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Webcomic / Between Failures

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The main cast (sans John).

"My name is Thomas Blackwell. Years ago, I wanted to be a lot of things. Thing is, I'm a mediocre artist, and not much better a writer. Besides those aren't things people are successful at. Not people like me, anyway... Did college for a while. Turned out to be a waste of time... I think there are some professions where you either have it, or you don't. I spent a lot of time coming to terms with the fact that I don't. So... I'm a clerk, in a store that can't decide what to focus on. I don't know...I guess hope is something for other people. As far as I can see, life is just what happens between failures."

Written by a self proclaimed fat, recluse Janitor.
Between Failures is a slice-of-life webcomic following the (somewhat under-motivated and decidedly sarcastic) staff of a chain music-movie-videogame-bookstore. The primary protagonist is Thomas Blackwell, but it cuts to follow many members of the staff. It's often compared to Clerks, though up to the second volume, only two customers have actually been shown. The main focus is on the characters and the shenanigans they come up with to keep themselves entertained.

Now has a character sheet.

This webcomic provides examples of:

  • The Alleged Boss: The chain store the main cast works at goes through managers so quickly that none of them ever get the chance to be real bosses, letting Thomas effectively run the whole store the way he wants to.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: At the Order of the Pelt, at least - it's very strongly suggested that several people are interested in fellow club members, but not mutually attracted in any case.
  • Amazon Chaser: Ed, as justified here.
  • Art Evolution: Fairly quick - by about #65, the characters settle into consistent looks, and after the switch to color at #229, it's perfectly steady. The shading gets better, too.
  • Author Appeal: The girls, but especially Carol.
  • Awesome McCoolname: Nina's brother is named Hannibal Solo Grace. Lampshaded when Nina notes how insane/high you need to be to name your child something like that.
    Nina: "It's by the grace of God that he was born with all of his limbs."
  • Badass Bookworm: It is pretty clear that Nina is a bookworm from the start, but the Nerf-gun fight shows her dangerous side off as well.
  • Badass Longcoat: Thomas has one, but we don't see him in it much because it's not exactly store dress code, even the form of dress code that everybody besides Reggie and Wes actually subscribes to.
  • Bad Liar: According to Word of God, this is how Reggie finally figures out his sister Victoria was disguised as "Nicky," the girl in the fursuit at the Order of the Pelt meeting. He wasn't certain with the evidence he had (despite his reaction) until she became flustered about his reference to "Nicky."
  • The Baroness: Though we've only seen her in one panel so far, Reggie's aunt was almost certainly designed with this trope in mind.
  • Batman Gambit: One of Thomas' primary ways of operating.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Wesley generally acts fairly nicely in the presence of his co-workers, only to reveal that he's a sexist jerkass behind their backs.
  • Bitch Slap: Nina does this to Reggie hard enough to make his nose bleed after he tries to provoke Ed into hitting him and being fired.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: When Mike is asking Ed for advice on how to meet girls.
    Mike: Do you have any ideas other than bars?
    Ed: Accident? Church? Church accident?
  • Brick Joke: When it's pointed out that one of the features that identifies Jess and Ed's sister is her Hot Blooded Sideburns, she says her own variation of the line Thomas said about them: "They're coming back! I'm bringing them back!"
  • Broken Bird: Nina alludes to having been through a period of this in high school, though specific details have yet to be revealed (though it is known that it involved something that caused her physical trauma and resulted in at least a couple friends of hers dying). She does seem to still have moments of melancholy related to it.
  • Brutal Honesty: Reggie has approximately zero patience for Evrina's power play at the furry club meeting. And his counterattack is devastating.
  • Casting Couch: It's been suggested multiple times that Sylvia Boothe, Reggie's aunt, got to her position this way.
  • Cerebus Call-Back: Once the details are revealed, Reggie's infamous "accidental display stand fire" loses all its humor.
