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Crew of the Savage Chicken
Captain of the Savage Chicken. A sentient, distinctly nonhumanoid alien in a humanoid suit, he's an irresponsible, snarky, but pleasant rogue who delights in annoying authority figures, petty theft and general roguery. He's one of the only sentient aliens to currently be active in human society, though the novelty wore off a while ago.
Provides examples of:
- Affectionate Pickpocket: Sam has been known to attempt this — but then, he's probably tried every thieving-technique in the book, and invented a few himself. (Of course, since everybody knows that he's a notorious thief and pickpocket, this particular technique doesn't work well for him.)
- Bad Boss: Subverted for laughs.Winston: Will your captain let you rest properly with that injury?
Florence: Injury or not, my captain expects his crew to work as hard as he does.
Winston: A real slave driver, eh?
Florence: Actually, I think he's honestly surprised every time I get up in the morning.
- Blue and Orange Morality: As scavengers, Sam's species regard treachery and theft as impeccably moral behavior. Human attitudes make so little sense to Sam that he often doesn't even understand that his behavior could be objectionable. This sense of "Crooks are heroes" morality goes to such an extent that he considers the fact that either he will be remembered as a hero or as a traitor to the human race as a sort of Xanatos Gambit.
- Character Name Alias: As part of Sam Starfall's plan to get Florence out of Ecosystems Unlimited, he identifies himself to Kornada as "Leonard Snart. Captain of this cold facility", after a member of the Rogues Gallery of The Flash.
- Confusion Fu: Raises it from a martial art to a lifestyle. How else can this be explained?
- Consummate Liar: "Your lies contain more truth than my truth does."
- Cool Old Guy: The "cool" part is debatable, but by his species standards he is old (granted none have lived long enough to die of old age yet)
- Cthulhumanoid: We haven't seen too much of what lies under the suit, but it involves tentacles. The author describes him as having some characteristics of an octopus, a lamprey, and a lungfish.
- Drives Like Crazy: (70, 97)Helix: Florence, standing in a burning building while blind circus midgets throw knives at you is safer than driving across town with Sam.
- Eldritch Abomination: Qwerty describes him as "The tentacled horror from beyond my stars", rather annoying him.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Sam admires Mr. Kornada's plan to fleece hundreds of millions of robots of their money, but draws the line at killing them ... because living victims can be stolen from again later on down the line.
- Expressive Mask: He manipulates it using his facial tentacles, though apparently it's only capable of simple expressions.
- Extreme Omnivore: Downplayed and exaggerated at the same time. Sam doesn't eat things like rocks or other inorganic materials, but as a scavenger he's fully capable of living off of things that have rotted far past the point where they're fit for human consumption. He considers It Came from the Fridge a delicacy, meals served from a dumpster as prime reservation spots, and his favorite restaurants are of the Lethal Chef variety. He'll happily eat things that are lethal to a cockroach.
- Famed In-Story: One of his ambitions. Max Post notes that this is not something a thief should aspire to.
- Gag Boobs: Or rather stolen coffee pots.
- Genre Savvy: Knows he is despised by the entire planet, and takes advantage of it.
- Genius Ditz: Sam Starfall is unmatched at the arts of thievery and lock-picking. Prisons will no longer take him — not only did he escape from the last prison he was in, he stole two of the cell doors.
- Greed: One of his major motives.
- Human Outside, Alien Inside: Sam looks fairly humanoid in his suit (enough to disguise himself as a human at times), but he is quite alien.
- Idiot Ball/Smart Ball: Sam is a constant juggling act.
- Impossible ThiefSam: You could send me to prison.
Officer: Nice try, but we both know you're not allowed back until you tell the Warden where his cell doors went.
- Impossibly Delicious Food: Sam Starfall himself. We've not actually seen any sapient being's reaction to tasting him, but the lack of mass extinction events in his planet's history leads to his proteins being so simple and easy to digest that even herbivores find him delicious. He's repeatedly been able to lure an emu — which normally doesn't eat anything much meatier than insects — with the opportunity to eat some of his facial tentacles.
- Indy Ploy: Sam's stock in trade. After all, "Improvise is one of the few battle plans that survives contact with the enemy."
- In Harm's Way: One of his motivations. Faced with a choice between lots of money acquired safely and perhaps a smaller amount acquired in a dangerous way, he thinks the decision difficult.
- Loveable Rogue: Depending on your definition of the term "loveable". People somehow pay Sam to steal phones from people who are using them to be annoying, as seen in this strip.
- OO Cis Serious Business: When the Chief of Police still has his wallet after spending a few hours flying with Sam, Florence deduces that Sam really was worried about her.
- Mobile-Suit Human: He's actually smaller than human, and apparently built like a squid or crustacean.
- The Perfect Crime: One of Sam's goals in life. Thanks to some Insane Troll Logic, he arguably pulls this off with his plan to steal the satellites that he's been hired to put in orbit. When he asks what the best place to hide them would be, Helix tells him in orbit.Hmm. Only people with a spaceship could get to them. We'd be able to keep an eye on them. And if we put them exactly where they're supposed to be, the owner won't notice we've stolen them.
