Harbourmaster is an original science-fiction Web Comic by Melissa DeHaan, a.k.a. Wayward Martian (a.k.a. author of the Insecticomics), that draws on the concepts of Theodore Sturgeon. Two centuries into beginning their exploration of the galaxy, humanity encountered a stray Aquaan colony ship, the Aquaans being a much more advanced alien race. The Aquaans, however, decided to voluntarily slow down their advancement in favor of helping humanity acclimate to the needs of spacefaring society.Harbourmaster focuses on the colony world of Tethys, the only known world to have its own landbound species, the entomorphs. The focus of the strip is on how Humans and Aquaans relate to each other. To quote the main site, "Harbourmaster has spaceships and genetic engineering and aliens, but mostly it's about evolution and love."Harbourmaster can be found on the author's "Wayward Martian Graphics" website; the comic pages (along with other art) are also posted in the "Harbourmaster" folder of the author's deviantART gallery.
Always Chaotic Evil: The Yogzarthu, although good luck telling them that. Chaotic Evil from a human or Aquaan viewpoint, yes...
Ambiguously Brown: Except on Veras, which is obsessed with maintaining all the semblances humanity had before the Yogzarthu desolated Earth (and earlier than that), most humans are some shade of tan/brown/sepia. This is indeed the result of lineages mixing together during human spacefaring, although there are a few recognizable—and non-Veran—Asian and Caucasian archetypes. Emphasis on "few". Absolute similarity is interdicted not just by planetary genetic localization, but by the fact that a fair number of humans use Aquaan genetic engineering to alter their own semblances—the genetic version of cosmetic surgery.
Anachronic Order: Most of the story is in time order, but quite a few chapters jump back in time to cover earlier events in the lives of the characters.
aahahahaha, oh man, I started at Richard's speech bubble I had to reread it three times before getting it I'm not criticising just deeply amused: you weren't kidding when you said he was supposed to be bad
Crosses over with Translation Convention on Page 2 of "Pulp", when Richard Stevenson wakes up and Zefonith tries to converse with him: Zefonith's dialogue is rendered as English written out in the International Phonetic Alphabet to represent the fact that Richard can't understand Standard.
Page 20 of "Pulp" adds a second cypher, representing Richard speaking in incomprehensible English to Officer Lake; the letters are transformed versions of the usual Latin alphabet.
Zefonith: Of course. No one has ever cloned the memories of a body this old before. I will do it for science. I will do it for fame. And for money. Lots of money.
Death or Glory Attack: The mechanism of the Last Hunt ritual of the entomorphs. A hunter who feels she's become too slow and/or weak to aid the hive will invite friends to take witness as she assails some predator that even a completely healthy and extremely adept hunter would be in a bind to kill. If the predator wins (the likely result, especially since leviathans are a legitimate option), she enjoyed a worthy end to a full life. If the hunter wins, her self-confidence is heavily revitalized with this evidence of still being competent, and she once again aids in feeding the colony.
Dirty Old Man: Javin is not above resorting to this to polish his reputation as the town's official "Public Nuisance".
Gender Misdirection: A curious version of this involves pronouns referring to entomorphs. The entomorph language doesn't have gendered pronouns; pronouns refer instead to an entomorph's caste. Rather than mint new words for entomorph pronouns, humans just re-mapped their own pronouns for new entomorph-specific definitions. For example, "she" is mapped to a member of the entomorphs' hunter caste. So it's completely proper to refer to a male entomorph hunter with "she" and "her". Imagine the confusion if someone completely unfamiliar with this makes Tethys landfall.
It is also confusing with the Aquaans themselves. Consider this page, and study carefully. The author admitted she struggled with whether to put a NSFW tag on this page and the ones that follow in that chapter. Why? Because while both characters portrayed are hermaphrodites, and they are not displaying any genitalia to the reader, the lighter-skinned Gilou prefers to identify by a female pronoun, and in several panels you can see "her" chest.
Generation Ship: The history of the Aquaans only goes back as far as their life on one such vessel, prior to discovering humanity.
Genetic Engineering is the New Nuke: The Aquaans have a society strongly built on genetic adjustments, particularly on themselves. In fact, when the humans first encountered them, the Aquaans were built like skinks and crocodiles. They only took on their humanoid shapes to avoid freaking out humans. There's also the Super Soldiers developed to fight off the Yogzarthu. Unlike type, though, they're not engines of bloodlust. In fact, Jendolyn hates films with lots of crime and violence; she'd prefer her entertainment to not remind her of the criminal problems Tethys occasionally suffers. (Her non-soldier girlfriend, on the other hand...)
