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Comic Book / Rising Stars

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Poet's Journal. This is way it happened. Not the way I would like to think it happened. Or even the way it probably happened. Just the truth about the way it happened, and what came after. Though no one really understood what happened that night. Not for a long time. Not until the first of us was born.

The year is 1969. A single comet falls from the sky, looking like God's finger. What finger of God it was, Poet doesn't know. However it then explodes/disappears in a flash that lights the sky above the small American town of Pederson. Poet is one of the 113 specials, the children that were ready to be born when that flash occurred and gave them powers that only ruin their lives. Each has a power regardless of their personality, not that they want them.

The story is told by Poet, about his friends, the other Specials, and how they began and ended over a period of decades in flashbacks and flashforwards.

The comic was published from 1999-2005. J. Michael Straczynski wrote it, and it has been speculated how much The 4400 and Heroes drew from it.

Spin Offs include:

  • Rising Stars: Bright (2003): A series that takes place during Matthew Bright's rookie years as a police officer.
  • Rising Stars: Voices of the Dead (2005): A series about Lionel Zerb, a Special who can see dead people.
  • Rising Stars: Untouchable (2006): About a Special who worked for the CIA as an assassin, Laurel Darkhaven.

Tropes related to this comic book:

  • An Aesop: You only have a single lifetime in which to make a difference in the world. Figure out what your individual talents are, and put them to use!
  • Author Tract: Issue #16 features a lot of discussion about how the conflict in the Middle East could be solved if there wasn't scarcity of resources or fertile land, with Poet outright denying Laurel's comments about the conflict being much deeper than that, despite her being active in the region for at least a decade.
  • Asshole Victim: The pedophile camp councelor Pyre killed as a child.
  • The Atoner: Jason after Chicago. His atonement? Straight out of Superman IV: The Quest for Peace: nuclear disarmament.
  • Beware the Superman: Played with here; Specials mean well for the most part, but once everyone turns against them, we see how rough they can get in Chicago after the murder of enough Specials the power is redistributed to the survivors, who are now pissed off and are all Flying Bricks.
  • Bizarre Baby Boom: All 113 were in utero or being conceived when a flash hit their small town. No one else gets powers, not even their children.
  • Blessed with Suck: Not only are the Specials often treated as outcasts or freaks by the public and exploited by the government, many of them have weird, creepy or nigh-useless powers that really aren't worth the trouble. This is because the energy that empowered them is "divided up" amongst them all, and the fewer Specials there are, the stronger and more powers each of them have.
  • Book Ends: The last page of the comic shows Randy Fisk, the last surviving Super, travelling into space and becoming a new meteor, dispersing the superhuman energies over an alien planet, just like what happened on Earth in the first issue.
  • The Cape: Patriot set out to be this due to being a huge superhero fan, but it was the capeless Matthew Bright who better embodies the ideals of this kind of hero. He wanted to help people so badly that he got a fake identity in order to be a police officer, since Specials were banned from any government service. At one point an investigation into some bombings results in several fellow officers being trapped in a burning building. To use his powers to save them means exposing himself as a Special, losing his job and being subject to a media circus, as well as the scorn of his friends. Matthew's inner thoughts says it all.
    Matthew: I signed on to save lives. If I meant that, then I had to do what was necessary. Or it was all a lie. Whoever did this was smart, all right. Lead me on a wild goose-chase. And now my men are trapped inside the building I didn't search. I can't let them die. I refuse. Damn the exposure, I refuse.
  • Captain Patriotic: Flagg (later Patriot) works on a reputation as this, but Matthew Bright is a better example because he's so dedicated to his country he even wants to work for the police after being banned.
    • Matthew goes as far as getting a fake name and joining the police under it, only getting discovered after he uses his powers to save several cops from a bomb. Subversion here as once he's found out the Federal Government gets involved as per act of Congress the Specials are banned from Government jobs and he can't have a regular badge. So the police give him a special badge.
  • Corporate-Sponsored Superhero: Originally Patriot, who is sponsored by Nexus Corp. Once he's freed from Critical Maas's mind control, his first movie is to quit and expose the unethical practices of Nexus Corp.
  • Differently Powered Individual: "Specials".
  • Die or Fly: Many powers get triggered by either the need for their use or the situation. A few seem to have been on since as a small child, but most don't get activated until after the kids are taken to camp. How people figure out who can fly is to jump off the roof. Those that can fly do so. Those who can't get broken arms and legs.
  • Feel No Pain: One of the Supers doesn't feel anything when he's hit (and is functionally invulnerable)... but on the other hand, he can't feel anything but taste, which is why he's obese.
  • Fictional Document: A large part of issue #9 is a fake magazine called "Mediaweek", which describes the situation 10 years after the events of the previous issue.
  • Flying Brick: Matthew Bright and Patriot. Poet can use some of those powers, but hides it due to Dr. Welles belief that Poet's the failsafe.
    • After the incident most of the surviving specials get enough power to throttle them to high power and give them these abilities with their other powers .
