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Comic Book / Common Grounds

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Common Grounds is a six-issue comic book limited series created by writer Troy Hickman note  and published by Top Cow Productions in 2004. The series examined the life of superheroes and villains in and around a chain of coffee shops called Common Grounds, all of which which serve as a neutral-ground between superpowered heroes and villains. Because of the lack of violence on their premises, these restaurants allow heroes and villains to speak to one another in amicable situations, and provided insights into their histories and personal lives as they are featured in normal, everyday situations while still in character as a hero or villain.


  • '90s Anti-Hero: Captain Gallant's sons all all like this. Also, in an interview, the character Big Money talks about "grim" heroes that have appeared recently. From what we can see in the text they're very much in the minority, and most people consider them a joke.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Man-Witch is a little weirded out by the fact that women send fanmail to him in prison. He's evil, and all, but crazy is a little out of his depth.
  • Anachronic Order: "Elsewhere" (featured in the second issue of the series) takes place six months after Digital Man disappeared (in January, so it's July), which is after the dates given in the timeline for stories told in later issues. It's also around the time that Analog Kid rescues him.
  • Art Shift: Because each story is drawn by different artists, this is inevitable. It only really becomes apparent in "This'll Be the Day" and "Loose Ends", the latter of which features a cameo by two main characters of the former, American Pi and Zhang.
  • Atrocious Alias: Man-Witch apparently never realised that his supervillain name was the same as a brand of canned sloppy joe mix. When Mental Midget points this out to him, he says it explains all of the jokes he got in prison.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: A group of giant monsters, the kind every superhero fought back in the Silver Age, hold a small reunion out in the middle of nowhere, which is catered by Common Grounds.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: American Pi — she explicitly and out loud calculates the exact amount of force and angle of attack needed to knock out a thug.
  • Badass Normal: Snowfire. Subverted/deconstructed in that he was killed just a few weeks into his hero career.
  • Bad Powers, Good People: You'd think a guy like the Acidic Jew would be a bad guy, right? Acid touch, and all that? But no. He concentrates as hard as he can to keep his powers at bay, and is always there to help in the event of crisis; he saved dozens of lives after the Oklahoma City bombings.
  • Blessed with Suck: He might be able to circle the world in the blink of an eye, but the superfast hero Speeding Bullet also can not keep a girlfriend or sit through a movie.
    • The Acidic Jew dissolves everything he touches; he has to concentrate to stop it long enough for him to eat something he's holding, and nearly starved to death before he learned to do so. Deb-U-Ton is heavy enough to break wooden floors. Strangeness is ... well, a monster.
  • Can't Have Sex, Ever: The Acidic Jew can only temporarily turn off his constant acid secretion. This means, much to his regret, that he can never take a wife.
  • The Cape: Captain Gallant, he even used to invite villains in for a hot meal between catching them and turning them in
  • Captain Patriotic: American Pi
  • Captain Geographic: Captain Gallant
  • Clothes Make the Superman: Hi-Tech's got a suit filled with all kinds of different super gadgets. Unfortunately, the more weight he gains the more gadgets he has to remove from the suit.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Subversion from the norm of Comic Book Tropes, in that when Big Money offers a supervillain twenty-seven million dollars (in 1984 dollars, for reference) to stop his current evil scheme, the villain wisely accepts! (And promptly gets in trouble with the IRS.)
  • Dark Age of Supernames: Uber-American and wonderful person Captain Gallant has three superhero sons: Bloodstain, Die-Cut, and Deathmarch. It's a touchy subject.
  • Dark Is Not Evil/Light Is Not Good: Blackwatch and Commander Power respectively.
  • Death Is Cheap: One of the rare instances where it is lampshaded while not being employed. When the founder of the Common Grounds restaurants is being interviewed, he expresses his profound belief that his son is not dead, since everybody knows it always turns out to be a dream, or a clone that was killed, or something of that nature. By the end he is practically in tears, but he is still clinging to hope that maybe, just maybe, his son is still out there.
