Jason: Do you wake up every morning and say, "Today, I'm going to find someone's dream that's come true and put an end to it"? Davan: I look at it like this: the holiday season may have a phenomenally high suicide rate, but we can't hope to maintain that level of excellence if everyone doesn't do their part.
Davan, this has to stop, okay? You're always so negative and angry, and it worries me. You're not nearly the bad person you think you are, and things will get better. You've got to do something positive with your life.
Something*Positive is a Slice of Life webcomic by Randal Keith "R.K." Milholland based on the life and trials of Davan MacIntire, a put-upon, misanthropic author stand-in, and his best friends Aubrey Chorde, Pee-Jee Shou, and Jason Pratchett, who originated as caricatures of Milholland's real-life friends. The supporting cast includes Davan's acerbic but loving family, African-American Wiccan Kim Anansie, Pee-Jee's long-time gay man-crush Jhim Midgett, "pint-sized bisexual" T-Bob, reformed obsessive geek Mike Dowden, vain waste-of-space Kharisma Valetti, and Davan's hairless, amorphous cat Choo-Choo Bear. The cast is enormous, and various members pop in and out over the years.Most of the comic's humor is incredibly dark and cynical, with glee for potential offense; few demographics have avoided skewering by the author's strawman constructs — it is remarkably fair and balanced in that approach. However, moments of sympathy sometimes rise to the surface, as the characters may be jerks (an admitted fact by Milholland himself), but they do love each other deeply, and go out of their way to help one another. Common elements include the stupidity of the common man, geek culture, tabletop gaming, and Davan's seemingly endless parade of psychotic girlfriends.Expect a lot of Take That. To fans of the comic (particularly stupid e-mails are almost always revealed to the fans on the comic's web page, or even in actual comics), to fans of certain shows or genres, and especially to Milholland himself, as well as his comic. It's equal-opportunity cruelty at its finest and most vulgar.The title was created when the real Aubrey told Milholland to do "something positive."Connects to the Walkyverse in a number of ways: Choo Choo Bear's offspring with Sprinkles have found their way into several strips, and Davan is also friends with GWS's Candy and Queen of Wands' Kestrel. Milholland has also done some guest strips for Questionable Content that may or may not be canon; Jeph Jacques isn't telling.
Most of the cast engages in slapstick violence regardless of sex, but the women are generally more likely to threaten violence, and more likely to commit it.
Aubrey and PeeJee are both rather hot-headed and prone to impulsive violence when people anger them (especially boyfriends), or upset their friends, or when it sounds like fun. Davan makes a good punching bag when no other is available, although this alluded to in the past (Aubrey has been beating on him since their childhood). An early strip involves the two of them inviting several unsuspecting guys out to a remote location on a date, and then jumping out of hiding and beating them with baseball bats. They intended to sell the videotape of doing so as a comedy ("When Rabid Asian Girls Attack"), and the strip treats it as just some of their "wacky hijinks". To some degree, they mostly grow out of it, or at least become more controlled about it.
This strip wouldn't be half as funny if the genders were reversed. (Though in a large part, because the jokes wouldn't work.)
Abusive Parents: Ollie's father apparently beat him when he was a boy. This is probably why Ollie does everything in his power to honor and protect the reputation of his otherwise Evil Uncle Avogadro, who put a stop to the abuse by raising Ollie himself.
Avogadro is just as abusive, just in a different way. Avogadro never beat Ollie physically, but he abused the boy emotionally and sexually.
On the emotionally abusive side is Jason's father. The man is described as using his psychology skills to get under his family's skin, and Jason's anecdotes about him are pretty disturbing.
Monette's natural father. Even when trying to be nice, the best he manages to achieve is trying to send her a "I never thought you would achieve anything" card.
Davan's father is shown to be loving, but has his moments; apparently when Davan was six, his father tried to "mathematically prove to him that the Vietnam War was his fault" and recalls with a friend how they both tied their boys to the car's bumper when they wouldn't settle down. "They were tough sons of guns too! It was four miles before they started screaming!"
Rory's biological father refused to have anything to do with his son. When Rory sent a letter to him in an attempt to reach out, the jerk responded with a letter full of profanity. Rory keeps it as a reminder of who he never wants to become when he grows up.
