Sunstone, written and drawn by deviantART author Shiniez (a pen name of the Croatian comics artist Stjepan Sejic, of Ravine and Witchblade fame, known to the dA community as Nebezial, married to the comics artist Linda Sejic), is a slice-of-life BDSM-centric webcomic about the various relationships of people both inside and outside of the scene. Primarily focused on Lisa, a budding writer who kept her submissive desires secret for years, and Ally, an adorkable dominant woman largely isolated from the world around her, the strip follows the pair as their initial online chat leads to their meeting in the real world. Complications ensue as their friendship and play-based relationship quickly develops further than intended, and both women have to come to terms with their mutual attraction while dealing with their personal issues along the way.The author considers the comic a way to communicate the message that BDSM can be performed in a Safe, Sane and Consensual manner and within loving relationships, and the story and strong characterisation features as prominently as the fetish artwork. Supporting characters include Alan, a world-class Deadpan Snarker who Experimented in College with Ally in various kinds of BDSM play; Anne, a free-spirited tattoo artist who protests a little too much about the alternative lifestyles of her friends (and ultimately gets involved with Ally and Lisa before becoming Alan's girlfriend and sub); and Tom and Cassie, a married couple who are more casual about the scene but still enjoy the BDSM world as a part of who they are.In its earlier days the comic was mostly done for Fanservice as a series of loosely-connected pinups, with strips being posted as the author came up with the ideas with little concern for chronology. The 'future out-of-order-pages' folder contains these canon-but-not-yet-happened' snippets of future life for the characters, including Ally's drunken declaraction of love over one Christmas and Anne's first play session with her - an unofficial chronology can be found at Chronology.Shiniez for most of the strips in the archive.As Sunstone is hosted on deviantART, note that you must have a DA account and set the content filter to 'Mature' in order to read it, due to the frequent (if relatively mild) NSFW content.The work is going to go into print as a series of graphic novels in 2013.
This webcomic contains examples of:
Adorkable: Ally can be a total spaz when she thinks about how lucky she was to find Lisa.
Anguished Declaration of Love: The first time Ally tells Lisa she loves her, she's drunk as a post. The anguished part comes when Ally wakes up hungover and straightjacketed, and Lisa gently teases her for it before returning her affection.
Arc Words: Sunstone, Ally's safeword which she gives to all of her subs, which has become the official title of the comic.
Author Tract: It is common to encounter short speeches from the characters' mouths about BDSM informing the reader of such things as the importance of considering safety, the responsibility of the Dom and the importance of trust and honesty in the relationship, but given the reasoning that this comic partially exists to educate and dispel myths these moments do not feel out of place, moreover the comic more often than not shows the reader why this is the case for the characters. It also helps that the comic shows a character who is both uninterested in BDSM and oblivious to it's inner-workings yet doesn't look down on him.
Beta Couple: Alan and Anne are this in the future strips, but haven't met in the main comic yet.
Beneath the Mask: A recurring theme of the webcomic is masks and how despite the fact these characters use persona in their BDSM, beneath these masks they are all perfectly normal (and in Ally's case adorkable) people.
Body Horror: Played in disturbingly realistic fashion when we're shown the dangers of careless rope work. Marion uses the wrong sort of knots on her wrists combined with improper positioning of the ropes on the bed out of obsession with trying to prove Alan wrong about 24/7 submission (which Alan isn't into for a variety of reasons, chiefest among them being that it is highly stressful for the dom), and finds herself trapped and alone while the blood circulation to her hands is cut off. Her hands go lifeless and visibly dark grey in colour. It gets worse when we're told this had caused blood clots and Marion could have lost her hands, if not her life.
Bondage Is Bad: Averted completely. Word Of God has stated that the comic exists to show healthy BDSM relationships accurately and educate people on the falsehood of this trope.
Also deconstructed, as the comic acknowledges this popular view of BDSM, and also looks at how BDSM can realistically go wrong when people let it go to their heads or don't give it the needed prior planning.