  • Diner Brawl: Averted. Despite the cafe being frequented by super-powered enemies, great pains are taken to ensure there are no fights on the premises.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • He might be willing to rob banks, but the Mental Midget's arch-foe Man-Witch won't actually try to magically create money, since that might upset the US economy and he is still a Patriotic American.
    • Even would-be world-conquering monsters have standards, as witnessed by the horror and sorrow that a group of them show on being told a tale about a drunken father forcibly toilet training his daughter... she dies of drowning and massive head trauma.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Analog Kid built a death ray out of a magnifying glass and two slinkys at age 4.
  • Genius Bruiser: Strangeness was top of his class at Harvard Law before being turned into a monster.
  • Good-Guy Bar: Technically it's for everyone, but most of the characters in the series are good guys.
  • Happily Adopted: Analog Kid.
  • Heroic Build: Mostly played straight, but subverted in one story which centers around an overweight superhero's support group.
  • Hostile Hitchhiker: Played both ways in one issue, in which a Common Grounds waitress is hijacked by a crazed killer with a knife while she's trying to drive home and then she manages to scare him into submission by pretending she's a has-been superheroine about to snap and hurt him.
  • An Ice Person: Coldspell's got magic ice powers. Unfortunately, she's also a compulsive eater and tends to use up her magical energy to create ice cream.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: Subverted in the backstory, as instead of two heroes fighting and ultimately becomings friends and allies, two superheroes, an experienced one and a novice, accidentally fight each other (a situation referred to by one character as a "slugfest") and the experienced superhero kills the younger one. The realistic happens as the survivor is subsequently arrested, sentenced to a lengthy term in jail, and emerges decades later unable to find gainful employment, forced to scrounge through the trash for meals. This actually serves as the key background moment of the entire series, as it was this event that lead to the foundation of the eponymous series of restaurants. The founder of Common Grounds, himself a former hero, was the father of the inexperienced hero killed in the brawl, and he started the neutral-ground eatery as a means of insuring that heroes (and even villains) would finally have a chance to meet one another and be able to clear up these minor confrontations before they could spin out of control in the real world.
  • Living Forever Is Awesome: The Eternal Flame was the man to whom Prometheus gave the fire that he stole, granting him power over fire and immortality. He becomes a superhero and is still able to enjoy his life after all that time, still falling in love over and over again. He's looking forward to the second coming so he can hang out with Jesus again.
  • Magical Seventh Son: Man-Witch. He had about fourteen siblings because the "seventh son of a seventh son" thing doesn't count girls. The story leaves it ambiguious whether or not the number actually gave him magic potential or not, as it still took decades of training before he could cast his first spell.
  • Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex: The speedster Speeding Bullet talks about his problems in keeping a girlfriend. He's had three since he gained his superpowers. Two of them left because he put his life as a hero before their relationship. The third... suffered a lot of friction burns.
  • Most Common Super Power: Magna-Woman had it, so she had a breast reduction surgery; her health is much better now. Her old teammate Lift-Off notes at their reunion that this is the first time he's noticed her eyecolor.
  • Mugging the Monster: Played with. When Blackwatch and Commander Power, former superhero and villain, are accosted in an alley by knife-wielding thugs, Power scares them off with his lightning powers. After the thugs run away, he admits to Blackwatch that, with his advancing age, the harmless lightshow he put on is all he can do these days, and if the thugs had pressed the attack he would most likely have thrown out his back before he could to do any fighting.
  • "Nighthawks" Shot: Used for one of the covers.
  • Old Superhero: And villains
  • Powerful and Helpless:
    • Speeding Bullet may have Super-Speed but his power has limits with an example being his inability to save a young girl stuck in a sink hole (The closest thing he can do is Fast Tunnelling but would cause cave-in on the girl accidentally) and see her die while acting as 'morale support'.
    • Miniaturian and Hi-Tech both have had their weight gain hinder their abilities as heroes. Miniaturian can't be stealthy and can't ride on animals since, even if his height changes, he'll still overweight comparative to his current size. He once almost broke a guy's neck by jumping onto him from above. Hi-Tech has to keep removing gadgets from his costume to make room every time he gains weight.
