Pictured top to bottom: Robin, Ethan, Malaya, Mike, Amber, Faz, with Galasso and Leslie off to the side.
Shortpacked! is a webcomic by David Willis and a part of the Walkyverse.The title refers to the toy store where the main characters work, and the strip starts with Robin DeSanto—It's Walky!'s hyperactive speedster—taking a position there as a saleswoman. Mike has already been working there for some time by then, in spite of...certain factors that may render this unlikely. They're joined by Ethan Siegal, a self-righteous toy obsessive; Amber O'Malley, a recovered introvert; and a host of others, each with their own quirks and neuroses, with the cast gradually expanding and contracting over its run.The general tone of the comic is lighter and wackier than its predecessors, and though its characters do indulge in angst from time to time, it's more the result of, say, the moral ramifications of keeping your boss prisoner in a storage closet than any realism in the storylines. It's also more pop-culture oriented — jokes regarding Transformers and Batman abound — and more prone to filler than Willis's previous works. Whether or not this is a bad thing depends on how big a fan you are of Transformers and Batman.The website underwent a major overhaul in 2013. Unfortunately, because this overhaul involved a complete restructuring of the comic's archives, all links on TV Tropes to specific strips up to that time became invalid. A whole lotta Wiki Magic is going to be needed to get all these links up to date.On January 17, 2014, Shortpacked's ninth birthday, Willis announced that Shortpacked! would cease regular updates on its tenth birthday next year.
Acceptable Hobby Targets: In-Universe. For Malaya, it seems every hobby is something worthy of total derision. At one point, she put the moves on Leslie, seemingly without being aware she's a die-hard sci-fi fan.
Affirmative Action Legacy: African-American Lucy looked set to take up the mantle of Amazi-Girl until she decided it wasn't her thing.
Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: When Robin and Jake Manley were planning out a bill to solve all of the US's problems, Robin claimed that they needed to solve "the economy, the disparity 'tween the rich an' the poor, immigration, healthcare, AIDS, racism, homophobia, that 'Big Bang Theory' TV show..."
Art Evolution: Willis already had a pretty consistent style by the beginning of the series, but as the series has gone on it's gone from black-and-white to color, changed the color palette, and tended away from the more dynamic art of the initial strips.
Author Appeal: Compare Amber with how Willis draws his wife. At one point Amber got a makeover and was perceived as more attractive in-universe, the makeover mostly made her resemble Willis' wife even more.
Author Filibuster: While Willis' views are normally worked into the narrative of the strip, there are occasions where they dramatically shift the focus of the strip entirely: when a point needs to be made about American politics, the storylines shift from being about misadventures at the titular toystore to becoming almost political satire in Washington DC. This tends to happen around elections, naturally.
Be Careful What You Wish For: Robin wishes that her life at Shortpacked! could be more like her Darker and Edgier time in SEMME, but after she accidentally pulls the store's Drama Tag, the short-term results are so drastic that she begins devoting herself to driving the store back to wackiness by any means possible.
Best Known for the Fanservice: In-universe. Robin's been a congresswoman key in landmark legislation for two terms with active campaigning for a third term, and before that was a decorated war hero. All anybody remembers is that one sex tape.
Blackmail: This is how Amber gets Mike to date her.
Blush Sticker: At first just Ronnie, but due to Art Evolution they're eventually applied to the entire cast. Some characters, however, eventually lose them, and Mike only ever gets them when he's drunk.
Brick Joke: In the storyline where it's revealed that Faz is Amber's half-brother, we meet Rose and Zaph, two Amber and Faz look-alikes. Much later, Amber attends her father's funeral. Rose and Zaph are both attending.
Broken Aesop: Constant complaints about fandoms abound (especially The Transformers fandom). Willis is not only a prominent part of said fandom, but also embodies many of the issues he complains about. This is often Played for Laughs, however.
Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu: Leslie ends up delivering an impressive beatdown on Head Alien after it's revealed he's murdered alternate-universe Robins, which results in him growing to giant size and crushing her, almost fatally. Then Robin shows up...
Ethan: What else did I miss? Amber: Iowa okayed gay marriage. Ethan: I'm serious. What's new? Amber: The store had a near-orgy. Ethan: You continue to tell me lies.
Mike attempts to give his condolences for the passing of Amber's pet hamster. Her reaction? Rabid, disbelieving laughter. Granted, he may not actually feel sorry for the animal, but is still sincere in wanting her to feel better.
This may be because it's so out of character for him to say stuff like that him saying that is just silly.
