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“Didn’t anyone tell you? The fights between superheroes and villains are fake.”
Written by Mark Andrew Smith, artwork by Armand Villavert
Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors is an Image Comics title that deals with the lives of students attending the titular school. The series serves as a unique Deconstruction of the super hero genre because in this universe the superheroes and villains have reached a mutually beneficial peace agreement and now stage ‘fights’ for entertainment. However the young villains at Gladstone’s aren’t aware that these pro-wrestling-esque fights aren’t real. Things get still more interesting when rogue villains who rejected the hero-villain peace agreement try to bring a return to the old ways of villainy.
The series boasts a cast of round and unique characters, a compelling deconstruction of the standard superhero story, and excellent cartoony artwork.
The first six issues have been collected in paperback format. The second series is nearing completion as of January 2012.
Gladstone's School For World Conquerors provides examples of:
- Accidental Murder: Shakurankai Subverted in that he's not really dead.
- Adorkable: The students are this for their supervillain idols.
- Affably Evil: Ashu Gladstone the "Down-on-his-luck magician. Even worse-off villain."
- Almighty Janitor: Greensleeves the groundskeeper.
- Art Shift: When the kids are reading comic books the colors go into half tone and Villavert makes it look more like a traditional comic book.
- Badass Family: Every supervillain family, but particularly the Skulls.
- Berserk Button: Don't touch Greensleeve's roses.
- Bloodless Carnage: Goes the Samurai Jack route of fighting mainly non-bleeding opponents.
- Calling Your Attacks: All the time.
- Chewing the Scenery: Often, but Kid Nefarious' Victory Speeches 101 presentation stands out.
- Children Are Innocent / Innocence Lost: An ongoing theme is the students realizing that their world is a lot more complex than they previously knew it to be.
- Curb Stomp Battle: Mr. Nefarious v. anonymous robots. When he comes back later they simply give him what he wants and ask him to leave them alone.
- Darker and Edgier: The series starts off following the main characters at school, but the reader quickly realizes there is some heavy stuff going on in the story.
- Determined Expression: Marty with the unification ray.
- Disappeared Dad: The Skull Bros' father Wolfgang. Supposedly killed by a superhero.
- Dream Sequence: Mummy Girl's dream about her and Kid Nefarious.
- Energy Weapons: To go along with the Bloodless Carnage. It is technically an all-ages book after all.
- Evil Albino: A student aptly named Albino Boy.
- Extended Disarming: Skull Brothers.
- Friendly Enemies: Some heroes and villains are like this.
- Genre Deconstruction: Of the superhero genre. In this universe superheroes and villains have made peace with one another but perform staged fights for entertainment purposes. Both parties prefer the peace situation over the typical superhero-villain fighting that went on before except for hardliners who still pine for the old days of super villainy.
- Green Thumb: Greensleeves.
- Heroic BSOD: Kid Nefarious when he discovers comic books.
- Homage: Ironsides looks awfully similar to Iron Man. Also Martian Jones is clearly inspired by J'onn J'onnz
- Hot Mom: Ms. Nefarious and Madame Skull.
- Hope Spot: "Is that all he had?" "Well that wasn't so hard."
- Ineffectual Loner: Averted. Rather than go off on his own to fight Shakurankai Kid Nefarious gets the other students in on it.
- Killer Rabbit: One of the teachers mentions a villain who tried to take over the world using garden gnomes.
- Lampshade Hanging: "The unification ray! Oh sweet Deus Ex Machina!"
- Let's Get Dangerous: The kids sneak out of their houses and congregate before going to battle Shakurankai.
- Masked Luchador: El Campeon from Mark Andrew Smith's The Amazing Joy Buzzards
- Near Villain Victory: By The Red Octopus in his performance with Centurion.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Ironsides on Abraxas.
- No Hugging, No Kissing: Averted. These are maturing preteens after all.
- Oh Crap: From Abraxas when Ironsides joins the fray, and from the kids when they realize Shakurankai has just shrugged off their attacks.
- Playing Possum: Red Octopus
- Real Men Wear Pink: The first time we see Ironsides, one of the series most infamous supervillains, he is in a pink apron having just cooked 'Grandmumum's Super-Secret Cranberry Muffin Recipe.'
- Shout-Out: One of the teachers mentions a plot being foiled by 'those meddling kids'.
- Shout-Out/To Shakespeare: Skull Brother 2: "Alas, Poor stone manster. I shot him well."
- Squee: Mummy Girl and Ghost Girl when Kid Nefarious suggests they get together to study.
- Totally Radical: Thankfully averted. The students talk like normal preteens with only occasional use of words like 'epic.'
- The Reveal: Mummy Girl without her bandages, Skull Brothers without their masks, and many characters real names.
- Two Girls to a Team: Mummy Girl and Ghost Girl on their otherwise male team.
- Villain Protagonist: We follow the exploits of a group of young villains in training and those of their villain mentors.