Webcomic / Spacetrawler

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Nogg: This is the bridge of the I.A. Star Banger. As you can see, you are now in outer-space.
Dustin: A spaceship in space. You aliens are just full of surprises, aren't you?

Spacetrawler (first page here) is a science fiction webcomic by Christopher Baldwin, creator of Brüno, Little Dee, and One Way.

Six humans from six continents get knocked out and abducted by a fish-like alien named Nogg. When they wake up aboard his ship, Nogg explains that he's shanghaied them into Interplanet Amity—a galactic activist group aiming to end the exploitation of the Eebs. It won't be easy: the Eebs are the only species capable of understanding and building the technology on which the entire galaxy depends, so attempting to liberate them will quite literally tick off every single government in the Galactic Organizational Body.

In spite of the odds, five of the humans agree to fight the good fight for their own reasons... and the sixth sort of tags along anyway.

Hilarity Ensues. As does some darker stuff.

The comic wrapped up its story in December 2013. But, after working on other comics for a few years, Baldwin returned to the Spacetrawler universe to begin a new story in August 2016. This time, Nogg and a brand-new crew of kidnapped humans get drawn into a war between dark planets.


Provides examples of:

  • Achievements in Ignorance: Yuri's Eeb brain graft should not have been possible. Ears are one thing, but grafted brain tissue from another species should have been immediately rejected. This foreshadows that humans and Eebs are closely related species.
  • Acquired Poison Immunity: Dimitri is convinced that he can condition himself to be stun gun resistant... by repeatedly shooting himself with a stun gun. It works.
  • Alien Non-Interference Clause:
    • "Dark Planets" home to sapient life with no significant space presence are not supposed to be contacted. The system is still ripe for exploitation: species can be declared non-sapient for spurious reasons like bad fashion sense, and species who do achieve space travel immediately become fair game for any other species to conquer.
    • The truth turns out to be more insidious. Qwahntoo, the founder of the GOB, used the classification to cut off planets he considered to be threats. For instance humans are related to the Eebs that he enslaved.
  • Always Need What You Gave Up: Yuri becomes increasingly violent, erratic, and detached from her teammates in the aftermath of getting tortured. Martina sees to it that Yuri gets psychotherapy to deal with this. The therapy-bot, trying get Yuri back on her feet as quickly as possible, erases her memories of the event, and this appears to fix her. Then, Yuri has another run-in with the alien who tortured her. When it becomes apparent that Yuri's memory loss will allow said alien to take advantage of her, the therapy-bot restores Yuri's memories—causing her to revert to her scary, violent self.
  • Anti-Advice: Dustin thoroughly establishes himself as a dumbass, so when he tries to warn Pierrot against trusting Curn, it convinces Pierrot to do exactly the opposite.
    Dustin: Don't do it! They'll suck your brains out and-
    Pierrot: Dusty thinks it's a bad idea, it must be sensible.
  • Anticlimax:
    • Kuu-Drahc is played up as a major antagonist and personal rival to Emily, culminating in the Combat by Champion scene described below. A random rockslide crushes Kuu-Drahc before the fight even begins. All Emily can say is, "Oh, come onnnn...".
    • Much later, one of the unclamped Eebs is revealed to have survived. He's found and disposed of within five pages and without any fanfare.
  • And I Must Scream: How the Spacetrawlers are made.
  • Animal Wrongs Group: This is what the rest of the galaxy views Interplanet Amity when it comes to the Eebs.
  • Apocalypse How: Planetary Extinction: The unclamped Eebs melt the surface of planet Carpsellon to slag. They do the same to several other planets, off-screen.
  • Asshole Victim: Major spoiler! The Eebs. Back when they had free will, they were violent and capricious; their own laziness and the other species' lack of challenge was the only thing keeping them from ruling the galaxy with a telekinetic crush-grip.
  • Asteroids Monster: A Ditherker will spawn multiple copies of itself just before dying.
