The Dragon Doctors is a transformationwebcomic about four "magical doctors" touted as the best in their respective fields, who have banded together to do good and solve medical mysteries. Consisting of a whimsical shapeshifting wizard, a grim magic-assisted surgeon, a thoughtful "magical scientist," and a caring shaman/therapist the team helps others and solves previously incurable diseases and conditions. And it all takes place in the aftermath of an expedition to solve the mystery of a cursed valley which, while successful, turned them all into members of the opposite sex, to which they adjust with varying degrees of success.Some of their major patients so far range from a sentient tree to a girl that is mysteriously invisible to a man suffering from a horrible sentient cancer. Various minor cases crop up that are even more bizarre, such as a man who cannot pronounce any word with the letter "E" in it or a woman trapped in slow motion from birth. Others are odd by our world's standards but considered commonplace by theirs, such as performing voluntary transformation services (like enlarging a pixie to human size so she can live among humans, or rejuvenating the elderly). They've also battled evil more directly as adventurers, including fighting a small army of assassins and dealing with a mysterious serial killer.Unfortunately the author was only just learning to draw when starting out; the first chapter's art is very rough and though it is miles from where it started, it's not yet at "professional" level. (The page image is fan art). How much you enjoy the comic may depend on how tolerant you are of amateur art.The comic is sometimes compared to The Wotch, due to its inexperienced artwork and recurring transformation theme, but its story, tone, and premise are decidedly different.The comic is Not Safe for Work due to Nipple and Dimed from chapter 16 onwards.The comic has been published on three different sites: the author's deviantART page — ~Oddsquad — named after his previous comic; Drunk Duck, here, with occasional strips and progress-strips going back to DeviantArt when Drunk Duck was down; and the current DHSComix site, started in September 2013 during an extended Drunk Duck outage.
This Web Comic contains examples of the following tropes:
After the End: Civilization is said to have fallen four times during the two thousand years between modern times and the Doctors' time (The "Breakings").
Afterlife Antechamber: Kili describes the afterlife as being a place that cannot be accurately described whatsoever by the living, since it is not a paradise for the living, but a paradise for the soul. The parts of the spirit world that we see her interact with are explicitly not the final resting places of anyone.
Antimagical Faction: Thoria in the past was this, as a reaction to a war where people turned themselves into beastmen with magic. They weren't against all magic, but severely restricted its use in their populace and they ejected non-humans from their society. When rejuvenation magic was rediscovered, there was a social revolution in Thoria and they softened their stance considerably. The author noted that this was an ironic situation, where the conservative old guys in charge were suddenly the ones who most wanted change.
First Breaking: Class I, severe societal change, due to the Broken Masquerade. Civil war in every country on Earth as magic was made public knowledge and people rebelled against magic-using puppet masters manipulating the world.
Second Breaking: Class II, total societal breakdown, due to a nuclear war. Called the "Poison Light War" as a flowery name for "radiation."
Third Breaking: Class III, species extinction, due to meteor impact. Humans didn't go extinct, but some other things did. The world's ecology was eventually restored but not without severe loss.
Fourth Breaking: Patchwork World. Civilization reaches the technological/magical Singularity but becomes fragile and some unspecified incident causes space and time to fracture, resulting in bits and pieces of other worlds merging with our own. Third Era technology, due to being overspecialized, becomes lost. Civilization rebuilds, but models itself after the 20th-21st century.
It's ultimately revealed that The 4th Breaking was caused by a ghost of a person who used time travel to kill her past self. This created a super-ghost called Paradox Anon. This unimaginably powerful ghost wrecked the entire world and made time travel to any time before the 4th breaking impossible. After all the flying cities fell and all the transhumans either died or changed themselves back to baseline humans, the survivors decided that it might be a good idea NOT to do make extravagant use of technology like that again, since it risked having that kind of super-cataclysm happening again.
Merlin: Aw, but what could Smith have done to deserve this? [beat] Merlin: ...oh yeah
Attractive Bent-Gender: Gender Inverted with Mori, a short, fairly plain woman who changes into a tall, buff guy, and averted with Aki's father, who's just as overweight as a woman. The aversion is Lampshaded when Aki's dad admits "Not everyone gets to be a babe when they jump the gender fence."
Backstory: Chapter 12 is all about Mori. It's right there in the title.
Badass Normal: Goro, during the Die Hard on an X chapter. Taking out a thief, evading three of them long enough to sabotage their target, which effectively renders one of them helpless, and setting the face of the third on fire. Even with Elizabeth outsmarting her at the end, she did extremely well.
One of the effects of Mori's Scroll Gun in the Mr. Smith arc.
Sarin's master put him through this as training. The first step of said training was spending a couple years as a tree in a forest.
The same thing happens to Tanica the assassin when she's hit with Sarin's seed. Duration is "somewhere between six months and four years".