  • The Chessmaster: Thomas, especially when you consider that not only does he basically decide who does and doesn't get hired, but the only reason he let Reggie get hired is that he has access to inside information through his aunt, who is part of the store's management team. Borders on Magnificent Bastard, if he could ever apply himself beyond keeping his own little world to his liking. In fact, this was lampshaded in the appropriately named strip "Magnificent One".
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Jolene, mostly due to 90% of her vocabulary being made of movie quotes.
  • Cool Car: Thomas, in the first couple of strips, appears to drive a vintage Chevrolet, although this hasn’t appeared since. May also count as Pottery Barn Poor, because nobody in a job like his, should afford a car like that
  • The Cutie: Jolene again.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Carol, Thomas, Ed, John, and Reggie. It's a vital survival skill in a dead-end job.
  • Decompressed Comic: More in terms of dialog than action.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: Thomas says his life world turned gray when his last girlfriend left him. The first color strip is his kiss with Carol.
  • Dramatic Irony: Nina is constantly pestering Thomas and Carol to admit their feelings for each other. They already did back in strip #229, but can't tell her because it's store policy not to date co-workers.
  • Erotic Eating: Ed and Thomas assure us its all part of God's (painful) plan.
  • Eyes Out of Sight: Alex has short hair with bangs that always cover her eyes.
  • Fanservice: Most of the characters have gotten this at one point or another. Notable in that fan favorites like Carol and Nina very prominently avert Generic Cuteness and any insults to their un-idealized builds or features are a good indicator of the insulter being an asshole.
  • Flanderization Jolene Brooks "Brooksie" started out as shy and sneaky with a charming, quirky, subtlety about her that made her adorable in the eyes of fans. Now she's sort of become a little too sugary, giving people attack hugs and acting like a precocious child as apposed to mildly snarky.
    • The reveal that her sexual appetite is as strong as any young woman her age has also squicked out some fans (and Thomas).
  • Funbag Airbag: Thomas gets this early on from Carol in this strip. He's entirely unrepentant about it.
  • Geeky Turn-On: Nina wants Harry Potter to "ride her like his quidditch broom."
    • This happens to Thomas when Carol reveals that not only is she a Transformers fan, but a fan of Beast Wars as well, with quite the memory for its episodes.
    • After Reggie tells the story of how he lost his virginity, John realizes that part of the reason Reggie is so attracted to Nina is because she's smart, and that Reggie is in general attracted to intelligence.
    • John's appraisal of Reggie's taste in women is validated when, almost immediately after, Reggie asks out the owner of the Library they're at, Alex. He later explains to his sister that he finds her attractive due to her interests extending beyond "trite nonsense." The sentiment even goes both ways, as Alex immediately moves to seduce Reggie into bed with her after he impresses her by finding a Bomb Shelter hidden in a run down hotel - a seduction he quite readily agrees to.
  • Genki Girl: Nina and Jolene both have a go at this.
  • The Glomp: Nina does this to Ed near the very beginning when she meets him for the first time.
  • Godiva Hair
  • Half-Identical Twins: Ed and Jessica Lincoln. The only differences between their appearance are their gender, their height (Ed is shorter than average, Jess is taller), and their personal grooming style (Ed likes to cut a much cleaner profile).
  • Hot-Blooded Sideburns: Both Thomas and Ed. It's theorized that one of the reasons Thomas hired Ed was because of his sideburns ("They're coming back! We're bringing them back").
  • I Have Boobs, You Must Obey!: Carol tries this early on with Thomas, but he's preoccupied and doesn't notice. It works later. Spectacularly.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Sure, it was with toy guns firing plastic disks, and thus more likely than with real weapons. That did not stop it from being at all impressive that Reggie was able to shoot a projectile out of the air during the toy gun fight. Particularly when there have been references to no less than four different disasters (with one actually shown) caused by Reggie's lack of intelligence, dexterity, and wisdom. The rest of the cast reacted with suitable shock.
  • Inherently Funny Words: Wu Tang Secrets
  • Insult Backfire: "If that sounded like a compliment, I apologize. It wasn't meant to."