  • Asteroid Thicket: Brograhm's Teeth, justified in that it's generated by a miniature Big Bang constantly spewing out debris that's often the size of a planet into a black hole.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Pierrot does this, capping it with a Big Damn Kiss. And it is EPIC.
  • Black Box: Eeb-derived technology is this to non-Eebs, almost without exception. Even if another species could understand the tech, the Eebs are terrible at explaining it, and everyone else just relies on Eeb slave labor rather than bothering to learn how anything works. And in the specific case of spacetrawlers, the G.O.B. goes to great lengths to hide the truth of their construction and functioning, because this information is very politically volatile.
  • Blown Across the Room: Here, Pierrot is spacewalking and the recoil from a handgun sends him flying. In the comments below, Baldwin admits that he sacrificed realism for humor on that count.
  • Brain Bleach: Yuri seems to give Dimitri reason to ask for some. Or at least some... uncomfortable cleaning implements. It's worth noting that disgusted/horrified as he is, he's still willing to try it out.
  • Brain in a Jar: Shows up in the spacetrawler construction facility.
  • Briar Patching: Played straight for a few pages when Yuri's being "tortured" by the bounty hunters, before being subverted here.
  • Brick Joke: Russian tea cookies. Also kind of Nogg's promise to Martina, but that isn't really funny...
    • Gurf's aptitude for fleet commanding. Mentioned by Gurf's mom in #88. Comes up again in #172, squeaking in at just under a year later. Not bad, eh?
  • Broken Pedestal: Rickshaw Boans, founder of Interplanet Amity, is a huge inspiration to Krep. When Rickshaw returns from parts unknown, he's even more zealous than he used to be, while Krep has undergone Character Development and is no longer so gung-ho about Rickshaw's "shoot first, ask questions later, and take no prisoners" approach.
  • Burial in Space: Martina.
  • Catch a Falling Star: Emily and Growp fall out a several-story window together; they both steal passing hover-bikes on the way down.
  • Cats Are Mean: Flienous the Rhilzzan, then Yuri.
  • Centipede's Dilemma: Krep is great at multi-wielding laser guns... as long as he doesn't think too hard about what each of his tentacles is doing.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The Man Behind the Man hides in plain sight (both for the readers, and in-universe), well before his true importance to the plot is revealed. He's that nameless guy standing behind Kuu-Drahc at G.O.B. meetings.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Dimitri gives Dal many opportunities to sever her G.O.B. ties and prove her loyalty to him. Every single time, she uses the opportunity to try to kill Dimitri.
  • Clip Its Wings: Martina doesn't like killing, and suggests shooting the wings off enemy spacefighters as an alternative. Emily, the one manning the guns, thinks it's stupid.
    Martina: That said, is there any way out of this without killing them?
    Emily: Nopers.
    Martina: Don't suppose you could just aim for their wings?
    Emily: I'M NOT GOING TO FUCKING AIM AT THEIR WINGS!
  • Combat by Champion: When Emily realizes that her side is outgunned in the space dogfight with the G.O.B., she goads Kuu-Drahc into halting the battle so the two of them can fight one-on-one and hand-to-hand.
  • Crapsack World: Ask any question about this verse. Imagine the most horrifying answer you can think of. Chances are, the real answer will be even worse.
  • Crazy-Prepared: It turns out the underground Mihrrgoots aren't just practitioners of Obfuscating Stupidity; they make plans for practically any contingency that they could have possibly foreseen. And a few extra, just in case.
    King: The same being who would actually plant ninety-two, and hope you missed some.
  • The Cuckoo Lander Was Right: The crazy Conspiracy Theorist seen here. Four of her theories on that page have already been proven true, and the rest aren't completely implausible either, given the nature of the strip.
  • Did You Get a New Haircut?: Some people take longer than others to notice Yuri's aforementioned transformation.
  • Don't Think, Feel: Martina's approach to space combat during the fight with the Bollycks.
  • The Dragon: The Affably Evil lizardlike bodyguard Growp.
  • Dumbass Has a Point:
    Dustin: See, there you go again? You are a killer. You have a Brain Clamper. Just clamp them.