Bound and Gagged: Lisa, Anne, and sometimes Allison are featured this way. Even Alan had his moments during his and Ally's college experimentations.
Brains and Bondage: Allison is some kind of computer programmer, and the rest of the cast doesn't seem to be slouches in the intelligence department either.
Coolest Club Ever: Harper's club the characters visit (and Chris and Alan do commissions for) is pretty impressive in both size and furnishings with a stage and a VIP lounge; it also hosts frequent S&M performances. Word Of God is that the series is set in New York so the club isn't implausible.
Coming Out Story: One major story element is that neither Ally nor Lisa considered themselved to be gay or bi before meeting each other, and have to come to terms with their mutual attraction along with their roles in the D/s part of their relationship. Ally eventually admits it to Alan ("I'm... gay." "Like a rainbow unicorn.") and a future strip teases at how Lisa will eventually introduce her girlfriend to her family.
Conveniently Common Kink: There are a LOT of BDSM practitioners in this comic. Largely justified as they all either met each other through the scene, or entered the scene due to meeting each other.
Costume Porn/Unlimited Wardrobe: And how! This series displays some stunning examples of fetish fashion, sometimes dedicating huge lengths of page to showing someone's full costume. Subtropes include:
Collared by Fashion/Slave Collar: Naturally fetish collars appear regularly in the comic: all the subs have them. Most of them are leather but special mention goes to the one Alan provides Anne which is made of solid silver and the appearances of posture collars.
Cool Mask: Harper and other performers at his club have notably cool masks.
Of Corsets Sexy: Sported by all three girls at various points. Possibly Alan as well in the future.
Sexy Santa Dress: Worn by the all three girls during their first Christmas together.
Costume Test Montage: in chapter three, where the majority of a strip is dedicated to Lisa and Ally spending an hour just trying on Ally's very extensive costume collection and earlier in the first chapter where both are getting ready for their first meeting.
Crack is Cheaper: In-Universe; Collecting BDSM equipment and outfits is Ally's only recreational spending outlet, when Lisa asks Ally how much has been spent on all this stuff Ally refuses to answer. Word Of God is that it's been forty grand. Alan even calls her on spending so much on this stuff in one strip.
Ally had spent so much money on stuff that just sat in her closet that Alan actually cut her off and refused to sell her any more (at least until Lisa comes along and they start putting the numerous outfits to use).
Crazy-Prepared: It seems that Ally is equipped to handle many different fetishes and situations that arises. Lampshaded in a strip.
Lisa: I thought you weren't into Pet Play?
Ally: I was never in the scouts either but I still stick to the ''Always be Prepared" motto.
Creator Cameo: An odd example, but Tom looks identical to Sejic's drawings of himself despite Tom being an original character.
Cross Over: As the creators of Sunstone and Blood Stain, Stjepan Sejic and Linda Sejic, are married, not only does each artist draw each other's characters, but both webcomics are set in the same world. The events of each comic are isolated from each other most of the time, except for when the four main characters meet in an in-universe MMORPG, and several non-canon illustrations.
Cuffs Off Rub Wrists: Explored through out the strip; normally the characters don't do this as the restraints are intended to be comfortable and avert this; but in the instances that things go wrong; such as when Alan was separated from Ally when she was tied up we see strong red marks on her body and Alan soothing the sore wrists.
Played with too in the case of Marion and her accident; due to the fact she had her blood circulation cut off the ropes couldn't be taken off in the first place; so we don't see Marion do this; but we do see Ally doing this to herself unconsciously as she tells the traumatic story.
Dissimile: "There we were... our own little slice of heaven. Y'know... if heaven was very dusty... and I guess... not so little."
Dude Looks Like a Lady: Alan has been hinted at this. At least two characters have attempted to get him to crossdress. Both have failed, epically in Anne's case.
