Follow TV Tropes


Comic Book / Squadron Supreme

Go To
The original and still the best.

"We should not just randomly stop super-criminals, an alien invader, or a natural disaster, and leave the rest of the world's problems unaddressed... problems which inflict the majority of mankind with suffering and death."

A team of Justice League Captain Ersatzes who starred in a twelve-issue Marvel Comics comic book miniseries credited with being one of the earliest Deconstructions of the superhero genre (it came out in the mid 1980s, preceding DC Comics' Watchmen, but following Spider-Man).

The Squadron Sinister, four villainous Captain Ersatzes of the Justice League of America, were created by Roy Thomas and Sal Buscema and first introduced in 1969. They clashed with The Avengers in an unofficial intercompany crossover, with the two teams manipulated by Kang the Conqueror and the Grandmaster in one of their schemes. Subsequent stories focused on their heroic equivalents, the Squadron Supreme, which existed in the alternate universe of Earth-712. The Squadron Supreme themselves clashed with the Avengers in 1971 and 1975, with at least one of these encounters due to mind control.

Squadron Supreme came into its own in Mark Gruenwald's 1985 limited series. It takes place on a post-apocalyptic Earth; flashbacks reveal that the Squadron Supreme was dominated by the alien Overmind, who used them to turn the United States into a fascist nation and conquer the planet. After the defeat of the Overmind, the Squadron decide that the best and fastest way to repair the shattered infrastructure, quell civil unrest, and restore people's faith is to take control of the world and get it back on track. The Squadron also decided to take the opportunity to address all of the world's problems, vowing to eliminate hunger, crime, war, poverty, and disease. With little resistance, the Squadron appeared on national television and announced their "Utopia Program", promising to return control after a year.

The series chronicles the Squadron's yearlong efforts; their steps include forcible disarmament of the world's armies and individual gun owners, inventing a "behavior modification" device for brainwashing criminals against crime, developing non-lethal weapons and personal force-fields, and creating life-sustaining hibernaculum to keep the terminally ill in suspended animation. Along the way, the Squadron must deal with dissension from within and without, along with assorted super-powered threats, and their continued slide down the slippery slope of morality. And watching them all is former team founder Nighthawk, who assembles his own team to stop the Squadron's super-fascism...

Squadron Supreme: Death of a Universe was released in 1989. It had little relation with the world domination theme, being instead a Take That! to Crisis on Infinite Earths. The team was moved to the normal Marvel Universe, and returned years later to their original world. The world domination theme is taken again in Squadron Supreme: New World Order, but on the other side: during their absence, their utopia tools were turned into the tools of a police state, and the Squadron became outlaws fighting against it.

The team was later given an Ultimate Universe version in the mature-rated Supreme Power series in 2003.

In 2015, Marvel announced a new Squadron Supreme series following Secret Wars (2015), taking place in the normal Marvel Universe, featuring versions of the Squadron's members from universes that had been destroyed in the events around Secret Wars. Another Squadron Supreme is also the main focus of Heroes Reborn (2021), set in a world where the Avengers never existed.

Tropes used in the Squadron Supreme limited series include:

  • Acrofatic/Bouncing Battler: Pinball.
  • All There in the Manual: The events of Nighthawk's control by the Overmind leading to the world's current condition occurred a few years prior in Defenders. Fortunately, the characters recap the basics for anyone who came in late.
  • Amazonian Beauty: Power Princess, the Wonder Woman Captain Ersatz.
  • America Saves the Day: The Squadron is based in America, and all of its members are either Americans or otherworldly beings.
  • Anyone Can Die: This series had a surprisingly high body count for a Marvel comic at the time. Also surprising for a Marvel title is the fact that people stay dead. To elaborate, almost half of the main cast is dead by the end of the story.
  • Artistic License – Physics: A mild case for either the writer or the character. Inertia's power is clearly the ability to transfer momentum or kinetic energy, not inertia (which is an object's resistance changes in motion.)
