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Sinfest in its early days. From left to right: Percival, Pooch, Criminy, Monique, Squigley, and Slick.
Sinfest is a webcomic by Tatsuya Ishida, an outgrowth of a strip he originally created for the UCLA college newspaper. It's one of the longest-running webcomics around, with over 5,000 strips as of fall 2014.Sinfest started out as a lighthearted comedy revolving mainly around the goofy antics of Slick, a Calvin-esque teenaged "pimp" who was always trying to look cool and pick up chicks, and his hot friend Monique, who spent her days flirting with hot guys (of whom Slick never qualified). Other prominent characters included God, the Devil, Jesus, Buddha, and the Dragon, an embodiment of Eastern religion; Seymour and Li'l Evil, raging fanboys of God and the Devil respectively; Squigley, a stoner pig who is one of Slick's pals; The Artist, a comic artist and Ishida's Author Avatar; Percival and Pooch, the Artist's cat-and-dog duo; and Criminy, the sheltered bookworm.In its early years, Sinfest was mainly a gag-a-day comic with little regard for continuity. In addition to the humor based on the cast's foibles, it routinely played with Black Comedy scenarios, drug- and sexually-themed humor, and featured subversive pokes at the nature of religion and morality, among other topics and Running Gags. Slick and Monique's odd friendship/rivalry/something was the foundation of the comic and focus never strayed from it for long, but after a few years, other storylines became prominent, such as Criminy's chaste romance with one of the Devil's succubi, the Devil becoming a more serious antagonist, and revelations about Li'l Evil's backstory, as well as politically-themed gags and overall development for many characters.However, in October 2011, Sinfest began a huge shift in theme and focus with the introduction of the Sisterhood. This was the first step in the comic ditching almost every aspect of its old nature and turning toward a radical brand of second-wave feminism. In the current setting, society is brainwashed by a Matrix-like Patriarchy controlled by the Devil, and the comic's world is connected to an alternate reality where greed, lust, and other traits fueled by the Patriarchy are the norm. The Sisterhood have almost taken over as the main characters, while Slick and Monique have been moved to secondary status and long-time favorites such as the Dragon, Buddha, and even Criminy are barely seen. Due to the Sisterhood's influence, Monique's personality has done a complete 180, and her ties with Slick are all but erased. Several new characters have been introducednote most are in the Devil's employ, although not all are evil, and the comic is now focusing on extended storylines that can run for weeks at a time, with once-regular gags now only occasionally showing up. These changes, plus complaints about the seeming invincibility of the Sisterhood and structural issues with the storylines, as well as Ishida using the comic to take potshotsat its critics, have led to a severelyBroken Base and made Sinfest one of the most controversial webcomics around. Ishida's Reclusive Artist nature hasn't helped, as outside of a cryptic hint dropped by the Artist, no one knows what prompted the changes.
This webcomic provides examples of:
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Aborted Arc: For a while in 2012, it was nearly impossible to find a strip that didn't have something to do with the sisterhood. Then around mid-September the strips more or less abruptly stopped. However it seems to be starting up again as of the beginning of 2013.
This can be hard to detect in this comic, because he frequently interspaces the comics of an arc around filler strips and even other arcs, so an arc may be just dropped.
The Pro-Obama strips have been gone for a few years, though Squigly recently invoked him before busking for cash.
Anti-Magic: The simplest explanation of how the Reality Zone works. All forms of magical flight fail, pits to hell can't be created, and unnatural creatures either revert to a natural form (as in Squigley's case) or are slowly harmed (as with the devils.)
Anvilicious: In-Universe example. After Monique's latest heckling, Slick lampshades that she may be too blunt with her feminism and should try more subtle terms. This upsets her. In the next strip, we see Slick explaining the ramifications of being too blunt with these sorts of viewpoints.
Slick: You can't go around bashing people with a sledgehammer! You hit people on the head, you're gonna get a reaction.
For the record, the page before it is a follow-up to the "other Sunday Strip" mentioned below.