Adult Fear: In the "Just Today" story arc, Davan's father Fred has to deal with being diagnosed with Alzheimer's. He asks his wife Faye to take the day off from work to spend time with him so he can tell her. In the end, he can't bring himself to tell her and they just spend a peaceful day together. As they go to bed for the night, she thanks him for spending the day with her and they share a goodnight kiss (the caption for this strip is "Sometimes it's about life...". The next morning, Fred realizes that Faye died in her sleep (the caption here: "Sometimes, it's about fear").
Age Cut: Davan digs out an old notebook where his friend Scotty would write up RPG stats for their toys. The last panel on this comic shows a page from the book, and the first page from the next one is the same page, over twenty years earlier.
Fluffmodeus started here. Now he's a part of Kharisma's life. (The Rant below the comic reads "I am seriously tempted to put the little blue thing into the main comic unless ransom demands are met." Presumably, they were not.)
Branwen was supposed to be a brief encounter before Davan drove her away, but someone close to Randy told him "You know, you could let Davan catch a break once in a while." She was with him for about a year, her influence lasted longer, and she's remembered as "the good one" among a string of crazy and faithless romantic mistakes. (Until Vanessa appeared.)
Mike had a series of humiliations and painful encounters, which he generally brought upon himself through thoughtless, stupid and hostile behavior.
Pepito acted like a jerk to everyone after he inherited Avogadro's fortune, and when he returned to the spotlight at a convention he was torn apart by rampaging catgirls because he was dressed as their favourite character. He was later seen in Hell, once again Avogadro's sex toy.
Kyle repeatedly lied and cheated to one of the main cast, and when caught was beaten and hospitalised.
PeeJee had a coworker who threatened to charge her with sexual harassment when PeeJee rebuffed her advances. She was suddenly eaten by a trap-door alligator that struck from the air conditioning.
Kharisma was a Rich Bitch and Brainless Beauty who really pushed this with her treatment of others, then scarred her face, tried to get Avogardo's fortune and was convicted of murder, went to prison and risked being killed, was broken out (and was still at risk of death) and lives a semi-criminal life putting her through a lot of Character Development.
Attention Deficit Creator Disorder: As well as S*P, the site hosts the occasional comics Super Stupor and Rhymes With Witch (non-S*P bits and bobs, often comics about Milholland himself), S*P 1937 (centred on Davan's great-uncle and namesake) and previously included Midnight Macabre and New Gold Dream, which went on indefinite hiatus because of personal trouble and not enough time for it all.
Author Avatar: Davan was based on Randy five years before the comic started. His character moved away from being similar to Randy, but sometimes remains his mouthpiece. Rory is based on Randy's childhood (One of the tags on a Rory-centred comic reads "'This seems...familiar' - My father").
Bi the Way: T-Bob is usually described as "a pint-sized bisexual". Vanessa is dating Davan, but wavers between being embarrassed and vocal about being attracted to women. Kim showed no sign of it until she was shown to be attracted to Kestrel. Nancy has previously dated other women, which only came to light when she invited Kestrel for a weekend away. (It turned out she had different ulterior motives for that, though.)
The first strip features an at-home abortion joke, setting the stage for things to come. Anyone who's read Something Positive has nothing to complain about: This strip is completely up front with how offensive it is from the word go.
Especially, perhaps, but certainly not exclusively, as can be seen in this 2010 strip:
Nancy: Davan, wake up. I have a problem. Davan: You live on the fifth floor; you've got a long stairwell that'll fix it for you.
Then there's his Halloween tradition of The Last Of The Trick-or-Treaters comics, which feature various supernatural monsters murdering trick-or-treating kids.
Kim has a fetish for unconscious men. Which the others didn't know when they asked her to look after Davan while he was whacked out on medication, and she takes advantage of him
Mike and the Redneck Trees. Initially, nothing actually happens to Mike. Deep-Immersion Gaming is a visual device, not something that actually affects the characters. It's not shown how graphically it was described to him, although based on his reaction, probably "very".
Then, thanks to Davan's good memory, it was reenacted. And he was actually almost publicly sodomized by a man in a tree costume. But since he was an unsympathetic Jerkass, it was played for laughs, though PeeJee diagrees, and then it happened again.
The rejection letter Davan sends to the writer of a bad play claims that "A better title for your play would be 'Rape-Rape: A Tale of Rapening'. Also, your next play should have a little less rape in it."
