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Webcomic / Dear Children

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Three of our journalists (from left to right)— Chelle, Devin, and Cail — in their natural habitat.

Dear Children is a drama/mystery/horror/comedy Webcomic created by Mitchell Pepper and Kyle Holcomb.

Dear Children takes place in Hearthbrook, Massachusetts, a fictional coastal town, and follows Cailin Carver as a member of her high school's Journalism Club. Hearthbrook was once a tourism hotspot following a series of occult killings in the 50s. While this reputation has since faded over time, Cail and co. have decided to use the town's many urban legends as a way of promoting their club's failing newspaper.

However, things take a darker turn after the group investigates the bizarre suicide of a classmate that might ultimately reveal a very old, and very horrific, conspiracy rooted in their small town.

The comic updates (almost) every MWF, and is notable for (formerly) featuring music and even some voice acting (among other things) in its occasional flash animation pages.

An (slightly) alternate version of Dear Children may be found on Webtoons. This lacks the multimedia features, but in compensation has a little more text content. With Flash no longer being supported as of 2021, it is now the only practical way to get a grip on the storyline, as the most important parts of the original were always the interactive Flash segments, which now no longer work. Sadly, this version ends with Chapter 3 out of the 5 ultimately released for the original.

As of the year 2020, according to the author's own comments on the series' Facebook page, it's been put on indefinite hiatus due to low readership as the creators moved on to other projects.

This comic provides examples of the following tropes:

  • The '50s: When the Crooked Saint erupted onto the Hearthbrook scene — around 1955 or 1956, almost exactly sixty years before the webcomic's "present-day" of 2015. Hal Armstrong considers the decade nostalgically: he was born around 1967 by his own account, so this nostalgia would be a bit second-hand on his part.
  • The '60s: Even though the Crooked Saint had been quiet since the last decade, they still feared his return. Peggy McAries remembers being a child and her mother's warnings that if she stayed out too late the Crooked Saint would get her.
  • A Friend in Need: When Cail protects Chelle against the Wesley-thing, it utterly ends Chelle's resentment against Cail for her earlier faux pas.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Not certain yet, but it seems that Emma has a crush on Josh, who may have a crush on Chelle, Devin MAY have a crush on Josh; Cail may have a crush on Gabe, who definitely has a crush on Chelle. Would be perfectly unrequited, except that Chelle may like Josh back.
  • Alt Text: Many pages have them, and are almost always humorous.
  • Art Evolution: It's pretty easy to tell when the artist gets familiar with drawing a particular character.
  • Art Shift: The comic often indicates flashbacks or other data presentations in this manner:
    • Emma explains Hearthbrook High School's club and clique structure to Gabe. She does this by making a rapid pencil-sketch. This is in-Universe, as Gabe compliments her for her art skills, and the =Jo Jo Jo's= comment on the presentation.
    • In Chapter 3, Hal Taylor and Peggy McAries tell Gabe the tale of The Crooked Saint, which mostly took place in the 1950's and 1980's. This is done in a black-and-white Film Noir style, quite distinct from the webcomic's normally colorful style.
    • A little later in Chapter 3, Emma tells Gabe the story of how Devin and Aaron went from being best friends to outright enemies. This is rendered in the same pencil-sketches she used to explain the high school's cliques.
    • In Chapter 4, Taylor Armstrong relates something odd she saw in the night. The flashback looks like high-detail chalk art, compared to the more three-dimensional and full-color style normal to the comic. This is meant to convey Taylor's personality.
  • The Big Guy: Girl, to be precise. Cailin is the tallest member of the Journalism club.
    • Runner-up would be Josh, who is almost as tall as Cailin, and — as a farm boy — may be physically stronger.
      • Josh wins: a picture of him wearing something slightly more revealing than usual makes it plain that he is massively muscled, under all those clothes. Guess farm living really is healthy!
  • Birds of a Feather: In some cases there are obvious similarities between characters which make close friendship and even romance plausible.
    • Emma and Josh share a love of puns; Emma is more compulsive about it, but Josh clearly finds her puns funny and sometimes puns right back at her; Josh also gives his animals punny names. Emma and Josh are also both very fond of animals; Emma keeps multiple cats in her house, and other pets in her room; Josh makes pets out of many of his farm's livestock.
