Davan: I look at it like this: the holiday season may have a phenomenally high suicide rate, but we can't hope to maintain that level of excellence if everyone doesn't do their part.
Something*Positive is a Slice of Life webcomic by Randal Keith "R.K." Milholland based on the life and trials of Davan MacIntire, a put-upon, misanthropic author stand-in, and his best friends Aubrey Chorde, Pee-Jee Shou, and Jason Pratchett, who originated as caricatures of Milholland's real-life friends. The supporting cast includes Davan's acerbic but loving family, African-American Wiccan Kim Anansie, Pee-Jee's long-time gay man-crush Jhim Midgett, "pint-sized bisexual" T-Bob, reformed obsessive geek Mike Dowden, vain waste-of-space Kharisma Valetti, and Davan's hairless, amorphous cat Choo-Choo Bear. The cast is enormous, and various members pop in and out over the years.
Most of the comic's humor is incredibly dark and cynical, with glee for potential offense; few demographics have avoided skewering by the author's strawman constructs — it is remarkably fair and balanced in that approach. However, moments of sympathy sometimes rise to the surface, as the characters may be jerks (an admitted fact by Milholland himself), but they do love each other deeply, and go out of their way to help one another. Common elements include the stupidity of the common man, geek culture, tabletop gaming, and Davan's seemingly endless parade of psychotic girlfriends.
Expect a lot of Take That!. To fans of the comic (particularly stupid e-mails are almost always revealed to the fans on the comic's web page, or even in actual comics), to fans of certain shows or genres, and especially to Milholland himself, as well as his comic. It's equal-opportunity cruelty at its finest and most vulgar.
The title was created when the real Aubrey told Milholland to do "something positive."
Connects to the Walkyverse in a number of ways: Choo Choo Bear's offspring with Sprinkles have found their way into several strips, and Davan is also friends with GWS's Candy and Queen of Wands' Kestrel. Milholland has also done some guest strips for Questionable Content that may or may not be canon; Jeph Jacques isn't telling.
Something*Positive contains examples of:
- Aborted Arc: Bian, a new character with no connection to the existing story, was introduced with hints from Milholland that she would eventually meet the main cast. She hasn't appeared since 2011.
- Absolute Cleavage: Monette celebrates Boobquake!
- Abusive Parents: Ollie's father apparently beat him when he was a boy. This is probably why Ollie does everything in his power to honor and protect the reputation of his otherwise Evil Uncle Avogadro, who put a stop to the abuse by raising Ollie himself.
- Avogadro is just as abusive, just in a different way. Avogadro never beat Ollie physically, but he abused the boy emotionally and sexually.
- On the emotionally abusive side is Jason's father. The man is described as using his psychology skills to get under his family's skin, and Jason's anecdotes about him are pretty disturbing.
- Monette's natural father. Even when trying to be nice, the best he manages to achieve is trying to send her a "I never thought you would achieve anything" card.
- Davan's father is shown to be loving, but has his moments; apparently when Davan was six, his father tried to "mathematically prove to him that the Vietnam War was his fault" and recalls with a friend how they both tied their boys to the car's bumper when they wouldn't settle down. "They were tough sons of guns too! It was four miles before they started screaming!"
- Rory's biological father refused to have anything to do with his son. When Rory sent a letter to him in an attempt to reach out, the jerk responded with a letter full of profanity. Rory keeps it as a reminder of who he never wants to become when he grows up.
- Action Survivor: Spoiled Brainless Beauty Kharisma, of all people, is becoming one.
- Actually Pretty Funny: Davan tells a whiny little girl that he's going to buy the cake she wants her mother to buy, just to spite her. This earned him a glare from his dad... then the girl ran and told her mother about it.
- Adult Fear: In the "Just Today" story arc, Davan's father Fred has to deal with being diagnosed with Alzheimer's. He asks his wife Faye to take the day off from work to spend time with him so he can tell her. In the end, he can't bring himself to tell her and they just spend a peaceful day together. As they go to bed for the night, she thanks him for spending the day with her and they share a goodnight kiss (the caption for this strip is "Sometimes it's about life...". The next morning, Fred realizes that Faye died in her sleep (the caption here: "Sometimes, it's about fear").
- Fred's own declining health, and the impact it has on his family, is another source of this. Several comics have shown him momentarily mistaking a loved one for someone long dead (Monette for Rose, Rory for Scotty), or acknowledging his mortality and limitations. Often it's played for dark humor, but some times it's played completely straight.
- As the rest of the cast has matured and settled down, they've had to confront subjects like financial insecurity and debt, uncertain futures in education and work, and raising children in need of advice and support.
- Aerosol Flamethrower: "OH GOD! MY BEAUTY! MY HORRIBLY FLAMMABLE BEAUTY!"
- Age Cut: Davan digs out an old notebook where his friend Scotty would write up RPG stats for their toys. The last panel on this comic shows a page from the book, and the first page from the next one is the same page, over twenty years earlier.
- A Hell of a Time: Fire, demons poking the damned and a "ferret rave".
- All Girls Like Ponycars: "Customers being stupid?" "That's like asking me if ponies are still being awesome. Duh!"
- Answer Cut: Jason has vague misgivings over adopting a child:Jason: For some reason there's something that bothers me when I think of parenting. I just can't put a face on it. [opens the door]
Jason's father: Hello, son. Long time no see.
- And Zoidberg: Kharisma's surprising Pet the Dog moment to Davan as she leaves Medicaid billing. "I wouldn't wish this job on the worst person in the world. Or you, either."
- Arbitrary Skepticism: Choo-Choo discusses it in a Reader Q&A.
- Art Evolution:
- After nine years, Randy started... shading.
- After fourteen years, Randy started drawing everything digitally.
- He also has a penchant for watercolor, which he mostly uses on his comic Rhymes With Witch.
- Ascended Extra:
- Fluffmodeus started here. Now he's a part of Kharisma's life. (The Rant below the comic reads "I am seriously tempted to put the little blue thing into the main comic unless ransom demands are met." Presumably, they were not.)
- Branwen was supposed to be a brief encounter before Davan drove her away, but someone close to Randy told him "You know, you could let Davan catch a break once in a while." She was with him for about a year, her influence lasted longer, and she's remembered as "the good one" among a string of crazy and faithless romantic mistakes. (Until Vanessa appeared.)
- Ashes to Crashes: PeeJee accidentally spills Faye's ashes down her panties.
- Asshole Victim: Some, but not all include...
- Mike had a series of humiliations and painful encounters, which he generally brought upon himself through thoughtless, stupid and hostile behavior.
- Pepito acted like a jerk to everyone after he inherited Avogadro's fortune, and when he returned to the spotlight at a convention he was torn apart by rampaging catgirls because he was dressed as their favorite character. He was later seen in Hell, once again Avogadro's sex toy.
- Kyle repeatedly lied and cheated to one of the main cast, and when caught was beaten and hospitalised.
- PeeJee had a coworker who threatened to charge her with sexual harassment when PeeJee rebuffed her advances. She was suddenly eaten by a trap-door alligator that struck from the air conditioning.
- Kharisma was a Rich Bitch and Brainless Beauty who really pushed this with her treatment of others, then scarred her face, tried to get Avogardo's fortune and was convicted of murder, went to prison and risked being killed, was broken out (and was still at risk of death) and lives a semi-criminal life putting her through a lot of Character Development.
- Author Avatar: Davan was based on Randy five years before the comic started. His character moved away from being similar to Randy, but sometimes remains his mouthpiece. Rory is based on Randy's childhood (One of the tags on a Rory-centred comic reads "'This seems... familiar' — My father").
- Author Guest Spot
- Awesome Mc Coolname: Subverted with Mike's son. He wanted to call him Shazam Joss Whedon Dowden, but instead his girlfriend, Tamara, names him Shazam Wil Wheaton Dowden.
- Awful Truth: Rory has to have The Talk, which leads him to a horrible realization of why his mother thought Davan was his father.
- A World Half Full
- Badass Boast: Jason makes a henchmen beg in a tabletop RPG.
- Badass Beard: Randy sports one, though he's less fond of it when his new child misuses it.
- Beard of Sorrow: Davan, after Faye dies.
- Benevolent Boss:
- Sanderson, mostly after hiring Davan to manage his theatre interests. He's a bit selfish and stubborn about his whims, but he genuinely likes Davan.
- Mike's boss, Eric, at the Kwispy Burger also counts — right away, he lets Mike know that nope, the customer's not always right, and minimum-wage employees still deserve at least some respect. When the restraunt is attacked by arsonists, forcing it to be closed down, Eric makes sure to give all the employees severance pay with their last paychecks (Even adding two months worth of pay to Mike's paycheck to thank him for a decade of work) and tells Mike that if he opens up another restaurant, he'll give Mike a job if he hasn't found another job by then.
