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Webcomic / Darwin Carmichael Is Going to Hell

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Just an ordinary day in Brooklyn.

It's tough living in Brooklyn when you've got a crap job, you haven't been on a date in a long time, and you've got so much bad karma that nothing goes right for you. Your pet manticore is always annoying you, and those good-for-nothing angels on your couch do nothing but smoke pot all day. And, oh yeah, you're going to Hell.

Darwin Carmichael is Going to Hell is a webcomic by Sophie Goldstein and Jenn Jordan that ran from 2009 to 2012. Set in a version of Brooklyn where All Myths Are True, the comic chronicles the karmically-challenged Darwin Carmichael in his everyday life and his (generally futile) attempts to avoid damnation.

Darwin himself has to deal with a buildup of negative karma due to making the Dalai Lama "retarded", which is partially responsible for giving him a terrible life and will send him to Hell unless he does something about it. His friends include Ella, an almost-literal Karma Houdini, his landlord Patrick, a Minotaur, his pretentious artist roommate Matt, Matt's Muse girlfriend Melete, and his pet manticore Skittles, with a literal age of 2000 or so and a mental age of twelve. The series has a fairly detailed art style and combines comedy with serious explorations of the characters.

Darwin Carmichael is Going to Hell contains examples of the following:

  • Actual Pacifist: In the finale, Darwin refuses to attack anyone when forced into a fight to the death.
  • The Alcoholic: Pat. Generally played for laughs.
    Pat: You know, I was in AA for 13 years.
    Pat: *glug glug glug*
    Pat: ...or was that Prohibition?
  • All Myths Are True: Apparently, the Christian God sent down some angels to prevent Darwin from accidentally letting the Dalai Lama hurt himself as a baby. Most of the minor characters also seem to be from Greek mythology. Every cute girl also owns a unicorn.
  • All Up to You: Supporting characters Pat and Rhiva team up in the finale to rescue Darwin and Ella.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Rhiva. Darwin, Mina, and Joyce Fitzgerald may be this as well- Sophie Goldstein's art style makes everyone rather tan, and no one has a stated ethnicity.
  • Ambiguously Human: Matt. The character bio describes him as "possibly an alien". He has the prominent cheekbones and large eyes of The Grays, but otherwise looks and acts like a normal pretentious human.
  • Amicable Exes: Darwin and Ella dated in college. While there's still a little underlying tension between the two, they are overall very good friends.
  • Animorphism: One arc has Ella transformed into a cat by a cursed version of her signature hat.
  • Anti-Anti-Christ: Darwin, with the world's worst karma, is key to the initiation of the apocalypse. He refuses to go along, and ultimately sacrifices himself to stop it.
  • Apocalypse Maiden: In the final arc, it's revealed that Darwin and Ella are the Anointed Ones, and supposed to lead the parade into the end of times.
  • Art Shift: Skittles takes over drawing the comic on several occasions, with a noticeably simpler and crayon-ed style. Jenn Jordan draws these comics.
  • Artsy Beret:
    • Melete, who dreams of being a serious artist, wears a beret in a dream where she is a real artist painting.
    • In a comic drawn by Skittles recounting his time living with Dante Alighieri, Skittles is a Renaissance painter and wears a beret while painting a portrait of Dante.
  • Been There, Shaped History: Skittles had many famous owners, including St. Augustine, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Florence Nightingale. He claims that many of his witty quotes were misattributed to Oscar Wilde.
  • Black-and-White Morality: Deconstructed throughout the comic. Ostensibly this holds in-universe, where angels and demons exist and where people's alignment is clearly delineated by their karma. However, the morality/agreeability of people's actual behavior does not align with their karmic status. A lot of characterization in the comic serves to critique the universe's moral system.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Token black guy Wesley is the first person to die in the battle arena, and the first character to die (outside of flashbacks) in the comic.
  • Blatant Lies: Jesus and Horus are forbidden from preventing the Apocalypse, but there's no rule saying that if they were to "accidentally" drop a couple of magical weapons nearby, mortals would be forbidden from using them to do it by themselves.
  • Breast Expansion: The strange magic of the apocalypse has this effect on Ginny due to her half-succubus heritage, causing her breasts to balloon to enormous size.
  • Butt-Monkey: Darwin, as a result of his bad karma. His friends are always messing up his apartment, he gets arrested 17 times, hassled by Buddhist monks, and stabbed in the ass by a unicorn. And whenever he tries to do something good, it never works out for him. This page is a montage of such effects.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: The comic starts out with mostly short, comedic (though always somewhat dark and character-based) arcs, but gradually arcs become longer and more dramatic, revealing Hidden Depths within many characters. The final arc involves the Mayan Doomsday.
