A shared page for various linked webcomics (some of them also print comics) written by John Allison; many are set in or associated with the fictional Yorkshire town of Tackleford, while later stories move to other locations.
These include at least three major runs of comics, and a number of one-offs. These differ mainly in tone and chronology, and characters from one series will often pop up in others, sometimes as major or at least recurring figures. The terminology for describing the various strips can get confusing because of all the shifts, name changes, and changes-of-mind on the author's part regarding the direction they are going. Bobbins is both the original strip and various later revivals, some of them retconned into the early strips and some taking place much later. Scary Go Round is both the successor strip to Bobbins and the title of the current website where various other comics in the Bobbinsverse are published. Bad Machinery is the successor strip to that and is no longer publishing new stories, but its characters continue to appear in other strips, and books collecting the earlier stories are still coming out, with some new material.
The main Scary Go Round site has been down since 2020. Scary Go Round, Bobbins NOW and several side projects are available as PDF books from Allison's Gumroad page. However, Allison had a tendency up to then to put online archives up, pull them down, shift around their urls, and otherwise manipulate them, so they may still be online somewhere even when old links to them have linkrotted. (The appearance of bobbins.horse in 2016 is one of the later developments.) The book versions often have additional pages that never appeared online, however.
Main comics include:
- Bobbins (not currently available as Allison prefers that they not be read)
- Bobbins NOW, following the grown-up exploits of these characters synchronously with Bad Machinery
- Bobbins.Horse A reboot/interquel set during the original strip, but adding later characters and additions to continuity.
- Scary Go Round
- Bad Machinery (view archive here)
- Giant Days, a spin-off of SGR about the university life of Esther de Groot, published by Boom! Studios under their Boom! Box imprint. Three issues of the original series are available in print; these were followed by an ongoing (initially mini) series, written by John Allison and illustrated by Lissa Treiman, with Max Sarin taking over after issue 6, published in print and online, and now complete.
- Steeple, which first appeared as a five-issue comics series from Dark Horse Comics in 2019 and was continued as a webcomic in 2020. It has a completely different cast and location (Tredregyn, Cornwall), but was eventually confirmed to be part of the Bobbinsverse, including a one-issue crossover prominently featuring Shelley and Lottie.
Shorter stories and one-offs include:
- Murder She Writes, in which Shelley Winters takes Charlotte Grote on as a personal assistant when she attends a writers' retreat, and they find themselves caught up in a murder mystery. (John Allison had announced that a new Murder She Writes story would appear online in late 2014, in between Expecting To Fly and a new Bad Machinery story, but these plans changed and no such story was released.)
- THAT, in which Shelley goes to America and weirdness follows.
- Expecting to Fly, a prequel to Bobbins featuring Shelley, Ryan, and Tim as teenagers in 1996.
- Mordawwa, Queen of Hell, a story following the titular Queen of Hell and her horse Scientist Aka Erin Winters and the reincarnated ghost of Eustace Boyce as she deals with the death of her beloved friend and lieutenant The Sheriff.
- Destroy History: An interquel focusing on Shelley's exploits at the Ministry of History, which has generated at least two stories. Allison says he likes the concept, so it may keep coming back. (view archive here)
- Heavy Metal Hearts and Flowers, a re-telling of a storyline from Bobbins (with lots of details changed) in which Tim builds a Robot Girl and ends up fighting a big red robot over her. Released as a paper book in 2005 (now out-of-print) and an e-book in 2011.
- A number of one-shot mini-comics showing up everywhere from John Allison's various websites, blogs, and social media feeds to paper sheets tossed in with orders for his books; these may or may not be "canon", but sometimes reveal relevant details such as how Erin returned from Hell.
- Newer stories in the Scary Go Round website, such as Space Is The Place, feature characters from the earlier main strips, but are not labeled as being part of any of them.
- Wicked Things, a direct sequel to Bad Machinery but published as a comic, again by Boom! Box, depicting what happened to Charlotte immediately after she left school.
