Sokar: I have issues with the Schrödinger's cat experiment. [...] In the period before observing the outcome, [the cat] is said to be in "superposition," a state of both decay and not decay, meaning [it] is both dead and not dead. Observer-dependent physics undermines the gods' decision three thousand years ago to ban cats from straddling the borders of the Netherworld. We won't have it! Dresden Codak
Kimiko: I have reservations about reconciling a quantum mechanics thought experiment with Egyptian mythology. More importantly, what possible threat could superpositioned cats pose?
Sokar: Somewhere, Niels Bohr walks among us, unobserved and immortal.
is a webcomic by Aaron Diaz that has been running at an irregular (and very slow) pace since 2005. It offers whimsical humor focused on physics, philosophy, and transhumanism — except for the Hob storyline, which, while having the same focus, was much more serious. The current story, Dark Science,
starts out humorous, but this doesn't last long.
Dresden Codak is a sometimes Dada
, sometimes Mind Screw
comic focusing on the (mis)adventures of several often unrelated characters:
- Kimiko "Thunderbolt" Ross: A misanthropic, cybernetically-enhanced Mad Scientist.
- Tiny Carl Jung: Self-explanatory.
- Dmitri and Alina Tokamak: A parody of the Wonder Twins and Marvel Family. They also have similar powers, except rather than using transformation and...water... they use physics.
- "D.H." Ron Awning: A caricature of the literary-minded artsy intellectual.
- Yvonne "Vonnie" Awning: Ron's sister and a fashionable, trend-focused bureaucrat, fitting, considering she works for the Department of Taste.
- Rupert and Hubert: Two elderly Victorian scientists who live in a castle they built on the moon.
Not to be confused with The Dresden Files
or the city of Dresden, though its name is a reference to the Dresden Codex
The comic also has a number of similarly surreal one-shots, including the page that we adapted into the Essential Third Act Twists
Provides examples of:
- The Alcoholic: Father Abaddon. Apparently he found the best facial expressions in the comic◊ at the bottom of a glass.
- All of Them: As seen at the end of this strip
- Alliterative Name: Kim's dad (Kaito Kusanagi) and Kim herself as a child, before she had her surname changed.
- Anachronism Stew: Kimiko knew that a group of people were time travelers because they were dressed in a mismash of styles from all eras and segments of the 20th century, in a similar fashion to how other centuries are portrayed in modern media.
- Arc Symbol: the "rising sun" half-circle, aka the mark of Dark Science.
- Arc Words: The poem from Zhuangzi appears again years later, on the 24th page of Dark Science:
At twilight's end, the shadow's crossed,
a new world birthed, the elder lost.
Yet on the morn we wake to find
that mem'ry left so far behind.
To deafened ears we ask, unseen,
"Which is life and which the dream?"
- Art Evolution: The art quality increases immensely as the comic progressed. For full effect, compare this first strip to this more recent strip and this even more recent strip. The art is actually starting to get kind of ridiculously detailed. Perhaps not coincidentally, author Aaron Diaz considers Moebius to be his most important artistic influence.
- Artificial Limbs: Kimiko, post-Hob.
- Author Appeal: Among Diaz's four majors was Anthropology. It shows.
- Awesome McCoolname: Tons. Kimiko Sarai Kusanagi (Kim's birth name), Alina and Dmitri Tokamak, Mathias Melchior, Kaito Kusanagi.
- Belief Makes You Stupid: Be warned. The author doesn't like religious types, especially Evangelical, fundamentalist Christians.
- Bifauxnen: Kim starts rocking this look after abandoning the way-too-big dress given to her in Dark Science.
- Big Eater: Kimiko's prostheses run on glucose , which requires her to eat huge amounts of sweet stuff.
- Blue and Orange Morality: Nephilopolis has this in spades, on top of its already Vast Bureaucracy. There's the Department of Recursion which exists solely to repeat things, the Department of Inquisition which values tenure over measurable fact note , the Department of Opposition lets you commit any crime you want, provided you fill out the proper paperwork, and the Department of Taste, which determines what opinions you can have and who you can befriend.
