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Webcomic / Dumbing of Age

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Dumbing of Age is a Slice of Life Webcomic by David Willis, set at Indiana University and revolving around the freshman class of whatever year this is. Though it has multiple characters, its primary focus is on Joyce Brown, a naive fundamentalist Christian with a friendly demeanor and a rigid but upbeat outlook on life, and her unlikely best friend Dorothy Keener, an ambitious atheist and pre-law student. Also along for the ride are Joyce's roommate, a snarky, nigh-misanthropic sophomore named Sarah Clinton, and their next-door neighbors, alcoholic and wannabe-Alpha Bitch Jennifer "Billie" Billingsworth and Book Dumb, badass-incarnate Sal Walkerton. And then there's local vigilante Amazi-Girl, secretly fellow freshman Amber O'Malley, who uses the alter-ego to compartmentalize her anger issues. All these people have assorted friends and relations, any of whom are capable of taking center-stage at any time—it's probably a good idea to take a look at the character sheet to get a sense of the sheer scope of the work.

The comic is an Ultimate Universe counterpart to Willis' other comics, playing fast and loose with the personal histories of the characters, stripping out the science-fiction elements altogether, and leading to characters co-existing and forming relationships when they'd barely met in the other 'verse (or vice versa.) In a sense it could be said to be a reboot of Roomies! specifically, given the college focus, but with characters from everything up through Shortpacked! included.

This webcomic contains examples of:

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  • Adaptational Mundanity: All of the sci-fi and supernatural elements from the previous Walkyverse comics are stripped away and relegated to Show Within a Show status.
  • Adaptation Relationship Overhaul: The characters in this comic don't share the same romantic relationships as their previous Walkyverse counterparts. They instead wind up with completely different partners.
  • Amicable Exes: Pretty much every couple that breaks up remains friends and those that start off icier still warm back up to each other eventually anyway. The only possible exception is Hank and Carol.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: In parallel storylines, Jennifer falls (on the rebound) for Reformed Criminal Asher, while Joyce starts dating Joe. However, Asher turns out to be rather less of a bad boy than he first appears, even having things in common with Walky, and Joe, in an attempt to be worthy of Joyce, cleans up a bit, combing his hair and having a shave. Both women clearly prefer the older, badder versions of the guys, at least when it comes to appearance, and while Joyce and Joe manage to keep the relationship strong overall, Jennifer and Asher's relationship gets rocky to the point Jennifer would prefer Asher cheated on her so as to make things more exciting, and Asher actually considers responding to Ethan's advances.
  • Alliterative Family:
    • The DeSanto sisters, carrying over from Shortpacked: Robin, Roz and Riley.
    • All of the children in the Brown family have names that start with the letter "J" (Joyce, Jordan, John, and Jocelynenote ). Likely because Jesus also starts with "J", and their parents find religion to be a pretty big deal.
  • All Women Love Shoes:
    • Referenced by Walky. He loses his shoes, so Dorothy tells him to just wear another pair. Walky responds that he only owns one pair of shoes because he's a man, and begins a quest to find a man who is girly enough to actually own multiple pairs of shoes so he can borrow a pair.
    • Turns out Walky is the only one who subscribes to this theory. A rather grumpy and hungover Joe bluntly puts him in his place here.
  • Alpha Bitch: Billie's High School persona. Unfortunately, social status does not automatically transfer to college. Although how popular she really was is a bit open to interpretation given her personality and when she finally runs into one of her old high school friends (who strongly implies she was more than just a friend), Alice explicitly rejects her.
  • Alt Text:
  • Alternate Universe: The basic premise is that none of the characters got abducted like they did in IW! Character ages are different as well, with some who were older in the Main Verse (like Ethan) being college freshmen while others such as Leslie and Robin are closer to their original ages.
  • Ambiguously Bi:
    • Joyce's various accidental innuendos (e.g. "shower buddies") have become kind of a recurring joke. Not to mention her intense jealousy when Walky started spending time with Dorothy and her fixation on brushing Sal's "luxurious chocolate river of hair."
    • Walky even teases her when he sees her frowning as Dorothy kisses him. Walky also has moments that hint at being bi but it could just be him playing around.
    • It turns out that Joyce's ideas about platonic friendship with women come from interacting with Becky.
    • Danny's interactions with Ethan have been surprisingly flirty and a few readers have pointed out Danny has never been confirmed to be heterosexual. When Amber asked him if he was closeted, since her gaydar was terrible, he confirmed he liked girls but not that he was straight. He's basically confirmed as bisexual in this strip. Also this. (alt text)
  • Ambiguously Brown: Walky and Sal come off as this at first if you're not familiar with their Walkyverse counterparts—in both universes they're one-quarter black. That Walky unintentionally does a better job "passing" for a non-black person eventually becomes a major point of tension for them. Joyce originally thinks they're Native American (though Walky's nickname was part of that), and doesn't really have enough experience to know any more. Eventually lampshaded:
    Joyce: I...I've been trying to determine if it's rude to ask what, um, flavor of human you two are.
    Walky: Well, my sister is black, but I'm generically beige.
  • Amnesiac Dissonance: When under the influence of a date-rape drug, Joyce defends herself, cutting her hand in the process. When she wakes up the next day...
    Sarah: You smashed a cup in a boy's face.
    Joyce: ... Th-that doesn't sound like me.
  • Arc Words: "Wakey Wakey!"
  • Aren't You Going to Ravish Me?: Non sexual variant with Danny, who tries to get a stereotypical jock to attack him by saying he's gay to draw out Amazi-Girl only for the jock, who is in fact Tony, to be insulted that Danny would think he'd do such a thing.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Joyce to Jocelyne: "Is... Is Mom a... good person?" Jocelyne's response is two panels of Stunned Silence before giving a very feeble attempt to defend her character. Fans are divided on whether or not Jocelyne was trying to convince herself, or was only trying to sugarcoat it to keep herself from hurting Joyce's feelings.
  • Armor-Piercing Response: After delivering a harsh "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Joyce about her ignorance (while ignoring Leslie's reprimands and requests to stop), Roz receives one from Leslie that causes her to walk out.
    Leslie: Roz...everyone...we can't get mad at each other for learning the curriculum of the class we're in. That's kind of why we're all here.
    Roz: So Joyce just gets a pass for ignoring and shouting over gay people for the first eighteen years of her life?
    Leslie: ...said the straight girl to the gay girl who's been asking her to shut up for the past five minutes.
  • Art Evolution: The Alt Text of a 2014 strip invites the reader to jump back to 2010: "everyone's heads explode in size."
  • Artistic License – Physics: Willis describes the shenanigans happening in the To Those Who'd Ground Me arc - Amazi-Girl latching onto Ross' car with a thrown hook on a rope, riding on the front of a random bystander's car to catch up with them, and getting caught at the last moment by Sal and Joyce on a motorcycle perpendicular to the truck about to run her over - as physics getting "bruised a bit" in the service of not having Becky's story end on a sour note.
  • Ascended Extra:
    • Ryan, who appeared in a grand total of four strips back in Roomies! Redux as part of a Ruth-flashback subplot, has a much bigger role here, having gone from mild Jerkass to full-blown rapist.
    • Sierra has gone from "Tootsi," the least developed of the already heavily objectified Squad 48 with a grand total of one throwaway line to, well, a human, with a hippie persona to explain some fetishistic traits from the original.
    • Dana appeared a grand total of twice in the original universe, but here she's a key plot point in Sarah's backstory.
    • Dorothy definitely qualifies. Pretty much all of the pre-launch promotional material for Dumbing of Age listed the two leads as Joyce and Sarah, with Dorothy having been included for the sole purpose of giving Danny a girlfriend to break up at the beginning of the strip. Within the first year, Willis had discovered that Sarah's asocial nature made her difficult to build plots around and that he actually found Dorothy interesting. By the time the first book came out "one's a fundamentalist, the other's an atheist, they attend college" had become the stock description of the comic for book blurbs and fundraising sites, with Sarah having become a Recurring Character.
    • After a tear-filled Coming-Out Story, Becky has gone from Joyce's occasionally-referenced best friend to officially joining the main cast... despite the fact that she doesn't formally join Indiana University at first. Later she strong-arms Rep. Robin De Santo into promising to enroll her in the following semester of school.
    • Ross only appeared in a handful of subscription Joyce & Walky strips, here he's a much bigger and more dangerous villain.
    • Clint goes from a one-off Shortpacked character to Ruth's abusive grandfather.
  • Aside Glance: Done by Asher when Ethan shuts down their flirting to check Transformers pre-orders, and lampshaded in the comic's Alt Text.
    he's not looking at the audience, he's looking over his shoulder, DUH
  • Atomic F-Bomb: "Language" is this combined with Precision F-Strike and Skyward Scream for Joyce. After spending all that time hiding Becky from her asshole dad and ultimately failing, her limits have been more than reached.
  • Author Appeal:
    • Willis has shown that he likes the idea of Alternate Universes.
    • Given how Billie and Amber are drawn it's pretty obvious Willis likes curvy (if not flat out chubby) women and girls with glasses. Also, freckles, given the designs for Dorothy and Ruth.
  • Author Tract: Willis often uses his comic to explore bigotry, specifically the way fundamentalism can nurture that quality in people and the effects it can have on others. Joyce's arc is about exorcising hers, while Becky, Leslie, and Carla's arcs are about dealing with other people's. Sal specifically is struggling with the way her parents treated her for having a darker skin-tone than her brother. He is not very subtle about it and has lashed out at the audience for "not getting it" in the past.
  • Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: Blaine is permanently removed from the plot via gunshot by Dirty Cop.
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment:
    • Joyce's surprisingly measured stance on homosexuality.
      Joyce: [Homosexuality]'s no worse than lying.
      Mike: So how do you feel about lying?
      Joyce: I hate it.
    • Willis does this in the post about Halloween Joyce and Walky magnets. Joyce dressed as Tangled Rapunzel is captioned "Was a homeschooled child with a weird mom who told her everyone outside was a monster, and also is in a Halloween costume."
  • Beautiful All Along: Walky is a rare male example, as Joyce is genuinely surprised to see how "sculpted" he is underneath his hoodie.
  • Behind the Black:
    • No-one notices that Sierra is barefoot until she brings it up, as her feet were never on-panel.
    • Averted much to Walky's and Joe's surprise and Joyce's trauma.
    • Danny and Ethan get through a whole conversation in Ethan's room without noticing that Jacob is sitting right there.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: See Slap-Slap-Kiss, but their attempt to throw Mary off the trail backfires somewhat.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Joyce does not like guys who think of nothing but sex.
