—Laurie (to Candi)
The Ciem webcomic series is a dramatic pastiche
from Dozerfleet Productions, which specializes in playing around with various comic book and drama tropes whilst simultaneously showing off the storyboard capabilities of mixing Photoshop with The Sims 2
. The series features the misadventures of the titular Candice "Candi" Marie "Stevens" Flippo-Levens-McArthur / Ciem, a teenage girl in 2019 who finds out that Phaelite aliens mutated her father while he was a baby, which allows her to have centipede powers. From there, she realizes that she is supposed to help her Big Screwed-Up Family
battle their archnemeses: The genocidal
Hebbleskin Gang, made up of Meethlite aliens.Willing to go along with it
, albeit on her own terms, she tries to also get into college and manage her love life. Cue several loved ones being killed left and right
, several averted apocalypses
, and even a few pseudo-governmental conspiracies to turn her and her sisters into Duke Arfaas' trophies
, and the Determined Widow
becomes more determined than ever to finally settle down
. In the meantime, she struggles with doubt, compromise, fear, lack of self-confidence, guilt, wangst
, her boyfriend's health problems, and how to help Botan the Plant-Man get his wish
The trilogy initially began as an Affectionate Parody
of the Spider-Man film series
, and was a Spin-Off
of an obscure comic called The Battle for Gerosha
, before becoming an entity all unto itself. Due to its heavy reliance on The Sims
and related Game Mods
as rendering tools, several tropes from that game are played with and repurposed rather freely.
In spite of coming out around the same time as Starline Hodge's much more popular Candi
, the two have nothing to do with each other, in spite of some remarkable similarities
Also, in spite the first story's original subtitle, it has absolutely nothing to do with the Dutch horror film series The Human Centipede
. In fact, the realization of them being Similarly-Named Works
actually resulted in Writer Revolt
, where the author of Ciem
decided to create an Ultimate Universe
in novella form to justify renaming the first story "Ciem: Vigilante Centipede." And while that
is in Development Hell
, it has still gotten some high marks as a promotional tool for UGO.com, for the fact that nearly every character from the cast can be easily re-created with their HeroMachine software.
Ciem: Vigilante Centipede
Serving as an origin story, Ciem
tells the origins of Candi Levens, an onyro-haired
teenage hermit and amateur crimefighter who was born with centipede-themed superpowers and several venomous tentacles (reduced in size to glorified stingers in later versions
) that hide inside her arms and legs, called her "centilegs." She is revealed to have a boyfriend, a nearing-retirement superhero named Donte McArthur/Emeraldon. Her sisters reveal to her that her family is more dysfunctional
than she originally cared to know.
One afternoon, Candi decides to show up late for a party that her hacker sister Miriam is going to, so she can practice her centi-fu
fighting skills and say goodbye to her boyfriend before he goes off to war
on an alien planet
. She doesn't detain him as long as she would've liked to. But as soon as he leaves, she ends up in a fight to the death with a Not Brainwashed
ex-boyfriend from her grade school years, who is working for the genocidal Hebbleskin Gang. She learns that this Meethlite alien gang, led by Duke Arfaas, wants her and her sisters' heads as trophies, in an effort to fight back against an oracle in which a "Gifted One" of the "li Po
" would destroy Arfaas' last remaining monsters, signifying the end of the Hebbleskin Gang.
To make a long story short, her boyfriend becomes a prisoner of war and is rumored dead. Her parental-figure sister Erin is brutally murdered
, and Miriam is now about to go into hiding. Candi herself has a Heroic BSOD
at hearing the news, and moves to a nearby university town to give her life a fresh start. After a few adventures in crimefighting, it becomes obvious that the police are behaving in an unusual manner, and Meethlite activity in the area is increasing. She eventually meets the charming-but-troubled Denny Levens. This man seems to be all too aware of how messed-up the town of Viron really is
, and quickly forms an alliance with Candi.