Battle in the Center of the Mind: Kili versus The Crax, twice. Mental combat is apparently all about confidence and willpower, and Preston Chang (the Crax) says that the best way to defeat the opponent is to confront them with Brutal Honesty and Awful Truth to undermine their willpower, which is why both battles involve Chang making Kili face her unpleasant past. Kili turns it around on him in the second fight by making him realize he's been Dead All Along; for an Immortality Seeker, there's no worse thing to face. He suffers an immediate Villainous Breakdown.
Beast Man: The anthropomorphic animal-people who have appeared are all collectively referred to as "beastmen." They include catgirls, bugmen, and one instance of a lawyer who looks like a buffalo. The author has said this is partly because of the fantasy setting, which allows more diversification to help avert Only Six Faces.
Beta Couple: Though Mori and Sarin are the smartest and most powerful members of the team, respectively, their relationship is mostly kept to themselves rather than on display like Kili/Greg or Goro/Aki.
Beware the Nice Ones: The comic is full of nice people who could kick your ass and/or have a hidden dark side; sweet and sensitive Kili can turn into a ravening werewolf strong enough to punch people through walls, Sarin the wizard used to be an evil mugger and still remembers how to knife-fight (and has a Berserk Button: don't condescend to the magical badass), and Tomo the schoolgirl will MELT YOUR FACE OFF with disinfectant.
And Sarin, when angry, can slap an astral projection so hard that the person on the other end can feel it. That's right, SHE CAN SLAP YOUR SOUL!!!
Big Brother Is Watching: Played with: In the Camera Democracy, everybody wears a camera, and as long as it's on, it can prove that they're telling the truth. However, they can turn the cameras off in private, so instead of "Big Brother is watching", it's more like "You let Big Brother watch." Ideally, anyway.
Bi the Way: A common and readily available enchantment specifically modifies sexuality to be "compatible" with another person. Useful for a village where all the men are gender-bent permanently against their will.
Bittersweet Ending: Not all the Doctors' cases end perfectly. Take Priscilla, for example. They manage to stabilize her, but she's permanently blue and covered in tattoos that are keeping her from blowing up.... and they'll only work for a year, max, at which point they will have to forcibly regress her back to a child and let her grow up again, this time hopefully not gaining the condition in the first place.
The Symbiote: The ultimate fate of the Crax, after having disposed of Chang's mind. It toys with the idea of mimicking Kili's lycanthropy in it's victims, but gives that up and picks the most logical course of action — replacing it's hosts's stomach and intestinal bacteria with itself. No human would ever want to get rid of it, it will have no end of hosts, and no one will ever know it's there, meaning it will never face extinction again. Chang, however, is screwed.
One chapter deals with a horrible curse that prevents a lost soul from moving on to the afterlife; the price for this terrible curse is that while the soul is unable to rest, neither is the caster — she is unable to sleep, suffers from a continuous burning sensation in the back of her mind, and ages at about double speed. Worse, the wording in the spellbook is so vague that the caster didn't even know it was a curse in the first place.
In a more classical example: after Tanica learns some basic healing magic that she can't summon enough magical power to cast, she ends up tearing out her own life essence to fuel the spell when Goro collapses at her feet and she has no way of summoning help.
Cat Girl: The hairy version is among the common beastman variants in the setting; there's also been at least one catdude. That said, when Goro gets turned into one during the Crax arc, she is not amused.
Trsanti Squad Leader: Fredricka and Davan narrowly avoided getting arrested for public nudity....
Sarin also uses this as punishment for a very nosy magic user, permanently making it so the woman's magic causes her to destroy any clothing she's wearing. ( Although Sarin is bluffing in order to torment the mage, it'll only last for a week. Or at least, it's only SUPPOSED to last for a week... ) She also uses it to disable Elizabeth in a hostage situation. As she girl says, "she loves that spell."
In a subversion of the usual transformation clothing damage, Mori explodes her shirt when she turns into a man.
Kili's werewolf form is now larger than her human form, so losing her clothes is now inevitable. Good thing Godiva Hair is one of the side effects of her lycanthropy.
Combat Medic: Naturally; three of the doctors are powerful magic users, and Goro used to be a soldier. Even in a weak body, she's still a good shot with a thrown scalpel.
However, it seems that the Crax may change in time, since it's found out the hard way that being an enemy to all living things is not a good strategy for long term survival.
Compliment Backfire: Goro, who is having difficulty adjusting to being changed from a large, burly man to a small and frail woman, is not happy when a patient suggests that having small, delicate fingers must give her a big advantage when performing delicate surgery.
Dark and Troubled Past: Most of the doctors, despite being fairly well-adjusted adults in the present. When the author realized this, he concluded he must be some kind of optimist.
