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Literature / Tales of the Astonishing Black Spark

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"These are the Astonishing Tales of- well, you'll see."

Trapped in a dead-end job in his Ohio hometown, watching the girl of his dreams move on to a glamorous new life in a big city— Donald McDougal's aimlessness has held him back for a long time. When a lightning strike grants him superhuman powers, he jumps at his chance to finally be somebody. But the new abilities and the pursuit of super-heroic fame come with a price tag, and it may not be one he can afford.



  • Alliterative Name: As expected, or required, of a Superhero story.
    • Donald McDougal.
    • Kendra Kanaway.
    • Maria Martinez.
    • Gunther Gray.
    • Like, 80 more.
  • Alternate History: The world of the novel is mostly like our own, paralleling save for the whole Superheroes are real thing.
  • Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better: Implied regarding Nikolas and Donald. Nikolas has had the same powers for a great time longer than Donald, and as such is more skilled at using them.
  • The Apprentice: Donald to Nikolas.
  • Audience-Alienating Era: Discussed, but most notably visible in DEATHRAGE.
  • Badass Teacher: Nikolas Tess.
  • Bare Your Midriff: Discussed with GRAVI-Tina. She is shown, at times, to be more powerful than The Almighty Asper, she takes down the world’s greatest villain herself, all while using her powers over gravity to fit into her absurdly tiny costume.
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  • Big Bad: The White Flame.
  • The Big Guy: Nikolas Tess has one that works for him.
  • Black and Nerdy: Donald, who lives by way of pop culture references.
  • Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu: Donald, after his battle with the White Flame. He is revived too late after his death, and as a result loses control over his abilities.
  • Captain Ersatz: As the novel is a satire there are quite a few. Most notably Donald, or The Astonishing Spark for Static and Spider-Man respectively, and The Almighty Asper for Superman.
  • Career-Ending Injury: Applies to both The Spark, and GRAVI-Tina, following the battle with White Flame.
  • Chest Insignia: Donald’s emblem, which is an Adinkra symbol of West Africa. While not referenced by name within the novel, it is shown on the cover to be the symbol, BOA ME NA ME MMOA WO, which roughly translates to "Help me and let me help you"
  • Code Name: As a Superhero novel this shows up frequently by Pantheus members. Subverted by Nikolas Tess, who seems to hate them, Save for him also being The Emancipator, of course.
  • Color Character: Black Spark, and White Flame.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Both Nikolas and Donald, while Nikolas seems more adept to begin with, Donald takes a level up in this by the end of the book.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Christopher Row, Donald's agent after arriving in New York to become a superhero. The chapter All This and Rabbit Stew is where he ramps it up to eleven, manipulating Donald into taking advertisements that accentuate the stereotypes associated with his race.
  • Dawn of an Era: The first chapter introduces Almighty Asper, and with him the beginning of the superheroic age.
  • Deceptive Disciple: Donald, after learning everything he needs from Nikolas, and deciding to use it in becoming a superhero, the one thing his mentor is most opposed to.
  • Devil's Job Offer: Either Nikolas, or Gunther to Donald can be seen as this, depending on your vantage point.
  • Disposable Woman: Discussed directly with Thandie D. Nettle, and the references made to The Invisible Woman, Sue Storm. Donald eventually recognizing that his views of her may be askew, and just plain wrong. GRAVI-Tina also, who is the only female member of the American Community for Resolving Overtly Yowled Misconducts. Specifically, after losing her abilities in the battle with White Flame. She is ultimately forgotten by the public and resumes her job as a police officer.
  • Domino Mask: Referenced by name when Donald receives his costume. Without a mask he asks for one of these from the designer, who rejects him under the assumption that as a superhero it’d just pop off of his face anyway.
  • Dumb Muscle: Subverted by Afrolicious Samson, played straight by Alvin, and Asper.
  • Erudite Stoner: Adam Robins, or Patches. He is constantly seen smoking pot, (or, teaming up with 'Green Freedom') but also delivers, arguably, some of the more aware moments of dialogue throughout the tale.
  • Fanboy: Donald.
  • First-Person Smartass: Donald lives on this.
  • Friendly Rivalry: Doll and Spark. As they are both vying for the only position in the American Collective for Resolving Overtly Negative Yowled Misconducts they are in direct competition, but they are cordial, and even friendly with one another.
  • Ghetto Name: Referenced as the reason Donald’s father decided to name him as he did. His belief being that his son would never be taken seriously with a name that wasn’t Eurocentric.
  • Heroes Want Redheads:
    • Referenced by name briefly, partly as a possible foreshadowing of romantic woes to come.
    • While not explicitly referenced in the first volume, it seems that Anyla M. Nessa is this. A ginger head reporter who is, before introduction, referred to as a nice girl repeatedly, much like a certain love interest from Marvel comics was.