    • Chelle, Emma and Josh are highly-intelligent: Chelle excels at verbal/reading/writing skills; Emma at mathematical and probably spatial reasoning; Josh at social skills and animal handling.
    • Devin and Gabe are both natural detectives, possessing significant deductive and research skills.
    • Cailin and Gabe share a love of fantasy, which Cailin expresses as an obsession with ghosts and Gabe of anime/manga (they are both fans of Japanese series about the supernatural).
  • Bishie Sparkle: When Gabe first gets a good close-up look at Chelle, he sees this effect. Justified because Gabe is a big anime fan, who often sees real life as if it were anime or manga.
  • Black Cloak: The figures in the graveyard and in Cail's dream.
  • Blood-Stained Letter: The last page of Wesley's Dream Journal, presumably from the initial effects of his oncoming Monstrous Transformation.
  • Brown Note: Wesley's torture porn video files are this to 3 of the 4 teenagers who view them. Gabe looks as if he is close to losing his mind at the sight; Cail (though she insists that the truth must be confronted) is horrified; Whitney seems about to throw up (she's especially hard-hit because these files belonged to her beloved twin brother). Devin is the only one who views them unflinchingly, gaining a look of grim determination. Admittedly, all four of them are around 16-18 and hence a bit naïve (for instance, they don't realize that most videos of this sort are at least partly-faked). But still ...
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Cailin has trouble telling Gabe that she is a trans girl. Justified by her fear of rejection, a quite-likely outcome in that sort of situation. Gabe misses what she's trying to communicate.
  • Cast Full of Gay: At least three of the six main characters are some kind of LGBT.
    • Cailin is trans.
    • Devin is gay.
    • Emma is bisexual.
    • Also, given certain crushes and the fact that the members of the Journalism Club know each other well, with the exception of The New Guy Gabe, it is quite possible that Josh and Chelle are also gay or bi.
  • Cast Herd: Basically every character other than the main characters fall into some kind of clique.
  • Cast of Snowflakes: All of the main characters have subtle differences in their facial features that set them apart.
  • Casual Kink: It's odd that Devin keeps "accidentally" getting his dick stuck in inanimate objects.
  • Character Blog: Cail records a video diary.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: One clue that Wesley is going insane from the stress of his horrifying dreams and incipent Monstrous Transformation is that his Dream Journal starts to disintegrate into a babbling mess of profanity and insults, in stark contrast to his formerly rational writing style.
  • Color-Coded Characters: In Dear Children every main character that has been introduced so far seems to be associated with a color. This color helps indicate who is talking, as background characters tend to speak in a gray text boxes, whereas the main cast has a colored gradient in theirs. Each character's color can also be found somewhere on their wardrobe at all times.
    • Journalism club members: Cail is purple, Michelle is blue, Emma is orange, Devin is pink, Gabe is red, and Josh is green.
    • Other possible main characters: Isaac is lavender blue, Aaron is black, Whitney has been granted a shade of pink (by explicit agreement between Cail, Devin and Whitney).
  • Comically Missing the Point: After hearing that Sabrina is domineering, manipulative, and just leading Luke on to take advantage of him:
    Gabe: Soooooo she's single?
  • Company Town: The container shipping port is currently the main source of income for Hearthbrook.
  • Cringe Comedy: Most notably when Gabe hits on Chelle in a cellphone conversation. He is so incoherent that at first she has no idea what he's trying to say to her; when he tries to compliment her he winds up emphasizing her appearance rather than intellect (Chelle is actually proud of her intellect) and calling her bossy without even realizing what he's saying. He thinks things have gone well, but he actually annoys and embarrasses her to the point that she excludes him from a conference call.
  • Crush Blush: Quite often seen among members of the Journalism Club, which makes sense given that this is a manga-style comic about a bunch of hormone-addled and relatively-innocent teenagers.
  • Debut Queue: The first half of Chapter One introduces all five of the starting members of the Journalism Club (in order, Cailin, Devin, Emma, Chelle and Josh), before they begin the cemetery adventure. Chapter Two then introduces (and is largely from the POV of) Gabe Hernandez.
