Whistles, initially released as The Starlight Calliope, is a comic made by Andrew Hussie between 2005 and 2007.
The story follows the titular protagonist, a happy-go-lucky and extremely naive clown working at the Starlight Calliope circus as its main attraction until his ankle was broken in an accident. He ends up discovering a darker side to the circus and reluctantly has to flee. After a stint as a male prostitute, he eventually returns to the circus, but things dont go as theyre planned.
Originally posted on the web to Team Special Olympics, the comic is complete at 153 pages. It also had a 2 volume print run by Slave Labor Graphics. While both the comic and prints are defunct, there are archive projects that have backed up the entire run (Bambosh and GiovanH's Unofficial Homestuck Collection, for example, has the comic in its Team Special Olympics section).
Whistles contains examples of :
- Ambiguously Human : In Chapter 3, while Doodlebean tries to escape the multiple versions of Pendlecoat, she ends up discovering that they all came from giant flowers. That casts a big doubt over Phineas true nature as a human.
- An Arm and a Leg : In Chapter 2, Whistles amputate his own arm and give it to one of the Pendlecoat (who shot him in this very same arm) in order to provide him food. He regrows it later, but its a literal balloon arm (which surprises Gumblin).
- Author Appeal : Theres clowns everywhere, something that will stay prevalent in Hussie body of work going forward.
- Bad Boss : Phineas Pendlecoat, the ringmaster of the Starlight Calliope Circus. Even if he has a very affable personality on the outside, hes a cannibalistic monster who holds very few regards for the clowns that he employs and has no problem killing them and turning them into food when they become useless to him. Not to mention the clones of him that are as creepy.
- Big Bad : Phineas Pendlecoat and his clones are this until the epilogue, when Sugarshoe upstages him.
- Big Damn Heroes : When Doodlebean looks cornered by Pendlecoat clones, Gumblin comes back just in time and kills all of them.
- Bolivian Army Cliffhanger : Borders on the downer part. In the very last drawn page of the comic (its the second-to-last in the online version, but the last one is a photo of Hussie selling prints of the comic in a convention, so it doesnt count), Sugarshoe unleashes an army of flower monsters who starts eating the spectators (who cant flee) and its unknown if theres any survivors or if Whistles, Doodlebean & Teenage Pendlecoat (who have been warned by Gumbloid of the upcoming danger) will make it to the circus until its too late.
- Born-Again Immortality : Pendlecoat is reborn as a baby (though, he has the same face, mustache and hat of his adult self) in the end of Chapter 3. Due to the multiple clones of him, its not totally clear whether its another clone or the original one but the fact that hes the only one who is born as a baby while all his other clones are already adults when theyre released, its possible he could be the real deal.
- Botanical Abomination : The forces that control the Starlight Calliope Circus in the shadows are revealed to be this at the end of Chapter 3. In the Epilogue, theyre the ones creating Sugarshoe as the new star of the circus.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall : At one point during the epilogue, while Gumblin inflitrates the circus and witness the giant automaton Pendlecoat, he says that it hardly seems canonical.
- Card-Carrying Villain : Sugarshoe has nearly no limits, whether its shooting people, eating one of his progenitors or slashing Pendlecoat throat, and hes really enjoying it.
- Deliberately Monochrome : The comic-book is entirely in black-and-white art (except the front cover).
- Does This Remind You of Anything? : Near the end of Chapter 2, when Pendlecoat seems to be back from the dead (in fact, its another him) and Doodlebean faces him, he wraps her around him and the way its presented makes it look like something very creepy is about to happen. Its showed in the very next page that hes about to eat her, which is not better by any means.
- Even Evil Has Standards : Sugarshoe has no qualms about killing one of the Pendlecoat in a gruesome way and eating one of the botanical monsters who created him, but he seems to be the only one in the comic that refuses to eat human flesh, calling it « gross ». He licks a bit of his blood and seems to like it, though.
- Faux Affably Evil : Pendlecoat always talks softly and presents himself as a kind figure, but his cannibalistic tendancies, his lack of consideration for his employees and his attempt to hurt Gumblin when hes at the latter mercy should make it clear that hes really a monstrous asshole.
- I'm a Humanitarian : Phineas Pendlecoat, big time. Though, hes not the only one : the narration says that the spectators of the circus also eat parts of the dead clowns bodies and even Whistles, early in the comic, takes a bite and seems to appreciate it (even if he probably doesnt see the problem, due to his stupidity).
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice : What kills Pendlecoat in Chapter 2. Its just one among a lot of clones of him, but at least, this one was dead for good.
- Implied Death Threat : An adult clone of Pendlecoat tries this towards Sugarshoe in a punny way. The latter doesnt take it well and kills him by slashing his throat.
- Kindhearted Simpleton : Whistles, by all accounts, is this (with some cloudcuckoo-ish personality traits).
- Man on Fire : Whistles sets all the spectators of the circus on fire after they beat Pendlecoat down to a pulp when his true nature is discovered, killing them quickly.
- Manipulative Editing : The performance reenacting the events of the previous chapters took some liberties with what truly happened. How Sugarshoe knew about events that take place before his birth is never properly adressed (even if the presence of a duplicate of Pendlecoat implies that he could be the one who told a fake story to him).
- Mentor Archetype : Invoked and subverted. When Gumblin and Whistles meet again, the former thinks he should be this to the latter but because Whistles is way too loyal towards Pendlecoat (and also a bit stupid), it doesnt happen.
- Me's a Crowd : Pendlecoat has multiple clones of himself that are vomited from giant flowers (which explains why he seemed to recover from his impalment in Chapter 2).
- Monster Clown : Without a doubt, Sugarshoe is so much this he can give Gamzee Makara a run for his money.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown : When Pendlecoat evil nature is revealed, all the spectators beat the shit out of him relentlessly. It doesnt kill him, but still.
- Purple Prose : Gumblin talks like this all the time. Sugarshoe shares this trait with him.
- Robot Me : Gumbloid.
- Slashed Throat : What Sugarshoe does to Pendlecoat when the latter implies hes about to eat him.
- Taking the Bullet : Subverted. Whistles takes one for Gumblin when Pendlecoat tries to shoot him, but its not for sacrificing himself, he just thinks that he should be the star of this show and be the one who is shot.
- The End... Or Is It? : The Starlight Calliope Circus is deemed unsalvageable by Gumblin and Whistles destroys it at the end of Chapter 3 except not really and Sugarshoe is promptly created (read : vomited) in order to provide it a new star, kicking off the events of the epilogue.
- Time Skip : Whistles time as a male prostitute named « Throttles the Jackhammer » is not shown at all and we go directly to Whistles attempt to return at the Starlight Calliope.
- Undying Loyalty : Whistles will do anything for Phineas Pendlecoat, even if hes a villain. That explains why Phineas is able to mentally influencing him at one point.
- Unexplained Recovery : Subverted. At the end of Chapter 2, Phineas (who died earlier after being tossed in a pit by Gumblin and said death shown) seems to be back from the dead without any scar or mark. And then, its revealed that theres multiple versions of him (which means that the one in the pit is really dead).
- Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe : The clowns and fake members of the audience all talk like this during their performance in the epilogue.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness : If a clown cant work anymore, Pendlecoat kills them and turns them into food for himself and the spectators.
- You're Insane! : Gumblin says this to Sugarshoe while witnessing him shooting people.