Powerup Comics is the half-baked product of two man-child PS3/360 fanboys. The protagonists are a pair of Marty Stu self-inserts who talk big about their gaming prowess, but spend most of the comic getting into inane adventures that are only tangentially (at best) connected to video games. And this excuse for a plot often gets tossed to the side so the authors can soapbox their uninformed opinions on whatever topics happens to have grabbed their interest that week. The artwork consists of, at most, two poses for every character (which are then abusively copied and pasted), and the punchlines are either nonexistent, or consist of Shadow shooting whoever he happens to disagree with.
Wait, no, that’s not it either.
Powerup Comics is an elaborate prank in webcomic form. Chad “Shadow” Wilson and Jason “Chug” Krydenski, the alleged author and artist, are just as fictional as the webcomic they created. In reality, the comic was conceived by Eli Parker, and created with plenty of input from other members of the Truth & Beauty Bombs forum (at the time, the home of the Dinosaur Comics fandom). The entire point was to create a So Unfunny, It's Funny Stealth Parody of Two Gamers on a Couch webcomics in general, and of Ctrl+Alt+Del in particular—thus, all the aforementioned flaws were completely deliberate on the creators’ parts. Whether or not they succeeded too well in making a bad webcomic is left for the reader to determine.
A secondary goal of Powerup’s creators was to troll The Duck (back when it was known as Drunk Duck). Reasoning that the only thing more infuriating than bad art was inexplicably popular bad art, T&BB members created accounts on the site solely to pose as Powerup fans. Their ensuing arguments with Duck users who weren’t in on the joke brought Powerup enough page views to propel it to a spot on the Duck’s automatically-generated Top Ten list.
A few years after Powerup’s inception, participation from Truth & Beauty Bombs dried up, so Parker continued the comic solo. He also worked Chad and Jason (the authors, not the Marty Stus) into his main comic series, Unwinder's Tall Comics, as minor recurring characters.
Eventually, Jason left for college, forcing Chad to bring Powerup Comics to an end, though he insisted that it was just a temporary hiatus until a new artist could be found. Over a year later, Chad found his artist—Amy Sauce, another Tall Comics character—and relaunched the comic with almost none of the old characters, and a painfully hip art style that clashed just a little bit with the writing.
After a whopping 5 strips by Amy, the new duo encountered "creative differences" (Chad didn't like that "she kind of made Shadow look gay") and the comic entered another year-and-a-half long hiatus. The comic was then re-resurrected with another new artist, Draz, who drew the comic as a series of mostly uncoloured pencil sketches. During this time, Jason returned to visit Chad, met Draz, and "revealed" that he didn't put much effort into the comic when he was the artist. Meanwhile, Chad became increasingly frustrated with Draz's tendency to make confusing additions to the planned story without asking, and eventually they decided to once again stop making Powerup.
Following the latest hiatus, the comic has abruptly returned with no explanation as to what has happened to the characters in the intervening time, with Jason returning as the comic's artist using the exact same copy-pasted art from the original iteration of the comic.
This webcomic provides examples of:
- Aborted Arc: Early in the comic's run, one of the T&BB crowd's many plans for the comic's ending involved Shadow (the author) slowly going insane, while the comic itself became increasingly Mind Screwy to match its author's deterioration. There's a single strip (in which Shadow wakes up in the middle of a field and has no idea how he got there) that was intended to foreshadow this story arc; it was never followed up on.
- Adaptation Decay: In-Universe. Shadow's book Gamer Heaven is Real gets adapted into a movie. The director casts Dwayne Johnson as Dorkwinkle, and casts the real Dorkwinkle as Shadow (after briefly trying Abdi as Shadow). Overall, he tries to turn the entire thing into Le Film Artistique.
- Ambiguously Brown: Darkwinkle. Not for lack of information, but because his race changes every time the subject comes up: he's black in some comics and Indian in others.
- Art Evolution:
- Here, Jason debuts a new style after taking some art classes. It's more detailed, yet uglier than before. It only lasts about five pages before Jason quietly switches back to the old style.