Early Installment Weirdness: The comic used to be a collection of pin-up images consisting of Ally dominating Lisa and Anne. Many of these featured descriptions of Ally enslaving them and subjecting them to unsafe punishments, as might be expected of a pure fantasy scenario. Since deciding to write Sunstone as a serious story, the author removed most of the problematic strips.
Embarrassing Nickname: Lisa is yet to enjoy any of her older brother Mike's names for her. The ones we hear are Betty, short for Elizabeth, which is not Lisa's name, and Lassie in reference to her BDSM collar (which, if it wasn't for Mike's ignorance to the collar's significance would be down right offensive)
Experimented in College: In different respects; Lisa and Anne both mention having had same-sex experiences, while a fairly detailed sequence of strips go into how Ally and Alan met in college and experimented with types of BDSM play, gradually becoming the doms we know.
Fan Convention: Allison seems to be a fan of taking her subs to these for costume contests.
Foregone Conclusion: There are several strips that show what will happen in the future including a "5 years later" reunion.
Fan Nickname: 'Cruella' for Marion - granted, that's what the characters nicknamed her too, but the fans used it from her very first picture before her real name was known. It's because of her hair, though, not her personality or anything regarding puppies or coats.
Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Mike and Lisa fill the former and latter roles respectively, interestingly despite the fact that Lisa is the younger and the one leading the double life.
Framing Story: The entire story is being written by five-years-in-the-future Lisa as a form of memoir, with several panels in various strips showing the future relationship.
Gayngst: Averted so far. For Ally and Lisa this is their first relationship with another woman. Lisa didn't consider herself to possibly be gay until the relationship developed past something physical into something romantic, but even so it obviously doesn't concern her due to the small amount of thought she has spared to the topic.
It's been briefly mentioned in a spat Lisa had with an unliked co-worker, who she believed would be the extremely judgmental type... after she walks off, the readers get to see that co-worker with her girlfriend.
Gender Blender Name: Mr. Bonkers the cat. Though it must be said that telling the gender of cats isn't a simple task; Lisa might be mistaken.
Genius Ditz: Anne reveals to Lisa that she is a math whiz during one of Ally's sessions, much to the surprise and horror of Lisa who thought that Tattoo Artists sucked at math.
Girl on Girl Is Hot: All the men in the story seem to think so. For the readers, it's more heartwarming than anything else.
Guilt Complex: Ally is determined to blame herself for what happened to Marion. Lisa points out that Ally is fully aware she wasn't responsible, but this knowledge doesn't make her feel any better. She is still pretty shook up about the accident and as a result she's not visited the club or used her skills with rope since. Though we see that she gets over the rope aversion in time.
Have I Mentioned I Am Vanilla Today Anna has this in spades; her growing curiosity with BDSM goes hand in hand with her attempts to assure everyone she has no interest in it. The same applies to her constantly inconsistent portrayal of her sexuality.
Heavy Sleeper: Yet another aspect of Ally that contrasts her eloquent Mistress persona. She sleeps with her mouth wide open and snores like an animal.
Hidden Depths: Ally at first seems like a confident and successful person; but it becomes clear that she is terribly lonely and has some regrets she can't manage to overcome. Also Valerie first appears to be a condescending bigot, but in chapter three it's revealed that this was a case of Unreliable Narrator; Lisa was too caught up in her new lifestyle to see Valerie is actually concerned for her friend Lisa.
How We Got Here: Chapter one starts with Lisa taking off her wedding ring, revealing it's inscription "Forever Mine", she threads the ring onto her necklace, cracks her knuckles, and starts writing how it all transpired.
I Can't Believe It's Not Heroin: Twice the comic has shown what can happen when people let BDSM go to their heads. Ally and Alan neglected their college work and turned their relationship into a competitive game of ego feeding, which ultimately led to their breakup. Ally even referred to herself as having been like an addict at the time. Marion became obsessed with the game, and was so keen to convince Alan to go further with her that she lost her job and neglected to properly consider the safety issues of self bondage, leading to a nightmarish scenario that almost cost her her hands, if not her life.