  • Ax-Crazy: Lamprey, especially under his own control. Even his B-Modded self was nasty, and he couldn't do evil acts, because of his brainwashing.
  • Badass Normal: Nighthawk and Golden Archer, the Squadron's Captain Ersatz for Batman and Green Arrow, respectively.
    • Tom Thumb and Master Menace are this too, using gadgets to compensate for their lack of powers.
  • Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: When capturing former members of the Institute of Evil to be de-brainwashed, Nighthawk and his cohorts are discovered by Blue Eagle. Master Menace says the choice is clear: if they don't want to lose the element of surprise over the Squadron, they have to brainwash the Eagle, too. Nighthawk doesn't want to, and Menace says that Nighthawk doesn't need to dirty his hands and he'll do it. Nighthawk ultimately realizes that this must be done, and stands by in anguished torment as Blue Eagle is brainwashed by Menace.
  • Be the Ball: Pinball.
  • Becoming the Mask:
    • Hyperion's evil twin from the classic Marvel universe is recruited by Master Menace to infiltrate the Squadron but while he's there he falls in love with Zarda and decides he wants his new life. If only that other Hyperion hadn't shown up again.
    • The Shape is brainwashed into being a hero by the SS, but after his brainwashing is undone he stays a hero.
    • Foxfire, like the other Institute of Evil members, is behavior modified and drafted into the Squadron, but is later de-modified by Nighthawk's "Redeemers" contingent, as part of their plan to defeat the Squadron from within. But even after her free will is fully restored, Foxfire's realization (after a long period of soul searching) that she is grateful to the Squadron for making her an honest woman (despite the means by which they did so), not to mention her budding romance with founding Squadron member Doctor Spectrum, causes her to betray the Redeemers in the final battle and slay Nighthawk to prove her continued loyalty to the Squadron.
  • Bed Trick: In the course of infiltrating the Squadron by pretending to be his "good twin" Hyperion, the evil Hyperion falls in love with Power Princess, exploiting her admiration, trust and previously hidden attraction to (who she thinks is) her longtime fellow Squadron member to start a sexual relationship with her.
  • Brainwashed: Courtesy of Tom Thumb's behavior modification machine, and the centerpiece of the Squadron's utopia program. The fact that it's the heroes doing the brainwashing is a major cause of conflict in the series.
    • Happens a lot to the Squadron when they were trapped in the Marvel Universe, leading to a lot of conflicts with The Avengers, to the point that when the Avengers encounter the real Justice League in JLA/Avengers, Hawkeye assumes they're another brainwashed variation of the Squadron.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: When the Institute of Evil is torturing Golden Archer, Foxfire says, "Good thing your pants are already yellow, huh, Archer?"
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Occurs several times in the series, whether voluntarily by one of the characters or due to higher-priority instructions during brainwashing.
  • The Cape: Hyperion, fitting as he is the team's Superman analog.
  • Cape Punk: One of the earliest examples thereof.
  • Captain Ersatz: Aside from the blatant use of Ersatz Justice Leaguers, the series introduced much milder variants in Nighthawk's enemies - Remnant, Pinball, and Mink, who roughly correspond to Joker, Penguin, and Catwoman (although Mink is by far the most obvious), and the Shape, who is sort of like a good version of Clayface, himself a bumbling henchman (later, he would take up a Plastic Man type of role, despite coming out years before Plas joined the JLA). Meanwhile, two of the big villains in the series, Master Menace and Scarlet Centurion, are an Ersatz Doctor Doom and Ersatz Kang the Conqueror, respectively, though Centurion actually is Kang in some weird way, and Menace has elements of Silver Age Lex Luthor (though admittedly, Doom himself is heavily based off original Lex as well).
    • Nighthawk's new recruits, who join the Squadron as infiltrators, are Ersatz versions of the Outsiders.
