Webcomic / A Girl and Her Fed

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/AGirlandHerFed_4574.png
Yes, that is a glowing clownfish. It makes sense in context

A journalism intern haunted by the ghost of Benjamin Franklin finds she is on a terrorist watchlist. When she confronts the unnamed Fed who is set to watch her, things get seriously, fantastically weird. There's government conspiracies, a talking super-genius koala, and, oh yeah, forty billion undead pixies. Thanks to a tightly-plotted story and a good dash of humor, it actually works.

Read. Enjoy. Conspire.

Several prose short stories and novels have also been produced. The novels are:

Rachel Peng Novels:

Josh Glassman Novels:

Hope Blackwell Novels:


Contains these tropes:

  • A Boy and His X: It's in the title, after all.
  • Action Girl: The Girl. She's one of the best in the world at judo.
  • A God Am I: Clarice's eventual goal.
  • Alt Text: The author started including it roughly around when the first fight with Clarice happened. Frequently used for a further joke, and at least once as a Brick Joke about how "Sparky" sounds like a dog's name.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Agent 146/Clarice deals with ghosts on a near-daily basis, but refuses to believe that the Girl is an empath.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: The Fed asked George Washington - who had made his disapproval about the Agents' ongoing plans clear - what he would've done in his place. When Washington tries to duck the question, the Fed asks him point blank "Would you have run? Washington, to his credit, answers honestly, "Yes."
  • Aroused by Their Voice: The Girl apparently enjoys the sound of Vin Diesel.
  • Art Evolution: Downright noddy at the start, until the occasional artshift shows the artist's potential. The comic is getting redrawn in colour and a brand new style.
    • Notably, the first dramatic art shift happened after a significant meditation event undertaken by the Girl. She opened her eyes and from that point on, the world is drawn in full color and with more details (including characters having visible eyes whereas before, it was a case of Eyes Always Shut). Slightly undermined by the art style reboot...
    • The 'Eyes Always Shut' bit was broken at various different points - the meeting with Mike, the flashbacks with the Fed and Dixon's wife, et cetera. The real art style change happened when the artist decided to do so for one reason or another... and the fact that she's bringing the whole strip into a more realistic style makes one wonder what it'll look like regarding those flashbacks.
  • Artificial Limbs: Clarice has a super strong cybernetic arm and has apparently similar reinforcements planted to her spine to supports its weight and lift capability. However, apparently it's not designed to resist being ripped apart from her shoulder socket.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: The Girl, in spades.
  • Back from the Dead: Ben gives a pretty good and short Motive Rant about it too.
    Ben: I came back from the dead for this Country. I will not sit passively by while what I fought to forge is CORRUPTED and DESTROYED!
  • Badass: Almost everyone in the comic, up to and including Ben Franklin.
    • Badass Bureaucrat: After the Pocket President is revealed to the world, the surviving members of the program eventually become this.
    • Badass Grandma: Rose Myers, the woman who taught the Fed everything he knows about espionage. Though officially retired, she hasn't forgotten how to hand out a bit of pain when the occasion calls for it.
    • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Several agents in the Pocket President community made the mistake of thinking that the Girl was just a spoiled rich girl working an internship for a tiny newspaper. They were wrong.
  • Batman Gambit: When Hope decides that she needs to travel more to find experienced psychics, she initially proposes to Pat that she go to China, knowing that he'll quickly suggest Japan (where she actually wants to go) instead. He just as quickly picks up that she was doing this and seems remarkably calm about the ploy.
  • Battle Aura: Simulated in page 604.
  • Battle Couple: The Girl and the Fed, once they hook up and get married.
  • Bilingual Backfire: Not only does Lincoln speak Japanese, he speaks ancient Japanese.
  • Brick Joke: Sparky and the group use Ben as a relay to record a meeting. Sparky meets his ghostly security detail and realizes they've watched him have sex with the Girl. Several times. The Fed and the Girl have sex in an elevator with no ghosts watching. Whoops.