- Berserk Button: Never sass Mister Peppermint around Davan. Makes one think of a certain other child entertainer...
- Bestiality Is Depraved: Monette's koala incident.Davan: Before I post your bail, tell me: Was it a female koala you had sex with?
- Beware the Nice Ones: Even if he is probably just a hallucination, and a initially benevolent one at that, Fluffmodeus can be pretty scary.Fluffmodeus: YOU'RE GONNA DIE!
- The "benevolent" facade has been pretty much dropped as of this strip
- Be Yourself:
- Biggus Dickus: Jason, apparently.
- Black Comedy: Just how dark the humour gets varies from story to story, but the comic has no qualms about "going there" and includes Dead Baby Comedy, Undignified Deaths, Black Comedy Rape, general crushing of people's spirits and bright spots of hope and love.
- The first strip features an at-home abortion joke, setting the stage for things to come. Anyone who's read Something Positive has nothing to complain about: This strip is completely up front with how offensive it is from the word go.
- Especially, perhaps, but certainly not exclusively, as can be seen in this 2010 strip:Nancy: Davan, wake up. I have a problem.
Davan: You live on the fifth floor; you've got a long stairwell that'll fix it for you.
- Then there's his Halloween tradition of The Last Of The Trick-or-Treaters comics, which feature various supernatural monsters murdering trick-or-treating kids.
- Black Comedy Rape:
- Kim has a fetish for unconscious men (and yes, it is an actual thing). Which the others didn't know when they asked her to look after Davan while he was whacked out on medication, and she takes advantage of him
- Mike and the Redneck Trees. Initially, nothing actually happens to Mike. Deep-Immersion Gaming is a visual device, not something that actually affects the characters. It's not shown how graphically it was described to him, although based on his reaction, probably "very".
Then, thanks to Davan's good memory, it was reenacted. And he was actually almost publicly sodomized by a man in a tree costume. But since he was an unsympathetic Jerkass, it was played for laughs, though PeeJee disagrees, and then it happened again.
- The rejection letter Davan sends to the writer of a bad play claims that "A better title for your play would be 'Rape-Rape: A Tale of Rapening'. Also, your next play should have a little less rape in it."
- Body Horror: Odds are that any scene that includes Choo-Choo Bear will also include some horrible, horrible cat-related Body Horror.
- Bouquet Toss: The whole catching part is pointedly defied at Davan and Vanessa's wedding.
- Brain Bleach:
- Low-rent strippers. "Take me home so I can claw my eyes out in privacy, please."
- "I'm not sure her psyche was prepared for the horror that is role-playing geeks"
- "Leave us in our secret shame and sin!"◊''.
- Jhim tries desperately in to invoke it: "Must fight visual! Must... fight... visual!"
- More experiences in strip clubs, but it only gets bad at this point. (The next comic's tag reads "Reaction to yesterday's reveal — Men: "Meh?", Women: "I will fucking kill you, Randy!")
- Kegel balls and Pokémon, "You're not allowed to talk any more. Like, ever.".
- Lipstick, nipple rings and Popeye. Makes you scream "Milholland!"
- Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: "What should we do first? Strip club? M.M.A.? The zoo? Stripper M.M.A. cage matches at the zoo?"
- Brick Joke: While most of the annual "Old Familiar Faces" strips have this in some manner (e.g. a teen that constantly used the word "gay" becoming a Gay-For-Pay pornstar), this one takes a joke that hadn't been used since the first strip and runs with it.Gia's Daughter He bought every box, mom. How did you know?Gia: Guilt has deep pockets.
- Brutal Honesty: PamJee hits a schoolyard bully with this hard, to the point that she got in trouble for making him cry.
- B-Side Comics: S* P 1937, Life with Rippy and to a lesser extent, Super Stupor.
- Butch Lesbian: Lisa developed into one after moving away with Monette.
- Call-Back: This strip featuring the Easter Bunny... who is the same as the one from a conversation on "cuddling yourself".
- The Cameo:
- Canon Immigrant: Kestrel came from Queen of Wands, and Helen from Penny and Aggie .
- Cash Cow Franchise: Action figures? Pedestrian. Try GURPS SODA.
- Cassandra Truth: Alluded to in this strip about parenting, in which you know the teen will never listen to your advice, and you will thus gain a newfound appreciation for the Cassandra myth.
- Catapult Nightmare: The dream about Rose.
- And more recently the dream about his family.
- Cat Girl: The tween cosplayers who infest some conventions and are the audience for Jason and Davan's webcomic. From the cast page:Catgirls are a prime example of what happens when a severe need for attention mingles with the worst part of anime fandom and "tween" culture. Telltale signs your child is now a catgirl: cheap plush cat ears on head, possibly a tail pinned to their pants/skirt, communicates in broken Japanese and squeals, and might have killed four classmates for saying her Twilight fanfic where Edward turns into a glittering undead catboy needed some work.
- Cerebus Syndrome: Davan's best friend Scotty kills himself at the tail end of the first year of the strip, setting off sadness, depression and nostalgic looks to the past being a major point of the comic thereafter. (Which makes this a rare case of Cerebus Syndrome in which the work... doesn't actually become any darker.)
- Cigarette of Anxiety: Aubrey at the end of "Dungeons & Dumbasses", due to Mike, the aforementioned dumbass.
- Character Development: Mike's growth really stands out. Introduced as a misogynistic whiny Jerkass, he later acknowledges most of his flaws and works to become a better person, and goes on to be the first member of the cast to get into a committed relationship and become a father. When things got rough, his worst traits re-emerged, and he and Tamara even broke up for a while. However, he did manage to get his act together, and even decided to become a "real-life superhero" as the Pythagorean. No one expected much to come of it, but apparently he's become quite popular with the local community, and even got a Moment of Awesome out of it.
- Chew Toy: Mike and Kharisma.
- Chewbacca Defense: Aubrey reveals her philosophy of life at the end of this crossover strip.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Happens to a fair amount of supporting characters, what with the huge cast. Some were dropped deliberately by the writer (Jennifer and Darrick, from early in the strip, when neither character panned out), while others just kind of faded away. This is dealt with fairly realistically, as people tend to just fall out of the others' lives.
- Milholland has written that the character of Jennifer is based on a real life person he knew. She agreed to appear as a character but she was unhappy with the way she was depicted and argued with Milholland over it. Milholland dropped Jennifer from the strip and also ended up losing contact with "Jennifer" in real life.
- Class Reunion: "Class of Eighty-Bore". Doubles as Nancy's introduction.
- Clingy Jealous Girl: Eva.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: A decidedly Not funny version. Davan's father Fred was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2005, and in 2007 he started to show the symptoms. In late 2014, Fred's bouts of confusion start to become more serious, which scares both him and his family.
- Coitus Uninterruptus: A rare solo example
- Comedic Sociopathy: Mostly made of it — try to find one recurring character without a Jerkass streak or something.
- Comically Missing the Point: "Do you even know what gay bashing is?" "How can I? You bastards never invite me."
- Composite Character: A few members of the cast are based off of more than one person Milholland has met, merged into one being. Lisa and Monette in particular, as well as Mike and Eva (both of whom were based off of one good person, and one bad one — with the characters branching into one or the other).
- Cone of Shame: Worn by the catgirl in the "Spay your catgirl" poster.
- Continuity Nod: "I lava you".
- Country Matters: Despite the Cluster F-Bomb he's rather notorious for, Randy is very antsy about this word, so far only using it twice, once when Mike (when he was still a full-blown Jerkass) is very annoyed with PeeJee, and even he stammers a bit, and once indirectly when Davan's Girl of the Week, trying to justify her cheating, asks if she's "being too blunt," and Davan replies she's "in the rhyming neighborhood." Apparently, a woman walked out of a panel discussion when he said it in Real Life.
- Corrupt Cop: Though his bribes are only half of the old one's.
- Covert Pervert: Vanessa, the most innocent and easily embarrassed member of the cast. She really likes "curvy girls" and she's always up for visiting strip clubs — "I wanna see tiiiitties!"
- Crapsack World
- Creepy Child: PamJee is every bit her parents' daughter and then some.
- Criminal Mind Games: Played for Laughs. When asked how she and PeeJee never seem to get arrested for their frequent outbursts of Comedic Sociopathy, Aubrey explains that the trick is to commit crimes so confusing that the cops feel stupid writing reports about them.
- Curse Cut Short:Davan: MOTHERFU—
Aubrey: Guess how many segments I'll break you into into if she learns even one swear word from you.
Davan: —untime puppy dreams and and cookies!
