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Literature / After the Golden Age

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After the Golden Age is a superhero series by Carrie Vaughn.

Celia West is the daughter of Captain Olympus and Spark, the two greatest superheroes in Commerce City. Unfortunately, she herself has no powers whatsoever. As a result, her life has consisted of a long series of instances of being kidnapped and used as a hostage against her parents.

For many years, her parents' supervillain archenemy was Simon Sito, the Destructor. Now he's finally been arrested — for money laundering, tax evasion, and fraud — and Celia, as a forensic accountant, is tasked by the DA with preparing the case for the prosecution. As the "Trial of the Century" approaches, however, a new crime wave is sweeping the city. Is the Destructor somehow continuing his criminal activity from behind bars, or is a new criminal mastermind taking advantage of his absence to step in? And can powerless, kidnapping-prone Celia survive long enough to uncover the truth?


The series currently consists of After the Golden Age and Dreams of the Golden Age.

This series provides examples of:

  • Astonishingly Appropriate Appearance: Spark, redheaded pyromancer.
  • Badass Normal: The Hawk, the only vigilante hero without superpowers.
  • Blade Below the Shoulder: Steel's power is to turn his lower arms into steel blades.
  • Blow You Away: Breezeway's powers.
  • Damsel in Distress: Being the powerless child of two heroes with known identities, Celia gets this a lot.
  • Expy: Captain Olympus for Superman, The Hawk for Batman, The Bullet for the Flash.
  • Fiery Redhead: Celia has her moments. Averted by her mother, Spark - despite being a redhead with actual fire powers, she's much less temperamental than her husband.
  • Flying Brick: Captain Olympus's powers.
  • For the Evulz: Simon Sito doesn't care about wealth or power. As his supervillain name Destructor indicates, all he wants is to destroy.
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  • Heroic Sacrifice: At the climax of the novel, Captain Olympus dies protecting Celia.
  • I Love Nuclear Power: It's revealed that all of the superheroes got their powers from exposure to radiation.
  • An Ice Person: Teia in Dreams of the Golden Age has freezing powers.
  • Immune to Mind Control: The Destructor has this. And his son inherited it.
  • In the Blood: Celia is careful to not assume this the case with Simon Sito's son, knowing very personally that children don't always take after their parents. Except Mayor Paulson really did inherit his father's megalomania, and ends up in the same asylum as Dad. Paulson's own son fears he'll end up the same way.
  • Insanity Defense: Simon Sito, the Destructor, is using this in his trial. Celia believes that he is perfectly sane and is working for the prosecution to prove it. But after meeting him in Elroy Asylum, she considers for the first time that maybe he really is crazy. Ultimately, he ends up being found insane and spends the rest of his life in the asylum.
  • Just Between You and Me: The Destructor would always do this. The new mastermind says he's not going to make the same mistake... and then goes and does it anyway.
  • Justice by Other Legal Means: For all his supervillainry, the Destructor is ultimately arrested on charges of fraud, tax evasion, and money laundering.
  • Kryptonite Factor: Captain Olympus is vulnerable to the same radiation that originally gave him his powers.
  • Lamarck Was Right: Seemingly averted, but actually played straight. It turns that not only are superpowers inherited, but so is the effect of the Psychostasis Device.
  • Making a Splash: Typhoon's powers.
  • Mass Super-Empowering Event: The Psychostasis Device is a variant, causing most of those exposed to have super-powered children.
  • Mayor Pain: Mayor Anthony Paulson is the new mastermind.
  • Mind-Control Device: The Destructor built one, called the Psychostasis Device. The device which originally gave the heroes superpowers was also originally intended to be a mind control device.
  • Muggle Born of Mages: Despite being the daughter of the two most powerful superheroes in the city, Celia has no powers at all.
  • Mundane Utility: Spark uses her fire powers to cook meals, saying they turn out better that way because she can control the heat more precisely than with an oven.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Averted. When the new mastermind's evil machine is destroyed, he simply wheels out a second one.
  • Non-Powered Costumed Hero: The Hawk, who is the only vigilante hero in Commerce City without actual superpowers.
  • Pietà Plagiarism: The narration specifically compares it to the pieta when Celia cradles Captain Olympus after his death.
  • Playing with Fire: Spark's powers.
  • Psycho Electro: Barry Quinn was a superhero with electric powers. He was also a paranoid schizophreniac who believed his medication weakened his abilities. No one was surprised when his career ended with him being institutionalized.
  • Psychosomatic Superpower Outage: Happens to Typhoon. She loses the ability to use her powers after accidentally killing a police officer.
  • Retired Badass: The Hawk, who retired from active work as a superhero but still keeps an eye out for nefarious happenings in the city.
  • Secret Identity: Captain Olympus and Spark used to have them, until being unmasked by the Destructor; now they fight crime openly. Some independent heroes, like Typhoon and Breezeway, still maintain their secret identities.
  • Superpowerful Genetics: Seemingly averted at first, as Celia has no powers despite being the daughter of two heroes and Typhoon does have powers despite being the child of ordinary parents. But it turns out that superpowers are heritable; they just don't always manifest.
  • Take Me Instead: Mark Paulson offers himself as a hostage in Celia's place. This exasperates Celia; she's been a hostage many times before and knows how to handle it, while Mark is likely to try something stupidly heroic and get himself killed.
  • Telepathy: The power of Arthur Mentis.
  • Villain: Exit, Stage Left: The Destructor escaped the Olympiad this way for years — though they always foiled his evil plans, he inevitably had a foolproof escape route prepared.
  • Well Done Daughter Girl: Celia craves approval from her father, but believes he'll never respect her because she has no powers.


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