    • The Golden Agency are an Ersatz version of the Justice Society of America with its own Doctor Fate in the form of Professor Imam.
  • Chekhov's Gun: When the Institute of Evil tries to use behavior modification on the Squadron, it turns out the machines had been altered to prevent them from being used on the Squadron, allowing them to foil the gang. It would later be revealed during an investigation that Tom Thumb thought to do this after discovering that the device had been used on a Squadron member already. Lady Lark.
  • Classy Cat-Burglar: The Mink
  • Clingy Costume:
    • Thermite, whose temperature-based powers require him to always wear his costume and regulator pack to keep them in check.
    • Also happens with Nuke as the story proceeds. As his power continues to grow stronger, he has to wear a lead-lined suit to avoid killing everyone around him like his parents.
  • Clothing Damage: When the series begins, pretty much everyone on the Squadron looks battered, with clothing torn, shredded, or just gone... except for Hyperion, who looks spic and span even after plunging through the atmosphere.
  • Colony Drop: The series begins with Hyperion trying to slow the descent of the Squadron's old satellite headquarters as it falls out of orbit.
  • Computer Voice: Aida, Tom Thumb's AI companion.
  • Conqueror from the Future: The Scarlet Centurion.
  • Corrupted Character Copy: The miniseries, while nowhere near the extent of Supreme Power or The Avengers (Jason Aaron) (for the most part), turns the Squadron into this. In fact, does this sound familiar? A catastrophe happens that caused harm to the world and the majority of that world's resident super team goes off the deep end trying to fix things with the others opposing them? Before Kingdom Come, before the Justice Lords, before Injustice, before even The Authority, there was this series. As for the "most part" bit? Supreme Power and Aaron during his run never turned a member of the Squadron into a rapist like Golden Archer becomes here (Emil Burbank in SP is another story).
  • Couldn't Find a Pen: Taken literally — the first edition printing of the Squadron Supreme trade paperback included the cremated ashes of writer Mark Gruenwald mixed in the ink, a request made in his will.
  • Creator Provincialism: Although the story begins with the entire planet on the brink of collapse, the entire series takes place in the United States. This is especially jarring given that much of it focuses on how the Squadron's efforts are impacting the rights of individuals, yet the laws and traditions of different countries are never addressed. Alternatively, this is a parody of the Creator Provincialism that has become a standard part of both Marvel and DC comic book stories.
  • Crossover: In addition to the Squadron being a team of Captain Ersatzes from Marvel's "distinguished competition", the limited series also had a Crossover with Captain America. Both titles were written by Mark Gruenwald at the time.
  • Deal with the Devil: When Tom Thumb visits the Scarlet Centurion for the Panacea Potion, the Centurion agrees to give it — if Tom will poison Hyperion in return. Tom even calls it "a deal with the Devil". He rejects it. And it later turns out the Panacea Potion would be useless anyway, and the Centurion knew this.
  • Deconstruction: The limited series was one of the first comics to examine how the presence of superheroes would affect modern society and culture with the Squadron Supreme trying to create a one-world government without war, hunger or crime but gradually become tyrants that clamp down on people's rights. It gets so bad that one of their members even leaves the group and forms his own super-team to oppose them.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Happens to Nuke. When he learns his radiation powers have given terminal cancer to his parents, he begs Tom Thumb to find a cure. Tom's failure to do so causes Nuke to blame him for their deaths.
  • Doesn't Like Guns: Several of the Squadron members embody this trope, which makes it easier for the team to agree to disarming the populace. The Whizzer later gets a mild Heroic BSoD when he believes the Institute of Evil has brainwashed the team and attacks them with an automatic weapon.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Instead of remaining with the Squadron and trying to effect change from within, or at least mitigate the damage their Utopia proposal would create, Nighthawk decides to leave in anger, gather a small army of criminals and unknown quantities, and lead a siege against his former comrades, to force them to change their point of view. And Nighthawk is deluded enough to believe this tactic will not result in violence. Even Master Menace and Remnant lampshade this.