Dead All Along: Tomo doesn't know she's a ghost. Kili says the Trope name in conversation.
Deconstruction: A minor mini-arc in the middle of the "Messenger of Death" chapter has Sarin being approached by the astral projection of a wizard who wants to recruit her for some grand purpose. Sarin, who is usually quite cheerful, refuses to play ball, growling at the recruiter for the presumptuousness of showing up unannounced to give a "You Are The Chosen One" speech and pointing out how creepy it is to spy on someone with magic. She loses her temper completely when the recruiter says "My name is of no importance" and slaps the recruiter's astral projection, which both shows off Sarin's indignation as well as hinting just how powerful she really is. Sarin continues to rip the recruiter a new one verbally and finishes off by zapping the recruiter with a curse that makes her clothes disintegrate whenever she uses magic.
The main reason that Sarin refuses? It's because, by her words, people who paint in broad strokes make big mistakes, and Sarin is much happier helping people on a one on one basis than trying to help millions and accidentally killing thousands. Given how powerful some magic can be, more than likely, someone has tried this before, and probably was the cause for one of the Breakings.
Discount Lesbians: The inhabitants of Agri Village, and in the main cast Aki and Goro.
Kili: I don't think they're lesbians so much as— Spirit: Pfft. Like I care about technicalities.
The Aki and Goro pairing is especially strange because, in one regard they're both heterosexual men.
Well, not really for Aki, since she hasn't been a male since she was 5 years old, and never considered herself a boy anyway.
Doesn't Like Guns: Justified; the assassins use invisibility suits and knives for maximum quiet in their kills. This backfires, however, when the psychic Kili senses the intent to kill of over 20 people closing in and the invisibility is dispelled, causing a Mexican Standoff between the magic-using Dragon Doctors and the posse of knife-wielding assassins, while they're operating on a patient.
Doomed Hometown: Kili's home was destroyed by a tidal wave, leaving him the sole survivor.
Dr. Jerk: Goro's abrasive some of the time, but this trope really belongs to Dr. Songbird, Aki's mother, whose idea of bedside manner is "try not to die in the next month or two."
Dystopia: Thoria, a hundred-fifty years ago anyway. It advertises itself as "a safe country for normal people". Meaning no magic, no weirdness, no rejuvenations, all traditional. If you fit their standards for normal, it's a nice place. But if you have a genetic defect like Mori, you get deported. And that's if you're lucky.
It's also a more effective dystopia than many because the Thorians are not relentlessly A Nazi by Any Other Name: they have valid reasons for opposing magic and recognize that condemning Mori's parents for a genetic manipulation that was the only way to let her survive comes across as monstrous, as well as acknowledging that she herself should not be directly punished as she had no choice in the matter. But they believe they stick to their rules strictly, Knight Templar style, even while appearing to regret it, and come across as much more human than most such examples.
Early-Installment Weirdness: The characterizations and setting hadn't been nailed down in the first chapter, and there were a few odd things, such as Sarin wearing a robe that kept changing symbols on its front.
Sarin can turn anyone into anything, and using this to help a dying patient is a valid medical technique (called "Alter-Healing") in this series. However, the only time we've seen Sarin do this was an inversion of the usual for this trope; a non-human turned into a human, because her true form was too difficult to heal.
Greg was also petrified in the Crax arc, to trap the Nigh Invulnerable parasite inside him while keeping him stable, but this was only one part of a lengthy process. Rina Lee had to turn herself into stone because she was trapped in an abandoned mine behind an indestructible forcefield and was facing death by starvation. She got rescued after two thousand years.
Lem in a more traditional sense ( read "permanent transformation"), during the Mori Backstory arc. Significant in-universe as the first revolutionary procedure of one of finest medical minds of the time.
The person who bankrolls the Dragon Doctors also had to undergo an Emergency Transformation. Her body was afflicted with Rapid Aging which even the prevalent rejuvenation technology couldn't fix. She had to spend a few years as a statue, but was able to interact with telepathic interpreters to run her company. Eventually Mori came up with the idea of turning her into a Crystal Person, since that species has no aging.
Ironically, it was also done to a Crystal Person, who suffered severe injuries, changing her temporarily into a human, since they didn't have the means to treat a Crystal Person, but they DID have the means to treat a human.
Everybody's Dead, Dave: Rina had to deal with this after being turned to stone for two thousand years; Kili had to deal with it as a kid when everyone in her village was drowned in a tsunami.
Experienced Protagonist: The Dragon Doctors all start off the comic as possibly the world's best team of magical doctors: Goro's an ex-military combat surgeon who can chop anyone apart and sew them back together again, Sarin the Wizard is a supreme transformation specialist, Mori is a super-smart magical scientist, and Kili is the most sensitive shaman in the world. Their real journey is one of character development rather than skill development.
