This here's my comic. Is it not nifty? Worship the comic. — Original tagline, later providing the titles for the first two compilations
Sluggy Freelance is one of the longest-running (since September of 1997) and most popular Webcomics out there. It mostly revolves around the doings of a core cast, which conveniently form a Five-Man Band plus two cute talking animals.In its time, it has shifted from being a simple gag comic with rather short arcs to a complex tragicomic tale of friends living in a mad world and trying to find fulfilling lives in them. It has helped create or popularize a ton of webcomic tropes, and it repeatedly hangs lampshades over every single trope it uses, and subverts a few dozen more.Since it has been publishing mostly daily since 1997, there is quite a bit of material to digest, but its continued popularity has never been questioned, even by those who don't make it a daily read. However, it can be a prime source of Archive Panic for newcomers, so much so that even long-time fans can be a bit intimidated by the idea of an Archive Trawl. For new readers, it's probably best to start at the beginning and ignore the current end until/unless you actually get there.This comic has a character sheet.
Many interdimensional denizens (including humans from the Dimension of Lame, Demons from the Dimension of Pain, and Punyverse people) are English speakers. This is justified in the case of closely parallel dimensions and unexplained in other cases. Then again, one closely parallel dimension differs in the locals speaking Portuguese.
Aylee's species and the "mutagenic spore aliens" can also speak English, in both cases justified by their different assimilating tactics of invasion.
All There in the Manual: A moderate case. Many storylines almost require an Archive Trawl to understand what's going on, the story "bROKEN", required over a dozen archive links and it is only just getting started.
One of the strips even managed to top that - this one (major spoiler) asks you to check the forums assuming the other Sluggy readers will post them for you.
This comic manages to do this by presenting Up... from the balloons' perspective.invoked
Torg (as well as the viewers) see Aylee as a good character, and (mostly) not a threat, at least after she undergoes a little Character Development. Riff, however, continues to see her as a threat, much as he sees Sam. Riff's viewpoint isn't all that sympathetic... until this comic.
Alternate Universe: A major focus of the strip, with Riff's Dimensional Flux Agitator (DFA) invention meaning they have visited multiple dimensions (usually unintentionally), several of which are populated by alternate versions of the main cast and end up being well developed as settings.
Also in a meta sense, in John Ringo's Legacy of the Aldenata, Hell's Faire features several Sluggy Freelance strips as if they were created within the novel's setting. This was possibly a favor in return for the shout outs to Sluggy Freelance in the third and fourth books of the series.
Always Chaotic Evil: Getting speared by the squid-spear turns you into a demon/mutant and you invariably join forces with whomever speared you, regardless of prior affiliations or what you think of the guy who speared you. This applies to both the Dimension of Pain demons and Pang's mutant brigade.
Amusing Alien: Aylee, before she started becoming more human-like, anyway.
Anal Probing: The Greys show up in the "Oceans Unmoving" arc, apparently having arrived in Timeless Space from the game X-COM. They make continual references to probing.
"NOTHING DEAD HERE." Appears in the haunted Kesandru House. Turns out it's one ghost warning another, and the whole phrase was "Nothing dead here leaves," referring to how spirits are trapped in the House and the Well at its bottom.
"Nosce te ipsum." "Know yourself," advice given to Oasis that she's completely unable to follow up on because of some programmed mental blocks.
Multiple unrelated characters have uttered the words "What...is...that blade?" upon seeing the effects Chaz has.
A trippy, surreal style used for Gwynn's visions in "The Bug, the Witch and the Robot".
The more detailed comic book type art style of "Fire and Rain".
Ascended To Carnivorism: Played with; the cast always makes sure Bun-bun doesn't get hungry, fearing he might say "What the hell, let's give meat a try."
This finally happened in the "Safehouse" storyline when Bun-bun was affected by Hamsternom and started eating (dead) human flesh, but was disgusted with himself afterwards.
Assimilation Backfire: The Borg Expy in an early strip run into this problem after assimilating Riff and Torg. "Since you have come among us, all we have done is drink fermented hopps beverages and ogle scantly clad females. This has seriously jeopardized our goal of the all-collective. We've never had to do this before... We are kicking you out."
Done again with Dr. Crabtree, the Nanite Queen, who can assimilate people's knowledge by eating their brains...but gets infected with Sam Sein's stupidity when she tries it on him, and when she eats Christmas Elves' brains she starts unconsciously frolicking everywhere while singing "lolly la!"
Badass: At some point or another, nearly all the main cast has moments of this. Bun-bun, Riff and Oasis have the most moments, and Torg's had quite a few chances to show off with his sword, especially since he Took a Level in Badass during That Which Redeems.
Let's not forget the previous resident of the Kesandru House, who, upon being haunted for months by a pair of ghosts, killed himself so he could fight back effectively.
"My name is Gunman Stan McKurt. And I shoot evil in the face."
"But now you can call me Lord Bun-bun, Eater of Holidays!" And that was before he took over Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Bad Santa: Santa Claus is Santa Claus; definitely one of the good guys by default. But when Bun-bun tries to kill him every Christmas and eventually blows up his workshop with an evil Furby, he begins to lose it and gets some evil-looking moments while planning to kill the rabbit. And then he catches an alien DNA virus while hiding from Bun-bun in orbit, and eventually turns into a malicious alien monster along with many of his elves, albeit one still bound to manufacture and deliver Christmas presents. He finally gets better, though.
Big Bad: K'Z'K and Hereti Corp for the overall story. Sir John Jacobs in the Oceans Unmoving arc.
Big Red Button: No Fun Enterprises has an app designer chained up in their basement. They force her to design single-purpose smartphone apps for evil purposes (kill the prisoner with acid, blow up my enemy's base, etc).
Bizarre Alien Biology: Aylee's species is said on their introduction (in a throwaway Alien parody) to have "concentrated orange juice for blood".
Black Comedy: Lots of it. An unimportant (and even, on occasion, important character) dying or being maimed in amusing ways is a constant Running Gag of the strip, and normally horrific situations are often played for comedy. As a rule, anything involving the Dimension Of Pain will involve lots of black comedy - the That Which Redeems arc is notable for causing large amounts of Mood Whiplash by playing the atrocities going on for laughs one second and being quite literally deadly serious the next.
