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Series / Ace Lightning

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Get up, go to school, play videogames, save the world, not necessarily in that order.

Level Seven: Activate, stand by...

At first glance, Ace Lightning could be suspected of being pulled straight from the pages of a videogame-related Fan Fiction. What it actually is, however, is a 39-episode series that ran from 2002 to 2004 on Creator/{{CBBC} in the UK, CBC and BBC Kids in Canada, and on syndication in the US (first season only). It was created as a collaboration between Canadian and British entertainment industries. Many fans believe it was Screwed by the Network.

Ace Lightning was one of the first weekly television shows to involve CGI animated effects as a substantial part of every episode, making the show both Western Animation and Live-Action TV. The series was filmed live-action with the video game characters Ace created in 3D digital and blue-screened afterward.

The protagonist is 13-year-old Mark Hollander, who has just immigrated to North America from England. However getting to grips with life on the other side of the pond turns out to be the least of his problems, when, on the first night in their new home, the antenna of Mark's house is struck by lightning. As chance would have it, Mark was at that exact moment engaged in his favorite video game: Ace Lightning and the Carnival of Doom, and had discovered a level that wasn't supposed to exist. Turns out this isn't an ordinary copy of Ace Lightning. The next thing Mark knows the characters of his video game - good and bad alike - have come to life and are engaging in battle in his backyard. Mark is somewhat reluctantly elected as Ace Lightning's new sidekick and dragged into a quest to locate the seven shattered pieces of The Amulet of Zoar which will give its wielder power over the entire universe.

The Big Bad of the series is Lord Fear, who has a grudge against Ace for accidentally crippling him and then imprisoning him in the game world. He along with his minions, Staff Head, Lady Illusion, Anvil, Pigface, and Dirty Rat, occupy the rundown Kent Bros. Carnival, renaming it the "Carnival of Doom" after their old stomping grounds.

Ace and the villains are convinced that the real world is just another level from the game (albeit, from their perspective, a rather strange one), and treat it as such. Mark's new life just became a lot more complicated.

While Mark is initially reluctant, and Ace is naive about the way things work in "Reality", the two of them develop an understanding which grows into friendship. As the show goes on more characters arrive, both good and evil, and eventually we have the arrival of the mysterious Master Programmer, and his avatar, the new head villain: Kilobyte, who makes Lord Fear look like a mewling bag of kittens.

The series starts out as a jaunt into the world of One Boy and His Superhero and later develops into a mire of Good Versus Evil, the nature of emotions in Artificial Beings, complex social networking while saving the world in your spare time, the nature of what are truly 'real', and even vague suggestions of Necrophilia and Metaphysical Ethics for the more observant (or obsessive) members of the fandom.

For most, however, it's just a show about a superhero completely out of his depth in the real world, and a boy trying not to let his newfound 'hero' status impact his social life. You know. The usual.

Ace Lightning regularly attempts to mock the tropes associated with the Superhero genre and at no point tries to hide from the fact that it is, essentially, a superhero parody that occasionally plays things straight. Every CGI character in the show is a stereotype of more traditional heroes. You've got your spunky red-headed sidekick, your bewitching black widow, and your villain who just happens to look like a living skeleton. Ace is a typical superhero; super strong, super fast, able to shoot lightning energy from his hands, and surviving on electrical power sources. Ace Lightning shows the audience what really happens when you stick a person with those kinds of abilities into a world that wasn't built to accommodate them. The humans meanwhile, are normal (mostly) people living ordinary lives which contrast garishly with the superheroes. And while Ace is learning the finer points of humanity from Mark, Mark is learning that sometimes, a hero's gotta do what a hero's gotta do.

Ace Lightning has a small but loyal fanbase which, oddly enough, seems to contain a great many teenage females as well as the show's original demographic of 10-to-14-year-old boys.

This show contains examples of:

  • Adults Are Useless: While they're not really "useless" per se, they know nothing about the part-time superhero thing but they're pretty genial and understanding about the social side of things. One really can't blame them for not suspecting their son is saving the world with a fictional character.
    • Other adults include a mean-spirited teacher driven half-barmy by the CGI Villains, a carnival owner whose home gets taken over, and a driving instructor who is terrified by Mark's performance (he didn't realize that the car was being chased by Lord Fear on a killer motorcycle at the time.)
  • Aesop: Every episode ends with one of these, carefully tuned to the target demographic of ten to fourteen-year-old males (but not necessarily tuned to what actually happened in the episode).
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Ace is possessed in one episode, Random Virus has this problem constantly.