John Allison has said that the chronological order of the various strips and books is: Bobbins, Scary Go Round, Giant Days, Bad Machinery Case 1, 2, 3, 4, Murder She Writes, Bad Machinery Case 5, THAT, Bad Machinery Case 6, 7, New Bobbins. He then announced in November 2014 that Bad Machinery would end with the just-completed Case 7, and that he would be reverting to the "Scary Go Round" title for a while, so the new Scary Go Round strips would logically belong on the end of that sequence. However, some strips continued to appear under the "Bobbins" title in that period. In 2017, he announced that the whole Bobbinsverse would be shutting down with the upcoming end of the current run of Scary Go Round (apart from Giant Days, which is only fairly loosely connected to the other titles anyway).
The Bobbinsverse has a Character Page, currently under construction. Feel free to contribute.
- Deus ex Machina: Used in a tongue-in-cheek way (more than once!) when a plotline full of dangling loose ends was abruptly terminated by '80s action star Mr. T. making a sudden inexplicable appearance and simply declaring everything to be resolved. This might also qualify as a Celebrity Star or Special Guest.
- Early Installment Weirdness: Internally, as well as compared to the later works of John Allison. The constant Art Evolution plays a big part in this, of course. Other examples are the instances of blatant Fourth Wall Breaking, or the characterization of Shelley, who's legendary quirkiness only emerged as time went by.
- Robot Girl: Unit Daisy (not to be confused with Daisy Wooton from Giant Days), built by Tim as girlfriend for a lovelorn Rich. (But things don't go as planned, and Hilarity Ensues.) Unit Daisy's Story Arc was later retold in Heavy Metal Hearts and Flowers.
- Best Friends-in-Law: Ryan and Tim, via Ryan's sister Riley.
- Blatant Lies:Tim: You know, everything they tell you about babies is scare stories. Scout just slept all the time, all night long.
Tim: Never got hungry in the least. Rarely cried, if ever.
Ryan: That's a relief.
Tim: Almost from the start, she'd change her own nappy. She couldn't reach the bin, so she'd just double-bag 'em and leave them by the back door.
Ryan: I see, I see. This is a cruel joke.
Tim: Within a couple of months she could make rudimentary sandwiches. Not deli-quality, but serviceable.
- But We Used a Condom!: Shelley and Tim conceive through carelessness; Shelley gets to find out when the fact is noticed by her sister, who as the Queen of Hell, presumably has supernatural senses. How much care they were taking is unclear, but Shelley is certainly stunned. ( She subsequently decides to keep the baby because her clock is ticking.)
- Chubby Chaser: Erin apparently prefers her men on the portly side. When Eustace is worried she will be uninterested in him because he's put on some pounds since high school, she tells him, "I like a gentleman of heft. Beef and beer lend a man weight."
- Creator Breakdown: Shelley writes books for children and may at one point let her affair with Tim affect her work:Barry: It's called "Tibkins Makes an Awful Mistake". The change in tone is striking.
Shelley: Basic Tibkins story. Under-fives gonna love it. Print it. Send it to the printer.
Barry: "I love you," said Tibkins to the vacuum cleaner. "But we can never see each other EVER AGAIN."
Shelley: Make sure the last page is just printed completely black.
- Death Is Cheap: Lampshaded by the (well, a) Grim Reaper, in a speech to Erin with regard to her and the notoriously return-prone Shelley:The Reaper: You! You and your SISTER ... with your LAISSEZ FAIRE attitude to the afterlife.
- Half the Man He Used to Be: Alas, poor Eustace.
- Happy Ending Override: Allison is prone to tinkering with his stories and going back to stuff that seemed finished, so both happy and unhappy (and for that matter bittersweet) endings are liable to be revised later. For example, Shelley breaks up with Tim in the time between "Into The Woods" and "The Big Hiatus", citing that she dosen't want to be with a man who's blown up his life on multiple occasions, literally in one case. That said, he's still helping out with her pregnancy and will likely be around to take care of the child. Though even that ending seems to undergo some degree of revision later.
- Hope Spot: Tim appears to convince Eustace not to mess around with a literally Satanic computer the latter has cobbled together, in an attempt to get in touch with the demon Erin. Then Eustace goes and turns on the thing anyway, and, well, see Half the Man He Used to Be above.
- It Is Not Your Time: Lampshaded and denied by the (well, a) Grim Reaper. As he says, "Cliché party."
- The Matchmaker: After Eustace (re)meeting Erin and leaving a seemingly disastrous first impression, Shelley and Tim use a ruse in order to set up a second meeting between the two. And this time it goes quite well for Eustace. (Too bad though that he neglects to maintain contact with her afterwards...)