    • Dina pulls out a proper Death Glare when Joyce dismisses evolution offhandedly. Joyce and Ethan are terrified by sweet, tiny, cripplingly-shy Dina getting angry. She also starts to get sick of people thinking of her as a child.
    • Meta. Willis became... annoyed at the running gag in the comments of naming every female but Amber as the identity of Amazi-Girl, as a call-back to an old Shortpacked! gag, and when it was explicitly revealed in the comic Amber was AG, he made a proclamation that the joke was over, dead, and repeating it would lead to a ban. Also, people constantly accusing him of making Joyce a strawman fundamentalist, despite repeatedly stating she's based on him at that age, and is in fact way more socially adjusted than he was.
  • Beta Couple: Becky and Dina to most other characters. While everyone else's relationships fall through at one point or another (be it because of Incompatible Orientations, lack of communication, unbalanced relationship dynamics, or irrational behavior), Becky and Dina's relationship remains stable and kindhearted, with both of them able to speak their mind to each other, even about subjects they are usually not comfortable talking about (such as Becky's own worries about having actual sex) and helping each other grow as a person.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Here, when Sarah saves Joyce from rape.
    Joyce: S-Sarah, you came to save me! [...] God sent you after me!
    Sarah: Yeah, the Old Testament God.
  • Big "NO!": Walky, when Dorothy sacrifices an interview with Danny about Amazi-Girl to borrow some shoes for Walky:
    Walky: ... Okay, maybe the stakes aren't quite that high.
  • Between My Legs: The first panel of "Prelude" is a shot of Dina framed between Becky's legs after the latter's taken her panties off.
  • Black Bead Eyes: Most of the characters have eyes that consist of black dots with small white highlights.
  • Blank White Eyes: Joyce got those after Mike answered her phone and told her mother "All hail Satan".
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Can be inferred given that Billie mentions her father tries to buy her affection as well as her whole persona. Ditto for Raidah and her friends given their behavior as well as the fact that their parents are all lawyers. Sal passed "bratty" on her way to "rebellious" but she's better now.
  • Break the Cutie:
    • The webcomic doesn't pull any punches in regard to Joyce:
      • The poor girl is bordering on this given that she was drugged and almost raped and is slowly having her whole sheltered, fundamentalist upbringing challenged.
      • After Becky's father Ross kidnaps Becky, Joyce gets very, very upset. Later, she gets very, very mad. The next strip lampshades that she is acting out her disappointment at how poorly her upbringing's view of the world actually matches the real world.
    • Sarah obviously became a much more guarded and bitter person after her experience with Dana and her friends.
    • Becky seems to be headed this way, after coming out to Joyce via kiss and being (gently) rebuffed; according to the alt text of this strip, even Willis feels bad for her. Even worse during the spoilered event, though.
      Alt Text: oh god oh god i'm so sorry becky i'll make joyce gay if it makes you stop crying oh god please stop don't be sad
  • Break the Haughty:
    • Billie was a popular cheerleader and member of the school newspaper in high school but is gradually realizing none of that matters in college. So far she's struggled with problems such as alcoholism, loneliness, sexual identity issues and weight gain.
    • This trope hits hard particularly in situations when she expects to coast by. When she actually puts some effort into it, she does better. For example, recovering her cheerleader uniform and getting Ruth to back off.
    • To a much lesser degree, Sarah is being subjected to this as well; she's had to swallow her pride a few times over the course of the strip.
    • While not exactly "haughty", Walky prided himself on being able to coast through school without much effort beyond what was done in class - meaning he has no study skills to speak of when confronted with a 26 on his first schoolwork past "review material".
  • Brick Joke:
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Walky exhibits elements of this, especially in that he has said that he has been "very good at gettin' "A"s without havin' to do anything." Even before his academic background comes up, Willis made a point of showing him to be the sort of person who could casually reference M.C. Escher in conversation. However, recent events have shown he does have limits, with college-level material kicking his ass once initial review units end.
  • Broad Strokes: Willis stated at Anime Fest 2010 (where the comic was unveiled) that he plans to write the characters so that they are up to date with the other continuities. For example, Joyce starts off with the same level of maturity she had gained at the end of IW! (in some ways) (thanks to not having been abducted and actually having a friend her own age), and Ethan came out some time in high school. This is so that he doesn't have to cover the same character arcs that people have already read.
  • Broken Pedestal: Billie discovers just how hard it is to break the ruggedly reinforced pedestal on which the students in her new dorm, especially Lucy, have placed her — despite her best efforts.
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • Life seems to be developing a bit of a habit of kicking Danny in the balls.
    • Billie has kind of supplanted him lately and doesn't show any signs of having hit rock bottom yet.
  • The Cameo:
    • Apparently Archie is not above attending college parties (Willis says the resemblance is a coincidence).
    • An early and shortlived meme among readers was to find background characters who look like Shaggy. This became a lot easier now that he's tagged as Norville - Shaggy's real name in the cartoon.
    • Magnitude too; he's even in the character tags!
  • Cape Punk: Amber's double identity as Amazi-Girl is portrayed in a much more gritty, realistic manner. On one hand, she is well-meaning and does a decent job of being a real-life superhero at the university. On the other hand, Amazi-Girl is more of an outlet for Amber's internalized aggression due to her horrific upbringing and has devolved into an increasingly unhinged Split Personality.
  • Cassandra Truth: When Joyce confesses to being the Whiteboard Ding-Dong Bandit, Sierra cracks up laughing.
  • Cast Full of Gay: Check out the Characters tab above. Of the seventeen listed under Main Characters, eight are LGBTQ, and this doesn't include Leslie, Marcie, Robin, or *numerous* secondary and background characters.
  • Character Blog:
    • Apparently, any "official" Twitter feeds from Walkyverse characters are from this version of them.
    • Could potentially date the story as the entries clearly reference current events/pop culture, some of which is already passed by now. (e.g. Joyce replying to a question about whether she would vote for Obama in the 2012 election). Comic-Book Time to the rescue?
  • Character Development: We've seen quite a bit:
    • Sarah has gone through life an antisocial pessimist who can only see the worst in people. But Joyce and Dina have surprised her with their resiliance, and caused her to take an active effort to be kinder to people and more open with her feelings.
    • Billie started the comic thinking most people were beneath her and that her social skills could pull her through any situation. However, her lack of social success with anyone but the losers she normally looks down on, and her inability to help Ruth or break her own bad habits, have caused her to go through severe bouts of self-loathing and depression.
    • Joyce came to college with the sole goals of finding a husband, but after nearly being raped by Ryan and enduring Walky and Joe's He-Man Woman Hater tendencies, she can no longer bring herself to talk to most men—or, unfortunately, function alone in public, a shame because she also came to college as a sunny and friendly individual whose trust knew no bounds. Her experiences with Dorothy, Becky, and Ethan have also caused her to reevaluate many of her prejudices, and her experiences with racial diversity have taught her to think before she speaks. And now, after being confronted with not only the full depths that Ross will go to in the name of his faith, but that her own mother helped organize his bail from prison, she has effectively become either an atheist or agnostic.
    • Walky is a lesser example, given his tendency to fight against any and all forms of self-improvement, but he's at least realized that his tendency to turn everything into a joke has a potentially alienating effect on those around him and that he needs to learn how to take things seriously.
    • Dina is making an effort to be more social lately (in her own Aspergers' like way) and is clearly bothered by how other people perceive/treat her.
    • Hank, Joyce's father, has started breaking away from the Brown party line as of late, largely due to Joyce's influence.
    • Amber has started to re-integrate aspects of her two personalities and has progressed to the point where she can discuss her personality issues with Danny as Amber and associate reasonably amicably with Sal as Amazi-Girl.
    • It took Danny a while, but accepting his sexuality and helping Amber through some of her worst moments means he has lost his more skittish mannerism and gained maturity. It's most noticeable when seeing him with Joe as they've practically swapped roles. Joe is much more introspective and Danny more sure of himself.
  • Clark Kenting: Unlike in Shortpacked!, people in this continuity don't seem to see through Amazi-Girl's disguise. (Granted, she actually operates at night or is moving too quickly for identification most of the time.)
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Joyce started having overtones of this when Dorothy began dating Walky, something that has not gone unnoticed by the fans. Or by Walky.
  • Cleavage Window: Amazi-Girl does not have one, to Daisy's extreme disappointment.
  • Closet Geek: For all her hatred of NERDS Billie uses a lot of phrases like "life-force" in casual conversation...
  • Cloud Cuckoolander:
    • Walky may be intelligent and sarcastic, but a lot of his behavior, most notably his horrible diet and attitude towards masculinity, would look a lot better on a fourth grader than a college student.
    • Joyce's fundamentalist upbringing means she's got a shallow knowledge base for most normal teenage topics but a deep one for Biblical minutia. Walky's described her superpower as "being able to say the scariest, most messed-up crap while somehow thinkin' it sounds fantastic." In her defense, once the horribleness is pointed out to her she usually tries to apologize and acknowledge the issue.
    • Dina, due to having No Social Skills.
    • Amber is shown to have been this in flashbacks.
  • Collective Groan: Joyce inspires one from her entire floor in this strip.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: About half the main cast could get brought in on at least a misdemeanor charge, if you think about it.
  • Comic-Book Time: Willis refers to this by name in the series FAQ. The result: Webcomic Time (it's shaping up to be a week equals a year, roughly) with a sliding timescale (what year said semester is in changes to prevent Dumbing from, in Willis's words, "slowly becoming a period piece.")
  • Comically Missing the Point:
    Dorothy: Well, okay, but I think you were missing some important subtext.
    • While guilt tripping over just having sex with Dina Becky imagines God showing up waving a big wooden spoon.
    Dina: Is God going to cook us something?
  • Coming-Out Story:
    • Ruth kissed Billie after months of foreshadowing and Tsundere-type behavior. Of course, this is deconstructed, since even with all her issues Billie reacts with anger and confusion like a normal person would, as opposed to someone in a bad harem anime.
    • We appear to be on the tail end of Ethan's, as Amber mentions spending the summer helping him deal with his family's reactions. And now Ethan is in a relationship with Joyce...
    • Danny starts to realize he's bisexual because of his attraction to Ethan.
    • Becky, Joyce's friend comes to visit her and after a few weeks (for us) comes out to Joyce via kiss.