  • Dirty Business: Happens to Tom Thumb when he compromises his values to travel to the future and steal the Panacea Potion from the Scarlet Centurion's regime.
  • Disaster Dominoes: The entire miniseries is a long series of bad decisions leading to bad consequences which then lead into worse decisions that then lead to worse consequences until by the end we have a body count numbering in the dozens.
  • Disaster Scavengers: The miniseries begins with the Squadron having to deal with some of these. Some of them are just ordinary people who are scared and hungry.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Sci-Fi: Golden Archer used Tom Thumb's Behavior Modification Machine on Lady Lark to make her love him, effectively raping her, and the worst that happened is the Squadron actually to kick him out, but that's the extend of it — and even then, only Blue Eagle and Arcanna actually consider what he did.
  • Electric Instant Gratification: As part of the Squadron's effort to eliminate guns, Tom Thumb invents Pacifier Pistols, which incapacitate the targets with pleasure.
  • Energy Absorption: Lamprey.
  • Eternal English: Subverted when Tom Thumb sneaks into the Scarlet Centurion's future base and tries roughing up a goon, assuming he won't speak English. The guy responds in perfect English how Tom's English is terrible. He then explains that his boss makes sure all his underlings know English, for when they're in the 20th century.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Several members of the Redeemers infiltrate the Squadron. While they believe they're doing the right thing bringing the Squadron down, they still feel lousy after the amount of trust the team puts in them. Not that it stops them doing it anyway.
  • Evil Laugh: Lamprey has one of the all time best. "Heh-heeya-heeya-hee!"
  • Evil Overlord: The Scarlet Centurion, the Evil Overlord in the FUTURE!
  • Evil Twin: Master Menace recruits Hyperion's Evil Twin to infiltrate the Squadron.
  • The Evils of Free Will: A mild version is invoked when the Squadron uses the behavior-modification machine on convicted criminals. Granted, they had the choice of whether or not to submit to the device, but still...
  • Eye Scream: Hyperion and, er, Hyperion blind one another in their showdown.
  • Fake Defector: The entire Squadron Supreme, when the Institute of Evil tries to brainwash them with the behavior modification device. Unknown to the Institute, Tom Thumb had earlier modified it to not work on Squadron members.
  • Flying Brick: Hyperion, and Power Princess to a lesser degree.
  • Flying Carpet: One of Remnant's abilities.
  • Foil: Foxfire and Mink. Both start out as straightforward villains, then their alignments go off in different tangents. Foxfire is put through the behavior modification device and forced to join the Squadron, entering into a relationship with Spectrum. Mink decides to join Nighthawk's resistance against the Squadron, coming to love him and feeling like she's now got a purpose in her life. Foxfire wasn't given a choice in joining her side, but Mink was. Foxfire's relationship with Spectrum is not an entirely healthy one due to the implications behind the behavior modification device taking away her ability to say no to the Squadron, while Mink's attraction to Nighthawk occurred naturally. When Foxfire's mind is freed from the behavior modification, she ends up siding with the Squadron legitimately because of the feelings she still has for Spectrum, even admitting she didn't care about them violating her mind. Mink sides with Nighthawk's group because she believes in what they're doing without any outside interference and stays with it also because of her love. They're both then motivated by their respective relationships. Foxfire kills Nighthawk to prove to Spectrum she's still with the Squadron, and Mink kills Foxfire to avenge him. The woman whose love grew from unnatural means died while the woman whose love grew naturally lives, albeit her lover is dead.
  • Foreshadowing: When the issue as to whether or not the Squadron should induct two unknown superhuman quantities into their ranks (who as it happens are secretly moles positioned by Nighthawk to subvert the Squadron from within), former criminal and forcibly inducted Squadron member Lamprey agrees with Blue Eagle's sentiment that it's much more sensible (and safer) to behavior modify all new recruits (as they did to Lamprey and his fellows in the Institute of Evil), insuring their loyalty to the Squadron. Eagle is outvoted, prompting Lamprey's ultimately prophetic statement:
    "I agree with you, Wings: they're gonna be sorry if they don't give the new Joes the treatment."