  • Destructive Romance: Between Domestic Abuser Eric Saddler and Gold Digger Vallory King. He is in it for sex and the opportunity to psychologically abuse her; she is in it for expensive gifts and a boost to her modeling career. They do not love each other; they don't seem to even like each other.
  • Disapproving Look: A common reaction from background characters to the members of the Journalism Club, most especially to Cailin.
  • Double Meaning: Emma's conversation with Devin about what happened to Devin and Josh at the port, while returning from that adventure. She starts off clearly worried about the fact that Josh got injured, but things she says later make it obvious that she's also thinking about Devin's crush on Josh.
  • Cthulhu Mythos: Aside from the general Cosmic Horror tone of the series, Miskatonic University may be real in this world, judging by Wesley's shirt.
    • This is later confirmed when Clara casually mentions that Wesley was trying to get into Ivy League colleges, and mentions "Miskatonic" as one of those on his list.
  • The Cutie: Something of a tie between Cail and Josh, in that
    • Cailin is rather childlike and innocent for her age; this is emphasized by her obsession with ghosts and her sunny and affectionate expressions and mannerisms.
    • Josh is a sweet farmboy who is naturally-chivalrous toward girls, loves animals and tries to avoid conflict.
  • Darker and Edgier: In-universe, the adventures of the Journalism Club start to darken as soon as they find the graveyard altar and continue as the apparent deaths and abductions begin. The protagonists very much notice this, and so far this has led to Josh quitting the team.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Devin, Emma, Chelle, even Gabe to some extent... the journalism club is chock full of snark.
  • Death Glare: The only appropriate reaction to Emma's better puns.
  • Death Is Cheap: What with her brother Wesley (apparently?) dying and then (maybe?) turning out to be Back from the Dead, Whitney's been missing rehearsals and may not be able to appear in The King in Yellow.
  • Disapproving Look: Chelle makes her disappointment in Emma's display of moral cowardice very obvious to Emma in pages 1639-1641, starting here. Here we see Emma's expression of deep shame in response.
  • Double Take: Chelle, in response to this revelation when riding in the van under discussion.
    Cailin: Y'know, you're taking this whole stolen van thing much better than I thought you would.
    Chelle: Yeah. (*beat*) Wait, what!?
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: When Josh displays a mixture of polite and sincere interest in the activities of the various school clubs whose members they interview, Chelle assumes that he is merely faking it to trick the interviewees. Josh isn't — he actually finds the other clubs interesting, and by the end of the day he quits the Journalism Club and joins one of them.
  • Dream Sequence: Fairly common, and there's probably a reason for them, though that reason has not yet been revealed.
    • Wesley has a series of nightmares, so frequent that he has been keeping a dream journal, before his apparent death and actual transformation into a monster.
    • Gabe dreams of an eerie landscape dominated by a lightning-blasted tower frozen in the moment of its collapse.
    • Cailin dreams of a shadowy cloaked humanoid figure menacing her in her bed.
    • Josh dreams of being chased by a dark Humanoid Abomination in what looks like a 17th-18th century farm; while dreaming he disappears from one location and reappears many yards away.
    • Devin dreams first of an early adventure with the Journalism Club, and then of trying to escape a crashed airplane while being pursued by a watery monster.
    • Emma dreams of being trapped in a hospital room by chains leading from her bed and agonizingly embedded in her leg.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: A number of secondary characters are first shown as apparently-unimportant background characters, often in crowd scenes, with or without speaking lines, sometimes chapters before they are introduced in more important capacities.
  • Electromagnetic Ghosts: Whatever is haunting Hearthbrook seems to interfere with cameras, and possibly other electrical devices. The effect has so far been noticed on cellphone and security cameras.
  • Eye Am Watching You: Done by at least two characters in the webcomic:
    • Eric, who has a tendency to make melodramatic threats, and
    • Mr. Gordon, which suggests that Eric copied this behavior from the gym coach.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Even though he was there for all the clues that Cailin is a trans girl, the rather naive Gabe seems to have missed their significance — including her hesitant attempt to tell him.
