Webcomic: Unwinder's Tall Comics
"I am just a weak-minded child trying to survive in a culture where the highest thing a person can aspire to is knowing a lot about music."Unwinder's Tall Comics
— Unwinder, a possibly non-canon, but still pretty accurate, self-assessment
is a metafictional Magic Realism Slice of Life
webcomic by Wilson "Eli" Parker, also known as the creator of Powerup Comics
. The comic is a satire of modern youth culture—particularly the oversaturation of trivialities and entertainment—and an Affectionate Parody
of suburban Minnesota.
At the heart of the comic is Unwinder, a kid who's clearly a little too Genre Savvy
for his own good: wildly inventive, yet completely incapable of recognizing the fine line between creativity and idiocy. He thinks rock bands should play pranks on the audience instead of music. He consumes entertainment solely so he can reference it in his conversations. He sends unsolicited scripts for TV ads to Taco Bell. He invents internet memes, then invents webcomics solely to spread these memes. He is, in short, a product of the Information Age Gone Horribly Right
Rounding out the central cast are Unwinder's eternally cheerful girlfriend, Mildred; his friend and punching bag, Barbecue Sauce; and the Only Sane Man
There is no overarching plot, though the humor is becoming increasingly dependent on continuity
. The comic updates irregularly, usually on Saturdays.
It also features what may possibly be the best parody of TV Tropes, ever
This webcomic provides examples of:
- Affectionate Parody:
Wilson Parker, several years later: If I were to parody Dresden Codak today, I would just rail against monotheism for a while.
- Amy Sauce's webcomic is a parody of Perfect Stars.
- Alt Text: Added when Parker revamped the website.
- Art Shift: Honestly, it would be easier to list all the pages that don't feature this.
- Anti-Humor: Unwinder's box of rejected ideas includes "Normal Al", who parodies "Weird Al" Yankovic by doing straight cover versions of every song that Weird Al parodied as well as rewriting Weird Al's original songs to be completely serious.
- Back to Front: "The Accident".
- The Bechdel Test: Parodied in #100
Ever heard of the Rastov test? Barbecue Sauce:
Is that like where a book or movie is only good if it has less than four warring factions, and they have to say at least one sentence that isn't full of made-up space jargon
- Beige Prose: A defining feature of Sonty Mick's writing (and that of his relatives, like Sontford Mickhouse and Soncho Michez).
- Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Barbecue Sauce writes "Tesla fics", in which characters from fiction turn out to be an immortal Nikola Tesla in disguise. According to Felicity, this is a popular enough fanfic subgenre to have entire websites devoted to it.
- B-Side Comics: Apocalyptus: Thrift and Peril, Your Guess is as Good as Mine.
- Canon Welding: Many prior works by Parker have been rolled into Tall Comics: Shadow and Chug, Sonty Mick, and a brief appearance by the cast of his old sci-fi comic Too Far.
- Cerebus Syndrome: In universe example: Nutflix, the (fictional) webcomic Unwinder reads in this comic, is centered around nutcrackers reenacting scenes from movies. By this comic, it has "jumped the whale shark. THE LARGEST SHARK ON EARTH", and become a serious drama that rarely even touches on its original premise.
- Character Blog
- Clap Your Hands If You Believe: A trio of women want to meet Dr. Minivan. His doubt causes them to begin fading from existence.
- Comically Missing the Point: Nathan Blaine's K2: The Death of Kane (his sequel to Citizen Kane) has enough references to the original film's plot and dialogue to demonstrate that he's a big fan. Somehow, he still manages to miss the point of the original and make his K2 a generic action movie.
- Conspiracy Theorist: In "County Fair", a rigged carnival game turns out to just be a front for a 9/11 Truther to give his spiel about why the destruction of the Twin Towers was an inside job.
- Continuity Nod
- Conveniently Unverifiable Coverstory: In Unwinder's resume, he claims to have co-invented "a social networking website with this guy named Mark Zuckerberg".
Felicity: Mmm hmm. And if I call him, is he going to verify that?
Unwinder: Go ahead and try. Try to call Mark Zuckerburg.
- Conversational Troping: To the point of having a fake TV Tropes page appear in-comic.
- Cool Old Guy: Horse-Man is one of the few people whom Unwinder actually respects.
- Diegetic Switch: Discussed. In Nathan Blaine's film Elite Force Vampire: "a vampire spy has a tiny gun hidden inside an iPod. There's no trigger. To fire, you have to play Evanescence music, which becomes the soundtrack."
