is a webcomic with a whole lot of words
created by Winston Rowntree. Created in 2007, this comic is a Deconstruction parade,
where the author deconstructs everything from video game characters to tropes themselves, such as Cannot Spit It Out
. Most of the events appear to take place in the same city, although other locales are used, such as Hell or some undefined time in the past. Some of his works are hilarious, some are depressing, and others are somewhere in the middle where you can't figure out what you're supposed to gain from it.
This comic is rather subjective; many readers enjoy it for the messages they receive from it, and others dislike it for how hard Winston tries to hammer in his morality. In this comic, you do just as much reading as you would if you were reading a book, it just has pictures to go with it. Somewhat of a Light Novel
, except the art style is more reminiscent of western comic books than Japanese Manga.
Rowntree also writes an irregularly updated sister comic for Cracked
.com called Abnormality. Its strips are narrower (to fit the website's layout), generally shorter and rarely plot-driven. Many of them are humorous infographics. they're accessible from Rowntree's author page.
For convenience all page images taken from Abnormality link to this page. He also contributes to Cracked's After Hours
series, providing illustrations for Michael's brain.
It can be found here
Provides examples of:
- Adam Westing: Cited here, as "The Emperor has no clothes - and he knows it. But he's not pretending to have clothes, and he plays to the crowd, who appreciate his honesty."
- Affably Evil: The Sphynx is usually rather polite. (And she got upset once because no-one appreciated it.)
- Afraid of Blood: Roundtree declares that he "faints at even the description of blood."
- Alt Text: Occasionally.
- Alternate History: Various popular counterfactual scenarios are displayed in the Museum of the Theoretical.
- Alternate Universe: One where your size is proportional to your intelligence.
- And I Must Scream: Apparently the source of those little figurines.
- Anthropomorphic Personification: Various times. Hollywood is a giant brightly colored man who steals books, television is a woman who tells amazing stories before suddenly screaming at her friends for all their imperfections for two minutes, and the News Media is a really depressing and weirdly spiritual boyfriend.
- Author Appeal: Most of his women are drawn with hairy arms and legs.
- Bait and Switch: These two
- Beauty Equals Goodness: Characters with selfish and mean interiors have wrinked faces, snout noses, and/or pointed teeth. Characters meant to be bland and generic will look exactly that. Sympathetic characters, even those employed by hell, will either be beautiful or Ugly Cute. Curiously, this actually works well within the comic's style. The artist clearly enjoys drawing grotesque, insane things. One notable exception to this is the author self-insert comics, Rowntree seems to be happy to depict himself honestly. And, well, for the sake of politeness lets just say he's not exactly a super-model.
- Bechdel Test: Passes with flying colors. (Even more so if one of the two women doesn't have to be human, which the Sphynx is not.)
- Benevolent Boss: Deconstructed
- Black Comedy: Pretty much the whole idea of the strip.
- Blessed Are the Cheesemakers: Everything's better with CHEESE!
- Blatant Lies: The Sphynx, after saving a woman's life, tries to pass it off as...
- Blue and Orange Morality: The Sphynx, apparently. It's fine for her to kill and eat people since she's not human, whereas a human cannibal is shown to have ended up in Hell. (Her "reasoning" is that she's simply higher on the food chain. Of course, the Sphynx isn't actually dead yet.
- Of course, in another strip, where she protests that she's not even close to being one of the top 100 causes of death among humans, she admits that it would be "kind of neat" to be on that list...
- Bi the Way: One of the recurring characters, who is a demon from hell. Since she dates humans, this is also a case of Interspecies Romance.
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Seen here, panel two
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: The Truth Ninja helps a couple avoid a serial killer.
- Brick Joke:
- Sexy Theodore Roosevelt. We know. He was sexy to begin with.
- Bernard and his red-haired accomplice from "Bernard" (comic #69) reappear as the men running the booth in "The Superconvenient Nonreligious Confessional" (comic #203). A throwaway line establishes that Bernard's first business had made him independently wealthy.
- Brutal Honesty:
- Casual Time Travel: Among other instances, to Ancient Egypt. "People will travel back in time to previous eras and blend in with the locals because even a theocratic Bronze Age dictatorship seems more sophisticated than their own society sometimes."
- Character Development: Exhibited by a few of the recurring characters. Compare the Sphinx here and here.