- Mighty Lumberjack: The trope is invoked, in somewhat ironic form, by Amy, to describe Tim after he's gone to live in the woods. It turns out that Shelley, always a woman with a healthy appetite for the macho, finds the image quite appealing.
- Panicky Expectant Father: Ryan.
- Series Fauxnale: Into The Woods was supposed to wrap up the franchise, but John Allison changed his mind afterwords.
- The One That Got Away: Esther, for Eustace
- Too Dumb to Live: Both Rich Tweedy and Eustace end up qualifying as examples of this. Literally.
- Waxing Lyrical: When Amy is pregnant at Christmas, Shelley describes the child as "Our own personal Jesus! Someone to hear our prayers. Someone who cares."
- Wham Episode: John Allison fills the "Into the Woods" plot-arc with several of these: Shelley and Erin personally meet again for the first time after Erin has vanished into Hell, Rich Tweedy reappears, many years after he has been fired from his job at City Limit, allegedly "so hard that he ceased to exist". And then he REALLY ceases to exist. Followed up with Erin giving up her humanity to save Eustace, Shelly and Tim cohabiting and Eustace getting himself killed anyway.
- Advertised Extra: Ryan and Erin both appear on the cast page despite being recurring characters at best while Holly has yet to be added.
- Bratty Teenage Daughter: Amy is revealed to be 17 when she starts working at City Limit. She turns 18 at the beginning of "The Trouble With Bruno".
- Continuity Nod:
- Ryan is wearing his Captain America shirt from Bobbins and early Scary Go Round.
- Shelley's Parents, who previously showed up in Bobbins NOW and Expecting To Fly appear.
- Linton's brother Paul shows up in Erin's class.
- Ryan's still working at the Pea Cannery job he got at the end of Expecting To Fly.
- Darkest Hour: Happens in "The Big Explosion". A drunk Rich reveals to Len that Amy's been ghostwriting Shelley's sex column, resulting in Amy getting fired, Shelley getting demoted into a spiraling depression and Amy fearing she's about to get sent back to her mother.
- The Dreaded: Bruno outright scares Ryan, Tim and Rich.
- The Friend Nobody Likes:
- Shelley's Boyfriend Bruno. She's the only one who truly likes him, with everyone else being repulsed, annoyed, or scared by him, if not some combination of all three.
- Rich also has shades of this: The rest of the group tolerate him, but most of them don't really seem to like him, to the point that Amy wonders why Tim hangs around with him.
- Get Out!: Len's reaction to Rich making a sexist comment.
- The Ghost: Shelley's boyfriend Bruno for the first few arcs. He finally appears in the flesh in "The Trouble With Bruno".
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Shelley and Amy, Shelley and Holly, and Tim and Ryan.
- OOC Is Serious Business: Tim's reaction to Bruno is one of abject terror, in direct contrast to his normal suave attitude.
- Out of Focus: Ryan in the first three arcs. He gets a bit more screen time in "The Trouble With Bruno".
- Retcon: By the truckload thanks to Continuity Drift.
- Ryan is present from the get go despite only moving to town recently late into the original Bobbins, in line with Expecting To Fly making him, Shelley and Tim childhood friends.
- Shelley and Amy's friendship starts a lot sooner.
- Bruno and Shelley met in University rather than High School.
- Bruno looks entirely different and how he meets Holly is an entirely new scenario.
- Sequel Series: To Expecting To Fly.
- Ship Tease: Rich has a crush on Amy while Amy flirts with Tim in the final strip of "Sex and the City Limit".
- Shirtless Scene: Rich takes his shirt off during "The Trouble With Bruno".
- Tranquil Fury: How Tim deals with Rich after Rich drunkenly tells Len about Amy ghostwriting Shelley's sex column.
- Troll: Erin's "Report" which is her and Paul listing off the topics for Shelley's sex column.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Rich gets this a lot...
- Ryan tears into him for getting Amy drunk.
- Tim frequently tears into him over his crush on Amy.
- See Get Out! above.
- After Tim finds out Shelley's secret got out, he gives Rich this for not only letting it slip but not owning up to it and trying to fix the problem.