  • Content Warnings: May 25th, 2016 had a content warning bigger than the actual strip. It involved a flashback of Becky finding her mother either attempting or having already committed suicide.
  • Continuity Reboot: Though it doesn't null out the previous continuity, it just throws one more on the pile.
  • Crossover: Improbably, with Dork Tower's Mud Bay.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • Ruth utterly owns Billie here, tossing her over her head and into a chair. And remember, this is a girl who gave Sal trouble in IW!, so Ruth must have some serious fighting chops.
    • Later on, Amazi-Girl chases off the jocks that were beating up Danny with just a kick and a punch.
  • Cuteness Proximity: Becky's reaction to Dina's Triceratops hoodie.

  • Darker and Edgier: In sharp contrast to the comic preceding it, this is by far the darkest story in the Walkyverse thus far, even out-doing the latter half of It's Walky! despite having far fewer deaths. The fantastical elements removed or subverted, leaving the comic firmly in a Crapsack World of Black-and-Grey Morality, with the characters now more bitter and broken versions of their former selves, their issues now stemming completely from difficult real-life issues like depression and Abusive Parents (instead of that plus Alien Abduction). Storylines often end on bittersweet of not outright Downer Ending notes, with the characters recovering and relapsing on bad habits.
  • Dark and Troubled Past:
    • Sarah has some history in college.
    • Sal practically owns this trope even though she wasn't swapped this time.
    • Ruth has shown signs of this too if her phone conversations and crushed reaction after are any indication. Not to mention the disastrous results of her Tsundere behavior around Billie, which further suggests she may have had an abusive home life. It turns out that her parents were killed by a drunk driver, and her attempt to cure her depression by drinking ironically made her more depressed and even more of an alcoholic, and her grandfather who is now raising her and her brother is an emotionally abusive monster.
    • Joe's parents are divorced at the very least (and he mentions that they "yell a lot" when Joyce suggests a Parent Trap Plot), though there hasn't been any elaboration yet.
    • Amber's may be the worst, having an emotionally abusive father who beat her mother. Her parents divorced and she was left alone a lot because her mother was busy working. And at thirteen, she could only watch while Sal took Ethan hostage and held a knife to his throat. Negative effects have been shown.
  • A Day in the Limelight: "Walking With Dina" focuses entirely on, well, Dina.
  • Death Seeker: Discussed by Ruth and Amber here. Ruth doesn't think Amber is suicidal, but might be wandering into I Am a Monster territory.
  • Decomposite Character: Ultra-Car's humanoid appearance and general personality from the Walkyverse here manifests as Carla, while Ultra-Car's car form is the basis for a television series Carla is obsessed with.
  • Deconstruction: Played with Amber's super hero career. It's hinted that she only does it to keep from beating up anyone she actually cares about, she sometimes forgets who she is and it's shown to be ineffective during an actual emergency. On the other hand the student population adores her, Amber feels good helping others, as well as trying to fix any mistakes she makes, and she has genuinely saved several people from being attacked or hurt.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Sarah is becoming a lot more open and less controlling as a result of hanging around with Joyce.
  • Demoted to Extra: With the cast of most of the Walkyverse appearing, certain characters are pushed to the periphery. Robin, Leslie and Jacob are probably the most obvious examples.
    • Danny, Joe and Walky are given less screen time in this comic than they received in the Walkyverse intentionally since their stories have been told there, according to the intro of book 1.
  • Description Cut:
  • Dinosaurs Are Dragons: Discussed when, aside from her skepticism about evolution, Joyce "explains" to Dina that humans and dinosaurs existed in the same era, inspiring legends about dragons. She is also of the belief that the Parasaurolophus could breathe fire. Willis notes in the Alt Text that this was an actual part of his Christian education.invoked
  • Dirty Cop: This seems to apply to the entirety of the local police. For one, they're racist bigots who are known to show up on crime scenes, gun down random persons of color just because they're persons of color and therefore have to be felons, and leave again. This is why Sal and Sarah don't want the police near campus. No wonder the protagonists have to go all vigilante against all kinds of criminals. Besides, probably every last local cop is corrupt and on the Korean mob's payroll to the point of working for them as paid assassins. Therefore, Blaine believed they were acting in his favor. He was wrong.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Poor Daisy is so pent-up that she distracts herself with the thought of a superheroine with a Cleavage Window.
    Daisy: God, a chest window woulda... made a great front page splash image.
  • Double Entendre: To conceal the fact that they're now essentially in a relationship, Billie and Ruth start pretending to fight each other, with Ruth pinning Billie against a wall. The ensuing argument is essentially one long string of unintentional Double Entendres, which does little to conceal the obvious attraction between them.
  • Double-Meaning Title: The acronym for the comic is "DOA", which could also stand for "Dead or Alive" or "Dead on Arrival", which accurately describes a fair bit of the cast's mental state, especially Ruth and Amber.
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: Played straight, and then subverted — Joyce hires resident Jerkass Mike to punch Joe in the face whenever he steps out of line, then joins in at the end of the night after Joe was distracted by the waitress wearing a Stripperiffic outfit. The next day, he points out the Hypocrisy of a Christian paying someone to commit violence and joining in on said violence. Joyce is visibly shaken.
    Joe: Pray for me? Maybe I'll pray for you to learn it's not cool to punch people in the face!
    Joyce: But... but... guys can't actually get hurt by a girl. Guys are, like, strong.
  • Drama Bomb: It's written by David Willis, so yeah. Expect lots of drama.
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: After Walky and Sal's parents confront the Browns over their church bailing out Ross who went on to abduct multiple college students after shooting up the school, Carol's defense is "He didn't shoot anybody."note 
  • Dramatic Irony: When Danny explains he tried to tutor Sal in math, Linda Walkerton quips that if she had problems like that, she would've just screwed one of the TAs — which is what Sal did.
  • Driven to Suicide: Implied to be the case for Becky's mother.
  • Dropping the Bombshell: During a phone conversation with Jocelyne, Joyce all of a sudden asks her point blank if their mother is a good person. Jocelyne is at a loss for words, stays silent for two whole panels in which she is visibly distraught. She answers the best she can, trying to protect Joyce's feelings (and possibly struggling with her own feelings on the matter) but not shying away from the question, saying that their mom is short-sighted and/or badly informed, but that she believes that if it really came down to it she would do the right thing... she thinks. A few strips later, it is revealed that her mom and other parents are trying to pay for Ross' bond (the very same man who held her daughter at gunpoint), and that Blaine is there too, ready to enact his vengeance against his daughter and obviously there to manipulate Carol Brown and the others into helping him.
  • Dysfunction Junction: A lot of characters don't exactly have good parents. Walky has been coddled by his parents (according to Sal, this is because he's whiter than her) and his maturity has suffered dearly while Sal had the exact opposite problem, Ethan's parents are very homophobic, Amber had an abusive dad, Ruth's parents were killed and she and her brother are being raised by their abusive grandfather, Billie's father is distant and shows his affection through buying her stuff, and Joyce's parents are fundamentalist Christians who kept her so isolated from the world at large that she would be in danger if it weren't for her friends and roommate. Danny's parents aren't really bad, but are definitely giving him emotionally unhealthy life advice (though at least with good intentions). So far, Dorothy and Dina are the only ones who avert the trope and seem to have a healthy family life. It's lampshaded when Billie gets moved to another dorm: her new dormmates tell her that Read Hall (the dorm the main characters live in) has a reputation for being full of "antisocial head-case music majors".
    Billie: We're not...
    Beat Panel
    Billie: ...we're not all music majors.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
  • Ethical Slut:
    • Roz's sexual ethics are pretty strong, with her making a point of — for instance — asking Joe if it's okay to tape their encounter. She also goes out of her way to promote safe sex and counseling for rape victims. Her ethics on things that aren't sex are a bit iffy, however, as she's often been mean to Joyce when it's clear she's doing more harm than good, and may or may not have been planning to out her bisexual older sister.
    • Joe fancies himself one of these, but — intentionally or not — he's pretty bad at it, claiming to value consent while clearly not quite understanding what it means. He continues trying to get Joyce in bed during their date long past the point where it's clear she's uncomfortable with it, he needs to be snapped at by Sarah to stop making eyes at her despite her own angry eyes being an unsubtle cue, and his entire list of times it's not okay to have sex with a girl is "when she's drunk" and "when she's crying." His supposed ethics also don't stop him from treating the women around him like objects, keeping an actual list of the women on campus by vague description and hotness rating. On the other hand, he's specifically very clear about the importance of consent, stopping the moment Liz asks him to.
  • Even the Girls Want Her: Sal seems to attract a lot of admirers.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Char's friends aren't comfortable with her picking on Dina for being "retarded."
  • Everyone Went to School Together: The premise of DoA is "What if everyone in the Walkyverse went to college together?", along with "What if no one got crazy powers from being abducted by aliens?"
    • Within the Dumbiverse itself, we have three cadres of childhood / high school friends coming together at IU.
      • Billie and Walky and Sal and Marcie have known each other since childhood, though Sal was sent to a boarding school and Billie did not want to associate with Walky in high school. Ironically, Alice, Billie's best friend in high school, wants nothing to do with her now.
      • Danny, Dorothy, and Joe represent one group of high school friends, while Amber, Ethan and Mike represent another.
      • Joyce and Becky are a double subversion as they were both homeschooled, and knew each other from there. Becky then goes to Anderson, but she comes to stay with Joyce at IU after all.
  • Exactly What I Aimed At: An unusual emotional example: Dorothy assumes that Mike was trying to upset her. He wasn't.
  • Extreme Mêlée Revenge: Blaine made Amber's life miserable during most of her childhood. Taking Danny as a hostage in order to lure her out of the campus was the final straw.
  • Fallen Princess: Billie is one, at least in her own mind.
  • Fauxshadowing: The setup for Joyce (seeking a future husband) and Danny (plans to marry right after college) to hook up after Dorothy broke up with him. Instead, Joe asks her out, and Hilarity Ensues. Bonus points as a Mythology Gag, since Joyce was Danny's semi-stalker in Roomies!
  • Flipping the Table: Amber does this to Ethan when she finds out he's still dating Joyce. She feels bad about it later.
  • Foil: Almost all of the roommate pairs are foils for each other in some way, starting with Joyce and Sarah.
  • Forceful Kiss: Ruth does this to Billie after being confronted about her Tsundere behavior. It backfires spectacularly.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Early on, Joyce says she wished she had a sister. A few years down the line, we learn her "brother" Joshua is actually a closeted trans woman.
