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Webcomic / Crow Cillers

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Early art from the first printing of the Crow Cillers Season 1 DVD.note 

Crow Cillersnote  is a surrealist drama horror comedy furry coming-of-age queer Webcomic by Cate Wurtz (F.K.A. Partydog, of Asscastle fame) about a group of friends who band together to do battle with a mysterious and antagonistic cult-like society known as the Order of The Crow. Both the Crow Cillers and the Order seek to understand a mysterious Eldritch Creature, or maybe it's an Eldritch Dimension of Existence known only as Ynce Iche.note 

...At least, that's what it's BASICALLY about. Crow Cillers defies the traditional format of a webcomic. It's also a meta-commentary on pop culture, often of the past (particularly the turn of the millennium) but also of the contemporary era, both celebrating and poking fun at obsessive fandom, while in the world of Crow Cillers, fiction and reality blend into a confusing mess and nothing is certain, the audience and characters about as confused as each other.

Crow Cillers can be read monthly as each issue is released at Cate Wurtz's patreon. Alternatively, you can purchase each season in a mock 'DVD' (complete with bonus features) from the official Lamezone page. The first eight seasons are free on the author's website!

Crow Cillers contains examples of:

  • Achilles in His Tent: In "Best Fiends Forever," Cortney, feeling excluded from the group and pissed off at Emma for trivializing her situation, and makes plans to make up with her brother and rejoin the Order of the Crow. After a brief heart-to-heart with Jill, Emma learns not to treat other people's lives like TV shows and helps Cortney learn who her real friends are.
  • A Day in the Limelight: "Fanfic of Horror II", for Final Bloodmaster Alpha. She gets cancelled at the end.
  • Apocalyptic Log: The journal excerpted in "Campground of Carnage", which belonged to an anonymous Crow left in the woods to starve until he has an encounter with Bloodwolfe.
  • Arc Symbol: Scissors
  • Art Shift: Featured prominently throughout the comic
  • Author Phobia: Ominous checkered tile is a recurring motif, perhaps owing to an incident in the author's childhood, as discussed in "Fanfic of Horror I".
  • Big Badass Battlesequence: Season 7 builds up to a climactic showdown between the Crow Cillers and the Crow.
  • Bland-Name Product: Oryos, Cosmo Brownies, My Enormous Horse...
  • Brand X: The Chips, Legally Food's...
  • Broke Episode: In "Lifestyles of the Poor and Depressed", when Varg's Ex stops paying the gang's rent for fear of being found out by the Order.
  • Burn Baby Burn: On the last page of "Cross My Art and Hope to Die", Jamie throws an old photo from before she came out that her parents put on the fridge as a passive-aggressive gesture onto an American flag the gang set on fire.
  • The Cameo: Swampboy from ''Little Teeth'' appears in "Lifestyles Of The Poor And Depressed" on a Show Within a Show
  • Cannibalism Superpower: The general method for a psychic to increase her powers seems to be eating other psychics.
  • Character Blog: darkelaine227 and Sour Gummy both have in-character twitters, darkelaine's being frequently excerpted in the comic proper.
  • Couch Gag: The title pages of Season 4 feature new scenes for each episode
  • Cut and Paste Comic: Subcomics Office Crittlers and As Told By Crittler both take this form, with As Told in particular consisting of the same panel of a girl writing in her diary repeated six times with different dialogue on top.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: A large portion of the characters could apply, but special mention must go to the In-A-Dress gang, a group of characters from existing properties who care nothing for the bounds of their IP, and both exist in and outside of the world of Crow Cillers, occasionally watching it as a show.
  • Cover Drop: Beloved ends up in the exact pose depicted on the cover of Season 4 in "Mother Lee," when she Heroic BSODs after she first makes contact with another Psyform, and being met with a Hannibal Lecture from Fresh Fries, in which she learns she was originally human.
  • Do Unto Others Before They Do Unto Us: When Emma encounters an alternate universe's version of herself while fleeing from Fresh Fries, the clone insists that the only way to stop Fresh Fries is to find the best possible universe and destroy all others. Emma is understandably horrified.
