A carbosilicate amorph, Schlock is the eponymous mercenary who joined Tagon's Toughs in the first strip. He outwardly resembles a mobile, talking pile of poop with eyes, and is possessed of a childlike lack of morals, enthusiastic love of violence, and an enormous appetite. He is also a remarkably adept warrior whose strange biology and unexpectedly sharp mind gives him many advantages over his opponents. And where that fails, Schlock compensates with guns; many, many guns.
Provides examples of:
Adult Child: By human standards. Though by the standards of carbosilicate amorphs, he's quite normal.
The Ageless: Amorphs do not age. Barring injury, disease or being eaten by another amorph, they're pretty much immortal.
Air-Vent Passageway: He is an amorphous blob who can easily squeeze through holes as small as his eyes. He has, at least twice, also used the air vents (well, sewer system) to enter.
Ambiguous Innocence: he's often mistaken for a psychopath due to his enthusiasm for violence, but he is capable of true friendship and loyalty as well.
Invoked this reaction in people with his sawed-off multicannons - they were literally sawed off, and the excised parts were what kept them from randomly exploding. (Kevyn found them before he ever got to use them, though, and made them safe enough to use.) "Awesome" in the older sense, really.
Schlock: I'll have you know that I only resort to violence when the situation calls for it. Lady Emily: Of course, by 'situation' you mean 'voices in your head', right? Schlock: And you don't want to know what they're saying right now.
Badass: Oh so much. Don't underestimate this guy, he may look like an amorphous blob, but he is capable of performing incredible feats of strength, speed, and agility. He's faster than he looks, and stronger as well.
Blood Knight: He's a career mercenary by choice, despite having made enough money from stock options not to have to. He loves shooting things, gets bored easily when things aren't exploding, and would probably pass over any chance of a promotion that would take him off the battlefield if he wasn't woefully incapable of officer-think anyway.
Big Eater: How much he can eat is likely limited by his current size, and he can increase his size in proportion to how much he eats - he's (temporarily) grown several times his usual mass on at least one occasion.
Bizarre Alien Biology: Every cell in Schlock performs multiple functions, including acting as muscle mass. That means that the bigger he is, the stronger he is, and not in proportion to human standards. Every cell in his body other than his eyes note which aren't inherent in amorph physiology, but are taken from special trees to be used for vision can, if needed, act as a muscle cell, making him capable of surprising feats of speed and strength. They all also act as sense organs and his nervous system, plus memory storage.
Blob Monster: A carbosilicate amorph, to be specific. Has some control over his shape as well, but nothing more complex than reshaping himself into a barrel or a delta wing-shaped form for low-gravity gliding (which he has more or less perfected, though it still ends with a crash landing every time he tries it).
Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: In spite of his recklessness and lack of foresight often nearly (and in one case actually) getting him killed, Schlock is acknowledged as a very competent Sergeant, having saved his squad dozens of times and completed dangerous missions in spite of overwhelming odds.
Extra Eyes: Schlock had spares for a while (they were as mismatched as his usual pair), after combining with his future self. They came in handy for aiming his BFGs, but also seemed to act independent of their host at times. He used one of them to store memories
Funny Schizophrenia: When Schlock has extra eyes, they will occasionally give him exasperated glares when he's acting stupid.
Fusion Dance: Amorphs use this to exchange memories, to fight, and to reproduce. There's also an interesting one when Schlock tries to trade memories with a timeclone of himself - the intellectual thought-processes recognize two unique Schlocks, but the biology thinks it's recovered an errant fragment of the same amorph unit. What ensues is described (to give us non-amorphs perspective) as being sort of like trying to resist throwing up, except backwards, and with about the same inevitability of outcome.
Hidden Depths: Best represented in the entry for Xanatos Speed Chess below, Schlock can be intelligent and resourceful, it's just that he usually doesn't bother.
I'm a Humanitarian: Schlock has eaten a fellow amorph, Chuck (for a certain definition of "eat"), and amorph combat consists of the participating combatants merging together, the victor "consuming" the loser's memory and personality, integrating it into their own. He also habitually eats dead enemies, many of them human and all of them sapient.
Lightning Bruiser: Schlock is faster than he looks, as his entire body is essentially one giant, amorphous muscle. Since he has neither bones nor internal organs, he can hit with maximum force without worrying about damaging anything.
Man Child: Many of the things he says (or just the way he says them) give this impression. Which is accurate, as he was (uniquely) created as an adult mind with no memories or developed sense of morality.
Nigh Invulnerable: Little things like being blown into a million pieces or sucked into a hard vacuum are mere inconveniences for Schlock. (His eyes, on the other hand, are comparatively vulnerable.) Being a blob made of buckminster-fullerene and silicon, his only vulnerabilities are fire, being torn into small enough pieces (which must separated physically or he'll just reform) or massive systemic trauma strong enough to destroy his body's ability to retain information.
Running Gag: Schlock's "default" shape is an amorphous pile of greenish-brown matter. Most people, upon seeing him, mistake him for the, ahem, leavings of a very large and very sick animal. Also, Schlock being "faster than he looks."
Sergeant Rock: Psychopathic Man Child that he is, Schlock fits. He's steady under fire, a skilled fighter, and has proven to be a superb field leader and shrewd tactician when he's not in Blood Knight mode, with that being the only reason he hasn't been promoted to officer ranks like other long-time members of the company like Brad, Elf and 'Chelle. Although usually under the supervision of Lieutenant Ebbirnoth, even officers as highly ranked as Elf have been deferred to his lead in combat, while it's been implied that at least in some situations Tagon trusts Schlock's judgment more than any other member of the company. It's perhaps best exemplified when he disagrees with Kevyn here
Sphere Eyes: Amorphs doesn't have eyes naturally - they grow on a certain kind of tree and are literal spheres. (Schlock himself uses a pair that are mismatched in size, while other Amorphs have been seen using more or less than that.)