Body Horror: Odds are that any scene that includes Choo-Choo Bear will also include some horrible, horrible cat-related Body Horror.
Brick Joke: While most of the annual "Old Familiar Faces" strips have this in some manner (e.g. a teen that constantly used the word "gay" becoming a Gay-For-Pay pornstar), this one takes a joke that hadn't been used since the first strip and runs with it.
Gia's Daughter He bought every box, mom. How did you know?
Cat Girl: The tween cosplayers who infest some conventions and are the audience for Jason and Davan's webcomic. From the cast page:
Catgirls are a prime example of what happens when a severe need for attention mingles with the worst part of animefandom and "tween" culture. Telltale signs your child is now a catgirl: cheap plush cat ears on head, possibly a tail pinned to their pants/skirt, communicates in broken Japanese and squeals, and might have killed four classmates for saying her Twilightfanfic where Edward turns into a glittering undead catboy needed some work.
Cerebus Syndrome: Davan's best friend Scotty kills himself at the tail end of the first year of the strip, setting off sadness, depression and nostalgic looks to the past being a major point of the comic thereafter. (Which makes this a rare case of Cerebus Syndrome in which the work ... doesn't actually become any darker.)
Character Development: Mike's growth really stands out. Introduced as a misogynistic whiny Jerk Ass, he later acknowledges most of his flaws and works to become a better person, and goes on to be the first member of the cast to get into a committed relationship and become a father. When things got rough, his worst traits re-emerged, and he and Tamara even broke up for a while. However, he did manage to get his act together, and even decided to become a "real-life superhero" as the Pythagorean. No one expected much to come of it, but apparently he's become quite popular with the local community, and even got a Moment Of Awesome out of it.
Kharisma. She shredded most of her Rich Bitch/Alpha Bitch attitude while in jail, and got one of the most exciting subplots in the comic.
Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Happens to a fair amount of supporting characters, what with the huge cast. Some were dropped deliberately by the writer (Jennifer and Darrick, from early in the strip, when neither character panned out), while others just kind of faded away. This is dealt with fairly realistically, as people tend to just fall out of the others' lives.
Milholland has written that the character of Jennifer is based on a real life person he knew. She agreed to appear as a character but she was unhappy with the way she was depicted and argued with Milholland over it. Milholland dropped Jennifer from the strip and also ended up losing contact with "Jennifer" in real life.
Class Reunion: "Class of Eighty-Bore". Doubles as Nancy's introduction.
Composite Character: A few members of the cast are based off of more than one person Milholland has met, merged into one being. Lisa and Monette in particular, as well as Mike and Eva (both of whom were based off of one good person, and one bad one — with the characters branching into one or the other).
Kim: You're doing something different this time. What is it? Davan:Consenting.
Country Matters: Despite the Cluster F-Bomb he's rather notorious for, Randy is very antsy about this word, so far only using it twice, once when Mike (an utter Jerkass) is very annoyed with PeeJee, and even he stammers a bit, and once indirectly when Davan's Girl of the Week, trying to justify her cheating, asks if she's "being too blunt," and Davan replies she's "in the rhyming neighborhood." Apparently, a woman walked out of a panel discussion when he said it in Real Life.
Deep-Immersion Gaming: Whenever the comic depicts a gaming campaign in its imaginary setting, the Player Characters typically bear a resemblance to their players (usually the core gang).
Dead Fic: Midnight Macabre and New Gold Dream. At first, Randy said he would be updating them a few times a week but between life being busy and personal circumstances that left him less inclined to work on them, both went on "indefinite hiatus".
Dahlia: Right. I don't know what lies my brother's spread about this family, but there's no way you're gonna rope us in playing one of those stupid games! Right, Dad? [Cut to Fred imagining himself as a superhero] Dahlia: Dad?
Mike: And that's the great thing about PeeJee. She's got this soothing voice and calm demeanor that just makes you want to open up. PeeJee: ...or a sock full of wood screws. So, yes, it is in fact quite plausible for me to beat a pregnant woman nearly to death and not be arrested.
Disability as an Excuse for Jerkassery: As a young boy, Fred was admitted to a hospital for an ear infection, where he was antagonized at every turn by a boy in a wheel-chair, who used his disability as an excuse to rage at the world, and every other child at the hospital hates him. Eventually, Fred and his friends team up to scare him and teach him a lesson... whereupon it is revealed that the boy is in the hospital for a heart condition, and the shock of the scare ends up killing him.