- The Cutie: Kestrel, by virtue of coming from a less cynical webcomic, and Vanessa is described on the cast page as "probably the cast's last true innocent".
- Cute Kitten: Choo-Choo-Bear and friends. Sometimes bluntly deconstructed, which on one occasion has resulted in death threats against the author (see G.I.F.T. entry below).
- Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon. Used for gags quite often.
- Daddy DNA Test: The introduction of Donna and Rory. In a subversion, Rory's not Davan's son, but Davan bonds with him anyway.
- And when asked if he could go back in time and be Rory's actual father, he says yes.
- Darker and Edgier: My Little Pony made awesome.
- Deep-Immersion Gaming: Whenever the comic depicts a gaming campaign in its imaginary setting, the Player Characters typically bear a resemblance to their players (usually the core gang).
- Dead Fic: Midnight Macabre and New Gold Dream. At first, Randy said he would be updating them a few times a week but between life being busy and personal circumstances that left him less inclined to work on them, both went on "indefinite hiatus". Super Stupor has not been updated since 2012.
- Deadpan Snarker: Most of the main cast.
- Death of the Author: Referenced in the catgirls arc. This trope appears to be something of a sore spot with the author.
- Deliberately Monochrome: S* P 1937 and some flashbacks.
- Demonic Possession: Twitchy-hug seemingly making a return of sorts, the AxCrazy tendancies and color-shifting have been passed from his ashtray-slash-remnants to the son of Davan's former landlord. Maybe not Demonic, but Possession nonetheless.
- Description Cut:
Dahlia: Right. I don't know what lies my brother's spread about this family, but there's no way you're gonna rope us in playing one of those stupid games! Right, Dad?
- PeeJee tries to talk Davan's family into playing an role-playing game, choosing a setting of The Golden Age of Comic Books to appeal to Fred:
[Cut to Fred imagining himself as a superhero]
Mike: And that's the great thing about PeeJee. She's got this soothing voice and calm demeanor that just makes you want to open up.
- The following:
PeeJee: ...or a sock full of wood screws. So, yes, it is in fact quite plausible for me to beat a pregnant woman nearly to death and not be arrested.Nancy: [thinking] ...I can't imagine anything ruining this moment.Lon: I'm going to slip into something more comfortable. You aren't allergic to cat hair, are you?
- Mike declares "I must be the only person who's haunted day and night by his own nagging stupidity." Next panel: Kharisma in her prison cell with her scarred face, being bothered by Fluffmodeus.
- The Ditz: Monette, especially at first.Kharisma: I don't know! I don't know anything! I swear! It's a life choice!
- Dirty Old Woman: "Y'know Davan, some of us Grandmas are good at more than baking cookies."
- Disability as an Excuse for Jerkassery: As a young boy, Fred was admitted to a hospital for an ear infection, where he was antagonized at every turn by a boy in a wheel-chair, who used his disability as an excuse to rage at the world, and every other child at the hospital hates him. Eventually, Fred and his friends team up to scare him and teach him a lesson... whereupon it is revealed that the boy is in the hospital for a heart condition, and the shock of the scare ends up killing him.
- Distracted by the Sexy: Nancy's first appearance in the strip is as arm candy for Davan thanks to a plan cooked up by Aubrey and Jason to make his high-school classmates feel... inadequate. And boy does she ever.
- Do Wrong, Right: The punchline of many strips, in the form of "that way isn't nearly as efficient/malicious/profitable/entertaining as the way I would do it".
- Don't Sneak Up On Me Like That: Discovering PeeJee has a fear of puppets, Aubrey sneaks up behind her with a handpuppet and gets her hand broken with a hammer when PeeJee reacts instinctively.
- Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male:
- Most of the cast engages in slapstick violence regardless of sex, but the women are generally more likely to threaten violence, and more likely to commit it.
- Aubrey and PeeJee are both rather hot-headed and prone to impulsive violence when people anger them (especially boyfriends), or upset their friends, or when it sounds like fun. Davan makes a good punching bag when no other is available, although this alluded to in the past (Aubrey has been beating on him since their childhood). An early strip involves the two of them inviting several unsuspecting guys out to a remote location on a date, and then jumping out of hiding and beating them with baseball bats. They intended to sell the videotape of doing so as a comedy ("When Rabid Asian Girls Attack"), and the strip treats it as just some of their "wacky hijinks". To some degree, they mostly grow out of it, or at least become more controlled about it.
- This strip wouldn't be half as funny if the genders were reversed. (Though in a large part, because the jokes wouldn't work.)
- Dressed to Plunder: As seen on Talk Like a Pirate Day.
- Dude, She's Like, in a Coma!: Or rather "Gal, He's Like Drugged Unconscious" — Kim while left caring for a medicated Davan.
- Dynamic Entry: Aubrey demonstrates the technique.
- Dysfunction Junction: And acknowledges it.
- The Eeyore: Davan.
- Enfant Terrible: The catgirls, especially in the grip of Fan Disillusionment."The laws of catgirldom are swift and merciless. Dishonor and the uncute must not be suffered to live — for all our sakes."
"The kawaii...is life."
- Jason and Aubrey's adopted daughter, Pam Jee, is also this now and then. Before she could speak complete sentences, she figured out that she could cover her teeth in hot sauce so that when she bit someone (namely, Davan) it would add to the pain.
- Establishing Series Moment: The first strip is basically this trope for the entire comic.
- Even Evil Has Standards: After Cab gets a girlfriend that is (indirectly) racist around Pee Jee, she hatches a plan to not only quit her job, but do so in a way that, in her mind, will spectacularly show Cab the error of his (or his girlfriend's) ways. This plan apparently involves some obscenely racist stuff that Pee Jee ropes Kim into buying; and after Kim buys the stuff she (and everyone else made aware of the plan) realises that there is, unbelievably, a limit to how horrible they can be.
- Everyone Has Standards: After the infamous Hell House Arc, Randy points out he actually had to censor most of what he researched about actual Hell Houses because they were too disgustingly horrible even for him.
- Exact Words: When Davan's boss makes a request, Davan makes it happen.
- Prior to this, Davan takes advantage of Aubrey's Clingy Jealous Guy's Freak Out to casually inform him that he'd seen Aubrey naked many times, and even offers to show him pictures, prompting the guy to run out of the bar cursing her and her friends.Aubrey: I noticed you neglected to tell him we were both toddlers when that happened.
Davan: I didn't want to make the situation awkward.
- Prior to this, Davan takes advantage of Aubrey's Clingy Jealous Guy's Freak Out to casually inform him that he'd seen Aubrey naked many times, and even offers to show him pictures, prompting the guy to run out of the bar cursing her and her friends.
- Fag Hag: Pee-Jee and her crushes on gay men, or men that came out later.
- Fan-Art: There is a fan movie encompassing some of the earlier strips.
- Fan Disservice: If you're a Superman fan, don't read this.
- Fan Dumb: In-universe examples. Mike acts like this on a regular basis, while other...creatures encountered at conventions and gaming shops represent the unpleasant side of geekery. There are also the catgirl cosplayers, who embody the worst aspects of annoying pre-teen otaku.
- Felony Misdemeanor: Apparently, Davan's and Vanessa's opinions of Hard Lemonade fall into this trope.
- Foreshadowing: Jason and Davan's webcomic Neko-Neko Holy-Chan was teased for years, with Jason frequently begging Davan to start up a webcomic with him. Monette also teased cast members about her "Big Secret" for months before revealing she was starring in a TV Show.
- Fourth-Wall Mail Slot: "Reader Q&A" comics hosted by Choo-Choo Bear in a smoking jacket, or sometimes by Randy himself.
- Framing the Guilty Party
- Freudian Slippery Slope: Poor Vanessa.
- From the Mouths of Babes:
- The "Fun" in "Funeral": Two examples in short succession, as Davan starts berating his best friend, Scotty over committing suicide after a bad breakup - or rather, not talking to Davan about how he was feeling. This leads Davan to consider how he wants his own funeral to be, deciding on a martini party where his body would be posed for pictures and then thrown into a bonfire, with Aubrey getting his skull so he can always be with her.
- Gargle Blaster: A whiskey flask that Davan doesn't realize has been mixed with Everclear, moonshine and absinthe.
- Genre Savvy: Pee-Jee is. She knows that happy people proclaiming their joy are just asking for it.
- G.I.F.T.: A set of Kitty Kwizzes, comics which humourously explained how cats control their human puppets...er...masters, apparently made some readers so angry that Randy received death threats over them.
- Gilligan Cut: Randy decides to get ahead with a buffer of premade comics:Randy: I'm gonna start off year eleven right. I'm set to work and nothing's gonna distract me.
Six goddamn minutes later...