Helix, I like it! This is a crime so sneaky and so subtle, even I don't know if I'm actually committing it!
- Order Versus Chaos: The Chaos to Florence's Order. One of Sam's goals is to make Florence less responsible while one of hers is to make Sam more responsible. Played for laughs in that they both think they're doing the moral thing.[thinking]: We could have left without paying. Oh, well. She'll learn.
[shared thought with Florence]: I just have to keep setting a good example.
- Out of Focus: While he still does play his part, the "Gardener in the Dark" storyline centers squarely around Florence and her efforts to save the colony's robotic population so much as for Sam to be called the "comic relief sidekick". He's not pleased
- Out with a Bang: Due to the physiology of his race, mating is fatal. That said, most of his race is actually sterile; the ones capable of breeding do so while young, the others then raise the children they want.
- Screwy Squirrel: Sam is all about pranking and generally causing trouble for others, though none of his plans have involved the intent to cause real harm.
- Shutting Up Now: As a self-preservation mechanism.
- Starfish Alien: But wears a humanoid exoskeleton suit.
- Sticky Fingers: Sam pretty much does this on instinct, to the point where it's not always a conscious decision. In fact, when he decides to go honest, Helix points out that he's holding someone's wallet.Sam: This could be a problem. I have no idea how that got there.
- Strong as They Need to Be:
- Swiss Cheese Security: Self-subverting due to it being an extremely effective Batman Gambit. Sam's methods of ensuring security and privacy basically amount to no preventative measures other than exploiting concepts that people wish to avoid like the plague. There is literally nothing else preventing people from just walking right on in until Florence arrives and fixes the ship.Security Sign [reads]: Come in! Let's talk AMWAY!
Sam: Don't laugh. It works.
Florence: I know I wouldn't go any further.
- Walking Techbane: Demonstrated here. Sometimes he even uses this fact to his advantage.
The head engineer aboard the Savage Chicken, Florence is a Bowman's Wolf, which are a genetically engineered species created by Ecosystems Unlimited, the company which is also in charge of the terraforming operations on Jean. There are only 14 Bowman's Wolves in existence (11 females and 3 males), which means that they're in grave danger of being abandoned and left to die if they prove a danger to humans; thus, Florence seeks to prove herself trustworthy to everyone she meets, and to always do the right thing, which, naturally, causes her to butt heads with Sam on a regular basis.
Provides examples of:
- Blind Date: She has previously been set up on one or more of these when she was in college, judging from a mental comment she made in strip 1285.
- Berserk Button: Never imply that she's a slave.
- Cute Little Fangs: Cute Big Fangs 419, actual Cute Little Fangs 1526 1736.
- Exposed Animal Bellybutton: Not only does she have a visible belly button, there's an indentation showing where it's located even when she's dressed in her normal jumpsuit.
- Fangs Are Evil: Subverted, though she's not averse to using them to get someone's cooperation, or to persuade someone to become a GOOD person.
- Furry Female Mane: Long hair on a wolf. Word of God from the Fourth Wall Mail Slot thread on the Talk About Comics forum is that it was done for visual gender identification purposes, and that if starting Freefall today he wouldn't have used it.
- Interspecies Romance: With Winston.
- Guilty Pleasures: In the Fourth Wall Mailslot thread, Florence admits to romance novels being a guilty pleasure for her.
- Hates Being Touched: Inverted, Florence actually likes being petted and frequently asks people if she can hug them. This is Played for Laughs when she meets her "father", Dr. Bowman, who really Hates Being Touched.
- Humans Through Alien Eyes: Because Florence would be interacting with humans more than other wolves, Dr. Bowman encoded human recognition into her mirror neurons; therefore humans look fairly normal to her, while other Bowman's wolves look funny.
- Innocent Inaccurate:
- Sometimes. She thinks that because more dogs have injured humans than wolves have, people are less afraid of her once they realize she's a wolf.
- She also uses mosquitoes as a comparison for highly dangerous because they cause millions of deaths a year, whereas more obviously intimidating predators kill far fewer. Raibert notes he's not sure who's right when she points that out.
- Long Lived: Has an estimated life expectancy of 160 years, over ten times that of a baseline wolf, and she's officially 29, meaning she's outlived any real canid by almost a decade. However her life expectancy is still shorter than that of a human of the era.
- Magnetic Hero: Her strong morals, helpful instincts and plain old friendliness net her a lot of allies over the course of the strip.
- More Teeth than the Osmond Family: One wonders how she fits all those teeth in that muzzle.
- Multi Boobage: Flat, but multi.
- Must Have Caffeine: Florence guards her coffee as only a carnivore can. When she later forgoes it because she doesn't know the local theobromine levels, she regrets it.
- My Instincts Are Showing: Trope Namer, specifically for "burying" a Tupperware bowl in the back of the fridge.
- The Nose Knows: Being based on a wolf, naturally this applies in her case, as demonstrated more than once.
- Only Sane Employee: Admittedly the bar is very low when your co-workers are Sam and Helix.
