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ASH Wednesday: City of Lions

This is part 3 of my weekly series on Dave Van Domelen’s Academy of Super-Heroes universe, a collection of musings, interviews, writerly insights and historical notes about the free super-hero serials (which started on the newsgroup rec.arts.comics.creative back in ’94 and recently released as Omnibus editions.)

This week I focus on S.T.R.A.F.E.: City of Lions. Written by Marc Singer, this arc introduced the less-powerful members of first graduate class as a team. And I love underdogs.

One thing I picked up from Marc’s treatment of his superhero team was that characters didn’t need to have flashy, world-shattering powers to be effective or interesting. In fact, it’s the shortcomings in their powers that provide fodder for writing. Look at his team: a woman with an antigrav aura that bends light; a minor telekinetic who uses it to become an expert marksman; a man who can’t be harmed yet still feels pain; a man whose powers hones his every skill but only within human norms; and a woman who cannot create fire but can control it. Respectable powers, for certain, but their effectiveness is boosted by the creative ways they (or Marc as the writer) used them. Always surprise the reader, but play fair by laying out the limitations. Often, it’s the character’s inability to get out of a sticky situation that leads to a more interesting solution.

One other thing Marc also did in this collection was introduce Triton. I’m sure he meant for Triton to be a throwaway villain, languishing forever in prison…but something about the guy stuck with me, inspired me to feature him prominently in my Conclave of Super-Villains title.

As I said, I love underdogs. More on the genesis of the CSV later.

Next week: Warden: Year One

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