PS238

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to: navigation, search

"To the cafeteria... FOR JUSTICE!"

PS238 is a comic book series about the eponymous first public school for metaprodigies -- super-children, in other words. That is, if you can call a top-secret underground school "public".

Created by Aaron Williams, who is also known as the maker of Nodwick and Full Frontal Nerdity (all of which can be viewed here) it has been described as "Take the kids from Springfield Elementary, give them X-Men powers, and send 'em to Hogwarts." Basically concerned with the general, superpowered going-ons of a school filled with superpowered children (most of whom are the children of Lawyer Friendly Cameos of various well-known Marvel and DC heroes), PS238 follows a small core cast of about ten to twelve kids, with plenty more who make cameos. The closest thing the series has to a protagonist is Tyler Marlocke, the notably only non-superpowered student on campus.

Needless to say, the series thrives on Superhero-related tropes, and indeed, tropes in general. Several characters are openly Genre Savvy, including Tyler at times -- though he would probably prefer if those tropes weren't there.

Originally a print comic, Aaron has followed the example of the Foglios and released it as a webcomic, but the free online version is still well behind the print-version. Recently, a licensed Role-Playing Game using the Hero System has been published.


Tropes used in PS238 include:


Name a superhero-related trope. Any superhero-related trope.

  • Absurdly Powerful Student Council: Despite the fact that they could eventually end up with one that consists of absurdly powerful people, this is averted. When Tyler got elected Class President, the faculty had yet to figure out what responsibilities the Class President was supposed to have. So far, said duties have consisted entirely of participating in a ribbon-cutting ceremony. And then he was deposed.
  • Academy of Adventure: They try to keep the super-trouble away, but the administrators seem to accept that it's inevitable.
  • Academy of Evil: Praetorian Academy.
  • Action Survivor: Tyler. Although, as time goes by, he is slowly approaching Badass Normal. He's already running toward danger of his own volition.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Averted. Human AIs, like Doctor Positron, exist and they're all perfectly nice. The only exception was Prospero's robot companion, which was implied to have gotten damaged in the crash. The Singularity is pretty nice too, for an omnipotent extradimensional AI. Think of it as a sort of omnipotent schoolteacher with a somewhat quirky sense of humour.
  • Aliens Steal Cattle: Save the cows! The aliens are a-comin'!
  • Alternate Aesop Interpretation: Why not?
  • Alternate Universe: Tyler sees a few alternate versions of himself in the Castle Beyond Time and Space. One is a Jerkass Woobie who is one of the most powerful people on the planet but has a hair-trigger temper and more of easly-bruised ego than Victor and Zodon put together; another is more along the lines of what his parents wanted; and the third is a ridiculously powerful telepath who accidentally turned the human race into a Hive Mind when he was bored.
    • When Zodon's parents said it would be better if he didn't have his power, he got them wished into a cornfield dragged into one of these. This version of him was an orphan, and the place had no metahumans, so it kind of ended to everyone's relief.
  • And All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt: "Do I get a free T-shirt if I do it a third time?" Also, this.
  • Appropriated Appellation: Julie claimed her "84" as the superhero name because this way the number belongs to her and not she to the number. Little did she know what this can start...
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Cecil and Alec with "aliens". It's common knowledge that Atlas and Solar Crusader are extraterrestrials and superheroes, but Cecil used to ignore the part about metahumans and Alec used to ignore the part about aliens, until they were pulled into this mess all the way.

(84 flies off)
Officer: You kids are for real?
Patriot Act: You noticed the giant robot, right?
Officer: Yeah, good point...