Randy: [looking in the mirror] I thought I'd look scarier in clown make-up.
- Girl-on-Girl Is Hot: Jason has drawn Aubrey/PeeJee yuri.
- And just when you think his dreams have come true...
- Also mentioned here
- God Himself thinks so, too. In fact, He came up with the "being gay is a sin" thing as part of a Batman Gambit to get lesbians to have sex in order to spite Him, which He gets to watch and is even notified about when it happens due to them invoking His name.
- God Wants Redheads: Apparently, Jehovah likes when lesbian redheads have sex. Also relates to the above.
- Good Angel, Bad Angel: Aubrey and PeeJee find a use for old theatre costumes.
- Gratuitous Japanese: The catgirls pepper their speech with it trying to be as anime as they can.
- Gratuitous Rape: Davan rejects a proposed play because of this trope, and gives us this gem in his rejection letter:"A better title for your play would be 'Rape-Rape: A Tale of Rapening.' Also, your next play should have a little less rape in it."
- Gratuitous Spanish: Pepito before Davan discovered that he spoke perfect English. Not only his Spanish was gratuitous, it was grammatically disastrous; Word of God says that Milholland hated Pepito as a character, so he never bothered with good Spanish for Pepito even when his readers offered to do so for him. Predictably, Milholland killed him as gruesomely as he could fathom.
- Grievous Bottley Harm: Considered as a fetish but done accidentally.
- Grievous Harm with a Body: Let's play space marine! Who's daddy's favourite weapon, huh? Is it Choo Choo? Is it Choo Choo? Yes it is! Such a good hand to hand weapon you are!
- Groin Attack:
- Jason suffers one whilst being a mall Santa, at the hands (or tap shoe-clad feet) of a little girl.
- Rory gives one to a haunted house worker (dressed as a chainsaw murderer a la Leatherface) trying to stop him running away. Said worker didn't change out of his costume before the pursuit and had recently had a vasectomy. Blood ensued.
- After deciding that he really doesn't want any siblings after all, Rory inflicts a brutal one upon Davan. To Davan's credit, he doesn't say a word, but does turn a worrying shade of lilac.
- PamJee wants a sibling, so being mindful of what her parents told her about making babies, she attempts to reverse Jason's vasectomy... with a *stapler*. The ensuing pain isn't explicitly seen, but is definitely implied.
- Grotesque Cute:
- Half-Witted Hillbilly: One strip set in the 1930s has a redneck dump her baby on the (black) midwife on the grounds that it's the midwife's fault the baby came out black.
- Happily Married: Davan's parents. Later, Aubrey and Jason. And Davan and Vanessa.
- Harsher in Hindsight: An in-universe example. When Davan expresses mixed feelings about not being Rory's father, because the other guy wants nothing to do with him, Tamara (who had a deadbeat father) sarcastically mentions that her father was amazing as a role model for what not to be when you grow up. A few years down the road, Peejee discovers that Rory is keeping a horrible, profanity-laden letter from his biological father to remind him who he doesn't want to be when he grows up.
- HeelFace Turn: A number of characters have gone up (and down) the scale from annoying to sympathetic, Mike being perhaps the most notable.
- Hilariously Abusive Childhood: Monette in particular.
- Hollywood Jehovah's Witness: Davan greets one on his doorstep naked, and proceeds to try to continue his masturbation schedule while they talk.
- Hollywood New England: Set in Boston with frequent sidetrips to Texas since two of the three main protagonists hail from there.
- Idealized Sex: Davan's life involves plenty of nasty aversion to cement the Chew Toy / Butt-Monkey aspect of his character. Most frequently mentioned is a girl biting down the first time he received oral sex.
- Identical Stranger: In the 'Strip Club of the Damned' storyline, all the patrons there are somehow horrified by an aspect of the club. While it's not entirely clear what they see, all the strippers who Davan's introduced to are incredibly similar to his exes, so much that he even calls Ivy 'Rose' by mistake.
- Incompatible Orientation: Peejee to Jhim, best highlighted here.Peejee: And besides, you know how you sometimes get strange cravings for stuff you usually hate? Who's to say Jhim won't suddenly crave a slice of Peejee cobbler?
Davan: It's a frail, sad line between optimism and delusion, my little Canadian.
- Informed Deformity:
- Instant Turn-Off: Davan and his bisexual girlfriend Vanessa visit a strip club. Vanessa gets a private dance... and it turns out the owner thought a gynecologist's chair went well with stripping. Vanessa emerges horrified.
- Insult Backfire: For example, this one.
- Intelligible Unintelligible: Both Davan and PeeJee talk to Choo-Choo Bear as if they know what he's saying. Of course, all cat owners do this, but they do seem to talk as if he's giving them intelligible replies to what they say.
- Intercontinuity Crossover: Many. Something Positive seems to be a sort of hub-world for webcomics.
- The first was with Queen of Wands, to the point where Kestrel entered S* P after Queen of Wands ended. A more in-depth explanation can be found here.
- There was also a crossover with Scandal Sheet. And cameo appearances by Jay from FLEM Comics, Jennie from The Devil's Panties and The Pet Professional. One comic also mentioned that Aubrey used to own a mini-lop with a fondness for sharp objects, but her mother gave it to a pet shop.
- Davan and Nancy also had a cameo in Questionable Content.
- The Teddy Bear Liberation Front also showed up in some Milholland-written Punch an' Pie guest strips.
- There was a crossover with Girls with Slingshots, as Davan attends the wedding of two minor characters from that strip. Choo-Choo Bear is the father of kittens with Sprinkles from GWS, one of whom has been adopted by Leslie from Shortpacked!.
- Don, the protagonist of Deranged, is frequently seen as a player in Davan's RPG sessions.
- Helen, a supporting character from Penny and Aggie, has appeared for a storyline in which she's interviewing for a job (meaning she might stay).
- PeeJee and Aubrey visit a shop named What's New, with Phil Foglio visible behind the desk, here.
- Choo-Choo Bear also met up with Eben and Snooch from Two Lumps back in the day.
- And two crossovers into the parallel universe of the Unshelved book club.
- Ironic Echo:
- I Promised Myself I Wouldn't Cry: But it's hard not to cry "nerd tears" at your baby daughter's first time pwning noobs on World of Warcraft.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Davan, with Branwen.
- I Was Quite a Looker: When volunteering at a nursing home in 2002, one of the residents was a porn star and stripper in the 1940s and '50s, and she likes proving to new people that she can still open soda bottles with her vaginal muscles.
- Jerkass: The entire cast, in one form or another. In fact, you can usually tell when someone's supposed to be considered a positively-viewed member of the cast when they change from Straw Loser Jerkass to Deadpan Snarker Jerkass. Word of God confirms that most characters are deliberately jerks, and that Davan is "an asshole, and a lot of the misery he's gone through, he brought on himself)."
- Kestrel is one who mostly stays out of Jerkass territory, mostly because she was "adopted into" the comic.
- Mike started out as a pure Jerkass, quickly became the Butt-Monkey of the comic, and has recently become one of the nicest characters in the comic, comparatively speaking at least. Something somewhat similar has happened to Kharisma, maybe.
- Nick seems to be from the Mike school of role-playing, holding up the game with his whining, Rules Lawyering, and killing another person's PC twice in a row (the first was on purpose to make sure his character wouldn't be overshadowed, the second accidental but still mean-spirited).
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Many cast members, but particularly Davan. He might be a Jerkass, but he is always there for his friends and family, even when it's hard.
- Jumping the Shark: An in-universe example. When Davan loses interest in his online comic, instead of just ending it he deliberately shark-jumps it to try and make everyone hate it. Considering that Davan is an Author Avatar for Randy Milholland, one has to wonder...
- Kaleidoscope Hair: For a long time, PeeJee would change her hair colour a lot, until Randy got tired of drawing it.
- Kavorka Man: Jason. Davan also has aspects of this, on the occasions that he actually cares enough to try. For example, the first words he spoke to Branwen (whom he would later go on to date for over a year) were something along the lines of "Hey, want to go have sex?" to which she answered in the affirmative. Despite supposedly being hideous, Davan has slept with about five or six attractive women in nine years, two of them very regularly — not a bad run.
- Karma Houdini: Pretty much every major, and some of the minor, characters in the strip. They have all done and said some really nasty things and suffered few consequences for them. About the only one really suffering for her actions is Kharisma, except she's in jail for a murder she didn't commit, but was trying to commit... and with the intended victim's blessing, at that.
- Keet: T-Bob.
- Killed Off for Real: Faye
- Anyone seen in Hell — Pepito, Avargoro, Silas (though he reincarnated as a child), except for "Santa Claus", seen in Hell but alive (if not "well") later.