  • Freak Out: Nuke, after his parents die from radiation poisoning. He blames Tom Thumb for failing to find a cancer cure, runs away from the team, and lashes out at Doctor Spectrum when he tries to talk him down.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Tom Thumb and Master Menace.
  • Get Out!: Hyperion's not-Lois Lane coworker does this when he quite brutally tells her his secret identity... and that they could never really have a future together. Since we don't see her again, looks like he took the hint.
  • Glamour Failure:
    • Moonglow, when she's knocked out, as her illusion powers are deactivated. She's a frumpy, middle-aged brunette rather than the smoking hot blonde seen in the rest of the series.
    • Arcana as well, with her pregnancy-concealing illusion dropping when she goes into labor.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Golden Archer using the behavior modification device on Lady Lark to reinforce their relationship. She becomes totally enamored and obsessed with Archer... and in the process loses her entire personality and becomes a clingy ditz.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: The Comics Code was still in full effect. Squadron members routinely use Narm-fully mild language in dramatic situations - "Son of a fish" is probably the most hilarious.
  • Hammerspace: Presumably, this is where Quagmire and Haywire get the mass/materials for their powers.
  • Harmless Villain: Pinball, the guy whose power consisted of inflating his green jumpsuit into a ball and rolling into people.
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power: Inertia. She has the power to transfer momentum from one place to another - a quirky, unusual power at the time of publishing. She manages to simultaneously disable and pummel the Captain Ersatzes of Superman, Wonder Woman, and the Flash with this power - she does the most damage to the Squadron by far, more than the resistance's supposed big guns.
  • Heel-Face Mind Screw: The brainwashed villains who join the Squadron; their ultimate fates and alignments varied.
  • Hot Witch: Arcanna
  • Hulk Speak: The Shape
  • Human Popsicle:
    • Unable to cure all disease, the Squadron develops hibernaculums instead. People near-death would be kept in suspended animation, presumably to be revived in the future once a cure to their ailment is found.
    • Thermite dies when the Whizzer accidentally crashes into the Redeemer's regulator back during the final battle, causing Thermite's ice power to run wild, encasing him an iceberg.
  • Hypocrite: What Amphibian views the Squadron as later on. When everyone decides to vote on the punishment for Archer modifying Lady Lark's mind to make her love him, Amphibian voices his disgust at the entire situation. It's not that he believes Archer is innocent, but is appalled at the Squadron judging him for using the modification device to alter Lady Lark's mind... which is exactly what they've done to the Institute of Evil and plan to do to all other criminals.
  • Infodump: Squadron Supreme was a 12-issue limited series printed at a time when trade paperback collections were uncommon. As a result, each issue was written as if it could be the first one for any new readers, and contains scads of exposition as a result. It is entirely possible to read only the last issue and fully understood the overall events (if not the details) of the entire series.
  • Intelligence Equals Isolation: Tom Thumb is clearly the smartest member of the Squadron and their resident inventor, but he's socially isolated from the rest of the team, is often overlooked or belittled, and spends most of his free time in his lab instead. Though some of it has to do with him being very short, older than most of the team, and lacking the traditional heroic builds his teammates have.
  • Internal Homage: The origin of the Institute of Evil, a cosmic chess game between the Scarlet Centurion and the Grandmaster (with the pieces being the Squadron Supreme and a super-powered group created for this purpose), is basically the same one of the Squadron Sinister. That one was a cosmic chess game between the Grandmaster and Kang the Conqueror, putting the Avengers against the evil Squadron.
    • The Scarlet Centurion himself is another internal homage. It is a one-time identity took by Kang the Conqueror in an old Avengers annual. The character himself is an alternate Kang.