The Atoner: Curiously, Ishida himself, both in his in-comic appearances and in how he writes the strip these days. He seems very ashamed of the exploitational nature of the strip's earlier politically-incorrect humor, and to make up for it later strips have been dominated by a heavy feminist theme.
Author Tract: While in previous years the comic tended to stick towards light humour and general satire, it gradually adopted a more preachy feminist propaganda tone. These days, it's rare to see a comic that doesn't in some way promote Ishida's views.
Brainwashed and Crazy / Heel-Face Brainwashing: BOMF! Several supernatural characters have demonstrated the ability to call upon hidden aspects of mortals' personalities and render those aspects dominant, with the magnitude of the effect dependent on the degree to which the aspect was originally present in hidden form. The Buddha just temporarily calms people, but Jesus and Satan can cause permanent changes to behavior and appearance (well, permanent till the other reverts their work.) Several strips suggest more precise rules as to how this works, but taken as a whole they contradict each other—the primary influence seems to be the Rule of Funny.
Both of which may be a callback to an earlier moment involving Criminy. Also, in one Sunday strip, after The Devil and Baby Blue try to re-devil Fuchsia, we see her staring off after a butterfly as well.
Camp Gay: That one gay man that Slick ran into, who now is sort of the default gay character.
Cannot Spit It Out: Subtly with Slick. He had admitted to himself and Squigley that he truly does love Monique. However, he has been unable to tell her or explicitly show his affections for her either out of insecurity or outside forces.
In a minor arc, after Slick finds out he was created 'from leftover parts,' it is revealed God did in fact create someone for him, Monique. This implies that they are meant to be together, but their insecurities with themselves as well as what they want get in the way when outside forces don't interfere.
Cerebus Syndrome: About halfway through the comic's run, several darker elements came into play. The Devil became much more straightforwardly evil; the succubi and Death became regular characters; Hell and the tortured souls within started appearing regularly; and Uncle Sam showed up and became corrupt, then broke. Despite this, the series stayed comedic, due in large part to Character Development (see below.)
But played more and more straight as time goes on and more and more strips designed without a joke are posted. The jump has pretty much been made at this point; the only jokes are at the expense of causes the author disagrees with, and the comic is so serious that he seems to be attacking them instead or parodying them like he used to.
Character Development: Every main character has had some sort of serious character development. Those who have not completely changed their outlook on life (Monique, & Fuchsia) have been given a third dimension (most visible in Slick & Crim) with the only possible exceptions being Pooch, God, and the author avatar. The short version is Slick & Monique are considerably less selfish, Squig and Crim are braver, Fuchsia and Baby Blue have distinct personalities, Lil'E and Seymour are less dogmatic, and the Devil doesn't do comedy so much anymore. The longer version is:
Slick started out as an egotistical jackass, but took a turn to being a better person, going so far as to admitting he loves Monique. He even lost his tie, and got new shades that are not pitch black. However, that seems to have reversed itself to a degree. After a match with a succubus, he's become part devil, switching between the two personas without his knowledge.
Monique used to just be a rather two-dimensional materialistic attention whore/slut and is now a crunchy activist feminist. She's also cut her hair, gone to a much more androgynous look, and now considers her past an Old Shame.
Fuchsia started out as genuinely evil, but now is in love with Criminy, quit working for the Devil and is now essentially a soft-hearted (but short-tempered) human with a few extra features (check how her design has changed).
Criminy used to hide himself away in his Fortress of Knowledge; as his relationship with Fuchsia progressed, you saw less and less of the Fortress, until you see him completely without it. His hair is also a little more natural, where prior it was always 'in place'.
Seymour used to be a hard conservative who attacked anything outside his narrow ideals. After learning a hard lesson in humility he now shows Tangerine respect. He's still conservative and holds a grudge against Fuchsia and Baby Blue (they messed him up) but he's not quite so fast to attack now. He also seems to genuinely care about Lil'E, especially after Lil'E's recent amnesia.