Murder, She WritesA Closed Circle murder mystery featuring Lottie from Bad Machinery and Shelley from Scary Go Round. Shelley, now a children's author, is invited to a party in her agent's remote Welsh mansion, and brings Lottie along as her intern. When one of the authors is murdered and several of the guests have motives, our heroines investigate.
- All Just a Dream: Shelley believes so when she wakes up, but is quickly disabused of the idea.
- Angst? What Angst?: Despite Shelley's fears, 12-year-old Lottie takes the bloody murder scene in her stride and immediately starts looking for the killer. She explains with a diagram that her "extreme love of mysteries" protects her "delicate lady-brain" from horror.Shelley: This isn't normal for a girl your age. I'm going to freak out for both of us.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In fact, Lottie claims her extreme love of mysteries protects her delicate lady-brain from "deth", "horror", "blood" and "accidental willy sighting".
- The Big Board: Used by Lottie for explanatory purposes.
- Cell Phones Are Useless: Bad mobile phone reception because of the storm and the mansion's remoteness prevents anyone calling the police. Lottie and Shelley manage to call them after solving the mystery, surprising everyone by finding a landline — hidden in a cupboard because no-one uses it any more.
- I Have to Iron My Dog: Derek attempting to get out of a long rant.
- J Accuse: Lottie can radiate accusation; its depicted like Spider-Mans Spidey-sense. She uses the words aloud once the truth is out.
- One-Liner: Judy facing down the competition.Shelley: Make a note, Charlotte. That was a zinger of the old school.
- Modesty Bedsheet: Played straight as a Scenery Censor; however, it evidently fails in-universe as Lottie later mentions her "accidental willy sighting"
- Pop-Culture Pun Episode Title: The title refers to Murder, She Wrote, of course.
- Right Through the Wall:Lottie: What do you think they were doing? Moving furniture?
Shelley: Um, yes. Feng shui is very important.
- Snowed-In: A plot-driving issue.
- Spotlight-Stealing Squad: The "cover" splash panel originally described Murder, She Writes as "A Shelley Winters story", but Shelley appears to have passed out of the Competence Zone, and mostly takes a back seat to Lottie's investigating.
- Start to Corpse: the "corpse clock" is lampshaded in The Rant.
- Summation Gathering: Like in any self-respecting Closed Circle murder mystery.
THAT *Another Shelley stand-alone adventure. This time she's in America (sans intern) doing a book tour. She arrives in Heaven, Arizona just in time for the towns Lemon Festival, and an attack by a flock of giant vampire moths.
- The Alleged Car: Shelly bought her transport for her tour off eBay. It breaks down, leaving her stranded in town for the plot.
- Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: In this case, the "whatever" turns out to be vampire moths.
- Attack of the Town Festival: The basic plot.
- Big Black Out: Required to make the plot work — and, it's clear, caused by the giant moths.
- Big Creepy-Crawlies: The moths.
- Bilingual Bonus/Foreshadowing/Meaningful Name: "Mariposa" is Spanish for "Butterfly".
- Bratty Half-Pint: Mariposa.
- Cassandra Truth/Ignored Expert: Stock horror stuff, but see Twist Ending below.
- Eagle Land: Shelley attempts a Rousing Speech based very literally on this. It kind of works, but doesn't make the guy who can't shoot straight any more competent.
- Everybody Lives: A one-month-later epilogue shows that everyone who seemingly died during the story is in fact still alive, though quite seriously chewed up and in one case surely brain damaged. Presumably the moths are slow eaters and not excessively hungry.
- A Good Name for a Rock Band: Shelley is compulsively frivolous.Terrified Secondary Character: I don't want to end up MANGLED BY INSECTS.
Shelley: Excellent band name!
- Guns Are Worthless: A single juvenile moth is dispatched with shotguns, but other than that... yeah. Not helped by the fact that the guy with the gun in later scenes seems to be a terrible shot.
- Kill It with Fire: Or rather, A Large Pile of Fireworks.
- Macabre Moth Motif: Some early hints (and the cover art) suggest that this trope might be in play, though once the giant vampire moths show up — fairly soon — it turns out that they are an actual Moth Menace.
- Moth Menace: The threat turns out to be giant vampire moths.
- Parent with New Paramour: Mariposa is violently opposed to this idea.
