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Webcomic / Daily Grind

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"Anything you're looking for, we'll help you find it. Any problem taxing you, we'll help you solve. Any question haunting you, we'll help you answer."
— Howlett Creager

Daily Grind is a long-running, talking animal webcomic by Michael H. Payne that's not necessarily for children and follows the adventures of the employees of Daily Grind, a "general assistance service" that operates out of a former pawn shop downtown in the port city of Gadsden.


As an action/adventure series that's posted ten (10 panel Long) pages a week since the last day of February 2005, it's probably hit - or is going to eventually hit - all the Action/Adventure Tropes. The Main Characters are as follows:

  • The snake, Howlett Creager, is the founder of Daily Grind. As the leader of the group, he usually barks out strategies and orders once a chapter, with groundbreaking results. He's also a good negotiator, having studied multiple fields in sociology. He's also a Celibate Hero, not only because his love interest is a mammal and Howlett seems uncertain how that would work physically, but also because, even though he's only five years older than the aforementioned love interest, he was her legal guardian for the five years before she turned 18. So thinking about sex with her gives him a bit of the Squick. Of course, that doesn't stop him from replacing "pitching and catching" with "warm and snuggly bear hugs", which works just as fine. A variation on the theme: Howlett's love interest is The Big Guy - or Big Gal in this case - rather than The Chick.

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  • The rabbit is D.F. Tharka. He spent 111 years working for Satan, called Scratch and in a lot of ways the Big Bad of the series, did his Heel–Face Turn after his Love Redeems moment, and has since become Daily Grind's unofficial number two. He and Gana, the object of that Love Redeems moment, also work as private detectives and are something of a Battle Couple. Tharka is a battlemage who has been relearning his old skills ever since he got away from Scratch.

  • The cat is Dr. Everard Chalko. Technically an endocrinologist, he's become in practice a bit of an Omnidisciplinary Scientist, handling everything from general medicine to electronics. His love interest is newspaper reporter Alice Bryson, and since she's a canine, their relationship adds a touch of Fantastic Racism to all the Interspecies Romance going on. He is also The Speechless in the series because a gangster's bullet tore up his jaw and tongue, but he has a voice synthesizer that he types his lines into.

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  • The squirrel is Jolene. Short but stronger, faster, and more neurotic than all the other characters combined, she's an Action Girl and a not-that-cute Cute Bruiser who tries her hardest not to be a Broken Bird. She's madly in love with Howlett but is violently asexual, something Howlett is absolutely fine with. She needs to take Chalko's pills to suppress her neurosis on a regular double-daily basis, something she has trouble with. She also recently discovered on her 18th birthday that she's inherited a legacy as a Magical Girl, and she's dealing with that.

  • The moth is Constance Teasdale. She's a Lady of War and a Determined Widow, leaving the others and going off on her own like The Lancer if she thinks that's the best approach. She's almost literally a Black Widow, too, due to the unfortunate circumstances surrounding her husband's death, becoming an Ice Queen as a result — though she's begun defrosting lately due to the attentions of Alban Sathmont, a prince of the Fae who's been courting her.

Tropes include:

  • Anti-Magic: Constance is essentially immune to Fae magic, though not to mortal magic.
  • Asexuality: Jolene does not like the idea of sex since her father sexually abused her, though she still experiences urges. Tharka is literally asexual as a consequence of Scratch's influence.
  • The Atoner: Toch Kreelnyik, in Chapter 60: Waxing and Waning, named for the process of atoning for Fae. Though his apology tour concludes with the chapter, he continues to try to make amends for past schemes through his actions in subsequent stories.
  • Badass Normal: Lots of them, all over the place.
    • Howlett Creager for sure. The mastermind behind Daily Grind, fluent in many spheres of knowledge, able to verbally outmatch just about anyone up to and including the Devil Himself, and unmatched master of the Indy Ploy.
    • Doc Chalko also qualifies. He gets into just as much danger as the rest of them with fewer combat abilities to rely on, but manages to hold his own. He's also something of an Omnidisciplinary Scientist given that he's been able to make lots of modifications to his voice box and other devices. Empowered recently due to having the reforged Sarx bound to him, but he's still pretty close to normal even then.
    • Steven Aramis. Even though he's the holder of Sarx, it's clear that he's ridiculously skilled with a sword even before that time. And even with Sarx, there's not much indication that it enhances the user, so most of what he does with it seems entirely on his own skill.
    • Can't forget Jolene. Empowered though she is with her bactruma, even when she doesn't use it she's a force to be reckoned with. She can even dodge bullets!
  • Berserk Button: The devil loves being called a bastard, and even tolerates being called a cowardly wimp, but call him Zebulon...
    • Constance does not like being called an old lady. Note to gangsters: Do not insult a woman who has gravity-defying wings and a giant poisoned knife for a butt.
    • Portia flips out when asked a direct question during her first appearance, though in a later appearance she's gotten better at controlling herself.
  • Butterfly of Doom: Scratch does this on a regular basis, using chaotic events (he once caused a For Want of a Nail effect) and subtle half-truths (by barging into someone's conversation with magic and shouting a very stupid devil's deal while obscuring his true motives) to cause mayhem in the near future. He has tempered this art so that he can unleash a 'swarm of butterflies' effect by manipulating multiple events to get what he wants even faster. Luckily for the protagonists, this lack of a general plan means that he frequently ends up screwing himself over with his own domino effects. It's a butterfly motif, which makes sense for an insectoid.
  • Cool Sword: Sarx. One of few weapons that can harm non-mortal beings, and is thus strongly feared by them.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Each of the main characters has their own serious issues that could have led them down a path of violent, sociopathic mayhem (and in one case, could have continued said mayhem). Together though, They Fight Crime!, tame crime, organize charities and orphanages, solve cases, perform séances and exorcisms, make personal connections with high-royalty, rewrite the laws of magic and science, discover more interdimensional areas in half a year than most fairies do in a million years, and tell the local citizen where the nearest coffee shop is. No, they don't serve coffee.
    • Howlett is actually The Chosen One of his people. Unfortunately, the past four chosen ones led the Native-American themed snake tribe down a path of misery and poverty that resulted in the total prosperity of the nearby city at the expense of the tribe. This has led to an entire childhood of insults and back-talking, which resulted in Howlett getting exiled with the death of his mother, by his father no less. It left him with an obsession to be the best chosen one that he can be, rather than an evil-themed one. In a team, he does that REALLY well as the leader and commander.
    • Jolene is a tragic murderer. She literally has a brain problem that has left her pituitary gland huddled in a corner, crying. As a result, her brain always favors the lethal option when dealing with enemies. It doesn't help that her mother was a coward (and ironically a very strong shaman) and her father tried to rape her. She's shown some constraint with her murderous streak - she only killed five people before she was arrested, and the fifth guy was a DICK to the poor. Luckily, as the team's shock trooper/defender she gets the medical help she needs to stay calm instead of constantly murderous, and has a list of acceptable targets to assault and/or murder. Now if only she could remember to take her pills or fix her brain so that channeling the Psychopomp guardian doesn't rip it open...