Extreme Omnivore: The Crax is a life-form that can adapt to devour anything. The human consciousness that resides within it, Preston Chang, says that once he's done eating everything living on Earth he'll switch to eating sunlight if necessary. This is the reason why the only way to attack the Crax is by freezing it, because it can even devour energy (making any magic except ice magic useless on it).
First Law of Gender-Bending: Initially, the Agri Valley curse turned the male doctors (among hundreds or thousands of others) into women, and Mori was turned into a man to fix it. Despite magic, including transformation magic, being commonplace, it was said that they lacked "essence" of their original sexes and to change them back was not only impossible, but on some level inconceivable. Despite this, in chapter 14, Aki (a nurse) and Mori are cured in a lab accident; since an extremely rare panacea was used, and Goro, at least, expressed reluctance to change back anyway for fear of disturbing Aki (a lifelong Agri resident who had not known she was born male and turned back immediately), all four doctors are now female for good.
The Lancer: Sarin, apparent goofball wizard, until you get her mad. Doubles as both a heavy magic expert and an aesthetician, since she can turn anyone into anything.
The Big Guy: In a subversion, Goro used to be big and muscular but got drained of all her strength by the valley curse and desperately wishes to return to being the big one. Formerly a soldier, and still acts tough, or tries to appear so, by wearing body armor. Bit of a Genius Bruiser since she's a surgeon.
The Heart: Kili the shaman/therapist, whose job is to heal the wounds of the spirit, whether that spirit is of a living person or otherwise. A strong candidate for "The Hero" considering how much anguish she's willing to go through to save people.
The Chick: Part-fairy assistant girl Aki Songbird; also Goro's girlfriend.
Sanguine: Sarin (fun-loving and creative, but can be arrogant and insensitive).
Choleric: Goro (driven and capable, but can overbearing and inflexible).
Melancholic: Mori (careful and inventive, well-adusted, but still stuggles with overcoming failures).
Leuquine: Kili (thoughtful and caring, but tends to avoid confrontation until she explodes).
Phlegmatic: Aki (calm and compassionate, but almost exclusively reactionary).
Fountain of Youth: A very large (it's lake-sized) and very dangerous one; its anti-aging effects are so strong nothing in the vicinity grows at all, leaving it a desolate wasteland, and many people got regressed into nothing just by contact with the vapors from it. Reverse-engineering it allowed Mori and the rest of the world to benefit from its rejuvenating effects, hence why so many characters are Older Than They Look, including Mori (who just turned 170).
Almost everyone suffering from the valley curse happens to have a gender-ambiguous name. Most of the main characters (except Goro, which is definitely a male Japanese name), there's the boisterous cop Sam, two of Greg's valley-cursed friends are "Terry" and "Drew," the mobster "Cary," and so on.
Gendercide: Well, nobody actually died, but the first chapter of the story that sets everything in motion is a cursed valley that caused all its visitors and inhabitants to become permanently female. The protagonists are not immune to this curse either (they use protection magic, but it fails). They find out the curse is caused by an artifact that siphons masculinity from everything around it to promote plant growth (male fertility, basically). When Goro tried to attack it, it drained both his remaining masculine essence, as well as almost all of his strength essence, which comes dangerously close to being fatal over the long term. To blow it up, Mori has to sacrifice her own feminine essence and becomes a man permanently as a result, so all four of the protagonists start off the series getting permanently gender-bent. (That said, the civilization that made the feminizing artifacts in the first place did die out — probably due to depopulation.)
Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: About 200 years before the comic takes place, there was a huge conflict called the "Beastman Wars" where humans discovered magical LEGO Genetics and made themselves superhuman "beastmen" by splicing animal traits into themselves. Unfortunately, they lost because their biologies were different enough from human that they weren't prepared logistically for soldiers who ate three times as much and couldn't stomach certain things that humans take for granted, like chocolate. The reaction to the Beastman Wars led to the creation of ultra-conservative Thoria, a nation that severely restricted "deviant" magic.
Larko Udo, swallowed by the spirit of death he summoned. He deserved it, although Kili saved him with the rest of the people who got swallowed and gave him a fate even worse.
Subverted by Elizabeth, who probably would have gotten away if she'd just cut her losses and not tried to pull an act of revenge by turning into Goro. However, if she had, she wouldn't have been able to get the money she needed, which was the whole reason she tried stealing rejuvenant in the first place. Turning into Goro was simply the most convenient method that happened to kill two birds with one stone.
Improbably Female Cast: Justified. The first case the Doctors solve in the series is a cursed valley with a statue in the center that caused all visitors and inhabitants to become permanently female. The doctors themselves were hit by this curse before they managed to destroy the statue, so most of them are stuck as women. Most of the comic takes place in Tinto, the town next-door to the valley, but it also has a large female population as a sociological side-effect of the curse; rescue workers, police officers, delivery workers and anyone else with a high-mobility job are usually female in case they need to pass through or near to the valley.