Black Magic: Gwynn. Also, a couple of one arc villains.
Blind Date: An early storyline has Sam setting up Torg on one of these.
Body-Count Competition: Between Torg, Gwynn, and Riff while killing zombies. There is also an unofficial one by fans who keep kill counts for the characters.
Body Horror: The Dimension of Lame's version of Gwynn isn't kidding when she says that she has bonded to her universe's version of the Book of E-Ville. She's now made of pages of the book. So far, it's unknown if the main universe's Gwynn suffers the same fate.
But for Me, It Was Tuesday: When Squeakybobo comes back from the Dimension of Pain to kill Torg, he runs into Bun-bun. When Squeakybobo tells Bun-bun that he's next on the revenge list for killing him, Bun-bun can't remember who he is.
Call Forward: Timeless Space in the Oceans Unmoving storyline is home to many people who found themselves there due to being involved in time travel experiments. One of them (Sir John Jacobs' emissary to Lady Noga) is seen chronologically a few years later in the strip as the supervillain Time Czar's assistant and we actually see the incident where he gets zapped into Timeless Space.
The Cameo: Whenever anyone visits an alternate universe, Abrams generally brings out alternate versions of a lot of C-list characters from storylines years before. Occasionally this even happens in reverse.
Riff: "Let me check my notes" and "I'm on a budget here."
Bert: "My world is a crotch!"
"Stay good, _____! Stay good!" This one has even become something of a fandom/forum catchphrase itself. Whenever someone does or thinks something morally ambiguous, you can bet someone's going to say it, sometimes even Pete himself, and it pops up in non-comic related conversations occasionally as well.
Cerebus Retcon: All the time. Perhaps the most subtle example is the early story arc Robot Rampage, which at the time seemed like a goofy filler action storyline that didn't impinge on the ongoing character dynamics between Sam, Val, Zoe and Torg that had been established. Yet it gave us Riff's first battle robot, the proliferation of which is forming the basis for the comic's arcs fifteen years later; it involved Bun-bun accidentally killing the Easter Bunny which set up Holiday Wars; after Bun-bun damaged the robot Riff tried to repair it with parts from his DFA and zapped Torg into the Dimension of Pain for the first time, setting up That Which Redeems; and more, all because Riff built a robot to do his laundry and Bun-bun stole it to rob a bank.
Cerebus Syndrome: Perhaps the first webcomic to undergo this process. "Vampires" in 1998 was the first storyline with danger that was played seriously, a few strips that didn't end with a gag, and someone dying and it not being treated as a joke. Since then, the comic has continued to develop darker and more epic storylines amidst all the silliness.
Ceiling Darts and the associated "WOH-PAH!". They also serve as a
Chekhov's Gun: Or more specifically...Chekhov's boom. Remember how many explosions seem to happen around Oasis? All of them were obscure hints to the Wham Episode revelation. One particularly sneaky instance of this happening at what, at the time, the reader assumed was Gwynn activating her powers...was in fact Gwynn fending off a pyrokinetic explosion from Oasis. Bet you didn't see THAT coming seven years ago!
From that same arc, those bizarre nightmares that Glywnn had while possessed by K'Z'K way back when turned out to be visions of the future. And one them happened to be of ZoŽ burning alive...
This really should be renamed Chekhov's Flintlock in this instance because all those Plot Hooks are sometimes seeded years before the story arc dealing with them actually start.
See Brick Joke. Though Chekhov's Flintlock would be a better name for that trope...
Earlier on, Torg got Lord Torgamous' sword in the Storm Breaker Saga arc years before it would be revealed as the magic sword Chaz, and Hereti-Corp was first mentioned in a throwaway line as the company that cloned Percy the man-eating mammoth years before it was brought up again or linked to Oasis.
Chew Toy: Squeekybobo the elf gets abused beyond belief... he somehow managed to come out worse for it when he was resurrected (partly because he was set up to become king of Hell right when it happened).
Children in Tow: The psychological effect of ducklings following their mother is so strong that they are used as an emergency barrier during a car chase. Even the bad guys treat them like they are a completely impenetrable wall and make no attempt to continue the chase once they are cut off.
Claustrophobia: ZoŽ isn't claustrophobic, but is able to give herself a panic attack by picking a terrible time to think about how lucky she is not to be claustrophobic.
Close Enough Timeline: Torg at first thinks that the Dimension of Lame constitutes one (the only visible differences being that Riff has different glasses, Zoe has purple hair and has the hots for Torg, and that Bun-bun is nice while Kiki is nasty) but he soon changes his mind after he finds out they don't have beer.
Closer to Earth: Lampshaded when Torg and Riff get transported to another dimension that turns them into women: Torg immediately feels that he's (she's?) more on top of things, if also more sensitive. However, in the comic itself is also somewhat fused with Only Sane Man - Zoe is definitely Closer to Earth (if allowing herself to revel in the insanity around her from time to time), whereas Gwynn thinks she's closer to Earth but tends to be as childish as a boys much of the time - the arc where they're all living together spells it out pretty well.
Considering that the main male characters are Torg, who is pretty hyper and prone to stupid behavior at the best of times, Riff, who has created more explosions and doomsday devices than the US Military, and Bun-Bun, who is a) a rabbit and b) the single most dangerous character and possibly a god, being "Closer to Earth," is not that much of an accomplishment for the female members of the cast.
Commitment Issues: It's implied Riff might have this hang up, although it could also be a combination of attracting crazies (even the ones he remains friends with) and not being the best at expressing himself.
Content Warnings: During the "K I T T E N" arcs. Usually somewhat satirical in nature.
Deadly Euphemism: Parodied in a story where Torg and Riff work for 'Mr. Middleman' doing jobs that sound like this, but turn out to be totally harmless, such as a vampire wanting a 'dirt nap' (vampires recharge energy by sleeping in their native soil) and someone actually wanting 'concrete shoes' for orthopaedic reasons.
Deadpan Snarker: Most often Chaz in recent years. Has been used by other characters throughout the years, though.