- The final page Jason draws before leaving for college is basically a huge middle finger directed at Chad. The art features actual shading, backgrounds, new poses and facial expressions, and a distinct lack of copy-pasting—demonstrating that Jason could have drawn better all along, but chose not to. To drive the point home, the art fades back to the usual, crappy style as soon as Chug leaves the page.
- Amy Sauce and Draz's new art styles are wildly different (and a huge step up) from Jason's style.
- And then Jason returns, and the comic immediately snaps back to his crappy old style.
- Black Comedy Rape: Subverted. Shadow getting raped by Harriet is treated deathly seriously and played for drama, completely at odds with the Unfortunate Implications and Dude, Not Funny! that the comic usually utilises. Then double subverted, as the storyline ends with God telling Shadow that he should just be happy he got more sex, and Shadow fully embracing it.
- Brilliant, but Lazy: Jason is actually capable of drawing pretty good cartoon art, but puts zero effort into Powerup—as a passive-aggressive act of rebellion against Chad. He has all kinds of ideas for his own artistic projects, as shown in one of Draz's comics. But once he's at college, away from Chad, he can't motivate himself to get any of those projects off the ground. Depressingly, Powerup Comics remains Jason's most successful work, just because it's the only work he's actually published.
- Camp Straight: Marvin the Metrosexual.
- Canada, Eh?: More like Can'tada, Eh?Canadian: Boot it's troo eh! We loove too sing aboot seal humping and maple syrup eh!
- Cerebus Retcon: Dorkwinkle dying and coming back to life is initially presented as Negative Continuity. But this strip actually plays his death (somewhat) seriously, and shortly afterwards it's revealed that he really has the ability to respawn after death.
- Cerebus Syndrome: Spoofed in a series that is about Shadow being raped in his sleep for years. It's Played for Drama up until the end, and the only punchline is the fact that Shadow sometimes still grins while crying. The real joke, of course, is that we aren't attached to Shadow, even as the "writer" thinks that we are.
- Character Development: Development in-comic is rather lackluster, but the events of the comic are very revealing about the "real" Chad's psyche—for instance, the way his relationship with his father is portrayed in the comic says a lot about his real father. His commentaries in The Rant also provide insight, showing Chad developing interest in politics (and Completely Missing the Point), political correctness (and Completely Missing the Point), and so on. His cameos in Unwinder's Tall Comics support this interpretation, showing him as an oppressive bully who controls Jason, but is too stupid even to realise this is what he's doing. Since Shadow is the comic's real joke, from a meta perspective, this trope is the only reason the comic exists.
- Cooking Duel: Alan the alien is unable to kill George W Bush with his telepathy, so he challenges Bush to a gaming duel.
- Color Me Black: Shadow is randomly turned black by a Jamaican Wizard (a recolored Moobs) just so he can prove to the audience just how not-racist he is. This mostly involves being chased by the police, and having Darkwinkle (who is black for this story) act like an extreme racist stereotype, so Shadow can comment on how even Black people can be racist.
- Cosmic Deadline: With the real-life Jason's departure (and thus, the end of the comic) looming, every conceivable plot line gets wrapped up, the answers are revealed to mysteries that the audience didn't even know were mysteries, and half of the supporting characters reveal themselves to be long-lost relatives of Shadow.
- Crazy Cat Lady: Chad apparently thinks all feminists are like this:.Alix: I joined a feminist gamer forum.
Shadow: That explains the cats.
Alix: They came with the membership.
- Cut-and-Paste Comic: Abused.
- Death of the Author: Invoked by the movie director here, to justify Adaptation Decay. Shadow (being the author) is a much bigger fan of "Death of the Director".
- Diagonal Cut: An entire story arc consists of nothing but a ninja sneaking around, bisecting his targets this way.
- Dull Surprise: Owing to the cut-and-paste art, character's facial expressions often have nothing whatsoever to do with the emotions they're allegedly feeling.
- Driven to Suicide: Shadow killed himself... and came back to life.