After his run-in with Cupid, he became a bit goofier, but also became nicer, having comforted Squigley and the succubus Sapphire. It's shown here how much he changed compared to his conuterpart from the Sisterhood.
While not as much as Fyoosh and still very much a Card-Carrying Villain, Baby Blue is shown to have a genuine soft spot for Fuchsia and possibly some jealousy towards Criminy.
And it has recently been indicated that Blue may have joined the Devil before becoming a a Devil Girl after seeing him resurrect a dove as a bird demon after her prayers failed to save it.
Recently, we've been looking into the past of Lil'E and seeing what he's like without his devil worship.
Without his memories, he's less of a jerk that most of the cast. He's also intelligent enough to take the hints about what kind of person he used to be, put them together logically, and come up with something that worries him.
The Devil went from being a funny 'classic cartoon' style of character to being a true source of malice. He rarely seems to use his lemonade-style soul-buying stand anymore.
He it has also been implied that he has a Tragic Backstory involving Lil'Evil's mother, and that in his own strange way he cares about his son.
Squigley has been grappling with his life of excess. He ran away once to try to escape gambling debts, has dealt with his problems with food and pot. Most recently, he's been trying to deal with his addiction to pornography.
The Chase: Death. Annually, to the year, and to the zombie.
The "Reality Zone" too, since it seems to have the power to incapacitate things of Hell. Forky lost consciousness upon entering and recovered upon leaving. The Devil is apparently afraid of the place, as he refused to enter and create a hell hole there. Instead, he replied "show's over" when asked and walked away. Tangerine actually started to burn like a vampire in sunlight when she went in. Fuchsia started to disintegrate after a few seconds in it, but was fine when she left.
Chew Toy: Seymour in 2011 gets lots of screen time dedicated to making him suffer. Not that the fan base minds.
Continuity Creep: As noted above, the comic has had little to no regard to continuity in its earlier years. But extended story arcs began taking shape before so long. And old throw-away gags from earlier days have also been brought back and expanded upon, including Squigley's ability to fly his couch while high.
Fuchsia, after dealing with Seymour's Fantastic Racism one too many times, sees her angry face reflected in the water and begins to wonder if she really doesn't belong in our world, and promptly throws herself back into Hell.
Devil in Plain Sight: Quite literally. He takes Cerberus out for walks around the neighborhood and flicks off God from hilltops. At the same time, God regularly speaks to people in the form of giant hand puppets in the sky.
Evil Costume Switch: A lot of characters don't actually transform, but they have darker sides. Here we are shown three characters who transform. When Seymour is being bad or not obsessing over religion (or at least not in a negative way) he wears his police cap sideways, Uncle Sam wears a corporation hat instead of a flag hat, Slick transforms or has his split personality run wild, Squigley transforms into a werewolf, and the Artist wears a hat backwards and sprouts horns. Subverted partially by Seymour who occasionally wears his hat like that when he's high on love. The Artist, Uncle Sam, and Slick all have their lightly shaded glasses replaced with dark, pointy glasses.
Some of the strips about the presidential elections show how low or how dictatorial Ishida regards America to be.
Sam's treatment to Liberty can be seen as this. Ishida regards USA as misunderstanding the concept of "Liberty", and continues to do things that are very douchey to her without considering what she would think about it.
Fantastic Racism: Seymour in strips 3662 and 3663 directed towards Fuchsia, which also showcases his hypocrisy since one of the core tenants of Christianity is that those who are legitimately trying to change their ways should be encouraged along that path. Made even more apparent when it was earlier shown that two angels pretty much ignore her nowadays since they know she isn't evil anymore. They even give Criminy their blessing when he digs his way to hell for her since after all, love transcends all boundaries.
Seymour does seem more sympathetic towards Tangerine, trying to help her without hurting her feelings (partially so she does not hurt him), to the point where she seems to consider him a friend. Considering his enthusiasm for this happens after getting told off by Fuchsia, it might be evidence of him trying to Atone himself.
