Created in 1985 by Greg Evans, Luann is a comic strip about the life of Luann DeGroot, a 'typical high school student', with her trials and tribulations. She has typical parents (working dad, housewife mom), a lazy, annoying older brother (Brad), and a small group of friends (nerdy best friend Bernice and Black Best Friend Delta). Her main rival is Tiffany the cheerleader, and the men in her life are nerdy Gunther and handsome Aaron Hill (and his Suspiciously Similar Substitutes).Sometimes funny, and occasionally poignant, it's known for capitalizing on current trends, and dropping Anvilicious subplots about various subjects (marijuana use, 9/11), in an attempt to be modern and legitimate. Most of the characters seem to exist as two-dimensional archetypes, with rare glimpses into more aspects of their personalities, so you will find a lot of tropes in here played totally straight (though Tropes Are Not Bad). It also gained a new focus, as lazy brother Brad shifted into becoming a co-main character of sorts, gaining nearly as much page time as his sister thanks to a subplot where he joins the fire department (post-9/11) and falls for the beautiful Toni Daytona. As well, Luann's idealized crush Aaron has left the strip entirely.
Examples of Tropes:
Aborted Arc: The storyline where Aaron was hiding his relationship with Diane was supposed to be Aaron and another boy. Evans bailed out, fearing too great a backlash and not having the subscriber base Lynn Johnston had to pull the same thing off without a significant loss in readership.
Played for Laughs — Gunther tries to do the classic sawing-a-woman-in-half trick, and the counselor says that it's violent towards women. When Bernice suggests doing it to Gunther, the counselor finds no problem with it. He immediately says "HEY!"
Averted when it comes to Zane and Bernice and later Brad's boss — she's certainly abusive to her workers, and we're clearly supposed to dislike her.
All Girls Want Bad Boys: The justification given for Toni's continued relationship with the blatantly terrible Dirk. He was muscular, but rude, nasty and disrespectful.
All Love Is Unrequited: Luann's obsession with Aaron Hill, in the strip's earlier years; Brad's interest in Toni, before they became at item; Gunther's pining for Luann.
Averted for about 2 minutes with Quill and Luann, until Quill's dad called him to tell him he's moving back to Australia next week.
Alpha Bitch: Tiffany the Evil Cheerleader pretty much defines this, at least as much as the previous trope namer Libby herself did. Shallow, vain, beauty-obsessed and hateful of the main character 90% of the time. Unlike Libby she doesn't have a two-Girl Posse, just one friend who barely tolerates her and she even lost a beauty pageant she'd set up for herself.
Ambiguously Brown: Miguel; although he's stated to be Spanish. Other colored strips show TJ as being Ambiguously Brown, but it's later averted when he explains his parents were Italian and South American — it's entirely possible for both his parents to have been brown. (If the Italian half was Sicilian.)
TJ. The guy's well-dressed and a good cook. We've never seen him with a girlfriend. Josh's commentary on Comics Curmedgeon occasionally lampshades this.
Also, for a brief period, Aaron Hill. He seemed oblivious to Luann's and Tiffany's attraction to him. Evans was originally going to make Aaron come out of the closet, but backed out.
Art Evolution: The art style in the strip has changed a lot since 1985. The characters debuted with huge heads and tiny, pudgy bodies, and maintained these cartoonish proportions for the first decade of the strip. In the second decade, they started to evolve towards more realistic proportions. Brad is probably the closest to his old look, but Luann herself is almost unrecognizable. The banner for the comic at GoComics shows the evolution of Luann's appearance over the years. The author will also occasionally draw characters in their older designs for flashbacks.
Ascended Extra: When Toni Daytona debuted in early 2002, she was just one of two cute girls with No Name Given who sat next to Brad and TJ in their CPR and EMT classes, so their could be a few gags of Brad and TJ flirting with them unsuccessfully. If anything, Toni's friend (who's never been named and hasn't been seen since the end of the EMT Class, where TJ dropped out) actually had more to do since TJ was more aggressive in flirting and failing with her than Brad was with Toni. Toni turned up again, briefly, near the end of the year at the impromptu mini-parade Brad's family and friends staged for Brad. It wasn't till the next year that Brad (and the readers) learned Toni's name and we got the whole Brad-Toni-Dirk Love Triangle.