  • Invincible Hero: The Almighty Asper. Some Onyx level threats are arguably stronger, but as he is the Superman expy it's rare.
  • Kid Hero: Patches, the Human Bandaide. A 16 year old talented individual, allowed by age restrictions due to his healing ability.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Kat and Donald. Kat’s full name being Kathryn Westermarck Oldgoer is also an indicator, as it references the Westermarck Effect.
  • Lovable Alpha Bitch: Kat Oldgoer, and GRAVI-Tina.
  • Malicious Misnaming: Donald receives a few, most notably The Black Spark. There is also Nikolas who refers to him as Spunk, and Asper, who simply uses Black.
  • Meaningful Name: Quite a few...
    • Anyla Mannes Nessa, a play on "Any Means Necessary."
    • Donald McDougal, as a nod to the late, great, Dwayne McDuffie. Also, possibly, a reference to a rather popular Blerd, Donald Glover.
    • Dr. Heller, the head scientist of the Pantheus biological defense unit, who shares a name with a lead doctor of the Tuskegee Experiments.
    • Nikolas Tess, who seems to know every in and out there is to electricity.
    • Christopher Row, Donald's agent who is constantly pushing Donald to accept advertisements capitalizing on his identity, is a play on Jim Crow.
    • Kathryn Westermarck Oldgoer, Westermarck referring to a theory of familial bond occurring between individuals without blood ties when raised in close proximity.
    • Thandie D. Nettle, which rearranged is ‘Talented Tenth’, the remaining ‘D’ a reference to W.E.B. Dubois, the originator of the idea.
    • Donald in the present narrative, is in hiding using the name Cliff Fern. Ferncliff Cemetery is the resting place of many celebrities and political figures including James Baldwin, Malcolm X, just to name a few.
  • Monster of the Week: Used, expectedly, in the chapter Monsters of the Week. Also subverted in the same chapter by the introduction of a more predominant threat.
  • Old Flame Fizzle: Donald and Thandie, after he is given a hope spot of them rekindling their relationship.
  • Playing with Fire: The White Flame.
  • Posthumous Character: Donald’s parents, as well as his local comic book shop owner and friend, Aedan, who died during the first appearance of White Flame and The Almighty Asper.
  • Reference Overdosed: Donald is frequently referencing pop culture, as well as African-American history in a myriad of ways; sometimes humorous, sometimes reflective, and sometimes tragic.
  • La Résistance: Nikolas Tess is a leader of one, also The Spark is hinted at doing the same in the Bottle Episode chapter, titled...Bottle Episode. He discusses a group of talented individuals he has worked with after the events of the first book
  • Satire
  • Super Hero: Like, over 50% of the characters.
  • Super Registration Act: In-universe there is one referenced, but it takes a back seat as part of the superheroic institute and not a major plot point.
  • Traumatic Superpower Awakening: Donald’s first time using his powers is after nearly losing his father’s NA coin- summoning it back with a surprising flash of electricity.
  • You Are a Credit to Your Race: The satire discusses this both in its subtext, and directly. Donald sees himself as "one of the smart ones" in reference to his race. He is constantly referenced as "speaking well" and lacks, for the most part, the ability to use AAVE (African-American Vernacular English). However, these things act just as detrimental to his psyche as they are in making him, to certain people, 'exceptional'.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: Alluded to with Nikolas Tess, and his handful of talented individuals. They are fighting to dismantle the ‘superhero structure’ in the United States. Gunther goes so far as to call him a terrorist directly.