- Easy Amnesia: Starting here, Jack Thompson gets a sofa dropped on his head, and wakes up with no memory. One sentence from Shadow and Chug convinces Jack to become a clone of them. George W Bush attempts to pull the same stunt on Shadow, but Shadow is "too cool to be brainwashed".
- Everyone Is Gay: Powerup Adventure, a spinoff, does this. Francis, Gobwii, Dorkizar, Abracamoobs, Thompsonaur and Dork Chug are all gay (most of them evil); Shadowlord and Chuggeth have also had sex with men (but The Rant says it 'wasn't gay'), and Shadowlord freaks out when Shaddark calls him homophobic insults. Shadowlord has also had sex with Dorkizar while he was transformed into a woman.
- Fake-Out Make-Out: Here, Shadow and Chug evade an ISIS assassin by stripping naked and making out with each other.
- Fan Disservice: Here and here (sorta).
- Flipping the Bird: Shadow’s hair, as drawn by Amy Sauce: his bangs are in five distinct spikes, four of them tightly curled, and the middle spike pointing straight up.
- Follow the Leader: This strip, where Shadow admits outright that he's trying to appeal to xkcd fans.
- Girl-on-Girl Is Hot: Chug's mom is a lesbian; Shadow is incapable of talking about her without mentioning how hot he thinks it is.
- GIS Syndrome: Parodied in one comic which had a giant iStockphoto watermark left in the background.
- Hipster: Teabag, who joined ISIS "ironically".
- He Who Fights Monsters: Shadow runs for President because he's not happy with either of the big-ticket candidates. He starts lying about his position in order to get more votes; Dorkwinkle, of all people, points out that, by doing so, Shadow has become just as "lame" as the politicians he's running against.
- Ho Yay: Frequently invoked intentionally to underline Shadow's neediness, especially in Powerup Adventure, when Shadow and Chug had an argument and Shadow had to draw the strips himself. I'm glad we're friends, Chuggeth.
- Hypocritical Humor: Here, Shadow mocks Dorkwinkle for creating a Sprite Comic: "I suppose you think that copying sprites is art, huh?"
- Ignored Aesop:
Shadow: I guess she just wanted to teach me a lesson regarding my own rash judgements, shallow views, and general insensitivity towards others.
- Here, Shadow relates the aftermath of an incident where he was shot in the "magnum" (with ketchup) after making sexist jokes to Alix (who had just become a feminist).
But really, all I learned was that all women are overemotional psychos.
Shadow: Well, as my story proves, sexism has nothing to do with it. It can happen just as easily to a man as it can to a woman. I'd like to shoot every single moron who thinks gamers are sexist. Now show me her leaked nudes.
- In the "Shadowgate" storyline, Shadow finds himself on the receiving end of a harassment campaign remarkably similar to Gamergate. In the final comic, Shadow learns about Zoe Quinn going through the same thing he did. His conclusion?
- Implausible Deniability: When cops find a bong in Abdi's car, he claims that it's a clock. And then his explanation of how this "clock" works gets completely Metaphorgotten. And the excuse actually works.Abdi: Yeah, see the uh... height of the smoke indicates what hour it is. And the minute is indicated by the massiveness of the bong rip that I take. Right now I'd say it's about... 4:20.
- Loose Canon: Following one cameo in Unwinder's Tall Comics, Parker points out in The Rant that the Tall Comics canon regarding the “real” Shadow and Chug isn’t 100% official Powerup Comics canon. Parker specifies that he doesn’t want his concept of the “real” Shadow and Chug to invalidate anyone else's theories about the “real” Shadow and Chug.
- Lost in Character: Dwayne Johnson gets cast as Dorkwinkle for the movie of Shadow's life. Dwayne resorts to Method Acting and, as seen here, has "gone full Jared Leto". In the end, he can't get out of character, even after the movie's cancelled, and has to be Mercy Killed.
- Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Zombie Ninja Werepyre.
- Not That There's Anything Wrong with That: The comic constantly uses "gay" as a pejorative, yet Shadow awkwardly insists he's got no problem with gay men.Shadow: See, when I created Gayland for you years ago, it wasn't because I was homophobic. It's because I really wanted you to have a place where you're free to express your sexuality.