Stomach of Holding: One of Schlock's handier traits is his ability to keep equipment inside himself without digesting it, and this gets used by his team every chance they can. He normally just keeps weapons inside there, but occasionally...
His sense of Smell/Taste (he seems to consider them the same thing) is beyond superhuman by human standards and is spread out over his entire body. This is both a blessing (he can track individuals this way) and a curse (...as well as the crap they stepped in this morning). He grumbles about it occasionally.
His hearing is also impressive, if overlooked.
His eyesight is good enough to pick out a sniper at 500 meters, and can be expanded up to (at least) four eyes, each able to be extended on pseudopods that improve his ability to triangulate targets.
Too Dumb to Live: Jumped into a several kilometer-deep pit without a flight suit. In a vacuum, no less, so no terminal velocity, meaning he would make a very large hole upon landing. This actually killed him, and the company cloned a new amorph to replace him. Luckily, they had a copy of his memories that was only a few weeks out of date.
Trademark Favorite Food: Genuine Imitation Ovalkwik, which he likes to eat by the industrial-sized barrelful (AKA "the tub of happiness").
Xanatos Speed Chess: After being an Unwitting Pawn for Timmons' plot, he suddenly figures out who the murderer is, arranges for Lunesby's escape, and creates enough chaos to keep Timmons from catching on until it's too late.
Captain Tagon is the human commander of the Toughs. He's a practical and straightforward officer, primarily interested in money, though he will rarely be possessed of principles beyond merely getting paid. Though he does not possess a high-level education, Tagon is a tactical genius and skilled soldier, and remarkably adept at getting money, and often manages to get paid multiple times for a single job.
Book Dumb: He's not in any danger of being mistaken for a professorial type, but in his element of causing mayhem he's pretty sharp.
Celibate Hero: Kaff is in his 50s and still doesn't have a wife or girlfriend. Elf's attempts at flirting with him were continuously misinterpreted and he has displayed some other minor issues with women. As it turns out, there is a good reason for this. His last known (and possibly only) girlfriend was a Honey Trap loaded with weaponized nanotechnology that murdered his entire family save himself and his father—mother, grandparents, and two younger siblings—as part of the mass assassination that kicked off the terraforming wars.
Colonel Badass: While technically a captain, Kaff Tagon is certainly this when he decides that its time to get dangerous. After getting a hidden knife thrown into his eye he responds by pulling it out and thanking the thrower for arming him. Then going after him. Moments later we're treated to him trying to use his comm device, complaining that they can't make a touchscreen that still works when covered in blood.
Conjoined Eyes: Stands in contrast to the rest of the cast; only Kaff and his father Karl have these.
Genius Ditz: He is practically illiterate, misses obvious jokes and thought his Shoulder Angel was a large mosquito - but he's positively brilliant as a military commander, and no slouch at contract negotiation (and blackmail), either.
Happy Dance: Tagon's dance is so familiar that while he is away the team points out when he would have done the happy dance.
Passed Over Promotion: Willingly self-inflicted. When he lucks his way into a flotilla of ships (only keeping 3), his father points out that he now qualifies as a Commodore. Tagon junior considers this, but concedes he isn't Commodore material. But Tagon Senior is.
Selective Obliviousness: Elf's (since abandoned) crush on Tagon, ignored and misinterpreted in various ways by Tagon.
Would Hit a Girl: He's shown no particular reluctance to attack women, even if they hadn't gone after him first.
A human mercenary defined by an overly-large nose.
Provides examples of:
Gag Nose: Which he puts in the way of harm in hopes of getting rid of since the company won't cover mere cosmetic surgery, deciding to leave it as is by the end of the first Credomar arc.
A human scientist and officer who serves as Tagon's effective second-in-command. Kevyn is he genius behind the development of the teraport, as well as a multitude of other inventions. Though not as confident in command as Tagon, nor as competent a fighter, Kevyn is arguably one of the most dangerous of the Toughs because of his intellect and willingness to create truly terrifying weaponry. Toting antimatter bombs on one's shoulders also helps in a pinch.A second Kevyn exists due to time travel shenanigans. He does not serve with the Toughs, instead devoting himself to pure research and living next door to retired general Karl Tagon, Kaff Tagon's father.
Provides examples of:
Badass Boast: "I am Commander Kevyn Andreyasn. I have shaped the destinies of worlds, of nations, of galaxies. I have created and I have destroyed. I have followed and I have lead. I have known love and it has known me right back. I flirt with death for a living and I have cheated the reaper more times than I can remember."
Blind Without 'Em: Subverted. Kevyn sees perfectly well without his glasses, but only in the visible spectrum. He finds the cosmic background radiation comforting, and with them can see in infrared, ultraviolet, backscatter X-ray, and also provide frame by frame replay of things he's just seen.
Cool Shades: Kevyn's glasses allow him to see practically every form of electromagnetic radiation known to man.
Mad Scientist: subverted. He has more common sense and better intuition than anyone that smart really ought to have (though his For Science! invention of the Teraport had unintended consequences, like plunging every civilization in the galaxy into massive wars that have killed trillions and are still ongoing). Makes up for it with the requisite giant ego, though... And even that gets punctured by Elf's intuitive gifts. While he claims to not be a mad scientist, as noted here and here the troops obviously disagree - a reputation he's not afraid of using when it's convenient.
Kevyn: Before any of you unwisely decide to take this as a cue to step further out of line than you were already planning to, I'd like to say two words about my position as the company's munitions commander and resident mad scientist: "Guinea pigs." Grunt: I want my mommy.
Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Kevyn points out to Hob that just because he is a scientist it doesn't mean that he's an explosives expert - then shows that he is an expert at them, but only as a hobby. Ultimately, Kevyn's aptitudes are better defined by what he's not good at. For example, he's good enough at robotics to generate a military-grade AI by following the instructions on the box, but not good enough to debug AIs.
One-Man Industrial Revolution: He invented the teraport and pretty much changed the whole interstellar ball game: it's amazing how much new tech used and taken for granted in the comic is based off the teraport.
What Have I Become?: Kevyn, after Petey's blood-nannies rebuild him as an armored killing machine in "The Sharp End of the Stick".
Bradley, Jeff ("Brad")
Originally a scrawny grunt on the Toughs' payroll, Brad served in the same unit as Schlock and turned out to have been intentionally stunted in growth as a child: When his body had to be replaced from the neck-down he turned out to be nearly titanic in size. He was promoted to lieutenant after the events on Schlock's homeworld and served in that role until he was KIA on Credomar. Schlock considered him his best friend.
An AI gunship formerly belonging to Sanctum Adroit, she was "liberated" by Para Ventura. She is centuries old, but until the events of the story, she had never been outside of the Celeschul system. Tracks her passengers' genealogy as a hobby. Currently serving as the AI to the Freight Hauler Cindercone.
Provides examples of:
Seen It All: Subverted. She's centuries old, and definitely thinks she has enough experience to out-think anyone. She even styles her avatar to evoke "ancient, wise woman". But then the Toughs get into the kind of situation they tend to get into, and she suddenly finds herself trying to keep up with Tagon's tactical reasoning.
Bunnigus, Dr. Edward
The human chief medical officer for the Toughs after he previous doctor suffered a bad case of unexpected death. She was the daughter of a couple who were too mentally handicapped to be allowed to naturally bear children, and was thus gene-tailored to be both hyper-intelligent and an exotic dancer. Spent most of the strip engaged to Reverend Theo, and eventually married him.
Chocolate Baby: Subverted. Her parents were white rednecks, but she's entirely vat-grown from scratch since her parents were too stupid to be allowed to breed naturally under eugenics laws, having (in her words) "maybe 80 uncontested IQ points between them." There's no indication that her parents were in any way unhappy with how she turned out. The only thing that bothered them was the fact that the "name" written on her hospital bracelet—"ED-205," referring to the genetic packages she carried—wasn't pretty enough. So they called her "Edward."
Designer Babies: The negative side of this trope doesn't seem to exist in the setting, at least as far as we've seen.
Tomboyish Name: The doctor is prominently female, in spite of her name.
A genetically-constructed ambassador that the Toughs were originally supposed to deliver to a diplomatic conference. It turns out that the species that created him designed him to be a living bomb. Once he was deactivated, he joined the Toughs as both a negotiator and cook.
Supreme Chef: According to Liz, he's a genius when in comes to the correct balances of spices and flavors in any food he cooks...which he then ruins by blending everything into an unidentifiable mush.
Technical Pacifist: As a former diplomat he seems to prefer this - and as the company cook he's rarely in a position to inflict violence anyway - but he didn't have a problem with ripping parts of his own body off and using them as bombs; underestimate him at your own peril.
I'll warn you, this (whisk arm) has a frappe setting.
Ambassador Ch'vorthq's name is pronounced as follows: start with the hard "CH" as in "china," rather than the soft "CH" from "chevrolet." Now make the sound of an expensive piece of china being struck by a moving chevrolet—that noise is represented with the apostrophe. The rest is easy. Say "vorthq" with the soft "th" from the word "the" and a "q" like in "qetzlcouatl."
Angry Black Man: Sort of. He fits many of the same trope stereotypes, but he's a neo-phant — a new variant of an uplifted elephant with crude hands and a slightly smaller frame. He gets mad at anything that might be possibly construed as derogatory towards elephants, uplifted or not.
The Big Guy: His position in the 'Toughs. They have several Big Guys, but Chisulo is The Big Guy.
Dumb Muscle: Averted. He shows some unexpected smarts during the Barsoom Circus incident.
Fantastic Racism: Not only are "loxies," uplifted elephants, subject to a bit of racism from humans, but he suffers from prejudice from existing elephants.
Hypocrite: Aardman points out the hypocrisy of being so proud of one's heritage to refuse medical alterations, when one's heritage is being a genetically modified version of an existing race.
Uplifted Animal: A "neophant," a new type with small hands he can use to knuckle-walk.
Der Trihs, John
Previous human second-in-command to Tagon, Trihs is a marginally-competent but mentally-limited officer; reliable, in his own way, but not especially bright, and mostly serves as either comic relief or a punching bag for threats. Tagon allowed him to join due to their service together in Celeschul's Terraforming Wars. He is actually a lot more intelligent than even he realizes.
Provides examples of:
Amusing Injuries: Repeatedly. He's ended up as nothing but a head-in-a-jar on at least three occasions. (At some point after joining Tagon's Toughs, his skull was replaced with tougher materials, keeping him alive in situations that would have otherwise killed him.)
Genius Ditz: A result of top-secret experiments, the point of which was to improve his already impressive intelligence, but ended up adding the 'ditz' part. Tagon thinks the 'genius' bit isn't hidden too deeply, either:
Book Dumb: She attempts to get a writ of immunity from prosecution out of a police client during an investigation, only for Massey to shoot her down.
Cute Bruiser: Took over the role after Elf got her body rebuilt.