Cast Full of Gay: Of the three leads, Ethan is gay, Amber is (probably) straight, and Robin (after much confusion) identifies as "generally undefinably queer". Also, Leslie, Mike, Drew, and Conquest are clearly not straight (as well as Drop-In Character Thad and his late boyfriend Evan), and Malaya is Robosexual for Ultra Car, who is homoromantic asexual. Rick and Faz are such Cloudcuckoolanders that it's impossible to tellnote Faz at one point believes that if he has sex with a woman, this will "cancel out" a previous gay encounter on the Kinsey scale, Galasso can't tell genders apart despite having a daughter, and even Ronnie seems to imply he's had affairs with men in one strip, leaving essentially just Roz, Jacob, Ken and Lucy. This is a phenomenon Amber's commented on several times.
Celebrity Paradox: The strip has done a crossover with Something Positive, with Davan appearing in a strip and delivering one of Chho-Choo's kittens to Roz. However, a Something Positive booth with a full-size banner of Davan was seen in the background of a strip set at a convention, and Randy Milholland was mentioned as existing in-universe.
David Willis, the comic's creator, also exists in this universe, and has a rivalry with Ethan. His nickname is even still "Walky". A background gag in one strip suggests that In-Universe he is the creator of a comic called "Shortpants" instead of Shortpacked.
Actually gets reconstructed during the "Leslie goes to an alternate universe" arc. She visits a world where the drama tag was never pulled. While it's funny it's also disturbing to see characters that have absolutely no Character Development at all, and live in barely-suppressed discomfort to afford a veneer of happiness. The moral: a world where nothing ever gets serious is a world where nothing ever matters.
Chastity Couple: Robin and Leslie were this before Robin got used to being in a same-sex relationship; Malaya and Ultra Car were this due to UC's asexuality before Malaya admitted she didn't want sex so much as she wanted UC to get her off.
Denser and Wackier: Than the Walkyverse at large. Lampshaded with the Drama Tag storyline—which, while it did introduce Amber's rather dark backstory, largely just caused drama via even wackier hijinks. (I mean sure, Robin and Leslie's breakup was fairly depressing, but it was caused by using Cadbury Cream eggs as cereal in order to induce a sugar-high black-out during which Robin could legislate world peace.)
Dogged Nice Guy: Ken is a bit of a Deconstruction, he spends years pursuing and obsessing over Malaya, who basically acts like a huge jerk to him and everyone else. When he finally admits how he feels she tells him in no uncertain terms that nothing will ever happen between them. He sleeps with Conquest to try to make her jealous but, after the massive confidence boost that comes from losing his virginity to an impossibly gorgeous woman (who later tells him that he was a good lover, despite his inexperience, because he is a good person) he seems to have decided "hey, forget her" , and starts pursuing women who actually give him the time of day
Dysfunction Junction: practically all the characters have issues. And let's not even get started on the relationships between them...
Edit War: In-universe, where Ethan enters one on the Transformers wiki with Willis's Author Avatar, based on the order in which information is being presented. This escalated into a real-world fistfight (with pudding, thanks to Robin).
Amber: I've said this for years. Internet fights should spare us the giant images of dogs or whatever with "PWNED" in huge text and just have people kill each other.
Even Evil Has Standards: When Amber tells Faz that he's actually her half-brother he immediately goes and sets fire to his life-size Amber pillow, despite spending several years trying to get into her pants in any way possible.
By this point, everyone but Galasso and Reagan have had some form of romantic encounter with members of both sexes.
Evil Twin: Inverted; there's another store called McAwesome's Parasailing and Chocolate Bakery, which is basically a much-improved version of Shortpacked!. Ethan juuust avoided going to work there because he happened to see Shortpacked! on the other corner.
Exact Eavesdropping: Leslie shows up to make up with Robin just in time to see her making out with Joe.
Fan Dumb: In-Universe, fandoms are the bane of Ethan's existence (and Willis' in real life). Given that Ethan is also an active member of the fandom, it leads to plenty of Hypocritical Humor.
Fridge Horror: In-universe, Amber seems to suffer from a case of this when she realizes Faz might actually be her half-brother.
The Fun in Funeral: A slightly low-key version at Amber's dad's funeral. Mike attends in party attire, complete with little paper hat, noisemaker, and confetti; Amber freely admits to one of the mourners that her father was an abusive asshole; Faz introduces Amber to his new girlfriend and their...disturbing sex life; finally, Amber berates her father's corpse for dying before she got a chance to stand up to him...and then Mike flips off both middle fingers to the corpse while delivering this line:
The cast of Shortpacked! are often seen having conversations at Coffee of Doom, and Marten, Faye, and Dora have all made background cameos there.