- Nuclear Option: Here.PS2: Ninjas are hard to kill because they could be anywhere, right? So what we do is, we blow up everywhere. Just say the word, and boom! Total nuclear annihilation.
- One Steve Limit: Shadow's not happy upon hearing that Abdi also goes by the nickname Shadow.Shadow: Sorry, but there's already a Shadow around here. I'm calling you Darkwinkle.
Abdi: Fine by me, Whitewinkle.
- Only Six Faces: Chug's cousin is a recolor of him, and single-use character Woobs is just Moobs with feminine traits MS-Painted on.
- Overly Preprepared Gag: Turns out there is no movie adaptation of Shadow's book. It was all just an elaborate ruse to trick Dorkwinkle into shooting himself.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: Subverted. Here, Chug sees that Woobs is obviously just Moobs wearing a wig and lipstick... until the real Moobs also shows up and stands right next to Woobs.
- Positive Discrimination: Shadow-the-author makes Abdi, the new token black guy, a genius specifically because "that should shut up the sjw's."
- Product Placement: In lieu of a punchline, have Shadow and Chug's faces on a Mountain Dew can.
- Protagonist-Centered Morality: Shadow and Chug have both killed people just because they don't agree with them. And when Shadow kills himself, He goes to Gamer heaven.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: In-Universe.
- Jason's departure for college results in his character, Chad, also leaving for college in the comic. And Chad rushes through the plot to fit it all in before Jason goes.
- Sometime during Jason's absence, Chad got into a long-term relationship with Shana, and had a son. So in the rebooted comic, Shadow and Shana are now a thing, and they have a baby named Ladow.
- And then there's this comic, where he pauses a story to apologize to the "real" Shana for a comic that offended her. And then spends the next few comics passive-aggressively sniping at her for being offended.
- The Real Remington Steele: The original Darkwinkle is revealed as a false identity. Then the reboot introduces Abdi, who was allegedly the inspiration for the "Darkwinkle" persona.
- Secret Test of Character: Darkwinkle is revealed to be Barack Obama in disguise, secretly testing whether Shadow is racist. Shadow passes, of course, and is awarded N-Word Privileges.
- Shallow Parody: Shadow's idea of political satire is George W. Bush wearing an "I <3 OIL" t-shirt.
- Snap Back: In a bizarre Meta Fiction example, the comic was put on hiatus after (fictional) "creative differences" between Shadow and Chug. The comic came back abruptly in late 2016 without addressing this.
- So Unfunny, It's Funny.
- Spoof Aesop: Here, apropos of nothing, Chug hopes that everyone's learned something.Dorkwinkle: I learned how to do Pikachu's super combo!
Nintendo executive: I learn no get so freaking high. Hard to get down.
Alix: I learned that white plastic contains thirteen different hallucinogenic compounds.
Shadow: I didn't learn crap. What is this, school?
- Stepford Smiler: Characters often smile at inappropriate times; usually more due to lazy copy-and-paste artwork than anything else.
- Straw Loser: Dorkwinkle.
- Stealth Parody: Of Two Gamers on a Couch webcomics in general, and of Ctrl+Alt+Del in particular. While Powerup rarely directly mentions CAD, it copies all the features that Truth & Beauty Bombs members considered CAD’s biggest flaws (Only Six Faces, the gamer religion, the one "dramatic" story, claiming to be a gaming webcomic while focusing on story arcs that have nothing to do with gaming, etc.).
- Stylistic Suck: Possibly done a little too well.
- Take That!:
- Take That, Critics!: Shadow responds to criticism by putting their words in Dorkwinkle's mouth, just before shooting him in the groin. Later, he cuts out the middleman and just shoots the fourth wall.
- Tsundere: Alix. "When will Shadow realize that I only tease him because I love him???"
- Wham Line: Parodied in one of Draz's comics.Chug: Shad, I don't know how to tell you this, but I never really put that much effort into Powerup.
- Word-Salad Humor: Here.PS2: Beep beep!
PS2: I'm a cupcake!
Chug: Well, that was random.