Vonnie: I thought I could...pass you as human.
Kimiko: I am human.
Vonnie: You're foreign hardware; you'll be dismantled. Even worse, they wiped my social score. I'll never be able to afford new loved ones.
- Book Dumb: Kimiko got very poor grades in school. According to Word of God, this is because she generally didn't bother to do her schoolwork in the first place.
- Brick Joke: Alina jokes that a group of time travelers can't get in because they don't know how to use the doorknob. After a lengthy diversion about axolotls, the time travelers open the door, and make a comment implying that they had been arguing about how to work a doorknob.
- Cast of Snowflakes: Aaron Diaz makes a point to do design characters this way (mildly NSFW).
- Cast from Hit Points: Kimiko gained a streak of grey after blasting away an enemy with a fire beam
- Cerebus Syndrome: The comic started out as lighthearted and whimsical. Characters talked to Egyptian gods, Niels Bohr is apparently a cat, and everybody was all happy-happy-joy-joy-let's-go-to-the-moon-and/or-play-tabletop-RPGs. Then this came along. And then this, which seems to swing right back to comedy again.
- Changed My Jumper: The time travelers in the Hob storyline who look like mashups of several pop culture characters.
- Character Blog: Kimiko, D.H. Ron, and Tiny Carl Jung have their own Twitter accounts.
- Chekhov's Gunman: tiny Hob
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Dimitri and Alina are pretty much gone from the series from Dark Science onwards. Word of God puts this down to them being kind of boring. As for Tiny Carl Jung, who knows?
- Cloudcuckoolander: Kimiko herself, if her Twitter account is anything to go by.
- Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Possibly averted in that Kimiko seems no more or less human after losing her arm and legs in the Hob storyline.
- Considering that Diaz is an avowed transhumanist, it's pretty clear that the comic is a complete aversion.
- If anything she's more human now.
- Believed by the time travelers from the future. When talking about the mediators, they said "There were, however, those who had sacrificed their humanity to merge directly with technology." Of course they're generally depicted as Luddites and the mediator they dealt with was the somewhat misanthropic to start with Kimiko so they were probably wrong.
- Deep-Immersion Gaming: Whenever the characters engage in a tabletop roleplaying session.
- Disappeared Dad: Kimiko's father who was always away doing his job. He appears briefly at the end of the Hob storyline, and Kimiko's reaction to his presence says a lot.
- Electronic Eye: As of the Dark Science storyline, Kimiko has one brown and one (artificial) blue eye.
- Evilutionary Biologist: Some readers see Kimiko as this.
- Expressive Mask: Leviathan in the "Dark Science" arc.
- Fanservice: Surprisingly gratuitous amounts are present. Special mention goes to Kimiko naked (Mildly NSFW), and Kimiko in a loose dressing gown.
- Floating Continent: Nephilopolis
- For Science!: Kimiko's entire purpose in life.
- Fun Size: Tiny Carl Jung.
- Fun with Acronyms: M.A.D.E.M.O.I.S.E.L.L.E.
- Future Imperfect: See the Changed My Jumper point above.
- Gadgeteer Genius: Kimiko.
- Gratuitous French and Gratuitous German: The April Fools' Day movies En Deuil and A Work in Progress respectively.
- Her Codename Was Mary Sue: Kimiko's attempts at writing fan fiction.
- Hot Blooded Sideburns: Kaito Kusanagi
- Humans Are Psychic in the Future: In the first strip.
- Impractically Fancy Outfit: Kimiko borrowing a party dress from Yvonne is a rather humorous example, as the latter is taller and much... ahem, bigger than the former. Also, Vonnie's preference for Absolute Cleavage leaves Kim with some "severe structural questions" (namely how one holds up the front without using their hands).