    • Amber's reaction to seeing Sal foreshadows the fact that Amber was there the day of Sal's attempted robbery and is responsible for Sal's hand scar.
    • Sal's warning to Amber/Amazi-Girl the first time they meet is dramatically confirmed as one later on:
      Sal: You don't wanna get in a fight with me, missy. Ah ain't never lost one.
    • The punchline of this book 10 strip has Joyce suggesting bribing someone to kill Becky's dad in his cell. Ross meets his demise in this book, and the description of his death (Killed by a corrupt cop) roughly matches what happened to Blaine save for the method of death (Shiv versus gunshot).
  • Fourth-Wall Mail Slot: On Dorothy's Character Twitter, she apparently responds to comments made on the discussion pages.
  • For Want Of A Nail: A few events in Amber's past caused her to go through a good deal of her Character Development from Shortpacked before she even appeared.
  • Friends Are Chosen, Family Aren't: Something of a core theme of the comic.
    • Both Becky and Joyce are in the process of breaking away from Christian fundamentalist upbringings to more broad-minded world-views, making friends with non-fundamentalist fellow college students in the process, which leads to serious friction with their still-fundamentalist families. Whereas Joyce is on a long, hard path of change, so that her relationship with her family is merely difficult and complicated, Becky breaks away radically, coming out as lesbian and abandoning creationism — to which her father responds by bringing a shotgun to the college. Becky ends up more or less invoking the trope. Interestingly, they have ultimately reacted in the opposite way you would expect them to; the slow-and-steady Joyce has fully broken with Christianity and become either agnostic or an outright atheist, while the radical lesbian Becky still believes and identifies as a Christian.
    • Amber's relationship with her father is violently negative, to traumatic effect for some of her friends.
    • Ruth only fails to illustrate the trope because she doesn't exactly do friendship much.
  • The Fundamentalist:
    • Joyce is a more sympathetic variety of this, although some characters like Mike are attempting to get her to re-examine her worldview.
    • On the other end of the spectrum is Mary, who is every bit as religious as Joyce and also a huge jerk. She was supposed to be a recurring Foil to Joyce, but no one (including the author) liked her.
    • Finally, subverted with Joyce's dad Hank, who comes out as a lovingly parent and a tolerant man. Her mother, on the other hand...
  • Funny Background Event:

  • Gambit Roulette: Mike pulls these off roughly once a year; something innocuous or friendly that turns out being the first step in a soul-crushing fall.
  • Gay Conservative:
    • In an ironic twist, Robin DeSanto is heavily implied to be more like Sarah Palin in this universe.
    • From around 2016, though, this is increasingly played for drama - Leslie struggles to reconcile their attraction with the actively harmful policies Robin pushes.
  • Gaydar: Amber's is, by her own admission, way off. Sarah's is a lot more accurate.
    "I think you'll be safe, Joyce, so long as you don't have a Y chromosome."
  • Gayngst:
    • Ethan. He even angsts about the fact that he angsts so much.
    • He is so starved for affection and uncomfortable with himself that he leads Joyce on, to the frustration of Amber, Mike, and Sarah. And even after telling her the truth, they remain in a relationship because neither feels comfortable with their sexual feelings and Joyce misguidedly thinks she can help him avoid "temptation."
  • Genre Savvy: Sarah can actually see the character's archetypes miles away, but her flaw is that she's been right so many times she's built a wall around herself so that she wouldn't need to make friends ever again.
  • Gibberish of Love: Walky, whilst around Dorothy. At least for a while.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Sarah and Liz are running a version of this, despite the fact that they look quite similar. Sarah is cynical, serious, if not necessarily much smarter then certainly harder working, and calls Liz out for failing to appreciate everything that's been done for her; Liz is perceived as cuter because she smiles more and is more sociable, and calls Sarah out for her surliness. Liz has apparently stolen at least two of Sarah's boyfriends, and probably more, though she points out that at least one incident was an accident. They have some kind of mutual affection, but it's buried very deep.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Billie's reaction when she realizes that, going by all the people she knows at college so far, Joyce is her best friend. And then they get along pretty well from there.
  • Good Parents: The vast majority of the parents introduced have various issues with their children. However, a few of them manage to stand out as this.
    • Dorothy's parents are nothing but kind and supportive.
    • Dina's parents are a bit socially incompetent, but ultimately good-hearted; their reaction to finding out that their daughter has a girlfriend is to give her two hundred dollars for a nice date.
    • Joyce's dad Hank, who makes no attempt to defend Ross Macintyre. Despite being an otherwise textbook Christian Fundamentalist, he's ok with Becky being a lesbian, even if he doesn't quite understand it himself, since he trusts Joyce's judgment.
    • While they don't appear on-panel, it's said that Carla's parents are fully behind their transgender daughter and went above and beyond to give her a happy childhood. Carla jokes that considering all the Abusive Parents in the comic, her liking her mom and dad actually makes her the cool rebel.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Amber cutting up Ryan with his own knife, Blaine killing Ross with a hammer, and the corrupt cop killing Blaine to fake his suicide all happen off-panel.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Joyce (obviously), and oddly enough, Sal rarely directly curse, apparently even when provoked.
  • Happy Ending Override: An almost instantaneous example. Book 10's hopeful ending with most of the cast happily looking upon the campus from the roof is overriden by the reveal in "This Was Halloween" that they learned about Mike's death only a few seconds afterwards.
  • He Is Not My Boyfriend: Billie gets pretty vocal when Ruth asks if Walky's her boyfriend.
  • Hate Sink:
    • Everything Amber's dad says makes him more and more punchable.
      Alt Text: If I mention he's sitting in the handicapped parking space, does that make him too cartoonishly evil?
    • Ross, Becky's father, was known to be a Christian fundamentalist. However, the full extent of his bigotry didn't become apparent until he kidnapped his own daughter at gunpoint, in the middle of a campus. He makes his intentions to "change back" his daughter very clear, and his forceful and disrespectful actions drew the ire of the fandom. Also, he demanded Becky grow her hair back to reclaim her womanhood. After Becky was saved by Joyce and her friends, Ross was arrested and sent to the hospital. A very distraught Becky decides to face him one last time, on her own accord, to tell him how sad she is and that even after all he has done, she doesn't want him to suffer: she just wants her family back. Ross' answer is to blame her for everything that happened, telling her that "she" is the one who destroyed their family.
    • Clint, Ruth's (maternal) grandfather and guardian. He constantly insults her and her dead father, claiming she's too much like him, emotionally abuses her and her brother Howard, and even brings Howard along to school with him to subtly tell her that even though she is old enough to cut ties with him, Howard is not, and he would take her "betrayal" out on him.
    • Joyce's mother is not only hateful toward Becky after she comes out, but defends Ross after he kidnaps his daughter at gunpoint. And then she helps Ross make bail, showing that she cares only about her religious beliefs, rather than her actual daughter. Following the time skip, she shows up unannounced at Joyce's dorm room to dump off Joyce's stuff from the house that she is selling in order to give the money to her church; money that they need because of putting almost everything they had into bailing out Ross, an action spearheaded by Joyce's mother in the first place.
  • He-Man Woman Hater: Walky initially responds to his attraction to Dorothy about as well as your average eight-year old would.
  • Heroic BSoD: Happens quite frequently to a lot of characters:
    • Joyce is the primary subject to those. She developed a serious case of PTSD following the attempted rape against her, and can't be alone on campus, otherwise she sees the face of the guy everywhere. On the other end of the spectrum, it is played for laughs when she needs to "reboot" right after discovering Becky's new haircut.
    • Just meeting Dorothy made Walky unable to function until he finally was able to communicate with her normally. He also has a minor one when his paper was graded very low, leading him to Eat the Evidence.
    • Amber suffers one after punching her abusive father, because she realizes that she liked doing so, causing her to have a panic attack. When, later, she beats him to a pulp as Amazi-Girl, she shuts down completely.
  • Hiccup Hijinks: Joyce gives herself hiccups when Dorothy admits to being an atheist.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Throughout "When God Closes a Door" we see Joyce texting someone frequently about her family. The final strip reveals she's been talking to Joe all along.
    • Seen In-Universe (though not necessarily from the audience's semi-omniscient perspective) with Amber, who is filled with so much fear, rage and hatred that she created a second personality (Amazi-Girl) just to contain it.
  • Hidden Eyes: Becky gets these when she tells Joyce she has nowhere else to go, having been pulled out of Anderson.
  • High School AU: Technically college, but it mixes The Men in Black alien fighters from the previous continuity into an ordinary college setting.
  • Hollywood Atheist: Both played straight and averted. Walky is quite snarky and dismissive about Joyce's 'invisible sky wizard' in contrast to his original Walkyverse self. However Dorothy is non confrontational in her atheism, to the point of making friends with Joyce, and is somewhat embarrassed by her boyfriend's behavior.
  • How the Mighty Have Fallen: Billie's life has been on a downhill spiral since high school ended, largely because of her alcoholism.
  • Iconic Item: Dina's hat.
  • I Just Want to Have Friends / I Just Want to Be Loved:
    • These are Joyce's main motivations. One could argue that Sarah is repressing her desire to be loved.
    • Billie is clearly desperate to meet new people, but is only comfortable around Joyce. (And Ruth, sort of.)
    • Given how destroyed she was by that one phone call and the loss of her father, it can be argued that Ruth could secretly be suffering from a case of this too.
  • Impaled Palm: Amber did this to Sal in a fit of rage years before the story began.
  • Important Haircut: The 'do that Becky sports after she comes out.
  • Incompatible Orientation:
    • Amber and Ethan. It's a long tale but ended with them being good, if a bit awkward, friends.
    • Joyce and Ethan as a really strange relationship.
    • Becky and Joyce, due to the former misreading the latter's signals.
    • Marcie and Sal.
  • Indy Ploy: Walky manages to accidentally scam Jason into a job as a bartender at Galasso's Pizza and Subs. It starts as a spontaneous lie when he went to get himself a drink when the bartender was absent, and other patrons wonder if he's supposed to be there. Then when the actual bartender returns Walky claims that Galasso hired Jason as extra cover, which she accepts but isn't happy about. Galasso himself ... just assumes that he must have hired Jason and doesn't remember it. Jason is bewildered by all of this.
  • Inferiority Superiority Complex: Billie seems to be suffering from a bad case of this lately.
  • Informed Attribute: Joyce claims that her pastor says she's the best-socialized out of her homeschool group early in the comic, but her friend Becky, when she comes to visit later on, is clearly much better than Joyce at interacting with others.