  • Family Portrait of Characterization: A technique frequently used by the creators to hint backstory.
  • Faux Death: Appears to be a standard stage of the monstrous transformation which victims of the Hearthbrook Curse undergo. It obviously includes some sort of metabolic suspension, during which further transformation occurs, before the victim rises again as a Humanoid Abomination.
  • Feud Episode: Happens when Cailin and Chelle quarrel over Cailin's insensitivity to Chelle's feelings over Chelle's Missing Mom. Results in them becoming even stronger Fire-Forged Friends due to tneir encounter with the Wesley-Thing under Port Langworthy.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Several examples:
    • Cailin and Chelle's encounter with the Wesley-Thing under Port Langworthy leads to them each helping to save the other from peril, mending their quarrel and becoming even closer friends.
    • Devin fights Aaron when he picks on Gabe; later Gabe returns the favor by picking a fight with Eric Saddler when he insults Devin and the Journalism Club behind their backs. In consequence, Devin and Gabe come to respect and like each other.
    • Seems to be happening between Cailin and Whitney in their shared quest to find out the fate of Whitney's brother Wesley.
  • First Day of School Episode: Chapter 2 introduces Gabe Hernandez and follows him through his first day of school, including his induction into the Journalism Club.
  • Foreshadowing
    • On his first day at school, Gabe thinks "There are a lot of cute girls at this school ..." He's looking right at Whitney and Sabrina, both of whom he will soon come to know better (and not through any romantic efforts of his own), when he says this.
  • Friendly Rivalry: Devin and Chelle fight often, but for the most part seem to still be close friends.
  • Funny Background Event: Quite frequent, whether it's Devin getting smacked or all the seniors developing devilish grins.
  • Gang of Bullies: The AV club essentially serves this role to the journalism club.
  • Giving Someone the Pointer Finger: Done specifically as a reference to JoJo's Bizarre Adventure.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: One reason why the horrifying dreams from which so many inhabitants of Hearthbrook are starting to suffer cause Sanity Slippage is that they slowly communicate some terrible truth to the dreamer, according to one victim's Apocalyptic Log.
    (Victim): It walked up and I looked into its eyes and I saw ... I don't even know what I saw. I saw everyone I knew in a gelatinous, writhing mass of bodies. It was the future. I knew that.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: In a cast full of potty mouths, Josh is a saint.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Jealousy frequently motivates characters to greater or lesser degrees — which is quite realistic for teenagers.
    • Aaron trips Gabe, causing Devin to punch him, because Aaron is jealous of Gabe's (merely apparent) romantic success with Chelle and Emma, coming as it does right after Candace has rejected his advances.
    • Devin and Emma both want Josh, and Emma's resentment regarding this leads to her refusal to help Chelle end the fight between Aaron and Devin.
    • Cail is dismayed when Gabe's reaction to learning that Sabrina isn't really attracted to Luke is to comment "Soooooo ... she's single?" Cail's expression makes it obvious that she's jealous about Gabe's apparent attraction to the girl.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • In-Universe, when Aaron refers to Devin's "dumbass sister," to Devin's face, one might first imagine that this is just Aaron's general hostility and rudeness toward the Journalism Club. As we later find out, Aaron used to be Devin's best friend, was always hanging around him, and hence probably knew Kaycee quite well.
    • Out of universe, the conflict between Cailin's desire to play sports on the girls' teams and the school's to keep her playing on boys' teams or not at all was mentioned in story before this exact issue became a real-life major point of contention between transgender activists and TERF's.
  • The Heart: Emma is the most traditionally-female member of the Journalism Club, and spends a lot of time and energy supporting them in ways both emotional and practical.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: A minor and subtle one, involving Josh's Ambiguously Evil mother. When introduced she kicks her front door open and leaps out, shotgun in hand, to deal with the trespassers on her farm. When she realizes it's just Josh sneaking out at night with the Journalism Club, her expression looks relieved — only for her heart to harden when Devin throws TP and flips her the bird. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.
  • Heroes With Bad Publicity: Most of the other students (and probably some of the teachers) at Hearthbrook High School think that the Journalism Club's nocturnal adventures are a cover for drinking, doing drugs, and maybe even worse activities. In truth, they're pretty good kids.