    • Tharka is the big one. An otherwise classic innocent child turned bloodthirsty mercenary with the death of his mother, he actually earned the respect and admiration of the devil. No really. The devil actually believes that Tharka's qualities include focused determination, calculating ruthlessness, and a tasty mixture of light and dark humor, EVEN after quitting his job as a mass murderer. He actually loved the job, remembered every direct kill, and never regretted killing over a million people, but after about fifty years and World War II's equivalent, the job got boring and empty - like playing Hotline Miami two weeks in a row. Then one day on a job, a sassy, sexy P.I. fly (yep.) came knocking to stop his latest kidnapping/torture, and ended up being so much more. Tharka now considers Gana to be the one light in his life that distracted him from an ocean of Role-Playing-Game blood. They also make an amazing mage team, especially after grabbing two books that act like programming language translators, but for magic.
    • Chalko is the most normal of the lot. He had a great job as a high-ranking doctor. Then one day, he was shot by one of his patients, lost his voice from the three bullets in his head, and was fired by his colleagues for nonsensical reasons. Of course, now that he's a team medic, he actually likes the fact that half his tongue was shot off because it got him a challenging job with serious connections to supernatural cases, helped him crack down on his corrupt and psychotic boss, and a steady relationship/marriage with a cute reporter. But he doesn't like the 'permanently holding a weapon of mass destruction' thing.
    • Constance seems to be just another rich multibillionaire trying to assuage the guilt of inheriting from her overbearing and heavily connected parents by setting up orphanages... until it turns out that she got a very special 11th anniversary present from her parents - a pheromone bomb that forced her to RAPE AND EAT HER HUSBAND ALIVE. Her parents thought that she was the best of their children, so they wanted her to make grandkids. They got their wish in a horrifying way, but Constance constantly obsesses about whether or not her parents intentionally programmed the bomb to force her into murdering her husband (she has a pheromone version of autism, so regular pheromones don't work on her). She's now remarried to a fairy prince. Who happens to be a giant spider. In the team, she's the recon / batman-with-a-stun-knife unit.
  • Deadpan Snarker: About the only Daily Grinder that isn't one is Doc (usually). Howlett, Jolene, and Tharka all have more than their share of moments, but the snark queen is Constance.
  • Disability Superpower: Constance Teasdale has a condition called Extreme Pheromone Resistance, which makes her body unresponsive to most insectoid pheromone signals. However, she is able to sense them, which allows her to notice some particularly terrible ones without succumbing to their effects. She's also resistant to insectoid neurotoxins, and her condition might have something to do with her immunity to Fae magic.
  • Eye Scream: In Chapter 65, when Scratch is trying to do something untoward to Constance, she pulls down his hood and stabs her stinger into his eye. Even considering he deserved it, it's still cringe-worthy.
  • Fantastic Racism: There are hints that relations between the different families of animal people aren't as easygoing as they might appear. Overt racism is rare - the one chapter where the issues seems to arise, it ends up being a False Flag Operation - but there are hints of lingering tensions, including when a mouse cop and cat politician apparently kill each other (deliberately staged by the mob), and Alice mentions that mixed groups still get rejected from restaurants due to fears of conflict. Also "bug" used as a racial epithet for insectoids, and "spider" being similarly received by the Fae. On top of this, there's the implication that Gadsden is one of the better examples of harmony, which suggests that these issues might be even more serious in the rest of the world.
  • Foreshadowing: All over the place, but sometimes with a LOT of time in between. A good example: Chapter 1, The Crossing Guard, had Jolene referred to as a psychopomp, and you can see the bactruma in her hand in one scene. It's not until Chapter 24, A Long Long Trail A-Winding, two and a half years worth of comics later, that she officially receives the bactruma and the psychopomp status.
  • Godiva Fur: Jolene is a nudist, but her fur is so fluffy that there's little difference between a fur coat and fur period. Since this is a furry webcomic, laws against nudism are extremely relaxed for people who don't need clothes to follow societal laws; the justice department doesn't even blink an eye when she shows up to her pardon for second-degree murder completely naked.
    • As for the Fae, they consider their "cloak" (a matrix of Fae energy that surrounds and shields the user) their clothing.
    • Tharka also only wears a vest, though he doesn't have anything to hide anymore anyway...
  • Guile Hero: Howlett Creager and Constance Teasdale both. Both of them are extremely good at predicting people and playing them expertly to reach their own ends. Those allied with them know they're playing the game and are usually all too happy to play along, while those opposing them are lucky to get out unscathed.