  • Istanbul (Not Constantinople): Every geographic location is renamed from its real-life counterpart. Mt. Rushmore becomes Presidents' Mountain, New York City is Cosmopolis in the state of New Troy, Washington D.C. becomes Capitol City, Magelland, so forth and so on.
  • It's All My Fault: Invoked by Doctor Spectrum after he accidentally kills Nuke. Even when he returns to active duty, he remains hesitant as a result.
  • Karma Houdini: To a modern perspective, Golden Archer. Almost immediately upon learning of the Squadron's More than Mind Control machine, Archer uses it to Mind Rape his lover Lady Lark into not only accepting the marriage proposal she had previously rejected, but forcing her to love him forever unconditionally. Although the Squadron eventually finds out and removes him, he later shows up as a major member of Nighthawk's resistance, having suddenly decided that using the Behavior Modification machine is a crime against humanity. Not only is he never really called out about this, but in the end he is remembered as a hero who fought against the Squadron's tyranny.
  • Jerkass: Lamprey.
  • Lampshade Hanging: The fact that the Squadron are Captain Ersatzes of the Justice League was eventually lampshaded in JLA/Avengers when Hawkeye; upon meeting the actual League, notices the parallels and repeatedly refers to the JLA as "Squadron Supreme-lite".
  • Large Ham:
    • Master Menace is one part Doctor Doom, one part Lex Luthor, and all parts HAM.
    • The Scarlet Centurion ("Squadron, I HAVE RETURNED!!") is also a connoisseur of fine pork.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The villainous Hyperion of Earth-616 is attracted to Power Princess because she reminds him of Thundra, though they don't look alike. He muses there has to be some 'inner something' they have in common. He's right - they're both Wonder Woman expies.
  • Logic Bomb: Former supercriminals are made to work for the Squadron with the directive implanted into their brains that they are to not betray any member of the Squadron. One such person witnesses a member covertly acting against the rest of the Squadron. Her mind is locked into a loop, as revealing the information would mean betraying one member of the Squadron, while keeping it secret means betraying the rest.
  • Love Makes You Evil: Golden Archer, after his marriage proposal to Lady Lark gets rejected. He brainwashes her into loving him as a result.
  • Mad Scientist: Master Menace.
  • Maniac Monkeys: Ape X, a hyperintelligent simian whose lower torso is replaced by a treaded tank base.
  • Master of Illusion: Moonglow, and Arcanna to a lesser degree. Moonglow appears to have numerous magic abilities like Arcanna, but they're all illusions. Arcanna sometimes uses her spell to change her appearance, most notably during her pregnancy. She also cloaks the entirety of Squadron City from visual detection, though Moonglow scoffs that she could do better.
  • Mayfly–December Romance: Power Princess met her Steve Trevor-expy Howard during World War II. At the start of this story, he's a sickly old man while his immortal wife is as healthy and active as ever. Its hinted that the relationship is loving but no longer sexual and Zarda is faithful to his death (though not for long after.)
  • Mind-Control Device/Morality Chip: Tom Thumb's behavior modification machine, which alters a person's behavior to the operator's wishes. Though Tom says the effects are irreversible, Master Menace later devises a way to undo the effects.
  • Mind Rape: Golden Archer uses the behavior modification machine on Lady Lark after the course of her affections has passed to make her stay attached to him.
  • Modesty Bedsheet: Arcanna does this a couple of times; the comic clearly shows that she sleeps nude, even in the coed dormitory.
  • The Mole: Nighthawk gets several to infiltrate the Squadron.
  • Monumental Damage: Mount Ru-... er, President's Mountain gets smashed up by Hyperion and Hyperion fighting. Evil Hyperion even tries bludgeoning his counterpart with Honest Abe's nose.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Dr. Decibel.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: Nighthawk is pretty quick to decide that once Hyperion's too dangerous he needs to be shot, in public, with everyone watching. He can't bring himself to pull the trigger, though, and resorts to another method.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Hyperion's Evil Twin develops an attraction to Power Princess and quietly kills her aged husband.