    Martina: [Beat Panel] Well, at least my humiliation is complete. That's a very good idea.
  • Dying Race: The Harlzoids, who briefly appear in the backstory. Nogg and Choan try to save them; Kuu-Drahc gives them an improperly-calibrated food synthesizer which poisons them all.
  • Embarrassing Old Photo: Gurf's mom is armed with one of these, but subverted when it's actually a photo of Gurf's bum when he got an electroflange stuck in it.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Brograhm killed his entire home planet with acid bombs. A group of ruthless killers saw a video feed of the deaths, and they were so shaken they gave up their life of crime and took low-stress office jobs.
    • The G.O.B.'s spacetrawler factory is staffed by entirely convicted criminals, mostly mass murderers. The process of making Spacetrawlers is enough to make them all break down in tears.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Brekt, the loony-sounding conspiracy theorist, is offered a place in Nogg's crew. She turns it down: "I may be nuts, but I'm not that crazy!"
  • Evil Laugh:
  • Exact Eavesdropping: Deliberately employed, so that "prisoners" can think they're "escaping" when they're actually being set free.
  • Extreme Doormat: The Eebs literally have no willpower. And the Qiyemps are Suicidal Pacifists.
  • Fake Weakness: Easy to pull off when one's torturer knows nothing of human physiology. "No! Dear God, don't make me eat chocolate! It burns!" Until they decide to start cutting off limbs instead...
  • Faking the Dead: Dimitri uses holograms to convince the G.O.B. that their assassin succeeded in killing him.
  • Fantastic Racism: In the Spacetrawler universe, grounds for legally declaring a species non-sentient include lack of willpower and bad fashion sense. (On paper, at least. Political expediency seems to be the real reason: non-sentient species are easier to exploit.)
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: Spaceships travel at greased light speed, whose technobabble may be some of the silliest ever written.
  • A Fate Worse Than Death: What happens to the Eebs involved in spacetrawler construction.
  • Finishing Stomp: Twice an antagonist tries to crush Emily's head under their boot. Both times, someone rescues her before they can finish.
  • Foregone Conclusion: In the framing story, Nogg says that Martina has died.
  • Framing Device: The entire story is being related by Nogg to Mr. Zorilla after the fact.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: The Eebs, good lord.
  • "Gift of the Magi" Plot: "This is very similar to the story of 'The Bowthwit and the Carnunkle's Bum'." "If that's anything like 'The Gift of the Magi' on acid, I'd have to agree."
  • Guns Akimbo: Emily does that a lot.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Averted with the majority of the alien women Dmitri sleeps with. Except Red-9 since Eebs are related to humans.
  • The Hedonist: Choan's a self-admitted one.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • When it becomes necessary to forcibly restrain Yuri, Martina uses a bomb that Yuri herself asked the Eebs to make.
    • Major spoiler! The Eebs invented the brain clamp technology, and they were the ones who started using it on themselves. By the time the rest of the galaxy decided to enslave them, only a half-dozen of them remained unclamped.
  • Humanoid Aliens: Rather few of them actually.
  • Humans Are Warriors: Shaix makes that assumption.
  • I Lied
    Flineous: Wait a second. How is that sporting ?
    Yuri: It's not. I lied.
  • I'm Standing Right Here: King, here.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: The Eebs are almost as fond of alcohol as Dimitri is.
  • Intelligent Gerbil: Some of the aliens are this, such as Flienous (who looks like a humanoid cat) and Growp (looks like a humanoid lizard).
  • Interspecies Romance:
    • Curn and Oohlooh.
    • Martina and Luunock. Nogg does some hasty backpedaling when he realizes Mr. Zorilla doesn't want to hear how far they went.
  • Irony: Of the Situational variety. Rickshaw Boans suspects that Krep is not sufficient committed to the cause, so he kicks Krep out of Interplanet Amity to prevent him from undermining the latest mission. This act finally convinces Krep that Rickshaw isn't such a great guy after all—and prompts him to go and deliberately undermine Rickshaw's mission.