  • Character Blog: Speedy's Twitter.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The Fed fairly early on asserts that he doesn't dream, but during the Vegas excursion, he mumbles in his sleep about someone named Frederick. It's revealed that, as a coping mechanism, he was somehow visiting the afterlife and receiving support from Frederick Douglass.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: The Fed's punishment for allowing Lincoln to teach Mako's daughter's aikido lesson? He needs to help explain slavery and Jim Crow when Avery's old enough.
    The Fed: Oh God! Can't I give her the sex talk instead?
  • Curbstomp Battle: Planning an all-out assault really does make a difference, doesn't it?
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Among the problems faced in the first major plot arc is the Bitty Bush, which was designed to have this effect on the Agents.
  • Digital Avatar: The Agents can go out of body with an avatar that looks exactly like themselves, but sometimes also use non-human avatars. The Fed has a clownfish named Bubbles; although it hasn't appeared in the webcomic yet, Rachel has an owl named Madeline.
  • Don't Explain the Joke: During a showdown with Clarice, the Girl makes a joke about juggling Mac Guffins, and how they are high calorie. She then explains "muffin? macguffin? geddit?"
  • Eat the Bomb: Ben does this with one of Speedy's grenades.
  • Embarrassing Tattoo: The Fed has one - a barbed wire/Celtic knot combination on his upper arm. His excuse was "college."
  • Emotion Supression: At the beginning, almost all of the people in the Pocket President program have some level of this to deal with it. This was intentional by the people behind the program, to make them easier to control. Pat is still able to enter this mindset if he feels he needs to, although he even admits how damaging it can be.
  • Empowered Badass Normal: The Fed upgraded from Badass Normal once he gains control of the chip
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Clarice needs someone famous, but not "15-minutes" famous. Upon having Donald Trump come up as a suggestion, she responds "Please. I have standards."
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Fed, whom the Girl refers to as "Sparky"
    • His real name is eventually revealed to be Patrick Mulcahy.
    • And the Girl's name is revealed to be Hope Blackwell.
  • Everything Is Online: Averted here.
  • Fairy Companion: Benjamin Franklin and the Bitty Bush both qualify, but Ben goes a step further by having actual fairy wings.
  • Feminist Fantasy
  • Fiction 500: The Girl has a lot of money from Ben going into the future and picking high-yield stocks. He believes his charges are able to focus better when they don't have to worry about feeding or sheltering themselves.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Hope is pretty thrilled to have a pretty bird land on her finger... until Mike is shown with a whole flock attracted to him. Possibly a Brick Joke, as he previously mentioned that his partner collects birds.
  • Furry Denial: Speedy.
  • Gentle Giant: The Fed, once the real him re-emerges.
  • Genius Bruiser: The eponymous battle couple, who are a doctor and a lawyer, respectively.
  • Ghostly Goals: Some are more malevolent than others.
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly: Ghosts gain power from how well and widely they are remembered.
  • Government Conspiracy: Involving brain implants and ghosts.
  • Grievous Harm with a Body: Hope is excellent at judo, and Pat is very much a Combat Pragmatist, so both will calmly throw one foe into another to make their lives easier in a fight.
  • Has Two Thumbs and...: Speedy tries this, but is foiled by not having thumbs. (This is unintentionally hilarious for a completely different reason: real Koalas actually have four thumbs.)
  • Healing Hands: Smithback has this ability, which turns out to be a huge reveal - he's Mike's uncle. Said character offers to teach Hope as well, but she doesn't take to it - apparently, it doesn't mix well with her medical training.
  • Heroic B.S.O.D.: Ghosts can teleport living people if given enough power, but it has the side effect of making them nigh catatonic for some time. It apparently lasts for around a day, but allies can talk them out of catatonia quicker.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: But the Girl is a Judo master, and can handle him easily.
    • I Let You Win: ...But then again, it's revealed that he held back in their sparring matches.
      • He states outright that he knows its stupid, because she is still much, much better than him.
  • I Gave My Word/Honor Before Reason: Why Lincoln allows the rogue ghosts to draw on his strength, even though he knows they're trying to start a civil war and it causes him actual pain.
  • I'm Taking Her Home with Me!: The Girl says this about one of the henchmen. The Fed vetoes the idea, though. After all, raising a villain is a big responsibility.
  • I See Dead People: Used to be just psychics like Hope. Then along came the implant, and now all the Agents can see them if they know what to look for.