  • Jerkass: Reggie Boothe
    • Even Jerkass Has Standards: He's still reliable enough to come in (though not necessarily work) for unexpected shortages, doesn't ever entertain the idea of theft, and has no qualms shooting down Wes' paper-thin attempts at seducing Jolene.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Thomas again. Reggie may also qualify on his better days.
  • Love Triangle:
    • Reggie likes Nina, Nina and Ed like each other. Both hate Reggie.
    • While it's still conjecture at this point, there is a lot to be said for the fact that Jolene has warmed up to Ed so quickly.
    • Eventually, the above chain is resolved as Nina and Ed begin dating, Jolene begins dating Ed's Sister Jessie, and Reggie moves on from his crush on Nina. This is, in-turn, replaced by a new triangle in which John falls in love with Alexandria only after she's moved on from her crush on him and entered into a relationship with Reggie.
  • Male Gaze: Carol, quite often.
  • The Napoleon: Ed.
  • No Dress Code: Nina's outfit constantly exposes her midriff. She doesn't care very much about the dress code, and does like showing off.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: To Reggie, of all people. When Brooksie was new to the store, Reggie tried to help her put together an incredibly complicated mechanical display. When he used Brooksie's lighter to examine it, he accidentally set it on fire, which, in combination with his knowledge that his manager was stealing from the store, resulting in him getting fired. He got his job back thanks to his aunt and got his manager arrested, but the incident irrevocably damaged his faith in his coworkers and in Brooksie, who he considered his friend.
  • Noodle Incident: How, exactly, did Reggie accidentally set a display stand on fire?
    • Mike's tirade about Reggie's record reveals that this is not an isolated incident; so par for the course, in fact, that it is literally only the factors that got him the job in the first place (his aunt the executive, and the high turnover rate of actual managers at this particular location) that are keeping him employed.
    • The story of that incident has now been revealed, beginning here.
  • Oh, Crap!: Fursuit wearer Victoria gets a double dose of this. First is when she unveils her new fursuit to the furry gathering at the library because nobody warned her that someone new - John - would be coming by. Just as she gets over that, she has an even stronger case of this when John tells her that also coming is Reggie Boothe - her brother.
  • Out of Focus: John gets this sometimes, though justified in that he doesn't want to get involved in others peoples' drama and so avoids it when it happens (and he only works there part-time). It was even lampshaded by the man himself.
  • Pointy-Haired Boss: Thanks to lousy corporate training, Mike lacks any form of managerial skill beyond vacuous optimism. Unlike most PHBs, he's aware of his own incompetence and is generally portrayed as the victim rather than an obnoxious idiot. It's not like he's completely clueless; He's got a very solid history in organizing and opening new stores... But managing an active store is a completely different thing. It's also rather intentional on the part of corporate management: this store just barely stays afloat, so it's where they send low-level management careers to die. Carol has since decided to try to cure Mike's PHBness, so the store can get some stability. Mike even discusses how this is an Enforced Trope by Megatainment management - he complains to Thomas that what they want seems to be opposite of what they tell him.
  • Polar Opposite Twins: Ed and his twin sister, Jessica.
  • Rhetorical Question Blunder: John commits one when he is trying to tell Thomas about having found a researcher for the team.
  • Saying Too Much: When Carol mentions Nina's fanfic.
  • Scenery Censor: When getting frisky in the shower, Thomas and Carol's naughty bits are obscured by the shower steam.
  • Shirtless Scene: Thomas specifically seems particularly adverse to wearing a shirt while he's at home.
  • Shout-Out: To The Breakfast Club in this strip
    • Strictly speaking, while it may be possible to find strips which do not contain shout outs...
    • It's rather difficult to find them, as one character's dialogue is 90% movie quotes.
  • Shrinking Violet: Jolene is rather prone to this.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Reggie.
  • Soul-Sucking Retail Job: For everyone. Thomas even warns Ed not to thank him for getting Ed a job until after the first day.
  • Spirited Competitor: Nina; while she doesn't seek out competition as much, she is ultra-competitive once she does get involved in one.