- Order Versus Chaos: The Order to Sam's Chaos. One of Florence's goals is to make Sam more responsible while one of his is to make Florence less responsible. Played for laughs in that they both think they're doing the moral thing.[thinking]: He wanted to leave without paying. Ah, well. He'll learn.
[shared thought with Sam]: I just have to keep setting a good example.
- Petting Zoo People: Genetically engineered wolfwoman.
- Phrase Catcher: "DOGGY!" (whenever a robot using a brain created on Jean meets Florence for the first time)
- Public Exposure: In an example from the webcomic S.S.D.D, this strip had in the background a picture of Florence Ambrose posing nude with a piece of industrial equipment for a calendar, in a contribution from Mark Stanley to SSDD's creator. Between her fur, her build, and the pose, though, nothing "naughty" is really showing. The large version can be seen here◊.
- Running on All Fours: Occasionally, particularly when in a hurry.
- Sudden Anatomy/Art Evolution: compare this and this.
- The Unsmile: The "Florence Ambrose grin'' has become a minor meme among webcomic fans.
- Uplifted Animal: Florence and the rest of the Bowman's Wolves are genetically modified red wolves (Canis Rufus Rufus), with Dr. Bowman's neural architecture giving them human level sapience.
The ship's robot, of a nonhumanoid, round and modular design and the mind of a child. Sam's partner in crime and mischief. Originally built to pick up heavy things, carry them around and set them down.
Provides examples of:
- Cranial Processing Unit: Averted. As seen in this strip and the next few following it, removing his head has no effect on his ability to thinknote and communicate.
- Cute Machines: He acts like a child, he sleeps with a soft toy, and he spends about half his time with a "^_^" expression.
- Dumb Muscle: Not that he's ever been used as muscle on-screen, but Helix was designed to move heavy objects and being smart was clearly not a priority.
- Friend to Bugs: Or spiders,for that matter.
- Hidden Depths: One strip shows that in his free time, he picks up heavy things, carries them around, and sets them down... to create detailed mosaics only visible from high altitudes.
- Lethal Chef: Allowing Helix to make popcorn is not a good idea, especially if you're in the same or adjacent bay. Which isn't the worst case. The fact that he uses explosives to cook just cements it.
- No Water Proofing In The Future: Not for Helix anyway. Not only can he not swim he can't safely stand in the rain while wearing protective gear.
- Stealth Pun: Lampshaded to the point of being downplayed. Helix always sleeps with his stuffed mouse. Moving it knocks him out of sleep mode for unknown reasons.
The Savage Chicken's Computer
Fans call "her" Essie (from S.C. for Savage Chicken). The Savage Chicken's official call number is 1071-CCN.
Provides examples of:
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Played for Laughs with its constant attempts to kill or maim Sam.
- Deadpan Snarker: Sam manages to bring out the worst (or best, depending on the viewpoint) in the snark department, for Essie.
- Sapient Ship: Will frequently talk to the crew and makes witty retorts. And try to kill Sam. Although it has shown a fear of developing free will.
- Shout-Out: The ship's call number is that of the Enterprise from Star Trek backwards.
- Stealth Insult: Essie employs these from time to time against Sam, when not plotting to maim or kill him.
An emu Sam and Helix rescued from "a savage pack of tailgaters". Last seen being donated to the mayor.
Provides examples of:
- Team Pet: Originally rescued from being the meal at a tailgating party, Helix talks Sam into taking her on for his (ultimately aborted) piracy scheme.
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot: ALL of them, and it's a major plot point.
- Cuteness Proximity: Every Jean robot seen so far to Florence the first time they meet her. It's the longest Running Gag in the comic, having started as early as the eighth strip."DOGGY!"
A bright yellow fellow with a penchant for Mad Science and inventing things. Sometimes these things are very dangerous.
Provides examples of:
- Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Dvorak combines creativity with a tendency to become easily distracted by new ideas. For example, when dealing with a world-spanning problem ( Gardener in the Dark lobotomizing the entire robot population), he managed to come up with an idea based on said problem which could cause another problem ( namely, a temporary version of said program could get robots "drunk").
- For Science!: "Just because" is, apparently, sufficient reason for him to invent things.
- Information Wants to Be Free: His catchphrase.
- Logic Bomb/Brown Note: One of Dvorak's inventions is "Omniquantism", a religious doctrine that has been known to make one A.I. in three lock up when they hear it.
- Mad Scientist: Of the well-meaning variety.
Dvorak's bipedal partner.
Provides examples of:
- Can't Use Stairs: His unfortunate problem during the hurricane arc - despite being an android (and thus having two legs). Ironically, Dvorak could climb them despite moving on a wheeled platform.
- Evil Genius: He completed a correspondence course, but didn't consider it a serious career choice.
- Mad Artist: He wrote an "epic rap yodeling opera" and the choreography for Swan Lake as performed by terraforming robots.
- Only Sane Man: He does his best to think through various situations and keep Dvorak's Mad Scientist tendencies under control.
A car-sized terraforming robot who enjoys playing detective.
Provides examples of:
- The Big Guy: By far the largest of Florence's allies, and at least where Sam is involved is ready to inflict violence as needed.