Idiot Ball: Keen to convince Alan to try 24/7 dominance and submission Marion did something everyone including herself agrees was stupid, unfortunately for Marion she realized this only at the moment she slipped the knots about her wrists tight without a way to undo them.
I'll Be in My Bunk: Alan sometimes has to head to the bathroom for some "alone time" when the girls' shenanigans get to be too much for him.
Infinite Canvas: The comic takes full advantage of sprawling downwards, panels can flow into each other and often great space is used to show characters head to toe. Word Of God has stated the only real problem with getting the work published is the huge amount of reformatting that would have to take place to fit the comic into a book.
Inner Monologue: As the framing device shows, the story is narrated by Lisa from five years in the future, but often the narrative assumes the perspective of present day Lisa and what she's thinking in the moment. Moreover we also witness the inner thoughts of other characters; an entire segment is narrated by Anne's internal thoughts while Lisa is completely absent and we sometimes see Alan internally wrestling over the best wisecrack to make, usually picking the wrong one.
Justified Trope: Lisa got numerous, numerous interviews, getting the story from everyone.
Improvised Clothes: Overlapping with improvised tools, but Ally does a fairly good job of turning a pair of stockings, two post-it notes and a cat's cradle into bondage gear for her first time with Anne.
Instant Costume Change: Subverted. The comic touches on how difficult it is to get in and out of latex (especially when sweat is factored in). We even see Ally having to wrestle a latex stocking off of Lisa.
Jade-Colored Glasses: Alan is noticeably jaded about his lifestyle and how people view it after being tormented for it in college and having had a tragic failed Dominant/submissive relationship with Marion.
Jizzed in My Pants: Anne gets a geek at one of these conventions to do this by describing the sex games she'll partake in that night.
Knuckle Cracking: A habit of Lisa's, and one of the few things about her that annoys the crap out of Ally. Lisa does this at the very start of the series before beginning the memoirs and again later when to help wake herself up she cracks her neck.
Love Makes You Dumb: This hit Marion hard; being new to the type of relationship she was sharing with Alan caused her to discard her better judgement in favor of doing everything she could to take things further, leading to a very bad situation.
Malicious Slander: In college Alan was wrongly accused of being gay and subject to harassment because of this; things escalated when his sketchbook of BDSM artwork was discovered, stolen, photocopied and then posted around the campus. Worse still it was one of Ally's friends who kept the gossip about Alan circulating. This likely accounts for Alan's cynicism about mainstream society's views of his subculture.
Meet Cute: Alan meets his future wife Anne while he's measuring her for Ally's "gear."
Mistaken for Junkie: Ally's neglect of her day to day life during her relationship with Alan caused her mother to make this mistake.
The Missus and the Ex: Downplayed. The first time that Alan, Ally, and Lisa are in a room together, it's only a little awkward because the three were up all night. After some coffee and snarking, Alan and Lisa become friends in no time and it's never brought up again.
Crops up again a little more straight when Alan's previous sub Marion first met Allison she wrongly assumed they were trying to set up a threesome.
Marion is set to appear sometime in the future, and only time will tell how this will affect Ally and Lisa or Alan and Anne.
Mood Whiplash: Ally spends several panels of one comic stressing out in her attempts to come up with ideas for the next session, then practically panics when the doorbell rings. She goes to the door, dressed in her domme outfit and everything...only to be confronted with the elderly Mrs. Kramer, who asks her to watch her cat for two weeks. The fact that Mrs. Kramer barely reacts to Ally's costume - while Ally herself is completely thrown off her game - makes it even better.
Ms. Fanservice: Ally, Lisa, and Anne. All three started out as softcore porn — it wasn't until later that the author decided to write them as characters in an ongoing narrative.
Naked People Trapped Outside: Alan escapes a well deserved smack across the face by utilising the knowledge that no matter how angry Ally is she will not chase Alan out onto the street when dressed head to toe in fetish wear.