  • Flight, Strength, Heart: Patriot is a flying brick with super senses for radiation, Joshua Kane can fly and has strength as well as lights, Willie Smith can not only fly and have the strength and speed, he's a minor telepath. After Volume 1, the surviving specials are all much stronger since the power is conserved. Except Brody, he gets even smarter
  • Freudian Excuse: Freud explains the screwed-up natures of the folks involved. Many of them are shown to act the way they do because of their parents. The most notable is probably Critical Maas, the Evil Superpowered Side of Stephanie Maas, who was repeatedly abused and molested by her father, and created Critical as a coping mechanism.
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power:
    • Laurel can use her powers to telekinetically manipulate tiny objects. It sounds lame, but those tiny objects include your arteries. Deadly.
    • Another gets the ability to be smart, is smart enough to commercialize just enough to hide and spends his time inventing and proving Reed Richards Is Useless doesn't apply here.
    • A third gets the ability to talk to the dead. Uses it to get the secrets of the dead and be able to fight political blackmail.
    • Poet's ability is control of energy fields, supposedly minor and not of much use. He actually controls the power itself and is by far the deadliest.
  • Heroic RRoD: Laurel manages to turn the deserts of the Middle East into fertile lands, but it kills her.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Defeating Critical Maas takes four: Cathy Jean, Joshua, Matt (though he just falls into a coma and gets better eventually) and Stephanie Maas.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: They're all so Blessed with Suck, who could blame them? A few are not quite as hostile due to Power Perversion Potential.
  • I Just Want to Be Special: One boy, born a year after the other "Specials", acts out and pretends to be one of the empowered 113. He dies saving a girl's life from an out-of-control truck. The Specials all go to his funeral and honor him as one of their own.
  • Inherent in the System: This is the implication of the third act - that there are many things that could easily be made objectively better, but that improvement is hindered by entrenched interests and systemic corruption. The ultimate purpose of the Specials is to wield unchecked power for one brief moment in history to push humanity out of its rut and set it on the path to utopia.
  • Immunity Disability: One man's power is invulnerability from external harm—but this also leaves him highly insensitive to any form of touch, except on the back of his tongue, where he could still taste. He developed an eating disorder and became an indestructible obese man.
  • I See Dead People: The power given to Lionel Zerb, who uses it to become a kind of supernatural detective as an adult. He can also connect mentally with ghosts and "see" what they see, which he uses at one point to investigate a "haunted" house where living humans are dropping dead.
  • Kill One, Others Get Stronger: If a Special dies, his/her energy is transferred to the surviving Specials, making their powers stronger.
    • ... except for Joshua, who misses out on the power increase because he doesn't feel he deserves it - there's a psychological component to the Specials' abilities that isn't clearly defined. Also Cathy Jean, who wasn't even aware that she had powers in the first place; while everyone else is running around nigh-invincible, shrugging off machine-gun fire, she gets killed by a single bullet.
  • Kryptonite Factor: All the Specials can be killed. When an invulnerable Special is found murdered, the other Specials are suspects, since they watched each other grow up and have seen each others' weaknesses.
  • Magic Meteor: Although the trope is typically not used this darkly. It's all but stated that the "meteor" was actually an alien being, and the last survivor of it's own Supers, beginning the cycle anew on Earth.
  • Mass Super-Empowering Event: A meteor dropping over the small town of Pederson, which affected every child that was in utero at the time.
    • Also the "Waco" incident where The Government murdered seven Specials(and later made bullshit excuses about reflections of sunlight as in Real Life) - this turns every Special into a Flying Brick who can shrug off artillery. Mass slaughter ensues.
  • Muggle Born of Mages: Specials' children don't inherit their parents' powers.
  • No-Sell: Subverted. One guy is completely invulnerable, but he's one of the first to be killed by asphyxiation.
  • Novelization: Arthur Byron Cover novelized the series over three books: Born In Fire, Ten Years After and Change The World.
  • Obliviously Superpowered: Cathy Jean was conceived during the same Mass Super-Empowering Event as the rest of the Specials, but because of the nature of her powers (she can resurrect the recently-deceased), she remained completely unaware of her powers until she was in her thirties.
  • One-Track-Minded Artist: A variation: as children, the Pederson Specials were all given an assignment to draw a picture of their earliest memory. Each of them draws an image of fire or darkness, but when put together into one giant mosaic, they show the comet that came to Earth and gave them their powers.
  • Painting the Medium: A memorable use in the first issue showing the character Lionel, who can speak to the dead. He's tormented by being unable to turn off his power, so he constantly hears the voices of the dead. At the end of the issue, there's a full-page image of him sitting in his armchair, alone. Then, on the other side of the page, we see mirror-images of ghostly figures on a white background. You have to hold the page up to the light, at which point the ghosts will show through the page and we see Lionel surrounded by the ceaseless whispering dead ...
  • Playing with Fire: Pyre, Lee Jackson.
  • Power Incontinence: Due to going on the run and not having access to the training the other Supers had as children, Pyre accidentally burned his parents to death in his sleep, something that haunted him for the rest of his life.