- Crapsack World: Well, it does seem like roughly half the population of this place consists of evil beings who try to lure the other half to their doom. But not all of them are mean about it.
- Cute Monster Girl: Some of the demons in hell. Except when the find out the damned souls are liking it, then they turn frumpy just to screw with them. And the Sphynx, who looks awfully cute even as she thinks up new ways to devour humans.
- Deconstructor Fleet: As stated above.
- Demonization: Apparently, Margaret Thatcher is a Xenomorph who is obsessed with nuclear weapons. Ronald Reagan, on the other hand, prefers to express himself through freestyle rap. The joke being that both were run through an "exaggeration engine" thus apparently explaining their grotesque forms and bizarre behavior... only to be revealed that said engine wasn't even turned on, which only somewhat destroys the point.
- Despair Event Horizon: Aside from "Not Worth It!", the Sphynx opts to use this as a means of calming her meals, making them Driven to Suicide. Those poor baby chicks... And she gave up this tactic because people no longer found her stories depressing.
- Distracted by the Sexy: The demon-date, an intellectual version.
- Disturbing Statistic: There's a game show called "Not Worth It" which uses this trope in its quiz questions.
- Easter Eggs:
- The almost insane number of visual eggs that are in pretty much every single comic. A very good example of this trope in action is The Metaphor's New Clothes (warning: contains nudity). You can very easily use this strip as a roadmap to Rowntree's views on politics, religion, and media.
- The Museum of the Theoretical has a bunch in every panel.
- Equal-Opportunity Offender
- Even Evil Has Standards: Sure, the Sphinx kills and usually eats passerby, but she would never dream of having sex with her own son.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Characters that are meant to embody an archetype, many, many names of businesses and products in the background signage, and the awards in this comic.
- Expository Hairstyle Change: In this strip, the pink-haired girl's decision to quit her soul-crushing waitressing job results in her instantly getting her pink hair back.
- And in this strip, applying for the flight attendant job switches it back to brown.
- Extreme Doormat: The Pink-Haired Girl - see Too Dumb to Live for more, plus The Boardgame!
- Failure Is the Only Option: The entire point of "Can't Win", where a sinner insists he'll be the one to best Hell, much to the chagrin of Devil #76. He doesn't.
- False Reassurance: Sure, she was lying about the skinhead cook, rat poison in the soup, and rival biker gangs wrecking the place - but the table legs ARE made of frozen rats.
- For Halloween, I Am Going as Myself: As the demon girl puts it, "God, Halloween's fantastic. For one day you can wander around freely and everyone just thinks you're wearing a costume. It's really rather nice." Frankenstein's Monster is also showing up as himself on that occasion.
- For Want of a Nail: The trope-namer is referenced in the background of the last panel.
- Fourth Wall Observer: This pair have a habit of doing so.
- Funny Background Event: Rowntree likes to fill the background with various signage and headline gags. As with MAD, these are often funnier than the main dialogue or situation of a given comic.
- Genre Blind: The man in this strip thinks it a good idea to buy a newspaper with the headline "Local Man Devoured by Newspaper Box" from a newspaper box. No points awarded for guessing what happens next.
- Godwin's Law of Time Travel: In full force in this strip. In fact, it's used as instantly recognizable evidence that time travel has occurred.
- Going Commando: Ms. Fanservice casually admits she lost her underwear while trying on a swimsuit and just decided to go without. "But is underwear even really necessary these days?... Maybe I'll just go ahead and 86 the panties in the future."
- Heroic Comedic Sociopath: The Sphynx kills humans all the time, but it's played for laughs. It helps that she seems to dine mainly on Jerkass Victims.
- Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act:
- Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Subverted, as the Horsemen presented turn out not to be the biblical ones, but the Horsemen of the "Atheist" Apocalypse, respectively Science, Progress, Reason, and Equality. Rather than heralding the end of the world, they create a utopia.
- Humans Are the Real Monsters: Expressed by many characters, especially the Sphinx. However she does mention they have redeeming qualities in Monsters Playing Poker
- I'm a Humanitarian: A guy that ends up in Hell admits to having been a cannibalistic serial killer, but denies not cleaning up after his dog.
- Implausible Hair Color: The pink haired girl... unless she's working at a soul-crushing job in which case it spontaneously shifts to a dull brown.
- Well, the first time she actually had to go out and deliberately dye it so that she could even get the soul-crushing job. After that it sort of started taking care of itself.