    • Most of the parents of the Journalism Club are either okay with or not too opposed to their kids' choice of friends. A big exception is Josh's mom, who basically thinks they're a bunch of perverts, corrupting and weakening her son. (She may suspect Devin's attraction to Josh).
  • Hope Spot: Two in rapid succession in Chapter 2.
    • Whitney Perkovitch cheers her suffering brother Wesley when he's starting to feel the pain of his incipient Monstrous Transformation. It looks like he's gonna be all right.
    • Gabe Hernandez is heartened by the friendliness of Ms. Cunningham and thinks things will be okay from now on at Hearthbrook High School ... just before he bumps into Eric Saddler the second time.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Wesley. When Cail and Chelle run into him in the cave underneath the pier, there is clearly something wrong with his face but it's hidden from view. And then he's able to hitch a ride on the bottom of the journalism club's van, and it's clear that there's something like fingers popping out of his cheek.
  • Hurricane of Puns: Emma wouldn't have it any other way.
  • If Only You Knew: Josh accidentally hits a major truth when he's hamming it up in front of Devin's camera in among the shipping containers: namely, that important things can be learned by studying the movement of crates. Given that Arthur Langworthy appears to be moving supplies and/or Creatures for the cult in shipping containers, this is quite relevant to the main story, though Josh doesn't know it.
  • Imaginary Love Triangle: Cail regarding herself, Gabe and Sabrina. Gabe probably doesn't like Cail that way, and Sabrina barely knows Gabe exists.
  • Intelligence Equals Isolation: How Chelle seems to perceive her social situation. She has her circle of friends, of course — the Journalism Club — but we see in early scenes that she considers herself (with some justification) to be smarter than all of them, and she's outright saddened by the fact that the un-intellectual Cailin doesn't get her high vocabulary level sarcasm.
  • Insufferable Genius: The flip side of Chelle's loneliness is that she is obnoxious about her superior intellect, and often tends to confuse reading, writing and verbal skills (at which she excels) for general intelligence.
  • Ivy League: In the story verse, this includes not only the eight real-world colleges, but also H. P. Lovecraft's Lovecraft Country fictional school, Miskatonic University. This is one of the biggest indications that the story takes place at least peripherally in the Cthulhu Mythos.
  • Jerkass: Aaron. Immediately after learning that Devin is gay and has feelings for him, he becomes rabidly homophobic, pushes him in the water and walks away when Devin panics after revealing he doesn't know how to swim. Then Aaron outs Devin to the entire school.
  • Kangaroo Court: Not only was Leroy Whittaker unable to afford a good defense attorney and assigned an inexperienced public defender, but the townsfolk well might have lynched him if he'd been acquitted or received any sentence other than death, according to Mr. Taylor and Mrs. McAries.
  • Lame Pun Reaction: It's only natural when being with Emma.
  • Large Ham: Mr. Gordon has this in spades. Also Devin to a lesser extent.
  • "Leave Your Quest" Test: When Josh realizes just how dark things are getting, and compares it to the relatively carefree lives of the people in the other clubs, he quits the JC and joins the football team.
  • Literal Metaphor: Josh tells Chelle that a "wild goose chase" isn't fun. Given his animal handling experience, he's probably had to chase wild geese for real at one time or another.
  • Lovable Jock: Two examples:
    • Leo is big, strong, ruggedly handsome — and super nice. It's no wonder that Paige is in love with him.
    • Cail herself was an aspiring athlete, limited primarily by her transgender status. She is also one of the nicest characters in the comic.
  • Lovecraft Country: Set in coastal Massachusetts, specifically Essex county as well.
  • Making a Spectacle of Yourself: Devin and Chelle certainly don't seem to have any problem screaming at each other in the middle of the cafeteria.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: The figures in the graveyard and in Cail's dream.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Not much is known about the skull found in the graveyard. There seems to be a disagreement on its legitimacy.
    • Ditto the skull found in the shipping container.
  • Meaningful Background Event: A technique often used in this comic.
    • Important, or later to be important, characters are often shown in the background of other characters for a while before they are brought on-stage. Wesley, Whitney and others are introduced this way, as are the members of the Journalism Club from Gabe's POV (well after the reader knows them fairly well).