Nerds Are Sexy: Ally and Alan are complete geeks over fighting games and BDSM. Moreover Lisa speculates that all practitioners of BDSM are in a way nerds, because (as the comic shows) the advanced stuff uses so much thought and attention to be done safely you naturally have to be an enthusiast type.
Nested Story: The outermost story focuses on Lisa writing her book detailing the events of her relationship with Ally, the main meat of the story takes place some years prior and shows us these events in which characters often elaborate on their backstory through another level of flashbacks.
Never a Self-Made Woman: Allison is a strong aversion; she made herself a fortune completely independently, and although she once had a relationship with a now mildly successful Alan the relationship held Ally back rather than give her support and it was only when she found her independence she started her fortune.
No Periods, Period: Viciously averted; as Lisa is preparing to head to Ally's place to make up for five long and agonizing days away from her, her period hits at the worst possible time.
Only Sane Man: Alan frequently takes this role, especially during his conversations with Ally.
One of Us: Pretty much all of the characters are gamers, and Lisa is an aspiring writer. Allison in particular is a colossal geek, and common fan speculation is that the room she won't let Lisa go into (bearing in mind that Lisa has already seen Ally's bedroom and dungeon) contains a crazy amount of fandom paraphernalia.
The author too; the longest pauses between strips have generally been down to Diablo III.
Out of Order: Constantly in the strip's older days; the strips were posted in the order they were completed, not in the order of chronology or even in the order they were thought up. Expect to do some headscratching if you figure it out without the unofficial guide.
These days this is mostly averted as the comic is updating chronologically and in chapters. Previously standalone strips have been absorbed by the progressing narrative. Though future strips and pin ups are still released, these are kept in galleries separate from the chapters now making the comic much easier to navigate.
Pen Name: 'Shiniez' is the alter-ego of Witchblade artist Stjepan ejić, who also maintains another DA account under the name 'Nebezial'. Prior to the reveal, the author enjoyed trolling the fanbase way too much over whether they were the same person, or whether Shiniez was just a friend and student of Nebezial's due to the similar art styles.
Pride: This is what brought Ally and Alan's relationship to an end. The experience of dominating the other went to their heads and this turned into a competitive and destructive relationship when they didn't have the free time to share their desired role regularly. At the time the two of them also considered themselves superior to vanilla people; and this trait is still somewhat evident in Ally when she refers to casual practitioners of BDSM as "noobs".
Property of Love: There are aspects of this to Lisa and Ally's relationship. Lisa gets a tattoo reading "Property of Allison" and her wedding ring has the inscription "Forever Mine" on its interior. Lisa also likes to wear her collar in public under a scarf to remind her that the previous night she "was hers". Marion on the other hand was keen to enter a situation where she was submissive to Alan 24/7 and wore her collar and referred to Alan as Master at all times.
Ally worries that her developing feelings for Lisa, which have more than a few elements of this trope, are turning her into "the kind of dom she hates the most".
Reality Ensues: After having some fun with Lisa by using a strap-on, Ally comments that she has a newfound respect for guys as her non-existent abs will hurt like hell the next day. This is also quickly followed up by Lisa's tongue going numb from some more play.
Right-Hand Cat: While cat sitting the troublesome Mr. Bonkers Ally tries to get some use out of her and invoke this image to enhance her powerful and seductive presence. Of course Mr. Bonkers reacts to this by almost instantly bounding off in search of something interesting.
Somewhat justified with English not being his first language.
Safe, Sane and Consensual: Several strips show the work that Allison and Alan go through to make sure their girls are safe, both physically and mentally. Early Installment Weirdness made it seem less consensual, though this is not uncommon for BDSM media in general where you often only see a session 'in the moment' without the careful setup and clear prior consent.
Safe Word: The name of the comic comes from Ally's safeword, "sunstone", which she gives to all her subs, but most prominently Lisa. Alan's safeword, which Anne uses, is a three-note hum that can be used through a gag, though Marion's safeword with Alan was shown to be "mercy".