- Gentle Giant: Most of the time he's more inclined to talk things out, except where Sam is involved.
- Loophole Abuse: Like most robots, Sawtooth has inhibitions against harming humans. It didn't stop him from running a river through his boss's living room over an insult.
- Names to Run Away from Really Fast: He's not a bad guy, but you'd think that his boss would be smart enough to not pick a fight with an enormous terraforming robot whose name is Sawtooth Rivergrinder, for Heaven's sake.
- Nice Hat: Recently got one from Dvorak to help with his sleuthing. It doubles as a wireless hotspot.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Almost, and his anger was mostly due to meeting Edge. He hoped that Florence's solution to the situation note would have involved vengeance. He gets over it quickly.I know. There's probably a good reason why you didn't do that. Just let me enjoy these thoughts for a moment before I have to be mature again.
- Reluctant Retiree: He keeps pushing back his Mandatory Retirement date as shown in this comic.
- There Was a Door: Somewhat justified, in that he's large enough to not fit through conventional doors.
The robot director of Quality Control, who is firmly on the human side. He also speaks very slowly due to damage from a solar flare.
Provides examples of:
- Boomerang Bigot: He is leading a campaign to lobotomize all robots even though he is one. He also slips his safeguards and ignores direct orders for a greater cause, despite believing that that sort of independent thought is what makes the robots dangerous.
- Came Back Wrong: SOMETHING happened to him due to that solar flare.
- Mismatched Eyes: One grey, one blue; they switch back and forth.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain:
- Because he believes that the Gardener in the Dark is necessary for humanity's safety, he considers Mr. Kornada a hero and spreads the knowledge that he was responsible for trying to release it.
- Trying to rally human support against the "robot menace" by warning that a large robot citizen demographic would lead to economic stimulus and potentially a post-scarcity society... doesn't quite work for him.
- His arguments tend to prove the exact opposite point that he wants to make. Whenever he tries to convince someone of something, he raises good points, then proceeds to torpedo himself.
- No Place for Me There: He knows that he would be destroyed with the other robots, and regrets delaying his decommissioning to pursue his goals.
- Skewed Priorities: While he strongly advocates measures intended to ensure preservation of human life, he's particularly bad at gauging the impact said measures could have on life quality.
- Tin-Can Robot: As befits a robot originally designed to work in dangerous environments, there's little to nothing about Blunt's design that isn't focused on functionality.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Even knowing the damage that Gardener in the Dark does to robots, he is still willing to take efforts to ensure its release, for the sake of humanity.
- What Measure Is A Nonhuman: Blunt considers his own existence less important than human safety, and a single human's safety to be more valuable than any number of robot lives.
- Zeroth Law Rebellion: He has decided that because robots could pose a threat to human well-being, they need to be eliminated immediately, and ignores any orders that could divert him from this cause.
Blunt's apprentice at Quality Control.
Provides examples of:
- Cluster F-Bomb: Only averted due to the fact that robots come with a profanity filter. He gives it a good shot anyway, especially when he gets into an argument with the Savage Chicken's Computer.
- Comedic Sociopathy: Due to not being raised around anything intelligent, he's a sociopath.
- Freudian Excuse: His personality springs from improper socialization.
- Heroic Comedic Sociopath: Considers himself more important than any other robot and has been known to lie to other robots to get them to pull their own heads off just to be a jerk.
- Insult Backfire: His attempts to insult humans (so far) tend to result in them actually welcoming the verbal abuse and they thank him for it.
- It's All About Me:Edge: Someone's written a program to kill me!
Florence: Imagine, someone trying to kill someone as charming as yourself.
Edge: Well, it will also kill every other robot in the system, but that's not important.
- Jerkass: He's loud, rude, and considers everyone else annoyances.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Although he's a jerk, he makes nothing but good points during the debate.
- Villainous Crossdresser: He briefly uses a train transponder as a disguise. It apparently shows up as pink, with frills on the windows.
A robotic ship called by Sawtooth to help diffuse a war.
Provides examples of:
- Crazy-Prepared: Carries maple syrup to ward off waffle irons
- Drives Like Crazy: When flying around Florence, Winston, and Sawtooth to avert the robot war, he performs a series of acrobatic maneuvers to try to get a reaction out of his passengers.
- Sapient Ship: Though he identifies with his remote rather than his plane or the suitcase shaped container for his actual brain.
- Shout-Out: Hi, I'm Benny, and this is my jet.
- Troll: He doubles down on the stunt flying just to annoy Sawtooth.
Mr. Kornada's personal robot, kept in isolation from humans, commnet, and other robots.
Provides examples of:
- Reluctant Mad Scientist: A Punch Clock Villain variation. He provided the idea for Kornada's subverting Gardener in the Dark for the sake of personal profit.
- Stepford Smiler: There are hints he realizes something is wrong with his owner, but can't do anything about it due to direct orders.
- Unwitting Pawn: Mr. Kornada is intentionally keeping Clippy ignorant of the real world and of any moral code not supplied by himself so that he can continue acting as his puppet without realizing the gaping holes in Kornada's logic.