Arfaas and his gang finally decide that their target, the Gifted Flippo, is hiding somewhere in plain sight. Having taken control of the Dirbine Police, they decide to send a monster to do everyone else's dirty work, but have trouble finding the perfect take. They eventually create a metallic shrew costume, complete with an evil AI that will turn the wearer into a Brainwashed
killing machine servant. This leads to them abducting Jeraime Malestrom, and turning him into their cyborg's glorified beating heart.
After failing to help an alien experimentation victim named Jeral Cormier, Candi decides to give Denny a chance at dating her. However, the fact that she does so, and the fact that she attends Viron University, led some townsfolk to assume the worst about her
. Old enemies begin haunting Candi as visions when she cannot overcome her newfound bad reputation. This culminates in Denny barely surviving an attempt on his life by one of the very same Meethlites
that murdered Erin, which causes Candi to feel little sympathy
when that Meethlite
blows himself up
dies after losing in battle.
Not sure what else to do, Candi and Denny decide to get married. Big mistake
! Candi soon learns that after about a month of being pregnant, she's been effectively Brought Down to Normal
enough to be unable to protect her new Muggle husband. And that's when Musaran's killing spree escalates
! After several more Musaran-related murders leads to both Denny and Angie (Candi's daughter) dying, Candi decides she's had enough, and takes several levels in badass
to become an orange-suited freedom fighter.
A Mexican community starts cheering for the great Ciempies
that rescued one of their own from a villain who was fond of children
, so the news begins calling her "Ciem." Candi then learns that her original boyfriend Donte might still be alive
, and decides that part of her quest to save her hometown must involve saving Donte from impending doom.
This story has been spread around on CD's at some colleges and wherever else it could be spread while the author waited for an opportunity to publish it online in its original format
. It is therefore one of the most aggressive comics pushing for mainstream acceptance of the DVD-Storybook Hybrid Webcomic Format
. It is also in forum syndication
on a few Internet forums, such as The Dozerfleet Forum
and Mod The Sims Social
Ironically, its Comprehensive Gerosha
novel series will not
be an aggressive push for DSHW Machinomics
. However, the original webcomic may receive a remake in the future that replaces the Classic Gerosha continuity
with the newly reconstructed tale.
In the sequel, Donte is broke and can't seem to get a job. Candi takes pity on him, and after the couple succumb to their sexual desires a few times, Candi begins questioning why they haven't married yet. Donte also reveals that he promised a friend that if that friend and his wife both died, he'd adopt their son. But a pesky gay couple that's stalking Donte won't let that happen, and the judge will only rule in Candi and Donte's favor if they agree to marry.
But not so fast! While Candi and Donte are figuring out the future of their relationship, Candi's sister Miriam finds herself thrust into a ridiculous Government Conspiracy
that involves several close calls with Chinese government agents and terrorists. Donte, now battling cancer, must go to Ploribus for treatment and leave Candi behind to deal with all her life's problems alone. She soon finds herself playing bodyguard to Miriam, while all Hell breaks loose in Dirbine.
Adding to the complications the two sisters face is Miriam's old seafarer friend Simon Aardvonius, who's been turned into the megalomaniacal, termite-lusting Captain Aardwulf by the Hebbleskin Gang as punishment for not keeping up with extortion payments. Capp Aard sets his sights on creating a "Termite Farm Empire" to satisfy his never-ending desire to eat termites. To do that, he reasons he has to steal as many precious jewels as possible and ransom them. Who better for the job than Playful Hacker
Miriam "Sniperbadger" Flippo?
Then, the radioactive Ming-Yo
gets loose in Dirbine, with a sexy CIA agent battling everything in her path to get to it first. Having problems with her powers, Candi suspects she may be pregnant again. Miriam confirms that she is also pregnant, with twins. With the world stacked against them, the two sisters must band together for safety. But can they rebuild their lives and redeem themselves from their past indiscretions
By Ciem 3
, Candi and Donte are happily married. They aren't as rich as they used to be, but at least things are looking up. Candi is now done with her schooling at Viron University. The couple is planning to move to Kentucky eventually. They finally have two children, Charlie (adopted) and Frank (the result of their indiscretions in Ciem 2
.) Candi has taken up a job at a bar since Donte still can't find work. Ciem is popular with the public. Duke Arfaas' death has recently become public knowledge.