- Infinite Canvas
- Insane Troll Logic: The Department of Inquisition in Nephilopolis believes that science is about finding the most credible explanation, so therefore the explanation of the one with the best credibility score has to be correct. That this results in them concluding a very real human standing right in front of them is really a weather balloon is neither here nor there.
: If I may -
] Department Head
: You may not.
- In Name Only: Ronnie's "adaptations." Kimiko sponsors them in order to harvest the energy of their original creators spinning in their graves.
- Ironic Hell: Hell is apparently reserved strictly for religious types. This comic also has an ironic heaven, namely, Secular Heaven, a parody of Fluffy Cloud Heaven
- La Résistance: The Department of Opposition.
- Lawful Stupid: Alongside Vast Bureaucracy, is Nephilopolis' hat. So far, every character in the story works for one department or another, and everything is regimented and regulated. You even have to fill out paperwork to have an opinion on a work of art.
- While she's normally a well-adjusted young lady, in high stress situations, Vonnie routinely reverts to citing rules and regulations, insisting that they be followed to the letter. She even called the police on herself when she was part of an unauthorized escape from custody.
- Le Film Artistique: This video, which took over the Dresden Codak website on April Fools' Day 2010.
- Lightning Gun: Leviathan can fly, and has a staff that shoots lightning. Rather than be terrified, Kim seems more interested in finding out how the hell any of that is possible.
- Literal Split Personality: Extrovert Kimiko.
- Kick the Dog: Dark Science has Mathias Melchior, Director of the Department of Opposition, who in his first appearance trips a scientist/bureaucrat carrying a huge stack of paper and tosses a old lady with a walking frame off the side of a building. But then again, that's his job.
- Mad Scientist: Kim.
- Her estranged father seems to be a bit out of touch with reality as well.
- Meaningful Name: Biblical names seem to be popular in Nephilopolis and, worryingly enough, a lot of high-ranking officials are named after demons. They also look suspiciously tanned...
- Mind Screw: Neon Genesis Evangelion makes more sense.
- Ms. Fanservice: Yvonne frequently sports an impressive Cleavage Window.
- Kimiko, more often than you'd think.
- Nerds Are Sexy
- Network Decay: Highlighted in-universe in "Spike's Guest Comic"
- New First Comics
- Nom de Mom: Kimiko changed her surname from Kusanagi to Ross after her mother died, with the implication that it was largely to slight her father.
- Noodle Incident: "Remember when Reverse Moses parted the city to escape Aqua-Pharaoh?"
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: Nephilopolis seems to be in the hands of these.
- Odd-Shaped Panel: Panels are often warped and/or arranged in unusual ways.
- Orphaned Punchline: "More like "Nothing but nyet!""
- Overly Long Name:
- Overly Narrow Superlative
- Parental Abandonment: Kimiko's mom is dead, and her dad had apparently long since buggered off to parts unknown. Then HE died.
- Plot-Relevant Age-Up
- Precision F-Strike: Two occur during the first batch of guest comics in the form of newspaper clippings.
- Quintessential British Gentleman (or gentlemen, rather): Rupert and Hubert.
- RPG Episode: The philosophy-based role-playing game "Dungeons & Discourse".
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: In the most literal form here. The dress sense appears to be a clothing (and hair) example of Color-Coded for Your Convenience
- Sacrificed Basic Skill for Awesome Training: Kim concentrated on science and let her social skills languish all her life. This is especially apparent on her Twitter account.
- Scary Shiny Glasses: Kaito Kusanagi.
- Science Hero: Kimiko. For example, defeating a flying, lightning-blasting opponent by quickly MacGyvering a giant electromagnet and tricking them into providing the juice?
- Science Is Bad: Parodied and taken to extremes in "Caveman Science Fiction".
- A similar parody of this trope appears in the lengthy comment under this comic.
- Shaggy Dog Story: Lantern Season
- Shout-Out: Kimiko "Thunderbolt" Ross (née Kimiko Sarai Kusanagi) dresses (and at times acts) a lot like her namesake.
