Exiern is a fantasy webcomic about a reluctantly female barbarian. The plot, which began as a riff off of an early storyline ofThe Wotch, is relatively simple: a hulking barbarian warrior is fighting against an evil wizard. About to fall by the hero's sword, the wizard tries to use his dying breath to transform him into an animal, but somehow makes him a woman instead. Since it can't be undone, the barbarian, now going by the name of Tiffany, goes on a variety of adventures.Originally written by Drowemos (despite the obvious connections to dark elves and whiny teenagers, it's actually "some word" spelled backwards) and illustrated initially by Drowemos (2005), then by Studio Boom (2005 - 2010) and currently by Shipeng Lee of Drow Tales (2010 -). Later, the comic was sold to Dan Standing, as Drowemos got tired of working on it. The writing duties have since been handed off to Thomas Knapp, the writer for MegaTokyo's Endgames light novels.Although it is one of a number of webcomics with transgender themes, Exiern is infamous for both mocking and revelling in fanservice scenes; Drowemos in fact paid for his web hosting bills by selling access to theuncensored comics (as well as a number of other R and PG rated bonus comics) using a membership system. Memberships are still available through CCBill even though PayPal noticed what was going on and withdrew its donation facility.
Exiern contains examples of:
Abomination Accusation Attack: Tiffany despises Teresa, among other things because Teresa is happy with having been magically turned into a woman. In one very public argument, with the population of Teresa's home city as audience, Tiffany talks as if it was a fact and common knowledge that Teresa is a Pedophile Priest child-molester.
Accidental Engagement: Tiffany has managed to land herself one to Peonie's father the King, but no one has told her yet. Part of the reward for rescuing Peonie was A Royal Hand in marriage and since she no longer qualifies for Peonie's and has insisted on the full reward...Its good to be the king.
Accidental Truth At one point, when discussing the life cycle of dragons, Tiffany says that she never sees baby squirrels and she figured dragons were the same, Fayden remarks, sarcastically, "that they reproduce by magical cloning and that there's really only one all powerful "all squirrel?" we see a squirrel on a nearby branch thinking "They know!" This is referenced a number of times later in the series, though it never directly impacts the plot....yet.
Action Dress Rip: Played with. Tiffany tries, fails, and ends up rucking it up instead.
Tiffany finds the King punching her to be a pretty funny joke, well, she had punched him earlier toonote what had happened was that when Tiffany had briefly fallen into an Unstoppable Rage she punched him, her planned defence was that "it's a gesture of respect in my culture", after the King returns the favour he responds that he'd heard it was a gesture of respect.
And again here, when Teresa asks if a particularly boring speech from a fellow cleric is intended as punishment.
All There in the Manual: As cheezy as the strip is, Drowemos created a highly original mythology behind it, which was hinted at in several strips before he finally outlined most of it in several blog posts.
Asskicking Equals Authority, mixed with Authority Equals Asskicking. King Urtica can lay a smack down just as well as his hulking 8-foot-tall bodyguards. Although he's certainly not the conquering warlord archetype, and he does have a great talent for subtlety and chessmastery, King Urtica expressly says that this sort of thing is why he stays on the throne:
King Urtica: There is a reason I am king... and it is not because I am an excellent statesman.
At one point he manages to punch out Tiffany in one shot, payback for her punching him in a rage earlier and trying to claim it was a gesture of respect among her people. He says he just wants her to know he respects her back. Peonie was shocked, but Tiffany thought it was Actually Pretty Funny, and tells her to lighten up.
Dragons leave their young in the still smouldering embers of burnt out buildings, the baby dragons resemble normal human infants and grow up looking like (and thinking they are) humans until they reach their late teens when some sort of homing instinct draws them towards other dragons. They spend some time in a half-human/half-dragon state while they gradually lose their human identities, before growing into their final dragon form.
Though this is partially Retcon'ed later, when revealed that the former happens as a result of the adult dragons being driven mad by an ancient power and trying to roast their own mates and offspring.
Black Comedy Rape: The original version of the first storyline has Tiffany lamenting that she can no longer rape the women of defeated towns; Peonie briefly scolds her, the whole thing is Played for Laughs, and it's never brought up again. The author seems to have realized how awful this exchange was, since it's absent from the redrawn version. Though it turned out he never did anyway even though he tried to take interest in doing so.
Black Magic: One of the central elements of the strip, with first Faden, and then an parade of other dark magic users, setting up human sacrifices and brain washings all over the place.
Brick Joke: When we learn that Tiffany is learning to read, the first thing she does is to hit Peony for lying about what her shirt said.
B Side Comics: Dark Reflections, an alternate Bad Present in which Typhan-Knee succumbed to Faden's Mind Control and is now his bimbo Dragon, with Princess Peonie locked in his dungeon. Faden also possessed Peonie and wore a very revealing costume while in her body.