- Lamarck Was Right: Half of Choo-Choo's kitties are gooey and boneless like him, despite his condition being a result of chemotherapy. There's a later retcon on this, suggesting "pudding cats" are a recognised, but very rare, breed.
- Lampshade Hanging:
Davan: He's a 30+ year old pudding cat who can travel through drains but this is where your ability to believe is gonna be taxed?
- Davan's Speech Bubble is covered up for a second time when he tells PeeJee who he called at the con (see Painting the Medium below), this time by Choo-Choo Bear bursting out of his ice cream. PeeJee reasonably says that this makes no sense:
PeeJee: Even so, there's a point where reality dictates—Davan: How'd that woman in your job die again? note
PeeJee: This ice cream could use sprinkles.
- After years of teasing, we finally get to see the horrors of Shazam Wil-Wheaton Dowden's face. As Silas points out, it's not that horrible.
- The cast list say that Kestrel "never seems to remember to fill in her last name on forms". She's the only one non-nicknamed character without a full name, because she was inherited from another author who didn't give a surname.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Kharisma, who builds up a lot of bad feeling and worse behaviour, before being it all comes back on her..
- Last Het Romance:
PeeJee: You could always have sex with Davan.
- Some time after breaking up with him, PeeJee discovers that Kyle has turned gay. Her friends don't fail to connect this to her habit of crushing on gay men.
- Monette seeks advice on becoming a lesbian:
Aubrey: Plenty of his lovers switched teams afterwards.
Davan: Hey! Fuck you! That's only happened twice!
- Law of Inverse Paternity: Played with; Davan didn't want to be Rory's father, but was at least willing to step up if he was, unlike the other candidate. Davan wound up becoming his Parental Substitute even after finding out he wasn't the dad, and admits that in retrospect he wishes he had been the father after all.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall:Aubrey: "Woogie, where's all your stuff? It's like we're in a comic strip but the cartoonist is too goddamn lazy to draw our background like he normally does."
- Panels 2 and 3 of this strip, where a drunk guy complains about webcomic authors, reserving his greatest vitriol for "that Milholland hack" and the predictable nature of his current storyline. (It doesn't quite turn out that way.)
- Pee-Jee once asked the question, "Why does everything that happens around here revolve around sex?" Davan mumbles, "Bad writing." But, like the first example, he was reading a book and muttering to himself to justify the fourth wall breakage.
- Multiple examples in this strip. When Jason wonders where comic characters go after their strip ends, Aubrey suggests "the background of another crappier comic", before they discuss Helen (inherited from Penny and Aggie which had just concluded) and mention Kestrel (inherited from Queen of Wands when it ended). Regarding Helen, Kim tells Aubrey that "She's well-meaning, but whenever she's around, people get really pissed for some reason." Any time she appeared in S*P, Milholland would get angry emails from P&A fans upset about how he wrote her (more than for every other crossover combined, apparently.) Aubrey says she doesn't want her business to be a "dumping ground for other people's damaged goods." This refers to the reason P&A writer T. Campbell gave Helen's character to Milholland: he felt her problems now ran too deep for his own comic's setting and characters to help her out of them.
- Nancy quite possibly makes one of the most subtle variations of this trope after commenting that thousands of people would be looking up Pythagoras after Mike's superhero reveal.
- Life Embellished
- Like Brother and Sister: Davan and Aubrey.
- Like Father, Unlike Son: Subverted, over time, with Davan and Fred. Davan recently has been acting towards Rory like Fred did to him. All he has to do is call Rory "Cat" for the circle to be complete.
- Limited/Unlimited Wardrobe: Both averted, as all the characters have relatively consistent but still rather varied clothing.)
- Long-Runners: The webcomic started in 2001 and as of this writing (2020) is still regularly updated - making the comic old enough to vote in the US.
- Look Both Ways: Kestrel and Silas.
- Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places: Davan.
- Loads and Loads of Characters: The main cast isn't overly large for a webcomic, but once you get to the former main supporting cast [Jhim, Kim, Monette] and the old familiar faces [Cab, Berenger, Claire, Anna, Lisa, Celie, the Teddy-Bear Liberation Front, etc.], things get a little crazy. Jesus-Mickey and Twitchy-Hug were killed, but we still frequently see characters show up with gaps of years between appearances.
- The Maiden Name Debate: Gender inversion; Jason takes Aubrey's last name, Chorde, when they marry, at least in part as a slight against his father.
- Manchild: Randy declares himself a bearded twelve-year-old.
- Mathematician's Answer: "First time to be rectally violated or first time to feel good about yourself?" "Yes."
- Mattress Tag Gag: Slipleg the Pirate (aka Choo-Choo Bear) gets an evil witch's attention by breaking into her house, smashing her things, setting her furnishings on fire... and tearing the tag off a mattress.
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane:
- Kharisma has a magical friend only she can see called Fluffmodeus. Either it's a hallucination who also voices all the survival instincts she's repressed in order to be the Brainless Beauty she feels she should be, or it's a real creature that can and does give her company, advice, warnings of danger, and sometimes bracelets made from the teeth of her enemies
- Davan often meets his deceased mother and other ancestors in his dreams. It's left very unclear whether or not these are really just dreams.
- The Catgirls from the convention seemed to develop superhuman strength and madness as they went on their rampage.
- Memetic Badass: Davan's (and, it seems, Randy's) view of Alan Moore (or perhaps that what he's really like in the comic's world). Even Death will fear him.Davan: I just know Alan Moore will come after me if he finds out I liked a movie based off his work — shit!
Randy: And don't forget! Today is AlanMooremas! Go see The Watchmen. Then put your ticket stub under your pillow. If you've been a good boy or girl, Alan Moore will leave copies of Top 10 under your pillow. If you've been bad, he'll pull a coin out of your ear — then fucking choke you with it. Actually, even if you've been good, he'll probably kill you because you went to see The Watchmen movie. Seriously, I'm scared of Alan Moore. -R.
- Meta Guy: Silas, an old cowpoke and omniscient narrator for some recap strips. However, he actually exists in the comic's world, where everyone just thinks he's a rambling lunatic.
- Mercy Kill: Choo-Choo Bear to a cat suffering the dress-up indignities foist upon it by its owner. "Don't worry. Just one sharp twist of your neck, and all the suffering ends.".
- Choo-Choo was going to be on the receiving end of one from a well-meaning vet, but he quickly corrects the vet's assumption.
- Milholland Relationship Moment: The partial Trope Namer — see Questionable Content, Websnark.
- Misery Poker: Davan trumps Kestrel from Queen of Wands at this during a crossover.
- Mistaken for Gay: Davan and PeeJee, frequently, especially in the first few years. This does nothing to help with the Peejee/Vanessa shippers.
- Monster Clown: What Pamjee wants to grow up to become.
- Mood Whiplash: Heartwarming moments tarnished by thoughtlessness or brutal honesty, the funny antics that lead to a awful consequence, terrible misfortune capped with a punchline and the odd Milholland Relationship Moment. It happens fairly often.
- Morality Pet: Rory for Davan.
- Most Common Superpower: Discussed in this strip.
- Ms. Fanservice: Claire's roles in the cast's theatre productions usually involve wearing very little or her outfit being damaged and "spent most of her time as either the focus of pranks, stalking, or unbridled lechery." There is a reason for this:Randy'' Josh, T-Bob, Claire, and another cast member named Duane volunteered to be in the strip as supporting cast — the idea was apparently too good. So, as I'd asked my friend Jhim just two days before, I inquired about limits — i.e. what can I not do to them in the strip.
"Whatever you want," Claire said.
Okay, here's a hint, ladies. If you're a sexy redhead, don't say this to a guy who draws a lot.
"No, seriously," I said. "What are my limits?"
"Do whatever you want," Claire replied. "I'm a whore for infamy."
I'm betting she regrets that right about now.
- Murder the Hypotenuse: When the Teddy Bear Liberation Front returns, Meggie shows unrequited love for her partner in crime, Gregory. He seems oblivious and falls for Kharisma through writing to her and visiting her in jail. When they break her out while being transported, Gregory nurses her back to health. Then Meggie tries to remove her.
- My Significance Sense Is Tingling: When Aubrey and Jason get together, the next panel cuts to PeeJee and Davan eating cake:PeeJee: I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced.
Davan: Fuck you! If you think you can bake a better chocolate cake, do it yourself and stop bitching!
- Nerds Speak Klingon: Kim tries to cheer Davan up about being at the gaming con, saying that the attendees are his "people". Just then, two very stereotypical nerds walk by and one insults the other in Klingon. Davan is offended.
- New First Comics: Averted. If you think the first strip is funny, nothing in the rest of the comic will throw you.
