Welcome to Candorville, and let Lemont Brown be your guide! He's the senior White House correspondent at a local newspaper and the only White House correspondent, and for that matter, the only reporter the paper can still afford. His only friends are Clyde, a sweet-hearted gang type of dubious intelligence, and Susan, an upwardly mobile advertising executive who's a Horrible Judge of Character. Lemont is filing unsuccessfully for child custody from Clingy Jealous Girl Roxanne, drowning in a sea of credit-card debt, and staying cheerful, and trying to rise to the top.The strip has been running since 1993, and is planned to continue till midcentury. The style is comparable to Doonesbury, but with the personal parts more character-driven and the political parts even less subtle.In 2009, it had its first Out-of-Genre Experience in darkly comedic Urban Fantasy. Rather than committing fully to the new genre, however, it keeps switching back and forth between more realistic and more fantastical content, with results closer to a webcomic than to standard newspaper comics.
Afterlife Express: Lemont sometimes dreams that he converses with a recently deceased celebrity, usually on a train from Earth to outer space. For instance, he spoke with Steve Jobs in 2011, and with shooting victim Trayvon Martin in April of 2012.
Against My Religion: Roxanne claims to follow an Aztec religion that bans the examination of DNA—ruling out a paternity test to determine whether Lionel is really Lemont's son.
All Just a Dream: Lemont has come to the conclusion that the UST between him and Susan and her relationship with her very unqualified assistant drove him to hallucinate the incident with Saxon.
Ancient Conspiracy: According to a drunkard in Mexico, "La Llorona, El Chupacabra, and Bigfoot have invaded Juarez. They're stealing men's souls and turning the now-empty husks into vicious killers. They're footsoldiers for an ancient . . . pass the salt." In the next strip, Lemont met La Llorona, so it can be assumed this wasn't just the alcohol talking.
Appeal to Obscurity: Stephen King argues that Charles Dickens's fictional portrayal of slum life taught more people more about the slums than [mumble]'s factual reporting. Lemont, unable to hear him, asks "Who?" King responds "Exactly," and both wind up confused.
Axe Crazy: How Saxon seems to Lemont the first time they're alone together. Either subverted or triple subverted, depending on how you look at it—he's revealed to be Properly Paranoid, then it turns out he's even more paranoid than he needs to be, then it turns out he's a Friendly Neighborhood Vampire and is trying to protect Lemont.
Bad Boss: Susan's. He never appreciates her and might even reward her male secretary by mistake due to him (the secretary) being a total weasel who is blatantly after Susan's job.
Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Parodied. The many historical figures Roxanne manipulated included George Washington Carver. "She has a thing for peanuts."
Black and Nerdy: A rare main character example. It's worth noting that Lemont never breaks the trope; he simply fleshes it out.
In particular, Lemont thinks about his reputation solely in terms of how he's thought of on startrektalk.com. He's less angry about being called the reincarnation of Hitler than about someone's saying that his favorite captain was Janeway.
Continuity Lockout: A new reader might be able to independently determine most of what's wrong with Roxanne, but good luck figuring out how Saxon and Lionel fit into it.
Cosmic Retcon: Lemont argues that "the Great Author" made the universe six thousand years ago, but decided to add several billion years of backstory.
Courtroom Antic: Lemont's custody case, thanks to a very bad lawyer and a judge who happens to be Roxanne's mother.
Credit Card Plot: This has been going on and getting worse for Lemont over the course of the strip. At this point, he's borrowing money with one card and using it to pay off the next in an endless cycle.
Dark and Troubled Past: When Doctor Noodle is kidnapped, he mistakes it for a dream in which he's finally punished for the crimes he still feels guilty for.
Decoy Damsel: Pity poor Artemis Kenchu. A few centuries ago, he rescued Roxanne from a group of vampires, then discovered they were trying to kill her because she was even more evil than they were. Apparently, he spent the rest of his (un)natural life as her servant.
Either-Or Prophecy: Parodied. If a vampiress can produce a Dhampyr, which Roxanne managed to do thanks to modern fertilization techniques, she'll lose all the standard weaknesses and the need for blood while retaining all the assets. It's prophesied that she'll someday rule over mankind—unless she gives into her still-existing desire for blood, in which case she'll be returned to normal having gained nothing. "And her APR would shoot up to 29.97%."
Fangs Are Evil: The nastier the monster, the bigger the fangs. Characters with a Game Face have their fangs grow and shrink depending on how intimidating they want to be (as does Susan's pet wolf, although at this point, it's all but confirmed that the dog is a shapeshifted Roxanne.)
Funny Answering Machine: Lemont's answering machine always identifies the caller, usually "Mom" or "creditor." To the latter, he tends to mention his lack of funds. To the former, he's painfully self-effacing and apologetic for not living up to her expectations.
Give Me a Sign: Reverend Wilfred sometimes asks for this when he's about to do something awful, and it's always responded to with a blackout. This turns into a plot point when he's deciding whether or not to reveal that the local voting machines have been rigged to elect a corrupt candidate—the machines are of a type that wipes its memory in the event of a blackout, and only Clyde used a paper ballot, voting for a snide rap star.
Granola Girl: Roxanne has aspects of this Gone Horribly Wrong—for instance, she views eating meat as immoral, but thinks wearing fur is a way of preserving an animal's beauty forever.
In the Blood: Lemont is trying to prove this wrong—his father abandoned him, so he'll be a father to his own child, even if it makes him miserable. It'll be interesting to see how this applies to the child itself, which is presumably a Dhampyr like Saxon.
It's All About Me: Everyone does this from time to time, particularly Roxanne and Susan.