  • Never My Fault: Nuke blames Tom Thumb, after his parents die from radiation poisoning. Even though it's obvious that Nuke's power killed them, he blames Tom for not finding a cure for cancer in time.
    • Additionally, while Golden Archer eventually recognizes that his secret brainwashing of Lady Lark to love him and only him forever against her will was indeed a crime, he decides he couldn't have committed it if the Squadron had never invented the B-Mod Machine in the first place- so really the responsibility for his heinous actions lies squarely on their shoulders and has nothing to do with him. Upsettingly, Nighthawk seems to totally agree, giving the disgraced hero a prominent spot on his team of honorable rebels.
      Golden Archer: I accept full responsibility for my actions... but if the Squadron hadn't invented the bleedin' thing in the first place-
  • No Power, No Color: Played With. When Doctor Spectrum's Power Prism is destroyed, his body becomes a pure white outline, and he falls out of the sky, seemingly powerless. But when Foxfire is stabbed and dies in his arms, energy erupts from him and he realizes that the power of his Prism has been absorbed into his body through the embedded shards.
  • Noodle Incident: A large deal of the team's past, including their founding, which involved the original seven members fight a giant robot together.
  • Our Presidents Are Different: Kyle Richmond (Nighthawk) is the President of the United States when the Overmind invades. The Squadron moves to proactively take control of the planet when he steps down from office.
  • Phlebotinum Overload: Happens to Lamprey, who actually explodes after he overloads his energy leeching abilities on Doctor Spectrum's power prism. He doesn't get better.
  • Pretty in Mink: The Mink, as her name implies, wears a fancy furcoat as her outfit.
  • Properly Paranoid: When Moonglow and Redstone, two heretofore unknown superhuman people petition to join the Squadron, the ultraconservative Blue Eagle proposes that they both be subjected to the Behavior Modification process, not only to save precious time running background checks on them, but to ensure that they will never betray the team. This idea is vehemently and immediately shot down by the majority of the team. As it turns out, both Moonglow and Redstone are secretly members of former Squadron founder Nighthawk's team of Redeemers, and they prove to be key factors in bringing the Squadron down from within.
  • Punny Name: The Golden Agency, the precursor of the Squadron Supreme, are named after The Golden Age of Comic Books.
  • Reed Richards Is Useless: Possibly the first mainstream superhero comic to address this. The entire series is about the slippery slope of inverting it.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Power Princess' summation of Hyperion's origins - listed under Shout-Out below - isn't so much 'on the nose' as it is 'punch the nose so hard it breaks'.
  • Restraining Bolt: A logic-based version occurs when the members of the Institute of Evil were brainwashed to be loyal and obedient to the Squadron. Subsequently, several occasions arise where Institute members are unable to alert the Squadron about suspicious events because it would conflict with their orders.
  • The Reveal: Through the story, Hyperion is said to be an alien. Towards the end, Zarda reveals to him that they'd actually done some tests and determined he's not. Rather, he's human, just from an offshoot that's been extensively modified.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: After Foxfire turns on Nighthawk and kills him, The Mink stabs Foxfire a moment later.
  • Runaway Fiancé: Golden Archer, who abandons Lady Lark after she proved to be far too clingy when he brainwashed her to love him. And getting married was his idea...
  • Sacrificial Lion: Nuke, who dies two issues into the story in a fight with Doctor Spectrum, partly due to his own lack of control. He's also mentioned to be the first Squadron member to die ever, and it helps set the tone that things are not going to be an easy fix for the Squadron.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here:
    • The entirety of the Utopians took off into space after the invention of the atomic bomb, leaving Zarda behind.
    • After the Squadron votes to let Archer go with a slap on the wrist after using the behavioral modifier on Lady Lark, then use it brainwash the Institute of Evil into being heroes, Amphibian has enough, wrecking the machine and returning to the oceans, vowing to never again come to the surface world.