  • Cheerful Child: Skittles is innocent and always cheerful.
  • Childhood Brain Damage: Darwin's greatest mistake in life was allowing the infant Dalai Lama to fall out of his high chair, leading to serious brain damage that rendered him with the intelligence of a child.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Skittles
  • Country Matters: Referenced by Darwin here.
  • Crapsack World: Make one mistake as a teen and you can get saddled with negative karma for life, being harassed by karma police every time you pass a traffic camera and going to Hell once you die.. On the other hand you can inherit a boatload of karma from your parents and get away with murder.
  • Crossover Cosmology: Christian God, various pagan gods, and the reincarnation-based Dalai Lama all coexist, using a Indic karma system that appears to send people to Christian Hell and splitting jurisdiction throughout the world. At one point, the angels use their jurisdiction to rescue Darwin from the Dalai Lama's bodyguards.
  • The Dividual: The stoner angels Az, Rags, and G-man are pretty similar and are never seen apart.
  • Dramatic Shattering: Az drops and shatters his bong as soon as he sees Ginny walk in, setting the stage for the dramatic confrontation that ensues.
  • Drop-In Landlord: Pat, minotaur landlord to Darwin and his roommates. He frequently hangs out in Darwin's apartment with or without a landlordy excuse for it. While older (he's implied to be thousands of years old) than most characters, he's a crude booze-hound, but he still gives advice and a sympathetic ear to Darwin and friends.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: In the end, Darwin's karma finally makes it into the black, allowing him to go to Heaven. To accomplish this, he had to let himself die after his terrible karma led him to be chosen as a key figure in bringing forth the Apocalypse, therefore preventing the Apocalypse from taking place.
  • Easy Road to Hell: No matter how hard he tries to make up for his actions, Darwin Carmichael is going to Hell. Inverted with Ella, who has so much good karma that she can get away with almost anything. Implicitly averted for everyone else, thanks to services like Karmic Readings and the Karma Police letting people know if they are currently Hell-bound and giving them a chance to change their way, and all religions being true to some extent.
  • Emo Teen: In the final arc, Skittles undergoes Rapid Aging and becomes an angry and angsty teen. He gets a Scene haircut and spends his time moping and listening to Green Day.
  • Failure Montage: One strip is a montage of Darwin's various attempts to improve his karma via community service, but all his efforts to improve the world end in failure and are appreciated by no one.
  • Fantastic Racism: Ginny's family experienced a lot of discrimination growing up because her mother is a succubus.
  • Fearsome Critters of American Folklore: The Hodag makes an appearance as a conceptual artist from Wisconsin now living in Upstate New York.
  • Flat-Earth Atheist: A group of scientists - who are the in-universe equivalent of crazy doomsayers - were able to convince the pot-head angels that God doesn't exist.
  • Florence Nightingale Effect: Ginny and Darwin are drawn together after Darwin gets his ass gouged out by an over-eager unicorn horn.
  • Fluffy the Terrible: Subverted with Skittles. He's a manticore with a poison tail, portrayed in-universe as fearsome monsters. But Skittles is actually cute and childlike, in accord with his name.
  • Food Chains: The transformed theater troupe's food is enchanted to allow them to talk, but also brainwashes them into loving theater.
  • Forced Transformation: One arc involves a street vendor who sells clothes that turn people into animals against their will.
  • Foreshadowing: Ella's karmic inheritance is "enough to cover several murders."
  • From Zero to Hero: For much of the story, Darwin Carmichael is a Loser Protagonist who's stuck in a dead-end job in New York City, constantly being tormented by his wacky friends. At the end of the comic, he ends up stopping the apocalypse and saving the world through a Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: In the final arc, a group of juvenile delinquent magical animals and minions of the evil gods trying to cause the apocalypse all hang around smoking cigarettes. This is lampshaded by the Alt Text, which notes that you can tell they're evil because they smoke.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Ginny, whose mother was a succubus and whose father was a human.
  • Heaven Seeker: The comic's whole premise. As the title says, Darwin Carmichael is going to Hell, and most of the comic revolves around his attempts to change this.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Darwin allows himself to be killed to save everyone from the apocalypse. It sends his karma into the black.
  • Hidden Depths: Despite his cheerfulness and immaturity, Skittles harbors fear and sadness about all his past owners who have died.