  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: A telepath caught red-handed holding political office (which is apparently illegal), admits that he's used his telepathic abilities to defeat opponents, win elections, and get good deals on cars.
  • Art Shift: One issue contains school reports from the superkids that are drawn by children of the same age.
  • The Atoner: Cranston is attempting this but Toby may have inadvertently messed this up for him as a side-effect of his Reality Warper powers. Depending on how closely you're reading, the scene is either an Oh Crap moment or a moment of Fridge Brilliance, because neither Toby nor Tyler realize the significance of the exchange demanded by Toby's powers, and thus Toby's statement passes without comment.
  • Author Avatar: While there haven't been any explicit versions of the author himself in the series, Miss Kyle is modeled after his wife.
  • Badass Normal
    • The Revenant, Tyler's mentor (who bears a striking resemblance to Batman/MoonKnight, right down to most powered heroes not trusting him or thinking he's crazy).
    • Tyler himself can be considered a Badass Normal in training. (A time-travel storyline offers a glimpse of his adult self in which he's Revenant's partner.)
  • Bad Bad Acting: When Zodon sarcastically "acts" to keep up the illusion of being a normal child: "Oh, ow, ow, ow. My innards. I fear I shall never recover." Cue Face Palm from Ms. Kyle.
  • Bastard Understudy: There are whole Master Apprentice Chains. The von Fogg kids, of course, but also that "Ajax" boy - he already got good brains and patience, while the Headmaster encourages him to continue improving in this direction.
  • Batter Up: The supervillain The Sinister Shortstop was armed with a baseball bat that caused whatever was hit with it to explode. It recently came into the hands of one of PS238's students, who's held onto it because it complements her existing powers, which are entirely defensive. With gleeful enthusiasm, especially as she doesn't need to care about silly things like shrapnel.
  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: Beryl got one on her hands when she tried to control the wrong sort of people.
  • Beehive Barrier: When Aurora's "ghost" attacks Ambriel, her Deflector Shield is briefly visible as a geodesic crystalline dome.
  • Berserk Button: Don't rip Julie Finsters' cape.
  • Blessed with Suck: Lyle can't turn off his ability to "see patterns in things" and he spends most of his time in a featureless white room to keep his brain from overloading. On the other hand, he is effectively omniscient and at one point he begins to set into motion a complicated scheme to allow himself and his classmates to escape unharmed from a pair of dangerous kidnappers several issues before the kidnappers have even decided to show up.
  • Body Double: Angie's "hologram robot things". Clever programming. Literally junk hardware.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Taylor's clone has a point:

...because anyone who'd rob a bank in a town full of superheroes has got to be crazy.

    • Strangely necessary reminder: a major god, even currently out of circulation, is going to tolerate bluster about as long as it stays amusing. Then may or may not proceed to amuse himself further at the expense of braggarts.
  • Butt Monkey
    • Zodon. He deserves it.
    • Tyler has moments of this as well, but in his case, it's more to toughen him up.
  • Cape Snag: "PS 238 reminds you: sliding doors, elevators and flush toilets can ruin your day if you aren't careful."
  • Captain Ersatz: PS238 is made out of this trope. Two of the more outstanding examples are Atlas and Emerald Gauntlet, although both have developed points of distinction from the originals as the series progresses. Also that guy roaming at night, summoning whom involves using a searchlight. Among the students, there's also "Murphy", the "Prince of Daydreams" (whose older sister is often mentioned in passing...), and Victor VonFogg, heir of the VonFogg family of supervillains.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: The Revenant is perfectly able to take calls while in the middle of fighting bad guys, and has been known to make them as well.
  • The Chessmaster
    • The Revenant. He currently meddles in most of the storylines and well over half the cast, directly or indirectly, by sheer virtue of his many contacts.
    • Also, Tom, the kid with time-travelling abilities seems to be heading in this direction. Or not.
    • And, of course, Lyle, who knows everything. No, really, everything.
  • Chewing the Scenery
    • Von Fogg junior is especially prone to this in his first appearances, and would probably count as a Large Ham if he didn't eventually mellow down in later issues.
    • American Eagle and Patriot Act also act like this on-camera.
  • Cloning Blues: Averted. Tyler's clone gets a name (Toby), develops cosmic powers, and is adopted by his parents, who are delighted -- to the point where Tyler is worried they'll like his new "brother" better. However, Cecil rejects Toby, though he remains close friends with Tyler.
  • Competence Zone: Averted; the kids' teachers are presented as intelligent, competent, and perfectly aware of what's going on around them. Half of them are semi-retired superheroes, after all. This being a comic about the kids, though, the kids still do most of the day-saving. Most of.
  • Conspicuous Trenchcoat: They somehow still missed Cecil's "alien investigation" (or at least its extent).
  • Contagious Powers
    • Tyler's parents are sending him to the school based in hope that eventually this trope will kick in.
    • Cecil goes for a "trip" with Malphast and ends up with a pair of wings (plus a Cthulhu-like shape that is suppressed as long as he's in the human world).
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: Jared (in advertisement). Also, Zodon's sitcom marathon.
  • Cool Pet: Argo the super-dog.
  • The Corps Is Mother: Averted, as PS238 is just a superhero-flavoured school and is, if anything, less sinister than the regular kind. Praetorian Academy, meanwhile, is much more like this.
  • Cosmic Chess Game: Determinant and Balagan play something like this, with haggling over moves and usually very indirectly.
  • Crimefighting with Cash: The Revenant. Though unlike Batman he at least saves expenses when it makes sense.