The Shortpacked! gang has seen movies at the Multiplex 10 on occasion, and Malaya ended up having sex with Jason.
Though in their respective realities, the latter two comics take place far away from Shortpacked!, Willis claims that the Walkyverse versions of Coffee of Doom and Multiplex 10 are located in San Francisco, the Questionable Content version of Shortpacked is located in Massachusetts, and the Multiplex version of Shortpacked is in Chicago, so it all works out. The Walkyverse Coffee of Doom is actually called Coffeeright Theft, but it has the same staff, layout, regular clientele, and espresso dinosaur.
Issue Drift: Became considerably more political during the 2008 election, and given Robin's side job of being a Representative, the comic still drifted into the political realm from time to time until Robin lost her 2012 re-election bid.
Laser-Guided Karma: Malaya's general Jerk Ass attitudes toward nerds were rooted in how much they remind her of that one boy she met when she was young who bored her when he couldn't stop talking about Princess Mononoke. She later finds herself having sex with the exact same boy (ie. Jason from Multiplex) her unjustified nerd-hate came from , and doesn't take it well.
Also Ken's abandonment of his Dogged Nice Guy role towards her after sleeping with Connie is a result of her shabby treatment of him and finally realizing he can do better.
Last Het Romance: Robin for Ethan. She already suspects that he's gay, but was pursuing him anyway. He's not interested. She gets pissed off when he bangs a chick, and when he asks why she shouts he's supposed to be gay. Confronted with this, something goes click in his mind. Cue gayness.
Late-Arrival Spoiler: If you're reading for the first time, avoid the comments section unless you really want to know in the first few strips about every relationship snag and plot twist throughout the whole comic. Not helped by the fact that the current comment system was added in 2010, so for about five years' worth of strips all the comments are retrospective. Frequently the first comment on a page will explain how something on that page hints towards later developments.
Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Head Alien II's monologue about how the removal of the Drama Tag will eventually drive people away, seeing as they can get Batman elsewhere. In-universe, he's talking about the store, but from the audience's perspective he's talking about how a turn for the Darker and Edgier may drive away the comic's readers.
Let's You and Him Fight: The New Amazi-Girl mistakes Ultra Car (in her new guise, since she won't fit in the Spider-Car guise any more) for a supervillain when the latter attempts to stop a shoplifter in the storeroom.
Merchandise-Driven: Discussed when Ethan is incredulous at a claim that Transformers, a franchise that has always been centered around shilling toys, somehow sold out its integrity with the movie adaptation.
"How can Transformers possibly 'sell out'? It "started" as a 20-minute toy commercial."
Mood Whiplash: Get back here, I'm not finished capturing the Riddler!
Not Even Bothering with an Excuse: In one strip, Galasso calls on the radio for someone to deal with the two customers up front. Everyone either has a genuine reason or an excuse, in the middle of which, Mike offers "I don't feel like it."
Of Corsets Sexy: Amber briefly tries this when Robin informs her that it will make her attractive and therefore unapproachable.
Outnumbered Sibling: Ultra Car is the original prototype Rosenthal Industries smart car and worries her huge family of younger but less-sophisticated smart car siblings have taken her place in her father's eyes.
Painting the Medium: When Lucy becomes the new Amazi-Girl Robin tells her to "say it like a logo". And sure enough, the next time she says "AMAZI-GIRL" it's in its very own font. Lucy lampshades that she didn't say it any different.
Passing the Torch: Amber to Lucy. "She cried for, like, five minutes and then handed me this corn popper."
Paper-Thin Disguise: Robin has no idea who Amazi-Girl actually is. Her confusion leads to her accusing Amber of being Ultra Car for some reason. Fans continue the joke, never recognizing Amazi-Girl.
Justified, as the next comic has her mentioning that she has made some positive changes in her life after divorcing Amber's abusive father. Exercising, and buying newer and better clothes and makeup are probably at least some of those changes.
Punch Clock Villain: Duncan, in a sense. In most of his appearances, he whines about toys, but outside the store he's a nice guy, and even tries to be friends with Ethan.
Punny Name: Between Leslie Bean and Faz O. Lee (them and about half-a-dozen other Walkyverse characters), Willis has shown quite a fondness for these. However, it is subverted at least once:
According to the tags, thisguy's name is "Whitney McJority".
Put on a Bus: Amber, Mike and Ethan, so that their arcs could be finished satisfactorily without Shortpacked! immediately ending.
"The Reason You Suck" Speech: Leslie receives one from Head Alien II when she tries to stop him, pointing out that she's a Flat Character who is only interesting due to her attachment to Robin. Which leads to...