Do Wrong, Right: The punchline of many strips, in the form of "that way isn't nearly as efficient/malicious/profitable/entertaining as the way I would do it".
Don't Sneak Up On Me Like That: Discovering PeeJee's has a fear of puppets, Aubrey sneaks up behind her with a handpuppet and gets her broken with a hammer.
"The laws of catgirldom are swift and merciless. Dishonor and the uncute must not be suffered to live - for all our sakes." "The kawaii...is life."
Everyone Has Standards: After the infamous Hell House Arc, Randy points out he actually had to censor most of what he researched about actual Hell Houses because they were too disgustingly horrible even for him.
Fan Dumb: In-universe examples. Mike acts like this on a regular basis, while other...creatures encountered at conventions and gaming shops represent the unpleasant side of geekery. There are also the catgirlcosplayers, who embody the worst aspects of annoying pre-teen otaku.
Foreshadowing: Jason and Davan's webcomic Neko-Neko Holy-Chan was teased for years, with Jason frequently begging Davan to start up a webcomic with him. Monette also teased cast members about her "Big Secret" for months before revealing she was starring in a TV Show.
Fourth Wall Mail Slot: "Reader Q&A" comics hosted by Choo-Choo Bear in a smoking jacket, or sometimes by Randy himself.
Hollywood New England: Set in Boston with frequent sidetrips to Texas since two of the three main protagonists hail from there.
Idealized Sex: Davan's life involves plenty of nasty aversion to cement the Chew Toy / Butt Monkey aspect of his character. Most frequently mentioned is a girl biting down the first time he received oral sex.
Intelligible Unintelligible: Both Davan and PeeJee talk to Choo-Choo Bear as if they know what he's saying. Of course, all cat owners do this, but they do seem to talk as if he's giving them intelligible replies to what they say.
The Teddy Bear Liberation Front also showed up in some Milholland-written Punch an' Pie guest strips.
There was a crossover with Girls with Slingshots, as Davan attends the wedding of two minor characters from that strip. Choo-Choo Bear is the father of kittens with Sprinkles from GWS, one of whom has been adopted by Leslie from Shortpacked!.
Don, the protagonist of Deranged, is frequently seen as a player in Davan's RPG sessions.
Helen, a supporting character from Penny and Aggie, has appeared for a storyline in which she's interviewing for a job (meaning she might stay).
PeeJee and Aubrey visit a shop named What's New, with Phil Foglio visible behind the desk, here.
Jerkass: The entire cast, in one form or another. In fact, you can usually tell when someone's supposed to be considered a positively-viewed member of the cast when they change from Straw LoserJerkass to Deadpan SnarkerJerkass. Word of God confirms that most characters are deliberately jerks, and that Davan is "an asshole, and a lot of the misery he's gone through, he brought on himself)."
Kestrel is one who mostly stays out of Jerkass territory, mostly because she was "adopted into" the comic.
Mike started out as a pure Jerk Ass, quickly became the Butt Monkey of the comic, and has recently become one of the nicest characters in the comic, comparatively speaking at least. Something somewhat similar has happened to Kharisma, maybe.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Many cast members, but particularly Davan. He might be a Jerkass, but he is always there for his friends and family, even when it's hard.
Jossed: This Q&A strip, which firmly answers the question of Davan and PeeJee as a couple, and says the only reason for ship-teasing with them is to mess with people who keep asking.
"Seriously? Davan and PeeJee? That wouldn't last five minutes."
Jumping the Shark: An in-universe example. When Davan loses interest in his online comic, instead of just ending it he deliberately shark-jumps it to try and make everyone hate it. Considering that Davan is an Author Avatar for Randy Milholland, one has to wonder...
Kaleidoscope Hair: For a long time, PeeJee would change her hair colour a lot, until Randy got tired of drawing it.
Kavorka Man: Jason. Davan also has aspects of this, on the occasions that he actually cares enough to try. For example, the first words he spoke to Branwen (whom he would later go on to date for over a year) were something along the lines of "Hey, want to go have sex?" to which she answered in the affirmative. Despite supposedly being hideous, Davan has slept with about five or six attractive women in nine years, two of them very regularly — not a bad run.