Several of Candi's surviving old enemies band together to seek the ultimate vengeance against her. A ninja named Kimiyato "Milp" Hiriyama tries unsuccessfully to frame Candi for child abuse, and then goes One-Winged Angel
on Dirbine after Candi is captured by the same ex-government conspirator that originally made life so difficult for Miriam. Having risen through the Meethlite ranks quickly, the insane Lloyd Kolumn traps Candi and several other Supers in a dungeon the Meethlites built along the California coastline. Candi is sentenced to death by beheading, and forced to wait a week and a half to march to her own death. A bracelet she is forced to wear lies to her body and tells her she is pregnant, so her body stops having powers that work consistently. Reluctantly resigned to her fate, she begins assuming a motherly role to her more traumatized cell mates, who are sentenced to be drowned when the facility is to be deliberately flooded on Candi's assigned execution date.
Ploribus, out of youth formula and fearing the Reaper
, decides to to nothing. Dolly
gets fed up with this, and steals a suit from Ploribus that was in-turn stolen from the Meethlites. She uses it to become The Earwig, and do the jobs that nobody else seems willing to: 1) Rescue Candi and 2) fight Candi's enemies in Candi's absence. It soon becomes obvious to Dolly, however, that her new suit's helmet is slowly driving her insane with its Ax-Crazy
proclivities. She resolves to use its power to rescue Candi before she loses her soul to it
This leads to several violent escapades, and narrow escapes from death by almost every heroic character not in the shelter of Ploribus' underground base. Afterwards, it culminates in an enormous battle, where Candi, Dolly, Charlotte, and Kyle must fight Kimi for the soul of Jeral Cormier / Botan, and the future of Dirbine.
open/close all folders
Tropes found in this trilogy
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot / Clothes Make the Maniac: Musaran. And later Dolly as The Earwig. Of course, the AI's way of controlling Jeraime's mind and body inside the Musaran helmet is hard to distinguish from Demonic Possession, especially seeing how it loves killing so much, even after being set free from Arfaas' control.
- Anyone Can Die
- The Atoner: Nearly all the good characters, for something. Though Candi disproportionately mentally beats herself up over the slightest moral failures.
- Attempted Rape: Don attempts to rape Candi. So does Eddie, who also attempts to rape a skater named Amy. Jeff the Invisible had a perfect opportunity, but tried and failed to guillotine her instead.
- Marina was raped (statutory) several times, and it took her until she got pregnant at 18 to get her life in order.
- Miriam and Phil avoid the need for this, because both were of the age of consent at the time.
- This doesn't make Miriam feel any better when Phil commits suicide.
- Always Chaotic Evil: Most monsters created by the Hebbleskin Gang.
- And Your Little Dog Too: A history of having been near-raped by Don? Whatever. Candi can handle that. Being tossed into a burning building by Don? Fine. Why not be killed by the man that nearly defiled her once before? But when Don threatens to rape Miriam, Candi snaps.
- Bullet Time
- Centuition: Depicted as a "phantom screaming" in Candi's ears.
- Chest Insignia: The centipedes, the septagons on Emeraldon and Sapphire King's costumes, etc.
- Clairvoyance: Candi's "psychic radar," partially the result of her centipede inheritance.
- Date Rape Averted: Candi dodges Eddie's darts, prevents him from having his way with Amy, AND knocks HIM out! Also, Miriam is rescued from a gangbanger by Teal Hog.
