyone but the family left and didn't come back.
  • Think Nothing of It
  • 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."
  • Time Master: The Time-Keeper is a villain who uses stopwatches of his own design that can stop time. In "The Nearness of You," he fights Eterneon, the Lord and Watcher of the Timestream, and the battle results in a Time Crash Crisis Crossover.
  • Top-Heavy Guy: Krakkaboom of the 80s Astro City Irregulars, whose bombastic proportions are evidently a side effect of his powers.
  • Transformation Trinket: Winged Victory's logo-shaped necklace, seen in her civilian form.
  • Trick Arrow: Part of Quarrel's arsenal.
  • Troperiffic: Pretty much inevitable, given the vast number of characters, events, locations, and throwaway references used in the series. Just look at how extensive this page and its various sub-pages are...
  • A True Story In My Universe:
    • Comic book companies publish titles based on both their own fictional characters and licensed real-life supers. The ones based on real heroes are more popular, but are also required to stay within known facts; Manny Monkton of Bulldog Comics repeatedly gets into trouble when he pushes the boundaries.
    • The end of the "Dark Age" arc reveals that the entire story is an embellished novelization of what had happened in-universe, with some details changed, including the real names of the main protagonists.
    • Duncan Keller writes stories based on his adventures as Starfighter, presenting them as fictional.
  • Understatement
    There was something of a commotion.
    (Panel shows outside of the courthouse and a shout of ORDER! ORDER!)
  • Vigilante Man: The Blue Knight, amongst others.
  • Villain Episode:
    • The Eisner Award winning "Show 'Em All".
    • As well as the amusing "Voice of the Turtle", which is part of a larger arc starring a small-time superpowered hood.
    • "The Deep Dark Woods" gives this treatment to a small-time Mook.
    • Part Two of "Through Open Doors" is about a man who works in the Deacon's syndicate.
  • 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."
    • Team Carnivore in "Pastoral". Apppears to have manufactured together.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: TransGene. Not only getting away with kidnapping and fatal experiments, but getting the hero who revealed it convicted of a crime.
  • Walk, Don't Swim: Steeljack does this in the "Tarnished Angel" story arc.
  • Warts and All: Most of the heroes.
    • Crackerjack, who's a vainglorious womanizer, but still a genuine and well-respected hero.
    • Winged Victory is revealed to be this in "Victory". She champions womens' rights, but recognizes that she's not the be all end all solution to society's gender divide and is just a normal woman trying to do the best she can and lead by example.
  • Weirdness Magnet: Even thousands of years before the City existed, the land attracted heroes of legend, including the super-powered kind.
  • Welcome to the Big City: Altar Boy gets one of these.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: A variation occurs with Beautie and the daughter of Dr. Gearbox. When Beautie tries to figure out why she periodically suffers bouts of amnesia, she eventually discovers that she was invented by the prodigy daughter of the Gadgeteer Genius Dr. Gearbox. However, he denounces Beautie because he thinks engineering and mathematics are not proper fields for girls; this causes the daughter to angrily renounce Beautie, ordering her to go away and "FORGET FOREVER!"
  • What Measure Is a Mook?:
    • Played for drama in "The Tarnished Angel"; the Conquistador insists on not hurting any people with his plan, but does not consider his criminal underlings as "people."
    • The subject is explored in the Dark Age arc, when Royal and Charles go undercover as mooks in Pyramid.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Briefly discussed in "The Eagle and the Mountain"; when Samaritan is disturbed at Infidel's use of female homuculi (non-sapient mindless apparitions) for his servants, Infidel asks him if he would've been disturbed if they were robots instead.
  • What You Are in the Dark: discussed in the "Confession" arc:
    What matters more: the burdens we bear, or the manner in which we bear them?
  • Where Does He Get All Those Wonderful Toys?:
    • One issue featured a flashback to The Assemblyman, who built weapons and gadgets for anyone with the cash.
    • The Black Lab is a group of villains who perform villainous super-science for anyone willing to pay them.
  • Whip It Good:
    • From the Unholy Alliance, the preferred weapon of the Dark Action Girl Spice is a large bullwhip.
    • El Hombre had a special, high-tech titanium-steel whip that could snap bullets out of mid-air and shock villains into submission.
  • White and Grey Morality: The series largely runs on this as part of its optimistic reconstruction of The Silver Age of Comic Books. While there are villains and monsters and evildoers, their motives are frequently due to their own good intentions, and they are ultimately defeated by the optimistic heroes regardless. Many a villain has pulled a Heel-Face Turn after realizing how pointless and self-destructive their current paths are.
  • 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 giant gorilla 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...
  • Zero-G Spot: Referenced in the Astra Special.

You are now leaving Astro City. Please drive carefully.