  • Hipster: Flavors of this are abundant throughout most of the cast, both parodied and played straight (if such a thing is possible with this trope). The characters are young, artistic people living in a trendy part of Brooklyn. Many minor or background characters, as well as Darwin and Ella to a lesser extent, embody the epitome of hipster aesthetics (check out the Ganesh-expy in the page image). Some specific examples:
    • Darwin usually wears a shirt that says "BAND NAME," echoing the hipsters who wear obscure band t-shirts. Whether ironic statement is being made by Darwin or by the authors at his expense, this marks him as a hipster.
    • Special prize goes to Matt, who has huge amounts of pretentiousness to accompany his hip appearance and lifestyle. One arc parodies this by having him rescued by the Leprechaun of Gentrification after he is unable to survive outside of his trendy neighborhood.
  • Interspecies Romance: Unsurprisingly pretty common in this universe.
  • Jerkass with a Heart of Gold: Ella. She's irresponsible and inconsiderate (for example, at the end of the animal transformation arc, she fails to consider whether the transformed animals are happy that way, leaving them homeless when she turns them back), and often ignores Darwin's feelings (with Mina, or less extremely during the Upstate vacation arc). But at the same time, she genuinely cares about Darwin and wants to save his soul.
  • The Joy of X: One comic has Ella and Rhiva consult from The Joy of Witchery.
  • Karma Houdini: Ella's parents (who seem to be expies of John Lennon and, um, someone else) were able to acquire so much positive karma that she is unable to do anything wrong. On the other hand, Darwin's negative karma resulting from accidentally allowing the infant Dalai Lama to fall and damage his brain has screwed Darwin over so badly he's having trouble getting back to zero karma again. Observe.
  • Karma Meter: Everybody has one that can be sensed by supernatural beings. If it's in the negative when you die, you go to Hell, otherwise you go to Heaven. Making the Dalai Lama retarded is worth enough negative karma that no amount of repenting (not even being implicitly forgiven by the Dalai Lama himself) could possibly save Darwin's soul unless he sacrifices his life to prevent the Apocalypse. Karma can also be transferred from one person to another through inheritance - Ella's parents were such good people that she is allowed to commit several illegal acts with no consequences.
  • Kent Brockman News: In the last arc, two humanoid reporters add some inappropriately chipper commentary to the main events of the comic.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Pat and Rhiva take up the holy weapons to stop the apocalypse.
    Rhiva: What's the plan?
    Pat: Fuck. Shit. Up.
  • Look Behind You: In the final arc, Ginny distracts the angels by saying "Oh look, it's Snoop Dogg and then running away.
  • Loser Protagonist: Darwin hates his job, can't seem to get laid, has a generally crappy apartment full of mooching angels, and is doomed to hell for all eternity. He gets better.
  • Magical Girlfriend: Melete to Matt. She's hundreds of years old and magically inspires him, and her interest in him is sort of inexplicable. Of course, Matt isn't exactly normal either.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Ella, a quirky, lighthearted girl who's always trying to cheer up and literally redeem (by saving his soul) the cynical and gloomy Darwin. Played with in that Darwin and Ella's romance already failed in the comic's backstory, and over the course of the comic Darwin increasingly resents what he sees as her irresponsibility and judginess.
  • Mermaid Problem: Patrick sees a hot mermaid at a party, but accidentally sleeps with her sister, a reverse-mermaid with a fish's upper body.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Darwin assumes Ginny is a lesbian because she is roommates with Rhiva and because of a comment about "what she does" not counting. Turns out she has only dated (male) angels.
  • Monster Roommate: Darwin Carmichael is a normal (if karmically-challenged) human who lives with his pet manticore, a pretentious, ambiguously human artist and his thousand-year-old girlfriend, and a trio of pot-smoking angels. Skittles the Manticore has lived with Darwin since Darwin's teen years.
  • Mundane Wish: Skittles uses his birthday wish on cake.
  • The Muse: Melete's profession or race is literally a muse, and she has spent her entire (implied to be centuries-long) life inspiring artists. Later deconstructed when we learn she dreams of being her own artist, but can't create anything unique due to her role as a muse.
  • Must Make Amends: What motivates Darwin, who needs to improve his karma after "making the Dalai Lama retarded." Stands in contrast to Mina, although there are some hints that she may feel some remorse as well. In particular, the plot of an arc which has him visiting the Dalai Lama.
  • My Instincts Are Showing: Pat sometimes feels compelled to watch Labyrinth on loop.