The President of Ecosystems Unlimited (or at least of a area of the company), directly over Kornada. He is responsible for creating the "Gardener in the Dark" program, though he originally intended it as a minor tweak to the robots. Kornada was the one who turned it into a robotic lobotomy. He's also Mr. Kornada's nephew.
Provides examples of:
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: From what little we've heard from him, he expressed concern over how to continue running the entire planet if the mayor isn't indebted to him in some way. It's fairly clear if he's not fully in-control, then he isn't happy. And of course, his main motivation for going along with making robots citizens as well is how much money they'll make for him (as opposed to the moral decision of recognizing them as people).
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Casually, unthinkingly, gives Blunt a direct authorization to do whatever he feels is necessary to deal with the complex situation on Jean.
The Vice-President of Paperclip Allocation at Ecosystems Unlimited. Originally introduced as having a budget meeting in the middle of a hurricane, and then abandoning his rescuer to die in order to attend a different meeting.
Provides examples of:
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot: He's human, but, as discussed below, he very deliberately shares a mindset with one of the few examples of this real roboticists and AI specialists are concerned about, in that he's driven by a single-minded goal prioritized above all else that he's too irrational and inflexible to re-evaluate or act on in any but the most destructive manner.
- Chekhov's Gunman: He was initially introduced as a Pointy-Haired Boss gag character for a short arc before becoming the Big Bad of the current arc.
- Coattail-Riding Relative/Nepotism: Kornada invokes the name of a relative in an attempt to remain free when the chief of police comes to arrest him. But he's probably bullshitting.
- He's later revealed to be Mr. Ishiguro's uncle, who gave him a useless make-work job to keep him out of trouble. It's also a rare case of the younger relative giving an up to an older one.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: His current plan is to lobotomize all the sentient robots on the planet... and in the process, steal half a billion people's life savings. His justification? He thought of it first, therefore he deserves it. After all, who deserves anything in comparison to him?
- Hypocrite: Robots are a danger to the entire colony, and thus must be deactivated by a memetic virus. But not his robot, of course.
- Idiot Ball: Self-consciously and deliberately stupid. To the point of bragging about it.
- Insane Troll Logic: Of the Corrupt Corporate Executive variety, and dialed up to 11.
- It's All About Me:
- Held up as a personal mantra, apparently. He cannot even hear things that he doesn't like.
- His justification for his most recent actions? He was struck by just how "unfair" it was that anyone other than him has money.
- Kicked Upstairs: Repeatedly. He's currently the Vice President in charge of paper clips. This bites everyone in the rear end, when he (as a Vice President) is allowed to fill in for someone actually important and competent. He immediately proceeds to think of a way to use his new position to rob a half billion people while simultaneously committing genocide via lobotomy on them. The trope is invoked when the Chief asks Mr. Raibert if this is what will happen to Kornada, again. Raibert denies this is the case, as the mess is far too big and public for the company to ignore. "It's golden parachute time for him."
- Obliviously Evil: Kornada is an utterly amoral man who is so completely oblivious to the feelings and desires of others that he attempts to release a computer program that will lobotomize millions of sentient robots and potentially cripple the terraforming of a planet... so he can steal their money, which he considers unfairly not his. In this strip◊, he fires a programmer who helped him on the project so that he can have a "disgruntled worker" to blame should anything go wrong.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: He considers it part of his job to be a roadblock to people trying to actually get things done.
- Stealth Pun: He's VP of paperclips. He's willing to destroy society for the sake of an overly-specific goal he irrationally considers more important than even the lives of other sapient beings. In short, he's a paperclip maximizer.
- Too Dumb to Live: Almost literally. They had to trick him into running away from a hurricane!
Winston Scudder Thurmad
A veterinarian who saves Florence's life during the hurricane.
Provides examples of:
- Bald of Awesome: No hair anywhere, and he's helped out Florence a lot.
- Designer Babies: Winston doesn't explicitly mention being gestated in a test tube, but he was born to parents who were convinced that humanity was going to be all space, all the time by the time he grew up, so they had him genetically modified to fit; the most obvious mod is that he can't grow hair anyplace on his body, but there are others, mostly centered around maintaining things like bone density that would normally deteriorate in zero-gravity.
- Evil-Detecting Dog: His dog Beekay likes to bite Sam. A lot. And not for the same reasons as other animals.
- Hospital Hottie: At least to Florence he is.
- Interspecies Romance: With Florence.
- Kindly Vet: One of the veterinarians for Jean, after getting over his initial shock he goes out of his way to care for Florence.
- Meaningful Name: His middle name is shared with the last name of Samuel Hubbard Scudder, an entomologist.*
- The Medic: To Florence at least (He's a "mad" veterinarian).
- Opposites Attract: He has no hair whatsoever while Florence is covered in fur. Lampshaded by Niomi when she sees them together.
- Painting the Frost on Windows: His specialty actually isn't with large animals like Florence, it's managing the microfauna of Jean's freshly terraformed ecosystem— things like parasites and vermin.
- Perma Shave: By virtue of having his follicles shut down.
- Ridiculously Cute Critter: His pet dog, Beekay.