  • All Part of the Show: Lord Fear invades Mark's school during a school play (a somewhat uncreative remake of The Phantom of the Opera). Of course, the audience thinks he's just a very convincing actor. Lord Fear relishes the attention, and Mark is the only one who freaks out because he's the only one who knows what's going on.
  • Amusement Park of Doom: In the video game, the Ace Lightning characters fought against Lord Fear and his maniacal minions in the creepy and deserted Carnival of Doom. When they arrive in the real world, they locate a useful equivalent hideout in the Kent Brother's Carnival.
  • Angst: From most of the cast, though it's mainly either typical, teenage angst, understandable concern about discovering you're really a videogame character and your whole world is just a fiction cooked up for schoolkids, or the kind of angst generated when your Split Personality can't decide whether to help people or to kill them. It's also not too heavy given the show's nature as a comedy first.
  • Anvil on Head: Given that one of the villain's henchmen is a giant, mutant Rhino with an actual anvil for a hand, you can imagine this happens quite a lot.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: The Amulet of Zoar, which everyone is after.
    • Also, Mark's Wrist Cannon, which he can apparently use despite not being a Lightning Knight and without it having any obvious external power supply.
      • In fact, forget that, any weapon being utilized by the Lightning Knights is one of these.
  • Apocalyptic Log: Mark regularly exchanges video communications with Pete: communications which usually took a turn for the serious whenever a series was nearing its end and we were due a showdown.
  • Artificial Limbs: Random Virus.
  • Author Avatar: Kilobyte - Rick's Avatar
    • It's also interesting to note that the Master Programmer Rick Hummel has the same first name as the producer Rick Siggelkow though this is likely a coincidence.
  • Bedsheet Ghost: Chuck terrifies the living daylights out of the bad guys when he gets caught in a sheet while they're raiding Mark's house.
  • Betty and Veronica: Sam and Heather have a mild version of this going throughout series one (afterwards, Samantha is Put on a Bus, Heather doesn't try to renew the relationship, and Kat becomes the Third-Option Love Interest).
  • Big Bad: Early on, Lord Fear. Then Kilobyte, the incredibly overpowered villain of the third season, created by the Master Programmer in order to defeat Ace Lightning, only to Have Kilobyte turn on him and decide to banish all humans to the videogame.
  • Big "NO!": In the finale. Interestingly, it's Mark, when he thinks Ace has been shot turns out it was Lady Illusion in morph.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The second season. The Big Bad and his minions have been defeated and returned to the game, but so has Lady Illusion just as she and Ace have confessed their love.
  • Booby Trap: The villains plant these several times, and the heroes fall right into them.
  • Boss-Arena Idiocy: Several in the PC game. Googler's immune to Ace's attacks, buuuuuut decides to fight him in a room full of huge barrels of TNT that are enough to hurt the crazed clown. Dirty Rat has a force field Ace can't get through, buuuuuut the giant stone cowboy running around the room can. Random Virus is shielded from Ace's attacks too, buuuuuut for some reason Ace's shots can hurt him if they bounce off something first, like the giant shields hanging all over the walls.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Ace, after a bite from Googler's puppets (yes, the puppets bite. They are freaky little dudes.)
  • Broken Aesop: "Only Human" is, as the name suggests, supposed to be about Ace learning that you don't need powers to be a hero, but the problem is he doesn't find a way to save the day in spite of his lack of powers or learn to rely on his powers less, or anything like that. Instead the act of appreciating Mark's bravery brings his powers back just in time for him to save Mark's life and fight off the villains by shooting a bunch of lightning bolts at the problems.
    • On top of that, between seasons it'd apparently been decided Mark wasn't contributing enough just hanging around being a voice of reason for the video game heroes. Come second season, and out of nowhere Mark has a gauntlet that shoots lightning bolts, letting him participate in fights too. So yeah, powers are a really important thing to have.
  • Brought Down to Normal: Ace loses his powers in one episode, and gets them back just in time to save Mark's hide.
    • He also accesses him human emotions in another episode, and finds that things aren't quite as simple as they used to be.
  • The Bus Came Back: Sam returns for one episode in the final series. Ironically, the only time we ever see an undisguised on screen kiss between those two characters. It's that kinda show.
  • Butt-Monkey: Usually Mark, who, when he's not getting chewed on by Googler's puppets, dumped into bizarre life-or-death situations which noone else knows about, or would believe is real if they did, or going face to face with Lord Fear, then he's having his social life ruined in a variety of unusual manners (such as, for example, Lady Illusion morphing into him and taking his place at school, to his family and friends annoyance and confusion, being bullied by a nasty teacher or dealing with Lord Fear preventing him from getting to a date on time.
