Literature: Curveball

America's Greatest Hero is murdered. His sidekick wants to know why.

Curveball is a Web Serial Novel centered around the eponymous villain turned hero who discovers his former partner Liberty was murdered under mysterious circumstances.

The story primarily follows Curveball as he learns of his ex-partner's murder and begins his investigation. It also dips into the perspective of other heroes, villains, and the victim's great-great granddaughter.

Curveball borrows liberally from the conventions of comic book publishing, adopting a monthly release schedule, referring to each release as an "issue," and creating cover art designed to resemble a comic book cover.


This series provides examples of:

  • 555: So far, every e-mail address in the story has ended with ".tti", which is a non-existent Top Level Domain. This is later justified; Gladiator (a.k.a Robert Thorpe) created his own micronation for Thorpe Industries, and apparently managed to get some international recognition, which would qualify him for a country-specific TLD.note 
  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Farraday City's sewers were apparently built specifically for people to travel through — complete with secret rooms for the travelers to hole up in. Later on, we find out that the water that flows through them during a storm forms a magic rune the size of the entire city.
  • All Part of the Show: Back before they both retired, Alex and CB got into a little fight over CB dating (and sleeping with) Alex's granddaughter. The fight only ended when they both fell off the under-construction building they were on, through a skylight, and into a Bar Mitzvah celebration. Fortunately, the father at the celebration was pretty quick on his feet, and introduced them as though he were expecting them. Alex and CB played along, and a good time was had by all.
  • Badass Longcoat: CB's trenchcoat.
  • Big Eater: Whenever Red Shift exceeds a certain speed, his powers also accelerate his metabolism for the next few days, resulting in him eating doughnuts by the box. In addition, if he's going to be traveling a long distance at high speed, he has to wear a special IV harness that pumps glucose and nutrients directly into his bloodstream (and he's still hungry afterwards).
  • Bottomless Magazines: Whenever Agent Grant puts ammo into his gun, all his clones have access to it. Thus, one of his clones can blaze away without pause, so long as he has another clone in a safe location swapping magazines.
  • Captain Ersatz:
    • Liberty is obviously a stand-in for Captain America.
    • Gladiator is much more of a straight-up good guy, but beyond that, you'd have some trouble telling him and Ozymandias apart.
    • Farraday City is what you'd get if Basin City was moved to the coast.
  • Code Name: It's traditional that every person with powers has some kind of code name, even if they don't have a secret identity to protect. This is especially important to the members of Crossfire, who absolutely insist on calling people with powers by their code name. Red Shift discovers that this can be pretty inconvenient when talking about a new metahuman who hasn't had time to think of a code name yet.
  • Combat Clairvoyance: One of Curveball's powers is that he knows a lot more about what's going on during a firefight than just what he can see and hear.
  • Concealment Equals Cover:
  • Convection Schmonvection: When Red Shift has to outrun a fireball, he still feels the heat from the explosion on his back, even though he's exceeding Mach 3.
  • Deadpan Snarker: CB, on occasion.
  • Defiant to the End: Liberty.
  • Differently Powered Individual: The term "Atomic Humans" was apparently used during the first part of the 19th century to describe people with powers. "Metahuman" has become the modern term for them.
  • Dying Clue: Played with; That e-mail that Liberty sent just before he was attacked probably contains a perfectly coherent and logical explanation of what's going on. Too bad they can't decrypt it.
  • Friendly Enemy: Overmind admits to feeling admiration for Liberty, and displays an interest in finding the people responsible for his murder.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: There used to be an island nation, about the size of the Dominican Republic, right in the middle of what is now known as The Bermuda Triangle. It was completely erased from history, along with everyone on it, in order to stop something even worse from happening. A remnant of the island still exists, though, stuck repeating the last day of the island's existence over and over for the rest of eternity. It occasionally reappears in the island's original location to trap the unwary.
  • Gun Fu: In Issue Four CB displays casually deadly proficiency with handguns.
  • Healing Factor: All over the place, with various justifications.
    • Super powers: Liberty, Curveball, and Jenny/Zero can recover from injuries as serious as multiple broken bones overnight. Vigilante can heal from much worse than that in fifteen minutes.
    • Medicine: Crossfire has access to an IV medicine that can cure a concussion in a few days. Thorpe Industries has a "medical tank" that's supposed to be even better — if they could get around all the legal red tape blocking them from actually selling the things.
    • Magic: Plague gets a healing factor that's almost as good as Vigilante's by having magic runes tattooed over his entire body.
  • Heel-Face Turn: CB was once a villain and one of Liberty's arch enemies. The actual turn occurred before the start of the story.