Shut Up, Hannibal!: Leslie responds by pointing out that she has people who care about her and whom she cares about, which is more important than Head Alien's "big bully mad-on".
Red Eyes, Take Warning: Amber, when cursing the fact that she can't afford the new '80s Ninja Turtles toys because she's buying stuff for the coming baby instead.
Riddle for the Ages: How did Mike come back to life? Yes, Death Is Cheap, but Mike's resurrection is impossible even by the methods present in the Walkyverse. General consensus among readers is that he came back to life through sheer spite. This one was finally answered at Mike and Amber's wedding. Joyce got some of his blood on her shirt when he sacrificed himself for her. She also happened to give a non-government affiliated tech company the means to make their own chamber.
Relatedly, how exactly does Galasso manage to bring back dead people? And why does he have trouble with basic concepts like gender?
Running Gag: Major characters calling minor character Ken by the wrong name: "I knew it was something from Street Fighter!" Picked up quickly by the commenters, where it's become obligatory to call him by a new Street Fighter character name every time he's referred to.
A very subtle reference to It's Walky! in the title of this strip, "Four Words". For the uninitiated, Head Alien surprised Walky with the knowledge that Sal is his twin sister by saying: "Okay, four words..." This reveal is similarly brain-shattering.
Either a Shout-Out or a Take That flavored with some Refuge in Audacity: The banner ads featuring some weird picture of David Willis (say, sitting in a bubble bath, or eating a corn dog on a toilet) with "Please Read: A Personal Appeal From David Willis" in the style of the donation drive ads that appeared on The Other Wiki.
Shown Their Work: The "Secondish Coming" arc has a realistic-looking portrayal of Jesus as a short, dark-skinned man.
Situational Sexuality: Malaya is attracted to Ultra Car. This despite having previously said she was "actually" straight to Leslie, and in one of the most brutally honest ways imaginable at that.
Robosexual: Malaya, upon seeing Ultra Car in her new humanoid body, figures out she's actually this.
Smug Snake: Faz. He's hilariously bad at it. Roz is a more subtle example, given her efforts to insinuate herself into her sister's life and seduce all of her friends.
Sorry, I'm Gay: Inverted (and possibly subverted?) by Malaya. She went out with Leslie, but upon kissing her decided that she was straight after all. (She's not, but that doesn't make her orientation compatible with Leslie.)
Stylistic Callback: The art style changes back to the style found in the earlier color comics in an alternate universe Shortpacked to represent how the drama tag is sucking out all the drama in the universe. It changes back when Rachel shows up.
In the same storyline, a flashback to an earlier period in that universe is shown in black and white, calling back to the earliest Shortpacked comics.
There Are No Global Consequences: The alien invasion that Robin and Mike fought against is only occasionally mentioned—justified in one instance by Robin, who points out that her co-workers have their own stuff going on and aren't necessarily going to notice any of the political fallout. Subverted with Ultra-Car, who's horrified to discover Joe has mass-produced talking cars like herself, and miffed when her existence can't freak Lucy out on account of their omnipresence.
Third-Person Person: Faz slips in and out of this speech pattern. Can be blamed more on his arrogance than on any difficulty speaking English.
The Talk: Leslie and Ethan decide they must give this to Galasso when they discover he not only doesn't understand what sex is, but possibly what gender is.
Weight Woe: Malaya goes through this in the "Girthday" arc. Judging from the banner she still isn't over her sudden weight gain even if (uncharacteristically for her) she hasn't complained much about it lately in-story.
Part of Amber's character development was getting over this and realizing she was actually quite attractive.
Weirdness Magnet: The store is run by a would-be Evil Overlord and its staff has included two ex-super soldiers, a robot, Ronald Reagan, the historical Jesus and a man so obsessed with ninja he views the world around him as manga.
Where an alternate universe Pamela is revealed to have more to her. "As I suspected. You're here for my tag. Well, you can't have it. Nothing's separating me from my daughter."
Leslie: Pamela, you created the drama tag?
"Actually, you're having three babies."
What the Hell, Hero?: At one point, Ethan gets into an argument with one of the recurring straw fans (Duncan), only to have it pointed out to him that he's in no position to criticize anyone due to letting the others keep Galasso locked up. Cue brief Heroic BSOD, followed by him deciding enough's enough.
Also on the receiving end of one when Thad, at that point another recurring customer, pointed out that Ethan's eagerness to embroil himself in meaningless debates with irritating Fan Dumb meant he was little better than them and had no place feeling or acting superior over them.
Thad: I think at some point your love of your hobby was replaced bit by bit by merely wanting to be better at loving your hobby than other people.