Deal with the Devil: Played straight and parodied multiple times (including the first week of publication).
Death by Cameo: Several fans of the strip have won the right to have cameos on it - and all of them die in various interesting ways within a few strips of appearing.
Death Is Cheap: Oasis becomes the subject of a mocking parody for a FAQ week in this strip, before playing it straight. A lot.
Depleted Phlebotinum Shells: Riff has built many anti-vampire weapons, both for himself and for Vampire Hunter Arminius Vambrey, as well as anti-demon ones for fighting both K'z'k and the Dimension of Pain demons.
Deus ex Machina: Parodied and kind of lampshaded with the Deus Ex Ovum, an egg imbued with the power of Zeus that can set everything right in regards to the personifications of the holidays. It actually works rather like a pre-planned cut-and-paste Deus ex Machina, in that it's introduced out of nowhere some time before it's used, and immediately heavily lampshaded, as if Pete Abrams could see his story writing itself in a corner before he actually got there. (Which would be unsurprising.)
Dinky Drivers: Bun-Bun occasionally steals Torg's car, with Kiki working the pedals. In this instance, Torg accompagnies them - and instead of driving normally, he has to work the pedals, with Kiki on the gear stick.
Disproportionate Retribution: In this comic, Torg and Riff plan "Operation Orange Tomato," a plan to exterminate all chipmunks in retaliation for stealing tomatoes from Torg's garden.
Dissimile and Metaphorgotten: A LOT, mainly from Torg, e.g. his increasingly Innocent Innuendo-filled explanation of politics to Kiki involving balls, and his insistence on adding "WITH GHOSTS IN THE GAS TANK!" to every metaphor Riff comes up with for the Hellevator mentioned below.
Doom Magnet: Most random minor characters whom the gang gets acquainted with die in their current adventures (see the "K I T T E N" storylines, for instance). They really aren't the best people to know. Basically, any character the gang meets either joins the main cast (or at least the recurring cast), or dies; they can't just fade back to obscurity.
Dramatic Irony: In the "bROKEN" story arc, Several characters mention Oasis' murder of the "innocent" Monica. Readers, however, know that Monica was far from innocent-she was a member of a K'Z'K cult sent to spy on the gang by her superiors. Of course, Oasis didn't know this-Monica's death was due to her unintentional triggering of Oasis' Berserk Button.
Evil Is Not a Toy: Torg, maybe carrying around a Zombie Head on A Stick is not such a hot idea. Especially since said head is only mindless while starved. Once fed, it seems she returns to her original, vindictive, cruel self. And now the villain you wronged earlier has been doing just that, and they're about to team up and hunt down your unaware friends. Way to go.
Fortunately, ZHOAS is still a giant Butt Monkey, so this doesn't last.
Evil Versus Evil: The story "Another Year in the Life of a Villain" effectively sees Strom, Dr. Chen, Daedalus, Kusari, and Dr. Schlock all at each others' throats (mostly Schlock's). In fact, ever since taking over Hereti Corp, Schlock versus most of his enemies has been a case of this, including Hereti Corp versus Crushestro, No-Fun Corp, and the Cult of K'z'K.
Expendable Alternate Universe: Averted, with most characters having Alternate Universe versions and tragedies happening to the latter often being just as serious and dramatic as something happening to the original. Indeed in the case of some minor characters, their Alternate Universe versions sometimes get more development than the prime-timeline ones.
Extra-Strength Masquerade: The fantastic is blatantly obvious and in plain site all over the place, yet normals never pay much attention to it.
At one point, Zoe reports freakish activity at Clonegressive's offices, but the cops are completely dismissive of her claims. All they saw was a biologically engineered spaceship which blew the roof of the building. No evidence of brain eating bugs. They proceed to accuse her of making up stories.
It is perfectly normal for Satan to show up on reality TV, and this will be accepted at face value. And yet, on normal occasions, the populace does not believe in demons.
Even K'z'k unleashing a massive zombie army isn't enough, with the news quickly dismissing it as mass hysteria induced by Marilyn Mason.
The only event that even left a dent in The Masquerade was when Aylee went on a rampage and destroyed an entire neighbourhood, leaving behind an Inferred Holocaust. And even that didn't have any lasting impact.
Fate Worse than Death: ZoŽ, if we believe Rammer. After the events of 4U City Red, we learn that she *IS* alive as a permanently comatose vegetable, since the nanites had no mental snapshot of her... and simply rebuilt her body... with no mind inside.
Fictional Video Game: Several; the Fashion Rancher series on the PlayStayshun, the PC MMORPG Years of Yarncraft, the smartphone casual game HamsterNom, and Super Duper Dream Fighters, apparently the result of demons doing an in-universe defictionalisation of Torg's Fighting Game dreams.
Flanderization: Sam Sein. Once the stubborn, clueless guy who couldn't take a "no" from ZoŽ. Now practically incapable of tying his shoelaces and pathetically excited over even the slightest possibility that a woman might not hate him. Compare 1997 Sam to 2009 Sam.
It's possible that vampirism has some mental effects.
Follow the Leader: Sluggy Freelance is cited as one of the most influential webcomics on the web. It helps that it started in 1997 and is still going daily.
Foreshadowing: With hints and clues showing up in disguised form several years before the payoff. Possibly the biggest, most subtle example is the revelation that Oasis is a pyrokinetic, which makes earlier encounters crystal clear hints to this end.
Also, if you stop and think, ZoŽ being burned alive by Oasis had been hinted at since the second K'Z'K arc.
'Notification of Unified Kindness' Envelopes as the ultimate weapon within the Dimension of Peace.
From this strip: Recording Editable Content Application Peripheral.
Gambit Pileup: Between the Dimension of Pain, Hereti Corp, the K'Z'K cult and the Fate Spiders, our heroes seem to get caught up in many different plots.
And now it looks a new demonic party has entered the fray.