  • The Call Knows Where You Live: Fortunately for Mark it's not a very competent call. It is, however, a highly persistent one.
  • Can't Stay Normal: Ace becomes 'human' after losing his powers in one episode -and hates it. Mark is also regularly forced to confront the fact that he's a "hero" now, and heroes have responsibilities that outweigh going to a movie with your girlfriend.
  • The Cape: Ace (like most of the archetype roles in this series, this is somewhat subverted in that he really doesn't fit in the real world).
  • Cast from Hit Points: Lightning Knights flicker from overusing their powers the same way they do from taking too much damage. They also recover from both by absorbing electricity.
  • Catchphrase: The Lightning Knights' Motto: 'Do Right and Fear Not'.
  • Chase Scene: This occurs during Mark's driving lesson when Lord Fear decides to pursue the training car in his Doom Cycle. The tutor is not amused by Mark's... ahem, escape attempt.
  • Chaste Hero: Ace doesn't even know how to flirt. It's ultimately a reason he's glad to have been given human emotions, though: he can break out of this and learn how to love.
  • The Chessmaster: The Master Programmer probably thinks it's him, but really, it's Kilobyte, who knows more about the game than anyone realizes and is pulling countless strings to make things go his way.
  • Cliffhanger: One or two of them. Including a minor one in the final episode, damn it.
  • Combat Tentacles: Very creepy combat tentacles. Mostly used for power drainage.
  • Comes Great Responsibility: Mark always eventually comes around to the importance of helping Ace save the world, regardless of how many relationships it screws up or how often he nearly gets killed.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Subverted, Ace thinks that this is what Mark does on a regular basis by putting his homework and girlfriend duties ahead of saving the world. Mark however, is really more in tune with reality than Ace is.
    • Of course, Ace does have a point. CGI characters or not, the threat the evils pose to the world is very, very real, and as soon as Mark works that out, he stops making so many excuses.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: Notable aversion despite being both an adaptation of superheroes and video games. Usually Lord Fear comes by himself along with just one minion like Anvil, Pigface or Googler to do the dirty work, but that seems to be because the back of an ice cream van isn't the most spacious. When multiple villains attack at the same time, it's always treated like a serious threat the heroes have little chance of withstanding.
  • Continuing is Painful: The Lightning Knights noticeably have it a lot harder when it comes to being defeated than the villains, who will just step out of their Respawn Point after enough time passes for their health to regenerate. If a Lightning Knight's defeated, they're sent back into the world of the game, and their allies still on this side have to find two of the Plot Coupons and combine them to summon anyone back. Come second series even that doesn't seem to be an option anymore, since they never try to use the pieces of the amulet Mark still has to bring Sparx back like they had before.
  • Cut Short: The second season was angling pretty hard for a sequel despite being only half as long as the first. It didn't work, so we got No Ending.
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: While it's never outright stated that Random Virus's transformation into a cyborg played a part in his good-evil complex, it's certainly implied that the accident that caused him to be rebuilt had something to do with it.
  • Dating Catwoman: Ace Lightning and Lady Illusion, though she really does love him and ends up saving his life in the final episode.
  • Death Is Cheap: At least as long as it's a game character. And that doesn't mean it can't be a Tear Jerker anyway.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Intriguingly done with Random Virus and Ace, where Ace will regularly have to resort to defeating his friend in a fight in order to quell his evil side and bring back his calmer, kinder personality. Random usually reverts back to bad guy status by their next meeting, however.
    • Random's evil side has some... odd ideas how good and evil work, defining 'evil' as bravery, strength, and power, while cowardice, goodness and virtue were equated with weakness. On one occasion Random was unable to attack Mark because although Mark was afraid, he refused to back down, therefore he was not a coward. Cue programming conflict.
  • Demoted to Dragon: Season 1's Big Bad Lord Fear was usurped and made the underling of Kilobyte.
  • Disney Death:
    • Since most of the cast came out of a videogame, death isn't exactly permanent for them not that this makes Sparx's "death" in Unidentified Flying Superhero any less traumatic...
    • Also happens to Chuck in the third season, when Ace shoots him by accident. There are a few moments of panic before they realize he's okay. This was so Ace could learn it doesn't work the same for people who don't come from a videogame.
  • Distressed Damsel: Samantha, in at least four episodes. Not that she was aware of it at the time.