  • Guns Are Worthless: Played with. There's a lot more dodging and deflection going on than really should be expected, and they don't seem to match up well with magic in most cases. However, there are still many examples of them being effective at injuring, maiming, and killing.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Loads of them.
    • Eduard Varese got power-drunk on a magical artifact, but once that was destroyed he becomes a frequent and valuable ally.
    • Dodger, once his bonds are severed, though he was more an unwilling tool than an adversary.
    • Norma Galverson and the entire Eyes of the World were the antagonists for all of Book VI, then valued allies since.
    • Juliette Peroshay...well, she put it best herself:
    Juliette: I tore myself to shreds and tried to destroy the universe, but I'm much better now.
    • Toch Kreelnyik was one of the most frequent antagonists throughout the first eight books, but has since reformed and become a frequent ally.
    • Lord Sowhen gets a lot nicer once Howlett's poked through his facade and the gang helps reverse the consequences of his actions.
  • The Illuminati: The Sons of the Black Swan was an organization created by Fremont Gadsen to protect and serve his city. It only existed for about two hundred years, but was jump-started by finding a pirate king's legacy and a VERY powerful immortal sponsor who wanted to escape his dysfunctional family. Most of Gadsen City's officials and megacorporation C.E.O.s joined up to protect and improve the city in exchange for an edge in politics. Unfortunately, by the time Howlett discovers the organization, it has rotted from the inside due to lowered hiring standards, and their leader wanted to pull off the biggest and most destructive heist in history. Howlett, the immortal sponsor, and the only violently loyal black swan Steven (see below) reform the organization after killing every member who screwed Gadsen over.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Alice Bryson, Doc's fiancee. Her going after stories is established as an early part of her character, making up parts of chapters 2 and 5, and she's occasionally been seen digging into stories throughout, either independently or intertwining with other Daily Grind activities.
  • Lawful Stupid: Steven Aramis was adopted as a child by the Sons of the Black Swan and has devoted his life to following their by-laws — even when it turned out that, to follow the by-laws, he had to kill all the other members of the group.... Later subverted the "stupid" part when he dropped the necessary hints to the group's new leader such that the by-laws would be changed before Steven got around to killing the members/ex-members who Steven felt were actually innocent of actual wrong-doing. He's actually quite sensible when it comes to stuff that has nothing to do with the Sons of the Black Swan, but becomes an instant Knight Templar with detailed references of the by-laws whenever someone dares to question said by-laws. Seeing as how the by-laws punish minor infractions with death, this happens more than it should.
  • Loan Shark: Scratch's Modus Operandi. Most of the magic he's obtained as THE Devil has come from power-hungry mages who never realized what it was they were giving up. One character lampshades this magic-as-commerce loan as stacking pennies: it takes careful consideration to prevent your magic from disintegrating, and even if you try really hard all you've got is worth less than two dollars.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: The cast has grown steadily since the beginning; though the core has always been the five of Daily Grind, the ancillary cast gets new additions in every book, and many of them become frequently recurring characters.
  • Magnificent Bastard: Howlett Creager, full stop, though he'll call it being a "crap artist." How much the magnificent part versus the bastard part is on display depends on the situation.
    Sowhen: You really are a bastard, Mr. Creager.
    Howlett: I take my lead from those around me, Lord Sowhen.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: The Bolithrans, and the Neo-Nazi equivalent in the Neo-Bolithrans. Winthrop Bolithro instigated a war between the insectoids and basically everyone else for the cause of insectoid supremacy, making him the closest thing the Daily Grind world has to an Adolf Hitler. The Daily Grind ends up mixed up in the schemes of Neo-Bolithrans a number of times, which results in most of the comic's Stuff Blowing Up moments.
  • Nerves of Steel: Most of the heroes have their moments, but A. Gana Belea is by far the most unshakable. Doesn't matter whether she's coming face-to-face with a servant of hell, knocked out and abducted by a child slaver with giant clippers, turning the entire concept of magic on its head, or being raged at by the Devil himself (not to mention said Devil probably hating her more than any other mortal in existence), she approaches it all with the same aplomb.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Howlett is usually the calm, collected pacifist... and then Toch tries to drive his girlfriend insane by making her kill her friends, and she ended up in a coma. Cue Roaring Rampage of Revenge. Lampshaded by almost everyone.