- Deadly Dodging / Gun Kata
- The Dragon: Musaran in the first story. Capp Aard in the second. In the third, Milp starts out as one for Kolumn, before rebelling and stealing the title of Big Bad. At this point, Botan becomes her "dragon." Several lesser dragons, such as Lobe, are also in the third one.
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: Denny Levens, though it was more like the foot of a giant, metallic shrew. Followed by a suicide bomber. Later, various other characters meet with a Family-Unfriendly Death.
- Expository Hairstyle Change: Taken to extremes in Ciem 1, where Candi alternates amongst 8 different hairstyles across 32 chapters (averaging a new style every four.) Granted, a few of these are just dye jobs, but that still makes for about 4 or 5 actual styles. Partially justified in that she's trying to hide from genocidal alien gangsters, and by the fact that the story covers over 2 years'-worth of her life. Also understandable, as it's a DSHW machinomic made with The Sims 2, which practically encourages players to toy around with hairstyles.
- Flying Brick: Emeraldon and Sapphire King
- Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: The Phaelites, Meethlites, and their monster factories. The result is carriers for conditions whose children may become the future monster armies of either feuding species. However, they have, in a few instances, used nuking and genetic engineering together to create monsters in only one generation.
- The Gifted One: What Erin, Stan, Shalia, (and some of the Meethlites' affiliates) believe Candi is. They could be wrong. Dolly is the actual prophesied destroyer of the Hebbleskin Gang's last legacy, as "liPo" stood for "library position," not "Flippo."
- Gollum Made Me Do It: Jeraime, finally able to distinguish himself from Musaran, is still unable to free himself from Musaran's control. Dolly uses this to rationalize to herself why she needs to eventually destroy the Earwig suit helmet, even though she's powerless without it.
- Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Many of Miriam's lines.
- He/She's Back: Candi obviously gets this treatment. The first time around, she comes back with an actual suit, arsenal, and alias. The second time this happens to her, she seems less concerned with restoring her dignity and more concerned with merely finishing what she started. Donte also has this happen twice. Miriam has it happen, in a cyberspace sort of way, once.
- Large Ham: Too many to list here. But basically anyone who isn't The Stoic or Deadpan Snarker will be a Large Ham instead. Villains often combine this with Monster Misogyny, as it makes them look extra evil.
- Mad Scientist: The Phaelites and the Meethlites, but the Hebbleskin Gang and Insila Murtillo (Ploribus' mother) in particular. The only reason that Centhuens, Centhuen Prototypes, Milthuens, Milthuen Prototypes, AI-possessed homocidal maniacs, werewolves, and other types of monster are even possible. That, and Zeran Holes.
- Morning Sickness: Averted. Apparently, losing one's superpowers (and a general sense of fatigue and loss of courage) is punishment enough.
- Named After Somebody Famous / Shout-Out: Dolly Malestrom is named after Dolly the Cloned Sheep. Her future son will be named Gunther.
- Oh Crap: Nearly everyone has this feeling at least once.
- Off With Her Head: What Arfaas and the Hebbleskin Gang are obsessed with doing to all of Shalia's daughters. He wants her sons to be disemboweled, but Reily is a low priority.
- Our Ghosts Are Different: Details under the Trivia page.
- Out, Damned Spot!: Candi can't get over her guilt over Erin's death, Don's death, Denny's death, losing her virginity to Denny instead of Donte, or any number of other things; for many years. Frustration leads her to sometimes alleviate her feelings of shame and responsibility in ways that just make her feel even more guilty.
- Ploribus Philippine is Useless: Well, except when reclaiming a city in a fantastic takeover. Otherwise, he can be an invisible jerk.
- Reflective Eyes: The Ciem mask.
- Roof Hopping: Ciem
- Sex Is Evil: Well, fornication, but not necessarily sex in general. Erin drilled her fear of anything even remotely related to sex into her sisters' heads, until they couldn't take it anymore.
- Sexy Discretion Shot / Gaussian Girl: LOTS of them. To name a few: Miriam and Phil. Candi and Denny (both Candi's Erotic Dream and the couple's actual first time. Candi and Donte get a few as well. With Miriam and Steve, their addiction to sex is only alluded to.