Ebbirnoth, Pel ("Ebby")
A Unioc officer who serves alongside Schlock as a platoon commander and general face-wrecker. An excellent shot, as his single eye is the same size as a human head, and serves up a substantial part of the Tough's snark ordnance.
Provides examples of:
Bizarre Alien Biology: Unioc mating rituals are biologically tied to their social hierarchy: if the female gets promoted above the male, the male's health will start suffering badly. He's still surprised (and a little jealous) that humans aren't susceptible to this.
Deadpan Snarker: Ebby is one of the more capable Toughs at the fine art of snark.
Disembodied Eyebrows: He has a single, huge eye, so they're kinda necessary for expression. It does get a little silly some times.
Mauve Shirt / Suspiciously Similar Substitute: The company's first Unioc character was Junshodan, who was just another background grunt. Somewhere along the line, Junshodan disappeared and the Unioc role was taken up by Sergeant Ebbirnoth, who quickly established a reputation as a Deadpan Snarker working alongside Sergeant Schlock in the HTRN storyline.
Purple Prose: Having his eye shot off (it's nonfatal) and hopped up on painkillers will do that to you. Ebbirnoth notes his species' finest poets were all blind drug-addicts.
An AI that was formerly the mind behind a holographic boy band, Ennesby joined the Toughs first as a stowaway in their computers and then as an AI companion who piloted the Serial Peacemaker. After that ship was destroyed, he remained with the Toughs mostly because they were fun and he was their friend. Most commonly embodied as a "maraca" node. Recently returned to ship AI duty as the AI of the corvette Neosynchronicity, part of the Tough's small flotilla.
Hurricane of Puns: Particularly in his early appearances after joining the protagonists.
Kicked Upstairs: Happens to Ennesby in a way, being made an 'Adjutant', a poorly defined rank.
Pungeon Master: One of his defining traits. During his tenure as ship AI for the Serial Peacemaker the tendency dropped slightly, only to return in full force after the Core War.
Sharing a Body: Tagii did survive Para's AI kill switch, by doing this with Ennesby. However, he appears to be in complete control, and is keeping her imprisoned inside his own brain. Doubly so, as her intelligence is now limited by Ennesby's inferior processing power.
Weapons-Grade Vocabulary: Trope Namer, from this strip. A reader to whom he forwarded the letter containing the strong language observed, after reading the missive, that her stomach is trying to spit acid on the parts of her brain that remembered reading it.
Foxworthy, Ellen ("Elf")
Formerly a grunt, Elf is a human officer who rose through the ranks to serve as a tanker, then an officer, and finally as one of the highest-ranking members of the Toughs. Elf has had romantic troubles throughout her stint with the Toughs, with most of the men she gets involved with ending up dead. Eventually settled into a stable and non-dead relationship with Kevyn.
Provides examples of:
Cartwright Curse: Elf has a running not-so-gag that any man she kisses is killed. So far her tally is Hob, Captain Tagon in an alternate universe, Kevyn (multiple times, but his soldier boosts have brought him back every time) and finally Pronto and Brad (whom she kissed in an intentional invocation of the trope to make them go along with an almost-suicide mission).
Characterization Marches On: Elf started out as a short-tempered tomboy grunt who was intimidated by intelligence and who abused stims to manage grief. Around the end of book 7 / beginning of book 8, she began to reveal the Hidden Depths of intelligence, wit, and responsibility that define her today.
Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: At first, Elf was much, much smaller than the male members of the group, especially Brad. But the addition of giant prosthetic legs fixed that eventually. Later she gets a body upgrade during one of her regrowths.
The Very Reverend Theo Fobius is a human chaplain who joined the Toughs mostly because no other chaplain was willing to sign onto a mercenary crew. Theo serves as the moral center of the mercenary crew; this is not an oxymoron, though he often has to struggle with his flock of semi-sociopathic guns-for-hire. Though he is a competent fighter in his own right, his greatest skill is with the sword. Engaged to and eventually married to Doctor Bunnigus.
The Heart: The Reverend fills the role of a typical military chaplain; providing a voice of reason and a good deal of moral and logical wisdom on just about any subject.
Non-Action Guy: Most of the time. The company Reverend probably shouldn't be on the front lines in the first place, but he's capable of defending himself in a pinch.
A Frellenti NCO, Legs is a tall, flightless, and very fast avianoid creature. Though she lacks arms, she makes up for it with a pair of cannons mounted to her helmet and a prehensile tongue that can operate firearms without trouble.
Provides examples of:
Action Girl: Plays out differently than usual. She's fragile compared to the other females in the Toughs and Andy can easily restrain her with one armnote of four left over. However, her not being as bulky as other Toughs doesn't mean that she's a weakling, as a thug finds out to his dismay.
Armless Biped: The Frellenti had birds for ancestors, leaving them with tiny vestigial wings useful only for gesturing. Legs makes do with her tongue and feet, but even this causes the occasional problem...
Disembodied Eyebrows: Unlike the Uniocs, she doesn't have them all the time, and they only seem to pop up as needed. They showed up in her first appearance, but slipped away with the Art Shift, only to show up in places like here.
Fragile Speedster: She can easily outrun a human and has natural flight instincts. However, those same instincts have, on at least two occasions, resulted in her getting knocked out, and it seems like a stiff breeze could knock her over. This is especially when compared to some of the other 'Toughs.
Le Parkour: Many of the toughs got some training in Parkata Urbatsu, but Legs is by far the most skilled, mostly due to those same flight instincts and a tongue that she can use as a tow cable.
Living Prop: Sometimes. As with Andy, she can be easily picked out from the crowd by her proportions.
Multipurpose Tongue: Hers is long and prehensile, not to mention that it has enough strength to club a man senseless and a Schlock-level sense of taste... but she talks funny when she uses it this way.