  • Informed Judaism: While Ethan and Joe have mentioned they're Jewish, neither one actually practices the faith. Ethan even attends Christian church with Joyce.
  • The Ingenue: Joyce at her worst, although she has been slowly growing out of this.
  • Innocent Blue Eyes:
    • Joyce is the most childish and naive member of the cast, and has very large, very blue eyes with no pupils.
    • This is taken further with the other members of the Brown family, with "good" relatives having blue eyes like Joyce, and the more bigoted members having the standard black eyes. This is in fact a coincidence, as the rule actually is the Brown siblings have the eye colors of their opposite gender's parent. (This includes Jocelyne.)
  • Innocent Bigot: Joyce frequently makes offensive remarks to non-Christians due to her extremely sheltered home-schooled upbringing. This is evidenced when she said she could "fix" Joe's Judaism and expressed shock that atheists even existed. She also made racially insensitive comments such as calling her black roommate "a novelty." However as soon as she was called out on both these things she tried to improve. She was willing to ignore Dorothy's atheism and quickly became very close with her. She has also bonded with Sarah, particularly after Sarah rescued her from a violent sexual predator. Considering how little time has passed in comic her progress is already pretty remarkable although after being questioned about Mike on homosexuality her friendship with Ethan may be in trouble...
    • This was lampshaded here after a months-long Time Skip.
      Joyce: I wish I could time travel back six months and tell my younger self I'd be walking to class with four different black people! I've become so progressive!
      Sal: Wow, yikes.
      Walky: ...Okay, Lucy claims the "Creepily over-friendly girly-girl, subcategory not raised in a cornfield" niche.
  • Innocent Inaccurate: Joyce keeps being told that Ethan would enjoy a strap-on.
    Joyce: Everyone keeps saying that! Does anyone have one of these "strap-ons" I could borrow? I'm like a size six.
  • Innocent Innuendo:
  • Insane Troll Logic: Coupled with It's Quiet… Too Quiet, Ruth harassed Billie despite the latter not having done anything bad that week... so obviously that means she's up to something.
  • Insult Backfire:
  • Interface Spoiler: Reading the tags for any strips Jocelyne is in will confuse readers who haven't yet read the strip where she reveals her true gender to Ethan.
  • Interplay of Sex and Violence: Billie and Ruth's fighting takes on an entirely different tone once they are in a relationship.
  • Jade-Colored Glasses:
    • Sarah wears them all the time.
    • Ruth is clearly very bitter after having left Canada, a "sore subject" for her.
  • Jerk Jock: Played straight and then subverted. Danny is beaten up by Beef and several other jocks, and then Amazi-Girl saves him. Later on, Danny fails to get Amazi-Girl's attention by failing to get beaten up. He approaches Tony (another jock), who is appalled that Danny wants him to beat him up for no reason (and even more appalled when Danny says that he's gay and therefore deserves to be beaten up). Tony then leaves in disgust.
  • Jerkass:
    • Mike, of course, although he appears to be trolling people for their own good in some cases.
    • Raidah et al are an interesting case where they are definitely Jerkasses (their treatment of Dina), but they see their Sarah as being a Jerkass due to some misunderstandings. tl;dr Sarah's roommate was seriously depressed and dying of drug abuse, but managed to keep that hidden from Raidah et al, and when Sarah saved her by asking her dad to take her out of school, it seemed like Disproportionate Retribution.
    • Mary is homophobic, transphobic and only associates with "the right kind of Christians".
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • To say Roz was incredibly vitriolic towards Joyce in this strip would be an understatement (and uncalled for, considering that despite being a fundamentalist until now, Joyce is overall a nice person), and Leslie was right to order her out, but she made a few valid points while doing so.
    • Also, in this strip, Joe, despite usually being a Jerkass, gives a surprisingly thoughtful defense for drinking. He reasons that if he's old enough to die for his country, he should be old enough to 'get a little sloshed.' Considering this is the argument that got the voting age moved to 18, he has a very valid point.
    • Joe strikes again in "Recognizes", where he suggests Joyce comfort her friend instead of dance around the issue. It also helps that Amber suggests not talking to people, which Joyce had always intended to do the opposite of.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Deconstructed. Sarah points out that she's saved Joyce's life, therefore making it kinda rude to think that Sarah hates her. Joyce responds by noting that, while she is extremely grateful, she doesn't just want a friend who will show how she cares in big, dramatic ways, but in little ways too.
    • Likewise, while at first Mike seems more violent and cruel than his Shortpacked self over the course of the storyline it becomes apparent that he is taking a "tough love" approach to dealing with the problems of people like Walky, Dorothy and Ethan.
    • Billie is not quite as much of a bitch as she would like to pretend she is.
  • Killer Cop: Lester. He is apparently hired by the Korean mob to assassinate the hospitalized Blaine who had become too much of a loose cannon and make it look like suicide.
  • Knight Templar Parent: A few of the protagonist's parents. Ross is the most prominent but Linda and Carol are this to smaller degrees. This style of parenting is portrayed as wholly unhealthy as they try to justify their selfishness and controlling behavior as for their child's benefit.
  • Large Ham: Sydney Yuss retains her hammy nature, despite working in a pizzeria. And of course, Galasso wouldn't be Galasso without his hamminess.
  • Last Het Romance: In this universe, Amber and Ethan dated in high school before he realised he was gay during prom night.
  • Late to the Realization: Joyce thinks her family had no particular problem with Halloween, despite their fundamentalist beliefs. She explains to a surprised Sarah that Jocelyne always took her out trick-or-treating, telling their parents it was important, showing them photos of their other children having a good time... Only while explaining this does Joyce finally realize that Jocelyne was convincing their parents to let her go trick-or-treating despite the problem.
  • Lecture as Exposition: Leslie's Gender Studies lecture gives background on the current Becky storyline. The Alt Text lampshades this.
  • Lighter and Softer: Mike is very subdued compared to his Walkyverse counterpart and shows his "Heart of Gold" far more often. However, this is more likely a function of the Dumbiverse being sane, whereas Walkyverse Mike specializes in very over-the-top acts of jackassery and is almost superhumanly apathetic to other people's pain.
  • Like an Old Married Couple:
    • Dorothy mentions that Billie and Walky argued like they're married, which pisses them off.
    • When Danny and Joe bicker over which of them is neglecting their friendship for girls, Jacob notes "You guys are a little married, huh?"
  • Long-Runners: Dumbing of Age has been ongoing since 2010.
  • Loves My Alter Ego: Amber, Danny, and Amazigirl. Possibly. See Two-Person Love Triangle: below.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: One of Joyce's favourite songs from Hymmel the Hymnal; it sounds cute and cheery but has a pretty creepy message.

  • Magnificent Bastard: invoked According to Sarah, Joyce is one.
  • Manchild:
    • Walky, to the extent that Mike is trying to essentially force him to grow up and take a look at himself through creative methods.
    • Robin is still very much a female example of this trope - she slept through her own election day.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Kind of an odd case of this in that Walky acts like a stereotypical little boy, but as a result doesn't behave how society thinks a man should by being cute and submissive around Dorothy. Likewise, Dorothy isn't exactly butch but she's clearly the more serious, dominant and sexually experienced one in the relationship.
  • Meaningful Echo: Played for Drama as Joyce's mother uses the exact same line with Joyce that Becky's father did while emphasizing that he's not the one at fault.
  • Milholland Relationship Moment: Dorothy finds Walky talking to Joe about having had sex with her the night before, and how he will later be able to say he slept with the future President. Instead of being upset about him talking about their sex life, she is happy that he actually believes that she will be President. Her former boyfriend Danny, on the other hand, did not.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • This strip, which shifts from 'ha ha, Joyce is innocent' to Ryan.
    • A blazing Ruth - Billie row that ends with both of them in tears is immediately followed by Walky being himself. And from there we shift to an exhausted Amber coming home from a violent confrontation with Blaine.
    • A traumatic Ryan vs Amber confrontation is immediately followed by....Danny learning to play the ukulele.
  • Morality Pet: Joyce is one for Sal and Sarah. Funny how that works out.
  • My Eyes Are Up Here: Inverted regarding the top of Dina's head, due to it being something of a Forbidden Fruit.
  • Mythology Gag: Has its own subpage.
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg:
    • When Dorothy claims her boyfriend followed her to college.
      Danny: I didn't come here just for you... Joe's also here!
    • Dina also tends to fill the role of the Zoidberg when the cast gathers together.
    • Invoked and by Sal while talking about Malaya.
      Sal: You keep saying friends, plural.
      Carla: ...Okay, your friend. And Malaya.
      Sal: Ah like the pause in there. It helps.
  • Never My Fault: Ross, Becky's father, constantly blames everything and everyone around him, up to blaming his own daughter for destroying their family when he is the one who kidnapped her at gunpoint, in the middle of campus and in front of Joyce, with the clear intent of controlling Becky's life until she is "cured".
  • Nice Guy: Ethan is a pretty decent person despite certain self-created drama in his life.
  • Nightmare Face: Joyce is prone to these.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Sarah contacted her former roommate's father when the poor girl suffered a mental breakdown after her mother died. Now Sarah is ostracised because people think she narced on her just for being a party girl.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Amber, as Amazi-Girl, delivers one on her father after he took Danny hostage. The fight is entirely one-sided, with Amber beating him to a pulp.
  • Nominal Importance: Lampshaded when Asma refuses to use Walky's name because he refuses to use her name.
    Walky: Aw, c'mon. I pick up enough packages from you that I should have a name by now.
    Asma: Oh, really? What's my name?
    [Awkward pause]
    Asma: Yeah, didn't think so.
  • Noodle Incident: Sal somehow managed to lose her virginity due to a game of Apples to Apples.
  • No Social Skills: Dina has this in spades, and appears quite bothered by it.
  • Not Helping Your Case: Billie's not a troubled teen, and she'll punch anyone who says otherwise in the face!
    Mike: If you really are doomed to follow your parents' pattern, and you're never the one picking the jerks... Which of them does that make you?
  • "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer:
    • One can often be found in the Alt Text when Joyce expresses one of her more out there beliefs, reminding the readers that this is not The War on Straw, and Willis himself used to believe these things, because he was raised in a community that believed these things.