    • Here Chelle is discussing Cailie's sightings of spectral figures on the road and in her dream last night; in the background, Luke and Sabrina (whom we haven't met yet save as background characters) are getting a shocking phone call — presumably from Whitney about Wesley's apparent death. Among other things, Sabrina's expression shows she was more emotionally-affected by it than she claimed later on when Chelle and Josh asked her about Wesley.
    • Emma is sitting in her room; in the background the Wesley-thing crawls up outside her second-story window to peer inside for one panel. She doesn't notice it, and there is no immediate followup. Later, we see terrifying claw-marks on the window-frame.
  • Medium Awareness: Devin and Cail dispute whether or not they should let Whitney use pink-bordered speech bubbles for their dialogue (Devin finding it too close to Cail's and his own respective colors, and Cail being more accepting). This is done for laughs: the characters can't really see their speech bubbles.
  • Missing Mom: Chelle states that her mother was "never in the picture".
  • Mission Briefing: Invoked by Josh in the graveyard, who slept through the one the journalism club had the day before. Naturally, Chelle is not amused.
  • Mood Whiplash: In chapter 1 there is a spooky graveyard scene immediately followed by a somewhat touching romantic moment between Emma and Josh (which then briefly goes back into scary territory).
    • Actually happens quite frequently in the early chapters, going from comedy to drama at the drop of a hat.
  • My Beloved Smother: Gabe's mother tries to constantly monitor what he does and has to be physically-forced out of his room. Gabe's father is quite aware that this is bad, and even opines that this behavior is why Gabe is obsessed with anime girls.
  • Mysterious Watchers: Several in-story, who may be related:
    • The hat-wearing man (?) who watches the AV van pulling into Chelle's front drive to pick her up. (This might be her father).
    • The person in black with long dark hair who is shown observing the AV Van pulling out of Chelle's neighborhood after picking her up.
    • The redheaded girl who reports on them by cellphone to another person from school.
    • And, of course, the black-robed cultists, seen mostly in dreams.
  • Nerd Glasses: Many characters in Dear Children wear glasses, Chelle probably has the most stereotypically nerdy glasses, being perfectly round and very Harry Potter-esque.
  • Nightmare Sequence: Gabe and Cail both have sinister dream sequences at the end of chapter 2.
  • Noodle Incident: The solution of the "The Legend of the Ever-Watching Doll Heads," an adventure told to Whitney by Cail, of which we hear only how someone (probably Josh) escaped at the end from an abandoned toy factory by jumping out of an upper window and landing on some cushioning plants.
  • No Social Skills: Gabe, immediately after a funny moment: “Do you... like anime?”
  • Not Blood Siblings: Devin and Emma, despite being very emotionally-close, are actually step siblings.
  • Occidental Otaku: Gabe. This affects him in several ways:
  • Official Couple: Leo Fitzgerald and Paige Langworthy are seriously dating, explicitly stated to be lovers, and very much in love with one another. What makes them even more exemplars of this trope is that almost the whole school loves them and want them to get married and have children!
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Devin's reaction to Aaron is definitely a break from his normal sarcastic self, and it's clear afterward how upset he was.
    • Cailin's angry "Fuck!" is quite unlike her normal cheerful manner. It shows just how badly the loss of her athletic dreams has scarred her.
  • Opaque Lenses: Gary, making him all the more intimidating.
  • Or Was It a Dream?: Josh physically disappears from atop a cargo container when he has his nightmare of being attacked by a monster on what looks like an 17th to 18th century woodlands farm; he then reappears in another location, complete with minor injuries. Dream, or did he fall through a Gate into another world?
  • Photo Montage: Frequently used in this comic to show the development of characters during their backstory.
    • In the first chapter we see three photographs illustrating how the Carver family has changed over time. It's not emphasized, but after you get to know Cail better it's obvious that she developed from an unhappy little boy to a much happier teenage girl. You can also clearly see that Cail's natural hair color is brown, like her mother's.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Aaron — mainly to [[Devin, but also to Cailin and Josh.