I See Dead People: Kili. Her tattoos negate some of this ability so that she stays sane.
I Want My Jet Pack: Rina wakes up in a normal-looking hospital bed after being told she's 2000 years in the future, and thinks, "It doesn't look like the future. Not enough lasers or flashing lights." Then she turns a corner and sees Mori diagnosing an insectoid man.
LEGO Genetics: Mori points out that this is only made possible by the use of magic, which is able to swap out traits as conceptual objects.
Ley Line: Rina was buried in one by Derek, so the magical spell keeping her trapped there would run forever. She was later discovered by a ley line surveyor in Frontera. Unfortunately, being stuck soaking in mana for centuries sent her into mana shock and she nearly exploded after being recovered.
Living Relic: Rina became one after being rescued from the trap Derek put her in.
Locked into Strangeness: Happens several times. Sarin the wizard's hair is green as a leftover from when she was turned into a tree for years, and Kili's hair has been white ever since she was haunted by a spirit as a child. Kili gets hit with more hair effects later; after becoming a werewolf, her hair adopts a wild style and grows so rapidly it is now at perpetual Rapunzel Hair length.
Longevity Treatment: Mori reverse-engineered the effects of a Fountain of Youth over a hundred years ago. The Fountain itself is a deadly lake that regresses everything to nothing within its radius, but learning its magic has allowed other characters to get regular rejuvenation treatments.
The Magic Comes Back: This was to be the main plot of The Odd Squad, the unfinished prequel to The Dragon Doctors that set up the First Breaking.
Magick: Made fun of in one strip, which had a background poster saying "Magic is not spelled with a 'k!'"
Magic Pants: Literally. Sarin can summon "emergency pants," a spell apparently developed because "I had a very wild adolescence." Averted in most other cases, however, since quite often we've seen that transformation does not apply to people's clothing (necessitating the need to buy all-new wardrobes in certain cases).
Magic Wand: Mori most often uses a wand which, while mechanical, seems to use magic and is usually used to scan patients with a "woob-woob" sound effect. It has a little pull-out display screen. A more traditional magic wand with a yellow star on top was wielded by one of the four magical thieves assaulting the hospital Goro was in; the wielder was the thieves' "technical expert" and used it for a variety of purposes including communications-jamming, lock-picking and (attempted) fireball-tossing.
Magitek: Since Mori is a "magical scientist," Mori is often seen using some sort of techno-wand. There's also been a few guns that shoot magic.
Man, I Feel Like a Woman : Sarin. She also teases Kili by accusing her of this when Kili's just having trouble putting on a bra.
The Masquerade: The pre-first breaking world, which is based on 21st century Earth. It turns out that mages were secretly running everything in almost every situation of power imaginable, most notably political positions. Violators, sociopathic mages who enjoyed torturing people, were somewhat rampant as well. When enough victims were made aware of each other they formed The Hearts Society, a group dedicated to protecting people from and undoing magical victimization. They decided the best way to do this would be to loosen the Masquerade slightly, so that people would at least start seeking help; The mages in power disliked this and fought back, believing that their power was more important than the victims of a few psychopathic mages (many of which were also in positions of power)... so the Hearts decided to completely completely destroy the masquerade. This caused an immediate civil war in every country on Earth as the non-magical realized that their leaders were either being manipulated by mages or were manipulating mages. This war, called the Breaking, destroyed civilization, but the resultant reformation was relatively quick and lead to an arguably better world.
Sarin was nicknamed after the deadly nerve gas because she was a rotten kid at the orphanage.
Kili's surname, "Stormcrow," means "Harbinger of the coming storm," and is a reference to one of Gandalf's many names in The Lord of the Rings. For that matter, "Kili" was one of the names of the dwarves.
The entity responsible for the Fourth Breaking was called "Paradox Anon." "Anon" archaically means "soon" or "presently," as Anon exists in the present but has no past to support it. It also is short for "anonymous," so it's also appropriate for a thing that shouldn't be.
Merger of Souls: In the backstory a massive time-destroying paradox (the ghost of a woman who used time-travel to kill her past self) is merged with the soul of a cyber-shaman, giving her a new physical existence and ending the unravelling of reality. Later, the shaman explains she had to undergo an "emergency meditation" to resolve her identity and that she's not entirely the Shelinda the other characters know.
Modern Stasis: It's 2000 years in the future, but Rina awakens to a world that looks an awful lot like the one she left behind, "not enough lasers or blinking lights." Word of God says that this is because people in the Fourth Era are consciously trying to keep everything Boring but Practical. The Third Era had flying cities which all came crashing to the ground during the Fourth Breaking.