  • Shoot the Dog: When Quagmire falls into a coma and starts producing extradimensional muck at an unstoppable rate, Hyperion is forced to terminate his life-support to avert disaster.
    • Never Found the Body: After doing so, Quagmire's body simply vanishes. As another comic would reveal several years later, this is because Quagmire wasn't dead. With the life-support terminated, he was pulled through the extra-dimensional hole in his own brain. He is sent to the mainstream Marvel Universe, is miraculously healed, and resumes his villainous ways.
  • Shout-Out:
    • One of the stories begins with a large picture of The Whizzer and below him, in big red letters, the title of the story: "The Clash". While it's just a title, it does make one's mind wander...
    • Nighthawk gets called "Old Bat" at one point.
    • DNA tests reveal Hyperion to simply be a human at a higher Evolutionary Level that a normal one. Power Princess tells him: "You're not a super-alien - you're a Super-man!" It's like Marvel wanted to attract DC's lawyers' attention!note 
  • Sonic Scream: Lady Lark.
  • Superman Stays Out of Gotham: The cross-through into Captain America #314 explores this one. Nighthawk travels to Earth-616 looking for allies, and Cap calls up the Avengers and the Fantastic Four. However, they decide that they can't interfere with what the Squadron's doing, regardless of how much they're appalled by it, because it would set a dangerous precedence of interfering in politics in their world. Black Knight tries pointing out the Avengers had just recently interfered with Skrull politics, but is told that was because the Skrulls had already tried interfering with them first. Ultimately, Nighthawk doesn't get any help from Earth-616's heroes.
  • Super-Power Meltdown: Happens to Nuke during his rampage against Doctor Spectrum. He ends up getting killed as a result.
  • Super-Speed: Whizzer.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • During the final fight, Blue Eagle's wings are disabled, and he tries using Pinball as a human crashpad. Ordinarily in this situation, they'd probably just get a few bruises or be knocked out. Instead, they're both killed by the impact breaking their necks.
    • During that same fight, Blue Eagle clobbers Black Archer over the head with a mace. Typically the sort of superhero injury that wears off with the clobber-ee waking up a few moments later with a sore head, here the untreated head wound kills Archer.
  • Throwaway Country: Master Menace is mentioned to have conquered the entire Middle East. None of the Squadron Supreme seem to notice.
  • Tin Tyrant: Master Menace.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: The cause of the war among heroes.
  • Villains Never Lie: Averted by the Scarlet Centurion, who tempts Tom Thumb into making a Deal with the Devil to weaken Hyperion and facilitate the Centurion's conquest of the past in exchange for the Panacea which can cure all ailments in the future. Keyword being in the future, as it's just a bottle of penicilin and vitamins. The humans of his time period have already been made immune to virtually all diseases to begin with, so Thumb would have betrayed his teammates for nothing. And the Scarlet Centurion was well aware of this.
  • Walking Wasteland: Foxfire, who projects a luminescence rot that causes things to quickly decay. She uses them as a Touch of Death against Nighthawk as part of her Heel–Face Turn at the final battle.
  • We Will Have Perfect Health in the Future:
    • Invoked by the Panacea Potion, the Scarlet Centurion's 40th century cure-all.
    • Also invoked by the hibernaculums, whose purpose is to keep terminally-ill people in suspended animation until a cure can be found in the future.
    • Even more so about the Panacea Potion, it's just a bit of penicillin and some vitamins - eugenics and genetic tampering have made future humans so resistant to illness that's all they need.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The Squadron itself.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Invoked several times during the series, most often by Nighthawk and Amphibian.
  • Wanting Is Better Than Having: After Golden Archer brainwashes Lady Lark into loving him, she turns into a Clingy Jealous Girl... with emphasis on the clingy.
  • Wolverine Claws: The Mink has retractable claws, which she uses to kill Foxfire.