  • It Tastes Like Feet: Dimitri points out that the coffee tastes like asteroids. After all, it was synthesized from space debris.
  • Jar Potty: The potty-bot's entire raison d'etre.
  • Just a Machine: The robots themselves admit as much.
  • Justified Title: Due to the events of the first series, all spacetrawler technology is discontinued and abandoned. To prevent Spacetrawler from becoming an Artifact Title (and to piss off Nogg), the I.A. Starbanger gets renamed to G.O.B. Spacetrawler in the second series.
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better:
    • Bollyck pirates are immune to lasers. Dimitri's primitive bullet-firing handgun, however, not so much.
    • Averted when Emily tries to shoot Qwahntoo with said bullet-firing handgun. Turns out he has a subcutaneous fluid layer that functions as a shock-absorber, rendering the impact of bullets a nuisance.
  • Klingons Love Shakespeare: Dimitri licenses his recipe for Russian tea cookies. It becomes wildly popular on multiple planets, and Dimitri makes a fortune.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Mr. Zorilla calls out Nogg for the way his narrative jumps between plot threads willy-nilly, and for the gratuitous cliffhangers.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: It's a relatively trivial procedure to erase (or restore) memories. The subterranean Mihrrgoots make liberal use of this to prevent the outside universe from learning of their existence. And the therapy-bot (who used to be a bar-bot) speeds up Yuri's counseling by erasing her traumatic memories.
  • Latex Spacesuit
  • Mad Scientist: Eebs, when given vague instructions to build something, can have some odd ideas. I.e. when Dmitri told a group of them to construct a means of leaving the hotel without being seen adding legs to the hotel and floating it out on a river of lava have to be shot down before one of them suggests a tunneling machine, that makes beer.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Qwahntoo is the real brains behind the GOB, and Kuu-Drahc, the apex speaker is just the public face. Amusingly, in his first appearance Qwahntoo is literally standing behind Kuu-Drahc.
  • Matter Replicator: Ships have on-board replicators, which can manufacture anything from gathered space debris.
  • Military Mashup Machine: The Purfin M-32, coolest all-terrain boat-jet ever.
  • Missed the Call: Nogg never meant to take Dusty on the Eeb liberation mission. He was trying to recruit Dusty's twin brother, Bill.
  • Moment Killer: Pierrot manages to do it to himself, by taking a break from smooching with Emily to apologize for the love triangle that he just ended.
  • Mood Dissonance: The style is a colorful, classic "space-adventure" look, but the world and events are rather darker.
  • Mood Whiplash: Frequently.
  • More Teeth than the Osmond Family: The Mihrrgoots.
  • Mugging the Monster: Specifically, the Broken Bird Death Seeker.
  • Mutilation Interrogation: How Yuri lost her limbs.
  • No Biochemical Barriers: Handwaved by the approxiscan devices, which scan the biology of encountered creatures to identify compatible foodstuffs, atmospheres, and (to Dimitri's great interest) romantic partners.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: The humans mostly feel this way. Nogg thinks this attitude will get them all killed.
  • Note to Self: Pierrot finds out some important information about the Eebs just before he's scheduled to receive some Laser-Guided Amnesia, so he writes himself a letter summarizing it. Post-amnesia, he reads the letter and almost immediately dismisses it.
  • No Transhumanism Allowed: Cyborg prosthesis is treated as normal, though not apparently common. But when Choan asks Yuri about her bioaugmentation, Nogg's indignant response suggests that bioaugmentation isn't well-regarded by some folks.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Everyone knows the Mihrrgoots are violent, smelly brutes with a taste for other sentient beings. That's just the surface population who are inbred descendants of a few drunks. The subterranean population is sophisticated and has more advanced technology than the Eebs.
  • Oh Crap!: Panel eight, here. Somewhat literal, in this case.
    Eeb: As an example of our power, we will rain down fire on the nearby planet of Carpsellon and melt every last thing on the surface to slag simply by using our minds. From the information we now have, this "rain of fire" will be analogous to one's morning poo after enjoying a really satisfying spicy meal.