  • I See Them, Too: Originally twice simultaneously, since RetConned to once, nonverbally, when the Girl meets the Fed.
  • Insufferable Genius/Intellectual Animal: Speedy
  • In Vino Veritas: The Girl gets a lot less cynical after a fair amount of vodka.
  • I See Dead People: But only if they want you to for the most part. Those born with the ability to see them without being explicitly revealed are said to be extremely rare - Hope is one of them.
  • It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time: Verbatim.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Rose
  • Kryptonite Factor: Lampshaded here. See Weaksauce Weakness below.
  • The Lancer: Mare plays this role within OACET after the Time Skip; she's the one most public with disagreements with Pat's leadership style. That said, outsiders frequently underestimate just how loyal she is overall.
    • Interestingly, George Washington sees Pat in this light - because of his stature, almost nobody amongst the ghosts are willing to stand up to him. He begrudgingly admits that he enjoys that Pat is willing to fight back (both with words and with fists).
  • Land Downunder: An ad for holidaying in Australia has a warning about the claws and teeth of anything not poisonous.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: One of the more potent applications of the ghosts' ability to mess with surveillance is the ability to apply this on an individual. Clarice attempts to weaponize this, although it turns out that there are limitations to it - psychically aware people like Hope can potentially get around it.
  • Last-Second Chance: No.
    • Then four pages later, yes.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: The real names of the title couple have been known for years now, but anyone starting from the beginning won't see them for quite a while.
  • Living Weapon: The entire point of the program. The chip is an unspeakably powerful digital weapon, being a gamechanger on the level of nuclear power. But it requires a biological component that cannot be removed. Obviously, no one wanted to put that much power into the hands of the few who happened to have the chips. So they created an extremely annoying interface designed to pop up whenever the agents got too emotional, and when they went to government-provided psychiatrists for their problems, they were given piles of drugs. All this was in an effort to turn the agents into human robots, thereby oblivating the problems of the biological component.
  • MacGuffin: Lampshaded though here's to hoping that they're not what we'd traditionally call a MacGuffin, as they had better explain some things. Unless this is a hint from the writer that they won't...
    The Girl: Damn, we're juggling a load of MacGuffins. And I've heard MacGuffins are insanely high in calories... Get it? Muffin? MacGuffin?
  • Magikarp Power: The chips were considered abject failures until Ben unlocked the Fed's. Turns out they were crippled on purpose, but the trope still stands.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Zig-zagged all to hell. The Girl seems like a shoe-in for this, being spunky, violent, and spontaneous. But it ends up that she has to spend a lot more effort getting used to Sparky's convoluted conspiracy/spy shenanigans than any effort he'd have to take to get used to her being merely eccentric.
  • Masquerade: At least until the chips are revealed to the public between parts one and two. The ghosts are probably going to remain hidden for a while, though.
  • Nap-Inducing Speak: Josh deliberately fakes a "Sixth-Grade Geography" in order to interrupt someone who's holding the floor. Unfortunately for him, he misjudged the hardness of the solid oak table.
  • No Name Given: Both title characters, initially. Word of God had this was intentional. Their real names are eventually revealed as Hope Blackwell and Patrick Mulcahy respectively.
  • Noodle Incident: The first time she made a serial killer cry.
    • Also, whatever happened in the Fed's college days with a walrus. It eventually turned into a Brick Joke.
  • Not Actually the Ultimate Question:
  • Not-So-Imaginary Friend: The Girl initially assumes Ben isn't real, but is just a leftover hallucination from a bad LSD trip in college. When she finds out that he really does exist and really is the ghost of Benjamin Franklin, she has a minor BSOD moment.
  • Oh Crap!: Hope's reaction when a ghost pops in next to her but it isn't Benjamin Franklin like she was expecting, but Abraham Lincoln.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: For one, they can travel in time, and bring back alcohol.
  • Our Slogan Is Terrible: Captain Tony's: "We Will Get You Drunk".
