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Comic Strip / Safe Havens

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Safe Havens is a fantasy comic strip by Bill Holbrook, launched on October 3, 1988, and initially set in a daycare center. In 1993 the preschool children began aging in real time, and the strip has followed them as they've moved through K-12, college and now young adulthood. The main character is Samantha Argus, a personable and enthusiastic young woman with the skills of a Mad Scientist who has unlocked the secrets of genetic manipulation.


This comic contains examples of:

  • Absent-Minded Professor: Rupert and Rosalind are great geneticists but keep making trouble for themselves. Even more so when separate.
  • Acrophobic Bird: An unusual variation. The dodos drink a potion to grow eagle wings for a distant travel, but to no avail.
  • Aliens Steal Cable: Mars initially used canine language to communicate with Team Fastrack...which it picked up from old Lassie broadcasts.
  • Artifact Title: For a while, anyway. Originally focusing on Safe Havens Daycare, it moved on to other schools with "Havens" in their names, and the main characters even started a band called Safe Havens. The band wasn't very central, and the "Safe" part still looked somewhat out of place. Nowadays, Samantha teaches at Havens University, and some of her friends' kids have enrolled in the daycare center.
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  • Brain Bleach: Desired by Pam after Samantha mentioned the possibility of a Halloween "sexy Mitch McConnell" costume.
  • Breakout Character: Samantha used to be a supporting character, but she turned out more interesting than Matt.
  • Cats Are Snarkers: Palmtop. Then again, snark is pretty well distributed in this comic.
  • Character Blog: Roger has a weekly blog.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Plenty over the years. For instance, the dodos just happen to have a natural song — with English lyrics — that works perfectly with one of Bambi's hits....
  • Crippling the Competition: During a basketball game, the opposing team's coach instructed one of his players to injure Dave on the knee that had already been injured to take him out. Unfortunately for them, Dave (who, for some context, wore a visor and headphones at this point of his life) had recorded the whole conversation. Once he and Samantha exposed it, both player and coach got kicked out of the sport, with the coach having to pay damages to Dave as well. The injury didn't keep Dave out too long, but it contributed to the weakening of his ligaments, leading to the end of his NBA dreams when they finally snapped (while he scored the NCAA championship winning point for Havens U, no less). He would eventually make a career in Europe.
  • Crossover: Frequently with On the Fastrack (see Shared Universe below). One noteworthy crossover in the early 2000s featured Rose Trellis of Fastrack and Samantha's mother both running for political office, with one sequence occurring simultaneously in both comics.
    • Often caused continuity problems thanks to King Features' colorists, who did not remain consistent with crossover characters (e.g., Patina being a redhead in Fastrack but having brown hair in Havens).
    • As the more unusual elements of Fastrack have faded away (while going up to eleven in Havens), the crossovers have dwindled. With the bulk of the Havens cast having spent three years in space, this trend seems set to continue. (Technically, the entire Mars mission is bankrolled by Fastrack, but in practice, this is represented by occasional appearances by Dethany on a monitor. It is never mentioned in Fastrack and may even be set in that strip's future, if a line Wendy says in Fastrack about how Rose really should tell Dethany about the Mars mission if she expects Dethany to lead it is any indication.)
  • Daddy DNA Test: Samantha knows her daughter is Dave's naturally, but she's still curious about Maria's genetic profile. Finding out it matches Maria Novello's profile is how she finds out Maria Novello's her Kid from the Future.
  • Dream-Crushing Handicap: Played with. More than once, Dave got a knee injury that threatened his basketball career. In the end, it was too fragile for the NBA...but good enough for an Italian basketball team.
  • Doofy Dodo: Samantha successfully cloned two dodos, who turned out to be paragons of stupid, self-destructive behavior.
  • Everyone Can See It: As much as Samantha and (to a lesser extent) Dave used to protest that they were Just Friends, nobody bought it.
    • Palmtop/Pam would have you believe that she hates Vince, but...
  • The Faceless: The extremely tall Don and Marcie used to be portrayed as so tall that their heads were always off frame. Their faces have finally appeared — Don's when his son was born and Marcie's when she met the now six-foot-three Rosalind.
  • Freak Lab Accident: Happens all the time, especially with Rosalind and Rupert.
  • "Freaky Friday" Flip: Variant: Samantha and Dave, thanks to accidental lab potion ingestion, are turned into physical duplicates of each other. On their wedding day, no less.
  • Genius Ditz: The dodos may be sorely lacking in common sense, but they have a knack for getting around all sorts of obstacles designed to hold them back. They also made a fortune counting cards in casinos.
  • Gratuitous Italian: Mild examples thanks to Dave playing basketball in Italy.
  • Gretzky Has the Ball: Rule of Funny is the only consistently portrayed rule in any sports action.
  • Growing Up Sucks: Children lose their ability to talk to animals when they start behaving like adults, along with all memory of ever being able to do in the first place. The (most common) exceptions are veterinarians, who all universally retain it, and professional athletes.
  • Ignore the Disability: A key demand from Luis, which is why he loves self-centered Jenny instead of the ever-helpful Samantha.
  • Interspecies Romance: Pretty common among the animals. Also Thomas and Remora, though Thomas sometimes becomes a merman.
  • Jerkass: Jenny, though she sometimes borders on Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
  • Kid from the Future: Maria the time traveler. A twist eight years in the making. Incidentally, this makes Leonardo the Grandkid from the Future.
  • LEGO Genetics: Leads to both Voluntary Shapeshifting and Involuntary Shapeshifting.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Ming, though she's slowed down a bit after becoming a wife and mother.