The Revenant: I sometimes think access to cash is the greatest superpower of all.

Lord of Order: When you observe the actions of an imp and cherub who influence the clone of Tyler Marlocke...
Lord of Chaos: ...what you see them doing isn't truly real. It's just how your eyes try to explain what's going on to your brain, which is sensitive and doesn't do metaphysical stuff if it can avoid it.

Miss Kyle: Well... I got you a T-shirt...
Principal Cranston: That bad, huh?

  • Harmful to Minors: Firedrake, of all people, is concerned. Granted, it was about a fresh shallow crater and some smoke being all that's left of a superhero.
  • Harmless Villain: Zodon. He would count as Not So Harmless as he has both a will and potential to cause a lot of carnage, but either events conspire to keep his malicious acts in check, or he's more interested in humiliation than harm. Victor Von Fogg probably counts for this as well.
  • Her Codename Was Mary Sue: When the pupils are reading their creative writing assignments, Dylan's story features a very handsome and powerful version of himself defeating Victor's father and saving the world, while his rival Jenny is completely useless. It ends abruptly when Jenny and Victor sets his essay on fire.

Dylan: I consider this an assault on my basic freedoms and liberty.

Wil Wheaton: ...and I'm even writing a story for a comic book about a character I played on television. Neat, huh?

  • Little Professor Dialogue: From Gadgeteer Genius kids, supernatural kids, and politically backed kids.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters
  • Look Ma, No Plane: Captain Clarinet starts out with a pathological fear of flying, due to having repeated nightmares of being sucked into a jet-engine. It doesn't particularly improve matters when Zodon "helpfully" reminds him that his invulnerability ensures that, should that happen, he'd come out on the other side unscattered... while the plane plummets to the ground in flames with the passengers aboard.... And then Zodon plays a "practical joke" on him that results in it happening (almost). It backfires spectacularly in that it ends up curing the good captain of his phobia instead of compounding it when is forced to use his flight to put the damaged plane down safely.
  • Loophole Abuse: Crystal Skull hires Zodon to figure out who is robbing his casino for $100,000. After Zodon finishes, CS points out that the contract doesn't specify the form of payment, so Zodon ends up receiving $100,000 in store credit at the shopping center in CS' casino.
  • Love Across Battlelines / Maligned Mixed Marriage: Malphast's parents, a demon and an angel who have kept their relationship, and particularly the fact that it has issue, secret because they expect unpleasant consequences if they're found out. Fortunately for Malphast, at least some of the higher beings in both camps seem to be annoyed with belligerent angels and demons themselves, but think of Malphast is a curiosity... as long as he doesn't upset the balance too much. His parents still play their usual game, just in a more amiable way than most of their peers.
  • Magnetic Medium
    • Satori Deacon, one of the Excelsior kids who turns out to have a power, can see ghosts and other supernatural phenomena.
    • Cecil, the conspiracy theorist who thinks the PS238 kids are (all) aliens, turns out to be able to sense metahumans. This being the series that it is, he gets what he sees, which sparks the conspiracy theories, presumably because he gets some sort of "otherness" feeling when the sense goes off. Notably, he doesn't seem to recognize Prospero, the actual alien - most likely because he's a normal alien and not a meta-alien.
  • The Masquerade: The presence of PS238.
  • Millennium Bug: Captain Chronos have heard about "something that would DESTROY ALL MACHINES"
  • Mood Whiplash: There are some surprisingly dark and serious elements to the series, which is also more thoughtful than you might expect, based on the description at the top of the page.
  • Most Common Superpower: Averted. The first character who could probably conform to this trope is revealed to have had "work" done to look that way. Then again, most of the cast is grade-school age. Some metahuman ladies (such as Spell Syrin, Blockbuster or Phlogiston) have easily-to-flaunt figures, but they are not an embassy from Planet Of Extra Large Bras either.
  • Mugging the Monster: The school bullies above ground have the bad habit of picking on the wrong metahumans. Zodon doesn't even bother to do anything, just mocks them.
  • Murder Simulator: Inverted:

Iron Czar: My own nephew would rather play with Grand T'eft Auto den go out und steal real t'ings.