Karma Houdini: Pretty much every major, and some of the minor, characters in the strip. They have all done and said some really nasty things and suffered few consequences for them. About the only one really suffering for her actions is Kharisma, except she's in jail for a murder she didn't commit, but was trying to commit... and with the intended victim's blessing, at that.
Davan's Speech Bubble is covered up for a second time when he tells PeeJee who he called at the con (see Painting the Medium below), this time by Choo-Choo Bear bursting out of his ice cream. PeeJee reasonably says that this makes no sense:
Davan: How'd that woman in your job die again? note [[spoiler: A Canadian Trapdoor Alligator burst out of the air-conditioning vent and ate her. PeeJee: This ice cream could use sprinkles.
After years of teasing, we finally get to see the horrors of Shazam Wil-Wheaton Dowden's face. As Silas points out, it's not that horrible.
The cast list say that Kestrel "never seems to remember to fill in her last name on forms". She's the only one non-nicknamed character without a full name, because she was inherited from another author who didn't give a surname.
Laser-Guided Karma: Kharisma, who builds up a lot of bad feeling and worse behaviour, before being it all comes back on her..
Some time after breaking up with him, PeeJee discovers that Kyle has turned gay. Her friends don't fail to connect this to her habit of crushing on gay men.
Monette seeks advice on becoming a lesbian:
PeeJee: You could always have sex with Davan. Aubrey: Plenty of his lovers switched teams afterwards. Davan: Hey! Fuck you! That's only happened twice!
Law of Inverse Paternity: Played with; Davan didn't want to be Rory's father, but was at least willing to step up if he was, unlike the other candidate. Davan wound up becoming his Parental Substitute even after finding out he wasn't the dad, and admits that in retrospect he wishes he had been the father after all.
Pee-Jee once asked the question, "Why does everything that happens around here revolve around sex?" Daven mumbles, "Bad writing." But, like the first example, he was reading a book and muttering to himself to justify the fourth wall breakage.
Multiple examples in this strip. When Jason wonders where comic characters go after their strip ends, Aubrey suggests "the background of another crappier comic", before they discuss Helen (inherited from Penny and Aggie which had just concluded) and mention Kestrel (inherited from Queen of Wands when it ended). Regarding Helen, Kim tells Aubrey that "She's well-meaning, but whenever she's around, people get really pissed for some reason." Any time she appeared in S*P, Milholland would get angry emails from P&A fans upset about how he wrote her (more than for every other crossover combined, apparently.) Aubrey says she doesn't want her business to be a "dumping ground for other people's damaged goods." This refers to the reason P&A writer T. Campbell gave Helen's character to Milholland: he felt her problems now ran too deep for his own comic's setting and characters to help her out of them.
Loads and Loads of Characters: The main cast isn't overly large for a webcomic, but once you get to the former main supporting cast [Jhim, Kim, Monette] and the old familiar faces [Cab, Berenger, Claire, Anna, Lisa, Celie, the Teddy-Bear Liberation Front, etc.], things get a little crazy. Jesus-Mickey and Twitchy-Hug were killed, but we still frequently see characters show up with gaps of years between appearances.
The Maiden Name Debate: Gender inversion; Jason takes Aubrey's last name, Chorde, when they marry, at least in part as a slight against his father.
Davan: I just know Alan Moore will come after me if he finds out I liked a movie based off his work - shit!
Randy: And don't forget! Today is AlanMooremas! Go see The Watchmen. Then put your ticket stub under your pillow. If you've been a good boy or girl, Alan Moore will leave copies of Top 10 under your pillow. If you've been bad, he'll pull a coin out of your ear - then fucking choke you with it. Actually, even if you've been good, he'll probably kill you because you went to see The Watchmen movie. Seriously, I'm scared of Alan Moore. -R.
Meta Guy: Silas, an old cowpoke and omniscient narrator for some recap strips. However, he actually exists in the comic's world, where everyone just thinks he's a rambling lunatic.
Ms. Fanservice: Claire's roles in the cast's theatre productions usually involve wearing very little or her outfit being damaged and "spent most of her time as either the focus of pranks, stalking, or unbridled lechery." There is a reason for this:
Randy'' Josh, T-Bob, Claire, and another cast member named Duane volunteered to be in the strip as supporting cast - the idea was apparently too good. So, as I'd asked my friend Jhim just two days before, I inquired about limits - i.e. what can I not do to them in the strip.