Knife Nut: Saxon Kenchu, with whom Roxanne appeared to be having an affair (he's actually her Dhampyr son.) To him, knives are a symbol of humanity's overcoming the hostile forces of nature. However, he's a partial subversion—see Axe Crazy.
Magical Realism: The strip began closer to this than to a straight-up Slice of Life—for instance, Lemont had occasional interviews with the talking corpse of a slain terrorist, which were integrated into the continuity.
No Sense of Direction: Artemis Kenchu managed to wind up somewhere snowbound while trying to get to New Orleans. Saxon apparently shares this trait, although it hasn't come up in the plot.
Obfuscating Stupidity: There are some indications that Clyde acts stupid because that's how black people are expected to be.
Oblivious to Love: College-age Lemont thought that Susan's best friend was "just being friendly" during all those hours of laying in each other's beds with their arms around each other; there's also the fact that she named her teddy bear "Lemont Jr" (he thought she was making fun of him) Present-Lemont can't believe he was that stupid. There's also the fact that a whole bunch of girls would hang out by his desk every day.
Overly Narrow Superlative: Lemont's psychologist is the recipient of the Candorville Psychologists who Work on Gilman Street Between Third and Fourth Avenues Association award.
Pre-Approved Sermon: Applied to faith-based initiatives, with Reverend Wilfred forced to give pro-Republican sermons in return for payouts. (Again, this is not a very subtle strip.)
Mood Whiplash: Every once in a while, this strip gets completely serious.
— I interviewed the ghost of a Hurricane Katrina victim. Maybe I imagined it. I don't know. But could you blame me? I watched an American city drown. I watched mostly black bodies floating across my TV. I watched as some people shot black refugees rather than help them. If you can watch that and not go crazy, you're not human.
Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Not a traitor to friends, but to an ideal. Loafer's loyalty to his clients is one of his highest virtues. Captured by Roxanne, in order to be freed he "betrays" Lemont (his wording) by calling him and convincing him to give up his custody battle against Roxanne. Roxanne then points out to him that he himself called her evil and untrustworthy.It appears his final words were "D'oh!"
Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Presumably the reason why the judge in Lemont and Roxanne's custody case is Roxanne's mother. No one ever said Roxanne's mom likes her.
Shout-Out: Lots, mostly from Lemont's love of Sci-Fi.
Shut Up, Hannibal!: Lemont versus the ghost of Bin Laden. "How does it feel to die irrelevant?"
Sinister Surveillance: The NSA is watching Lemont as a possible traitor, and they even spy on his dreams. The agent watching Lemont isn't all that concerned about him, though, and has tried to befriend him, much to Lemont's disgust. (Incidentally, the agent hasn't shown up since Bush Jr. left office.)
The Slacker: Clyde's an unusually well-trained one, using his degree in biomechanical analysis to find the optimal position to use as little energy as possible.
Talking to the Dead: Played for bleak laughs when, as a result of the above spoilers, Loafer addresses the skeleton of one of his process servers. He asks "Can you forgive me?" and (since he's a lawyer) takes the skeleton's silence as a "Yes."
The One That Got Away: Surprisingly for Lemont, not Susan but her best friend in college, Sasha. Using dream Time Travel, Present!Lemont tried to get College!Lemont to ask her out during one of their "friendly" snuggle sessions, but College!Lemont choked. Lemont's "farewell" to the relationship they never had seems awfully sincere for a mere comic character...
Timey-Wimey Ball: Lemont has interacted with his past self (who he berates for waiting every Christmas for his/their Disappeared Dad who will never return) and his future self. Additionally, Lemont's future self meets Clyde at Susan's place to warn him that, due to Susan's phone not working, she won't get Lemont's call to rescue him in Mexico where he'll unleash a Sealed Evil in a Can that will cause the universal health bill to not pass, inadvertently killing millions without insurance including someone who would have cured death. It's then revealed that Susan's phone doesn't work because Clyde stole it while waiting for Future!Lemont.
There Are No Therapists: Actually, there is one, a fellow named Doctor Noodle, but all he does is listen and ask questions, never giving answers to the questions posed to him. When his notepad is viewable, it's marked only with doodles.
Triang Relations: Susan loves Lemont; Lemont loves his college crush Sasha. Sasha may or may not still have feelings for Lemont, but feels very bad about accidentally causing this unrequited love triangle that broke up her friendship with Susan.
Further complicating things is that Sasha is married with children and she's described her husband as abusive.
The Voice: Lemont's mother is represented by a phone even when testifying in court.
Wham Line: All of the above spoilers, and the strip's entire Genre Shift, revolve around two lines from Saxon: "The vampire, Roxanne, is not my lover. She's my mother." Of course, this was rather helped by Saxon's suddenly gaining Milky White Eyes and fangs.
The judge admitting that while Lemont hangs out with bad company, her daughter is the epitome of bad company, thus awarding Lemont custody of Lionel.
Write Who You Know: Parodied. Lemont wrote a story about his own Unresolved Sexual Tension with Susan, but when she noticed and asked about it, he told her that "all my stories are completely fictional." Clyde appeared and informed Lemont that he'd read, and found hilarious, Lemont's story about a guy named Clive who's too stupid to realize when other people are talking about him.
You Keep Using That Word / Grammar Nazi: Lemont will frequently interrupt strangers' conversations to correct their grammar, much to their displeasure, or miss the point of something entirely because of one misused word. A flashback shows that he's done this since childhood, ignoring An Aesop because of his mom's poor grammar. Currently he's got enough foresight to NOT correct his college crush's grammar, but not the judge overseeing his custody case (he thinks knowing law lingo is endearing).