  • Our Fairies Are Different: Since all the characters are talking animals, the Fae are, of course, giant glowing spiders.
    • And the Shoemaker's Elves are centipedes!
    • And the Banshees are... something, something, pyramid heads?
      • Where do the Nematodes fit in?
  • Precision F-Strike: While "damn" and "hell" are thrown around fairly casually, anything more serious is extremely rare to see. When the Dust Bunny finally drops one in Chapter 66, the author comments from the previous page actually warn about it coming up.
  • Rage Against the Heavens: Juliette's motivation while she's broken.
    Juliette: I want to drag God out of Heaven, grab him by the lapels, and slap him around! I want to call him a jerkwad to his face, kick him in the 'nads, and throw him down ev'ry available staircase!
    • Bumble blames Cyrios for everything that's gone wrong for her and creates havoc to try to get to him, though other characters are all too quick to point out that it was her own choices that led to her fate.
    • Eulatti has his in a breakdown in Chapter 84 when he feels abandoned by Cyrios, unable to feel him the way other Fae do. Of all the examples, though, he's the one who gets closest to actually meeting with Cyrios (with the possibility that he did, though the speaker never let it be clear), and he comes to a peaceful resolution as a result.
  • Sherlock Scan: Howlett employs this every now and then. In Chapter 6, The Batrachonesian Amphora, he not only passes a test of his skills through his analysis of an artifact, but provides information about it that the tester wasn't even aware of.
  • Sliding Scale of Free Will vs. Fate: A major (perhaps THE major) running theme throughout the comic. Mortals are special because of their capacity for free will, while Fae and other supernatural beings are largely considered to be lacking free will, only responding to the will of Cyrios (who seems to mostly be an analogue for the monotheistic God/Yahweh/Allah). Just how true this lack of free will among the Fae is, though, is a subject of fairly frequent debate among the characters. Debates about who can exercise free will, and to what extent, show up in other capacities as well.
    • Dodger is a construct, and how much freedom he has even after being removed from Royo Awkwat's influence comes up a few times. He has declared himself unable to say certain things despite seeming to know that the information he has would be useful, and it seems that even outside of being controlled, he still has some programming that can be tripped (Chapter 79: Birthday Boy). It seems, though, that he can resist some of his programming to some degree.
    • Coil was a repository for Fae power, originally a tool without free will, but gained it after intervention by Doc and Eulatti. This doesn't appear to be limited to just him, as at least one other case of a repository becoming its own person has been displayed, suggesting that over time they can evolve into creatures with free will.
    • A big theme in Book XIII, when the gang turns a curse into a sapient magical being. It gains the capacity for free will to some degree, which runs into conflict with its nature as a curse, creating some inner turmoil until the climax sees it embrace the free will side of the debate.
    • This also drives the entire plot of Chapter 84, Chutes and Ladders, with Eulatti trying to abdicate because he cannot feel the will of Cyrios like other Fae, leading to renewed discussion of the nature of Fae will. The resolution of that conflict seemed to suggest that, while Fae don't have total free will like mortals do, they also aren't completely disallowed from making their own choices in most matters.
  • Sliding Scale of Visuals Versus Dialogue: About as far on the dialogue side as a webcomic can get. As it was inspired by 1930s/40s radio serials, this is quite deliberate.
  • Talking the Monster to Death: Howlett's preferred method of dealing with most situations - though in his case, it's seldom to death so much as to pacification. His ability to verbally outmaneuver his adversaries has rarely found its equal.
  • Webcomic Time: The first 4 pages of the comic were posted 28 Feb 2005, and that's the day in the comic as well. it has taken over nine years of real-time to get to the end of Christmas Eve, 2005.
    • And almost two more years of comics later, only 17 more days have passed.
  • Wham Line:
    Adriane: It's your voice, isn't it, Scratch?
    Scratch: I don't know what you mean.
    Adriane: When I hear the Sledge speaking, it's your voice.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Dr. Chalmers thinks he's the doomed hero of a Cosmic Horror Story. This is a Science Fantasy Noir-Lite, and he's a mass-murderer.