- New Parent Nomenclature Problem: Rory decides to start calling Davan "Dad" in this strip. Davan isn't anything "official" in regard to Rory, but he's been a Parental Substitute for the kid's entire life.
- Nice Guy and Nice Guys Finish Last: Subverted heavily — a major point of Milholland's (and Davan's) is that a lot of supposed "Nice Guys" are actually self-involved, self-pitying jerks like Mike, who are actually quite selfish, and only after most girls because of their looks (something they hypocritically accuse the girls of doing with the "jerks" they go out with).
- My Eyes Are Up Here: Kyle gets sidetracked while meeting PeeJee for a date. To his credit, he's got a fairly original response when she calls him on it.
- Nightmare Fetishist: Aubrey, as seen here.Jason:Lemme back track to where you were s'posed to be freaked out.Aubrey:We'll need a big pot, but I'm sure we can get one on the way to the animal shelter.
- No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Davan, so very much. Nearly every instance of him trying to behave altruistically comes back to bite him in the worst possible way.
- Noodle Incident:
- Whatever Mike did to get Tamara to leave him at that Nerdrotica Christmas Party, an unusual departure from Show, Don't Tell.
- And whatever happened to Davan's namesake involved a "very confused vampire hunter" and a flaming wheat thresher.
- Noodle Implements: Averted most times, as we get to see the resulting carnage from the characters' schemes. Played straight with the above Noodle Incident.
- Not Disabled In VR: Davan introduces his family to role-playing games (specifically a superheroic one). His sister, who's a wheelchair user, spends the session describing her character dancing around.
- The Not-Love Interest: Davan and PeeJee.
- Not Quite Dead: Kestrel, who is knocked down by a car and not seen again for months, before joining Nerdrotica.
- Not So Stoic: The death of Martin Nodell, creator of the Green Lantern upsets Davan more than he admits.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Ollie. Spoilered because it came out of nowhere. Monette — of all people — even plays it for laughs.
- Oblivious to His Own Description: Davan tells PeeJee he used to have a crush on a girl, but she didn't return the sentiment. They became really good friends and it ended up being for the best. PeeJee insults the girl for not realizing Davan's great, he replies that, no, she's one of his favorite people. He says goodbye and hangs up. PeeJee catches on and blushes.
- Oblivious to Love: Mike, as the Pythagorean, gets a phone number and a teasing smile about "needing help" around the house. He suggests calling a handyman. Tamara knows he's gotten around fifty of said numbers, not one of which he ever picked up on the connotation for. It gets even worse: Tamara herself gave Mike her own number four times before he got the hint she wanted to date him.
- Official Couple: Jason/Aubrey.
- One of the Boys: Monette's girlfriend Lisa attended Jason's bachelor party at a strip club.
- Out of Focus: With the aforementioned Loads and Loads of Characters, this happens a lot. The occasional minor character will only appear a total of five times in six years [Davan's Furry friend Andy], and often a year goes by between Jhim or Anna's appearances, and both were once major characters (Jhim especially, once a part of the core cast). Clair, a previously major cast member, disappeared for years, and then showed up engaged and about to move away. Kim and Kestrel, major co-workers of Aubrey's and former major cast-members, also fall out of focus for six months at a time.
- Most of this is done to reflect on Real Life: It's (sort of) based on Milholland's experiences. People do vanish from your life only to reappear out of nowhere.
- Pædo Hunt: Mike tried to embarrass Aubrey by putting a video of a school play she was in on the internet, and ends being pursued by the police and an angry mob. The play was The Hobbit, and Aubrey wore a nude, glittering bodystocking. Oh, and she was 15 at the time.
- Painting the Medium: Aubrey enters Davan's apartment and asks "Where's your furniture? It's like we're in a comic strip, but the artist is too goddamn lazy to draw in the background like he usually does." Of course, there's a perfectly good explanation: it's in storage.
Wil Wheaton: I was on Star Trek. I'm familiar with crazy fans. This is a fan revolt. The result of years of being jacked about by those they adored.Davan [on phone]: You mean the world to me—
- In this strip, fearing he's about to killed by rampaging catgirls, Davan phones one of his friends and admits he loves them, but will deny saying it if he lives, while in the foreground:
- Occasional parodies of long-established cartoons like Garfield.
- This one is kind of a cross between Garfield and Conan the Barbarian. "By Crom's beard, I HATE MONDAYS!"
- Disney buying Marvel (at the time this was posted, they was just planning it) leads to one of Spider-Man's big storylines recast with Disney characters: The Squeaktackular Spider-Mouse in The Night Goof Stacy Died!
- Google Chrome? Try Google Crom — "After installation, he broods from his throne, sitting in judgement on your every action."
- Parody Product Placement: Featured in a roleplaying game, of the Delicious Fruit Pies variety - Davan's players hate him for it.
- Passed in Their Sleep: Faye
- Paste Eater:
- Monette ate crayons until she was in her early twenties, and Davan made reference to turning the habit into a fetish by finding a girl willing to "make herself an off shade of green and tattoo 'Crayola' on her ass."
- Rory, according to this comic.
- Percussive Maintenance: Davan's father practices it regularly — Choo-Choo's attempt to imitate this was not well-received.
- Pedophile Priest: Roundly mocked here, when Aubrey's Halfling character distracts the evil Priest by offering to show him her panties for a penny. Since an adult Halfling is the same size as a human child, Peejee can't argue with the logic.
- Pet Dress-Up: Davan brings Choo-Choo Bear into a pet store for a toy, only for both to be horrified at the clerk having dressed her own cat up as a dog. It culminates in the cats being left alone, with Choo-Choo about to Mercy Kill Shiba.Choo-Choo Bear: Meh meh murfle meh.[[labelnote:Translation]]Don't worry. Just one sharp twist of your neck and all the suffering ends.[[/labelnote]]
Shiba: Meow.[[labelnote:Translation]]In Heaven, I will sing your praises, my sweet Angel of Mercy.
- Pet the Dog: Kharisma for one, prior to character development when she worked with Davan in Medicaid billing. Most of the time on screen she spent being entirely self-absorbed, unfeeling, but when she left she had a moment where she was actually, intentionally, nice to Davan telling him to quit the job for his own good.Kharisma: I wouldn't wish this job on the worst person in the world. Or you, either. Take care. I'll be keeping good thoughts for you.
- Interestingly, for a group of self-centered cynics, Davan and company seem surprisingly prone to charitable behavior (usually towards people who either haven't done them any actual wrong, or who are too outright pathetic to justify kicking around, but still).
- The Pigpen: Jeremiah Kinsley, apparently.
- Platonic Life-Partners: Davan and Pee-Jee. Pee-Jee even refers to herself as Davan's "Platonic Life Mate."
- Prima Donna Director: Avogadro. Such is his flamboyance that even being bedridden does nothing to his hamminess.
- Protagonist-Centered Morality: From an objective point of view, the protagonists are not just as bad as many of the people the comic considers antagonists... they're worse. The majority of behaviors that are often decried in the more serious moments... emotional abuse, dishonesty, disrespect, hurling insults, assault... are things that the main characters do for fun the rest of the time. Because being rude to people in your gaming group is terrible, but convincing random children that their parents don't love them is hilarious.
- Psycho Lesbian: One of Vanessa's exes shows shades.
- Puddle-Covering Chivalry: Davan distracts himself from his job by drawing a picture of a mouse putting his cape across a puddle for an elephant. It Makes Just As Much Sense In Context.
- Punny Name: In Super Stupor, the teenage superheroine Sola's name functions as a Bilingual Bonus Gratuitous Spanish double pun. First there's "Sol-a" (Sun-a), related to her sun-fueled powers, and second, there's "Sola" (alone) due to the fact that she's an orphan living in a facility.
- Puppy-Dog Eyes: "So, what's the going rate on buying back promises from Kindergartners these days?"
- Choo-Choo Bear, despite being a cat, has Puppy-Dog Eyes at all times.
- Real Life Writes the Plot:
- Milholland has confirmed that at least one character has left the strip for a while for 're-tooling', as the real-life friend the character was based off of had 'betrayed' him, and he felt he couldn't write the character the same way. Spin-off strip "Midnight Macabre" was put on hold for the same reason — implying that Lisa was the character in question.
- The strip for March 20 2013 ends with a flashforward panel of a teenaged Rory and Nick talking at school. Unfortunately, the date given is "April 23 2020". When that date rolled around, in the middle of the Covid 19 pandemic, Randy had to establish that yes, Rory and his friends really are breaking lockdown and meeting up at the school.
- Reality Ensues: Davan applies this to children's songs.
- Really 17 Years Old: Helen tries to get a job at Nerdrotica, though she's underage. Nancy catches her out because of her crappy fake ID.