Genre-Busting:It started out as simply a Fantastic Comedy, then (while still keeping comedy a staple) started playing Genre Roulette with soap operatic drama, epic fantasy/science-fiction, spy stories, horror, film noir, and so on. However, thanks to the constantly accumulating continuity, story elements introduced while handling one genre will still be around when another genre takes the foreground, creating some weird combinations. Like sci-fi epic "Oceans Unmoving" having a lead character who's a Talking Animal that went to war with Santa Claus. Or the wacky adventure of "A Time for Hair-raising" drawing upon Torg's past as an action hero and Gwynn's past as a victim of Demonic Possession. Or the dark, brutal story told in "Fire and Rain" still having a Zoe-gets-turned-into-a-camel gag.
Girls with Moustaches: The "A Time For Hair-Raising" arc starts with Zoe and Gwynn growing beards from a hair-growth spell gone wrong, as seen here.
Good Angel, Bad Angel: Played relatively straight by Gwynn, heavily subverted by everyone else. Especially Riff, both of whose consciences are so apathetic and reticent they forget which side they're meant to take at times.
Torg's bad angel is Ax-Crazy, with no subtlety for tempting. Conversely, ZoŽ's good angel is sufficiently adept at putting her foot in her mouth that the bad angel rarely has to say anything, really.
The Good, the Bad, and the Evil: In the R&D wars, Torg and company are the good, Hereti Corp and Chrushestro are the bad, and the No-Fun Legacy group and the Cult of K'Z'K are the evil.
Gorn: So many, many sprays of blood in the "K I T T E N" arcs.
Government Drug Enforcement: The alternate universe in which Riff becomes trapped during the 4U City arc in takes this to a ridiculous level, to the point where none of Riff's chemistry class can't tell that they're having a staring contest with a balloon. Not just a balloon with a drawn on face, but a balloon wearing drawn on sunglasses.
Grandfather Clause: Bun-bun's Baywatch obsession, though now rarelyreferenced, has survived after all the other Nineties-specific pop culture references died away, just because of how definitive a part of his character it is.
Happiness Is Mandatory: In the arc "758449", Riff finds himself in an alternate dimension city-state which enforces perpetual happiness with knockout drug injections at the slightest hint of discontent.
Heel-Face Turn: Several characters, Sam and Aylee being the most prominent (though it's not exactly clear whether Sam was down with the whole "evil vampire" bit at all in the first place or if he was just pretending). Oasis temporarily becomes a sort-of good guy, at first due a sheer mental and personality breakdown, while the second seems to be an honest try to be a hero, unfortunately marred by her homicidal tendencies. Dr. Steve is implied to have quit Hereti-Corp because of this, and it's revealed Kesandru had pulled one in an alternate universe.
Heel Realization: Riff, when he realizes that Hereti Corp was an evil organization bent on using his friends for their diabolical ends, and discovers that his scientific reports back to them (which held little interest to them until he started talking about the several levels of crazy that happens in his life on a daily basis, including transdimensional travel and space aliens) were helping them do just that. In the end he's very bent on revenge.
4U!Riff and 4U!Frog, upon finding out that Riff intends to risk his life to try and save a dying 4U!Mimi, laugh and insult him for his Chronic Hero Syndrome, only for 4U!Frog to admit that there is something seriously wrong with them.
He-Man Woman Hater: Dr Nofun, Lau, and the rest of his organisation, taken to comically ridiculous levels.
Holding Back the Phlebotinum: The technology of 4U city includes Nanites that can completely rebuild a dead person from a backup and portals that can predictably enter any location within any dimension at any time you want. For obvious reasons, bringing back such technology would break the story, so 4U!Riff, a self-loathingJerkass forbids his younger Alternate Self from bringing any of it back home. Plus, the Portal Technology is shown to have unbelievably severe drawbacks, namely the near-total obliteration of reality.
Homage: In "Aylee vs. Bun-bun", Bun-bun, having been eaten by Aylee, bursts out of her chest in a clear parody homage to Alien.
Hope Spot: Riff is still alive! ...Seconds before he's gunned down by a group of armed soldiers.
It was extended a bit as he briefly fought against the drug control, but ended when he believes that he is the evil dictator, not knowing that Hereti-Corp has stolen his plans for the Dimensional Flux Agitator.
Later, Torg appears in one of Gwynn's visions while she's possessed by K'Z'K and thinks he's dreaming about being in a Fighting Game — and proceeds to kick K'Z'K's ass.
Immune to Fate: Most things in the world are bound to the Fate Web, which guides events to prevent the world from being destroyed prematurely. But not everything is subject to this. Oasis is outside of Fate, and magic, dimensional portals, and time travel are highly disruptive to its functioning. Dinosaurs exist outside the web because they existed before it, which is why Khronos has set into motion a plan to drive the remaining dinosaurs he missed extinct.
Informed Attribute: Parodied with Torg and Riff's "tradition" of exchanging a beer every year for Christmas/Hanukkah. They have never yet managed to pull it off without something going wrong — it's almost Sluggy's equivalent of Peanuts' annual gag with Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown:
In 1997, Riff substitutes hot sauce for beer and doesn't tell Torg until he's already chugged it;
In 1998, they're trapped in a pyramid so instead get each other mummy body parts and try to make that a new tradition;
In 2004, Torg gets Riff a terrible marshmallow beer because he's just come back from the Dimension of Lame and didn't have much time to shop;
In 2006, before they can drink from their beers, Torg is knocked out by a flying Hogtendo SuuWii remote that Gwynn lost her grip on;
In 2008, Riff's upset because Torg didn't get him a beer in return, even though he got him a share in a fully functioning spaceship.
In 2010, Torg poignantly leaves a lone beer for Riff, who had vanished in his robot explosion and was lost in the 4U city dimension.
In 2011 there's a "Beer Every Year" themed set of Sluggy Pawnz;
The joke was not used in 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009 or 2012.
Innocent Innuendo: Torg explains the political issues of the 2000 US presidential election to Kiki using balls painted with the Stars and Stripes to represent taxes. Riff can only take so many instances of Torg and Kiki talking about their balls before he snaps.
It's Not You, It's My Psychotic Stalker: On the cusp of beginning a meaningful relationship with ZoŽ, Torg has to play this card when Oasis tracks him down. She's in love with him thanks to mind control and she can also fight robots, aliens, demons, and Bun-bun on an even footing. ZoŽ is, at best, a Badass Normal. In a stunning aversion of the Cartwright Curse Torg normally inflicts on his love interests, Torg says goodbye.