- Shout-Out: The title and general theme are clearly homages to the classic '50's monster-movie Them!. Plus, as noted, every Attack of the Town Festival movie ever made.
- Terror at Make-Out Point: Kind of inevitable, really.
- Title Drop: See Shout-Out above.
- Twist Ending: It turns out that Everybody Lives, although rather the worse for wear in some cases and Saul is a Mad Scientist who was responsible for the attack in the first place. Also a case of The Bad Guy Wins, as Saul is elected the new mayor.
- Weaksauce Weakness: Shelley finds a large supply of mothballs, which repel the moths and allow the humans time to set up the Kill It with Fire trap.
Expecting To FlyTaking place in 1996, when Shelley, Ryan and Tim still were teenagers and attending school.
- Fans of Scary Go Round know of course that Erin Winters will end up spending some time in hell. This is alluded to whenever Erin appears.
- Some of John Allison's end-of-the-year music reviews have been penned in-universe by Shelley. It turns out that she was already compiling personal music hit lists when she was still in school.
- Casanova Wannabe: Surprisingly, Tim turns out to to have been one in his teenage years.
- Chekhov's Gun: The first conversation Tim and Ryan have in this story is about some Kurosawa movies Tim has been taping for Ryan. At the end of the story, Ryan decides to act after the samurai ethics conveyed in this movies, and takes all the blame in order to protect Tim from any negative consequences the accident with his contraption might have caused for him.
- Dark and Troubled Past: This story reveals that the generally rather cheery Cloudcuckoolander Shelley Winters had to cope with the suicide of her best friend during her teen years.
- Eyepatch of Power: We learn why Mr. Knott is wearing one in Bad Machinery.
- Important Haircut: Starting out with rather long hair, at the end of the story (and the beginning of his life after leaving school) Ryan gets a hair cut and now looks much more like he does as an adult in Scary Go Round.
- Prequel: To Bobbins, Scary Go Round, and via Mr. Knott also to Bad Machinery.
- The Matchmaker: Mr. Knott encourages Ryan to befriend Shelley, and in the end it turns out that he had the same conversation with Shelley about Ryan. It is unclear though if his insistence about abstaining from behavior that "might inspire a nocturnal manipulation" was sincere or an attempt at Reverse Psychology.
- Rube Goldberg Device: Tim builds one in order to teach Ryan physics. An unplanned side-effect though is that it pokes out one of Mr. Knott's eyes.
- The '90s: Playing Tetris on her Game Boy is one of Shelley's favorite leisure activities, and Ryan is considering Doom to be the peak of computer game realism.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Shelley's speech to Ryan's father is rather short, but turns out to be quite effective:Shelley: I don't know how one of the kindest people I have ever met came out of human garbage like you.
- The Tetris Effect: In a conversation, Ryan and Shelley are using Tetris as a metaphor for their lives.
Mordawwa, Queen of HellA story following the Queen of Hell as she finds her second in command, a dragon dubbed "The Sheriff" Murdered
- Big Damn Heroes: Science saves Mordawwa at the climax.
- Bittersweet Ending: Science saves Mordawwa from death, The Sheriff turns out to be alive, but now Mordawwa and co are thrust into a civil war in Hell.
- Blood Knight: Mordawwa's former general, before the Sheriff took his job. It's what convinces him to go to war with her.
- Deadpan Snarker: Mordawwa.
- The Dragon: The Sheriff to Mordawaa
- Driven to Suicide: Mordawwa due to the Sheriff's death. Science snaps her out of it as does finding his Supposed killer.
- Formula-Breaking Episode: While still a comedy, the story is a fantastical comedy set in hell versus John Allison's normal preference for Mundane Fantastic mixed with Slice of Life.
- Ms. Fanservice: Mordawwa spends most of the story in rather skimpy outfits.
- Sequel Series: Follows up on what happens to Erin and Eustace after Bobbins NOW!
- Xanatos Gambit: The Sheriff's murder... was caused by Mordawwa's former General's second-in-command to start a war and leave his superior with the blame, so he'd have no choice but to wage the war anyways.