  • Painting the Medium: Abraham Lincoln is repeatedly said to be both extremely powerful and unstable by everyone who has met someone who was both an incredibly powerful innate psychic as well as one of the most famous people in American history. This is reflected in their speech bubbles: the strokes are thicker (even moreso when bold is used to show emphasis), the kerning is uneven, and the alignment of the letters on the same line is just uneven enough that it's noticeably unsettling without being impossible to read clearly. Best shown here, where a standard character's regular and bolded-for-emphasis text can be compared immediately after to the text in question.
  • Popularity Power: In-Universe, the power an individual ghost can exert without borrowing from or teaming up with another is largely dependent on how much fame they've acquired in the living world. Presidents with less lasting impact like Calvin Coolidge can do little more than light lifting, while a Founding Father like Benjamin Franklin is capable of limited views of the future. Having psychic powers also can affect this - there's some cause for concern when one agent commits suicide, and Abraham Lincoln combines both incredible psychic potential and this to be a full-on Reality Warper.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: So, so much. A Girl, her Fed, the ghost of Ben Franklin, a talking koala....
  • Ransacked Room: Here.
  • Rapunzel Hair: Mare's long red hair.
  • Reality Warper: Abraham Lincoln is revealed to have the power to create objects ex nihilo in the real world. George Washington, who by all accounts is one of the few who potentially could come close (not even equal) to that level of power, is shocked by this and recognizes that, for all intents and purposes, there is no limit to what that power could potentially do.
  • Red Right Hand: Clarice Finch with her robot arm.
  • Restraining Bolt: The real purpose of the Bitty Bush program.
  • Rich Idiot with No Day Job: The Girl. She has a day job, albeit a really sucky one.
    Sometimes when we're bored, the ghost of Ben Franklin and I get hammered on old scotch and he goes five hours into the future to cherry-pick high-yield stocks for day trading.
    • Averted as of the Time Skip, where the Girl has her medical degree and is working at a hospital.
  • Sense Freak:
    • What happens when Benjamin Franklin is given temporary control over Mulcahy's body - while Ben did promise that he wouldn't do anything Pat wouldn't do, that does mean that Ben spent nine straight hours seeing just what an incredibly in-shape body could do exercise-wise and enjoying all the endorphin rush from that level of exercise.
    • Earlier, what happens when Pat has Ben free all of the agents trapped in the program. Suddenly, the base desires of everyone in the office come to the fore, and the agents as a whole remember both their appetites and their libidos.
    Josh: We could remake ''Caligula!'
  • Shout-Out: Check out the occupant of Suite A4 in this Brisbane office building. Wanna bet the address is 42 Wallaby Way?
  • Scandalgate: The Fed thinks the Chip could end up as one of these. He's also more eloquent about this than the trope expects.
    The Fed: I keep thinking about the Watergate, or Tuskegee... Nightmares that we sum up in one word.
  • Small Annoying Creature: The Bitty Bush is a not-so-subtle jab at former U.S. President George W. Bush, who is famous for his verbal flubs. As a result, half the things it says are non-sequiturs and the other half are a result of it misinterpreting the Fed's commands. In addition, the Pocket President activates whenever the chip holder feels a particularly strong emotion, which means it's constantly activating against the Fed's will, and even occasionally while he's sleeping. Suffice it to say, the Fed takes the first chance he can to get rid of the Bitty Bush.
    • A bit of Fridge Brilliance, here. First, the program was designed in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, and the people in charge of the program's funding legitimately thought Bush's visage would boost morale for the government agents. Second, the Bitty Bush is meant to grind at the will of the chip holders, so they would become more emotionally withdrawn and mentally exhausted, thus making them easier to manipulate.
  • The Sociopath: The Girl outright calls Clarice one, and she admits that she's not far from one herself.
  • Spider-Sense: Upon seeing how quickly Hope takes to firearm training, she and Pat have a discussion on it. Hope conjectures that developing a sense for where an attack comes from might be the first sign of psychic powers, as she compared notes with Mike and both found that they suddenly jumped in skill in judo around when puberty first kicked in.
  • Strawman Political: Surprisingly averted (most of the time). While the comic is heavily steeped in the politics surrounding government surveillance, especially electronic surveillance, it generally tries to present all sides fairly.