Multiethnic Name: A few. Goro Delgado, Tomo Wakeman, and Preston Chang, for example. Fits the story's setting, in that the ethnic and cultural divides of the world have changed severly in the last two millenia.
Minor character Priscilla was hit with a Cool and Unusual Punishment for violating Sarin's privacy. Said curse makes it so whenever she uses magic, she innately destroys any clothing she's wearing. It's only after this that we discover her day job — a wood-shaping (carpenter/artist) mage — requires that she use magic all day long. It's revealed several months later that the curse, designed to wear off after a week, refuses to go away even when specifically dispelled.
Priscilla: Well, it didn't! My customers all think I'm some crazy artist lady who only does her work in the nude!
Name That Unfolds Like Lotus Blossom: All of the Crystal People use long names that describe their shape and color; e.g., "I am An Aesthetically Pleasing Humanoid Arrangement of Pretty Pink Crystals, but you can call me Pinky!"
Not That Kind of Mage: Sarin's a master at transforming people, but unskilled at morphing clothing, a problem she's had since training. Hence why she learned to summon Magic Pants to cover up after turning to mist (and all clothes subsequently falling off)
The Nudifier: The Equipment Failure spell, which is a rather large beam that destroys anything inorganic (and "unalive") it touches. Useful as a temporary curse against a privacy violating mage, to diffuse a hostage situation, or to disable an attacker. Several other magical effects leave the user nude — notably being turned to stone for 2000 years — the clothing rotted away and shape changing (especially werewolf transformations and changing from a tree to a human — bonus points for the rebirth symbolism involved). In one arc, a temporary nudifying curse turned permanent due to an unrelated effect, leaving its victim with a bigger helping of just desserts than expected.
Obvious Beta: Large patches of the comic are in black and white and unfinished. The creator runs into scheduling problems with Real Life intruding or impending Creator Breakdown at various points, and has repeatedly said that if he has a choice between coloring an old page and giving readers a new one, he'll go for the new page every time.
Greg just celebrated his 60th birthday, but looks about 20-something. He's apparently not alone since rejuvenations are commonplace in this setting.
Mori was later revealed to be 170. She discovered the Fountain of Youth as an old woman, and was one of the first to benefit from it, so she's currently one of the oldest people alive (though not the oldest; other, more morally questionable forms of rejuvenation existed already, mostly involving massive life essence transfusion.)
Only Known by Their Nickname: The "demon gang" that Cary has alluded to are only referred to by initials; the catoblepas is "Mr. C," the succubus is "Ms. S" and the incubus is "Mr. I." Possibly due to I Know Your True Name being in effect for demons.
Our Werewolves Are Different: Literally; as of the "Quarantine" chapter, Greg and Kili have become "variant" werewolves that do not necessarily follow the known patterns of other werewolves, due to the highly unusual way they contracted the condition (a living cancer invading their souls). One of the current side-effects is their hair growing REALLY long. They're also not contagious, and later Kili's werewolf form grew in size in response to her suppressed rage issues.
Power Incontinence: As a boy, Kili developed spiritual senses that were far too strong — so strong that without magic tattoos that suppress his vision (tattoos that would cut the vision of an ordinary shaman off completely), he'd go insane. With the tattoos, though, he (now she) can use that power to channel spirits without needing the same rituals that ordinary shamans do.
Precision F-Strike: Kili delivers the comic's first (and to date, only) s-bomb when she confronts the killer of her friend.
Pride: Why Elizabeth lost. Sarin describes her as "Like me; smart enough to forget you can make mistakes."
Primal Fear: One murderous shaman calls upon spirits of these to kill his targets. Most of them embody different aspects of the fear of death; the decay of old age, soul-drowning despair and mind-shattering insanity. The final one is primal darkness that engulfs everything.
Pronoun Trouble: Generally the comic follows the Orlando rule; call 'em "she" if their body is female and "he" if their body is male. So if we're seeing Kili in the past, Kili's a "he," but present Kili is a "she." The author said in several posts that he's amused when readers refer to characters otherwise since it shows off their perception of the characters. It's later explained in-universe that when most of the medical team works on bodies rather than minds, it's better to always use physical genders than to make a mistake.
Psychic Surgery: Discussed in the Crax arc, but not used; it would rip out the Crax from Greg's body instantly but since the technique requires bare hands, it would be unwise to use it on a life form that devours everything.
Preston Chang, the mind operating the Crax, a horrific entity that is attempting to consume Kili and Greg's minds from within, gives a rather nasty one to Kili once she's cornered. He's already dominated most of her mental landscape and if some part of her remains alive inside, she'll just be forced to watch. Then Greg turns it around with a pretty good Shut Up, Hannibal!.
And Sarin gives one to Elizabeth on why she failed.
