aka: Melon Pool
"I can't believe I let these idiots come with me..."Melonpool
— Ralph Zinobop
is a newspaper
-style Science Fiction webcomic
created by Steve Troop. It updated fairly regularly from early 1996 to late 2005 and infrequently, though with full story arcs, since. It features the incompetent crew of the Steel Duck
, usually stranded on Earth with a broken ship, which they repair and set off...only to wind up back on Earth with a broken ship again, which they then repair... As well as having full stories, usually involving duplication
and Time Travel
(most Time Travel Tropes
end up being used), it features affectionate parodies
of a wide range of Science Fiction
works and classic TV shows.
The author has also created a puppet show version.
Crew members include:
- Mayberry Melonpool, the Star Trek and Star Wars obsessed and incompetent alien captain from the planet Melotia.
- Ralph Zinobop, a bad tempered Mad Scientist (he built the Steel Duck) that looks down upon the rest of the crew. He's also an exiled prince from the planet Zinobop.
- Sam T. Dogg, an telepathic dog and the pilot of the Steel Duck. One of the only crew members with any common sense. From the planet K-9.
- Sammy the Hammy, a giant hamster (one of Ralph's experiments) that serves as the engine (runs in a hamster wheel) and is always hungry. Not very intelligent.
- Ralphie Zinobop, an opposite-personality nice clone of Ralph. Ralphie is very kind but also a nervous worry-wart.
- Roberta Smeffinfeffer, a female Melotian and the ship's doctor, despite having almost no medical experience. Arguably The Chick, though she did leave the group temporarily out of frustration. Has an on-again, off-again romance with Ralphie.
- J-LB8/Jalea Bates, a former protocol droid that was turned into a singing fembot by Ralph; she later obtains a human body in a bizzare accident and becomes much more likeable.
- The duck and Maddie the cat, who are occasionally given a crewmember's job despite being normal animals (or at least appearing to be normal...).
Contains examples of the following tropes:
- Aborted Arc: More than once, including the post-time-travel-induced-Class Z reboot, which was replaced - completely - by a more modest reset.
- Abridged Series: Steve was kind enough to draw one for the major story arcs for those that don't wanna completely go through the archives (And seeing how this reads like a newspaper comic, it is very helpful).
- Aliens Steal Cable: Melotians pick up Earth television signals through their antennae. Couch potatoness ensues.
- The Alternet: A time travel arc shows that the Ubernet now hosts all the actually useful stuff available online.
- Apocalypse How: A Class Z occurred as a result of so much Time Travel going horribly wrong.
- Bare Your Midriff: Jalea.
- Big Eater: Just saying the word "food" is enough to make Sammy abandon his post and rush for the fridge.
- Chekhov's Gun: The G.R.A.I.S.E. Quasar Pulse Cannon proves to be a literal one.
- Chekhov's Skill: Mayberry gets "Jedi training" from No-Dah, which seems to be quickly forgotten...until he uses the Force to ward off a horde of vengeful fanboys in the Zortic crossover.
- Cloning Blues: Oh so much! But mainly with Ralph and Ralphie.
- Cool Ship: The Steel Duck.
- Crossover: With It's Walky!. Rare in that it had lasting consequences for both comics.
- Ditto for the crossover with Zortic. Ralph and Splink are officially half-brothers, making Splink royalty.
- First in line to the Zinoboppian throne, in fact. He renounces his claim, having no interest in ruling. Ralph demands he do it in writing.
- Elvis Has Left the Planet: The King didn't die, he was just abducted by the G.R.A.I.S.E.
- Embarrassing Middle Name: Ralph is not happy when Fauntleroy adopts his name...
Ralph: I'll kill that bloodsucker!
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Most of Ralph's inventions are named in this fashion.
- Evil Knockoff: Mecha-Sammy.
- Evil Twin: Fauntleroy (Fixed-Dup-o-Matic'd Ralph) and Rasputin (Mirror Universe Mayberry).
- Expy: No-Dah (Yoda's "grey side" brother), C-3PO'd and Obi-Juan Kenobi.
- Facial Horror: Ralph's face gets horribly scarred after Fauntleroy drops him into a volcano. He later uses the Cerebral Swapper, leaving Fauntleroy with the scars.
- Fake Crossover: Ever wondered what happened to Lyman, Uncle Max and Opus (at least before his revival)? Yeah this comic should answer those questions for ya.
- Fan Boy: Alien ones, in fact, waiting in line on a space station to see Star Wars.
- Fembot: Jalea, before the Zinoforming Device makes her human.
- Fixed Forward-Facing Weapon: The Steel Duck's cannon.
- Five-Man Band
- Fusion Dance: The Fuse-O-Matic
- Genesis Effect: Zinoforming, a parody of the Genesis Device.
- Grand Theft Me: Ralph, Ralphie and Fauntleroy play with this often. Mayberry and Rasputin do it too.
- The G.R.A.I.S.E.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Jalea on the asteroid. The Genesis Effect revives her, and a little Brain Uploading makes her good as new.