Go Mad from the Revelation: When a Qohathoth monument was discovered on Mars, some groups had a hard time believing and/or accepting that there could be sapients besides humans (read: they weren't unequivocally special). At least one group thought they could only be demons—and this group had some rather impressive weaponry.
Hermaphrodite: Although individual Aquaans have preferred pronouns, they're all genuine hermaphrodites.
Humans Are Special: Gets deconstructed in the With More, With Less arc. The entomorphs are aware that humans cannot help but "let" the entomorphs be self-determinate. Not because of anything peculiar to the human psyche or the like, but just because humans are the ones with the far more potent weapons et al. That said, the entomorphs do like humans and a select few of their devices (mostly PDAs with their texting capability), but understand that however benevolent the giant might be, its moments of carelessness, while not malevolent, can easily be malign.
Tal:Would you like me to translate? Gilou: Better not. We don't want to tempt Javin. Javin: How am I supposed to get his reaction to our world if you don't? Though it's pretty easy to read him. Has he said anything yet that isn't an insult? Tal: ...you can tell?
Just Think of the Potential: Anfre Sovi is all over this in the Disputed Territory arc in his attempts to get Tal to ignore the treaty with the entomorphs in favor of development that would de-backwater Tethys. He's just the latest in a bunch of would-be developers who can't believe the Tethyns are content with being a relative backwater.
Loners Are Freaks: Inverted with the Yogzarthu. If you're not a total loner, there's something wrong with you. Exhibit A: When Eigonshazar refers to itself and Aradneth as having a capability for cooperating with others, they only way the Yogzarthu language will let it phrase this as is "being mad".
Overly Long Name: Bretnon Falstoph Perius Tallifens Monteblanc LVII. He never uses the whole thing except to poke fun at his aristocratic past. In every other instance, "Tal Monteblanc" or "Tal" are quite sufficient.
Painting the Medium: Whenever non-human/Aquaan speech and language are rendered, a different speech bubble type and font are used. Entomorphs, for instance, get speech bubbles like irregular polygons and letters like single scratch mark collections. Yogzarthu get beige, irregularly scalloped speech bubbles with handwritten-like font that connects the tails and stems of letters at various intervals (it's supposed to reflect the fluid qualities of the thought patterns of creatures for whom Voluntary Shapeshifting is second nature).
Please Put Some Clothes On: One of the early arcs has a tourist woman incensed at her entomorph guide's "nudity"—as in, she isn't wearing anything like pants, skirt, etc. Despite the fact that entomorphs are insects, not mammals, and should look armored to humans, as Tal notes. Twinkletoes putting on an ad-hoc skirt mollifies the woman, sure enough. Although one wonders how she'd react when she learns that entomorphs, like dragonflies, have their genitalia bound to the tips of their tails (which aren't covered).
Precursors: The Qohathoth. Their motivation? Loneliness. The reason they terraformed so many planets was that they wanted to at least make sure that succeeding sapient species wouldn't suffer the same torment.
Single-Biome Planet: Tethys is essentially an Ocean Planet, although given the emphasis on the creatures above sea level, we haven't yet had much cause to look at all the pelagic biomes there might be.
The Social Darwinist: The entire Yogzarthu species, full-tilt. That's why they attempted to destroy humanity, but also why humans could defeat them—Yogzarthu really only act individually, teamwork hampered by an innate drive to dominate and/or destroy the weaker/unfit (read: every other creature). Humans don't quite have that problem.
Jendolyn: A cougar can take down a wolf...but wolves hunt in packs.
It's worth noting that their big hint that humans were hopelessly unfit was that they went to the trouble of terraforming. To a Yogzarthu, that's cheating—you don't get to use advanced mentality to come up with shortcuts. Either your body can already happily endure whatever Death World it might run across, or the Yogzarthu who noticed you will cull you ahead of schedule.
Starfish Language: Entomorph language consists not just of vocalizations (which already use mandibles, rather than vocal cords), but pheromone releases. Therefore, they use PDAs to communicate with humans. Although they love PDAs for more than just that (they can more easily communicate over long distances, for one).
Sufficiently Advanced Aliens: While humanity for the most part understands that the Qohathoth were just these, there's still a tendency to fetishize them as just short of demigods. The main exception to that is the Listeners, who deify the Qohathoth.
Theme Naming: Yogzarthu don't just choose their own names, but also attach epithets. And epithets that don't suggest multiplicity in some fashion (Flock, Sundry, Plentiful, Legion, etc.) are all but non-existent.
The Unpronounceable: Iahutta, Aradneth, Sihuatl, and so on are just the best approximations that vocal cords can come up with for Yogzarthu names. The reason is that Yogzarthu names are actually all just one syllable each—with all the consonant phonemes in question. A sneeze would be more accurate, but still completely distant. Having modular voice boxes is how the Yogzarthu themselves can pull it off.