  • May–December Romance: Adult Maria has to be at least 40 years older than her wife, Bambi.
  • Meaningful Name: Everyone has at least one.
  • Mister Seahorse: Thomas, thanks to the nature of merfolk.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Before pairing with Jenny, Luis unintentionally won the hearts of two girls who already had boyfriends. When Dave asked Samantha why Jenny Egotistical of all people wanted Luis, all present females of every species shouted, "HE'S A TOTAL STUD!" May or may not be a case of Informed Attribute.
  • My New Gift Is Lame: Averted and then subverted. Despite the expectations of relatives, Samantha didn't mind inheriting only a ring from her grandma. Especially when she discovered that it acted as a sort of Video Phone to her grandma in Heaven.
  • Naked People Are Funny: Happens sometimes with Involuntary Shapeshifting.
  • Omni Disciplinary Scientist: Samantha. She's practically rewritten the book on genetics and is such a pro at computer security that her dad's boss has a standing offer of employment for her.
  • One-Steve Limit: Defied when Samantha names her baby after midwife Maria. May still count as a straight example, though, because they're the same person.
  • One-Way Visor: Dave almost always wore one until college, when it was banned by the NCAA. He switched to Sunglasses at Night after that. Ming also wore such a visor initially, which is part of how she first made the acquaintance of him and his friends (including Green-Eyed Monster Samantha).
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Jenny lampshades this after saying that Samantha will make a better space mission commander than Jenny would. "Yeah, it's out of character, but our lives depend on it."
  • Our Mermaids Are Different: Remora reveals many qualities not found in most other works. For example, she can shapeshift into fully human or fully fish forms only up to 12 hours at a time, after which she transforms into the opposite form whether she wants to or not. It is also said that if a human saves a mermaid's life three times, they become a mermaid themselves, although exactly what qualifies as saving their life is Played for Laughs: Samantha found herself turned into a mermaid after something as simple as giving Remora a flotation ring for swimming practice. Remora's also more than 400 years old despite looking the same age as her (now former) classmates.
  • Out of Focus: Former protagonist Matt Havens hasn't appeared in ages.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Palmtop eventually reveals that she outlived all her puppies except Deke, because they chose to stay dogs while she and Deke live as humans.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: A whale puts on Groucho glasses in the vain hope of being counted more than once in a census.
  • Potty Failure: Back when the strip was set in a daycare, kids peeing their pants was a common gag.
  • Puberty Superpower: Maria says she gained the power of Time Travel only at puberty. This doesn't seem to be binding, as Leo develops his powers at a younger age, but then again, he is a prodigy.
  • Puppy-Dog Eyes: Laptop makes these work even in late-middle-aged human form.
  • Put on a Bus: More a case of Left Behind By The Bus; the dodos decided to stay behind and make Mars their home.
  • Really 700 Years Old: See "Our Mermaids Are Different."
  • Retcon: A 1989 strip featured Jenny talking about her brothers. Later strips, however, establish that she's an only child. The creator handwaved this by saying that her brothers were just her imagination.
  • Rewatch Bonus: Anything involving Maria and Leo gets this once The Reveal about who they really are happens. Leo's first story line, which involved Samantha and Dave having to watch him? Just a day with the grandparents.
  • The Rival: Pretty much right from conception, Clay and Candide have always competed against each other in any way they can devise. That said, it's a friendly rivalry, and Clay has an apparent crush on Candide.
  • Secret Relationship: Jenny and Luis.
  • Shared Universe: With On the Fastrack. Samantha's dad works for Fastrack, Samantha sometimes works there, she used to babysit Patina and Rusty, she's become Patina's RA, Samantha's mom once ran against Ms. Trellis for office, and Fastrack is funding the space mission that Samantha and friends will be on. Dethany sometimes appears in connection with the last factor.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: See Everyone Can See It.
  • Sleeping Dummy: The Dodos were able to stow away into the rocket to Mars by leaving fake dummies of themselves for Feryl (who was supposed to keep an eye on them) to find.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: Several characters can speak with animals, but only so long as they mentally retain some aspect of their childhood; those who "grow up" lose the ability and eventually forget they ever had it. Averted for veterinarians.
  • Status Quo Is God: Averted. Characters keep aging, and situations keep changing.
  • The Mole: Temporarily became a literal mole thanks to Karmic Transformation.
  • They Do: After more than a decade of buildup, Samantha and Dave got married.
  • This Is Reality: "So... there are restrictions even on time travelers?" "Si. This isn't some fantasy, you know."
  • Time Travel: Has happened a few times of late. In a manner of speaking.
  • Too Dumb to Live: When Sam cloned a pair of dodos, she discovered why they went extinct: They're sapient but have the survival instinct of brain-damaged turkeys.
  • Transformation Comic: Between merfolk magic and lab projects, it's very common for characters to change species or at least shape, usually temporarily.
  • Tsundere: Palmtop, being a cat much of the time, has a generally hostile tone toward former mouse Vince, but she has a pretty obvious reason for saving his life.
  • Twofer Token Minority: Luis is a Latino in a wheelchair.
  • Unwanted Assistance: Luis hates to have anyone help him with his wheelchair. That appears to be his main reason for falling for Jenny Egotistical and not the compulsively helpful Samantha.
  • Weirdness Magnet: Compared to most of her friends, Samantha is downright normal. She even calls herself by this trope.
    • The 'other' clique in middle and high school was specifically designed to be this.
  • Wham Line:
    Farnsworth: Feryl! changed back!
    • Even more so when Maria says to Samantha, "Hi, mom."
  • Young Future Famous People: Dave and Samantha are the grandparents of Leonardo Da Vinci.