"Whatever you want," Claire said.
Okay, here's a hint, ladies. If you're a sexy redhead, don't say this to a guy who draws a lot.
"No, seriously," I said. "What are my limits?"
"Do whatever you want," Claire replied. "I'm a whore for infamy."
I'm betting she regrets that right about now.
Murder the Hypotenuse: When the Teddy Bear Liberation Front returns, Meggie shows unrequited love for her partner in crime, Gregory. He seems oblivious and falls for Kharisma through writing to her and visiting her in jail. When they break her out while being transported, Gregory nurses her back to health. Then Meggie tries to remove her.
Naughty Tentacles: Well, naughty tree branches, at any rate. Poor Mike. Also, Aubrey's atttempts to making a chef/tentacle monster gay porn film.
New First Comics: Averted. If you think the first strip is funny, nothing in the rest of the comic will throw you.
Nice Guy and Nice Guys Finish Last: Subverted heavily — a major point of Milholland's (and Davan's) is that a lot of supposed "Nice Guys" are actually self-involved, self-pitying jerks like Mike, who are actually quite selfish, and only after most girls because of their looks (something they hypocritically accuse the girls of doing with the "jerks" they go out with). And that said "Nice Guys" often pretend to be girls' friends just to potentially seduce them later, while pining over them like stalkers, none of which is "nice" behavior at all.
Oblivious to His Own Description: Davan tells PeeJee he used to have a crush on a girl, but she didn't return the sentiment. They became really good friends and it ended up being for the best. PeeJee insults the girl for not realizing Davan's great, he replies that, no, she's one of his favorite people. He says goodbye and hangs up. PeeJee catches on and blushes.
One of the Boys: Monette's girlfriend Lisa attended Jason's bachelor party at a strip club.
Out of Focus: With the aforementioned Loads and Loads of Characters, this happens a lot. The occasional minor character will only appear a total of five times in six years [Davan's Furry friend Andy], and often a year goes by between Jhim or Anna's appearances, and both were once major characters (Jhim especially, once a part of the core cast). Clair, a previously major cast member, disappeared for years, and then showed up engaged and about to move away. Kim and Kestrel, major co-workers of Aubrey's and former major cast-members, also fall out of focus for six months at a time.
Most of this is done to reflect on Real Life: It's (sort of) based on Milholland's experiences. People do vanish from your life only to reappear out of nowhere.
Pćdo Hunt: Mike tried to embarrass by putting a video of a school play she was in on the internet, and ends being pursued by the police and an angry mob. The play was The Hobbit, and Aubrey wore a nude, glittering bodystocking. Oh, and she was 15 at the time.
Painting the Medium: Aubrey enters Davan's apartment and asks "Where's your furniture? It's like we're in a comic strip, but the artist is too goddamn lazy to draw in the background like he usually does." Of course, there's a perfectly good explanation: it's in storage.
Paste Eater: Monette ate crayons until she was in her early twenties, and Davan made reference to turning the habit into a fetish by finding a girl willing to "make herself an off shade of green and tattoo 'Crayola' on her ass."
Pet the Dog - Kharisma for one, prior to character development when she worked with Davan in Medicaid billing. Most of the time on screen she spent being entirely self-absorbed, unfeeling, but when she left she had a moment where she was actually, intentionally, nice to Davan telling him to quit the job for his own good.
Kharisma: I wouldn't wish this job on the worst person in the world. Or you, either. Take care. I'll be keeping good thoughts for you.
Interestingly, for a group of self-centered cynics, Davan and company seem surprisingly prone to charitable behavior (usually towards people who either haven't done them any actual wrong, or who are too outright pathetic to justify kicking around, but still).
Protagonist-Centered Morality: From an objective point of view, the protagonists are not just as bad as many of the people the comic considers antagonists... they're worse. The majority of behaviors that are often decried in the more serious moments... emotional abuse, dishonesty, disrespect, hurling insults, assault... are things that the main characters do for fun the rest of the time. Because being rude to people in your gaming group is terrible, but convincing random children that their parents don't love them is hilarious.
Real Life Writes the Plot: Milholland has confirmed that at least one character has left the strip for a while for 're-tooling', as the real-life friend the character was based off of had 'betrayed' him, and he felt he couldn't write the character the same way. Spin-off strip "Midnight Macabre" was put on hold for the same reason - implying that Lisa was the character in question.