Cerebus Syndrome: What started as a parody of a typical fantasy setting with Transgender themes became a much more serious tale about Tiffany learning to get comfortable in her own skin. Most explicit in The Wild North storyline, which has several Wham Episodes and much less humor.
Chainmail Bikini: Thoroughly averted for Tiffany, who is not at all comfortable with her female body, and whose ceremonial armor given her by King Urtica is feminine but covers fully.
Cloud Cuckoolander: Peonie is hinted at having become this in captivity; she has largely shaken this off, but inadvertently used the word "mingalow" (a type of livestock she invented while a hostage) to her father. It turns out a mingalow is a real thing though — a type of semi-sentient, rage-filled undead.
Cue the Sun: Tiffany's identity crisis arc starts during an evening dance, and follows the stages of night, with her slowly realising she is losing her grip on her identity, to a complete breakdown into a fragile little girl around midnight, and a massive set piece battle where she saves the day and acknowledges her new identity, just as dawn breaks over the battlements of the castle.
Deadpan Snarker: Faden. For example, when Typhan-Knee's name is described as "he who hunts by the piercing light of the northern ice stars" and Peonie replies that as a feminine name it has a slightly different meaning in the south, He observes, "Something like 'she who hunts diamond charm bracelets with her daddy's money!'" With Faden seemingly gone, Peonie has taken over as the strip's prime snarker.
Distressed Damsel: Peonie has a tendency towards being kidnapped by various folks. When she was rescued from Faden's clutches she admitted "I was really scared this time" showing that it wasn't the first time (or last).
She's later asked how many times she's been kidnapped, and she replies "Five." Then when asked whether that included being mind controlled and attacked by a spellsinger, she adds "Um... seven."
Fanservice: plays both sides of the fence — it goes way overboard in many cases, but at the same time takes a self-mocking approach to it. Drowemos openly admits to having very little integrity in that regard.
Faux Affably Evil: Faden. He's pretty much Exiern's version of The Joker, cracking jokes and being friendly even when he is trying to kill you. He's in the evil game as much for the lulz as he is the power.
Tiffany's "Battle Shirt" which declares her to be a "wanton wench", proving if you can't read then you should be careful about whose translation you accept.
After receiving a knighthood Tiffany gains a nightshirt with "A Knight's Front" on the front, and "A Knight's Tale on the erm...reverse.
Gender Bender: The curse Faden uses on Tiffany is contagious when its existence is threatened so this happens more than once.
First Law of Gender Bending: Not only is Tiffany unable to transform back to a male, but her condition is contagious, as a male water sprite, an itinerant young wizard, and a crew of priests attempting to reverse her condition find out. Played for Laughs when one of the priests, newly transformed back into a (younger and significantly more attractive) man sneezes... and reverts to female — implying, perhaps, that the "curse" can be suppressed but not dispelled. In fact, the condition is quite virulent — Tiffany accidentally converts a male water spirit, who uses his/her new femininity as a lure to capture travelers — including one powerful young spellsinger who is captured and transformed by the water spirit as a divine sacrifice note The exact situation is somewhat complex and rooted in the strip's backstory, but the water spirit is a follower of one of two sets of gods, neither of whom is believed to be around anymore., and after escaping, wonders what's going to become of her (foreshadowing the later matter of Sister Theresa). note And also possibly carrying the now-dead water spirit's soul within her.
Peonie: It's not calling... Hey this picture kind of looks like you. Right next to the definition of a bim... Never mind.
He-Man Woman Hater: Tiffany - even direct experience as a woman can't shake his prejudices.
Heel Realization: Tiffany hates Teresa for several reasons: They are both under a Gender Bender spell but Teresa actually seems happy about it, the guy Tiffany tries to tell herself she's not in love with seems interested in Teresa, and both Tiffany & Teresa are equally bigoted against each other's culture. After Denver gives her the appropriate What the Hell, Hero?, Tiffany finally realizes what a Jerk she has been to Teresa.
Hive Mind: Dragons and squirrels (See "Accidental Truth" above)
The Fracture apparently had something like this planned for Denver too, but thankfully Tiff was able to save him (see Fractured Fairytale above).
Hypocritical Humor: After defeating Faden, Tiffany and Peonie went to to replenish their armament and new wardrobe, resulting in a montage of very... curious outfits culminating in a Tiffany mocking the Chain Mail Bikini with its nonsensical construction and nonexistent defense capacity... This from a Barbarian Hero whose normal battle outfit was a loincloth and a sword.
Innocent Bigot: Teresa. She doesn't seem to have realised that virtually all her "compliments" towards Tiff are nearly all racist in some way, which has the effect of making her something of a Jerk Ass. However she does genuinely admire Tiffany to the point of calling her "one of the country's greatest heroes" and seems to consider her a close friend. This only serves to wind Tiff up even more.
