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Common Grounds is a six-issue comic book limited series created by writer Troy Hickman and published by Top Cow Productions in 2004. The series examined the life of superheroes and villains in and around a chain of coffee shops called Common Grounds, all of which which serve as a neutral-ground between superpowered heroes and villains. Because of the lack of violence on their premises, these restaurants allow heroes and villains to speak to one another in amicable situations, and provided insights into their histories and personal lives as they are featured in normal, everyday situations while still in character as a hero or villain.
The comics include examples of:
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Man-Witch is a little weirded out by the fact that women send fanmail to him in prison. He's evil, and all, but crazy is a little out of his depth.
- Anachronic Order: "Elsewhere" (featured in the second issue of the series) takes place six months after Digital Man disappeared (in January, so it's July), which is after the dates given in the timeline for stories told in later issues. It's also around the time that Analog Kid rescues him.
- Art Shift: Because each story is drawn by different artists, this is inevitable. It only really becomes apparent in "This'll Be the Day" and "Loose Ends", the latter of which features a cameo by two main characters of the former, American Pi and Zhang.
- Awesomeness By Analysis: American Pi -- she explicitly and out loud calculates the exact amount of force and angle of attack needed to knock out a thug.
- Badass Normal: Snowfire. Subverted in that he was killed just a few weeks into his hero career.
- Bad Powers, Bad People: You'd think a guy like the Acidic Jew would be a bad guy, right? Acid touch, and all that? But no. He concentrates as hard as he can to keep his powers at bay, and is always there to help in the event of crisis; he saved dozens of lives after the Oklahoma City bombings.
- Blessed with Suck: He migt be able to circle the world in the blink of an eye, but the superfast hero Speeding Bullet also can not keep a girlfriend or sit through a movie. Because.....it....is....all....so....slow...
- The Acidic Jew dissolves everything he touches; he has to concentrate to stop it long enough for him to eat something he's holding, and nearly starved to death before he learned to do so. Deb-U-Ton is heavy enough to break wooden floors. Strangeness is ... well, a monster.
- Captain Patriotic: American Pi
- Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Subversion from the norm of Comic Book Tropes, in that when Big Money offers a supervillain twenty-seven million dollars (in 1984 dollars, for reference) to stop his current evil scheme, the villain wisely accepts! (And promptly gets in trouble with the IRS.)
- Dark Age of Supernames: Uber-American and wonderful person Captain Gallant has three superhero sons: Bloodstain, Die-Cut, and Deathmarch. It's a touchy subject.
- Death Is Cheap: One of the rare instances where it is lampshaded while not being employed. When the founder of the Common Grounds restaurants is being interviewed, he expresses his profound belief that his son is not dead, since everybody knows it always turns out to be a dream, or a clone that was killed, or something of that nature. By the end he is practically in tears, but he is still clinging to hope that maybe, just maybe, his son is still out there.
- Diner Brawl: Averted. Despite the cafe being frequented by super-powered enemies, great pains are taken to ensure there are no fights on the premises.
- Even Evil Has Standards: He might be willing to rob banks, but the Mental Midget's arch-foe Man-Witch won't actually try to magically create money, since that might upset the US economy and he is still a Patriotic American.
- Even would-be world-conquering monsters have standards, as witnessed by the horror and sorrow that a group of them show on being told a tale about a drunken father forcibly toilet training his daughter ... she dies of drowning and massive head trauma.
- Gadgeteer Genius: Analog Kid built a death ray out of a magnifying glass and two slinkys at age 4.
- Genius Bruiser: Strangeness was top of his class at Harvard Law before being turned into a monster.
- Good Guy Bar
- Let's You and Him Fight: Subverted in the backstory, as instead of two heroes fighting and ultimately becomings friends and allies, two superheroes, an experienced one and a novice, accidentally fight each other (a situation referred to by one character as a "slugfest") and the experienced superhero kills the younger one. Reality Ensues as the survivor is subsequently arrested, sentenced to a lengthy term in jail, and emerges decades later unable to find gainful employment, forced to scrounge through the trash for meals. This actually serves as the key background moment of the entire series, as it was this event that lead to the foundation of the eponymous series of restaurants. The founder of Common Grounds, himself a former hero, was the father of the inexperienced hero killed in the brawl, and he started the neutral-ground eatery as a means of insuring that heroes (and even villains) would finally have a chance to meet one another and be able to clear up these minor confrontations before they could spin out of control in the real world.
- Living Forever Is Awesome: The Eternal Flame was the man to whom Prometheus gave the fire that he stole, granting him power over fire and immortality. He becomes a superhero and is still able to enjoy his life after all that time, still falling in love over and over again.
- Most Common Superpower: Magna-Woman had it, so she had a breast reduction surgery; her health is much better now.
- The Name's Seperated By Only By A Synonym : Snowfire should not under any circumstances be confused with the short-lived DC Comics supervillain Snowflame, God of Cocaine.
- Punny Name: Deb-U-Ton is an affluent young woman who weighs 2000 pounds after accidentally being made hyperdense. Mosche Chomsky bemoans the fact that the press refers to him as "the Acidic Jew", a name he feels is in poor taste.
- Man-Witch, on the other hand, had never heard of Manwich before Mental Midget mentioned it to him. He didn't seem to care.
- Reality Ensues: See above; killing somebody gets you a lengthy prison term and a miserable life once released, not a free pass or easy escape every two weeks.
- Redeeming Replacement: Strangeness and Charm are superheroes because they want to make up for their father's supervillainy after he stopped being a hero. Charm wants to honor that part of his legacy, not the fall that came afterwards.
- Sizeshifter: Big Money, the Common Grounds founder.
- Strictly Formula: The formulaic nature of 1960s monster comics is lampshaded and (gently) parodied in "Where Monsters Dine" -- all of the monsters were initially defeated by ordinary men described as nerdy, meek, wimpy or mousy.
Grondar, The Unbelievable Monster From Planet X: Man, what was it with those nerdy guys back then? Our plans for global domination went down the crapper just to improve their self-esteem.
- Theme Naming: Strangeness and Charm are both
qualitiesarbitrary quantum number labels of quarks.
- Truce Zone: The basic philosophy of Common Grounds; anybody (hero or villain) is welcome to come in and enjoy its services in peace and safety, and they are encouraged to meet and mingle in order to smooth out personal differences before they become dangerous in the real world. Details are sketchy, but apparently the restaurants hire people with superpowers as staff members in order to have the muscle to make sure that nobody starts anything.
- Twist Ending: The end of the Commander Power/Blackwatch story reveals that, contrary to what the reader was made to believe, Commander Power was the villain and Blackwatch was the hero all along.
- Younger Than They Look: During their conversation, Moshe (the Acidic Jew) guesses that Patricia (Deb-U-Ton) is seventeen or eighteen; she tells him that she's actually sixteen.