  • Does Not Know His Own Strength: Former Trope Namer (Ace Lightning Syndrome).
  • Downer Ending: Several episodes, including April Fools and Unidentified Flying Superhero.
    • The series finale itself with how hard they were sequel baiting, which didn't work. Kilobyte's been sent into the game but it's heavily implied he'll find a way back sooner or later and he'll be mighty pissed when he does. Lady Illusion's trapped in the game just as she and Ace finally confirm their love, Lord Fear is still on the loose, and the Amulet of Zoar's been shattered and its whereabouts are unknown.
  • The Dragon: Oddly, The Dragon in question is Staffhead, a talking (cockney, for that matter), a winged frog sitting on the staff that Lord Fear always carries.
  • Dramatic Thunder: Occurs all the damn time from the first episode: the CGI characters were initially brought to life by a bolt of lightning striking the aerial of the protagonist's house while he was playing their video game.
    • Amongst other things. It also occurs at an inopportune moment later in the series ?when the main character happens to be in urgent need of a power up.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: In episode twelve, Nobody's Hero, Mark dreams in exacting detail exactly what is going to happen to him by the end of the episode. This trick occurred only once, but it got a few fans talking, nonetheless... and you won't believe the theories it resulted in... Though actually, you probably would.
  • Enemy Mine: Realizing he hates Kilobyte even more than Ace, Lord Fear teams up with Ace and Mark to retake the carnival in the last episode.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: What will happen if the bad guys obtain all the pieces of the Amulet of Zoar (little thought is given as to how a bunch of computer game characters can really pose a threat to national security, but hey, they can exist and apparently go some damage, so... Mark figures he'd better play it safe. Then Kilobyte shows up, and the characters know that they really HAVE to take it seriously.
  • Everything's Deader with Zombies: Rotgut in Season 2.
  • Evil Genius: Rick Hummel the Master Programmer. Albeit he calls his office his Fortress of Solitude.
  • Evil Overlord: Lord Fear in the first two seasons, Kilobyte in the third, though Lord Fear gained a few competence points after he was ousted.
  • Expy: Mark is based on Peter Parker, at least in terms of his struggles to maintain a normal life.
  • Extra-ore-dinary: Random Virus's abilities include a partial-control over metal objects. Given that he lives in a junkyard, this comes in handy.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Mark, during the episode Search For Sparx when he and Ace have essentially been thrown to the wolves (or rather the giant killer bee), Ace has given up and won't even try to defend himself. Mark is having none of it, grabs the nearest heavy, blunt object, and tries to defend both of them, despite knowing he doesn't have a chance. The threat to him was the only thing which which gets Ace back on his feet.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Ace and Mark's attempts to reform the Amulet of Zoar first, since it would be a pretty lame way to end the season if the heroes went into the final battle armed with an all-powerful artifact.
  • Fanfic: A surprisingly full section of fanfiction can be located here.
  • Fire and Brimstone Hell: A level known as White Hot Oblivion in the Ace Videogame, in which Googler was imprisoned by Ace (he's notably annoyed by this). The audience never sees it.
  • Fish out of Water:
    • Ace. Very.
      Mark: Ace, we've been through this, they're gnomes. They're not going to attack you.
    • On the other hand, the game proves to have killer lawn gnomes as enemies in one level. Which Mark really should've remembered as a supposed fan of the game note .
    • Theoretically all the Lightning Knights and Villains fit this trope (though Ace is the most out of his depth in the beginning) since the characters believe that Earth is just another level of their world (albeit a strange one, from their perspective). Random Virus tries to avoid all social interaction, and Sparx just doesn't seem to have quite the same amount of trouble as the others.
    • Mark is something of a Fish out of Water, being a British Immigrant new to American Culture. Most people pass off his odd behavior as a result of this, and not the fact that he's hiding a living computer character from the world.
  • Foe-Tossing Charge: Anvil does this to the good guys regularly throughout the series (and he's a giant mutant humanoid rhino with a literal anvil in place of one hand, just so you know. Ouch).
  • Frankenstein's Monster: Subverted to a degree. The original Frankenstein's monster was a misunderstood creature shunned by the world (as well as his creator). Ace Lightning's Frankenstein's Monster is Kilobyte, a powerful, tattooed villain with tentacles that he used to drain the energy of those he catches. He wasn't so much get shunned by his creator as rebelled against him having discovered his identity as a Videogame Character.
  • A Friend in Need: You can always count on Ace Lightning. Mark may also be annoyed at Ace almost constantly, but he just can't seem to stay out of the game, and usually shows up to help.