Knight of Cerebus: The vampires in the "Vampires" arc marked the strip's first real foray into more dramatic territory. Later, the presence of Oasis, K'Z'K, or HeretiCorp is likely to signify a darker storyline.
Leave No Witnesses: Underneath Dr. Sclock, Hereti Corp manages to weaponize the DFA as a way to banish enemies from their own dimension. Due to the threat such a weapon poses, Hereti Corp seeks to avoid anyone realizing such a weapon exists and thus try to erase all witnesses during the first operation they are used on.
Living Legend: Torg makes quite the name for himself in the Dimension of Lame during That Which Redeems.
Living Shadow: For a while the Groundhog's shadow was bound to Bun-Bun. Originally it could just talk and change its shape, after he defeated a few holidays it became able to take 3-dimensional and physical form.
In terms of supporting cast, Sluggy Freelance is to webcomics what The Simpsons is to animated TV.
Just listing the normal cast takes long enough. You also have clones, various versions of characters from the same universe, alternate universe versions of characters, characters living in the past, characters from the future, characters from future alternate universes, characters who technically don't exist, at least three separate pantheons of gods...
Magic Versus Science: It has been stated that Magic is not just misunderstood Science. The Web of Fate is a mystical construct created by Khronos, Father Time, in order to protect the world from the God of Destruction, K'Z'K. It defines a set of rules for the world to follow and guides its path to keep it safe. Science is the art of manipulating the world within the rules the Web defines. Magic is an incredibly dangerous, destructive force, that can bypass the web's restraints. Without magic, K'Z'K would remain Sealed Evil in a Can forever. But with it, he can eventually break free.
Mechanical Evolution: The Dig-Bots keep on reproducing for several years, until they've created several variants like the Brain Dig-Bot, Bouncer Dig-Bots, High Priest Dig-Bots, and even Trash Can Dig-Bots.
Metamorphosis Monster: Aylee has gone through this over a dozen times, eventually turning into a fifty foot tall dragon and finally into the most dangerous creature of all ... a woman!
The Minion Master: The protagonists are currently working for a (wannabe) super villain known as The Minion Master, but he isn't really an example because he only has four or five minions and they're really good ones (they even seem to be making the plans).
Misblamed: A lot of the fanbase didn't like what Ian Mcdonald did with his "Meanwhile in the Dimension of Pain" strip and would regularly complain about it. Mcdonald has said he basically started ignoring the criticism when those same fans bashed Mcdonald for a 'Meanwhile' strip that had been drawn by Abrams, reasoning that if they couldn't even tell the difference between his art style and Abrams', they weren't worth listening to.
Monster Roommate: Aylee, obviously. Occasionally Sam the vampire. Depending on one's definition of "monster" Bun-bun might also qualify.
Mood Whiplash: The tone can shift from funny to dramatic to heartwarming to heartrending to terrifying whenever Pete feels like it.
"Does this affect our upcoming date?" Note that Sam asks this to Sasha after she survives being shot.
This is a perfect example of Sluggy's attitude to this trope: Riff suddenly realises that a mysterious message from the ghost Beth has the last word hidden behind a mirror which dramatically turns the situation upside down and reveals the house is a ghost trap, but in the middle of it Torg also realises that another message from her reading "Torg is great" also had the end cut off behind furniture and actually reads "Torg is a great big dummy".
Morality Pet: Oasis has several. Torg's a subversion since her infatuation with him is the cause of her villainy. Meanwhile, Katie and her mother Kareen are straight examples.
Morality Chain: Her master, Feng, who was also responsible for helping her overcome the brainwashing. His death causes her to immediately abandon it all and elope with Torg, which starts the chain events that led to Zoe's death.
The demon aristocracy almost by default: Lord Horribus, Queen Deplora, Lord Psykosis.
The supervillain CRUSHESTRO.
Naked People Are Funny: Two of Aylee's forms have been humanoid (and naked) women. She's shown InnocentFanserviceGirl-ness in both forms, the first time during which Torg just stood back and enjoyed the view, and the second time he downed a large amount of alcohol and taught her about clothing after she revealed her built-in cloak was really wings (accidentally flashing him with disturbingly-human naughty bits in the process). Outside of Aylee, ZoŽ's clothing usually doesn't survive her transformation into a camel, and one storyline had every scrap of clothing in the house being eaten by evil moths.
Not really the nudity itself so much as the reaction to it, but Torg's attempt at having a cohesive flashback while Sasha is changing is too funny. Played straight when he finally does turn his back and Sasha continues to let him think she's changing after she's fully dressed again. He didn't notice that she took off her bra three times.
Never Found the Body: Oasis was played like this at first. After she resurfaced unexpectedly and apparently died again without her body being found, the main characters hung a lampshade and the unspoken consensus was that they hadn't seen the last of her.
More of a Nice Job Breaking It Villain, but Dr. Schlock reinstating Dr. Chen in Hereti Corp, who then takes back his place as CEO and orders Kusari to kill everyone in the building.
Riff learns that Torg's attempts to bring down Hereti Corp are likely to result in a chain of events that will turn their world into a replica of 4UCity's world, and it might already be too late to stop it.
No Name Given: Most of the cast's last names are never stated (this is lampshaded in the Torg Potter parodies, in which Torg is known as 'the Lastnameless One'). The secondary cast often have stated surnames though.
Noodle Incident: Just what did happen between Bun-bun and Santa that necessitated the use of the first Deus Ex Ovum and Bun-bun's ejection from the time stream? And more importantly, when did it happen?
Operation Red Durango...for now.
Not-So-Harmless Villain: The demons of the Dimension of Pain are comically inept and prone to petty bickering...and are also absolutely deadly, as seen in That Which Redeems. This results in a lot of Mood Whiplash.
Dr. Schlock, too. He serves as a Butt Monkey from his very first appearance, yet can still be a potent enemy.
Nostril Shot: In the strip where Bun-Bun ends up shoving the camera up Torg's nose.