- Dodgy Toupee: In comic 126, Unwinder notices Dr. Minivan not wearing his wig. Turns out lice now live inside the wig and became sentient because of Dr. Minivan's drug testing.
- Don't Like, Don't Read: Felicity's default response to Unwinder's criticisms of Your Guess is as Good as Mine. Unwinder throws it right back at her.
That's just your opinion. Thanks, but I'm going to keep doing things my own way, thank you. If you don't like it, just stop reading.
You know, if you don't like my comments, you don't have to read them.
- Duct Tape for Everything:
Doc, pick a masculine thing to learn about, or I'll pick one for you. Dr. Minivan:
Well, I've heard good things about using duct tape for various tasks. Unwinder:
Excellent choice! Horse-Man, go over to Hardware Hank and get this guy a roll of duct tape large enough to compensate for something
- Dude Looks Like a Lady: Dr. Minivan gets mistaken for a woman thanks to his long-haired wig.
- Dying Alone: Barbecue Sauce's greatest fear.
- Easy Evangelism: Prudence does this in the saved-fics (fanfiction in which the protagonist suddenly becomes a hardcore Christian) she writes.
Usually, the result is that the characters' lives are improved, and all of their problems go away. Unwinder:
Man, what the heck? Does Prudence actually want to watch a version of House
where everyone gets along? What would the show even be about? Medicine?
- Faux Symbolism: As seen here, Tokyo Delta Jetlag D is rife with it.
- Fictional Media: So, so many. The most-often referenced ones include:
- Tokyo Delta Jetlag D, a weird anime that Unwinder and Barbecue Sauce enjoy.
- The War of the Seven Stars, a Space Opera novel series. Incredibly epic, and incredibly dull.
- After Dark, a wildly successful series of teen novels featuring romantic zombies.
- Flanderization: Played with in this strip. Unwinder has a dream that "you and I were fictional characters, and our personalities were really broad and predictable!" Then, in the waking world, Unwinder and Barbecue Sauce subvert their usual character dynamic, with Unwinder defending his geeky interest from Barbecue Sauce's embarrassment.
- Foe Yay Shipping: In-universe; after watching a few episodes of Tokyo Delta Jetlag D, Unwinder starts shipping Jaded Lament and Colonel Gunarm.
- The Greys: Unwinder resembles one of these, but Parker is deliberately vague regarding his true nature: "Basically I tried to choose a name that would not settle the issue of whether he is an alien, or just Swedish."
- Hacked by a Pirate: Unwinder discusses his idea for hacker identity with Amy, who actually is a hacker:
I'd call myself "Maestro". My thing would be that when I hacked a website, it would play classical music. I'd refer to the songs as "1337motifs
You wouldn't last five minutes.
- Halloween Cosplay: Here and here.
- Unwinder has a complicated relationship with Gary P. Rastov's novels. He has a lot of criticism for the books' shortcomings and professes to hate them... yet he's read the entire series three times, and even read the autobiography of Gary's son, Warren, in hope that it would shed some light on who Gary was.
- Happens again with Felicity's Your Guess Is as Good as Mine. Unwinder hates the comic so much that he takes it upon himself to make Felicity improve by heckling her. He proceeds to read the entire archives and leave disparaging comments on nearly every page.
- High-Class Glass: Sontford Mickhouse wears two monocles.
- Impossibly Cool Weapon: The katagun, a gun whose moving bullets trace the path of the blade. It's the preferred weapon of Jaded Lament from Tokyo Delta Jetlag D.
- Improbable Weapon User: The Apocalyptus characters fight with windmill blades and clock arms.
- Infinite Canvas: They're called Tall Comics for a reason.
- Intercontinuity Crossover: With, of all things, Marmaduke. Also with Hitmen For Destiny (Sonty Mick appearing in Hitmen, and several Hitmen characters appearing in Tall Comics).
- I Take Offense to That Last One: Here.
Reading some manga there? Barbecue Sauce:
Reading some non-canon comic continuations of old, canceled, BBC science fiction shows? Barbecue Sauce:
No! I mean, most fans consider them canon
, since they got some of the original writers.
- Klatchian Coffee: "The Huffy Dimension".
- Lampshade Hanging: Parker tackles the issue of "Why do Unwinder and Horse-Man spend so much time together?" by having the characters themselves ask the question and fail to arrive at an answer.
- Little Miss Con Artist: Amy, preteen cracker.
- Mundane Ghost Story: The dreaded Dying Alone Snakes.