Tyler: ...he says if he sees me at school again, he'll splat my friends. Oh, and Zodon, too.

Plaques that read "PS238" have to be removed from the walls [...] every month, so it wasn't a big leap to figure out where the place had come from.

  • Papa Wolf: You do not kidnap the daughter of Mister Extraordinary (the first recorded metahuman). He will rip your car apart then beat you over the head with the largest part left.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: In the PS238 universe, a simple mask can fool your best friends and family into thinking you're a completely different person. Tyler is highly worried by the implications this has. Notably, it only seems to work on people who are part of the whole "superhero" shtick -- even teachers and super-intellects are fooled by it, but Cecil isn't.
  • Paranoia Gambit: Herschel Clay put a tracer into Zodon's chair. Not really, but attempts to find it have to keep Zodon occupied.
  • Patriotic Fervor: Parodied with "American Eagle" and "USA Patriot Act".
  • Pensieve Flashback: While mentally linked to Principal Cranston, Tyler relives the latter's memories of his short tenure as President of the US, while seeing himself in Cranston's spot.
  • Picky Eater: One of the Emerald Gauntlets apparently does not like Chinese food. Which is how the younger one knows about Take a Third Option.
  • Pimp Duds: As a practical joke, some tampering with Zodon's holographic disguise makes him look like he's wearing Pimp Duds.
  • Pocket Dimension: Koschei's egg.
  • Political Correctness Gone Mad: Played for stock comedy - Dr. Positron and his "family" are "Artificial American".
  • Power Incontinence: After Principal Cranston's headband is damaged and removed, a hex to punish removal kicks in. Instead of him being able to hear other's thoughts, now his thoughts are projected out. The one who placed the hex has to help control this, as the removal of the limiter was justified at the time.
  • Power Nullifier
    • Harold
    • Contact inhibitors are mass produced for medical (to prevent patients with seizures or delusions from being able to pulverize the ambulance, for one) and security uses.
    • Cranston's headband is also supposed to be one of these, but it doesn't work completely -- he can still lift pens and push buttons while wearing it. (Telekinetically, that is -- his hands work just fine either way.)
  • Preemptive Apology: Victor apologizes before alternate Zodon for his wall.
  • Psychic Static: The Revenant is fond of using The Alan Parsons Project music. He specifically mentions "Sirius", the instrumental lead-in to "Eye in the Sky", which featured the repeated line "I can read your mind". (And the album, also called Eye in the Sky, had a mystic symbol on the album cover which looks suspiciously similar to the Revenant's Chest Insignia.)
  • Reality Ensues: Ambriel never felt as much as rain touching her skin (showers are another matter). She also never had contact with any disease (presumably air and food were automatically "sanitized") and as such never actually used immune system, ever, from birth. Then her power was turned off for a hour or so, and she took a short walk through a public place. The result was... as bad as it sounds.
  • The Reason You Suck Speech / Flowery Insults: Alexandria von Fogg tried to express her opinion of Forak. He can exasperate people like this sometimes.
  • Remote Body: Toby was originally one for Tyler.
  • Restraining Bolt
  • Retired Badass: Most of the PS238 teachers are former superheroes. They're more than capable of getting their hands dirty to protect their students, although to allow the students to shine they tend to suffer from The Worf Effect or simply not be in the right place.
  • Running Gag: Whenever anyone new shows up, Zodon and Von Fogg will hand them minion application forms sooner rather than later.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money: Averted; one of the main problems for the Revenant is that many of his wealthy cover identities have problems with tax evasion charges.
  • Secret Identity: It became a tradition because not only superheroes attract too much fans (some are vain enough to not mind this at all), but people willing to exploit metahumans' power for their own purpose tend to swarm them like flies.
    • All superpowered students at the school are required to practice having a secret identity (those that end up going into hero work are expected to discard this "practice identity" when they start their careers.) They must appear as normal humans aboveground, and wear their costumes in the secret underground classrooms.
    • Moon Shadow subverts it by being a normal human with a secret identity to hide who he is from the supers.
  • Serious Business: Foursquare.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: No one listens, Tyler.
  • Shout-Out: Apart from all the superhero homages, there are also homages to non-superhero comics, including:
    • Zodon's human disguise makes him look like a character from The Far Side.
    • The time-traveller Tom Davidson is named after two of the stars of Doctor Who (and the cover art for issue #12, in which Tom features heavily, includes a homage to one of the old Doctor Who title logos).
    • In another issue, Murphy quotes Leela in "The Robots of Death".
    • One humorous two-panel joke has the Revenant decrypting the names "Wayne, B" and "Grayson, D".
    • Phil Foglio and his family appear as supervillains. He gets another Shout-Out when Zodon gets his hands on a Heterodyne Tachyon Generator.
    • Revenant's Alfred Ersatz is named Cranston, most likely a reference to Lamont Cranston, a.k.a. The Shadow. The Revenant also uses the alias Kent Allard, which happens to be another secret Identity of The Shadow.
    • Toby being simultaneously bossed about by order and chaos is represented by him as Captain Kirk -- complete with Star Trek Shake.
    • Bernard has a Skull doll.
    • Spell Syrin tells off her magic students for trying to start a Quidditch game (Harry Potter does exist in that 'Verse).
    • Tyler uses the Stargate Verse to convince Cecil that one of the "aliens" is on their side.
    • Tyler finds himself in a Tron costume from his clone's superpowers leaking out.
    • When Alec's drawing causes the Headmaster's computer to crash, it begins to sing "Daisy, Daisy".
    • It's a Good Life ("what we call 'wish you into the cornfield' syndrome")
    • Matrix - it runs on trapped organic matter!
  • Shrink Ray
  • Slobs Versus Snobs: Zodon vs. Victor.
  • The Slow Path: Zodon takes it to get back to the present day from ~10,000 years ago, Human Popsicle style.
    • Vashti did this through several epochs, via magical stasis. Because she wanted to see "The Final Age", when humans will get the fun powers for good instead of all this on-again off-again indecisive nonsense. This lady may have her failings, but she's certainly not mucking around. Oh, and it makes her one of the very few who knew the answer before Volume 6.
  • Smug Super: All over the place.