The Nudifier: What to do with a swarm of clothes-devouring moths? cCe the meeting of the Young Republican Women's Assembly...
This really applies to the entire cast to some extent. Given the comment made in the first year about Torg and Riff having a tradition of giving each other beer for Christmas, they had to be at least 23 when the story started in 1997. Adding in the fact that due to holiday related events we know that real time and Comic Book Time roughly line up, that would make them at least 37 in 2011. They haven't noticeably aged at all, much less appear to be approaching 40.
Ominous Multiple Screens: Hereti-Corp's offices. Lampshaded with comments about why the room is so dark if it has so many bright screens in it.
Obfuscating Stupidity: If Crushestro is to be believed, Minion Master has this trait, pretending to be manipulated by Torg while really using Torg to knock down other evil organizations so that Hereti Corp can pick them up.
It seems not, as we now know that it's Izzy (at least according to what she said) who is in contact with Hereti Corp.
Once Per Season: For some years it was the case that every Halloween, the Dimension of Pain would send a demon to try and kidnap Torg, and every Christmas Bun-bun would try to murder Santa Claus. Both these were eventually resolved in the storylines "That Which Redeems" and "Holiday Wars" and thus do not happen anymore.
Orphaned Punchline: In the third-to-last panel of this strip, Bun-bun (who is narrating this arc) guarantees that the comic will not end with a punchline. The next panel then has him being handed a "breaking news bulletin", which contains the punchline to a well-known joke, whereupon Bun-bun states in the final panel, "I stand corrected."
Our Gods Are Greater: Multiple pantheons have appeared, but the one most central to the story are the gods of Mohkadun. The One created Prozoato and Kozoaku as the gods of creation and destruction respectively. God empowered one of Prozoato's creations, Khronos, to become the Anthropomorphic Personification of time to stop Kozoaku from destroying Prozoatu's creations before he is meant to. Khronos empowered several additional mortals into godhood to serve as role models against Kozoaku's influence. It has been heavily implied that Bun-Bun is actually an Amnesiac God from this pantheon, the God of Power. The gods of Mohkadun vary greatly in magical power, ranging from merely superhuman strength and endurance to the power to cause Time Stands Still or a massive Zombie Apocalypse. They do not age and are very tough, but they can be killed.
Our Vampires Are Different: Different clans have different strengths and weaknesses, in part because they were originally parodies. For example, vampires from the Lysinda circle shrivel up and stop moving when they're staked through the heart, but immediately come back to life if you pull the stake out.
Our Zombies Are Different: Zombies are immortal beings who rely on regeneration. The catch is that their regenerative state is highly selective and completely dependent on what they consume. For example, eating eyes will keep their eyesight from deteriorating while eating brains will allow them to retain their intelligence and cognitive abilities. In addition, being bitten by a zombie will not turn a person into one.
Though there have been other "Zombie" types in the comic as well- K'Z'K's "Deadels," which are corpses who act according to the bidding of their master, and "Ghouls," which are actually aliens, belonging to Aylee's species.
Overly-Long Gag: Dr. Viennason explains the dimension of timeless space by illustrating what happens when you run out of time supplies. By standing perfectly still for thirteen panels. Although he breaks it to surreptitiously glance at the camera if you look carefully in the tenth panel. The same trope is used for a whole sixteen panels in this Gofotron battle.
Paper-Thin Disguise: A popular gag. Aylee does it here; the angular "Clockjerk Dudes" robot bodies always seem to fool everyone; used as a Description Cut joke here where we are primed to expect one of Dr Schlock's very realistic inflatable decoys, but in fact The Men in Black are fooled by an obvious small balloon.
The Parody: Very many over the years. A few examples:
The Pig Pen: Taken to comically ridiculous levels with Drs Bill and Phil, the Creepy Cloner Geeks, in the Living Conditions storyline.
Pirate: Heavily subverted in one occasion, when they all turned out to be highly intelligent scientists stuck in a space between dimensions after failed time travel experiments, and roleplaying as pirates kinda became traditional because so many of the people trapped there were massive nerds.
A Pirate 400 Years Too Late: Kiki, Bun-bun, and a little girl play at being pirates in a small boat. Unfortunately Bun-bun, being Bun-bun, tries actually thieving and murdering.
Please Put Some Clothes On: in this strip,Sasha casually takes off her clothes in front of a hot and bothered Torg. "I'm looking the other way while you get naked but throwing your bra at my head is not helping!"
And in the aftermath of the "Aylee" chapter, when Aylee reveals that a) that's not a dress, it's her wings wrapping around her, and b) she's become so human she now has "human female naughty parts" underneath.
Poor Communication Kills: Usually with Reakk from the Dimension of Pain mishearing orders. Also, Drs Bill and Phil from Clonegressive Inc misheard orders from their superior that led to a (small-scale) zombie apocalypse in "28 Geeks Later".
And dimensionally-misplaced minions Blinky and Clyde are told to find a village's most chaste maiden to feed to a dragon but mishear it as "chased" so they find the village slut and the dragon gets angrier.
Punny Name: Everyone apart from the main cast. Particular mention goes to the inhabitants of the Punyverse and of Torg Potters' wizarding world.
The book of E-ville [Elizabethville, Pa.]
Really 700 Years Old: Some of the vampires, including Lysinda, Valerie and Philinnon (who is said to be old even by vampire standards, originating around 400 BC).
Oddly, Philinnon is a "vrykolakas", which really is a Greek vampire...but its name is a Slavic loan-word (originally meaning "werewolf"), borrowed in the Byzantine era. Of course, it's entirely possible Philinnon and company were just called something different back then.
Reassigned to Antarctica: When Riff tried a "normal" 9-to-5 job he was transferred to Nome, Alaska because he'd threatened to sue them if fired (beats getting transformed into a gnome).
Reckless Gun Usage: Alt-Bun-bun invokes this trope, enough that Torg yells, "Quit pointing that empty gun at me, it's not really for making points in conversation!" Justified since Alt-Bun-bun comes from a dimension without guns (or much in the way of violence at all).