    • Yes, Ninjatitan is the name of a Real dinosaur.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: During Book 10 and the timeskip between books 10 and 11, Blaine murders Ross, Blaine himself gets murdered by a cop on the Korean mob's payroll for his screwups while in the hospital, Mike dies of his injuries offscreen between the books, Joyce becomes fully disillusioned with Christianity enough to become a closet atheist, Robin chooses Becky over her political ambitions, and Billie has broken up with Ruth and goes by her birth name of Jennifer.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Dorothy thought Walky was a slacker until she found out he's so smart (he pulled a 4.0 in High School) he doesn't need to study. (Then he found out he can't do that any more, and had a bit of a crisis, since neither failing nor actually having to try appealed to him.)
  • Oddball Doppelgänger: Dorothy and Joyce in a lot of ways. Despite the obvious differences in religion, upbringing and motivations they are surprisingly similar. They have the same child like interests (e.g. cartoons). They both have a tendency towards somewhat immature outbursts, in class in Dorothy's case and on a date in Joyce's. They both can be overly controlling when with boys. They both have expressed an interest in dating Walky in the original continuity. They both tend to dress modestly and have relatively similar hairstyles (bangs). Not that strange, then, that the two would bond quickly.
  • Odd Friendship: All over the place. Danny and Joe are a long-established pair. Joyce appears to collect these like flies, having begun developing friendships with Walky, Billie, Dorothy, and even Mike. (Joyce was The Heart in the main Walkyverse continuity.)
  • Oh, Crap!: Sarah's reaction upon hearing that Joyce and Becky are going to throw a dorm party.
  • Old Shame: Walky appeared in an episode of Hymmel the Humming Hymnal as a kid (he apparently had a Stage Mom), dressed in a pink mouse costume. However he was young enough for him to not even remember doing it by the time of the comic. That is, until he saw himself on Joyce's tape of the show. Then the memories came back to him and he did not like it. Part of his reaction is actually new shame as the video confirms the allegations of Parental Favoritism he'd just been vehemently denying to Sal.
  • Once a Season: Every book ends with one or more characters in their beds, having experienced some sort of change or development. Lampshaded by Willis in the alt text.
    David Willis: Its not the last strip of a book unless everyone is in bed and angsting.
  • Paralyzing Fear of Sexuality
    • Joyce, Joyce, Joyce. A dream sequence reveals a whole bundle of issues, some underlying from her upbringing, some caused by the events of the comic.
    • Walky, to a much lesser extent. Even directly giving him permission isn't enough.
      Dorothy: My breasts, Walky. Touch them.
      Walky: That was allowed?!
    • Later:
      Walky: Seriously, I won't get in trouble for this?
    • This has now gone away to the point that he and Dorothy have actually had sex. Twice in the same day.
  • Parenting the Husband: Deconstructed. Although unmarried, Walky invokes this trope when breaking up with Dorothy. Despite getting back together this underlying issue in the relationship has not actually been resolved. Although it's clear that despite resenting how patronizing her behavior was, Walky doesn't really want to "grow up" and likes how dominant Dorothy is in the relationship. Likewise, while she has been embarrassed by him occasionally Dorothy definitely enjoys Walky's juvenile and submissive personality on some level.
  • Parting-Words Regret: Ethan's last words to Mike Warner were a dismissive response and post-timeskip he's shown to regret not saying something else.
  • Passive-Aggressive Kombat: Carol acts very antagonistic towards Becky when she comes to the Brown's house, leading to a full-blown Kombat with Becky during dinner, in which Hank feels very uncomfortable and is unable to stop his wife. Joyce is so furious that she gives a Death Glare to her mother.
  • Pass the Popcorn:
  • Polar Opposite Twins: Sal and Walky, even though they weren't raised apart this time.
  • Police Are Useless: When Amazi-Girl is being dragged behind a kidnapper's car by her grappling hook, she hopes the police will try to arrest her for being a vigilante (at which point they'll be able to rescue the kidnap victim). Instead, they just drive right by, because there are reports of gunshots from back the way she came.
    Amazi-Girl: Oh, naw, it's good, I've got this one. Thanks.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Though her group's "villain" status is arguable, Char definitely gets a Jerkass moment here.
    Char: Yeah, and take your retarded kid with you!
    Raidah: Char, no. Come on. Don't say that.
    Char: Oh, right. We're in public.
    Raidah: Oh, right, we're in the universe.
  • The Pollyanna: Joyce. It's even lampshaded in this comic.
  • Prefers Going Barefoot: Sierra has apparently been barefoot since sixth grade (that's her best guess at least). It took a while for anyone to notice, including the reader, since her feet were not shown until the characters noticed her shoelessness.
  • Preserve Your Gays: Intentionally subverts the Bury Your Gays trope, by Word of God. Becky is placed in harm's way by her father, has multiple opportunities to die in the ensuing scuffle, and yet doesn't die and is in fact completely uninjured, ending the storyline alive, free, and seemingly on her way to making her own life.
  • Pronouncing My Name for You: When Joyce meets Raidah for the first time, she sounds out "Rah-ee-dah" for the audience's benefit.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Did. She have. A CHEST WINDOW?
  • Punny Name: Dina Saruyama is obsessed with dinosaurs.
    • Ruth's surname 'Lessick' earned her the nickname Ruthless.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic:
    • Many readers have commented in the comments section that they find Joyce unbelievable. Willis' response was that it seems impossible to be just that ingrained in the fundamentalist lifestyle unless you've actually lived it, like he once did.
    • For reference, Joyce is considerably toned down from her Walkyverse counterpart's personality in Roomies!, and the author has said that early version of Joyce reflects his own beliefs at the time more than Danny, the intended Author Avatar.
    • It's also been said in the comments that Amber's "shyness" in the flashbacks is too exaggerated. Willis had much the same reaction there (with added "it's called anxiety disorder").
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • Right when Joyce is having an epiphany in the middle of Leslie's class, Roz lashes out on her, pointing out that Joyce was quite the fundamentalist up until now, acts very sarcastic about her realization, and calls her out when Joyce criticizes the church, saying bluntly that she was a part of the problem. She also takes a jab at Dorothy, saying that she enabled Joyce's ignorance.
    • Just as Ruth starts trying to redeem herself for her past bullying, previously minor character Rachel wades into her with a brutal dismissal of the entire concept of redemption. It's harsh, misguided, and potentially dangerous to several bystanders — but it's also a formidable corrective to the idea of an Easily Forgiven villain.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: A good indication that someone is royally pissed in this comic is when they are given temporary red eyes to emphasize their anger. If the background panels also turn red, things will take a turn for the worse:
  • Red Is Violent: Panels with red backgrounds are often used to denote traumatizing scenes, most often violent ones.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Danny, after being dumped by Dorothy, starts hitting on Amber. Played for laughs.
  • Rescue Romance: Danny seems to have developed a crush on Amazi-Girl after she saved him from bullies.
  • Revisiting the Roots: After years of Shortpacked!'s mostly Denser and Wackier take on the franchise, Dumbing Of Age returns the Walkyverse to how it began: With the Coming of Age, Slice of Life, and Dramedy aspects of Roomies! and the Darker and Edgier tone of It's Walky!, only now with Willis having over a decade of professional and personal improvement and the Sci-Fi elements removed.
  • Riddle for the Ages: It's never revealed just who leaked Joe's 'Do-List'.
  • Rube Goldberg Device: Carla constructs an intricate contraption here for some well deserved revenge on Mary.
  • Running Gag:
    • Early on in the strip Walky develops a crush on Dorothy. Whenever she's present, he got a wide-eyed, lip-biting expression frozen on his face (best seen here, since he's wearing it in his only panel). The two are currently dating.
    • Amber has a weird look on her face every time she sees another girl with glasses. Probably referencing how she and Danny met.
    • Connected to the comic: The alt-text joking that a line from the strip will be the volume's title, the comment section will also do this.

  • Sarcasm Failure: Sal and Walky's sibling banter deteriorates from Hypocritical Heartwarming to genuinely hurtful when Sal manages to push Walky's Berserk Button.
  • School Grade Hacking: Amber hacked Walky's grades to improve his marks in math and become an A student again.
  • Self-Deprecation: In a Patreon strip, Joyce gives Dina's Roommates!!! counterpart the Punny Name Cerie because she loves cereal. Sarah complains that this seems reductive, which is Willis criticising his own creation of characters like Leslie Bean the lesbian and, yes, Dina Sarazu/Saruyama the dinosaur fan.
  • Sexiled: Walky and Dorothy kick Sierra out of the room for Their First Time.
    Walky and Dorothy: You need to leave.
    Sierra: I need to leave?
    Sierra: [outside] I needed to leave.
  • Sex Is Evil, and I Am Horny:
  • Sexiness Score: Joe has a "Do List" where he rates the women of IU on their perceived sexual desirability on a 1-10 scale, which causes him trouble once it gets leaked to the greater student body.
  • Sex Signals Death: Conversed in this strip, where Walky facetiously compares he and Dorothy being late for class because they slept-in after having sex to when people die after having sex in horror movies.
  • Shadow Archetype: A recurring element of the strip and often quite subtle. Examples:
    • Sarah is outwardly Joyce's polar opposite given her self-proclaimed misanthropy and sour outlook. Yet she shares a strong connection to Joyce (her "little sis") and arguably is motivated by many of the same things she is. She is even shown entering her dorm room excitedly much the same way that Joyce did, and also has faced something traumatic in her first semester. Further adding to this dynamic is Joyce's unexpected ability to deliver clever comebacks and quips in later comics.
    • Billie likes to criticize Walky for being immature, a slob and a geek. Yet for all his flaws Walky easily outperforms her academically and clearly has adjusted much better to college than she has. He also has a roommate who is actively trying to help him (albeit in an unusual way), whereas Sal seemed to actively avoid Billie even before Billie hit on her. Given that Billie is not mature enough to get past high school or admit her alcoholism (or other problems) and uses phrases like "life-force" or "dracula" routinely in conversations it could be said that what annoys her about Walky is really what she hates about herself. Additionally, despite his poor diet Walky is in excellent shape whereas Billie has put on weight in college...
    • Dorothy and Walky. Walky can be overly complacent, sloppy and childish at times. Dorothy can be overly ambitious, perfectionist and preoccupied with what others think of her (which is in itself somewhat childish). Both bond over cartoons, both are surprised by how similarly gifted they are, and both struggle to make the right compromises in their relationship.
    • Joyce and Mary are both Christian fundamentalists. However, while Joyce often says and believes things other people find awful, unpleasant, or even bigoted, she is willing to listen when people explain why her beliefs are offensive, and tries to change or at least re-examine those beliefs. Mary, on the other hand, is almost cartoonishly literally holier-than-thou who will never admit (even to herself) that she or her beliefs are in any way even possibly wrong.