Females Are More Innocent: The series's credo for latest few years. Average male? Sorry, likely a "dudebro" and a creep visiting strip-clubs and contributing to the oppression of women. The devil girls will be revealed as more innocent than him.
The Smart Guy/Evil Genius: Tess, who shares this role with hacker Curly. Arguably she's the Smart Guy and Curly is the Evil Genius, since Tess hasn't been shown doing much other than building and maintaining the Sisterhood's equipment.
The Fundamentalist: Seymour and Lil' Evil for Christianity and Satanism, respectively. Subverted occasionally when Seymour actually practices what he preaches, only to relapse into being a massive prick some time down the road. Again, like everything else in this comic, his flip-flopping got Lampshaded as being due to the Full Moon causing a werewolf-like transformation.
Subverted with Monique, who can be random and occasionally childish, but is far from dumb.
Go Mad from the Revelation: To a minor degree, this is why God does not show his face and uses the hand puppets. His showing a image of his face to two people caused a bit of a fight. Now imagine if He showed His face to a few more people...
As previously stated, when Slick ate the Fruit of Knowledge and found out he was a cartoon character, he tried to kill himself by jumping off a cliff. That works out about as well as you'd think.
Granola Girl: Nique's starts as a generic hippy ("Peace!") and gradually turns very liberal left-wing, frequently protesting and contesting. She's even a struggling vegan. Lil' E even preferred her as his "archnemesis" over Seymour as more well-intended, at least for a time.
Monique either has no intention of taking their relationship out of the friend zone or she would, but has zero tolerance policy for his horny clownades. But she's jealous. During the "Loverboy" sequence she drives away a girl who was actually liked Slicky enough to laugh off his antics.
Slick either is interested only in Monique's butt or can't hold his brain in one pile and mouth free of drool around her. When she isn't around, he wanders off after other girls all the time. But seeing her flirting with a guy? No way. That's enough to stop his own not-yet-ruined flirt and go decry his rival in a hissyfit so stupid that even Monique who already knows him well facepalmed.
Absinthe as the naive maiden, who despise being D-man's booth babe, still conserves her mercy and sees being working for him in rose-colored glasses.
Fuchsia as the mother, who was before in Absinthe's shoes, but grew out of being a succubus to pursue for love but despise being out of that life, it left her quite messed up.
Baby Blue as the crone, she's the one who has being working for D-man the most and the most bitter and distant since Foosh leave the mansion.
Heel-Face Revolving Door: Fuchsia bounced back and forth between crushing on Criminy and actively helping Blue and the Devil antagonize Slick and Monique until her character development led her to pretty much stop being evil.
Heel-Face Turn: Fuchsia made her choice without so much as a word, over a year in making. She went initially from toying with Criminy, to being intrigued, to straight-out crush. During her crush phase, she'd still cheerfully torment others but behaved herself whenever he was around. Over the passing of time, she started to wish to become 'normal' and feel pity for the damned (perhaps in a very different Not So Different moment). Recently she's almost completely rejected her devilish nature, flat out offering comfort to the damned and rarely being shown in her succubus outfit anymore. There's been some dark foreshadowing that this could get her killed (although none of the cast has ever died yet), but also some that shows she could obtain salvation.
The succubi started out tempting Slick with lesbian trysts (which Blue is still doing) and are often seen attending the Devil.
The Devil himself takes this role occasionally, acting as a pimp. He also does NOT like it when people try to take his "bitches", at one point holding a Glock to an alien from "Pimptopia" who was seeking bitches.
Humongous Mecha: Usually fight giant monsters and each other out of the continuity.
Idiot Ball: Devil Tech snatches up the ball and gleefully runs with it. One of the more blatant examples is its policy of installing unguarded computer data-ports on the exterior walls of all its facilities.