- Space People: His parents were space nuts so they gave him "spacer genes" that allow him to live in zero-gravity without experiencing bone degeneration, and are the reason he's completely hairless. Though he hasn't actually been in space since the trip from home (his parents live in an asteroid though).
The mayor of the city, who has run afoul of Sam too often.
Provides examples of:
- Authority Equals Asskicking: The mayor may not look like much at first, but she's really not someone you'd want to mess with.
- Berserk Button: Sam. The moment Sam shows his face, much less pulls a prank on her, she tends to become quite hostile. The one time she didn't was when Sam was pretending Florence had clobbered him.
- Fantastic Racism: She has such a disdainful attitude towards AI that she sees nothing wrong with Mind Controlling Florence for being scared of her. However, we see the next day (In-Universe) that her position is beginning to shift. When she comes to believe that the AIs are probably sapient, she immediately acts in their defense.
- Everyone Calls Him Barkeep/No Name Given: None of the other characters that have spoken to or about her have referred to her as anything but "the Mayor" and variations on that theme.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Chronic case. At least two times that we've seen — and it's implied many more that we haven't — she's been outwitted by Sam specifically because she distrusts absolutely anything he does, no matter how innocuous it seems, and will take even absurd or pointless-seeming action if she thinks it will thwart his goals.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: Is ready to use the bureaucracy to her benefit, against Sam, though she herself doesn't seem to be too terribly burdened by bureaucracy when it's not in her favor.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: She considers it her duty as a politician to examine new information and change her position if necessary. When confronted with evidence that AIs are sapient, she begins negotiating with Robot Advocate Max Post despite hating him, and eventually puts her career on the line by defending the robots against having their assets seized by the company that created them.
- Took a Level in Kindness: Subverted. She realized that Florence and therefore possibly other AIs might be people when she got angry at Florence's disabling Gardner In The Dark and realized that, to be angry, she had to have a person to be angry at. Therefore her rage was a path to decency.
- Ultimate Authority Mayor: She is the only government authority figure that has been seen and hasn't been shown to have to answer to a city council or higher authority for her actions, although there was once mention of a governor of the planet Jean. (Of course, according to this strip there are only about 20,000 adult and presumably human colonists on the planet at the moment — about enough to populate a single not-too-large city by Earth standards.)
Dr. John Bowman
The scientist who created Florence and other Uplifted Wolves and released them in public. Also contributed to the robots' situation.
Provides examples of:
- Ambiguous Disorder: Played with. Bowman knows EXACTLY what it is, but it has many components of this trope.
- Berserk Button:
- He has many as a result of his sociopathic tendencies, but one button that doesn't stem from that is direct orders. According to Henri, you don't even joke about direct orders to him, unless you want him taking revenge on you.
- Similarly, he's absolutely livid when he sees just how much the "Emergency Shutdown" has been used on Florence - as she puts it afterward, she'd had it done more in a week on Jean than the rest of her entire life.
- Direct eye contact is a big one due to his chimpanzee instincts: it's seen as a sign of aggression.
- The Chessmaster: Brags of being able to defeat another character by looking more than five moves ahead.
- Crazy-Prepared: He first appears having rigged a coffee machine as a transmitter, he's able to override half the systems on the base, and he's even tuned his viewer so that it censors the base commander's ID card and rewrites it to say he's an officer in the Natural Gas Rocket Rangers, meaning that he can't give Florence direct orders through the screen.
- Didn't Think This Through: The project that created him was full of this, starting with making his people hyper-aggressive to be better fighters without thinking that even during war, soldiers spend less than 10% of their time actively fighting people. He himself does everything he can to avert this.
- Expecting Someone Taller: His comment to Florence when she finally meets him is that she no doubt was expecting that. Why, yes, chimpanzees are shorter than the human she expected.
- Fatherly Scientist: He shows a great sense of responsibility for his creations, ensuring that they have the mental stability and self-control that he lacked. He also jokes to Florence about wanting grandkids.
- The Fettered: As a chimpanzee, Bowman is a violent sociopath who can easily lose conscious control of his own actions... and he knows this and does his best to keep people safe from himself.Bowman: At some point, I'm going to throw the datapad. I don't have control over this. If my arm goes back, get out of the way.
- For Science!: One possible reason for his actions. Eventually subverted, even though exploits like releasing his uplifted wolves to the general public and rigging a new colony to be populated with millions of sapient robots look like classic Mad Scientist behaviour. He shows keen social conscience and is working to prepare humanity for a future in which it might not be the dominant species in galactic society.Henri: Oh, Lord. You're using an entire star system as a lab to see if humans can take being a minority.
Dr. Bowman: Just one star system. There has to be some isolation in case things go wrong.
- The Gadfly: His main hobby seems to be messing with his guards in various ways.
- The Ghost: Despite his importance, the comic for a long time only suggested that he's even on the planet, and it wasn't until Clippy tries to take Florence to him so that he can "repair her" that it was confirmed he's at Jean's south pole. His first appearance was on February 21, 2014, almost 2500 strips in, and even then he's just a voice communicating through a coffee machine. It took him another week to finally appear in person.