Early on, the viewer was meant to think that Bun-bun had been killed when Santa blew up his booby-trapped workshop, and his vengeful spirit had come to the Dimension of Pain. It turned out that the spirit was in fact the elf Mr Squeekybobo, who had died in the same attack, and Bun-bun was in a cage somewhere with Laser-Guided Amnesia.
The dimension where Torg flees with the giant Aylee is infested with zombie-like creatures who, we are led to believe, are the result of Kesandru's Deal with the Devil Rithuly. The Reveal has Torg realise that they have nothing to do with Rithuly - they're Aylee's race.
The letters 'ROKEN' behind Oasis in the photo made most readers think it was a cutoff of 'BROKEN', which was indeed the name of a later arc...however, said arc revealed (in a slight cop-out) that it was in fact a cut-off of PYROKENETICS - misspelled by an illiterate sign painter.
Research Inc: Hereti-Corp has muffins that self-destruct, lest they fall into the hands of a competitor.
Reset Button: An epic one. Torg spends literally years being in love with ZoŽ with her not reciprocating. Then finally she realizes she loves him too, and wants to tell him. Then the mecha she is in is blown up by Oasis; she and Riff do an emergency escape to another dimension; Riff loses sight of her and thinks she's dead, is later told she's in endless agony, and finally realizes her body is healed by nanites, but not her brain, making her a vegetable. Finally, Riff returns to his own dimension and pulls off a Batman Gambit to return ZoŽ and restore her memory, but it is restored to the day before she realized she loves Torg. Aaand we're back to square one.
Schmuck Bait: Riff's inventions are usually covered with them, despite having a ferret that loves to mess with such things.
Sdrawkcab Alias: When undercover infiltrating Shankraft's minions and asked for his name, Torg comes up with "Grot". Unfortunately for Sasha he also does the same for her, telling them she's "Ahsas", pronounced "Ass-ass".
Sealed Good in a Can: The Goddess of Good, former ruler of what became the Dimension of Pain, was sealed inside a gigantic Zip-lock bag by the Demon King until Torg released her millennia later.
Second Law of Metafictional Thermodynamics: Played straight with the Punyverse, averted with most other dimensions (in particular, That Which Redeems where there is nothing 'throwaway' about how the Dimension of Lame is treated).
One filler arc features, in addition to a number of shout outs to fantasy and a plot parodying The Hobbit a pair of minions named Blinky and Clyde, one of whom is trying to save a girl named Pinky. Notably, Pinky is a double shout-out, as she is quite clearly a anthropomorphized Pinkie Pie, and the tavern at the town she is called "My Little Prancing Pony", which has an image of pony!Pinkie Pie on its sign.
Sliding Scale of Continuity: Level 5 (Full Lockout). Creator Pete Abrams recently acknowledged the phenomenon at this stage of the comic's lifespan and narrative density. He still tries to link back to details in previous strips, but now that it's become necessary even in filler arcs, it's extremely daunting to new readers.
Sliding Scale of Free Will vs. Fate: Fate does indeed exist as an actual force that makes the world go down a certain path. The Web of Fate was created by the God of Time. It defines a set of rules and guides the world down a certain path by subtly manipulating events, to prevent the world from being destroyed prematurely. However, some beings, such as Oasis and dinosaurs are Immune to Fate. Magic in particular is extremely disruptive to its functioning, and can potentially cause The End of the World as We Know It by summoning the God of Destruction.
Status Quo Is God: Subverted repeatedly, especially for a comic of its length. The main cast has moved from living in an apartment complex, to living in an old house, to losing the house and living in yet another apartment, to living in yet another house. When they're not trapped in the past/future or another dimension. Not to mention the fact that the only dating combinations not explored by the human central cast at this point are the ones which involve Ho Yay or Les Yay.
Stealth Pun: The four alien Greys are named after the members of the A-Team, but the obvious pun "The Grey-Team" is never specifically spoken.
Talking with Signs: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer does this (it's played with, in that at one point he tries to give a long speech and the elves can't make it out because to fit it all on the sign the text ends up being too small) and so did Zoe's mother at one point when she wasn't speaking to her.
Team Pet: Played straight up when Torg bought Bun-bun because he was "a cute talking animal" and "every strip needs one". But Bun Bun was a bad ass, and Kiki was later brought in and she fills the role in a more traditional manner.
Teleport Gun: Schlock takes Riff's designs for the DFA and hires another portal expert to weaponize them. The result is a gun he can use to banish his enemies to random dimensions. He eventually plans to use a much stronger version to build Kill Sats.
Teleport Spam: Alt-Riff: "Of course it's real hard to corner someone who can move through time, space, and dimensions."
Tempting Fate: Heavily lampshaded, played with, and deliberately invoked on a number of occasions.
Thoughtcrime: 4U City enforced mandatory happiness with involuntary drugging. And mandatory efficiency with mandatory drugging. And so on. The alternative was to be thrown down a judgement chute.
Time Crash: Normally when a person travels through time, Krohnus's Web of Fate will try to steer things back on course and create a Stable Time Loop to prevent a paradox. Failing that, the timelines will split into an Alternate Universe. But depending on the circumstances, a paradox can cause a universe's safety mechanisms to fail and result in The End of the World as We Know It... which is what happens in the backstory of 4U city.
Timey-Wimey Ball: While generally glossed over for the sake of a good story, Time Travel has worked differently in different circumstances - "The Storm Breaker" saga resulted in ZoŽ and Torg actually changing history (which then gave ZoŽ problems on a history test), but we also learn that Valerie was turned into a vampire as the result of Torg's actions in the past, even though she was a vampire before he traveled back in time. Also, Dr. Schlock from the future watched his younger self die, but he's still around because he's from an alternate doomed future that was averted in the current timeline thanks to some of the technology he sent back in time to stop K'Z'K, as he mentioned in Kiki's Virus, here. K'Z'K eventually reveals that whenever someone tries to change the past, Krohnus's Web of Fate will try to steer things back to the right course. If a timeline is altered beyond the Fate Web's ability to create a Stable Time Loop, it will try to split the altered timeline into an Alternate Universe. Fail at that, and it results in a Time Crash.