  • Documentary Episode: While "Fanfic of Horror II" is mainly focused on Final Bloodmaster Alpha, there are periodic cutaways to the main characters being interviewed about Goblin's Crusade: Yellow Rose, the Show Within a Show on which she played the villain.
  • Dramatic Unmask: Played with at the climax of the Scream episode: when Emma unmasks Fresh Fries-as-Ghostface, she's treated not to her face, but a vision of her origins as a doppelganger of Harlyn that Harlyn killed as a child. Then she wakes up.
  • Drugs Are Good: It's quicker to list all the characters who aren't seen taking something at some point. (The misadventures of the In-A-Dress Gang exemplify this trope the most.)
  • Early Installment Character-Design Difference: Elaine was recognizably feline in her first appearance, but over the course of the first season, her initially triangular ears narrowed and blunted into her trademark horns or whatever, along with her fur darkening from orange to blood red.
    • Bloodwolfe was drastically redesigned between the first and second seasons to be larger, with matted fur and a more blunt snout.
    • Paisley originally appeared in a tank top with a graphic of some scissors and a dotted line on it, not gaining her Cool Shades and purple, fur-trimmed jacket until her character shifted from carefree troublemaker to troubled edgelord two episodes later.
    • Mintchip was drawn with boobs at first, only for them to abruptly disappear midway through season 2. It's tragic.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: Lord Marrow's secret lab, "The Pit," is so-called because it's hidden underneath the ball pit of an abandoned Elation Zone. After Marrow's death, it becomes the Crow Cillers' home and headquarters.
  • Engineered Public Confession: In "Best Fiends Forever," when it becomes clear that Corey is only pretending to be concerned about Cortney in order to re-recruit her into the Order of the Crow, Emma pops out of a nearby trashcan and threatens to upload the whole conversation online and let the Order punish him for breaking their secrecy. Once he's out of earshot, Emma admits to Cortney that she doesn't know how to upload video from her phone.
  • Eyes Always Shut: Several characters, notably Mr. Nail, As Told By Crittler, Ambrosia, and Final Bloodmaster Alpha. Red Velvet generally keeps her eyes shut serenely when she isn't in psychic freakout mode.
  • Eye Motifs: Uniquely drawn eyes are a consistent trait of psyforms.
  • Faceless Goons: The uniform for Crow grunts consists of a grey beaked mask, a fairly baggy Black Cloak, and an optional shaved head.
  • Fandom: A major part of the series thematically. The characters are obsessed with bands, animes, and cartoons, the results of fandom like obsessive collecting of merchandise (to the point it becomes an in-universe economy) and ESPECIALLY fanfiction are everywhere. Crow Cillers itself has an obsessive fandom within Crow Cillers, Fangirl Darkelaine227 a player within the storyline. She, and presumably others like her, go so far as to obsessively seek out scans of art of Crow Cillers characters from limited-edition Poptart boxes.
  • Fake Band: There's Three4One, the Crow-produced pop trio from Pistachio's backstory, as well as lo-fi electronica duo Sour Gummy, which you can listen to on Cate's bandcamp page.
  • Framing Device: "Fanfic of Horror I" is framed as a fanfic Emma is sharing with her friends, with frequent cuts away to reactions and suggestions from the rest of the cast, who generally don't quite grok what she's doing.
  • Furry Lens: While drawn as vague cartoon animals, the characters are frequently referred to as humans.
  • Glamour Failure: Due to drawing on the target's own unconscious, the puppet doppelgangers generated by Beloved Website Puppet Alpha's phone calls are indistinguishable from the real thing, but only up until the target notices the Beanie Babies style tag, at which point they become visible as crude patchwork imitations.