  • Pop-Up Texting: Variants of this are repeatedly done to depict cellphone conversations, whether in the form of whole panels or Flash animations.
  • Psychic Dreams for Everyone: Seems to be happening to the Journalism Club. Unless they're all psychic, which is distinctly possible.
    • According to Johannes Kepler, a lot of students want sedatives, because they are having trouble sleeping at night. According to Ms. Cunningham, a lot of students are reporting strange dream to her.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: Around the end of Chapter 4, Josh's granny is cleaning her shotgun at the dinner table, and the muzzle keeps straying toward Josh — who is visibly (and justifiably) alarmed at her behavior. One should never point a gun at someone one does not actually intend to shoot!
  • Repeating So the Audience Can Hear: Done frequently, presumably because of how much information is thrown at the reader in the early chapters.
  • Rewatch Bonus: Being a mystery comic, this is bound to happen.
    • One notable example is the name Cromwell, which has been dropped several times, first as being the name of the neighborhood Chelle lives in, second as being the name of Isaac's aunt, and finally as being the name of Hearthbrook's mayor.
    • Numerous secondary characters, some who prove to be of major importance later in the comic, are introduced or shown doing things in the background in earlier scenes.
  • Rich Bitch: Eric, and on occasion Chelle.
  • Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor: Eric Saddler is Paige Langworthy's (former) rich suitor; Leo Fitzgerald the (relative to both Eric and Paige) poor one. Sometime before the webcomic actually began, Paige decisively chose the (far nicer) Leo over Eric.
  • Salem Is Witch Country: The Journalism Club initially starts out investigating witchcraft rumors, and the tale takes place in coastal Massachusetts.
    • ... and Hearthbrook was settled in 1693, the year after the Salem Witch Trials, and the same year that numerous Cthulhu Mythos cultists fled Salem for other towns, according to H. P. Lovecraft and later writers.
  • Sanity Slippage: As befits a Cosmic Horror webcomic, happens to several characters.
    • To Wesley Perkovitch, as detailed in his Dream Journal.
    • To Cail, Gabe and Whitney, when they view Wesley's snuff porn. (Interestingly, Devin is less horrified by it, though it plainly disturbs him).
  • Say My Name: When Josh is scared and shoved down by a masked Aaron, Emma rushes to Josh's side, repeatedly crying his name, and utterly-ignoring the still-extant threat posed by the mysterious masked figure. Because she had no way of knowing that this would happen or planning for it, this very much demonstrates the sincerity of her love.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Josh and Devin.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Chelle, as shown in her texts to Cail and some of her later dialogue.
  • School Club Front: The journalism club mainly uses their club status so the teachers don't question them using equipment to investigate paranormal mysteries.
  • Serial Killer: Based on the graveyard conversation, The Crooked Saint seems to be a locally infamous serial killer. There are few details given about him, but it is implied that the bodies of his victims were heavily mutilated.
  • Ship Tease: Emma and Josh. Gabe and Chelle. Among a few others.
  • Shirtless Scene: Done more than once as PG-level {Fanservice}. Notably:
    • Josh strips to change after feeding the animals in the barn. Josh's naked upper half (and possibly lower half, the scene doesn't make it clear) is drawn lovingly. Also makes obvious that Josh is very muscular.
    • Repeated the next morning when Josh awakens and climbs out of bed.
    • The most openly-erotic scene in the comic so far features Leo and Paige in swimsuits making out in a hot tub. Leo is, of course, shirtless; Paige is wearing both halves of a normal bikini.
  • Shout-Out: There are plenty.
    • Devin's pose in chapter one is a clear reference to JoJo's Bizarre Adventure.
    • Gabe is decked out in many anime-related articles of clothing. Among them are references to Naruto and Mekakucity Actors.
    • During the AV room scene in chapter 2, Aaron drops a line from Heathers.
    • Interestingly, the science teacher Ms. Grant appears to be a direct copy of a charter with the same name in Life Is Strange.
    • 'Freeze your brain' slushies seem to be named after a song from Heathers: The Musical.
  • Sinister Shades: Mr. Gordon.