    Everyone on the planet's surface: O.O
    Dimitri: "I mean... the implications... are..." *blank stare*
  • Omnicidal Maniac: The unclamped Eebs.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Growp's thoughts on Emily. It's his twisted way of saying that he loves her. Taken to its logical conclusion - He takes a laser blast for her.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: What clues Martina in to the fact that Red-9 is an unclamped Eeb— she exercises free will, up to and including dishonesty and defying orders.
  • Pass the Popcorn: Potty-bot offers the Ditherkers popcorn while watching Emily and Pierrot "negotiate" with Qwahntoo.
  • Patriotic Fervor: Dustin.
    Dustin: Long live the Australian federal constitutional monarchy under a parliamentary democracy!
  • Planet of Hats:
    • The Eebs are a species of telekinetic gadgeteers with zero willpower. Major spoilers!The lack of willpower is eventually justified—it's a result of the artificial brain-clamping that Eebs receive at birth. However, the unclamped Eebs are capricious, and range from amoral to complete assholes.
    • The Flimboulxians (i.e. Krep's species) artificially bred stupidity out of themselves. This had a side effect of making them all jerks.
    • The Tornites all have terrible fashion sense.
    • It's implied that the Bollycks are all violent and ill-tempered.
    • Qiyemps are all pacifists, to the extent of being completely spineless.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: How spacetrawlers work, and the real reason why details on their construction are so carefully guarded. It's so bad, that only the most vicious and horrific criminals in the galaxy are used as (brain-clamped) labor on the space station that creates the trawlers—and even those criminals break down and cry like a baby when they learn the truth about spacetrawlers.
  • Power-Strain Blackout: Eebs (and Yuri with her Eeb brain implants) will black out if they strain their telekinesis by moving objects that are too massive. Too much of this strain can outright kill them. It's later revealed that this limitation is a result of brain-clamping — we've yet to see an upper limit on how much matter an unclamped Eeb can move telekinetically.
  • Press-Ganged: Nogg's recruitment drive.
  • Put Down Your Gun and Step Away: Qwahntoo tries this line on Emily when he has Pierrot as his hostage. Emily knows that complying will get them all killed, so she just shoots Qwahntoo instead.
  • Putting the Band Back Together: Subverted in the second series. Nogg invites Dmitri to come on the new mission, and claims he's getting the old gang back together. Dmitri rattles off a list of reasons why every member of "the old gang" either can't or won't join Nogg.
    [Beat Panel]
    Nogg: Us three and you are kinda like a gang. You wanna come?
    Dmitri: Nahhh.
  • Psychic Powers: Eebs have telekinesis (as does Yuri after having one's brain tissue implanted), though they pass out and risk dying.
    "Plus it's boring."
  • Pyromaniac: The unclamped Eebs prefer to use pyrokinesis to kill their enemies. And they have a lot of enemies.
  • Recursive Creators: The Mihrrgoots mastered nanotechnology by building robots, who built smaller robots, who built even smaller robots...
  • Restraining Bolt: Brain clamps, capable of robbing the clampee's free will and reducing any psychic powers they may have.
  • Set the World on Fire: The unclamped Eebs do this first to Carpsellon and then to every other inhabited planet they come across.
  • Shoot Out the Lock: "Hmm. No luck. That always works in movies."
  • Shoot the Dog:
    • When it becomes undeniable that Dal is dangerous to Interplanet Amity and simply cannot be trusted, Dimitri kills her.
    • When the situation aboard the spacetrawler construction facility gets really bad, and all Martina's attempts to prevent further bloodshed fail, she realizes her best remaining option is to blow up the station, killing everyone aboard. So she does it.
  • Slave Liberation: The main plot of the comic.
  • Slave Race: The Eebs.
  • Smug Super: The unclamped Eebs. Who saw that coming?!
  • Space Opera: The whole nature of the story.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Curn and Oohlooh are biologically incompatible species. Each of them breathes gasses that are toxic to the other, and they can't touch each other without dying.