Fuchsia spent much of her time torturing Seymour so that his already fanatical beliefs would turn him into a paranoid monster so that the devil could more easily influence him (not that they considered him a threat, but more as a toy or a joke), but she was so successful that when she tries to Heel-Face Turn, Seymour's fanatical paranoia prevents him from seeing that she's changing into something better while he's being flanderized into something worse by said paranoia. Since Seymour USED to be a better character, Fuchsia sometimes believes that he is right to condemn (she IS one of the people who helped to corrupt him) as we see here. Basically, her past actions are stopping her from turning completely through Seymour's paranoia. All is not lost as Cupid, literally shot love back into Seymour, so maybe he'll give her a chance.
Played for laughs with the Devil when he's up to his general douchebaggish behavior, and with God when he's mocking people with his hand puppets.
Lil'E, pretty much all the time until he loses his memory and he's no longer a Jerk Ass
Seymour, considered the biggest Jerk Ass in the comic, especially post 2010.
Until late 2011, when he proved that he could befriend a confused demon, and that he would not hurt Lil' Evil when the latter was down. Even further after his encounter with Cupid and became more friendly (and goofier).
Glossy. However, unlike Seymour, she's always depicted as being right, even when saying the same things as Seymour.
Seymour's words against Fuchsia. Calling her as a monster who should go back to the Hell she belongs is supposed to set him up as the Jerkass of the arc and make the reader root for the other party. But when said monster, instead of ignoring him or proving him wrong, enters into an Unstoppable Rage, goes for the Disproportionate Retribution route and immediately tries to kill him, it makes the readers think he was actually right and Fuchsia's very poor anger management, added with the very poor value of life that ensues, makes her completely unsuited to live on Earth.
JerkAssGod: Subverted; the only character that he's consistently a Jerk Ass to is the Devil. God's hand puppet mockery can come off this way occasionally, although it's mostly played for laughs and some of His "victims" actually find the caricature amusing.
John Barleycorn And Friends: After withdrawing from booze, pot, and porn for five days, Squigley starts seeing anthropomorphized joints and liquor bottles.
Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Possibly Nique, here. Also if this strip has any bearing on canon, Xanthe has gone from simply wanting equality for women and for men to reject their Dudebro programming to saying men should be SILENCED period.
Knight of Cerebus: The Trike Girl and her compatriots, while not villains and clearly intended to be protagonistic characters, also heralded in a more serious, issue-oriented side of the strip in earnest.
Xanthe, as the one who issued in the "Patriarchy" story arc.
Knight Templar: Seymour and the Sisterhood barring Nana (hacking fembots to go maverick and attempt to murder people in violation of the 1st law of robotics, calling God a dudebro, and saying "Kill All Men" on multiple occasions). Seymour has however toned down considerably since taking a level in kindness via Cupid's arrow
This is perhaps the basis of Slick and Monique's friendship. They graivtated toward one another out of lonliness and grown to be good friends as they accepted one another for how they are.
Loony Fan: Lil'Evil and Seymour, in slightly different ways. Lil'E clearly has a raging crush on the Devil and desperately wants his approval, while Seymour is such a devoted goofball fundie that he regularly fails to notice the actual Jesus since he's so busy shopping for Jesus merch.
Tangerine could arguably qualify as this for Lil' E
Marijuana Is LSD: Squigley appears at first to be subject to this, though it later becomes apparent that marijuana gives him actual powers, and flying around on his couch is neither a hallucination nor a metaphor. (He describes himself as a "shaman.")
The subject of a running gag, starting here. Possibly the cutest was "Emotopia needs hope", but almost every character gets one, from planets that need bacon to planets that need health care. Even the artist himself gets one.
Minion with an F in Evil: Thanks to Criminy's influence, Fuchsia is becoming this. She now sings songs to the damned and reads them stories.
Mood Whiplash: In this strp, Lil'E finally founds Tangerine after a long time looking or her and it's happy to know that yep, they're still friends! Next strip...They manage to stop a broken in despair Rogue Fembot of commiting seppuku.