Author Appeal: Greg Evans is clearly into cars, which reflects on Brad, and later Toni.
Beautiful All Along: Played relatively straight, but with a male character, as Gunther drops his glasses and dorky clothing to look more acceptable to others.
When he really wanted to change his style, he had Tiffany help him. She was surprisingly effective at it, but he ultimately felt more comfortable as himself.
Betty and Veronica: Luann is the nice (sometimes), interesting Betty, and Tiffany is the skanky, skimpily-dressed Veronica.
Brainless Beauty: Cheerleader Tiffany is shown as one of the most negative types of this trope, who doesn't try at much of anything and is seen as completely shallow.
Breakout Character: Brad had his own storylines occasionally, but was more often seen through Luann's eyes as an annoying older brother. By the time of the "9/11/Firefighter/Toni Daytona" storyline, Brad had basically earned equal footing to his sister in the strip, with a whole new supporting cast to play with.
Cerebus Syndrome: Boy howdy. Can you believe that this used to be a gag-a-day strip without the deep, anvilicous Story Arcs it's now known for?
Character Development: Brad moves from a lazy, slovenly generic older-brother figure who harasses his sister all the time, to becoming dedicated to firefighting, spending several years of our time (not Comic Book Time) working towards his classes.
Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Brad's first crush, Diane, puts him through the wringer over and over, and then vanishes without a trace after it's revealed she hooked up with Aaron Hill, and she hasn't been mentioned in nearly a decade. Unlikely to come back now that new girl Toni is in the picture.
Clingy Jealous Girl: Luann to Aaron Hill sometimes. Bernice especially does this to wheelchair-bound Zane, freaking out if he so much as talks to another girl, and asking him to marry her while she was still in high school.
Bernice to her brother, which some critics chalk up to the strange "attraction" that occasionally develops between long-lost parents and children (basically you want to love the long-lost person as family, but since you just met and never knew each other that way you're stuck with romantic love).
Comic Book Time: Luann and company have been in high school since 1985, approximately twenty-five years. Mildly averted because they have aged over the years, bit by bit.
As of September 2014 they've finally hit college.
Cos Play: Gunther loves making costumes for Luann's library readings.
Dark Horse Victory: When Tiffany staged her beauty pageant, all the main characters who are high school girls competed: Tiffany, Luann, Crystal, Bernice, Delta. Most of the focus was on the rivalray between Luann and Tiffany. The winner? The new kid in town, Rosa.
Demoted to Extra: The beauty pageant arc from 2010 (the one introducing Rosa) was the first time Delta played a major role in a storyline in years. And she promptly faded back into the background once it was over.
The Dog Is The Mastermind: Played With and Subverted during the chaperone arc. One of the teachers suspects that Luann was the one who did the anonymous caller due to this trope (which the teacher deconstructs by pointing out that the other teacher is just as applicable for that trope as well). It was Tiffany all along, and Luann only acted like she was the anonymous video recorder to Tiffany in order to trick her into admitting it.
Brad is this most of the time, chasing crushes Diane and Toni. Especially true for the latter. Though at times he's been shown as angry and loud-mouthed towards his sister, he's largely completely sympathetic the entire time.
Gunther is also one of these to an extent.
Franchise Killer: In-universe example with the Eyes Of Zeye movie, which Elwood financed and which turns out to be So Bad, It's Horrible (and immediately shelved). Unfortunately for Tiffany.
Gentle Giant: Oxford (Ox for short) a character introduced in 2012. A tough, muscular guy who looks like the typical school bully, he actually doesn't like bullies, and defends Gunther from them; he later tells Ann Eiffel off when she tries to get revenge on Shannon, figuring she's a bully too.
Getting Crap Past the Radar: Done quite often, but in a more cutesy attempt at being sneaky. Examples: 1) Brad will tell Toni he was thinking of her. She says "So I see". He is holding melons or cantaloupes in the produce section. 2) The DeGroot parents will argue over Brad living with Toni, because they're "both adults". The implication of sexuality is there, but never is the word actually said. 3) A 2009 series of strips featured Brad and Toni not-so-subtly making it clear they had sex earlier. 4) When Tiffany is asked by Gunther if she has had any "real" boyfriends, Tiffany then asks "As opposed to what, plastic ones?" Which works on two levels.