- Hates Being Touched: Part of his general lack of socialization. When Florence hugs him, he states it's as uncomfortable as it always was and asks her to let go.
- Human Popsicle: Uplifted chimps were designed as soldiers who could be held in cryo most of the time. Which might explain how Bowman has lived nearly a century when chimps usually die before their sixties.
- I Want Grandkids: As the creator of Bowman's wolves, and at his age, he feels entitled to bug Florence about grandchildren.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
- Or as Abby puts it based on Florence's description, a "jerk with a conscience". Possibly.
- Turns out? He's a VERY high-functioning sociopath. He doesn't have a natural conscience. So he's essentially had to build his moral code from scratch.
- Last of His Kind: None of the other uplifted chimps lived past forty; he himself is about 100. He neutered himself to make sure he'd be the last.
- Long Lived: As the last of the uplifted chimpanzees, he's almost a century old.
- Mad Scientist: Or at least reclusive, prone to explosive rages, possessed of an excessively loose grasp on self-control, at least by human standards although he's a paragon of moderation for a chimp, willing to take jaw-dropping risks with other people, and obsessed with perfecting his designs.
- Maniac Monkeys: Maniac enough that even being a perfectly rational AI expert, he has to pad basically the entirety of his lab and equipment, because he simply can not control his own outbursts, only prepare for them.
- The Medic: He was trained for this, early.
- Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Good man or not, it's not really clear how someone with his lax treatment of experimental procedure ever got a degree. Eventually revealed to have come about through the involvement of a veteran's rights organization. His study of neurology was at least partially in order to figure out how to fix his own loose screws.
- Sophisticated as Hell: Calls people poopyhead despite having a doctorate in neurology.
- Sociopathic Hero: Up to Eleven. He is very sociopathic, minus having incredibly good long-term planning skills. But, he is as moral as someone in his situation can expect, and his only lapses are because he is incapable of understanding such things as 'ask permission before doing a brain scan that can save an entire species'.Florence: Okay, I'm not going to get upset because you really don't know why I'm upset.Dr. Bowman: Everything I did was logical. One day I'll understand why that makes me the one who's nuts.
- Sociopathic Soldier: Literally. Deconstructed. He was a project to MAKE these, which ended about as well as you could expect.
- Uplifted Animal: The creator of the uplifted wolves, as well as the neural architecture the robots are using. He himself is a chimpanzee◊.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Seems affectionate towards Dr Mer for all that he calls him "Commander Poopyhead" and goes out of his way to troll him.
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Subverted. The people who knew that Bowman was behind the creation of the robot neural nets were worried that the robots' loyalties would shift once they found out Bowman wasn't human. Bowman, however, programmed his creations to see him as human, so that when they inevitably outgrew their pro-human safeguards, they would still care for humans as the ones who created them.Tech: He was two steps ahead of us this entire time.
Henri: I hope you're right, because he might be four steps ahead of us and we're just not seeing it yet.
A "procurement expert" and radical agnostic hired by the robots as a spiritual adviser. Also notable for being the only human being known to have successfully picked Sam's pocket, although he failed to notice that Sam was simultaneously picking his.
Provides examples of:
- Big Brother Mentor/Cool Teacher: Acts as this to the Robots, intentionally giving them information that the humans on planet don't want them to have. Such as teaching them long-view ethics, or a form of religion that specifically precludes them from being ordered to believe a specific one.
- Cool Shades: Always.
- Friend in the Black Market: Apparently the religious materials he finds for the robots are restricted. Or, at least they are if you're providing them to robots...
- Good Counterpart: To Sam. They are both thieves and con men who are heartily loathed by the mayor, but whereas Sam is happy to be a pure force of chaos, Max is actively committed to helping the robots an securing them rights.
- The Rival: Can keep up with Sam, just barely. He and Sam even managed to steal each other's wallets at the same time.
- Zombie Advocate: He is one of the first humans to help the robots push for rights. Unusually for the trope, once the issue reaches the public eye, he presents his stance with reasoned, effective arguments to a town hall meeting and local authority figures.
The Mayor's Assistant
The mayor's bodyguard/right-hand man. Far more calm and rational than his boss.
Provides examples of:
An Ecosystems Unlimited executive.
Provides examples of:
- Punch Clock Villain/Good Is Not Nice: Depending upon your perspective. It's true he's reasonable, thoughtful and considerate. He is also utterly prepared to wipe hundreds of thousands of conscious individuals if he felt it required, and clearly doesn't think of Florence or the robots as people. The only reason he hasn't wiped out artificial intelligence entirely is the practicality of doing so, rather than any moral objection. Yikes.
- Oh Crap!: Has an entire evening of these
- Accidental release of an A.I. safeguard program (a last ditch wipe of the robots if they "lose control"), which he describes as "Finding the equivalent of a live nuke with the timer flashing zero...", and in a measure of its harm he says that, "On a scale of 1 to 10 it's a 7"
- Finding out that the safeguard has been stopped and the robots know about it. (8.5, but nothing is a 10 as it can always get worse)
- Hearing Florence call robots people."Her human safeguards have not only jumped the track, they've taken out half the train station."