  • Shipper on Deck:
    • Joyce ships Walky/Billie. And in the same one, Walky seems to ship Billie/Sal.
    • Dorothy was the one that encouraged Walky to get together with Lucy...though if Billie's hunch is correct, it's less that she thinks they'd be cute together and more that it would make Walky unavailable, and therefore Dorothy won't be tempted to get back together with him.
  • Ship Tease: Many of the Walkyverse's canon couples or relationships that happened over the course of the comic are teased in the comic, though aside from Walky and Dorothy none of them have gone past "teasing" yet.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Show Within a Show:
    • The "Dexter and Monkey Master" comic book series and spin-off cartoon, featuring the science-fictional elements from the core Walkyverse.
    • "Himmel the Humming Hymnal", which is a parody of bizarre low-budget Christian children's programming in general (and "Psalty the Singing Psalm-Book" specifically).
  • Shutting Up Now: Joyce thanks someone for interrupting her when she got into a Digging Yourself Deeper situation.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!:
    • Sarah gets taken down several notches when Joyce replies to her lecture about the dangers of college parties. Unfortunately, Sarah was right about that particular party.
      Joyce: Ever since I've got here, you've disapproved of everything I've been done. What I believe, who I hang out with! But every single time you're wrong! Look at me, I'm just a homeschooled girl. I've made friends. You're... still alone.
    • She has a less harsh comeback several strips later, when during another argument Sarah points out that she was right about the college party and that she saved Joyce. Joyce concedes the point, but in turn points out that Sarah's big, dramatic gestures to show that she cares aren't much good if she's not going to combine them with smaller-scale gestures as well.
  • "Shut Up" Kiss: Painfully deconstructed. Ruth attempts this on Billie right as she's being confronted about how hurtful and confusing her (abusive and antisocial) Tsundere behavior is. And it backfires on her so badly that Billie actually tries reporting her to someone. What works in the world of harem Anime doesn't go over well in real life at all.
  • Sibling Rivalry:
    • Sal really seems to resent Walky for being the favorite child.
    • Roz and Robin, as Robin's "poltics" consist of catering to everything Roz hates.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Sal and Walky, again. No one seemed to have even noticed they're twins. Danny had to have it pointed out.
  • Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!: Rachel, previously a minor character, rips into the damaged Ruth with a brutally cynical attack on the whole idea of character redemption.
    Rachel: No matter how many lies you tell, you will always be the thing you were before. You can't wallpaper over it with a sorry and a smile. It will always be there.
    Redemption is a story. Redemption is not real.
  • Sink or Swim Mentor: This seems to be Mike's modus operandi in this universe; most of his more dickish behaviour has seemed to be directed at forcing the character it's being aimed at to sort their lives out or at least come to some kind of realization about themselves, rather than just him being a straight-up Jerkass.
  • Skewed Priorities: Galasso fires Sydney not for screwing up an order, but for confusing Dina and Becky. He wouldn't have fired her at all, if Sydney had managed to intimidate the two into going with it.
    You have not bested these underclassmen. They are not cowed. They are merely bewildered. Your weakness shames this institution.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Upon Billie demanding that Ruth tell her what she wants from Billie, Ruth first punches her (in one strip) and then kisses her (in the next strip). Incidentally, this caused a brief server meltdown.
    • The same goes for Sal and Jason, the math TA.
  • Slut-Shaming: Joyce does this to Roz after her well publicized liason with Joe, starting the two's mutual feud.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Billie was the editor of her high school newspaper, although she admittedly did no work on it, getting the title due to popularity and then using it only as social currency (even Walky knew more about Journalism than she does) — she's rather surprised to discover that this doesn't give her a free pass to the student paper at her college.
  • Snark Ball: Gets passed around quite a bit, as one would expect from a David Willis work. Any character can be appropriately snarky given the right situation and motivation.
  • Soulless Bedroom: One character equates another's having no posters on the walls with being a Serial Killer.
  • Spared by the Adaptation:
    • Ruth's death in the Walkyverse was planned from the beginning; here, she has a much bigger role.
    • Galasso's wife Pamela is alive and well, premiering shortly after a storyline in Shortpacked about how she died.
  • Stating the Simple Solution:
    • Billie reads Sal the riot act over never being around so she can get her to sign something that Ruth's been demanding, leading to...
      Sal: Why didn't ya just leave the doggoned thing on my bed fer me?
    • Lucy wants to have sex with Walky, and is just liberated enough from her conservative religious upbringing that she's willing to do so once she and Walky have had their third date. However, she's also bound and determined to turn her and Walky watching Sal's roller derby match with Danny into a double date so it can be their third. So much so that, when Danny refuses to acknowledge the situation as a date of any kind, Lucy snaps at him over not realizing the "pretend, self-placed hoops a Christian woman will jump through to justify getting railed." She's then told that she can just "take Walky and go eat at a friggin' IHOP. Boom, third date." After a moment's consideration, Lucy is on board with this idea so she can then make love in what she has decided is a Christ-approved way.
  • Stress Vomit: In "The Whiteboard Dingdong Bandit", Billie is so hurt by Alice's "The Reason You Suck" Speech that she throws up on Walky.
  • Strip Buffer: One that covers over three months. The site even has a readout showing how far ahead strips are done.
  • Stylistic Suck: Downplayed in that it's not outright bad, but what we see of Joyce's first onscreen comic strip is that it's drawn in a less detailed manner similar to Roomies! compared to the webcomic itself.
  • Stunned Silence: Joyce and Dorothy have this reaction after Mike picks up Joyce's phone and tells her mom "All hail Satan" before hanging up. Complete with Blank White Eyes for Joyce, who is shocked beyond words.
  • Suicide by Pills: Becky's mother died from an implied pill overdose. It's implied she did so to get away from Ross, who was emotionally abusive and The Fundamentalist to the extreme. Poor Becky was the one who found her body.
  • Sure, Let's Go with That: "Yes. We say that to everybody."
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • After several books of nobody figuring out her secret identity on their own, Amber's Paper-Thin Disguise backfires in the worst of ways. After spending a good bit of time with her Amazi-Girl persona, Sal realizes who Amber is the second she sees her.
    • Played for Laughs in Book 10, where Blaine is chasing Mike when both are on electric scooters. Blaine tries to be menacing by suggesting that Mike won't even make it to the woods he's trying to escape to, only for Mike to point out that they're using the same scooters, and thus have the same top speeds.
    • Dorothy wants to be President of the USA one day, and is working hard toward this goal. Almost too hard, she is neglecting meals and actively trying to cut back her social life to spend more time working. However, as she discovers, politics isn't just hard work; it literally is a popularity contest, and not being likeable/popular or not being charismatic enough to make friends quickly and easily is a death sentence for a career as a political candidate.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial:
    • Here's one from Bille:
    • And one from Galasso:
    Galasso: Galasso's Pizza (and Subs) is pleased to sponsor this student event regarding understanding the fundamentals of human sexuality. <beat> ...which Galasso is doing out of his immense goodwill, and not because human sexuality is a bewildering quagmire at which I'm interminably perplexed.
    • Even Joyce has gotten in on it:
    Joyce: We're about to go do something completely legal.
  • Take That!:
    • A playful one towards Questionable Content: the "links to other webcomics" section has the link to QC labelled "Jeph Jacques Makes Butt Stew". Jacques responded in kind, with the link to DoA labelled as "Dave Willis Eats Diapers".
    • Joe has words for the people responsible for Superman's grittier portrayal in more recent works.
    • Willis is very much not a fan of what 9 Chickweed Lane has been doing lately. The strip just below Joyce's in the student newspaper is 69 Mouse-Ear Blvd by "Pat McHorney", with dialogue like "Your matchless legs have cured my homosexuality!"
  • Tempting Fate: After what happened to Mike, who was comatose at the time, Ethan says that he is young and that he will survive it. Post-timeskip, Mike dies from his injuries. Subsequently, Ethan has been noticeably absent from any strip after that, hinting that among all of the cast he took Mike's death the worst.
  • That Makes Me Feel Angry: Joyce says as much to Walky for his criticizing her MRS Degree.
  • Theme Naming: The strips and chapters in Becky's come-out arc are named after quotes from Wicked and Frozen (2013), such as Unlimited or That Perfect Girl (... is gone).
  • This Is Not That Trope: Dorothy trying to tell Joyce what sex is like.
    Dorothy: You've seen season four of Dexter and Monkey Master, right? The Ultra-Car crossover episode where she and Monkey-Master get their brains merged?
    Joyce: Sex is like that?
    Dorothy: ...Not even remotely.
  • Time Skip:
    • Three as of 2017, none of which have covered more than a week. The first one was to skip the wait for an Amazon delivery, the second jumped over the immediate fallout of Ross bringing a gun to campus. They both lasted all of four days. The third covered three days, following Ryan attacking Amber, only to get the snot beaten out of him.
    • Book 10 rings out the comic's first decade with a more conventional one, jumping ahead several months with a Time-Passes Montage.
  • Toilet Humor: Done in a flashback when Mike "congratulates" Dorothy on hooking up with Walky.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass:
    • Ever since Becky was nearly kidnapped and her worldview was shattered, Joyce's filter is turned off, and she uses swears rather commonly (though, as Dina points out, her vocabulary seems restricted to "damn" and "hell"). On top of that, she is on edge, and snaps at Becky when the subject of evolution is brought up. Despite finding that the old Joyce could be annoying with her "sunny routine", her friends would rather want her to go back to how she was.
    • Becky. In the Walkyverse and her initial appearance in the beginning, plus some phone calls with Joyce, she is much sweeter and polite. Once she is pulled out of college and has to live at the college, she becomes much more obnoxious, insulting and offensive.
    • Following the timeskip, several characters have undergone this either due to lingering trauma surrounding Mike's death, or events that happened during the timeskip, in particular Halloween.
      • Jennifer has partly backslid into her Alpha Bitch behavior from High School following Ruth dumping her on Halloween out of the blue, falling in with Raidah's group and letting her worst traits come out to the forefront. She's likewise severed ties with all of her old friend group sans Joyce, has ceased going by "Billie" in favor of her birth name, and acts behind a façade of maturity while bottling up resentment towards Ruth for her behavior and reasoning for the break up.