Really Seventeen Years Old: Helen tries to get a job at Nerdrotica, though she's being underage. Nancy catches her out because of her crappy fake ID.
Schedule Slip: Conventions and other things that take Randy away from home (and sometimes strips that didn't work out or ended up longer than expected) mean he resorts to filler strips often, but tries to make up for it.
Self-Deprecation: A major source of humour, and something that keeps Davan from being a Canon Sue at times. He's as critical of himself as anybody, probably even more so. When Davan stops being Milholland's avatar, he also stops being the ugliest thing in Boston.
There are plenty of filler strips, comments below the comic and even comments within the comic where Randy mocks his appearance, his temper and his artistic, organisational and social skills.
Occasional Fourth Wall Mail Slot strips never miss an opportunity to have Choo-Choo Bear describe his creator as a lazy hack.
Off-stage Choo-Choo Bear: Wait a second. I was born because of a rush judgement and a lack of preparation and I exist only to take up space...Maybe I really am meant to embody Randy.
Aubrey: "From what few cartoonists I've met, lazy seems to be a job requirement."
The off-stage Choo-Choo Bear explains why the comic promotes conventions so much:
"Webcartoonists are feral beasts, and cons act as temporary zoos for them. Without them, they roam the land seeking food and shelter. You could find Randy, Danielle Corsetto and Jeph Jacques going through your garbage. If you're lucky."
There were a lot of really, really...really cute women there. And they all seemed to have the same "He's not nearly as hot as Davan" expression on their faces when they met me.
Settled for Gay: Branwen's parents. Her father was gay and needed a wife and family to "keep up appearances" in his professional life. Her mom just didn't like sex, but wanted a family. This had some ramifications for Bran.
Ship Tease: Word of God is that the sweet moments between Davan and PeeJee are just the author deciding to taunt fans who were hoping for a relationship between them. Lampshaded splendidly here.
Shoo Out the New Guy: A mild example. Linzie, a tattooed goth-girl character, shows up as a female partner for Davan (they have sex periodically), and appears to be added to the cast in a semi-major manner. But then she suddenly gets an actual boyfriend and vanishes completely from the strip. Very rare, in that almost all the other characters at least have "Old Familiar Faces" comics about where they've been.
In this strip, Davan and his father wear some possibly familiar-looking shirts and discuss Grand Theft Auto IV. The tagline on the comic reads: "This comic couldn't be a crappier rip-off of Penny Arcade if you dressed them in the same clothes!" "Oh, a challenge!"
In the background is a store named "Gabe's Toys and more" with the Fruit Fucker in the window.
The Devil's Panties (by Jennie Breeden): There's a "Breeden Sisters Comix" shop in the background of one panel.
There was one to Press Your Luck, of all things, where a girl that Davan slept with started talking about having a kid and Davan promptly says, "No BABY No BABY No BABY, STOP!", whacking her stomach at the end.
Skyward Scream: Coupled with a Big "NO!" - given that Jason had just turned down a threesome and accidentally woken their infant while doing so, it's fully understandable.
Strawman Political: Arguably the most frequent criticism of the strip. Many a random passerby or lesser castmember has touted some weakly-held opinion that Milholland or the cast views as idiotic, and is then berated for it.
Suicide Is Shameful: Davan tries to insult his friend Scotty out of his overdose-induced coma. Scotty flatlined. At the open casket funeral, Davan is so furious that Scotty committed suicide instead of coming to his friends and family with his problems that he throttles Scotty's corpse.
Some Guy: Man I hope you've got a hell of a way to apologize to your girlfriend, or she going to dump your ass. Mr. Shou: She's my daughter, idiot! Some Guy: Then maybe it's best you two break up, anyway.
Take Our Word for It: Mike's kid's appearance and the terrible shows the cast get involved in, especially the one Aubrey made that was so bad that the State of Massachusetts gave her a restraining order to keep her away from TV and film production gear.
Take That: Used a lot, for very many groups and fandoms — Catholics, Warhammer, old-school D&D dorks and the comic's own fans.
Rory: Mr. Sanderson explained it all to me! You put your penis in her vulva and then she... ejaculated uterine linin' after you... you shed your X chromosomes. Then her placenta was born and you both thought it was a baby and you both thought that baby was me but it wasn't! Didn't you?!