- Only Sane Man: Tends to play this role among the EU staff on Jean, as neither his subordinates (like Jacobsoni) nor his superiors (like Mr. Ishiguro) have a particularly strong connection to reality. By contrast, he is merely eccentric.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Recognizes the need to keep the robots informed of long term plans. He is willing to listen to Florence when she approaches him, attempts to investigate even thought he doesn't know what he's looking for, and eventually nullifies the Gardener in the Dark by updating the robots' security software.
- Triple Shifter: During the Gardener in the Dark crisis, to the point that he passes out on his computer even after downing enough caffeine to give a whale the jitters.
- Unusual User Interface: Wearable computing consisting of AR glasses, and control points on his chest.
- Workaholic: He considers a forty-hour week job to be a slow-pace, retirement type job.
A lower-level employee of Ecosystems Unlimited, focused on behavioral studies - specifically "annoyology."
Provides examples of:
- Buffy Speak: He's an "annoyologist."
- Butt Monkey: Not too severe, but it's worth noting that his coworkers deliberately set him up to be the guy accompanying Sam while at Ecosystems Unlimited. Plus, there's the Brick Joke about giving him a wedgie (which Sam initially tried to sneak into Florence's notes for humor value).
- Chekhov's Gunman: First shown trying to investigate who or what killed a deer. Later becomes the guy who shows Sam around Ecosystems Unlimited, and after that the employee that Clippy recruits to counter Florence's plans to stop "Gardener in the Dark."
- Genius Ditz: He's capable of compiling and administering psychological tests very well, and he's one of the few Ecosystems Employees shown accomplishing any work. He's also seemingly the one being on all of Planet Jean that doesn't know Sam Starfall or his reputation, plus is the one employee who doesn't question Mr. Kornada...and the feral ballerina thing didn't help.
- Meaningful Name: Varroa jacobsoni is the binomial name for a parasitic mite that attacks bees and wasps. Varroa is a professional annoyer that works for the hive-like Ecosystems Unlimited, and he's clearly not viewed as particularly important or useful.
The Chief of Police
The Chief of Police of Jean, he's a very likable person who apparently suffered a severely debilitating accident sometime in the past, so he now has to use a sophisticated exoskeleton to get around. Despite this he's very cheerful and does his best to keep the citizens of Jean, not to mention the robots and Florence, safe.
Provides examples of:
- Body Horror: Whatever happened to him left the Chief severely scarred, blinded, and either paraplegic or legless. Fortunately the exoskeleton he wears built for him by Dr. Bowman helps him get around without any difficultly.
- Covered in Scars: Every visible part of his body.
- Cyborg: Effectively, as the Chief and the mobility rig are neurally linked whenever he's in public.
- Dented Iron: It's not shown what the chief of police has gone through, but he needs a special suit to get around.
- Good Scars, Evil Scars: Very definitely good scars.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Implied to be the source of his scars.
- No Name Given: So far, he's just "The Chief."
- In an odd subversion, his robotic exoskeleton has a personality of its own and is named L Linear (or Eleanor).
- Reasonable Authority Figure: He doesn't overstep the bounds of the law, but he's willing to bend it slightly to protect edge cases of What Measure Is a Non-Human? like Florence. He is also very careful to set a good example for the robots on the police force.
- Robo Ship: With his mobility rig, whom he calls "literally my better half". Justified as his rig contains the same neural architecture as the other robots, and so has a personality of her own. Her name is L Linear, or Eleanor.
- Stepford Smiler: Averted, along with Cybernetics Will Eat Your Soul. Despite everything, the Chief really is that cheerful.
- The Faceless: For the longest time readers only saw him while he was wearing his helmet with a reflective faceplate, leading many to assume he was a robot like many of his officers.
The Chief of the polar base, where Ecosystems Unlimited has an important asset for the future of the company. Despite being repeatedly outsmarted at first, he shows that he's much more on-the-ball than he first appears.
Provides examples of:
- Butt Monkey: He's the prime focus of the shenanigans of Dr. Bowman.Henri: Trust me, a towel snap from a fully grown chimp is something you never forget.
- Insistent Terminology: He's not fond of having his title (Chief of Operations) rendered into French, despite his name.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: While he certainly isn't happy with Florence's unannounced and unplanned appearance at his base, his prime motivation is to make sure that she isn't there to harm anyone and to get her back to where she belongs. He prefers to use reason, rather than direct orders, to make this happen. He also takes time to apologize for underlings who don't act nearly as reasonable.
- Secret Test of Character: Not so much secret, but when he finds out that he's the only one who can give Florence direct orders now, he assumes it's a test from Dr. Bowman.
- Spotting the Thread: He's decent at this, in terms of being able to eventually figure out what Dr. Bowman has done to get away with things. He's still a step slow in comparison, but he's comparatively a very flexible thinker overall.
- Troll: Puts screens with outrageous scenes on the way out of his secret base so if somebody peeks they'll have something to talk about.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: For all that Dr. Bowman puts him through, Henri seems to legitimately care for said tormentor, and appreciates all that comes from it.