  • Start of Darkness: In a recent storyline, it's revealed that Reggie used to be a relatively nice guy, going so far as to help Brooksie to set up a complicated display when she couldn't do it herself ( the same display he would accidentally set on fire). His Jerkass tendencies only really set in after he was fired by his then-manager for reporting her for stealing.
    • Reggie is increasingly turning into a quite interesting character. His story at the Order of the Pelt was rather touching, really. He has shown useful knowledge of the building trade, and has certainly piqued Alex’s interest.
  • Statuesque Stunner: Nina.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Jolene practices hiding so she can do this to people.
  • Stout Strength: Between formerly being on build teams, taking the lead on breaking down used shelving (with a sledgehammer), preferring to use melee weapons in the staff foam toy fight, and being the physically largest cast member (by volume, at the very least), Mike clearly has this.
  • Straw Misogynist: Wes, the new-new guy, seems to be headed this way. He specifically cites Mike's gender as one of the reasons he should "put [Carol] in her place".
    • His philosophy on women ("Women are easy, you just have to wait for her to shut up so you can seduce her") and his attempt to demonstrate this on Brooksie, which failed so badly that even Reggie thinks it was the dumbest shit ever, put him pretty firmly in this category.
  • Team Dad: Thomas instructs everyone on the finer points of working together.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Reggie, by a wide margin. He's so incompetent that he relies entirely on his aunt's position and the high turnover rate of managers to keep his job. When he sets the microwave on fire, Mike tells him that "accident" is no longer sufficient to describe what Reggie does.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Ice cream for Carol, it's power over her is enough to completely negate her wrath.
  • Tsundere: Carol.
    • This backfires horribly when she tries it on Ed.
      • Wes manages to turn it around on her, too, although it's not likely to happen again.
  • Ultimate Job Security: Reggie Boothe, self-aggrandizing, incompetent narcissist, has more black marks on his record than a zebra wrestling a dalmatian in a coal mine at midnight. The only reason he's even still employed is that he can get his aunt to pull strings for him, meaning his record starts anew every time the manager gets replaced — which happens unusually quickly at this particular location. He even explicitly tells Carol he's deliberately relying on this.
  • Unrequited Love Switcheroo: Alexandria initially starts out crushing on John, a fact he takes advantage of to gain her help in Ghost Hunting with no intention to actually reciprocate. While he comes to genuinely appreciate her, he doesn't realize he's actually started to fall for her until after she enters into a relationship with Reggie.
  • Unsound Effect: Regarding how much trouble Ed is in.
  • Unusual Euphemism "I'd let him Ron my Hermione if he plays his cards right."
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Can describe much of Thomas' friendships, but John is the one who actually articulates it as such.
    • As of the Furry Club storyline, Reggie and John seem to be forming one of these, with John doing more than his fair share of ribbing towards Reggie (albeit with Reggie's pride making him somewhat touchy about it).
  • Walking Techbane: Getting Reggie to operate equipment is a bad idea, as it will most likely catch on fire.
  • Webcomic Time: 488 comics from March 2007 to July 2009 covered around 1 1/2 days, with the 1st day taking 305 strips.
    • It's a very decompressed comic. Instead of going the Wall of Text method, Crave has each comic represent what would basically be two lines of a conversation - which, in Real Life, would be about five seconds. (When his server's bogged down, it literally takes longer to load each strip than it would to read them or act them out.)
    • Lately though things seem to have moved up considerably, but it also seems that a few days between storylines have been skipped.
  • Will They or Won't They?:
    • Nina goes to some effort to try to convince Thomas and Carol to get together. They're still denying that they have a relationship... in public.
    • When Ed is first hired, there seems to be something between him and Nina that could lead to more. Sure enough, it does.
    • Based on their various smoke break interactions together, Jolene and John seem to have hints of something as well. They've so far gone nowhere due to Jolene entering into a relationship with Jessie while John enters into a Love Triangle with Alexandria and Reggie.
  • Your Mom: Short Thief explains the subjectivity of beauty.