Second Love: Ally is this to Lisa; her relationship with her first love ended due to Lisa never getting the confidence to explain her intimate interests to him; despite them discussing engagement before it turned sour; this causes her moments of doubt early into her relationship with Ally.
Sexy Coat Flashing: On her second night with Ally, Lisa pays a visit to her house wearing nothing but heels and lingerie under her coat, something she didn't really have the guts to do on the first night.
This is also how Ally first revealed to Alan that she was just as interested in the BDSM thing as he was, only she wore a bondage outfit underneath her regular attire rather than going au naturel.
Speech Bubble Censoring: Thanks to this the comic remains remarkably tasteful despite it's topic and status as mature.
Stepford Smiler: Ally has aspects of this; she keeps her anxieties to herself to remain strong and at times forces smiles. Part of the story of the comic is Lisa gaining Ally's trust so that she can get to the 'human under the mask.'
Tan Lines: As embarrassing as possible; Lisa visits the beach only to notice everyone is staring at her. She discovers that she has tan lines from her previous rope suspension session with Ally. Including lines left from a gag. Poor girl.
Lisa gets a tattoo of a winged heart containing the words "Property of Allison" on her posterior, it's design and intimate location displaying her relationship to her mistress.
Cassie, despite being a lawyer, is in the process of getting an overly elaborate BDSM tattoo that will cover her back, she points out just like the trope says although it covers a large portion of skin only people she will want to see it will as she is fully dressed in court.
Anne as said tattoo artist has a tattoo of a dragon spanning her back. This shows that Anne, like Cassie, is adventurous.
Test Kiss: At the end of their first weekend together Lisa, confused between what she was feeling, initiated this to see if there was something more to her and Ally's relationship than just the dominance and submission. Turns out there was.
Their First Time: This plays out when Ally and Lisa finally meet, but subverted as they've both had sex before; it's their first time with a submissive and dominant person respectively and naturally, both women are quite nervous about it.
Three-Way Sex: Ally, Anne and Lisa get into this kind of arrangement during the story (at least before Ally and Lisa realize their love for each other and Anne and Alan hook up).
Too Many Belts: From the outfits to the devices themselves, there are a lot of belts and buckles.
Unfazed Everyman: Chris to some degree, as the only recurring character in the strip so far not into BDSM, yet hangs around with the others because his sister and her partner are.
Unreliable Narrator: Lisa like any good writer exercises her right to embellish; we know this thanks to the framing device allowing us to see Ally criticizing the novel so far as having moments of bullshit.
Where Does She Get All Those Wonderful Toys?: Ally has a staggeringly impressive collection of toys; including an entire wardrobe of custom made outfits for both ofher subs and herself, cuffs, chains, restraints and suspension rigs, a custom made mermaid outfit, the infamous "see-saw," a made to order bed just for sex and last but certainly not least an actual chariot. We are shown that Alan and Chris make a living out of making these things for people and that Ally is really quite well off, but Word Of Godstates that Ally has spent forty grand on this collection. Lampshaded somewhat in a strip:
Lisa: Okay I tried avoiding this question...but, yeah...How much did you spend on all this stuff?
Ally: Yeahhh....um, quite a bit....so....really....don't ask.
Word Of God: In the strip comments and Journal sections of the author's deviantART page.
World of Snark: Not so much at first; but more and more magnificent snarkers have appeared and older characters have been seen holding their own against them in Snark-to-Snark Combat. ALL the many red-headed characters in the strip save for Lisa are talented snarkers.
Writing for the Trade: Just like his approach to writing Ravine, Sejic views his work as full sized graphic novels allowing him to have naturalistic narratives. What makes this interesting is that as the entire work is viewable on deviantart a lot of readers are people who simply spotted the strips when browsing; leading to a lot of confusion in the comments met with suggestions to start from the beginning.