  • Friendly Enemy: Random Virus and Ace are said to have been friends before the series began (that's assuming you believe it happened), but due to Random's dodgy programming, he now has a habit of turning evil at inopportune moments.
  • Friendship Moment: When Random isn't trying to kill him, he and Ace have a few of these.
  • The Game Come to Life: Of the video game variety and the whole basis for the show's plot. A well-aimed lightning bolt strikes Mark's satellite dish, surging through his computer and joystick, and bringing the game characters to life. It is later revealed that the Master Programmer created a program that could bring the characters to life for a whole new way for game interactivity.
  • Geek: Chuck Mugel: a geek of the computer-related variety.
  • Genre Blind: The characters from the Ace Lightning videogame have absolutely no idea that the world they knew was nothing more than a popular 3D platformer. As a result, they are regularly surprised and alarmed by obvious traps, and regularly spurt out aNarmingly corny dialogue.
    • Oddly enough, Mark (who is mainly supposed to point out Ace's genre blindness) gets one of these during Episode Seven, Opposite Attraction, speaking about Ace and Lady Illusion.
      Mark: ...I don't get it. Nothing in the rulebook says they could fall in love.
      • Which is even bigger blindness if you actually play the game, where the cutscenes show Lady Illusion practically throwing herself at Ace, turning her into The Vamp.
  • The Glasses Gotta Go: When Jessica removes her glasses for the first time at the end of the series dance, she seems instantly more attractive.
  • Good Colors, Evil Colors:
    • When Random Virus' cyborg eye is green it's reasonably safe to approach him. When it turns red, however, you'd better run for the hills.
    • The good characters also tend to shoot color-coded attacks which are either blue or pink. The bad guys are usually sharp green.
  • Grew Beyond Their Programming: To begin with, all of the game characters are driven by their programmed roles and personalities. Over time, most develop a greater awareness of themselves and the world around them, developing true emotions, consciousness, and relationships. Ace Lightning and Lady Illusion are particular examples. In early episodes, the characters display a sense of self-awareness to their origins, but lose it as they become more humans. Ace is the only character to discover the Tomato in the Mirror that he is from a game.
  • Hero for a Day: Chuck gets temporary superpowers in one episode.
  • Heroic BSoD: Ace has a literal Heroic BSOD when he contracts a virus during a data transfer, completely freezing him solid. It's a kiss from Lady Illusion which snaps him out of it.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Lady Illusion at the end of series three.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: During the final boss fight, Mark realizes the Amulet is hidden in Lord Fear's pipe organ.
    Mark: ...The music. It's been the music all along!
  • Horrible Camping Trip: Episode 22 is this trope. Mark, Chuck, Brett and Simon go camping only to meet up with Wayne and his boastful dad, whilst the villains look for Mark to prevent Ace from giving him a newly found piece of the Amulet.
  • Hostage for MacGuffin: Usually Mark ends up being hostage for an Amulet piece. It's happened to Sparx at least once, too.
    • And to Sam, who usually doesn't even know it's happening.
    • Pete's kidnapping is played for laughs, Lord Fear subjecting him to his deliberately awful howling til Mark brings him the Amulet.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Mark nearly sets himself up for one of these at the end of the first series when faced with the option of either losing the game and allowing Lord Fear to take over the world, or deleting the videogame from his hard drive, which would delete Ace and all the other CGIs along with it. Fortunately he has a Last Minute realization and is spared from making the choice.
  • I Have This Friend: This happens with Mark a few times (who uses it genuinely when he's trying to figure out ways to help Ace without giving away the fact that said friend is actually a superhero who emerged from his videogame.)
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Mark Hollander throughout most of the series.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: Ace is mind-controlled during one episode, and Sparx (while being repeatedly attacked by him) tries desperately to remind him that "we're the good guys!"
    • Also occurs between Ace and Random Virus. Rarely successfully.
  • Invincibility Power-Up: The Flame Upgrade in the second season. Like most such items it only lasts for a little bit though.
  • Ironic Echo:
    Ace: At least I didn't break the window.
    Mark: Forget about the window! Are you alright?
  • I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: The character of Pete, Mark's best friend before he moved to America, appeared regularly in the introductions of episodes speaking to Mark from England via a videophone. He appeared in person in one episode of the second series while visiting Mark in America (kind of subverted, in that Pete decides it would be better if he didn't meet Ace).
  • Jumped at the Call: Whereas Mark was initially confused and reluctant to play the Saving the World Game, videogame fanatic (and leader of the Ace Lightning Fan Club) Chuck Mugel jumped at it as soon as he realized what was going on.