- Infinite Canvas: Most entries prefer to be the standard vertical scroll. The occasional comic extends several screen-widths, in addition to several screen-heights.
- Ironic Hell: Has been known to play with this one. On one occasion a misfile causes a guy to be signed up for the wrong ironic punishment, which is immediately corrected when he takes offense to being buried in dog feces (having always made it a point to clean up after his dog, even if he did kill five people). In another one, Hell's latest tenant frustrates the demon assigned to him for orientation because here, yet again, is some dipshit who thinks a single lifetime of being a dull little guy has given him the guile to outwit millenia-old beings who have honed the craft of eternal suffering; then his attempt to prove his point ends up seriously screwing his pooch.
- Jackass Genie:
- Kaleidoscope Hair: The pink-haired girl switches between neon pink and brown, once in the middle of a conversation with another character. Her explanation is just, "I do this a lot."
- Laser-Guided Karma: Occurs in an appropriately titled strip.
General Pete: So yeah, cheers! Fuckin' cheers. Here's to karma. And here's to the bullied. Because they don't need to inherit the Earth - it's already theirs.
Redheaded Fan: Man... I fully came over here to just intensely hit on you, but now I'm too distracted by that story.
- Literal-Minded: Another problem the Sphynx has with modern life.
- Medieval Morons: Lampshaded in this comic. "These are the pyramids had ancient people actually been as stupid and primitive as people assume they were".
- Medium Awareness:
- These guys know the title of the comic they appear in.
- And these guys know what trope is being used in the comic.
- Meet Cute: Deconstructed, then reconstructed in the comic of the same name.
- Monster Clown: "Heyyy kids! It's me, Sweeny the fuckin' clown! Who wants to see what the inside of a larynx looks like?" Also, Emil the Dancing Clown from Hell.
- Morton's Fork: Hell is like this for anyone who goes there, but apparently, there are always a few guys who won't take the staff's word for it...
- Ms. Fanservice: Found here, here and here. Although, because she seems unaware of her effect on the opposite sex, it overlaps with Innocent Fanservice Girl. In the third one, it shows that she is saddened by the fact that every man she might like disappears. She's wearing the man's hat when she sighs at the bus stop.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Eddie gets fired for giving the Sphynx a case of Fridge Brilliance.
- No Kill Like Overkill: The guys who clear snow from people's houses with a freaking 16th century Russian howitzer.
- No Name Given:
- One of the central characters, initially pictured with pink hair, has always gone unnamed, and according to the artist in one comments string, always will. Her official moniker is Pink Haired Girl, abbreviated as PHG.
- Most of the other characters have been named, but only very subtly. Sometimes so subtly that their names are only found in the titles of the comic's image files—a good example: Ms Fan Service is named Justine, seen only in the filename of this comic◊.
- Odd Friendship:
- The Sphinx and Pink Haired Girl. It's working out quite well for them.
- Also Ethel and Pink Haired Girl. Their first impressions of each other would've prevented each other from ever talking to each other in the first place.
- Organ Autonomy: Played straight here, here, and a variation can be found here.
- Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions / Belief Makes You Stupid: Let's just say that Winston is definitely one of those Atheists.
- Periphery Demographic: Discussed In-Universe in a strip on the omnipresence of subtle weirdness, which gave that page its picture.
- Platonic Prostitution: Played with in this strip.
- Pointy-Haired Boss: The Emperor Of The Universe is the ultimate pointy-haired Bad Boss. "YES!!! AN OPPORTUNITY TO INFLICT SUFFERING!!"
- Post Modernism: Experiments with everything from Genre Savvy characters (as seen here) to bizarre, artistically-inclined layouts, and Deconstruction of say, videogames. If this comic doesn't qualify as "Post-modern" then somebody has redefined "Post-modern" behind my back.
- Pragmatic Villainy: The Sphynx has spared humans a few times, claiming it's because they're small and not worth the effort. (She doesn't eat children for the same reason. "Barely a meal", as she says.)
- Of course, on the other end of the spectrum, she also chooses to lurk outside a gym when hunting for victims, because customers tend to be clean and showered when they come out and too tired to run, insisting to the owner when he complains about it that he'd do the same thing if he were a predator.
- Protagonist-Centered Morality: In-universe. The Pink Haired Girl states outright that she's okay with the Sphynx killing people as long as the Sphynx is nice to her personally.