Reed Richards Is Useless: Totally averted. The Dragon Doctors solve as many mundane cases as they do extraordinary ones (just very quickly) and humanity in general seems to benefit from a lot of the stuff they are capable of doing; people can purchase rejuvenations once they start getting old, for example, and Sarin's ability to magically turn anyone into anything is compared to an advanced form of face-lifts.
Ret Gone: Doesn't actually occur in this comic, but is referenced when Aki's reading to Tanica. Tanica really hates this trope.
Mori had a minor one when the details of the Un-Person spell was unveiled — no one, not even herself, can remember her last name. All records and memories of it have been completely destroyed from history.
Revealing Coverup: In the "thieves of life" arc, it's the robbers' jamming of communications that tips Goro off about their imminent attack.
Revenge: Averted by Elizabeth, who states in prison that she's more angry with herself than at Goro.
Ridiculously Average Guy: Greg even makes a speech about it. "You could forget I'm there if you so much as blink while talking to me." Of course, turns out there's a couple of Hidden Depths to him.
Rousseau Was Right: Most problems the Dragon Doctors encounter derive from either chance events or well-meaning accidents (or both), and most of the actual villains that cross their path have histories that explain what drove them there, demonstrate redemptive traits, or both.
Sadistic Choice: Derek's MO was to trap people in caves with no food or water... and a scroll of flesh to stone. This was two thousand years ago, and one of his victims was only recently found; they're still not sure they've found them all, or when or if they will.
Schizo Tech: In the early strips, when it wasn't expected to be an ongoing series, it comes off as a pseudo-medieval fantasy world... but then they start making deliveries on motorcycles... and doing research on the Internet. Now it's been dated to 2000 years (or more) in our future, and the technological trappings are harder to miss. It turns out the Earth has went through 4 different major catastrophies, called "Breakings", that have reduced civilization to the dark ages each time — the unveiling of Magic to the general public and the subsequent world war that followed, a Nuclear War, a global magical catastrophe, and most recently a dimensional collapse, causing multiple alternate realities to merge with Earth. Poorly.
Second Law of Gender Bending: Played with. Mori still isn't fully comfortable as a man, Sarin (being a shapeshifter) never minded it in the first place, Goro initially despised it but realized she hated being weak more than being female, and Kili, after some soul-searching, settled in so well others have difficulty remembering she used to be male in the first place.
Self-Deprecation: The artist, as noted above, is continually apologizing to his readers for not having better art and even occasionally makes jokes about it being "hideous."
She Cleans Up Nicely: Multiple characters, although Priscilla may take the cake — normally, she's a Hollywood Nerd with tightly bunned up hair and geek glasses, wearing conservative, baggy clothing. ... Then her nudity curse kicks in, letting her hair down and destroying the glasses. And, er, everything else.
Shirtless Scene: After a poll, Mori notes that there's a request for a "Mori Shirtless Scene" and wonders aloud whether they mean girl-Mori or guy-Mori.
A comic references "that legend about that sorceress who learned all her magic when she was turned to stone...who went mad and became an insane violatornote someone who transforms unwilling subjects in debilitating ways, especially inanimate objects." This is almost certainly a reference to The Sorceress of the transformation-fetish site Naga's Den, especially since the author is tightly linked to that site's creator's tamer works, and the word "sorcerer" usually being gender-neutral.
Multiple ones to the manga Blame!. Mori's name comes from a minor character in it, an underground realm called "The Cyber-Dungeon" is a direct reference to it and in this comic, the gun's extra flanges that pop out in overload mode are a reference to Killy's GBE gun.
Rina watches a documentary about the survivors of the nuclear war in the Second Breaking. It's a clear shout out to Fist of the North Star, with men punching each other at high speed.
Showing Off the New Body: Lee Smith checks out the sexy new body Sarin gave himher, complete with the comic's first butt-shot.
Greg also gets this when he's turned to stone so they can delicately remove the sentient Crax from his body.
Every one of the Dragon Doctors is turned to stone for a moment by accident when they look at a gorgon. Sarin simply brushes off being petrified though, and restores the team.
Mori's arc reveals that this is the fate of those who use certain kinds of magic in Thoria.
Sarin also frequently stoneskins herself when under attack.
Tanica follows this trope in spirit, as she (and Sarin) were both turned into immobile, yet conscious and aware, trees. Sarin found it to be peaceful as she was relatively safe and no longer had to live her rather violent and stressful life, Tanica... takes a lot longer to find any form of peace.
Invoked by Kili when she takes a trip to the part of the spirit world inhabited by the spirits of people's former selves, or their Shadow Archetype. We meet a bitter, much saner Preston Chang, and Kili and Greg's younger selves (an annoying, grumpy thirteen-year-old and a Totally Radical headbanger, respectively).
At the end of the second Mr. Smith arc, both Blue and Elka (Tanica's real name) say this about Tanica the Assassin.