  • Just Friends: Mark and Sam, after series two (ironically this is the only time you see them kiss but then this is that kind of show.
  • Kick the Morality Pet: Ace accidentally shoots Chuck after Lady Illusion messes with his program giving him access to human emotions.
  • Kissing Discretion Shot: With the humans, (Mark and Kat kiss in silhouette in the final scene of the series) the CGI characters are less disguised about it.
  • The Last Dance: It's quite literally a last dance for Lady Illusion and Ace Lightning during the finale of the first series, when they quietly and calmly finish the dance that they began several episodes earlier, before she vanishes back into the game.
  • Left Hanging: The second series was baiting pretty heavily for continuation note , only to end up canceled.
  • The Lifestream: Called The Datastream, this is the swirling purple/blue energy portal that brings the CGI characters to earth from within Mark's game. The portal can be opened by putting together pieces of the Amulet of Zoar.
  • Lightning Can Do Anything: Including bring the characters of a videogame to life, apparently...
    • A deflected bolt of lightning from Ace once gave Chuck Mugel super strength for an episode. Ace mentioned that it was a "good job that was a deflected shot or he'd have been toast."
  • MacGuffin: The Amulet of Zoar, which is scattered in pieces throughout the carnival and must be completely reassembled in order to win the "game".
  • Mad Scientist Laboratory: Well, angry scientist's computer lab, really.
  • Magical Computer: Tonnes of them, mostly courtesy of Chuck.
  • Magitek: The characters claim that the Amulet of Zoar is magically fuelled, but since they're actually characters who came from inside a videogame.
  • The Man Behind the Man: The Master Programmer behind Kilobyte. Or Kilobyte behind the Master Programmer, depends which episode you're watching.
  • The Masquerade Will Kill Your Dating Life: Mark has a tendency to lose girlfriends this way as he often ends up standing them up or leaving dates to go help Ace fix whatever is going wrong this week. One of them is okay now. The other is still rather bitter.
  • Mentor: Ace is a mentor to Sparx (and Mark to an extent). Conversely, Mark often serves to mentor Ace in the ways of the Real World. Chuck also mentors Mark in some of the more complex areas of video gaming.
  • Mid-Season Upgrade: Basically Sparx showing up to help fight in the first season. In the second, that coupled with upgrading the Lightning Knights new powers to fight the stronger new villain.
  • Monster Clown: Jesters count, right? 'Cause then Googler qualifies.
  • Mystery Meat: Whatever Mrs Kutcher the Cafeteria Lady is serving this week (Chuck's her favorite for actually liking the goop she serves up in the first place, and gets special treatment.)
    Ms Kutcher: If I told you what was in it, you wouldn't eat it.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Lord Fear? Felicity Fury? Anvil? Dirty Rat?
  • Normally, I Would Be Dead Now: Chuck gets hit by Ace's lightning bolts twice. The first time gave him superpowers, the second time merely knocks him unconscious for about sixty seconds - not the usual reaction to electrical trauma.
    • Mark is surprised by his continued survival on a regular basis. No wonder, really.
  • Pac Man Fever: Inevitable to some degree, being written by people who probably didn't play modern video games. Some aspects of the In-Universe game all the characters came from sound iffy to viewers who did (numbered levels were mostly an outdated concept by the time the show was made), and when people are shown "playing" the game it's usually thumping random keys and wiggling joysticks without any regard for what the screen's supposed to be showing.
  • Personal Gain Hurts: Creating Kilobyte just to get revenge on the people who laughed at your genius was a really, really bad move, Master Programmer.
  • Perverse Puppet: Googler's insane venom-spitting, tree-chomping, scary-joke-telling hand puppets Zip and Snip. Not only are they creepy, sentient things while attached to him, but they can detach themselves and seek out their prey. Hitting them is kind of like trying to swat flies.
  • Plot Coupons: In proper video game fashion, the pieces of the Amulet of Zoar, which both sides are trying to collect.
  • Plot Coupon That Does Something: The pieces of the Amulet of Zoar do more than indicate how close to the end of the game everyone's getting. Whenever a new piece is found it allows its holder to join it with the one they already have and summon a new character to join their side.
  • Poor Communication Kills:
    • Or at least lose your girlfriends, because you keep running off and canceling dates and generally being really weird? And can't tell her that the reason for all this is NOT because you're a jerk or just plain dense, but because you're trying to save the world in your spare time. Mark loses no less than two girlfriends this way. Ace's reasoning is that if Mark tells anyone else, he's putting them in danger. Since the girls were often in danger anyway, their knowing about Ace might actually have given them a better chance of staying in one piece.