- Shotgun Wedding: Marina and Matt, although their affair happens offscreen.
- Same deal with Steve and Miriam.
- Candi and Donte's wedding in the sequel isn't a shotgun wedding in the commonly-understood sense, since Candi doesn't confirm she is pregnant until after she and Donte have adopted Charlie, after the wedding.
- Shout-Out/Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: The webcomic's chapters alone are loaded with this.
- Split Personality Takeover: Musaran again, as well as Henry Malestrom/Musaran II. Later happens to Simon Aardvonius/Capp Aard, and to Dolly/Earwig in part three.
- Star-Crossed Lovers: Candi and Donte. They get together once; and he becomes a prisoner of war. They get back together, and he develops cancer. They get married; and there is danger at nearly every turn. Then, she finally dies. Yes, they got together, but it wasn't easy.
- Superpower Lottery: Candi, Miriam, and Marina, in spite looking like identical triplets, are actually fraternal. Candi's egg from Shalia was the "lucky one," that accepted the centipede genetics that were infused into Stan's DNA. The result is that the centipede-tainted sperm finally produced a successful Centhuen Prototype that could span more. The other Flippo children all remain normal human beings.
- Thriving Ghost Town: In spite being fairly well-populated, the Dirbine area seems very sparsely physically occupied in areas were denser populations seem more logical.
- This is due to the video game engine only allowing eight controllable players per lot at a time.
- What Have I Done: Candi has several moments of feeling this way. Donte, Denny, and Jeral; also have moments like these.
- Weaksauce Weakness: Pregnancy makes Candi's powers not work right! Therefore, she wouldn't want to be on the pill, even if she believed in it.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds / Emo: Jeral/Botan, especially when being controlled by an AI backvisor.
Tropes in the first story
- Anachronism Stew / Zeerust: The town of Gerosha is slowly catching up culturally with the world around it. Meanwhile, nearly everyone in the year 2021 is still using CRT computer monitors!
- Handwaved in that the Montinel Corporation still manufactures them. Used in the story because:
- CRT's were still common in 2007, when the snapshots were taken, and:
- There are limited options in The Sims 2 by default for newer monitor technologies.
- Bury Your Lesbians: Claire Rauscher, who jumps out a window to escape Musaran, and breaks her neck. While she did little harm to anyone in the story, Musaran is nevertheless intent on killing her. For her, Failure Is the Only Option.
- Clark Kenting: When Candi pretends her last name is Stevens, her haircut and fake glasses are the only things that obscure her identity as Candi Flippo. It doesn't fool Denny.
- Depraved Bisexual: Poison Dart Eddie
- Exploding Computer Monitors Can Do Anything
- Flowers for Algernon Syndrome: Musaran made Jeraime very powerful, but also psychotic. Jeraime was only freed from Musaran's control at the cost of his eyesight. Yet, he is just thankful to be alive and have his wife Dolly back.
- Foe Yay: Kimi's taunting of Candi in chapter 15 of story 1 may seem a bit like Xerxes trying to demoralize Leonidas.
- From a Certain Point of View: What Donte tells Merle to protect Candi's secret identity. How she was able to fool security is another matter.
- Suffice to say, she needs a far more elaborate plot to escape in the book, as no Real Life modern police station would build the city jail to look like a medieval dungeon.
- "Get out of Jail Free" Card: Dolly and Lindsay use dynamite as one.
- Grandpa God: Sort of. Rev. Wilbur Brocklyn is a kindly preacher (who curiously resembles Morgan Freeman slightly) that is known for the occasional psychological smackdown of his own congregation through his bizarre sermons.
kill Mary? Then why pick on Viron students? (Indirectly indicting Pete and Nolle for persecuting Candi
- While not God, he is an effective mouthpiece.