Davan: I don't know if I should punch you for telling him I had sex with his mom or for how bad a job you did explaining what that means.
This is the song I sing when I'm about to get meth."
Thermometer Gag: Davan demands his doctor take his temperature orally during a checkup, to which the doctor responds "Fine, but you're the first person to ask me to stick a rectal thermometer in his mouth."
Too Dumb to Live: Several, but special mention to Kharisma, who openly bragged about a murder bet she made with Avagadro...which bites her right square in the ass when she's convicted of his murder, even though he died of natural causes.
Transparent Closet: Lisa was never fooling her family for a second, though she thought she was and was deathly embarrassed of her orientation.
True Companions: Davan, PeeJee, Aubrey and Jason compose the core of the circle, with something like a dozen other characters forming the periphery. Lots and lots of snarking and bitching, but they've demonstrated a willingness — nay, an eagerness — to commit felonies on behalf of one another.
Unfortunate Names: Mike's kid Shazam Wil-Wheaton Dowden and the Santa actor Shirley Koklik. To some extent, Davan himself, as nobody knows how to pronounce it (it's Dah-van, not Dave-N).
PeeJee: Why would you call me "Penny-Jenny" and then act shocked that I'm prone to violent outbursts?
Wall of Text: Sometimes quite dialogue-heavy, though it's part of the comic's charm, and the producer of some of the better strips. Let's just say that Milholland really likes his characters with backstory and assumes the readers are smart enough to handle a few big speech bubbles. Here is a example, headed by the warning for those "frightened or intimidated by reading."
Webcomic Time: Which bounces back and forth: events generally keep up with the dates on which they take place, albeit a few days before and after.
Webcomics Long Runners: Started in December 2001, Milholland planned to wrap up the comic if it was still running in 2011. Having changed his mind on that, S*P is over ten years old and shows no sign of ending.
What Happened to the Mouse?: A few subplots have been dropped over the years, as different parts of character's lives get ignored (or just not focused on). Davan and Jason were initially supposed to be producing Titus Andronicus (even auditioning for it), but it got dropped when he moved to Texas. Later strips involve a play Davan re-wrote instead. Certain subplots seem to have been dropped, only to reappear later on (such as Monette's "Big Secret" — which turned out to be her TV show, and Davan and Jason's work on Neko-Neko Holy-Chan). New character Bian was introduced, but then went several months before actually meeting any of the recurring cast.
The most epic (and possibly deliberate) use was Monette's baby — she had a big pregnancy storyline, and then one strip showed her sad while somebody mentioned that she "lost her baby". It was done either really clumsily, or very Magnificent Bastardly by Randy, to the point where fans re-scoured recent Archival updates to find out when the baby really died. Turns out, that was the first time it was mentioned.
Word of God: A veritable ton of information is available about the strip and the backstory behind it by Milholland's interviews and commentaries. Just which situations are based off of real events, and which characters are based off of specific people, is often answered.
World of Snark: Virtually everyone has some sort of sarcastic jab they can pull at someone else.
Write What You Know: Among other details, Davan's awful job in Medicaid billing ("I phone people and tell them that while we're sorry their son died in a drive-by shooting, here's an $800 bill for the ambulance") was what Milholland did for a living before S*P became profitable enough to support him.
Write Who You Know: Most of the main characters, and some of the secondary cast, are based on Milholland's friends and family. Davan is based on Milholland himself as he was several years earlier, and Aubrey is based on Clarine Harp, now a fairly well-known anime voice actress. Milholland has explained that various other characters are based off of "combinations" of people he knew. Specifically, Eva was based off of two separate people (one nice girl, one a basket case), as was Mike (one got better from his misogynistic whiny geek phase, the other got worse).
You Are Fat: Mike desperately tries to change the subject and just digs himself in deeper:
Mike: Uh, hey! You're looking great! Did you lose weight or something? PeeJee: Oh, Michael, you loaded the "Are you saying I'm fat" gun and handed it to me. There are less painful ways to die, y'know.
Zany Scheme: Aubrey. Her friends realise they can only ride the wave until she loses interest or it all falls apart - until one of them works.
Later on, when said zany scheme is self-sustaining enough, she gets tired of it and goes back to her old notebooks to see if she can try again on some of her old ideas...only to discover that they all suck.