SteepleA series that is mostly unconnected from the other stories until the appearance of, first, a handful of rather marginal-looking strips featuring Desmond, and later a full crossover featuring Lottie and Shelley. Bilinda Baxter is assigned to be the new curate in Tredregyn, Cornwall, and finds it to be a town full of Satanists and under constant assault by demonic sea monsters.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: Billie seeks the aid of the demon Baphomet when she needs money, and — being basically selfless — asks for good things to happen to the rest of the village as well. One storm that wrecks every part of Cornwall except Tredregyn later, things start getting strange.
- Because You Were Nice to Me: Why Brian instantly takes to Billie joining the Church of Satan.
- Brown Note: Invoked; Brian is searching for it, but Billie thinks he's looking in vain.
- Chainmail Bikini: Maggie discusses making herself a suit of "holy battle armour" in which "almost my entire arse will be on show, but tastefully". Mrs Clovis looks so shocked at the sketches she can't even tell Maggie off.
- Church of Happyology: "Trident" is a seemingly cult-like movement which is in competition with both the Church of England and the Church of Satan, targets people working in media, and offers "free mind evaluations".
- Dark and Troubled Past: Billie, prior to joining the Church as an overcorrection. Inverted with Maggie, who was a frustrated Soapbox Sadie before joining the other Church. Confessing these backstories to one another is what convinces them both to convert.
- Fish People: The most common category of monster which Penrose has to deal with are scaly "mermen" which emerge from the sea by night. They may not be quite as evil as he assumes, but some of them do cause trouble.
- Foreshadowing: In one of the print comics, Brian warns Mrs Clovis not to bother with some new-age witches, because he went to them once and they "only did half a job". Later on, an online strip reveals he was trying to get them to cure his lycanthropy.
- Hot for Preacher: Maggie towards Penrose. According to Mrs Clovis (who may be projecting somewhat...), he gets this from a lot of his female parishioners.
- Odd Friendship: Billie and Maggie. They start off a Church of England curate and a Satanist, and later on swap places, but their friendship is a constant.
- Show Within a Show: Clotted Crime is a Sunday evening TV mystery series with a bit of a Cozy Mystery aspect and similarities to Midsomer Murders but set in Cornwall. Mrs Clovis and, more surprisingly, Maggie, are big fans; Penrose despises it, calling it churchsploitation, because any vicars who appear in it are milksops or murderers, or both. After a hurricane devastates every other village in Cornwall, the production comes to Tredregyn to shoot some episodes.
- Soapbox Sadie: Maggie's surprising Mysterious Past before she decided she was getting nowhere fixing the world and may as well enjoy herself in the Church of Satan.
- Spinoff Sendoff: Allison says he considered starting Steeple with one of these but rejected the idea. The first major crossover, designed to introduce newer readers to the strip, is in "Author Unknown" when Shelley comes to Tredregyn on a book tour and goes missing, and Lottie comes to investigate.
- The Thing That Would Not Leave: A supernatural variety in the Sesh Gremlin.Maggie: He's a cursed soul, a social vampire. He attaches himself to a group of drinkers, and won't leave unless they can pry him free. He slowly dominates conversation, bending the party to his will. [...] Here's the kicker: if the session lasts 24 hours... you become a sesh gremlin too.
- The Three Faces of Eve: Billie is the naive maiden, Maggie the seductress and Mrs Clovis the domestic "wife" (although given her age, acerbity, and the mysterious absence of her husband, there's some overlap with the Crone).
- Town with a Dark Secret: Tredregyn is a parody of this trope, being a pleasant-seeming fishing village which turns out to be infested with monsters and (basically fairly amiable) Satanists. When Charlotte is trying to find out what happened to Shelley there, she hits the problem that everyone looks like a suspect.
"Erin Winters and the Bone Throne (of Bones)" and "Erin Winters and the Great Fiery Elevator":
- Attack Backfire: Erin tricks the demon Xaffej into "scorning" her, which he does, forgetting that "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned" — said fury manifesting as fire breath.
- Briar Patching: "I bet you couldn't even... scorn me."
- Hellevator: You can ride it straight back to Earth, if you can get past Xaffej the Indefatigable.
- Hell Has New Management: How did Erin get out? She took the place over and ruled for three years before getting bored with power.
- Interquel: Takes place between the end of Erin's time in Scary Go Round and her time in Sheffield, explaining how she escaped hell.
- Stupid Jetpack Hitler: Robot Hitler is King of Hell.