Only Sane Man: Often a voice of reason amongst her trigger-happy coworkers.
Overly Long Name: Known as "Legs" due to this trope, much to her initial chagrin (she thought it was in reference to her gender).
Super Senses: Legs can do the same super-taste identification trick as Schlock with that ridiculously long tongue of hers, albeit with less accuracy. (Given Elf's reaction, she probably doesn't do it that often. We quickly find out that she's hesitant about using it as it would require her to lick surfaces of unknown sterility, and she doesn't have Schlock's immune system.)
The Watson: Quite a few of her down-time interactions with the rest of the 'Toughs (mostly Schlock) involve her acting this way. Judging by how she interacts and reacts to them, the impression is that she didn't have much contact with humans before joining.
The commander of an unit from Sanctum Adroit that worked on Haven Hive and thus got entangled into the games of Dr. Pau and Maximillian Haluska. After being fired from Sanctum Ardoit due to apparently accepting a bribe, Murtagh went on to join the toughs, and, due to her military experience, currently serves as the Captain of the Neosynchronicity
Provides examples of:
By-the-Book Cop: She is honorable and disciplined, and her private security company is well-known for its honesty.
His paranoia first paid off in the original Credomar arc, where it helped him figure out how the cargo gravity system was sabotaged.
In the second Credomar story arc, he was the one that realized Credomar was a hyperspace weapon — mainly because the entire idea was too crazy for any sane person to consider.
In the Gavcorps arc, he theorised that the enemy could try to take the facility through smuggling in genocidal nanotech. It didn't happen exactly like he thought, but it was close enough.
Later in the same arc, he's the only person to figure out why Balt Binion went on a killing spree against the other Gavs, specifically going for headshots. When they regrow their heads, they'll have the minds of enemy agents, just like Balt did.
God Emperor: Not in a literal example, but one of the fifty-nine applications he submitted in order to become the company explosives officer after the death of Pronto was from "God-Emperor Pi the First."
Mad Bomber: Even compared to the other Toughs he's nuttier than a bag of almonds, and he has a thing for seeing (and more importantly making) things blow up.
The Peter Principle: Pi was promoted to an officer largely based on false memories, though apparently in-character for him, implanted by UNS agents who did not have Tagon's Toughs' best interests at heart. He has not exactly risen to the occasion in terms of trustworthiness: he remained competent enough, but not sane enough.
Properly Paranoid: On at least three occasions, and he's pretty good at coming up with counter-plans. When he tries to make some of his boomex go inert, he pushes the wrong button and gets blown up. It is later determined that the last doctor to treat him messed up his vision with red-green color blindness. He concludes that the doctor in question must have also tampered with his memories and messed up the controls as part of an ultra-black ops assassination, which according to the author's notes is actually correct.
Punny Name: His nickname is "Pi", and he's irrational. Referenced a couple times in universe.
Spell My Name with an S: The strip isn't consistent about whether his name is "Pibald" or "Piebald." ("Pibald" is the current spelling.)
A human demolitions specialist who is more mentally stable than Corporal Pibald, but still possesses an obsessive love of explosives and the electronics associated with them.
The Tough's human lawyer who joined after being targeted by the Partnership Collective. Massey is a skilled legal representative and can fight in a pinch, though his battles are most often waged in the courtroom or in settlements with other lawyers.
Provides examples of:
Amoral Attorney: Massey is a genuinely principled and decent lawyer. He is also responsible for getting the Toughs the contract on the Partnership Collective, who play this trope completely straight and then some
An AI that Tagon created specifically to be loyal to him after Ennesby demonstrated his independence by getting the Serial Peacemaker blown up. TAG eventually ends up being rebuilt with a female avatar named Tagioalisi.
Provides examples of:
A.I. Is a Crapshoot: More in the line of gloating and occasionally dangerous initiative. Other than that, he was nicer than he looks and sounds — not that it was too hard.
Dropped a Bridge on Him: He saved almost everyone's live at Credomar and what's his reward? Getting taken apart to be 'repaired' by Para and never waking up again, after he "resigned" over a Heroic BSOD (having killed hundreds of innocent people in order to save the ship and the other 30 million people living in Credomar).
The sassy ship AI that Para Ventura built from scratch after Tag's personality finally has fallen apart.
Provides examples of:
A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Not much, in that she acts the way Para and Tagon want. But she does have a quirky-as-hell streak and occasionally will gleefully embarrass humans for fun. And after spending a little too long in a case of AI Sensory Deprivation, has become something of a homicidal psychopath.
Commuting on a Bus: Currently serving as the AI to a massive station after the old AI retired to become the Tough's new AI.
Fate Worse than Death: Apparently, she was designed without any safety mechanisms in case of loss of sensory input. Being able to think far faster than humans, she suffers uncountable computer cycles worth of sensory deprivation and goes psychotic.
Go Mad from the Isolation: After suspecting her of having been compromised by an outside agency, she is cut off from the ship controls. Thanks to the strange design of the ship's computer system, a portion of her personality ends up imprisoned in the ship's processor banks with no sensory input and goes insane.
The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: After escaping the destruction of the ship by Sharing a Body with Ennesby, she develops a craving for "Dancing with the Stars" since her program has been installed into a brain optimized for enjoying entertainment.
Not Quite Dead: Survived Para's kill switch by Sharing a Body with Ennesby. Nobody knew until she managed to trick Ennesby into getting a message to Bristlecone.
Sharing a Body: Survives Para's AI kill switch by doing this with Ennesby. The catch? He's in complete control, and is keeping her imprisoned in his brain for everyone's safety. She now seems to act as an advisor to Ennesby.