  • Static Stun Gun
  • Stupid Sacrifice: Played for laughs when Gurf intercepts a laser blast to protect Emily. Emily then points out that it was a stun-ray, and that the now-unconscious Gurf is the heaviest member of their squad.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: The Ditherkers that an assassin siccs on Emily are modified to chase their target, and only their target, until they bring it down or starve to death trying. They track by scent, cling to the hull of a spaceship moving at greased-light speed (and don't suffocate), and asexually reproduce when killed.
  • Take a Third Option: Emily in her fight against Growp.
  • Taking the Bullet: Growp dies protecting Emily this way. Then Gurf gets knocked out, also protecting Emily this way.
  • Tell Him I'm Not Speaking to Him: The comic has a variant where it's less about refusing to speak, and more about recruiting the third party to bolster their argument, and the third party is an Extreme Doormat.
    Nogg: Cardinal 62. Tell them we're the good guys.
    Cardinal-62: (To Emily) We're the good guys.
    Emily: Well, tell alien-fish that I know a dozen good seafood recipes he'd go lovely in.
    Cardinal-62: (To Nogg) She knows a dozen good seafood recipes you'd go lovely in.
    Nogg: Well, you tell her that —
  • There Are No Therapists: Zig-zagged. Nogg does have a Therapy-bot for his crew, but it's terrible at the job. Later, Martina recognizes that the crew needs a good therapist, so she replaces Therapy-bot with Bartender-bot, ordering the latter to study and utilize human methods of psychology. He makes some decent progress at first, then the guy who mutilated Yuri shows up and they're back to square one.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Qwahntoo realizing the purpose of Emily force-feeding him her own severed fingers... as he's surrounded by baying Ditherkers. Gory Discretion Shot ensues.
  • Throwing Your Dagger Always Works: Well, except if it hits handle-first. Which keeps the target complaining about it hurting long enough to get over there and stab them.
  • Toilet Humor: The potty-bot.
  • Translator Microbes: A brain-implanted language chip. In the first series, it's implanted by putting on a helmet. In the second, Nogg can implant them just by zapping the subject with a gun.
  • Trash Talk: Emily, but that should hardly come as a surprise given her You Fight Like a Cow antics with Growp.
  • Ultraterrestrials: The Eebs diverged from humanity a couple hundred thousand years ago, and used their telekinesis to leave earth when they got tired of dealing with non-telekinetics. The obvious physical differences are due to Eebongbong's higher gravity and something in the food.
  • Unfortunate Names: King renames the I.A. Starbanger to the G.O.B. Spacetrawler.
    Nogg: You're naming our ship after the galaxy's worst known torture device?
    King: If you'd ever had to sit through a meeting with yourself, you'd understand.
  • Unplanned Crossdressing: Choan accidentally shredded Dimitri's clothes, so he has to make a daring escape in one of her nightgowns.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Mr. Zorilla's reaction to Nogg.
    • Yuri's reaction to Nogg.
    • Dimitri in a skimpy pink nightgown, see Unplanned Crossdressing above. Pierrot is the only one to even notice.
  • Vodka Drunkenski: Dimitri.
  • Weapons-Grade Vocabulary: When some Eebs were asked to "tell us a joke", they built a computer to synthesize the funniest joke ever. The result is so hilarious that the punchline wiped out the asker's entire species. Fortunately for the rest of the universe, the punchline depends on a nuance of language that gets completely lost in translation, so no one else gets it.
  • Who Shot JFK?: According to the (possibly-correct) ramblings of a conspiracy theorist, "J.F.K." was an alien shape-shifter and a fugitive member of the secret society (the same one that controls the G.O.B.). He went into hiding by becoming a president on Earth, and the secret society sent an alien assassin to kill him.
  • Worthy Opponent: Emily becomes one for Growp. That's why he fell in love with her.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: Dmitri goes to the alternate universe on the far side of the Draak-sim and comes back in an hour, with grey hair.
  • You Fight Like a Cow: Every fight between Emily and Growp involves much back-and-forth quipping.


http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Webcomic/Spacetrawler?from=Main.Spacetrawler