During the "Luann's first period" arc, Evans was allowed to write and publish the story provided he never used the word "period". His loophole: use the literal punctation mark.
Hands-Off Parenting: The DeGroots towards Luann. About the only time they deign to notice her presence is when she does something to displease them. Especially glaring in light of how Nancy is obsessed with keeping Brad from going to first base. However; whenever there's a major decision such as getting a car or a house, they are there. One strip that's Played for Laughs has Luann ground herself because she knows she did something wrong.
Heel-Faith Turn: Dirk's cleaned up his act spectacularly. Not only is a lot nicer, he's now Happily Married to a girl he met in one of his classes, and apparently is a very good father.
Heroic Fire Rescue: Brad, while working for the fire department, rushed in to save a character. He was complimented for being successful, but also reprimanded and suspended for putting himself at risk to do needless heroics.
Lots of Luggage: Luann has a Rich Bitch rival Tiffany. In the Thursday 15 December 2011 strip, Tiffany brings so much luggage for a one-week trip that her boyfriend remarks, "We need a semi."
Love Makes You Dumb: Brad pretty much acts this way around both his love interests, Diane and Toni, frequently pretending to know about things he's actually clueless about, trying to dress the way they'd like, acting the way he feels they'd like, and randomly stuttering nonsense ("Hey auto go show Toni together with me!").
Love Triangle: Aaron, Luann and Tiffany. Also Toni with Brad and Dirk. And a budding one between Luann, Gunther, and creepy little gnome Elwood. Averted with Luann, Quill, and Tiffany since Quill was never attracted to her and has since moved back to Australia.
But now he's back. And it seems that it may well start all over again.
Master of the Mixed Message: Toni admits to doing this to Brad to keep him at arm's length while he pined over her. She would say something that could be construed as flirty, making him obsess over it, and then turn it to something more innocent several times. During her relationship with Dirk, she made both of them think she "might" be interested in Brad as something more than a pal.
My Beloved Smother: Nancy towards Brad (but really only where Toni is involved); she won't let him stay over at Toni's house, seemingly rejecting his relationship growth when she was egging him on before, and tried to keep Brad from her at first because she saw Toni as a "bad girl".
We could make the point that she simply doesn't like Toni because of all of her baggage (Dirk is a massively violent person, and seems quite able to gut Brad like a fish) and the mind games she played on Brad before they became a couple.
Nice Guy/Gal: Gunther and Brad (though not, of course, to his sister); Luann and Bernice.
Not Allowed to Grow Up: Barely averted. When the strip began in 1985 Luann and her friends were approximately thirteen years old; in the ensuing two and a half decades they've advanced to roughly 16 or 17.
Overprotective Dad: Frank is quickly starting to become this, as Luann's relationship with Quill seems much more serious than any in the past.
Paper-Thin Disguise: After Brad, Toni, and TJ learn that Dirk is their new garbage man, Brad and TJ hire the cheapest actress they can find — Tiffany — to convince Dirk that Toni moved away. It doesn't work (they fail to take into account that maybe Toni would've taken her stuff with her if she moved) but Dirk says he gets it and won't bother them anymore.
Parental Abandonment: Most characters' parents aren't shown; but are often mentioned. However; TJ's parents are never shown nor mentioned, until 2008 when he heavily implies that they might have abandoned him. Later confirmed.
Pet the Dog: Tiffany is a complete Alpha Bitch. Yet there are moments where she actually does appear to be nice to others. Among these include helping Gunther with his design, trying to hook up a couple teachers together for the heck of it, and later on, volunteering to help pay for Delta to go on the class trip to D.C. In the case of the latter, she agrees to let people dunk her so they can see her wet, but leaves because the water is "too cold", essentially sabotaging the fundraiser. A few strips later, she walks back in having found another option to pay for it, while stating she felt guilty.
Dirk even gets one.