There Are No Therapists: Very much averted, and not just because one of the main characters is a shaman/therapist. Several other characters have been in or are still going through therapy (like the devastated Rina, who's much better for it years later.)
Translator Microbes: There's a world-wide magic spell called "The Language Barrier Breaker" in effect at all times, explain the doctors to Rina. The doctors themselves are explicitly stated as speaking a distant descendant of English, and all signs are in English for reader conveinance.
Transsexual: The issue doesn't arise frequently in the story, but there are a few genuine instances of gender dysmorphia that arise:
When Mori was exiled from Thoria as a kid, one of her fellow deportees was Lem, born a woman, who used magic to be a man.Unfortunately, Lem was self-medicating with cheap, toxic potions, putting his life in serious risk.note Sadly, a number of transgender people in Real Life have risked their lives self-medicating with hormones; please, if you are in such a situation, do your research.
Twenty Minutes into the Future: The first half of "Last Victim" focuses on Rina discovering her latent magic powers in the 21st Century, shortly before the "First Breaking."
Ultimate Life Form: The Crax, capable of adapting to devour anything and resistant against most forms of attack. Deconstructed in the chapter "The Ultimate Life Form," where it turns out the Crax itself disposes of the maniac mind responsible for turning it into a monster. The ultimate life form isn't the ultimate eating machine, it's the ultimate survivor. The unspoken implication is that Kili, who has been surrounded by death her entire life, is as much a candidate for "Ultimate Life Form" as the Crax.
The Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer: Rina, eventually. It helps that she already knew magic before emerging in a magical world, and that the culture she came from was compatible with Frontera—the characters point out that if she had been frozen during one of the Dark Ages she wouldn't have fared nearly as well.
The Unmasqued World: This was the "First Breaking" that lead to an eventual collapse of society in the comic's backstory. It is implied that this takes place some time in what we think of as the 21st century, as this is where Rina seems to come from. There was civil war in every country on Earth, between magic-using puppet masters trying to preserve their grip on the world, and The Hearts Society, a group of people dedicated to stopping evil magic users from preying on innocent people (and they figured the best way to do that was to make the existence of magic public knowledge).
Unperson: Variation; when people are banished from the country of Thoria (such as Mori), their surname is magically eradicated so that no-one, not even they themselves, can remember what it was.
It's later mentioned that this can't be undone - even if the people in charge change their minds and want to undo what they did.
The Unpronounceable: Although everyone in-universe seems to have no trouble with it, it's uncertain how you pronounce the name of the Murder, Inc. group, the Trsanti.
We Help the Helpless: The Hearts Society is an international organization dedicated to helping victims of magic (in particular, debilitating transformation magic) and stopping "Violators" who cause these sorts of problems. For example, if an evil sorcerer turned you into a statue, or worse, a shoe, they'd be the ones who would hopefully find you and restore you.
We Will Have Perfect Health in the Future: Averted; people are generally quite healthy, due to how fast magical medicine works as well as rejuvenations making most age-related diseases a thing of the past, but magic has caused just as many weird diseases and problems to crop up in their place.
With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Derek and Chang especially, but it's suggested that this phenomenon occurring en masse led to The End of the World as We Know It in the twenty-first century or so. Specifically, magic using sociopath mages who abuse their powers are called "Violators" and are looked upon very poorly by society, but modern society is now much better equipped for dealing with them.
Winged Humanoid: Aki, a couple Pixies, and Sarin with the aid of a spell. There's no flapping because, as Sarin explains, Pixie wings (and spell wings, appearently) work using magic, rather than aerodynamics.
World Sundering: It's happened four times, and people are ambivalent about whether or not a fifth is due.
Xanatos Speed Chess: During the Die Hard on an X chapter, Elizabeth the shapeshifting thief keeps re-adapting her master plan every time Goro tries something different to stop the thieves. If it hadn't been for a slip up at the end (making her disguise as Goro too perfect) she'd have gotten away with it, too.
Year Inside, Hour Outside: When Kili and Greg bond inside a dreamworld while the doctors operate on Greg's petrified body to chip out the Crax, we see seasons passing as they get to know each other. They spent long enough with one another there that they have fallen deeply in love.
And Sarin can see the Real you. Regardless of whether it's illusions, transformation, or any other sort of magic, she always sees the real form of others. She takes this Up to Eleven when she can see the true form of a person using an astral projection.
You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Kili has white hair while Sarin and post-tree Tanica/Elka have green hair, respectively, though it is explained that all are due to an unusual magical circumstance (Kili's overpowered spiritual abilities caused her to see a particularly bad Eldritch Abomination, Sarin and Elka spent a few years as trees). Occasionally other characters with unusual hair color show up, but they might be "naturally occurring," such as a pixie with bright pink hair (and bright orange skin).