The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen...IN AMERICA!
No, not like that.
An Alternate History comicbook by Adam Glass and Pat Olliffe, Rough Riders follows the exploits of the eponymous group of press ganged adventures as they fight, scheme, and sacrifice to protect their nation, and eventually the world, as the shadow of a mad and macabre 20th Century looms. Said would-be Dream Team initially consists of:
- Theodore Roosevelt: Spitfire politician and vigilante.
- Harry Houdini: Gifted escape artist and amateur occultist.
- Jack Johnson: The future Galveston Giant, a powerful prize fighter.
- Thomas Edison: A gifted and unscrupulous inventor cum businessman.
- Annie Oakley: Famed sharpshooter struggling with the ennui of the Wild West's demise.
- Monk Eastman: Vicious gangster sprung from Blackwell's Island.
As it stands, the series consists of three volumes detailing the history of this band of washed-out and up-and-coming American legends: the peace they lost, the wars they fought, and the fantastic legacy they left behind.
Tropes used in Rough Riders include:
- Accentuate the Negative: The curt descriptions for each Rough Rider in Nation are often highly unflattering, stressing their murky legal histories and various episodes of deviant behaviour (as far as the government saw it).
- An Offer You Can't Refuse: It's heavily implied in Nation that many of the future members of the Rough Rider cells did not so much volunteer for the team out of a sense of patriotism or moral obligation, but because they were blackmailed by the government.
- Army of Thieves and Whores: Each iteration of the Rough Riders is composed of people who are simultaneously extraordinary and distressingly radical, including mobsters, anarchists, and at least one zombie.
- Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Or in the case of poor Colonel George Armstrong Custer, driven insane by an alien brain parasite only to be shot to death by an alien spaceship. At the end of the first volume, Rasputin the Mad Monk is possessed by a similar parasite. Annie Oakley has an arguably kinder fate as a immortal zombie brought back to life by Thomas Edison.
- Big Good: Theodore Roosevelt at first, who is later succeeded by his daughter, Alice, who resurrected the Rough Riders initiative and was personally involved with five (she is notably absent in Franklin D. Roosevelt's version) of its teams until her death on February 12, 1980.
- Clothing Combat: In #4, Teddy Roosevelt is caught without a weapon, so he whips off his belt and uses the solid gold buckle to knock out General Linares.
- Death Dealer: Houdini has a pack of razor-edged playing cards to use as projectiles in emergencies, but he's not averse to using actual guns if those are in reach.
- Doomed by Canon: Somewhat. A majority of character deaths and survivals happen as they did in recorded history, but a fair amount are faked, occurred much less cleanly, or were undone by mad science. Notably, the Spanish-American War that Theodore tries to prevent with his team happens anyway despite his best efforts.
- Faking the Dead: In this universe, Amelia Earhart's death at sea was faked so that the American government could have her set up a surveillance hub in Asia to spy on the Japanese during the 1930s.
- Five-Man Band: Most Rough Rider teams have this dynamic while being overseen by a government representative as a higher authority they answer to. Theodore's group played it entirely straight, but the formula mutated as time went on due to the far more controversial members that would join in later decades.
- The Leader: Theodore Roosevelt
- The Lancer: Harry Houdini with this designation evolving into The Sneaky Guy with the master escape artist being emulated by various spies, thieves, and other infiltration experts.
- The Big Guy: Jack Johnson. The role eventually transforms into that of The Brute as there's always one athlete in the succeeding teams who specialises in brute physical force (including, but not limited to, Mike Tyson).
- The Chick: Annie Oakley, a role which gave way to having at least one Femme Fatale per Rough Rider group.
- The Smart Guy: Thomas Edison. Already a morally murky inventor, this slot morphs interchangeably between Evil Genius and Mad Scientist vis-a-vis the likes of Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein.
- The Sixth Ranger: Monk Eastman. Originally drafted, rejected, and then conscripted again into the team, his membership set a precedent for allowing outright career criminals into the Rough Rider ranks.
- Handicapped Badass: Deconstructed. Edison is partially deaf by the time he's recruited. A debilitation he tries to hide despite how being unable to hear people who are just six feet away from him could get him and his teammates killed. Luckily for Thomas, he's often in situations where everyone's shouting at one another.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: Jack Johnson is briefly able to keep a swarm of alien insects at bay by boxing it.
- Improvised Lockpick: While hanging upside down from a tree, Houdini is able to snap off a twig with his teeth and use it as a shim to manipulate the pawl on his handcuffs.
- Leave the Camera Running: Edison uses the Secret Society Group Picture photo-op moment to test out one of his motion picture cameras with the team not really understanding that unlike a regular camera, it's not selective of the moments it captures, polluting the promo with bickering and missed cues.
- Master of Unlocking: Unsurprisingly Harry Houdini fills this role in the original roster of the Riders.
- Pocket Protector: When General Linares shoots Annie Oakley, the bullet is stopped by a hip flask (a gift from Wild Bill Hickcock) that she has stuffed down her cleavage.
- Reed Richards Is Useless: Invoked by Theodore Roosevelt himself when he blows up Edison's lab during the finale of Ride or Die as he was wary of the man's inventions being used to elevate warfare on a catastrophic scale. Heartbroken over the loss of a lifetime's work and feeling his age, Edison never tried to rebuild his enormous stockpile of high-tech wonder.
- Secret Society Group Picture: Nation is filled with them.
- Stage Magician: Harry Houdini
- You Fight Like a Cow: While battling Jack Johnson, Rasputin delivers the odd insult "You fight like Russian midwife!".