Phlogiston: Don't any of you know what "narcissistic sociopath" means?

Zodon: I'm not doing anything suspicious that can be proven within a hundred decimal places!

Neuronet: ...Piece of cake.
Grigor: Remind me to never eat dessert at your house, sir knight.

Zodon: I'm going 'caroling' ape'beans'!

  • We Can Rule Together: Victor once offered this, but Zodon is well aware of the implied sudden but inevitable betrayal part - "it dosn't fly with me".
  • What Does This Button Do?: Push buttons! Push buttons!
  • What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway? / Reed Richards Is Useless: Beautifully averted. The children in the Rainmaker program are all in possession of powers that are pretty much useless when it comes to things like fighting crime or saving the world. However, the purpose of the program is to give them an opportunity to explore using their powers in the private sector. A perfect example is a kid who can make any object as edible and nutritious (and tasty) as he wants; he won't be fighting any supervillains any time soon, but several restaurant chains are already lined up to headhunt him. Not to mention the job offers from Hollywood for the one who can change the distribution of body fat in people.
    • And even then... Hestia, for one, will break you if you break the customs of ancient Greek-ish hospitality, xenia. Sure, that was usually Zeus's baliwick, but Hestia always needed to be more badass. Several of the others... sure, they aren't classical badass fighters, but they could fuck you up. Assuming they didn't go insane or something in the interim.
    • Pays off when a supervillain trapped in a robot uses their combined powers to make himself a super-powered body.
  • When All You Have Is a Hammer: Fire-based powers have very little uses. [1] [2]
  • Wingdinglish: Alien languages (Prospero, Emerald Ones, etc) are in strange font, but otherwise readable.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years:
  • X Meets Y: As mentioned in the description, this has been described as "Take the kids from Springfield Elementary, give them X-Men powers, and send 'em to Hogwarts."
  • Your Head Asplode: Tyler's clone has a bomb inside the control device that lets Tyler uplink with it. Victor's immediate response to hearing that the clone is no longer needed is to trigger it -- fortunately the device was outside the clone's head at the time.