- This guest strip has references to Fahrenheit 451, Battlefield Earth, Battlestar Galactica, I Robot, Mad Max and Snowcrash. Wait... what did that first one say about stairs?
- The stuffed animals near the beginning of this comic include Beartato and Reginald from Nedroid.
- Caspar is clearly a stand-in for Ayn Rand, considering her books titled "Wellspring" and "Nimrod Faltered"
- This page references Princess Mononoke.
- The time colonists were a parody of the primary crew of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Their leader, in particular, is a dead ringer for Patrick Stewart. He refers to his second in command as Number One and later responds to a request with "I will make it so." Another set of TNG parodies appear in "Dark Science", with a dark-skinned guard with a silver sash being a pretty clear reference to Worf.
- Unknown, but the fellows apprehending Balthazar here seem to have something of a resemblance to "Spy"
- Melchior of the Dark Science arc has an uncanny resemblance to The Thin Man from [[Film/Metropolis]].
- The ruin on an island that Melchior and Balthazar visit is a near-exact replica of the Isle of the Dead◊, which was painted by Arnold Böcklin in the late 19th century.
- The Singularity: Kimiko mentions it a few times in the comic. She (and the author) are futurists, after all.
- In addition, the time travelers are refugees from an alternate timeline where this almost happened, but they rebelled and killed off anyone beyond baseline human intelligence, and the series climax involves a second, small scale one causing a Deus Exit Machina.
- Sophisticated as Hell: Regarding Melchior:
Belphegor: His mind is an unpalatable web of lies and deception. Suffice it to say, he's an ass.
- Space Amish: The time travelers in the Hob arc destroyed future Earth because they believed post-singularity technology had taken all meaning from their lives, and they planned to colonize the past Earth and live like us "noble savages"
- Springtime for Hitler: "Your "Pay by the hour apartment" concept actually makes money. -go back 2-"
- Stuff Blowing Up: "This seems excessive on the bank's part." With a Plunger Detonator, too.
- Stupid Evil: Dmitri Tokamak's "Dark Kantian" in Advanced Dungeons and Discourse
I am compelled to do evil, regardless of its utility.
- Super Senses: According to the author, Kimiko's robotic eye shifts, the iris becoming more square, to give her better vision in low light.
- Swiss Army Appendage: Kim's artificial arm. It's apparently weaker than her real one, though.
- Talkative Loon: "Radnar!" "By the stone of Daggoth!" "Keeper of the five rings!"
- "By the moat of Maggoth!" "The cloak of Bungo!"
- "Hey, it's her."
- Teen Genius: Kimiko. Who has entered her early twenties (it says so on the cast page!), but continues to fit in the looser sense of being young, brilliant, and angsty.
- Terminally Dependent Society
- Token Evil Teammate: the Dark Kantian in this one. He is compelled to do evil, regardless of its utility.
- Transhuman: See The Singularity above.
- Truth in Television: Phantoms of a Lost Muse is based on the premise that people contribute small parts towards a greater work. Similarly, the Royal Opera house is planning to show an opera written by Twitter contributors.
- Unusual User Interface: Kimiko has a interface jack in her upper back post-Hob.
Kim: Ugh, your network tastes like old soap.
- Vast Bureaucracy: Nephilopolis not only has departments of 'Tastes' and 'Opposition', but you have to register every single robbery you commit.
Nephilopolis Poster: Register your crimes. It's the law.
- Viewers Are Geniuses:
- It does tend to refer to all sorts of weird and obscure topics; but the author, unsurprisingly, expects readers to augment their own intelligences with the Internet while reading, as mentioned in the comic comment here.
- What Year Is This?: The time travelers in the Hob storyline, when they realize Kimiko is their Big Bad.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Kimiko. Especially the strips where she flashes back to her childhood. All of 'em. Also, the board game about it.
- Word Salad Title: The title is a reference to the Dresden Codex, a Maya book considered to be the oldest written document in the New World.
- Wrench Wench: Kimiko, especially in the Hob storyline.