Lens Flare: In the discussion with the "new narrator" at the top of the world, the glare from the sunbeam gradually takes over.
Long Hair Is Feminine: Because Tiffany's curse can further transform its victim based on their view of what femininity means, her extreme sexism causes her to temporarily become a thin, weak girl with extremely long hair. Though Character Development restores her fighting skills, her hair remains hip-length from that point forward.
Lovecraft Lite: As a fanstory, they had Exiern instead be an upbeat teenage drama for a few strips. With a tentacle abomination that takes the soul of anyone who touches it.
Magic Music: many of the magic users in Exiern are spellsingers, which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Female spellsingers, due to the extreme misogyny of the local priesthood, are usually silenced. King Urtica is not a fan of this policy, though he seems to lack the power to end it completely.
The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: Subverted. After Tiffany appears to be succumbing to this trope, it's revealed that she's been subjected to a magical spell intended to "tame" her. The King is not pleased as "[he has] no use for weak women" .
Missing Mom: Princess Peonie's mother has significant pause disappeared. It's one of the reasons King Urtica wants to wed Tiffany as she makes an excellent replacement mother figure for Peonie.
Moody Mount: The Unicorn. Especially when it comes to Peonie.
Probably due to Virgin Power. And how Peonie hasn't got any.
Money Fetish: Just seeing a room full of gold gave Tiffany an orgasm. A few strips later and she is lying in it giggling.
Nobody Calls Me Chicken: Any challenge to Tiffany's pride will result in her casting common sense to the winds to meet it, even if it is the implication she isn't feminine and ladylike enough to go to the royal ball.
Only Sane Man: Peonie, and Tiffany take turns at being this, depending on what the situation is.
Orphaned Etymology: the world of Exiern contains "yaoi porn", "bandaids", and "Hallmark Cards" (Though the reference to that last one included "whatever that is", implying that the speaker was getting outside information due to his unusual condition.Leeroy Jenkins is also name dropped.
Our Dragons Are Different: Besides sharing a type of Hive Mind, they also start their lives looking like ordinary humans until they become a kind of hybrid in their adolescence before becoming part of the Dragon Collective when fully grown. They also seem to possess minor shapeshifting and size-shifting abilities.
Poisonous Captive: This was Faden's entire schtick. Captured a couple of strips in, spent almost the entire time in captivity, and still proved to be an effective villain the entire time
Praetorian Guard: The King's Personal Guards. They have big scary armour, Really Big Magical Swords and most tellingly, have been the only people in the comic to outfight Tiffany, managing to knock her out and throw her in a jail.
Reset Button: One story arc had a big buildup about Tiffany changing personality and losing abilities due to Internalized Categorism. As this plotline progressed, the author got bored with his work and quit. The new author quickly inserted a quick Epiphany Therapy (delivered by a bitchslap to the head, no less) and then moved on to a completely different plotline.
The Rival: Tiffany and Teresa eventually evolve into this relationship, especially where Denver is concerned.
Royals Who Actually Do Something: Urtica is a very busy working monarch who starts off as a playful tyrant, but it quickly becomes clear he is deeply burdened by the hard choices he has to make for his country and family. Peonie really wants to not be a working princess though, and is desperate to avoid the trap of duty and retain her freedom to have adventures.
Running Gag: We have the squirrels, the "infectious" spell, the tendency for clothes to fall off for the flimsiest reasons, Denver's recitations of Exiernian law, and the "Doom"-ifying guy.
Scary Shiny Glasses: Denver breaks them out here, as he transitions from nerdish bookworm, to guy who makes the laws of magic his bitch..
Transsexual: One (but just one) of the Gender Bent priests seems quite thrilled by the prospects of his newfound femininity. (The rest find his/her reaction to be extremely annoying.)
Unicorn: Its "purity" helps Tiffany resist Faden's magic, thankfully Tiff doesn't seem to have worked out the implications of that. Said unicorn has also helped Peonie on several occasions, but recoils from her touch... again, for obvious reasons.
Villainy-Free Villain: Teresa. Is the opposition for Denver's hand, and also is comfortable and pleased with her transformation into a woman. To balance out her having to endure a near constant stream of insults (including accusations of paedophilia) from Tiffany because of this, she is thankfully a snob and a bit (unwittingly) racist, so we can all feel comfortable hating her.
Wham Episode: Set up by this◊ two-pager and discussed by the author here, which begins the revelation that Typhan-knee was homosexual.
What Measure Is a Mook?: Pip and Ce; Ctyx and Mira. In general, Drowemos doesn't seem keen on throwing away incidental characters.
White Magic: In theory this is the Church of Rem's domain, but it doesn't seem to have the power or popularity of it's dark counterpart.
Word of God: Thomas confirms in this commentary that Typhan-Knee had been a homosexual all along, and that this was a plot development Drowemos had been planning and hinting at from very early in the comic.