- Narrative Filigree: Cranked up to eleven by the in-story novel The Gun and the Grapes, a mystery story where every relevant detail is buried under a mountain of irrelevant ones.
- Noble Demon: Spondulio Wealthmonger claims to be thoroughly selfish, and that his many extravagant acts of charity are just the first steps in elaborate schemes to make himself filthy rich.
- Not Cheating Unless You Get Caught:
Felicity: Hmm. Your resume says you're a career criminal. If we run a background check, what's going to turn up?
Unwinder: Nothing! Never been caught!
- Periphery Hatedom: At the county fair, suburbanites Unwinder and Amy mock the idea of awarding prizes for livestock. They can't see how the blue ribbon-winning hog is any different from the other hogs at the fair. (The alternate title for the comic is "Unwinder doesn't 'get' agriculture.") As soon as Unwinder and Amy are out of earshot, the farmers make fun of their ignorance.
- Posthumous Character: Gary P. Rastov. He died before the comic began, but his legacy lives on in the War of the Seven Stars novels he wrote.
- OOC Is Serious Business: On page 132, the perpetually-easygoing Lion-Man decides he's finally had enough of employment, and as he ponders how best to part with his employer, he frowns for the first time.
Alt Text: Drawing Lion-Man with any expression on his face other than stoned euphoria feels really wrong.
- The Omnipresent: In the in-universe short story "The Gimel" (which appears on pages 83 and 84), Soncho Michez finds a Gimel at the bottom of a barrel. It causes him to exist everywhere in the universe at once for as long as he touches it. (The whole story is an Affectionate Parody of Jorge Luis Borges' "The Aleph".)
- Only Sane Man: Horse-Man.
- Our Zombies Are Different: The zombies of the After Dark series are super-handsome basketball players who can fly.
- Reality Warper: Howard can apparently turn himself into a giant square by accident, or bring Unwinder's imaginary creations (like Moist Rider) into reality.
- Refuge in Audacity: Deliberately invoked by Unwinder here.
- Rule 63: Amy drew a picture of BBQ She-Sauce and Unwinder finds that she's attractive.
- Scare 'Em Straight: Horse-Man tries to dissuade Unwinder from smoking pot by introducing Unwinder to Lion-Man's pro-weed blog.
- Serial Escalation: How metafictional can the comic go? How tall can the comic get?
- Shallow Parody: Discussed in The Rant and played with. In one strip, Eli Parker admits that he doesn't know very much about Lady Gaga at all—so instead of making a joke about Lady Gaga, he made a joke about his characters not knowing very much about Lady Gaga. Then for the strip about K2: The Death of Kane, Parker notes how many "Citizen Kane sequel that completely misses the point" jokes only seem to parody the plot points that have spread via Popcultural Osmosis—so Parker made his own version of the joke that only makes sense if you've actually watched all of Citizen Kane.
- Small Name, Big Ego: For all that Chad and Jason like to portray themselves as gods of gaming (both here and in Powerup Comics), they get quite embarrassingly beaten by Dr. Minivan, who apparently has never even heard of Halo before.
- Something Completely Different: Apocalyptus: Thrift and Peril, a story based on a Steam Punk tabletop RPG session, was initially placed in the middle of the comic's main archive. But when the website was revamped, Apocalyptus was moved to a separate archive.
- The Stoner: Lion-Man.
It is not April 20th. The image of Lion-Man carries a powerful and mystic "4:20 aura".
- Stuff Blowing Up: Unwinder dismisses director Nathan Blaine as "some guy who directs by pushing an 'explode' button."
- Stylistic Suck: A lot of metafiction is deliberately (and hilariously) horrible.
- They Changed It, Now It Sucks: In-Universe. Even though he admits that Dawn's Glory was an insufferably dull novel, Unwinder still feels obligated to complain about the upcoming movie adaptation turning it into "Transformer poop".
- Touch Telepathy: Howard can read minds by placing his hand on someone's forehead. He doesn't use that ability very much (i.e. ever, outside that one page).
- Troll: Unwinder is an oddly dedicated internet troll (he once trolled a Linkin Park fanboard... after first spending over a year establishing himself as a constructive fan) and aspires to be a real-life troll as well.
Other guy: OK, is it like a dream of yours to get booed off of a stage?
Unwinder: No, see, the real music is the jeers of the angry crowd! They are the true instruments, and you have been playing them from square one!
- Where the Hell Is Springfield?: After avoiding revealing where Unwinder lives for 49 pages, Parker eventually gave the name of the town: Garen, a Ghost Town in Real Life.