- Red Shirt: Referenced here.
- Relationship Reboot: Halloween 2004."Hello, I'm Pee-Jee."
"Hi, I'm Mike. Sometimes I'm an asshole."
"That's fine by me. The interesting people always are."
- Relationship Upgrade: Aubrey and Jason.
- Rich Bitch: Kharisma eventually lost the money but kept the uselessness. She got some Character Development when she's in jail.
- Ripped from the Headlines: As an actor/writer of a sitcom, Monette joins the 2007 Writer's Strike.
- Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies: Trope Namer
- Sadist Show: Virtually every single recurring character enjoys causing duress or pain to others- often physical. A few settle for mere humiliation.
- Sand In My Eyes:
- Scenery Censor: Kharisma, in this strip.
- Self-Deprecation: A major source of humour, and something that keeps Davan from being a Canon Sue at times. He's as critical of himself as anybody, probably even more so. When Davan stops being Milholland's avatar, he also stops being the ugliest thing in Boston.
Off-stage Choo-Choo Bear: Wait a second. I was born because of a rush judgement and a lack of preparation and I exist only to take up space...Maybe I really am meant to embody Randy.
- There are plenty of filler strips, comments below the comic and even comments within the comic where Randy mocks his appearance, his temper and his artistic, organisational and social skills.
- Occasional Fourth-Wall Mail Slot strips never miss an opportunity to have Choo-Choo Bear describe his creator as a lazy hack.
"Webcartoonists are feral beasts, and cons act as temporary zoos for them. Without them, they roam the land seeking food and shelter. You could find Randy, Danielle Corsetto and Jeph Jacques going through your garbage. If you're lucky."
- Aubrey: "From what few cartoonists I've met, lazy seems to be a job requirement."
- The off-stage Choo-Choo Bear explains why the comic promotes conventions so much:
There were a lot of really, really... really cute women there. And they all seemed to have the same "He's not nearly as hot as Davan" expression on their faces when they met me.
- A comic that's a screenshot of the previous day's comic, because "We were worried a worried a week of almost regular updates was scaring you."
- "Comic artists live awful lives of malnutrition in dark rooms."
- Before visiting a casino, Randy's sister Rhona explains to him "Mom will give you a small amount of money. Very small — since you're a cartoonist, we don't want you getting used to large bills."
- Filler art summing up a lecture on webcomics at MIT: "OH MY GOD! Randy Milholland's uglier than I ever dreamed!"
- Series Continuity Error: Although Randy is exceptionally good about maintaining continuity (to the point where he will point out he did include a mention of an offscreen character three years previous when introducing them in person for the first time), he does slip up from time to time.
- Settled for Gay: Branwen's parents. Her father was gay and needed a wife and family to "keep up appearances" in his professional life. Her mom just didn't like sex, but wanted a family. This had some ramifications for Bran.
- Shipper on Deck:
- PeeJee ships Davan/Vanessa.
- Helen ships Davan/Nancy. Vanessa was not amused.
- Jhim ships Davan/PeeJee. Davan was not amused.
- Ship Tease: Word of God is that the sweet moments between Davan and PeeJee are just the author deciding to taunt fans who were hoping for a relationship between them. Lampshaded splendidly here.
- Shoo Out the New Guy: A mild example. Linzie, a tattooed goth-girl character, shows up as a female partner for Davan (they have sex periodically), and appears to be added to the cast in a semi-major manner. But then she suddenly gets an actual boyfriend and vanishes completely from the strip. Very rare, in that almost all the other characters at least have "Old Familiar Faces" comics about where they've been.
- To Daria in this strip, where Aubrey is dressed as Daria and PeeJee is wearing a red jacket like Jane's while they talk in a graveyard.
- To Penny Arcade:
- In this strip, Davan and his father wear some possibly familiar-looking shirts and discuss Grand Theft Auto IV. The tagline on the comic reads: "This comic couldn't be a crappier rip-off of Penny Arcade if you dressed them in the same clothes!" "Oh, a challenge!"
- In the background is a store named "Gabe's Toys and more" with the Fruit Fucker in the window.
- To Phil Foglio:
- Reader question: what would the cast look if they were furries? Probably like the cast of VG Cats. And they would kill themselves.
- Hilariously inappropriate shout-out to Nineteen Eighty-Four.
- The S*P cast depicted as the cast of Neil Gaiman's The Sandman.
- The Devil's Panties (by Jennie Breeden): There's a "Breeden Sisters Comix" shop in the background of one panel.
- There was one to Press Your Luck, of all things, where a girl that Davan slept with started talking about having a kid and Davan promptly says, "No BABY No BABY No BABY, STOP!", whacking her stomach at the end.
- When Rory and his friends want to play a Dungeons And Dragons game where they're the monsters, Davan makes them all into Hanna-Barbera versions of D&D monsters: Fred Flintstone as a cyclops, Huckleberry Hellhound, Yogi Owlbear and Boo-Boo Goblin, and Magilla Ogre.
- Skyward Scream: Coupled with a Big "NO!" — given that Jason had just turned down a threesome and accidentally woken their infant while doing so, it's fully understandable.
- Squick: Aubrey: "I could MENSTRUATE a better cup of coffee than that!"
Jhim: Must fight visual! Must... fight... visual!
PeeJee: I wash and I wash but I can still feel their stares on my skin...
- PeeJee's reaction to learning about furries.
- And her first encounter with socially and hygienically inept roleplaying geeks.
- Assorted characters reactions to a number of sex-tinged fandoms.
- Stalker with a Crush: Claire had a habit of turning guys she'd had sex with into this, and boy howdy do they become obsessed.
- Stepford Smiler: Ollie appears to be justifiably miserable behind his cheerful front, but turns out to be unstable and hateful.
- Straight Gay: Jhim.
- Straw Fan: The catgirls.
- Strawman Political: Arguably the most frequent criticism of the strip. Many a random passerby or lesser castmember has touted some weakly-held opinion that Milholland or the cast views as idiotic, and is then berated for it.
- Stealth Pun: This strip has Jason begging Aubrey to take part in the Pirates of the Caribbean MMORPG, to which she'll be doing something to Jason's rear-end. The pun? Aubrey's a Butt Pirate. More than that — she'd also be plundering his booty.
- Suicide Dare: Played for Laughs. Davan tells a group of diehard Rocky Horror fans that by protesting his Shock Treatment stage adaptation, they're only helping to create more publicity for the production. When one of the protesters says it hurts to hear that, Davan offers him "a little something to ease the pain." It's a poster of the Rippy the Razor mascot, showing how to slit one's wrists properly.
- Suicide Is Shameful: Davan tries to insult his friend Scotty out of his overdose-induced coma. Scotty flatlined. At the open casket funeral, Davan is so furious that Scotty committed suicide instead of coming to his friends and family with his problems that he throttles Scotty's corpse.
- Sustained Misunderstanding: Teenage PeeJee has an argument with her father, and a bystander gets the wrong idea:Some Guy: Man I hope you've got a hell of a way to apologize to your girlfriend, or she going to dump your ass.
Mr. Shou: She's my daughter, idiot!
Some Guy: Then maybe it's best you two break up, anyway.
- Take Our Word for It: Mike's kid's appearance and the terrible shows the cast get involved in, especially the one Aubrey made that was so bad that the State of Massachusetts gave her a restraining order to keep her away from TV and film production gear.
- Take That!: Used a lot, for very many groups and fandoms — Catholics, Warhammer, old-school D&D dorks and the comic's own fans.
- Not to mention TV Tropes itself at least once (on Super Stupor, rather than S* P). "I was busy quoting from TV Tropes instead of forming my own opinions", in response to being accused of Black Comedy Rape by a Livejournal responder)
- And a rather long-running one against Nancy Grace.
- 2019 brought us PamJee's presentation of: "My bullies all make fun of me for being adopted and 'unwanted' but my parents get me vaccinated and theirs don't. Who's really unwanted? A report."Todd: Uh, Miss Campbell?
Ms. Campbell: No, no, Todd. I think she's onto something.
- Take That, Audience!: The mailbag spots and occasional author appearances are usually to say how stupid some of the comic's fans are, amid comments about the author being a talentless hack.
- Assorted logic failures and other dumbness said to Randy at conventions.
- Take That Me: Here.
- The Talk: Sanderson gives it to Rory while staying over as a guest. Hilarity Ensues when Rory realizes why his mom thought at one point that Davan might be his dad. And it only gets better from there.Rory: Mr. Sanderson explained it all to me! You put your penis in her vulva and then she... ejaculated uterine linin' after you... you shed your X chromosomes. Then her placenta was born and you both thought it was a baby and you both thought that baby was me but it wasn't! Didn't you?!Davan: [to Sanderson] I don't know if I should punch you for telling him I had sex with his mom or for how bad a job you did explaining what that means.