Perky Goth: New Agey-type Crystal, a tertiary classmate of Luann and the others, occasionally fits this, but is often rather bitchy and sardonic as well. Essentially, the "Goth" look is merely a costume.
Positive Discrimination: Delta, the only black cast member, is of course one of the smartest and most level-headed of the entire group. In a cast where every other character has a swack of flaws, she only has the flaw of being a workaholic perfectionist. It landed her in the hospital once, but is pretty much the kind of "fake insult" someone would give at a job interview.
Her friends think she's too much of a goody two-shoes, though, and preachy to boot. Whether we're supposed to agree with them or not is not clear.
Progressively Prettier: Brad, originally very cartoonish and round (though not as much as his father), shifted to a slightly-more in-shape character with a less comically-round head (ie. he has a jawline!). Part of this is also in-character, as Brad got in better shape and cleaned up once he decided to become a firefighter. Many female characters went through the Art Evolution by gaining thinner physiques with feminine curves (instead of portly cartoonish bodies), such as Luann and her mom.
Protagonist-Centered Morality: The July 2013 strips where Quill finally tells Tiffany to back off of him... In the middle of a dress rehearsal. No one calls Quill on his inappropriate behavior, even though we don't know if any of the other drama campers know him or Tiff or the history between them, so for all they know Quill just threw a tantrum on stage for little reason.
Put on a Bus: Aaron Hill, a rare major character example, having moved away, once the love triangle story got tired. Odd for such a major part of the strip. It also happens to a lot of the replacements for Aaron over the years, as various new love interests show up, allow Luann to obsess over them for a while, and then vanish. A few other characters like Zane and Elwood have vanished in the past year after a particular storyline focusing on them has ended.
In a move that no one (everyone) predicted Quill had to suddenly move back to Australia as soon as he and Luann decided to start a real relationship and stop worrying about him suddenly moving back to Australia. And then Luann's dad had to be a massive jerk and rub it in with Australia jokes not even an hour after Quill's plane left.
The Bus Came Back: In a move that no one really did predict Quill continues to court Luann over cellphones and laptops. They've agreed to a long distance relationship, and plan for Quill to return next summer.
Reformed, but Rejected: Possibly Dirk, who claims he found Jesus when he was imprisoned for beating Brad and will be leaving town (Brad gets the feeling he's dying; readers think he's joining the priesthood). It doesn't help that the characters find out about this when they discover he's working as a garbage man on the same block as the DeGroots and Toni. Even when he saves Mrs. DeGroot after a bookshelf falls on her she refers to him as a "creepy, evil superhero".
Dirk's latest appearance showed that he is now happily married with a child, which quickly led to a...
Relationship Upgrade: Brad crushed openly on Toni Daytona upon meeting her, but couldn't win her away from her then jerky boyfriend, Dirk. It would take years of storylines for them to eventually start dating once she lost Dirk. It took longer still for them to get more than a handful of playful kisses. Finally, Toni admitted she loves Brad, and a few strips made it relatively obvious they were sexually active. Thanks to a surprise run in by Toni with a reformed Dirk, she has finally accepted Brad's marriage proposal.
Luann and Quill, who had put off having a relationship for years (in real-time) in fear that he'd suddenly have to move. Guess what happened next (literally minutes after they started making out).
They're still in a relationship, it's just now long-distance.
Gunther and Rosa.
The Scrappy: Elwood, the Elvis-dressing, super-short rich kid, who shares Gunther's attraction to Luann. The fandom is not very enamored with him. But neither are Luann's friends, who aren't convinced that his riches are real despite the expensive dates he's taken her. When Elwood tried to propose to Luann they quickly discovered that the ring's "diamond" was fake, and the situation has yet to be resolved. So he may be an in-universe example of The Scrappy.
Which is odd, because there was a really weird story arc the end of which revealed that the "Gunther" Luann had spent most of the arc interacting with had been Aaron in disguise (possibly collaborating with the real Gunther — it was years ago) in an effort to get Luann to think past physical appearances now and again. Rather than cottoning to the lesson, Luann asked to "try on Gunther" (Aaron's mask).
Shut Up, Hannibal!: For years, almost every character in the strip was willing to take Tiffany's crap. Quill, however, would not. In July of 2013, after her latest attempt to make Luann jealous, he told her off in the most direct way possible.