And Timeless Space, being Exactly What It Says on the Tin, can be accessed from any point in time, simultaneously. One who manages to escape may not necessarily return to the time stream where they originally came from. It's heavily implied that Bun-bun originally came from a time long before the rest of the cast was born.
Bun-bun and Riff alone also do it here, and subverted here by Torg and Kiki.
Trash the Set: The comic often marks the beginning of a major shift by destroying the group's current lodgings.
Trap Is the Only Option: In "Dangerous Days Ahead", Riff and others go Storming the Castle at the AyleeOrgNet.Com/HeretiCorp offices in spite of the extremely Suspiciously Specific Denial on a memo that indicates that the place is armed like a fortress and it's a trap. They don't have any other choice with their friends being held there, and they have a few surprises up their own sleeves.
Trope Maker: Often called "the one that started it all," effectively set the tone for webcomics in general - at the very least, most of those that are candidates for Cerebus Syndrome.
True Companions: The core cast. Occasionally subverted when one of them truly messes up... Which has happened at least once to ZoŽ, Gwynn, Bunbun, Aylee and Riff where one of the previous was NOT considered this by anyone in the core cast but Torg. Truly, it's Dysfunction Junction when the Cloudcuckoolander is the glue holding the team together.
Tsundere: Monica (deliberately, because it keeps Riff off balance). ZoŽ and Gwynn also qualify very easily (one for each type) during the times when Torg and Riff have had relationships with them. Subverted by the alt-ZoŽ.
Subverted by Sasha. She is very much not, and is easy-going to a fault. But Riff and Torg keep expecting her to flip to tsuntsun, and are kinda creeped out when she never does.
Undefeatable Little Village: It's revealed that a small town near the Canadian border ended up playing this role for a crime-syndicate who had, previously, used it as a center for their smuggling-operations. The reason? Knife Nut Tyke Bomb Quasi-Immortal Oasis, whose most recent reincarnation had turned out unusually sane and kindhearted, had made it her Protectorate. Wearing a red hoodie, she turned into the vigilante 'Red Riding Hood' and basically stabbed any criminal who dared enter the city. The syndicate finally sent a top-tier, highly-paid Career Killer - a master assassin. He managed to kill her, but obviously didn't know about the 'Quasi-Immortal' bit, and wound up getting stabbed anyway. He sought alternate employment with great rapidity at that point.
Also parodied; one of the aliens goes by the name "Face" because he claims his birth name is unpronounceable to humans and the high frequency could possibly break their recording devices. It's Steeeeeve.
Vampire Monarch: Lysinda, leader of the Lysinda circle of vampires; and later Philinnon, leader of the Vrykolakas circle of vampires.
Verbal Tic: Bert and "crotch". Also done with some of the crew of Gofotron in the Punyverse arc.
Villain Ball - Cleverly averted at the end of "Holiday Wars", where Bun-bun's enemies have concocted a clever Batman Gambit that will force him to use the Deus ex Ovum (push the Reset Button)—but if Bun-bun actually fell for it, his character would suffer Badass Decay. So instead the Groundhog's shadow falls for the scheme instead, and Bun-bun is appalled to find out that because they are linked, the effects of the plan will apply to him as well unless he uses the Reset Button.
The Voiceless: Aylee at the end of bROKEN, due to a still healing neck injury.
Wham Comic: 12/06/09 reveals one of the biggest pieces of information about Oasis to date. She's pyrokinetic and many, many of her explosive exits earlier in the series that were previously assumed to be the results of things like Gwynn's magical powers or bombs going off were Oasis' pyrokinetic abilities exploding.
bROKEN is basically a wham arc. This becomes apparent when Dr. Schlock has Oasis's father-figure executed while she watches helplessly, for no reason other than to show he means business. As the arc ends, Torg is losing his grip on reality and becoming increasingly unstable, Oasis is paralyzed from the neck down in the clutches of HeretiCorp, Aylee is clearly dying from a massive neck wound (she thankfully gets better), ZoŽ's cursed necklace has been found (which currently has no possible explanation other than her being dead), and Riff is trapped in a dystopian alternate dimension and was seemingly shot down by a squad of armed goons while cradling ZoŽ's burnt corpse.
The 4U City arc has more than its share of whams as well. Particularly the conclusion of its most recent (and presumably final) segment, where Riff goes back in time to Set Right What Once Went Wrong.
Remember a decade ago, when we briefly thought that Sasha might be a Hereticorp spy? The 8/20/2012 strip shows that we were right all along.
subverted a whole sixteen years into the comic. "Sluggy" is now a word that is part of an ancient religion and has plot revealence finally. Riff and Torg's passing familiarity with the word is an Oh Crap moment.
World of Pun: Abrams loves puns of both the funny and groan-worthy varieties. There's a little background sketch Running Gag known as the 'pun demon'. Notably Torg and Riff once even weaponisedIncredibly Lame Puns against K'z'k.
Wrong Genre Savvy: In this strip, Torg gives Sasha advice on how to kill a mutant monster based on his experience with videogames. Fortunately, Sasha disregards the advice.
Xanatos Speed Chess: A short example between Dr. Schlock and Markus Chen: first Chen tricked Schlock into reinstating him as a CEO, thus allowing him to give Kusari the order to kill Schlock. Schlock responded (after looking up a few things) by having the board of command (him, given the rest of the board was either "running for their lives or slaughtered") fire Chen as CEO.
K'Z'K: You're a scientist, Riff! Calculate how much force it would take to bank-shot Torg's spine off the building across the street. Is this about enough? Riff: NO! K'Z'K: I take it in this case, no means yes.
You Already Changed The Past: Lysinda was able to tempt Valerie because her husband Torgamus died in battle, which was the result of Torg going back in time to fight K'Z'K. See here for details.
You Cannot Grasp the True Form: The Tower of the Gods where Father Time resides is not an actual tower. This is simply the way mortal minds comprehend it.
You Can't Fight Fate: Well, technically, you can, but that is generally a bad idea, since protecting the world is the reason Fate exists in the first place. Fate doesn't so much control everyone, so much as offer guidelines. Various things, such as magic, time travel, and dimensional travel can distort the web, risking the world's destruction. Keeping Fate on track is the job of the aptly named Fate Spiders