- Identity Amnesia: Knocking out Mayberry tends to have him wake up with the personality - and skills - of a Star Trek character. Comes in handy when Gil is born.
- Interspecies Romance: Ralphie and Roberta become a couple.
- Kid from the Future: Gil.
- Klingons Love Shakespeare: The Zortic crossover has the crews of the Steel Duck and Entire Prize waiting in line to see the latest Star Wars movie on an alien space station. However, due to the distance from Earth, it turns out the "latest movie" is The Empire Strikes Back...
Zortic: I guess it takes quite awhile to get movies out in deep space.
- Then, of course, there's the whole thing with the Melotians being addicted to Earth TV.
- Kill Sat: The Steel Duck serves as this during the second Walkyverse crossover.
- Long-Lost Relative: Splink, to Ralph.
- Mad Scientist: Ralph
- Melotian Popsicle: Mayberry gets frozen in carbonite by Ralph.
Ralph: Just keep doing what you're doing. We finally found something you excel at.
- Mayberry and Ralphie later use carbonite freezing to get around a time paradox.
- Misplaced a Decimal Point: Technical guy Ralphie says he "must've missed a decimal point somewhere" during one of the time-travel paradox plots, see this line. It makes some sense in the context.
- Mix-and-Match Critters: Merv.
- Must Have Caffeine: Ralph is utterly addicted to coffee. Which later winds up nearly killing him.
- Coffee proved to be the antidote to food poisoning from spoiled G.R.A.I.S.E. rations.
- My Brain Is Big: In a Thanksgiving guest strip week, Ralph and Ralphie have oversized brain-jar craniums.
- Near Death Experience: Sam.
- New Tech Is Not Cheap: Inverted in this strip. It's because of the OLD technology (engine) that required expensive fuel.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Happens rather often when Mayberry tries to play hero...
- No Fourth Wall
- Offscreen Moment of Awesome: When Rasputin escapes from Comics Limbo, Opus is sent after him. Two days of Comics Limbo strips later, we learn Opus defeated him (after Rasputin cut 50% off the Steel Duck's travel time back to Earth).
- One Steve Limit: Avoided. Ralph's clone sticks around and decides to go by Ralphie, and even before that you had Sam T. Dog and Sammy the Hammy sharing a name
- Only Sane Man: Sam.
- Percussive Maintenance: Roberta's method for dealing with the recalcitrant ship's computer.
Mayberry: Funny; those are the same [workarounds] Ralph uses...
- Planet of Hats: Melotians are (Earth) pop culture-obsessed couch potatoes.
- Planet of Steves: All known Zinoboppians are surnamed Zinobop.
- Raised by Natives: Jalea, post-Zinoforming. Lampshaded in the Abridged Series:
Jalea: So I'm supposed to learn to be human...from a bunch of aliens?
Sammy: And a giant hamster!
- Resigned to the Call: Ralphie.
Ralphie: It sure would be nice if somebody else saved the day once in awhile!
- Rodents of Unusual Size: Sammy the Hammy.
- Royal Blood: Ralph has it, and is determined to take advantage of it. Not that it does him any good when he finally gets the chance.
Ralph: It smelled like democracy...
- Schedule Slip: The comic suffers from this very frequently.
- Scifi Bob Haircut: An alternate-timeline Jalea had to become ship's engineer; she has a much shorter hairdo than the primary timeline's as long hair around machinery proved a spectacularly bad idea.
- Shared Universe: With the Walkyverse and the pre-reboot Zorticverse.
- The Starscream: While the crew (with the (arguable) exception of Ralph) isn't evil, Ralph shows signs of this towards Mayberry, who is nominally in charge. Up to and including "fixing" the ship's cannon so it's aimed directly at the captain's chair.
Mayberry: It blew up Jalea!
Ralph: Never send a robot to do a Melotian's job...
- Tempting Fate: When Ralph installs the G.R.A.I.S.E. cannnon, he and Mayberry have the following exchange:
- Boss Plume's "alien reservation" in Roswell proves to be just asking for it.
Boss Plume: It's the perfect scam, because everyone knows there's no such thing as space aliens!
...as his aide panics, having spotted the crashing Steel Duck through the window...
- The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: The reason Ralph saves Ralphie from being eaten once.
Ralph: Nobody kills you except me.
- This Is My Chair: Mayberry insists on having a proper Captain's Chair. When the ship's front section is rebuilt, Ralph installs a roller chair. Hilarity Ensues.
- Timey-Wimey Ball: And how.
- Token Evil Teammate: Ralph.
- Wardrobe Malfunction: Done by Jalea during her fembot pop singer career, as her "training" had included episodes of Girls Gone Wild.
- Later done deliberately by Jalea to distract an audience from the fact her singing was horrible. She panicked after realising her singing talents were just J-LB8's programming and hadn't carried over when she was humanised. The other conditioning, however, had...
- X Meets Y: As the website states, "It's Star Trek meets Gilligan's Island. 'Nuff said."