      • Joyce has embraced atheism as a result of the trauma brought upon by her former community and their fundamentalist beliefs, but with it comes a much more bitter and callous individual, not helped by having to deal with possible life changing details like needing glasses or being on the autism spectrum being thrown at her back to back. Her shift in attitude does little to endear her to her friends, but their attempts at trying to get her back to "normal" just ends up aggravating her and creates a much bigger rift.
      • Dorothy is faced with the prospect that her original goal in life of being the POTUS would require she make moral concessions she's not willing to make, something she is called out on by both Becky and Raidah. This causes her to suffer a full on Identity Breakdown, resulting in her trying to inject herself into others lives, claiming it's to stop them from making a mistake when really it's thinly veiled self-interest, all for the sake of maintaining some level of control in her life, even going as far as to try and steal Walky back from Lucy after she was the one who pushed Walky into dating Lucy. Her treatment of Joyce in particular stands out, constantly infantilizing her and acting like Joyce is her responsibility, becoming territorial when Jennifer gives Joyce advice that actually succeeds where Dorothy failed, and coerces a visibly uncomfortable Joyce into masturbating for the first time in attempt to be a Shipping Torpedo for her new relationship with Joe, the entire time rationalizing it as "protecting" Joyce.
      • Ethan has had the most noticeable change in demeanor. In addition to losing muscle mass and not taking care of himself physically, he's much more jaded, dismissive, and overall self-destructive, all related to now suffering from depression over Mike's death. This is especially noticeable when he begins flirting with Asher, who had already made clear he was in a relationship with Jennifer, making clear he just doesn't really care anymore and would rather just seduce Asher.
  • Too Much Information: In Book 11, when Becky and Dina discuss the possibility of having sexual relations, Professor Brock points out that he is still in the room and is overhearing everything.
  • Tsundere: Ruth, towards Billie. Deconstructed: Ruth behaves this way because she has anti-social tendencies and a bad home life. Billie confronts Ruth demanding to know what their relationship is, after weeks of Ruth alternating between (awkward) displays of affection and bullying. When Ruth suddenly kisses her during all of this, she tells her to fuck off and runs away. Billie is very confused and hurt by whatever attraction she does feel. It's still played for comedy, but the situation is acknowledged by Willis as unhealthy and just wrong.
  • Two-Person Love Triangle: Danny admits that Amber's resemblance to Dorothy has made him set his sights on somebody else.
  • Ultimate Universe: To the Walkyverse.
  • The Unfair Sex: Walky seems to suffer a bit of this in this strip, courtesy of Joyce.
  • The Unsmile: Enough of one that even Sarah is left in Stunned Silence.
  • Unsound Effect:
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: For all that she snarks at him and vehemently insists that she doesn't like him in any way, it's implied that Billie is a lot fonder of Walky than she lets on. At the very least, she seems to spend a lot of time with him for someone who apparently considers herself too cool to be in his presence.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot:
    • Ruth throws up on Billie's front as the latter tries to help her out of a drunken stupor in "Answers in Hennessy".
    • Played With when Billie Stress Vomits on Walky in "The Whiteboard Dingdong Bandit", the act is off-panel, but we see his front covered in her puke in the next panel.
    • When Billie finally tries to quit drinking, she throws up off-panel a couple of times due to alcohol withdrawal.
  • Webcomic Time: Possibly one of the worst offenders of all time. As of December 2011, the strip had been running for roughly a year, and the amount of time that had passed was from Monday to Sunday. By the strip's second anniversary, it had managed to cover eight more days... but only by Time Skipping four of them. Finally, in celebration of the strip's tenth anniversary, the characters entered their second semester... by skipping another three months. At current velocities, Willis will need to live past his 100th birthday if he wants to see Joyce graduate.
  • Weight Woe: It's pretty obvious that part of Billie's insecurity stems from being out of shape, and she expresses frustration and embarrassment at times about it.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Mike of all people does this to Ethan when Ethan (who is Jewish) agrees to go to church with Joyce. With one word.
    Mike: ...WOW.
    Ethan: [in a small voice] Do not judge me.
    • Mike gives a pretty big one when Billie and Walky express how Joyce post Toedad kidnapping has been more profane and angsty. Mike tells them they didn't like the old Joyce and kept trying to change her, but now that she's changed they callously want the old Joyce back.
    • Carla gives Ruth a good dose of this when Ruth doesn't stand up to Mary's threats to call in the Residence Manager on her after Mary trans-shamed Carla.
    • A more subdued example than the above, but Hank is clearly unhappy with Joyce and Becky taking off with their car and spent all day hiding from them, as he claims he had spent all morning convincing his wife Carol that neither of them have changed that much since going to college, only for his efforts to go down the drain.
  • Wham Episode:
    • Book 1, Chapter 6. Joyce is drugged and nearly raped by Ryan, until Sarah saves the day. Unfortunately, Ryan manages to escape, and this incident has haunted Joyce ever since.
    • Book 2, Chapter 4. Sarah didn't call the cops on her roommate Dana, she called her Dad to pull her out of school out of concern for her well-being.
    • Book 4, Chapter 1. Amber beats the shit out of her father Blaine, who just kidnapped Danny to draw her out.
    • Book 5, Chapter 2. Becky got kicked out of college after being revealed as a lesbian, and ran away to Joyce's to avoid her bigoted father.
    • The entirety of Book 6. Ross kidnaps Becky at gunpoint, completely shattering Joyce's old worldview. Then Joyce is broken even further once she realizes almost half of her family are defending Ross's actions. Meanwhile, Danny and Amber are having a major falling-out over whether or not Amazi-Girl is still an ok thing for the latter to be doing. Billie and Ruth's relationship is outed to the dorm by Carla when she tries to get Ruth help for her actively worsening depression, and Ruth gets hospitalized as a suicide risk. Lastly, Amazi-Girl confronts Sal at a re-election rally for Robin DeSanto, and when the crowd begins cheering her on by insisting that Sal is a thug who must have done something wrong, she tries to de-escalate the conflict... which is sidelined when she catches a glimpse of Ryan in the crowd.
    • Book 10 goes bonkers. It starts with the Wham Shot mentioned below, where Walky finds himself (and several others) kidnapped by Blaine and Ross, who are trying to pull an "I Have Your Wife" on Amazi-Girl and blackmail her into kidnapping Becky on their behalf. To underline the threat, Blaine points out how Mike fell off a building fighting with him the other night. Unfortunately, Blaine is so convinced of Amber's worthlessness that he refuses to acknowledge his daughter is Amazi-Girl. Even after she admits it to his face. Ross, however, lets her go, since he wants his daughter back. Becky, instead of fleeing as Amazi-Amber has urged her to, turns herself in... but by now there's an Enemy Civil War as Blaine turns on Ross for letting Amber go. Blaine murders Ross. The remaining abductees escape, and fight their way free with the help of a freshly-arrived Amazi-Girl. Becky says her farewells to her father. Upstairs, Blaine has recovered. He takes Joyce hostage and races off in an unmarked white van... with Amazi-Girl in pursuit with the help of The Cavalry, Sal and her motorcycle. Blaine is imprisoned in the hospital, then shot and killed by a Crooked Cop. Mike is revealed to be in a coma. Oh, and, Robin resigns from her congressional race.
  • Wham Line:
    • In the flashback, "And then Dana's mother died. Breast cancer." Suddenly Sarah's junkie roommate just got a lot more sympathetic.
    • Likewise, "I called her dad." Roughly 90% of the controversy about whether or not Sarah did the right or wrong thing dissipated.note .
    • Joyce's brother Joshua tells Ethan that his parents wouldn't like him if they knew more about him. Then he sends Ethan a link to his writing.
      Ethan: ...Oh.
    • Ross McIntyre: (pulls out gun) ...Lord, grant me the strength
    • One of the first strips of Year 11 opens up with Sarah asking Joyce about a change that happened over the timeskip...
      Sarah: when are you gonna tell your childhood church buddy [Becky] you're an atheist now?
    • It's not one for the characters, but Walky casually mentioning "My roommate died." abruptly informs the audience that Mike ultimately did not survive his coma.
    • After Joyce goes to the doctor, what she's freaking out about isn't that she was prescribed birth control.
      Joyce: The doctor...gave me a referral? To get, um, diagnosed?...for autism?
  • Wham Shot:
  • World of Jerkass: One of the core elements of Dumbing of Age is the characters' growth and all the implications it has on their lives. As such, while most of them have the potential to grow, a large portion of the cast either is a jerk to begin with, goes through an asshole phase, or demonstrates how mean they can be in certain occasions. With just the main characters in Read Hall: Clark Wing, you have an Innocent Bigot with a subtle superiority complex about her faith (Joyce), an antisocial misanthrope (Sarah), a proudly obnoxious Attention Whore (Carla), an aloof and rude loner (Sal), a wrathful and violent vigilante (Amber/Amazi-Girl), a self-righteous condescending activist (Roz), an abrasive former Alpha Bitch (Billie), a self-destructive tyrant (Ruth), and a thoughtless and surprisingly manipulative loudmouth (Becky). And each of them is far from being the worst of the cast (hell, they're not even the worst of the good guys).
  • Worst. Whatever. Ever!: Danny calls Joe the worst wingman ever, which brings him to the brink of real tears.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Billie thinks she's still the Alpha Bitch, but hasn't quite realized that college is a much bigger place than high school.
  • Wrong Insult Offence: Invoked and Defied out-of-universe; the forum guidelines specifically discourage commentors from making Catholic jokes at Joyce's offense, as until Book 11 she is an evangelical.
  • Write Who You Know: In-Universe, Joyce creates a Slice of Life prequel webcomic to her Her Codename Was Mary Sue science fiction stories, filled with counterparts of all her friends.
    Joyce: See? Julia Gray is semi-autobiographical!
    Sal: There ain't no "semi" about it.
  • You Are Fat: Ruth does this to Billie to tear her down in public, although Walky isn't above teasing her either.
    • One thing to sell the Dramatic Irony in Raidah's presenting Jennifer joining her friend group as a healthy development is that one of them immediately starts making passive-aggressive comments about her weight.
  • You Do Not Want To Know: After Sarah and Jacob use Joyce's creationist beliefs as an ice-breaker, Sarah can't bring herself to tell Joyce about their first conversation.
    Joyce: Well, that's weird. You always tell me stuff I definitely don't want to know.
  • You Need to Get Laid: Daisy, the college newspaper editor, needs a girlfriend. Desperately.
    Daisy: No. I need facts. I need evidence. I need controversy. I need titilation. I need —
    Dorothy: A girlfriend?
    Daisy: [engaging in scissor tribadism] Huh? How'd you know?