  • Hollywood Silencer: The people who offed Liberty used silencers to avoid alerting the neighbors.
  • Instant Sedation: The fire sprinklers in Agent Travers' office don't spray water, they spray an instantly paralyzing neurotoxin. (And I do mean instantly. As in, one whiff and you drop like a discarded toy.)
  • Living Lie Detector: Agent Henry. What's more, while he's making direct eye contact with you, you lose the ability to lie at all.note 
  • Magic Is Evil: It's difficult to use, it harms the soulnote  of anyone who uses it, and it wants something.
  • My Hero Zero: After Jenny gets her powers, she starts using the name "Zero."
    Red Shift: "I thought she was too young for Schoolhouse Rock.
    Curveball: "She is."
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: In his civilian identity, Curveball is known only as "CB". Subverted later on, when we find out that that is his actual, legal name.
  • Outrun the Fireball: It's a little more realistic when the one doing the running has super speed.
  • Playing with Fire: Agent Hu can become a living pillar of flame (asbestos underwear not included).
  • Present Tense Narrative: Every issue is published in third person present tense.
  • Putting the Band Back Together: Regiment decides to put The Gladiators back together to deal with this global conspiracy Curveball's managed to stumble into.
  • Reed Richards Is Useless: Thorpe would be perfectly happy to sell his amazing inventions for profit. It's just that his competitors, fearing they would be put out of business, used some underhanded legal tricks to block him from doing so.
  • Required Secondary Powers:
    • Red Shift generates a force field around himself whenever he exceeds a certain speed, so that he can travel at supersonic velocity without the slipstream tearing his arms off. It also apparently keeps him in contact with the ground, as he was able to run up a staircase at nearly supersonic speeds without launching himself into the air. He's been known to use it as a weapon in and of itself, by running just fast enough that the force field forms, then running into people.
    • Agent Hu has the ability to turn into living fire. Unfortunately, she doesn't have the ability to keep herself from immolating her own clothes (which, admittedly, isn't so much required as it is would be really, really nice).
    • Officially, Agent Grant has the power of teleportation. However, in his particular type of teleportation, there's a split second when he exists at both the origin and destination points simultaneously. He learned at a fairly young age how to interrupt the process at that point. Because his powers didn't originally involve cloning himself, they don't provide any help in keeping his various bodies separate, he had to learn how to do that himself.
  • Resurrective Immortality: Vigilante.
  • Ret Gone: See "Groundhog Day" Loop, above.
  • Ritual Magic/Wild Magic: Magic is invoked through drawing runes and enacting rituals. At the same time, magic is alive, and is capable of influencing its users toward some goal of its own. The seemingly self-contradictory nature of magic has driven more than one powerful wizard insane.
  • Secret Identity: Some supers have them, some don't. In addition, although it's not exactly a good thing if your secret identity is found out, it doesn't necessarily mean the end of your superhero/supervillan career, either.
  • Sunglasses at Night: Agent Henry wears sunglasses at all times as a courtesy to others, because his gaze removes the ability to lie.
  • Superhero: Well, duh.
  • Super Team: All over the place. The Gladiators was a New York-based team that both Liberty and Curveball were members of before it broke up, and the vigilante group Crossfire plays an important part in the later part of the story.
  • Tap on the Head: Agent Grant is able to take down over a dozen bank robbers by using his super powers to get behind them, then either using a cattle prod as a tazer or hitting them in the head. He later mentions that he wouldn't have brought the cattle prod if he knew that hitting them would be so effective.
  • Telepathic Sprinklers: A single lit cigarette manages to set off every ceiling sprinkler in the bank lobby in Issue One.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Overmind is trying to take over the world, because he believes that the world would be a genuinely better place to live with him in charge. This makes him perfectly willing to help investigate the murder of a hero like Liberty.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Thanks to his Healing Factor, Alex aged at a fraction of the rate of most people. So, he got to watch his wife grow old and die without him. The fact that CB has the same power, and thus wouldn't be able to grow old with Jenny, turns out to be the real reason behind the fight mentioned under All Part of the Show, above.
  • Which Me?: Alan Grant can make several copies of himself in distant locations. Unfortunately, this didn't come with the ability to keep track of which clone is doing what — he had to learn how to do that through experience. So, he always refers to his clones in the first-person singular, because to him, they are him.
  • Winds of Destiny, Change: One of Curveball's powers. It seems to be limited to immediate, short-term effects, though; he can make somebody unlucky enough to trip over their own shoelaces, but can't make them so unlucky that they accidentally mail valuable information to him.
  • Wretched Hive: Farraday City.
  • You Called Me X, It Must Be Serious: When Street Ronin calls Red Shift by his real name rather than his code name, he knows that something major is wrong.