  • Sleepyhead: Josh often falls asleep at random. This may be a matter of him staying up late with his chores and pets and hobbies, or it may be true narcolepsy. It's predictable enough that Aaron exploits it to harass him by taping obscene messages to his back. On one terrifying occasion, he falls asleep on a mission and through some sort of portal into what may or may not have been a physically-real dreamworld, or the past.
  • Slut-Shaming: Domestic Abuser Eric Saddler essentially accuses his girlfriend Val of being slutty, simply for posting some rather tame cheesecake of herself in mildly-erotic clothing and poses on her website, and then flirting online with her fans.
    Val: T-that's just how people talk on there sometimes! And it's mostly from strangers! Everyone else is just having fun.
    Eric: Fun? There's some from people in our grade. Football players, even! They're not just messaging you for fun!
    Val: What's that supposed to mean?
    Eric: It means they want to fuck you. And you're leading them on by posting all these revealing pictures.
    Val: Leading them on? What!? Do you think I'm just going to go around and sleep with everyone who comments on my pictures?
  • Snuff Film: Wesley had one or possibly many of them on his secret computer, and may have been somehow involved in their production or distribution. In real life, of course, snuff films are generally fakes (for the obvious reasons), but there are various reasons in this setting why this might be the real thing.
  • Stealth Pun: Numerous ones, mostly background product names.
    • Here, Devin is eating cereal. The brand name? "Universal Serial Bus." The shape of the bus in the cover art is even a little reminiscent of a USB.
  • Stronger Than They Look: It's not surprising that Cail can easily carry short little Chelle in her athletic arms. But when Cail is temporarily incapacitated, we find out that Chelle can not only carry Cail in her arms, but can slog back with her a quarter-mile through ankle-deep water. Part of the way on unplaned rock, too. Chelle looks a bit pudgy, but most of that "pudge" must actually be muscle.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: When Devin lustfully eyes a lawn gnome, and Cailin calls him on it, Devin responds with this gem:
    Devin: Actin' like I'm some gnome fucker ...
(Cailin had said nothing about Devin being a "gnome fucker").
  • Team Mom: Emma seems to be in charge of keeping the others alive.
  • That Was the Last Entry: The last entry of Wesley's Dream Journal is terrifying in its utter serenity, which makes it horribly obvious that he is now under the control of the Shadow Under Hearthbrook. Plus, he apparently Couldn't Find a Pen, and the blood was immune to oxidization.
  • Toilet Paper Prank: Devin first appears in Chapter One with a big pack of toilet paper, which he proceeds to use to TP (or threaten to TP) the houses and foliage of all his friends. This spectacularly boomerangs when Josh's mother comes out to confront the Journalism Club with a SHOTGUN!!
  • Top-Heavy Guy: Again, Mr. Gordon.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: It certainly seems as if there is something strange going on in Hearthbrook.
  • Transformation Horror: We clearly see Wesley undergoing the early stages of a monstrous transformation. Made all the worse as he's previously been established as a sympathetic character, beloved by at least one other sympathetic character. Afterward, he is so badly mutated that he is mistaken for dead (though this may also be due to a death-like sleep as part of the transformation. Later, we see the partly transformed Wesley, who is recognizable mostly by his sweater to people already familiar with his human appearance. Still later, his actions demonstrate that he has truly become a monster.
  • Two-Person Pool Party: Leo and Paige enjoy this in the Langworthy hot tub. They definitely make out there (and probably more, see Visual Pun below).
  • Villainous Face Hold: Mary DeWitt does this to her son Josh from pages 1384-1390, with cruel emphasis, even though she's at most Ambiguously Evil (it both frightens and hurts Josh, even though he's a big strapping youth). This action is one of the things she implicitly aplogizes for in her later note.
  • Visual Pun: We cut away from Leo and Paige making out in the hot tub to Chelle watching one of her dad's action movies. The sound effect? "BANG!"
  • Was Once a Man: All of the dark shadowy humanoid creatures seen so far seem to have been. Especially horrible in the case of Wesley, because we get to know him as a character before his transformation.
  • Webcomic Time: The comic has been running for over a year and has only recently gotten through the first day in the comic.
  • Welcome Episode: Chapter 1 to the main cast, and Chapter 2 to the school environment.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: At least two.