- Davan, years later, starts to give Rory an "official" one, to their mutual discomfort. Subverted in the next strip, which explains that this version is about the responsibilities sexual activity comes with, rather than the actual mechanics of it, enlisting Vanessa's aid to ease the awkwardness. It culminates in a four hour talk.
- Talking to the Dead
- Tear Jerker: In-universe example. Davan pulled out this video to make Jason cry when he said he didn't cry over songs, because that was stupid and over-emotional. It worked maybe a bit too well.
- Tell Him I'm Not Speaking to Him: Happens in this strip.
- Tempting Fate:
Mike: Somewhere there's a genie with his middle fingers permanently up at me.
- Kharisma... Right here. And it ties in with a Genre Savvy moment, to boot.
- Mike hopes that he'll be done working a fast-food job soon. When he gets to the Kwispy Burger, he discovers it's being shut down thanks to an arsonist attack.
- The Un Reveal: While Davan confessing his love for an as yet unrevealed person does not fully qualify for this trope, later Choo-choo Bear sets up the perfect UnReveal when the name of the person Davan called was about to be shown. Considering the time period and his then relationship status with the rest of the cast, it was most likely Branwen, though almost ten years later and Randy still hasn't named who exactly.
- The Unsmile: Dude...
- The Something Song:"Meth Song, Meth Song,This is the song I sing when I'm about to get meth."
- Thermometer Gag: Davan demands his doctor take his temperature orally during a checkup, to which the doctor responds "Fine, but you're the first person to ask me to stick a rectal thermometer in his mouth."
- Title Drop: In this early comic."Davan, this has to stop, okay? You're always so negative and angry, and it really worries me. You're not nearly the bad person you think you are, and things WILL get better. You've got to go do something positive with your life. I say this as a friend who cares about you."
- According to the commentary, a conversation like this is the actual source of the comic's title.
- To the Pain: See Jason's Badass Boast.
- Too Dumb to Live: Several, but special mention to Kharisma, who openly bragged about a murder bet she made with Avagadro...which bites her right square in the ass when she's convicted of his murder, even though he died of natural causes.
- Too Much Information (Also a kind of Shutting Up Now): Vanessa's mouth sometimes runs away with her, and ends up in terrible places.PeeJee: Stop...talking.
Vanessa: I DON'T KNOW HOW.
- Tranquil Fury: Kim enters one when Jason tells her about Davan's new girlfriend - unfortunately, Jason doesn't notice.PeeJee: Jason, lemme share a secret with you, okay? When a woman talks perfectly through clenched teeth like that, think of it as a rattlesnake's rattle sound.
- Transparent Closet: A couple of cases:
- Lisa was never fooling her family for a second, though she thought she was and was deathly embarrassed of her orientation.
- The minor character Chirag is both very obviously gay and very determined that it doesn't get out. He's not operating off the usual reasons, though — he thinks his parents would be a bit TOO supportive, and isn't prepared to settle down with just the one guy yet.
- Treants: During a D&D game, Peejee conjures up some hillbilly rapist treemen. This gets their Asshole Victim to quit the roleplaying group, for which the other members send the GM thank-you notes. Randy later made a stat-block for them
- Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: By Aubrey's own admission, practically everything PamJee does runs on this trope.Neighbor: Is all of her affection that threatening?
Aubrey: Hearing your kid say "I can hear your heart beat" during a hug should be sweet, but there's always that little ring of disappointment.
- True Companions: Davan, PeeJee, Aubrey and Jason compose the core of the circle, with something like a dozen other characters forming the periphery. Lots and lots of snarking and bitching, but they've demonstrated a willingness — nay, an eagerness — to commit felonies on behalf of one another.
- Unfortunate Names: Mike's kid Shazam Wil-Wheaton Dowden and the Santa actor Shirley Koklik. To some extent, Davan himself, as nobody knows how to pronounce it (it's Dah-van, not Dave-N).PeeJee: Why would you call me "Penny-Jenny" and then act shocked that I'm prone to violent outbursts?
- Unstoppable Rage: Jason telling the catgirl fans of their webcomic it isn't that important was not a clever move.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: The whole cast.
- Wall of Text: Sometimes quite dialogue-heavy, though it's part of the comic's charm, and the producer of some of the better strips. Let's just say that Milholland really likes his characters with backstory and assumes the readers are smart enough to handle a few big speech bubbles. Here is a example, headed by the warning for those "frightened or intimidated by reading."
- Webcomic Time: Which bounces back and forth: events generally keep up with the dates on which they take place, albeit a few days before and after.
- Webcomics Long-Runners: Started in December 2001, Milholland planned to wrap up the comic if it was still running in 2011. Having changed his mind on that, S*P is over ten years old and shows no sign of ending.
- Welcome to the Big City: Helen (from Penny and Aggie) moves to the city and is helped by a kindly old lady, only to later discover said sweet old lady had relieved her of her wallet.
- Wham Episode:
- "Just Today."
- A meta-example with Randy mentioning he was married. Most reader reactions were along the lines of "What?" / "Congratulations", others included no longer reading the comic or harassing his wife or announcing their intent to get Randy back together with his ex.
- Wham Line: "Time Machine" ends with Farco calling Kharisma by her actual name, not her assumed identity.
- Whatevermancy: Aubrey, in the January 9, 2002 strip, refers to using sex appeal to get into a club without paying a cover charge as "Vaginamancy".
- What Happened to the Mouse?: A few subplots have been dropped over the years, as different parts of character's lives get ignored (or just not focused on). Davan and Jason were initially supposed to be producing Titus Andronicus (even auditioning for it), but it got dropped when he moved to Texas. Later strips involve a play Davan re-wrote instead. Certain subplots seem to have been dropped, only to reappear later on (such as Monette's "Big Secret" — which turned out to be her TV show, and Davan and Jason's work on Neko-Neko Holy-Chan). New character Bian was introduced, but then went several months before actually meeting any of the recurring cast.
- The most epic (and possibly deliberate) use was Monette's baby — she had a big pregnancy storyline, and then one strip showed her sad while somebody mentioned that she "lost her baby". It was done either really clumsily, or very Magnificent Bastardly by Randy, to the point where fans re-scoured recent Archival updates to find out when the baby really died. Turns out, that was the first time it was mentioned.
- Wheelchair Antics: Dahlia attaches a cowcatcher to her wheelchair for shopping during the holiday rush.
- World of Snark: Virtually everyone has some sort of sarcastic jab they can pull at someone else.
- Write Who You Know: Most of the main characters, and some of the secondary cast, are based on Milholland's friends and family. Davan is based on Milholland himself as he was several years earlier, and Aubrey is based on Clarine Harp, now a fairly well-known anime voice actress. Milholland has explained that various other characters are based off of "combinations" of people he knew. Specifically, Eva was based off of two separate people (one nice girl, one a basket case), as was Mike (one got better from his misogynistic whiny geek phase, the other got worse).
- In-universe, Davan based the villain of a play he re-wrote off of his dad, justifying it as needing the villain to be the most interesting person in the play.
- Also in-universe, Monette's sitcom character is a Gender Flipped Davan. PeeJee asks Davan how it feels to know that someone else has achieved success by being him.
- This Is Wrong on So Many Levels: Davan doesn't want to leave Choo-Choo Bear behind when he goes with Kim to Salem, so he dresses him up appropriately as "Droog-Droog Bear, A Clockwork Pussy." Apparently, Choo-Choo's a big fan of the movie.Kim: Oh... Davan, that is so not good on so many not-good levels.
- Yandere: The catgirls.
- Yaoi Fangirl: Aubrey encourages PeeJee to become one to get over her crush on Jhim. Also, this, and Branwen is confused but pleased when Jason angrily describes Davan as a "master cocksucker".
- Your Makeup Is Running: Weeping isn't a great look for Monette.
- You Are Fat: Mike desperately tries to change the subject and just digs himself in deeper:Mike: Uh, hey! You're looking great! Did you lose weight or something?
PeeJee: Oh, Michael, you loaded the "Are you saying I'm fat" gun and handed it to me. There are less painful ways to die, y'know.
- You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Often used on Davan by friends and people who don't know him very well. It very seldom works due to Davan's extreme realism and cynicism, but he tends to appreciate the effort regardless.
- Zany Scheme: Aubrey. Her friends realise they can only ride the wave until she loses interest or it all falls apart — until one of them works.
- Later on, when said zany scheme is self-sustaining enough, she gets tired of it and goes back to her old notebooks to see if she can try again on some of her old ideas...only to discover that they all suck.
- Zombie Apocalypse: But with catgirls!