- Psychological Horror: Used for plot basis on occasion, notably in Ethel Blackmoore; Horror Fiction Lady of the Night, A Christmas Eve in the Future and Choose Your Own Adventure.
- Reality-Breaking Paradox: This strip features a scientist who creates an "anti-Gandhi" who is dressed in a fancy business suit, has thick red hair and a beard, and practices "violent nonresistance." The idea is so stupid that the Earth blows up.
- Riddling Sphinx: Lampshaded. As this early strip shows, the Sphynx was actually the original one, but she gave up that routine a long time ago (and a few strips clear show that nowadays, she tends to look back on it as something dumb she did when she was young).
- Schmuck Bait: "Local Man Devoured By Newspaper Box". You can just guess what happens when a guy tries to buy a paper to find out about this story...
- Shown Their Work: Moscow Metro is portrayed rather accurately, with proper Russian words and even with an allusion to a cult Russian film.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Meanders all over the scale, often multiple times within a single comic.
- Stable Time Loop: A man is selected by his religious organization to travel back in time in order to conduct an experiment in storytelling. He eventually comes to the realization that he was the founder of this religion.
- Stealth Pun: The algebra teacher puts a nice one in his torrent of drug-fueled nonsense: 4+5 is German for NO. nein
- Take That: Hell features the music of KISS, not because KISS is satanic, but because their music "sucks".
- Temporal Paradox: "We're going to [time-travel] to the year 2204 to prevent the invention of time-travel!"
- Terrible Interviewees Montage: It doesn't get more terrible than the Dating (Russian) roulette: Six speed dates in a row, you have to settle on ONE mandatory date without seeing the others after you make your choice or being allowed to pick someone you already rejected. Hope you don't land on the bullet!
- There is no bullet. The organizer keeps reusing the same five horrible people over and over, "accidentally" matching two contestants at interview number six who then bond over their shared experience and become new friends, running away together before meeting the so-called bullet.
- Those Two Guys: Bernard and his associate, who start out small but eventually work their way into helping people for its own sake.
- The War on Straw: Saturates the entire comic. If Rowntree has an Anvil to drop, it will usually be dropped on a misrepresented effigy of that which he dislikes.
- Those Wacky Nazis: Neo-Nazi Time Traveller Adventures!
- Too Dumb to Live: A two-fer here.
Am I gonna watch your dog that's locked in a safe to prevent it from being stolen, which was itself
stolen, by you, from a store you forgot you owned, when you were trying to rob a bank, and you for some reason
don't know the combination, and you say you'll be gone five minutes but that could probably mean almost anything at this point?
Joleco Pet Store robber: Yeah!
- To Serve Man: The monsters- most notably the Sphinx- have a taste for people and are not remorseful about it. The weirdest part is, human witnesses seem to take this in stride; one guy who gets angry at the Sphynx is mad not because he thinks it's evil, but because she's hurting his business by preying on his customers! (Still, that would be kind of bad for business...)
- Villain Protagonist: The Sphynx is likely the closest thing the strip has to a protagonist. She's an ancient monster who eats people, although she isn't without redeeming traits, like her unspoken friendship with pink-haired girl.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Best Friends Who Hate Each Other variety gets lampshaded.
- Vocal Minority: Gave that page its picture.
- Wall of Text: The most prominent feature of the comic. It's even lampshaded in the title. This one has to take the cake.
- What Have You Done for Me Lately?: The Chimera fails to understand what people are good for, aside from meals.
- When I Was Your Age: Parodies the "Uphill Both Ways" line in this comic. Turns out it is possible to walk to school and back uphill both ways, if you have a ridiculously tall house.
- Wiki Walk: Utilized in the upper-right portion of this strip, where a man goes from Wangari Maathai, to coral reefs, to torture in the span of an evening.
- Wrench Wench: Ms. Fanservice appears to like a good lawnmower as much as a skimpy outfit.
- You Bastard: Rowntree still appreciates it when bastards read his webcomic, though.
- Your Costume Needs Work: At Halloween, Frankenstein's Monster gets criticized because he's "trying too hard" to get his costume right.
- You Would Make a Great Model:
- This strip, which does feature a deserted warehouse. The girl in question is turned into a figurine for the Franklin Mint.
- Played with here, though it turns out it's not about a modeling job. It's actually much worse.