  • Power Perversion Potential: Mental Midget used his mind control powers in high school to make the most popular girl in school go to homecoming with him, he still regrets it. Thankfully he never went any further than that.
  • Punny Name: Deb-U-Ton is an affluent young woman who weighs 2000 pounds after accidentally being made hyperdense. Mosche Chomsky bemoans the fact that the press refers to him as "the Acidic Jew", a name he feels is in poor taste.
    • Man-Witch, on the other hand, had never heard of Manwich before Mental Midget mentioned it to him. He didn't seem to care.
    • American Pi, the black woman with "The American Dream" disposition and Awesomeness by Analysis powers

  • Redeeming Replacement: Strangeness and Charm are superheroes because they want to make up for their father's supervillainy after he stopped being a hero. Charm wants to honor that part of his legacy, not the fall that came afterwards.
  • Reformed Criminal: Common Grounds runs a program to help former supervillains become productive members of society, at least a few seem to have taken it
  • Shout-Out: Blackwatch's stained shirt shows a circular image with a red stain in the upper left
  • Sizeshifter: Big Money, the Common Grounds founder.
  • Strictly Formula: The formulaic nature of 1960s monster comics is lampshaded and (gently) parodied in "Where Monsters Dine" — all of the monsters were initially defeated by ordinary men described as nerdy, meek, wimpy or mousy.
    Grondar, The Unbelievable Monster From Planet X: Man, what was it with those nerdy guys back then? Our plans for global domination went down the crapper just to improve their self-esteem.
  • Suddenly Ethnicity: Kind of inverted. At a reunion of a 1960's superhero team, it's revealed that the Token Black member wore a full concealing body suit and mask that completely hid his race. Given the racial climate of The '60s and the fact that his wife and team-mate is white that was probably a good plan.
  • Temporary Bulk Change: Miniaturian has the power to alter his size... specifically, he can alter his height, not his width. So even when he's six inches tall, he's still fat.
  • Theme Naming: Strangeness and Charm are both physical properties of quarks.
  • Truce Zone: The basic philosophy of Common Grounds; anybody (hero or villain) is welcome to come in and enjoy its services in peace and safety, and they are encouraged to meet and mingle in order to smooth out personal differences before they become dangerous in the real world. Details are sketchy, but apparently the restaurants hire people with superpowers as staff members in order to have the muscle to make sure that nobody starts anything.
  • Twist Ending: The end of the Commander Power/Blackwatch story reveals that, contrary to what the reader was made to believe, Commander Power was the villain and Blackwatch was the hero all along.
  • Weight Woe: "Fat Chance" is about a group of heroes with different weight problems holding a support group at Common Grounds. While all of them are overweight, they have different reasons for wanting or needing to lose weight.
    • Miniaturian can still shrink, but his weight remains the same and it makes it difficult for him to be stealthy or ride on animals for transport. He recalls trying to land on a gangster's head for a sneak attack and almost broke the man's neck.
    • Coldspell's in the group technically not because of her weight, but because she's a Big Eater who uses her ice magic to create ice cream which often leaves her with little energy to stop crime. She's not explicitly worried about her weight, she's trying to control her appetite.
    • Hi-Tech has to keep removing gadgets from his costume every time he gains weight.
    • Knockout had weight problems before she became a superhero, in fact she gained her powers during a sleep apnea test.
    • Unfortunately for them, Red Fox (the designated head of the group) would rather they all act Fat and Proud instead of working on their issues even though it's clear he's in denial about his weight problem (it's implied he's a compulsive eater; at the end, he orders a dozen eclairs, and then mutters, "God help me"). The group eventually ditches Red Fox since they realize they won't make any progress with his bluster holding them back.
  • Wham Shot: The end of the Commander Power/Blackwatch story shows one of the newspaper clippings Blackwatch kept. The headline reads Commander Power robs museum, foiled by local hero Blackwatch.
  • Younger Than They Look: During their conversation, Moshe (the Acidic Jew) guesses that Patricia (Deb-U-Ton) is seventeen or eighteen; she tells him that she's actually sixteen.