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Webcomic / Darwin Carmichael Is Going to Hell

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Just an ordinary day in Brooklyn.
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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 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.

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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.
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  • Ambiguously Human: Matt, who may or may not be an alien.
  • Animorphism: One arc has Ella transformed into a cat by a cursed version of her signature hat.
  • Anti-Antichrist: 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 an Imagine Spot where she is a real artist painting.
    • In a comic drawn by Skittles recounting his time living with Dante Aligheri, 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.
  • Bi the Way: Ella is suddenly revealed halfway through the story to have a girlfriend, Rhiva, after a lot of backstory about her relationships with men.
  • 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 (see No Good Deed Goes Unpunished). A lot of characterization in the comic serves to critique the universe's moral system.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Tolken 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.
  • Breast Expansion: The strange magic of the apocalypse has this effect on Ginny, 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. Taken Up to Eleven in the final arc, which involves the Mayan Doomsday.
  • Cheerful Tween: 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.
  • Dark-Skinned Blond: The Angels, until their demotion.
  • The Dividual: The stoner angels Az, Rags, and G-man are pretty similar and are never seen apart.
  • 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.
  • Emo Teen: In the final arc, Skittles undergoes Rapid Aging and becomes an angry and angsty teen.
  • 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.
  • Foreshadowing: Ella's karmic inheritance is "enough to cover several murders."
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Ginny, whose mother was a succubus and whose father was a human.
  • 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).
    • 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.
  • Involuntary Transformation: One arc involves a street vendor who sells clothes that turn people into animals against their will.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • A Load of Bull: 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Nice Hat: Ella
  • 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.
  • Pals with Jesus: Skittles was once the pet/companion of Jesus H. Christ himself.
  • Panty Shot: Tends to happen with Ella. The fan service is toned down by the use of Unmoving Plaid.
  • 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.
  • Rapid Aging: Skittles in the finale becomes a teen and then an adult in a matter of days.
  • 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.
  • 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:
  • The Joy of X: One comic has Ella and Rhiva consult from The Joy of Witchery.
  • The Stoner: A group of three angels, oddly enough. Whose dealer is a demon.
  • Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth: Matt's dreams are too weird for the nightmare-inducing rock god.
  • True Art Is Incomprehensible: In-Universe example. Matt's work, such as "Untitled Series #12" a.k.a. "I Stuck My Head Up My Ass and This Is What I Found".
    • After Ella and Skittles go on a raid randomly stealing street musicians' instruments, Matt decides to "take credit" for the jumbled mess they leave.
  • Unicorns Are Sacred: Subverted. Unicorns still love virgins, but they can be fairly lewd and seem to enjoy alcohol.
  • Virgin Power: Not quite, but unicorns really love virgins, much to Darwin's chagrin.
    Unicorn: *nuzzle*
    Darwin:"Hey, it's just been a while!"
    • Also, they apparently follow the rule of the Technical Virgin, as cute, redheaded Ginny is much desired by the unicorns because, in her words, "What I do doesn't count".
  • Winged Humanoid: The angels, who look like regular stoner guys with feathery wings.


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