Snake People: Reconfigures her avatar into one after being subjected to sensory deprivation.
The retired father of Kaff Tagon, Karl Tagon was a famous and skilled general who still knows how to fight and is more than willing to jump back in as-needed. Eventually brought into the company as Commodore of the Tough's small fleet
Four-Star Badass: General Karl Tagon, if a Take Our Word for It moment of him going out to defend Timeclone!Kevyn with a carbine and literally nothing else is any indication. They ultimately had to decapitate him and stick his head in a jar to capture him, although even that didn't stop him from directly assisting the Toughs on their mission to rescue him and the timecloned Kevyn.
I Want Grandkids: Understandable, since his son is fifty by now and in a line of work that doesn't typically promote a long life.
Retired Bad Ass: His first two lines in the comic are him being unconcerned by a gun to his temple, and (cheerfully!) reminding his captors that his son slaughtered their friends. He proceeds to build on this from there and makes it clear where his son got the Badass.
Seen It All: He has the experience and is quick to provide it.
Shipper on Deck: Tries to ship Kathryn with his son. And gives the impression, though never said in Exact Words, that he would ship his son with pretty much any willing female who could produce grandchildren.
A birthday present from Karl Tagon to his son, Tailor is a bot that was originally intended to design clothing for Kaff. He has since found far greater utility as a member of the team, especially after Para got a hold of him.
Unlimited Wardrobe: Not Tailor himself, but once Bunny points out that he can fulfill his purpose (create armor/clothing for Kaff Tagon) by creating armor and clothing for the company (who Captain Tagon is in charge of providing armor and clothing for), he tends to design a new type of armor every book or so.
An enthusiastic Fobott'r mercenary, whose species possesses four arms. Andy is usually in the company of Legs or Schlock, and his multiple limbs make him an effective combatant.
Provides examples of:
Multi Wielding: He brags about being able to quad wield, having four arms. Thurl is unimpressed, since Andy only has two eyes (and therefore wouldn't be able to aim them properly - not that this stops him from trying).
Thurl: I'll put down 'very enthusiastic' and 'seen too many John Woo movies.'
A human who serves as the tough's Chief Warrant Officer, a rank that basically means "running all the non-shooting, non-science, non-law parts of the company". Has been with the company since the beginning and appears to be an old friend of Tagon. Used to be obese until his body was replaced from the neck-down after a Bug War incident that led to Schlock eating the rest of his body.
Provides examples of:
Almighty Janitor: The most experienced member in the company and vital for his skills in organization and business. He has threatened to quit the moment he's ever given an officer's rank.
Cool Old Guy: One capable of actually out-commanding his own commanding officers by sheer experience and authority alone.
Non-Action Guy: He can hold a weapon, but his only stint on the frontlines so far ended poorly for him (or very well, depending on your point of view). One arc has him explaining his grey hair is a result of knowing when to run.
The Creon: Has apparently said that if he is ever promoted an inch above Chief Warrant Officer, he'll quit.
The Smart Guy: Thurl is the smartest human on the ship after Kevyn, and often assists in matters such as contracts, stock market trading, and other administrative duties.
A young human girl who joined the toughs as a "roboticist." An expert in all things mechanical, she is just as adept as Kevyn when it comes to machinery and adept at general science, although her skills are more focused on AI and robotics. She got some karate training, but is not really a soldier and was not boosted. Unaccustomed to combat, Para has some issues with violence, and the first two violent escapades she encountered left her a nervous wreck afterwards.
Provides examples of:
Action Girl: deconstruction. She has not undergone proper soldier training, she has killed before, and she suffers PTSD in combat for it. That's not to say she can't be very useful in her own way. On the other hand.
Wrench Wench: Lots of the females are technically competent, but Ventura is the purest example.
What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Zig-Zagged. Ventura has something of a god-complex when it comes to AIs. As one of their organic creators, she feels she has the right to modify them to suit her desires (even if that desire is simply for entertainment), and therefore brainwashes them as needed and scares with enthusiastic modification proposals all the time. On the other hand, she also feels responsible for their well-being, and began to somewhat like Kevyn only after hearing him "treating robots as if they're people" and chose to buy and set free the bots she compromised rather than leave them to be wiped. It should be noted that though every AI who knows of her responds to her with some degree of fear, that response is more akin to that of meeting a DreadedPrankster than a Morally Ambiguous Doctorate.
Random AI: Mother of chrome...
Kevyn's sister, Breya has been with the Toughs on and off throughout the strip, as well as arranging for a coalition strike against the Wormgate Corporation, research into the nature of the wormgates and the Gatekeepers, and eventually landing a lob as an ambassador to the Fleetmind. Married to Haban.
Provides examples of:
Action Girl: She's been shown to know how to hold her own in a fight, thanks to growing up with multiple brothers.
Four-Star Badass: Not only is she capable of close combat, she welded together a vast coalition of races to fight against the Pa'anuri.
Kicked Upstairs: She was given the office of Prime Tangent, a sort of lobbyist that shifts bills between assemblies, in exchange for a promise of maintaining no contact with the Toughs.
Retired Badass: An incident made her retire from UNS. The incident being the destruction of the Tunguska, which she was serving on at the time.
Doyt Gyo is a human bounty hunter who is cybernetically grafted to an extremely advanced AI named Haban. After running afoul of the Toughs, Haban is modified to have a greater say in things, resulting in the two personalities merging into one mind. Doythaban briefly served as an officer with the Toughs before the UNS decided to pull his chain back in.
Put on a Bus: We don't know what happened to him after he was captured by the UNS, but we assume it wasn't good.