  • Sunglasses at Night: They even wear them in their sleep. See Weaksauce Weakness below.
  • Take That: To the Star Wars prequels, when the Fed mentions that he wants to finally see them, as he loved the original trilogy.
    • Rachel Peng obviously has not forgiven Smithback for his role in the suppression of the Pocket President users, as he discovers when she sees his ghost for the first time.
  • Talk About That Thing: Here.
    Girl: We're gonna... go to the restroom and check on our drinks.
    Mako: Great! Get me a for god's sake, separate your sentences. With a twist of lime.
  • Talk to the Fist: "Probably not what they mean when they say good manners make good opportunities..."
  • Technical Pacifist: Mike is a Buddhist monk who advocates non-violence. He is also a judo master with twelve years of experience on the Girl, and has no problem using his skills against the people who threaten his friends.
    • Lampshaded by Mike himself, who makes certain to teach the difference between "non-violent" and "pacifist."
  • Technopath: The default abilities of the unlocked chip, once the agents learn to take control of it. It's said that each person develops their own specialty, but all of them have a strong degree of control over pretty much any networked device.
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted. The Girl went to one and "blew twenty grand" when Ben first popped up. Also played straight and subverted with Abraham Lincoln. In the afterlife he has completely lost his mind due to stress from the Civil War, but no one has been able to help him—largely because he seals himself off from almost everyone, Frederick Douglass being one known exception.
    • Most of the Agents are in therapy, and are pretty open about it. At one point, the Fed points out he's probably going to be in therapy the rest of his life after the brainwashing business.
  • Toilet Humor: None of the major characters are afraid to get raunchy or rude, but the best of it has to be Mike, in part because nobody expects it out of the non-violent Zen practitioner.
    Mike: I have become one with the dick joke.
  • The Un-Reveal: The identity of the ghost who set the Pocket President program in motion. Further plot developments suggest that 99% of the audience wouldn't have recognized him by name anyway.
  • Time Skip: After stopping the Pocket President program and revealing its existence to the public.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Lampshaded here.
  • Unwanted Assistance: The Bitty Bush is universally seen as an annoyance that makes it impossible to do anything productive. Which was its whole purpose, making this an Invoked Trope. Mulcahy is shown taking what is called an unhealthy quantity of psychiatric drugs just to get it to shut up (with strong implications that he's not an outlier on that count), and Dixon is shown in flashback to have used massive amounts of alcohol for the same purpose.
  • Verbal Backspace: Smithback talks about his nephew Mike.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Much to the former's surprise, Pat Mulcahy and George Washington develop into this, despite the fact that the latter point-blank admits that he actively dislikes the former. The former is incredulous that the latter would describe their relationship as anything resembling "friendship." The heart of it is that the two do recognize that each of them want what's best for everyone... and disagree on just how to accomplish that to the point of room-destroying violence.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Agents in the program get instant, debilitating migraines when exposed to bright light. Ironically, this makes it very hard for them to blend in, since they look like stereotypical federal agents.
  • World of Weirdness:
    • After the chips are revealed to the public. In the earlier comics it's the Masquerade (see above).
    • After? How about this quote from the beggining of the strip.
    The Fed: Oh good, the ghost of Benjamin Franklin has arrived. Now things can get back to normal. That's the sound of a mutant conservative koala bear in a screaming fight with an EXTREMELY pissed-off Liberal wanna-be journalist. To the best of my knowledge, it's a first for the record books.
  • Yaoi Fangirl: "I'LL GIVE YOU BOTH A MILLION DOLLARS IF YOU MAKE OUT!" "I'm just gonna say...she's good for it."
    • And "Sparky, he's got six inches and fifty pounds on you, so..." "Yeah?" "Make sure clothing gets torn. Strategic clothing."
  • Years Too Early: George Washington's most frequent go-to insult for Mulcahy is "boy," showing that he doesn't think Mulcahy has the years or the maturity to be in the position he's in.

Alternative Title(s): A Girl And Her Fed

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Webcomic/AGirlAndHerFed