- Hollywood Nerd: Candi, though she's not actually all that nerdy (that would be Miriam.) Nevertheless, she is hated rather disproportionately for someone with her good looks.
- Kangaroo Court: Taken to ridiculous extremes: Candi, Donte, Dolly, Lindsay, and more are not even given the luxury of a show trial! They are simply thrown into cells buried in dark chambers and marked for eventual death. Merle, however, doesn't think it important to install cameras, in the vague chance that, maybe, someone down there might escape!
- Les Collaborateurs: Merle Hourvitz and his police are Hebbleskin Gang pawns.
- Magical Abortion: Sort of. Angie is born live, but dies a few hours later while battling Kimiyato's evil powers and destroying them. This leads to a very pissed off Kimi, who vows revenge on Candi.
- Marquee Alter Ego: Candi spends most of the story (the first 23 chapters) without her iconic costume. Even after getting it, she only spends five of the remaining chapters in it at any point in time. It gets a little more use in the sequels, where the suit is now able to be worn in pieces instead of all at once.
- Meaningful Funeral: For Candi and Donte, Denny and Angie's funeral is a matter of closure and a chance to move to the next phase of their lives. It also keeps them from getting insane about each other too soon. They don't seem able to get many others to want to attend a funeral for Candi's fallen family, suggesting that:
- Viron is made of cold fish and
- The Meethlites are still powerful and intimidating.
- Murder the Hypotenuse: Sort of. Denny meets with a gruesome death, but it's Musaran, not Donte, that kills him.
- Prison Rape: Donte's capture, which doubles as an Alien Abduction.
- While not actually raped; he is stripped of his powers, beaten, aged rapidly, and given cancer.
- His loss of self esteem upon recovery makes him less concerned about protecting his (and Candi's) sexual integrity, and leads the two of them to sexual addiction to each other in the sequel.
- The Password Is Always Swordfish: The password on the library computer in which Candi learns where Donte is being kept is "DieLevens." Why would the Meethlites make it so easy?
- Promotion to Parent: Erin Flippo, the oldest of the Flippo sisters.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Some rushed production on later chapters was due to the writer having to make more time for school-related projects. Also, Denny's problems with the debit card thief-turned-suicide bomber Kelsea Linney were based on the author's Real Life problems with a not-quite-as-psychotic hairstylist. (No, not that one!)
- Real Person Cameo: Kelsea Linney (though her face is never shown,) Merdie Dolon, Niles Beldon, Amelia Kayne, Yuri Krennt, Kathy Rittney, Dhalia Lorrice, Laurie Pegol, and Stella Oggles are all based on either Internet forum users or Ferris State students/faculty that the author knew between the years of 2004-2007. Of these, only Laurie Pegol is ever seen in the sequel.
- Replacement Love Interest: What Denny tries to be in Candi's life when they both believe Donte is dead. Becomes one more source of regret threatening to drive Candi insane when Denny dies.
- Jack attempts to be this in the book. Candi decides her feelings for Donte are so genuine, that Jack should accept what he got from her as little more than a one night's stand. (And considering her frame of mind at the time, it almost counts as rape.) She does help him find another girl, so he takes her rejection of him surprisingly well.
- Satellite Love Interest: Not deemed canon in-universe, but neither of Candi's husbands gets very much Character Development outside of their relationship with her; so, to the readers/audience at least, Donte and Denny may appear somewhat shallow. Made worse by the fact that if they (especially Donte) weren't forced out of her life, (temporarily or otherwise,) there wouldn't be much of a plot.
- Screaming Birth: Angie is about to be born, right after Candi loses Denny (and her house)!
- Shout-Out / Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Most of the chapter titles parody/shout out to either the names of various tropes or quotes or titles from films. Many are named after lines from either William Shakespeare or The Bible. Examples have been moved to Trivia.
- Stuffed into the Fridge / A Million Is a Statistic: Musaran's victims are possibly in the hundreds.
Tropes in Ciem 2
Tropes in Ciem 3