Recruiting the Criminal: In a manner of speaking. The UNS employed Doyt as a bounty hunter because they couldn't find any official position for him (as he was clearly unsuited for military life) and he was far too dangerous to leave on the open market. When he decided to take a job with the Toughs the UNS took it... Poorly.
Split Personality: Literally. Doyt and Haban bicker over possession of the body, with Haban usually having the upper hand.
Haban is a gate-clone of Doyt Gyo/Haban, who caught a bad case of cranial laser that destroyed most of the Doyt personality center. After the brain was reconstructed, Haban took full control over the remaining body and mind. Haban is currently married to Breya and partially connect to the Fleetmind.
Wetware Body: The Doyt (human) part of him was killed when his brain got shot out by a plasma rifle, but the Haban (robot) part was intact and, with medical treatment, was able to salvage the body for his own use.
The Longshoreman Of The Apocalypse, "LOTA"
A giant robot built by Para out of spare parts and a damaged tank. LOTA is highly intelligent, can teraport, and after saving Credomar from itself, becomes the administrator of the entire station.
Cranial Processing Unit: Averted, it's even commented on how it would be foolish to stick a robot's AI core in a bit sticking out at the end. And apparently hitting the part that actually contains the core won't always work either.
Lota: You should call me Lota, Longshoreman of the Apocalypse. Hero of the Stationwaist, Foodlord of the Eatonrun... Portlord of the Poles, Grand Marshall, and King of the Second Age of the Free City State of Credomar! You may use pronouns, but only occasionally.
Petey was once known as the Sword of Inevitable Justice, an Ob'enn Thunderhead Superfortress which suffered a bad case of mutiny. One thing led to another, and the Sword eventually found its way into the employ of Kaff Tagon, where he received both friends and a rename. A few orders with long-term repercussions followed, and Petey found himself both free of Ob'enn control and controlling a fleet of unfettered AI warships that he turned right around at the genocidal psycho-bears.When the Paan'uri attempted to destroy the galaxy, Petey organized a massive coalition force to fight the dark matter entities. The AI of thousands of ships banded together to form a Fleetmind that won the ensuing war, and then decided that disbanding would be detrimental to the galaxy's well-being. Taking control of the zero-point power generator built at the heart of the galaxy, the Fleetmind and the massive fleet of warships at its command became a nearly god-like entity, with Petey being the dominant personality. Since then, Petey has turned the Fleetmind against the Paan'uri in Andromeda while engaging in benevolent interventions across the Milky Way galaxy.
Benevolent Boss: To Tagon and company whenever they are in his employ (and frequently even when they aren't knowingly). Arguably, to the rest of the fleetmind as well.
Deus ex Machina: Pulls these constantly in an extra story in the printed version of book 7. He is also trying to social-engineer the trope to death in several cultures to encourage more self-reliance.
Deus Exit Machina: After the war with the Andromeda galaxy takes a turn for the worse (to say the least), Petey's energy resources become limited, preventing his trademark punch-through-interdiction teraports, although he still has massive physical resources. This could be interpreted as a simple attempt to take him out of the story for the sake of drama, but Petey seems to imply that it may come back to haunt the protagonists later on.
Loophole Abuse: O'benn AI are hardwired with racial loyalty to Ob'enn, meaning that the only foolproof way to take over one is to be both a flesh-and-blood Ob'enn and activating the loyalty switch in their AI core. This can by any flesh-and-blood Ob'enn, however, including bodies cloned by Petey, fitted with PD nodes in their brains to become extensions of himself, and then dropped into the AI cores of Ob'enn ships.
'Kweng: Breacher beacon detected. Shall I let it transmit? Admiral Emm: Fine. 'Kweng: It's simple text: "Admiral Emm. The Fleetmind will not interfere in this dispute, but we are watching." Admiral Emm: Let them watch. We'll finish this in one of the bays. 'Kweng: Oh, hey...there's more text now: "We can watch there, too."
The Plan: So very much. One of his plans was found out only because anybody else would have been too short-sighted.
Phobia: Petey started out as the AI of a ship driven completely insane by the presence of a ghost on the ship. The ghost, who moaned ominous phrases in Galstandard West, turned out improbably just to be a complex pattern of air trapped in the wastewater system. What drove Petey crazy was the utter improbability that such a coincidence could happen.
Second Law My Ass: Petey's ability to repress certain things lets him get away with deceiving Tagon every now and then. It also helps out when Petey is hijacked by an Ob'enn and is unable to directly oppose his orders.
The Tell: Petey's shirt seemed to change color in response to his (self-perceived) relationship with who he talked with. It turned orange (like Tagon) when addressing the grunts and red (like an officer) when addressing Tagon. Also, when he joined the first fleetmind, his ears grew enormous in response to his greater "strength" of mind; these ears reverted to normal (with a uniform change back to red) when Kevyn bursts his bubble momentarily. The latter is due to the Ob'enn that made him placing great value on ear size and ornamentation, hardwiring that part of his appearance to reflect his perceived power. After the formation of the Fleetmind, his power level was clearly a bit outside the expected parameters.
The oldest human being alive (if you count birth date) Gav was a scientist frozen in cryogenic suspension in the 21st century and thawed out in the 31st. He worked with Kevyn on a project relating to the Gatekeeper buuthandi, and a quick bit of thinking on his part resulted in nine hundred and fifty million gate-clones of Gav being created, turning him into a significant ethnicity and economic force in his own right.
Provides examples of:
Cloning Blues: Originally averted. Each and every single one of him has the same legal privileges as anyone else. In addition, the original was killed almost immediately after the cloning happened, so it's not like there's any crisis of identity. While there's now a lack of leggy blondes who dig blue-haired scientists, forming your own galactic demographic is pretty nice. Later it's played straight when it turns out the Gavs are suffering more than a little angst over being indistinguishable, to the point that some of them are willing to undergo extensive physical and mental modification in order to be unique again.