    • Lady Illusion and Sparx just need to stop shooting at one another and talk for once.
  • The Power of Friendship: Seeing Mark in danger and finally coming to understand what a friend is gives Ace the ability to recover his powers after having lost them.
    • Occasionally, reminding him of their past helps Ace snap Random Virus out of his evil mode without having to resort to violence. More often, however, giving him a good whack is the only way to fix him.
  • The Power of Love: Lady Illusion brings Ace out of a Heroic BSoD by kissing him.
  • Powers That Be: The Master Programmer Rick Hummel had been watching Mark and his friends actions since the beginning, waiting for Lord Fear to take over so he can command them and rule the world, though he was only introduced in the third season. (He hadn't been doing a very good job until he created Kilobyte because the good guys kept winning).
  • Power Trio: Ace, Random Virus (when he's in the right mood) and Sparx for the Lightning Knights. Mark, Chuck and Sam (later Kat) for the humans respectively.
  • Protectorate: Don't mess with Mark while Ace is around. Just... don't.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: How to tell when Random Virus is in bad guy mode. Although the simple fact that he's left the junkyard is usually an indication of that too...
  • Refugee from TV Land: The entire premise of the show.
  • Refusal of the Call: Mark, initially. Sort of for Random Virus, though it depends what mood he's in.
  • Repulsive Ringmaster: Big Bad Lord Fear is the leader of the Carnival of Doom.
  • Rhino Rampage: Anvil, the rhinoceros-headed Dumb Muscle of the villains.
  • Revenge: Lord Fear's beef with Ace Lightning appears to stem from the fact that Ace crippled him in battle a long time ago. Word of God says there may have been more to it than that.
  • Roger Rabbit Effect: Ace is acknowledged In-universe as looking like a "cartoon man".
  • Running Gag: Ace constantly breaking things in Mark's household, which his parents discover, sooner or later, and blame on "shoddy American construction". (He gets better by the end of the series, though.) Also Sparx going off somewhere after she's been told not to (and usually getting in trouble in the process). Chuck throwing up.
  • Sadistic Choice: Mark, at the end of the series, has the dilemma of choosing whether to allow Lord Fear to take over the world, or deleting the videogame (including Ace, Sparx and Random) from his hard drive, and therefore removing the heroes from existence. (The fact that he even considered it then, and never even thought of it towards the end of the last series, says a lot for his character development.)note 
  • Sadist Teacher: Mr Chesborough. Though really he's more bitter and cruel (and later crazy) than sadistic.
  • Secret-Keeper: Chuck is Mark's Secret Keeper in the third season, as is Ashley Hollander throughout most of the series.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Jessica, at the end of series one.
  • Shoot the Dog: Mark nearly has to at the end of series one when, anticipating the game being lost and the world being doomed, he nearly deletes the file of the Ace Lightning videogame: which would destroy all the bad guys, but take all the good guys with them. Fortunately he has a last minute breakthrough. In later series Mark chooses to help Ace and the other Lightning Knights to do things the Hard Way without even considering deletion.
  • Shout-Out: Possibly to Masters of the Universe, since Ace Lightning revolves around the Amulet of Zoar, a mystical item that can give multiversal powers to the user, and is sought after by a skeletal lich who hates the muscular, blonde protagonist...
    • Building on that, "Zoar" was also the name of the Sorceress' bird form. And she's the show's Big Good and keeper of ancient and awesome powers, like the Zoar from the Ace Lightning back story's supposed to be.
    • Ace accidentally names Mark as Mario.
  • Show Within a Show: The game all the heroes and villains come from. A real-life Ace Lightning game came out between the two series meant to be the one in the show itself. There are a couple things in the show it actually provides context for, like Ace having an unreasoning hatred of garden gnomes (One level is full of killer garden gnomes as enemies). However there are things that don't gel with the game's portrayal in the show (An especially big one is Sparx doesn't appear in the game at all. She's mentioned in the introduction and waves goodbye to the player with Ace and Random under the end credits, but that's it).
  • Sidekick: Sparx and Mark, both to Ace. (Later on Chuck, too.)
  • The So-Called Coward: Mark's Dad is shown up on a camping trip by another arrogant father who boasts about his toughness. When the villains attack Mark's Dad fights them and directs the teenager campers how to defend themselves. The other dad ran away.