  • Here We Go Again!: At the end of "Fanfic of Horror II," after witnessing Final Bloodmaster Alpha's untimely cancellation, and the creation of her replacement, Final Bloodmaster Beta, Lisa Simpson makes her way back to the theater where the rest of the Dress Gang has been and picks up on MSTing the previous episode like they were at the start, until eventually clicking to the next page just brings you back to the first.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Settles into a pattern of Incredibly Lame Puns and shoutouts to influential media, generally featuring the name of the episode's central character from season four on.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: After Emma's kidnapping by Brother Marcus at the end of Season 1, she and her friends come to the conclusion that being cult-busting girl detectives is dangerous work, and largely elect to just chill for a bit and let the grown-ups handle it. Emma herself is left with lasting trauma from the whole ordeal, and isn't able to work up the will to take on adventures again until late Season 4.
  • Lighter and Softer: The first season contains considerably less sex and drugs compared to Cate's previous comic, Microwave Planet, and even when these elements reassert themselves, there's a marked absence of the death and despair of her earlier work. Lampshaded in "Mi-Crow-Cillers-Wave-Planet".
  • Little Miss Badass: Cortney is the main one, but Gretchen has her moments as well. Paisley wishes she was, but it takes her a while to start walking the walk.
  • Make Way for the New Villains: When the Bloodwolfe decides to step out of the sidelines, it quickly establishes its dominance by devouring Evil Hand, Fresh Fries, and nearly taking down Elaine Jr. as well.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: The Order of the Crow at large. The standard mask has a curved beak, like a parrot's, but higher-ranked Crows get different designs, like Lord Marrow's scythe-shaped deal, or Master Vein's Pyramid Head jawn.
  • Medium Blending: Frequently dips into photo collages, hand-drawn pages, and all-text pages, as well as a handful of embedded YouTube videos from darkelaine227 toward the end of season 2.
  • Morph Weapon: Yellow Rose's trademark weapon is, well, a yellow rose, which can magically transform into a sword, as well as many other handy tools.
  • Mushroom Samba: While there have not been any particularly hallucinogenic sequences (so far), the characters in the show often do drugs, in two particularly memorable sequences, Jamie introduces Emma to weed, causing her to get paranoid and eventually comforted, and the In-A-Dress gang do MDMA and ruminate on their love for each other, and even embrace some new identity.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: The upper echelons of the Order of the Crow is filled with guys with names like Lord Marrow and Master Vein. Averted with Final Bloodmaster Alpha, who despite her name is a fairly professional celebrity and TV personality.
  • No Communities Were Harmed: The comic's setting, Puke City, is a stand-in for the author's hometown of Topeka, Kansas, and locations there are frequently referenced.
  • One-Steve Limit: On top of the many permutations of Elaine, we have one seemingly unrelated Elayne. Confusion between the two becomes a plot point in "The Elayne-Vince Project."
  • Our Goblins Are Different: In the Goblin's Crusade universe, goblins are a cycloptic race of human height who wear masks as like a cultural thing, and who were driven to near extinction by unknown means.
  • Parody Episode: Played for drama in Season 6 when Fresh Fries attempts to control the cast by trapping them in twisted versions of Dungeons & Dragons, Film Noir, My Little Pony, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Saturday Night Live, and... experimental cinema.
  • Pathof Inspiration: The Order of the Crow. Despite their sinister machinations, the Crow seem generally accepted by the rest of society (albeit with suspicion) and even had enough goodwill to sustain a touring pop group in the past.
  • Power Perversion Potential: Discussed here and there.
  • Physical Scars, Psychological Scars: Facial scarring is a recurring manifestation of psychic trauma, often coinciding with an increase in psychic power.
  • Psychic Nosebleed: A sure sign of having locked eyes with Ynce Iche.
  • Psychic Strangle: A favorite move of Harlyn's. When Jill ends up on the receiving end of this, she can't help but wonder about the bedroom applications.
  • Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic: Averted. Everybody speaks in a very real, down-to-earth manner, complete with "Uhh"s abound. This extends to their texting habits, nerds Jamie and Emma sharing roleplay-style hugs and kisses through text.
  • Removed from the Picture: When Cortney returns to her house to investigate after disowning her family, she finds she's been torn out of a family picture.