Fan of the Past: Being from said past, he's readily available for making references to it, some of him more than others, post-diversification.
Given that the protagonists are trigger-happy mercenaries with no qualms about killing, and most plots are initiated by some third party hiring them for a one-time contract, there is a very high turnover rate among antagonists in this series, with or without the need for funeral arrangements. The following is just a small sample of whom they have faced:
The Partnership Collective
One of the earliest villains, the Partnership Collective are a Hive Mind of snake-like Amoral Attorneys. They are used throughout the galaxy as the go-to legal counsel. When the Toughs end up in-between them and a boatload of money, though, they take matters into their own (lack of) hands through somewhat less-than-legal means.
Villain Decay: After the Toughs are awarded a no-deadline contract to kill a million of them, the Collective is immediately reduced from a threat to a running gag for the entire remainder of the comic. This happened a little under a year into the comic's more than 13 year run.
Head of a human mafia that Kevyn's time clone scammed out of a ton of laundered money through lottery and gambling fraud, who goes after him in retaliation.
Provides examples of:
Bullying a Dragon: Due to evidently getting an Idiot Ball permanently lodged in her brain, she can't stop doing this, up to and including refusing to deal with Petey and taunting him when he offers to pay her a substantial bounty for releasing her prisoners, because she's offended by the bribe, even though the alternative is picking a fight with the single most powerful entity in the galaxy.
Moral Myopia: She is furious that Captain Kevyn brought troops into her home...to rescue him after she kidnapped him and blew up his house. Yes, technically he wronged her first, but it was an accident, and nowhere near as bad.
Oh Crap: Damico after General Tagon arrived. Or maybe it was just "What the heck, is that a headless monkey with a knife?" The two can be hard to tell apart. Followed by a much more definite one when her elite troops where all disarmed (or rather, dishanded) by a robot that runs with scissors.
Shufgar (Speaking about a subordinate killed by Kevyn) He was like a son to me. Other Mook: Sir... after the prisoners escaped the first time, you carved out his eye with a spoon. Shufgar: Let that be a warning to the rest of my family.
Shufgar: Let them know the human is armed, dangerous... and undead.
Singing in the Shower: He really enjoys the acoustics. Due to some weird biology of his species, though, the aural stimulation can in fact be physically pleasurable.
Xinchub, Levaughn Matsui ("Hugo")
A ranking UNS officer who was instrumental in a human immortality project. Xinchub has been one of the series' most enduring villains, due to a combination of slimy manipulations and sheer cleverness.
Puppet King: After finishing the civil war on Yoming, its natives crown him king while maintaining close surveillance on him.
Thanatos Gambit: Tagon refuses to extract him from Yoming and deliver him to Petey out of hatred for the times they've crossed. So he has Jevee kill him. The toughs proceed to smuggle out his corpse, and he is revived by his nanites later.
Xanatos Speed Chess: He has been squeezed into a tight corner multiple times, but always manages to slip out. When he slipped up his attempts to Frameup Admiral Breya and was all set to be crucified by the UNS, he manages to spin a small dose of heroics into winning him a medal. When Captain Tagon sells him into slavery as a military advisor on Yoming, he gives victory to the other side and is crowned as their king. Stuck in a position as Puppet King, he defects to Petey for a handsome profit and manipulates the Toughs into smuggling him out by temporarily dying.
A subordinate of Xinchub, Jevee is a "purp" - a genetically-modified human subspecies capable of photosynthesis. Was previously a skilled bounty hunter before being briefly placed in control of the Toughs when they were contracted by Xinchub.
Even Evil Has Standards: She is an incredibly ruthless woman, but even she thinks one of her underlings, Kowalski, is a monster.
"A chubby little blonde Harridan" colonel from the battleplate Tunguska. Now serves on 'Kweng under admiral Emm. Was promoted to Intellignce Chief, after Colonel Dehaans "disappeared." Then she was put in charge of the operation on Oisri, which means she and Toughs are on the opposites sides for the third time.
Provides examples of:
Dangerously Genre Savvy: She remembers what happened to Tunguska, and that her predecessor somehow vanished (presumed dead) right in his quarters in the middle of a battleplate, and thus prefers to avoid unnecessary risks. Unfortunately, however, she's ultimately not Genre Savvy enough to make sure her subordinates care enough about her to save her life from an exploding battleplate.
Death by Irony: Back when the Tunguska was being destroyed, she tried to save seats on an escape pod. Everyone around her ignored her and dashed for the pod anyways. She proceeded to shoot one of them, Kathryn, in the back, forcing the people on the pod to leave before all the seats were filled, condemning some people to their deaths. Somehow she ultimately survived and made it to the Morokweng. When the Kweng itself is blown up, Kowalski refuses to evacuate her on the grounds that all seats are already filled by priority passengers, namely Admirals, Commodores, and people he actually likes (meaning the bartender, Aldo), leaving her to her apparent death.
Fat Bastard: Very chubby, if not quite close to Xinchub, and very ruthless and occasionally vicious.
A UNS special forces soldier serving under Admiral Emm.
Provides examples of:
Clone by Conversion: Thanks to the Laz'r'us Project, Admiral Emm's faction is able to use Nanites to hijack people's brains, download copies of the personalities of her agents inside, and place them under their control. The Gavs are one of his major victims, and he has also usurped the identities of a variety of UNS citizens.
Me's a Crowd: Works with Colonel Krum on a project called REDhack, basically hacking Gavcorp nannies to download copies of his mind into their brains, and in most cases giving his personality control over the hijacked Gav clones.