  • Our Demons Are Different: Ginny's mother was a succubus, and the angels' dealer is a demon. Named Greg.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: Possibly Matt. One panel shows him blushing while dreaming about rampaging Dune-style sandworms.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: In exchange for positive karma, Darwin is sent by the stoner angels to collect the soul of a guy barely clinging to life by willpower alone. Darwin gets the guy medical attention and saves his life. He is then refused the promised karma because saving the guy's life defied the will of God.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: Everyone, from the police to Darwin's friends, won't stop giving Darwin a hard time about how he accidentally "made the Dalai Lama retarded". Much of the plot involves him trying to find redemption and earn karma to make up for his youthful mistake.
  • Our Minotaurs Are Different: Pat, Darwin's Minotaur landlord, who seems to have been the original Minotaur. Unlike many portrayals, he's a friendly and genial if sometimes crude guy.
  • Pals with Jesus: Skittles was once the pet/companion of Jesus H. Christ himself.
  • Physical God: Jesus, Horus, Kali, and Coyote and other all make an appearance. The Dalai Lama may also count.
  • Priceless Ming Vase: The stoner angel treat their bong as incredibly wondrous and precious, and it is constantly threatened with destruction, which comes to pass repeatedly.
  • Progressive Era Montage: The angels visited Darwin a few decades too early, showing up in the 1950's instead of the 2000s. One strip has a different decade in each panel, as they become hippies, go to Woodstock, do lots of coke in the 80's, etc.
  • Rapid Aging: Skittles in the finale becomes a teen and then an adult in a matter of days after having been a child mentally for millennia.
  • Really 700 Years Old: A number of characters who date back to Classical Mythology appear to be normal-aged:
    • Skittles has lived since Classical Antiquity, but still has the interests and personality of a 12-year-old.
    • Pat the Minotaur appears to be the actual Minotaur from the myth of Theseus, implying that he's been alive for several thousand years. He acts like a middle-aged bachelor.
    • Melete is part of the race of Muses from Greek mythology. She's lived for thousands of years, and inspired countless artists dating back at least to Renaissance times.
  • Redemption Quest: The overall arc is Darwin's ongoing struggles to improve his lousy karma, although the comic has a lot of Slice of Life content.
  • Roommate Com: The premise is about the antics of a bunch of young(ish) people living together in New York City. Except that all the roommates are magical creatures, except for Darwin, who's doomed to Hell.
  • Running Gag: The angels' bong being threatened or broken, and G-man's overreactions and despair about it. Lampshaded in the Alt Text here.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: "No, my visage!"
  • Shapeshifting Excludes Clothing: When Ella restores some formerly human animals to their original state, they're all naked.
  • Shoot the Dog: In the last arc, Ella kills Wesley and Mina to save herself and Darwin.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sleeping Dummy: When Darwin goes to pick up a departed soul, there's a bit of Dramatic Irony when the dead soul turns around to "put the sheets over his dead body". He actually hides pillows in his bed to make it look like the body is still there, concealing from Darwin that he's actually still alive with his body and soul united.
  • Soul-Crushing Desk Job: It's not given a lot of focus, but one of the many factors contributing to Darwin's despair is his job at a university financial aid office, which mostly involves crushing students' dreams and giving them debt. The character bio describes him as an office drone.
  • The Stoner: A group of three angels, oddly enough. Whose dealer is a demon.
  • Suicide by Pills: One arc has Darwin take over the angels' job as a psychopomp as a favor, and he's tasked with carrying a departed soul to the next life. The soul in question took a lethal dose of pills over his lost love, but after meeting Darwin he has second thoughts and tries to return to his body, eventually persuading Darwin to take him to the hospital where he ultimately recovers. In typical No Good Deed Goes Unpunished fashion, Darwin then gets chewed out for "going against God's will" by not letting the guy die.
  • Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth: Matt's dreams are too weird for the nightmare-inducing rock god.
  • True Art Is Incomprehensible: The gang meet a bizarre conceptual artist Upstate who does mixed media installations involving walking through a tunnel of banana flavored condoms and stills from Fox News. He claims it means whatever you want it to, causing everyone else to facepalm.
  • Unicorns Prefer Virgins: Unicorns love virgins, though they have a rather crude attitude about it. They seem to operate on Technical Virgin rules, however, as they like Darwin, who's just been having a long dry spell, and Ginny, who does things that "don't count".
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: All the characters who wear clothes wear a different outfit in every strip that takes place on a different day, or when they go outside. The stoner angels often wear the same shirt, but this reflects their laziness rather than being a stylistic choice.
  • Winged Humanoid: The angels look like regular stoner guys with feathery wings.