  • Retool: Season 8 brings Crow Cillers: The New Breed/The Next Generation, which introduces an entirely new cast of characters to explore Puke City.
  • Scene Cover: Aside from the border and the text, the cover for Season 2 is directly lifted from a panel in "Fanfic of Horror I."
  • Show Within a Show: Numerous. Crow Cillers is, itself, a Show Within A Show, even watched by the In-A-Dress gang at certain points.
  • Seasonal Rot: Played with as part of the aforementioned Show Within a Show nature of Crow Cillers, in which later seasons, e.g. season 8-12 are referred to freely, even though they do not exist at the time of writing. (At least, not in our world.) In-universe, or at least, in-universe where Crow Cillers is a show in-universe, Crow Cillers is a long-running and highly popular TV show that has "glory days" and lame later seasons.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Just to the left. While heavy themes abound, and characters are faced with constant ordeals, generally problems can be solved with effort and the side of good will come out on top.
  • Swiper, No Swiping!: Elaine Jr. seems vulnerable to this, having stopped in her tracks when verbally called out on her current scheme on two separate occasions. Notably, she's often seen strong-arming verbal assent out of others before taking action, so there might be some supernatural compulsion in play here.
  • Talking the Monster to Death: In "Eye for an Ida", when Joslyn and Emma fall into Beloveless's clutches, Joslyn launches into a monologue where she recognizes Beloved as Ida, and offers her understanding but not forgiveness, shaming her for what she's become. Beloved immediately annuls her fusion with the Curse Hand and releases them.
  • Time Skip: Season 7 takes place a decade after the events of the first six seasons. Season 8 jumps ahead even further.
  • Tonight, Someone Dies: In "Last Night a TV Saved My Life," a cutaway to TV presenter Final Bloodmaster Beta announces that one of either fan-favourite Doris or underdeveloped side character Coby will be killed, with the outcome being decided by a viewer poll. Coby gets the most votes, but ultimately her death at the hands of Lord Marrow is averted when Lisa Simpson busts through a monitor in his control room and eats him alive.
  • Tertiary Sexual Characteristics: Leans hard on the "Eyelashes = girl, no eyelashes = boy" type, with the sole exceptions being Ru'mel, (male, eyelashes,) and Bloodwolfe (female, no eyelashes.)
    • Notably, when Elaine Sr. kills Dustin and steals his body passersby are immediately able to parse her as a woman, despite the only cues besides the eyelashes being the suddenly shaggier hair.
    • Lampshaded in the pilot episode, in which a combination Mons strategy guide and furniture catalog features a pink table with legs shaped like a pearl necklace captioned "SHE IS ONLY FOR YOUR FUCKING"
  • Theme Naming: The three members of Three4One are named after flavors of ice cream.
    • Major upper members of the Crow are named after pieces of the anatomy
  • This Is Reality: Emma got hit with a lot of this in Season 1, sometimes gently, sometimes not so much.
  • Traumatic Superpower Awakening: Psychic powers are a more downplayed example, with Aria insisting that they come with a lot of pain and trauma. In Season 9 Emma seems to trigger hers specifically by thinking of the things she hates.
  • Vague Age: A mainstay trope of Cate's work. Lampshaded in "Happy Hall-ennui."
  • Villain Song: Fresh Fries sings a reworked version of "Open Up Your Eyes" from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic during a Parody Episode of the show.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: The A-Plot of The Past and the Plur-ious is dedicated to flashbacks showing Three4One's time with the Crow, notably revealing Mintchip as a trans woman.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: Seasons 3 and 4 are capped off with special episodes where Emma dreams she's in The Matrix and Scream, respectively. The former is largely an exploration of how the film relates to queer identity, coupled with Emma's reluctance to fight the Order, while the second one is more directly plot-relevant and shakes up the formula by having the other characters being just as aware of the situation as Emma.
  • World of Funny Animals: In keeping with Cate's other works, though as always, the dangers they face certainly aren't funny...