  • Power Perversion Potential: Several. Most try to figure out a way to make a few bucks on their powers. Some become government assassins. Some go full super-villain or use their powers in kinky ways. Maas has to use her power in a perverted manner for it to work, at first.
  • Puberty Super Power: Mostly averted in a way that's also sometimes a plot point: though it's never stated outright, the Specials seem to get their powers when they're first needed, or when they're first in a situation where their powers could be used. For example, one child developed their power to fly when they fell off a roof. Cathy Jean was born right in the middle of the Specials cohort and should have a power, but she never developed it—because her power is to resurrect the dead, and she'd never touched a dead body before.
  • Reed Richards Is Useless: Averted, as the last third of the series is devoted to the Specials using their powers to help humanity. For instance, Brody Kempler, who has the power of super-intelligence, is smart enough to hide until he's ready with his inventions. Including cures for just about every disease, fusion power, and an interstellar spaceship.
    • He's still stumped by Jason's radiation sickness - any normal person would have been dead after absorbing a fraction of his rad count, so Brody doesn't even know where to start.
  • Series Continuity Error: Chandra is stated to be unable to fly, even after the power increase at the end of volume 1, and is usually seen being carried by John or Randy. Except when the writer or artist forgets, and depicts her flying anyway.
  • Shooting Superman: Or shooting Pyre. Bullets don't have effect on him.
  • Shout-Out:
    • There were 113 specials born. The protagonist - who was conceived at the exact moment of the Flash and is thus the 113th Special - is named John. In the Bible, John 1:13 reads: "Who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."
    • JMS throws in a couple nods to his previous work on Babylon 5, with the phrases "signs and portents" and "last best hope", and the ability to kill someone by telekinetically crushing their carotid artery.
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Chandra has a power that she is seen by everyone as the most beautiful person they can imagine. This hurts her in that no one sees the real her, and sees her as their own object of lust. Later she gets the power to inspire love instead of lust.
    • It's implied that another Special sees her as she really is because he fell in love with her as a child, so her real self is the most beautiful person he can imagine.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Goes both ways. On one hand, you have an evil government agency who wants to control/kill all the main characters, but on the other hand, the Middle East getting farmable land stops all the fighting in that region, vigilantism ends all crime and terrorism, and everyone getting the ability to read minds for a day results in world peace.
  • Strawman Political: Joshua's dad is a pretty harsh strawman of the religious right. The main antagonist, General Paulson, is a stereotypical General Ripper. While Patriot works for Nexus Corp, he's a fairly selfish Jerk Jock corporate tool who is being mind-controlled by Critical Maas (who he willingly cheated on his wife with). Once he quits and becomes good, he lets everyone know they're an evil Mega-Corp whose been dumping toxic waste and holding sweat shops amongst other things.
  • Stripperific: Critical Maas is usually seen wearing some very revealing clothes, such as a mid riff-revealing, low-cut top and low-hanging pants that show off her thong.
  • Superpowered Evil Side: Stephanie Maas/Critical Maas
  • Super Power Lottery: Oh boy. Powers vary, and many get some combination of a classic power, flight or strength, with some thing else. So you've got the 'high powered' Patriot and Mathew Bright with genius-level minds, super-strength, and flight. Goes all the way down to the lower powers of Heart with Paula Ramirez's ability to sing beautifully. At the end of Book 1, The Government kills one too many of them in a Waco-style incident, pushing all of them to high power, and most gain at least strength or flight, except Brody who gets even smarter.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: The invulnerable Super had a brief career as a pro football player. And we do mean brief, because while he was immune to pain or injury, he was a chubby, unathletic man who didn't have the mass to keep himself from just getting bowled over by the opposing players.
  • Take Over the World: This is what Critical Maas wants to do. She and a few other rogue Supers start by taking over Chicago, cutting it off from the rest of the U.S.
  • Time Skip: 10 years between issue #8 and #9.
  • Touch of Death: Laurel has it; specifically she's touching the artery giving blood to the brain.
  • Villain Has a Point: The conspirators in Act 3 are completely right that Randy is making the entire government march in lockstep with him through blackmail, freeing him from the sort of checks on his power a president is meant to have.
  • What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?: Paula Ramirez has the ability to sing beautifully in some manner that goes beyond her voice, almost like telepathically beaming beauty into the brains of her listeners. Unlike every other Special important enough to have a name and appear in multiple issues right up to the end series, this ability is never used in any plot- or thematically-relevant way.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: The magazine in issue #9 (see Fictional Document) is dated July 2012. However, in issue #22, which is supposed to set years later, it's stated that Randy Fisk unsuccessfully ran for President in 2008 and 2012, before winning in 2016. It's also stated that he was 48 in 2008, meaning that he was born around 1960. However, earlier it's said that the flash occurred at the end of the '60s, and all Specials were born not long after that.