Out of Focus: Slick during the early Patriarchy Arc. Lampshaded in this January 2012 strip. On the whole, Buddha, the dragon, the angels, the zombie, and to a lesser extent Criminy have basically disappeared ever since the Sisterhood showed up.
Plot Tumor: "Patriarchy" and boy did it grow fast (to the point where the strip has become centered on Trike Girl's actions and the ramifications of said actions). Also lampshaded by Slick in January 2012.
It did die down, although it reappeared with a vengeance around April or May, where as of July, around half of the strips (sometimes breaking to more than half) focus on this plotline, while the plots involving Storytime Zombie, Seymour, Lil'E, Tangerine, and Criminy have mostly disappeared.
Pocket Dimension: There are several pocket dimension that one can enter simply by crossing a invisible barrier marked out by a sign. One turns you into the opposite gender and the other turns everything within it to a realistic state. The latter starts to destroy any pure-blooded demons that go into it (one started to disintegrate, one seemed to have it's heart stop, and another was set on fire). They will recover if they get out in time, though. Half demons are unaffected. Many males are depicted as half the height of females outside of the Reality Zone. Inside it, they grow to normal height. Also, the Devil's powers apparently don't work in the Reality zone as he displays reluctance even step into the zone.
Drone: Sinfest: Juvenile Humor. Lowbrow. Trashy. Cultural relevance: Low.
Sex Is Evil: Maybe? It's definitely associated with Satan, and seems to be opposed to God, but that doesn't mean much in this setting. On the other hand, Criminy and Fuchsia are both the most loving couple and the least intimate, and Slick seems to love Monique more after he gives up trying to get in her pants. On the first hand again, Fuchsia and Baby Blue are gay-for-pay with each other and are clearly good friends (though they're not actually in love with each other . . .) It's confusing.
Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: The scale used to sit at the cynical end, but slowly started working its way up to the idealistic side thanks to an ever increasingly amount of strips that can't help but tug at your heartstrings.
Sometimes Pooch will wander around looking at a couple of things, and marvel in wonder, followed by Percy, who will look at the same or similar things in fear and anger. For example, Pooch sees nature as an artist, and Percy sees nature as an enemy.
So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Monique. Half the time she's flaunting it, and the other half she's mourning the consequences of having dudes fall for her left and right, especially when it leads them straight to Hell...literally.
As far as Slick and 'Nique, perhaps this is why. Not that 'Nique didn't express much the same sentiments herself earlier...
Strange Minds Think Alike: During a bout of Illuminati-fueled paranoia, Slick builds a pillow fort to protect himself. When Squigley shows up to check on him, he's very disappointed in Slick... Because everybody knows you gotta use couch cushions.
Straw Misogynist: Slick and the Devil have been the most prominent examples and are largely Played for Laughs. Straw Misogynists become quite a bit more prominent in the Sisterhood storyline. They also get used to attack those who dislike the Sisterhood.
Actually applies to most of the core male cast — Slick, Squiggley, Criminy, Seymour and Lil' Evil are roughly all half the size of the women — with the exception of the Devil (and obviously God). Oddly enough, the male supporting cast (Jesus, Uncle Sam, etc) are all of normal height.
In the reality zone, they are the exact same size as the girls. Much more realistic.
Fuchsia herself has taken one and decided she's not going to hide her relationship with Criminy any longer. She even blows up the Devil's security alarms as she proceeds to march out of the mansion. Granted, Fyoosh always had that kind of power, but she's also always been shown to cringe at the thought of having to face her boss.
The Unfair Sex: ...is the new fair. Since the Sisterhood appeared, the strip runs on this, depicting every man as a misogynistic jerk and every woman as a poor victim if any conflict arises. Even the Hell Girls are now characters much more moral and sympathetic than males, and as for Buddha and Jesus, we're simply not seeing much of them these days.
Wiki Rule: Monique has discovered a wiki devoted entirely to her, with veryup to date info on her. Also, an email to Slick from Monique saying that she made a wiki for him: SlickyWiki. Also, the webcomic now has its own wiki.