  • Sorting Algorithm of Evil: Mentioned sometimes in the first season, that the villains are gradually getting more powerful (somehow) to reflect how video games get more difficult the closer you get to the end. Done more blatantly with the introduction of Kilobyte, who by himself is an unfairly powerful new boss enemy, but can also power up the existing villains.
  • Sword Fight: Only one character has a sword, but since it fires lightning, it makes for some pretty spectacular fight scenes anyway.
  • Supporting Protagonist: Mark is the protagonist of the series while Ace Lightning is the hero.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial:
    "We're a family friendly carnival, we don't have any aliens or mutants here, never have never will!"
  • Sword Sparks: Sort of. Sparx's sword shoots pink electricity.
  • Take a Third Option: Mark, in the final episode of the second series, when he's left to choose between letting the world be taken over by computer game villains or deleting his new friends from existence, does this instead.
  • Teach Him Anger: Technically, though, Ace already had emotions they were just being moderated and controlled by his program. When Lady Illusion, with a new upgrade from Kilobyte, messes with that program, Ace learns what it's like to have your emotions in control of you, rather than the other way around.
  • 10-Minute Retirement: Mark, towards the end of series one in the episode Nobody's Hero.
  • "Test Your Strength" Game: The Carnival of Doom has a "Test Your Strength" game which Anvil hides in.
  • This Is Reality: Mark says this to Ace word for word in one episode. Ace just looks at him funny. Later on Ace becomes aware of the fact that he is just a game character and is understandably upset.
  • Tin Man: Ace Lightning. He gradually comes to understand his newfound feelings. It isn't that Ace didn't have emotions to begin with so much as that he didn't have access to human ones. His emotions were being kept in check and moderated by his programming. With that program destroyed, his newly uninhibited emotions got the better of him and he became a bit of a bastard for a while. He hates it at first, but grows to accept them and when Lady Illusion dies for him, he realizes he couldn't let go of loving her, no matter how painful it was.
    • It's regularly suggested that Ace's emotions have always had a direct effect on his powers even before this. Seeing Mark in danger allowed him to recover them in one episode, and he reacted with incredible enthusiasm (and an insane power burst) aimed directly at Googler after he wiped out Sparx.
  • Trapped in Another World: The video game characters are stuck in the real world. A few human characters also get trapped in the videogame over the course of the series. Its Kilobyte's ultimate goal to send the entire human population of the world to live inside the game. He clearly hasn't entirely thought this through.
  • The Undead: The main villain of the first two series (and finally once again at the end in a rather awesome fashion), Lord Fear; walking skeleton and the resident Lich. Also Rotgut the zombie cowboy in the second season, who prefers the term "walking dead".
  • Unusual User Interface: Characters access the Sixth Dimension (the videogame world Ace hails from) by putting together pieces of the Amulet of Zoar.
  • Unstoppable Rage: Do not - repeat, not - get on Ace's bad side.
  • Use Their Own Weapon Against Them: In "Unidentified Flying Hero", Sparx is disarmed of her sword in a fight with Googler. His puppets Zip and Zap use the sword to blast her back into the game.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Lord Fear during the final episode of the series (it's rather creepy).
  • Villain Decay: Lord Fear, after the overshadowing arrival of Kilobyte
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Lady Illusion is capable of morphing into other beings. And does so regularly.
  • Welcome to the Real World: Ace Lightning and a gang of villains appear in the real world. It takes them a while to get used to this.
  • Wham Episode: "Unidentified Flying Superhero": Sparx's death scene was so utterly unexpected and brutal in the middle of an otherwise lighthearted episode, (not to mention surprisingly handled) that nobody really cared that she would probably be back within a few episodes.
  • What Have I Become?: Ace realizes how dangerous and uncontrollable he has become now that he has human emotions - specifically when he nearly kills Chuck.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: After the part of his program controlling his emotions is screwed with, Ace finds it... a little difficult to keep control. Manifestations of "what the hell, hero?" include explosive anger at Fear, an outright outburst at a very confused Mark, and his accidentally shooting Chuck.
  • Wild Card: Random Virus, a powerful cyborg with a damaged program that causes him to switch between good and evil at Random (pun totally intended) intervals.
  • Woman Scorned: Heather really doesn't appreciate Mark's inability to pay attention to his girlfriends. There were some viewer complaints since she apparently went from Action Girl to petty bitch in the space of a season with no real explanation.
  • You Are Not Alone: Mark to Ace at the end of series two, and a couple of times throughout the rest of the series. The general theme seems to be when the chips are down, help out your friends.
  • You're Insane!: Mark, to Rick Hummel, the Master Programmer. Because he is.