Sibling Rivalry: A major part of the strip for years, with Brad and Luann's constant arguing and harassing each other.
Slasher Smile: When Frank asks Nancy if she could've at least smiled at Toni during Thanksgiving, she breaks into one of these (actually more akin to 4chan's "Cool/Troll Face"). Frank concedes that it's probably better that she doesn't.
Stillborn Franchise: In-universe example with the Elwood-backed Eyes Of Zeye movie which Tiffany auditions for (she eventually gets a very small role which lands on the cutting room floor, but she does get to model as Zeye at the screening); it previews so disastrously — in addition to the implications of a Troubled Production — that it's immediately shelved.
Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Whenever Aaron Hill moves out of the picture (moves away or just has a falling out with Luann), there will be some other new boy. A lifeguard (who turns out to be married) or an exchange student (who eventually moves back), or something like that.
Quill, an Australian transfer student, was Aaron's replacement in terms of looks and attractiveness. He was also the closest to starting a real relationship with Luann, and almost immediately put on a plane back to Australia the minute they started kissing. They did become a couple when he returned to the States and started living at Gunther's house.
Tertiary Sexual Characteristics: Most male characters other than Aaron Hill are given dots for eyes, big round noses and simplistically-shaped bodies. The women almost always have full figures, pouty lips, droopy/sexy eyes, etc. Unusually, Luann herself doesn't share this, having a big round head and nose with a line for a mouth.
This Loser Is You: Luann is depicted as a bit of an every-teen, which apparently makes her self-centered, insecure, lazy, messy, confused, indecisive, competitive, arrogant, inconsiderate and more, not to mention with a swack of body issues. Which is, of course, pretty accurate for a lot of teenagers.
Token Minority: Two of them. Friend Delta James is black (which never plays into her character at all), and Zane, Bernice's wheelchair-bound crush.
For a while, there used to be a foreign exchange student from Spain named Miguel, who was depicted as Ambiguously Brown.
Rosa, the girl who won the school beauty pageant, is not only pretty but (for some reason) attracted to Gunther. Gunther, who's been attracted to Luann (for some reason) for so long, has no idea what to think. It's implied that Rosa's gotten frustrated with Gunther's lack of action towards her.
Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Frank and Nancy DeGroot, Luann's parents, qualify because of Tertiary Sexual Characteristics (she has eyelashes, lipstick and a feminine physique, while he is pudgy, bald with a big cartoony nose and dots for eyes). But the crown of this trope definitely goes to Brad and eventual girlfriend Toni Daytona, for similar reasons, but also the sheer unreal beauty Toni's given beyond just lipstick and eyeliner. She's tall, thin, pouty-lipped and droopy-eyed beyond every other character, and Brad until recently has been a cartoonishly pudgy guy with a big round head and "scribble hair".
Actually gender-switched with Luann and Aaron Hill slightly, as she more resembles the males in terms of cartoonish features for the most part (unless she dolls herself up), and he's a stereotypical dewey, flaxen-haired teen idol look-alike.
We Will Meet Again: After T.J. got Ann Eiffel out of her job at Weenie World, her parting words were "You haven't seen the last of me!"
With Friends Like These...: Luann occasionally enters into this territory with Bernice and Delta (especially Bernice, who usually gets the last word).
Wrench Wench: Toni, in addition to being gorgeous, is idealized further by Brad upon discovering she's as into cars as he is, and works on them. He may have won her over a bit initially with his "is it hot in here?" to her "first-time" story of rebuilding a carb.
Yank the Dog's Chain: When he was first starting to court Toni, Brad got her to agree to meet him at an auto show, but when he got there, he freaked out and left without meeting her when he saw her with a handsome guy. Toni later explained the guy was her brother. Then Brad got to meet for the first time Toni's real boyfriend, Dirk.
You Just Told Me: This is how Luann found out that Tiffany was the anonymous student who recorded her teachers dancing on chaperone duty during the dance, as she "claimed credit" for it to see her reaction. After Tiffany blurted out that she did it and not Luann, Luann quipped that her tricking her was very easy.