Fans! is a webcomic written by T Campbell and drawn by numerous artists but primarily Jason Waltrip, about the members of a Science Fiction fanclub who battle various monsters, mad scientists, aliens, and time travellers. They were partially opposed by the Fantasmagoric Integration Board (F.I.B), a top secret group of Men in Black led by the charming but manipulative Desmond Jones, who policed the far-out and even fictional threats the club came up against. Ran from 2000 to 2005, and gently parodied the obsessions of genre fans whilst at the same time celebrating them. At its best, it was even epic.
In February 2008, Campbell and Waltrip revived Fans! The story picks up in January 2008, when half the original cast are working for the government, and recruit a new roster alongside to fight alongside them. In December 2011, Campbell announced that he'd be ending it again sometime in 2012, but unlike Penny and Aggie, keeping his options for a third run open.
As of July 30, 2012, Fans! has ended. The creative team ran Webmasters on the Fans site through the remainder of 2012.
The main characters were:
- Rikk - the idealistic and extraordinarily inspirational club president.
- Kathryn - Rikk's predecessor, who was neither as competent nor as benevolent a leader as Rikk, but who possessed a more pragmatic and realistic understanding of people that he often lacked.
- Will - Rikk's best friend, an aspiring actor and role-play gamer who lived in fear of becoming like his wife-murdering father, thus prompting his refusal to hit women, regardless of the circumstances. He angsted over attacking a mad general bent on world destruction, but didn't seem too worried about beating a man put into a female teammate's body into submission.
- Rumy - a quiet but deadly Japanese manga artist and martial artist, who was in love with Rikk but channeled her feelings into ensuring his happiness with Alisin. Later marries both of them.
- Alisin - Rikk's girlfriend / wife (and later Rumy's in parallel), a seemingly happy-go-lucky Perky Goth whose hedonistic badass nature masked a deep-seated self-loathing and a self-destructive, nihilistic nature due to her incurable, terminal, experimentally engineered disease that can only be spread by blood contact.
- Shanna - Initially something of an Agent Scully, Shanna was the self-proclaimed 'normal' of the group who lived in denial about her deeply-repressed imagination and the truth about her own fannish tendencies. Over the course of the strip, her Character Development led to her becoming a Defrosting Ice Queen in this regard.
- Tim - A goofy, annoying slob who was nevertheless an expert hacker and a genuinely compassionate person.
- Guth - Emotionally reserved math genius on the level of Einstein and Tim's best friend.
- Meighan - Lipstick Lesbian and level-headed but opportunistic businesswoman.
- "Union" Jackie - A fake Brit actress and unapologetic Attention Whore.
- Desmond Jones - the leader of the F.I.B, and a primary antagonist to the club for much of the strip's run; a ruthless and manipulative government agent who nevertheless nursed an intriguing amount of uncertainty about the necessity and methods of his job; enough to ensure that he never (seriously) abused his power.
The new characters introduced for the revival:
- Marc - An egotistical, thrill-seeking competitive FPS player whose skills translate into making him an expert marksman. Has an unrequited crush on Shanna and a few other secret sexual hang-ups.
- Baxter - A hardcore Libertarian and obsessed blogger with no social skills beyond Twitter.
- Hilda - A genius rationalist and devout Catholic with photographic memory. Suffering from PTSD after the events of "Magical Thinking."
- Laura - A sunny ball of optimistic love brought on the team to ease tension, ironically resented for her ridiculously happy personality. Fired from Aegis shortly after the conclusion of "Magical Thinking."
- Di - A martial artist and Blood Knight who is convinced she's the main character in a Hero's Journey and that Rumi is her Obi Wan. She is also VERY tall.
- Zaha - An engineer who was turned into a catgirl in a freak accident. Swapped into a rather less-cute human body because she hated her old one. This has consequently made her less interesting in-universe, which is what she wanted all along.
- Rico - A by-the-book soldier with an undying sense of loyalty and duty.
- Jesse - A master actor who can take on any personality or role 100% convincingly but suffers from the Peter Sellersian problem of possibly not having his own identity thanks to his ability to become the role.
Provides examples of:
- Adam and Eve Plot: One storyline involves Tim being preserved from an extinction of humanity, and aliens provide him with women designed from his memories to bring humanity back. Subverted, though, when this "Tim" finds out in his old age that he's a clone of the original Tim, and humanity continues as it had on Earth - the world he's in is effectively a zoo.
- Adult Fear:
- Rikk is consumed with keeping his friends and loved ones safe to the point of obsession. Whenever someone is killed or injured, he never hesitates to take the full blame, even if there was nothing he could have realistically done. This is shown as taking a rather serious toll on his mental state.
- Alysin's parents dealt with the helplessness of watching as their daughter suffered from a rare and deadly disease, to say nothing of the severe personality changes that resulted.
- Will's father murdered his mother, and Will lived in fear that he would turn out like his dad.
- Shanna reined in her imaginative impulses, fearing that she would end up like her insane mother.
- Tim and Julia get a rather nasty taste of this in 'Fade to Black'. Tim gets an innocent text from his wife, letting him know that an old school friend has stopped by the house to visit. However, Tim quickly realizes that it's actually Agent Sully, a vampire and an old enemy of the group from early in the comic. Tim races home, his mind full of thoughts of what could be happening to his family. Then when he bursts in, he and Julia are treated to the sight of Sully baring her fangs and making subtle threats as she holds their infant daughter in her arms.
- Art Shift
- Ascended Fanboy: pretty much the basis of the series, both played straight and subverted (literally) to Hell and back.
- Alternate Company Equivalent:
- Many of the shows and games the club members are fans of may seem oddly familiar to fans in our world: Doctor Why, The XYZ Files, and most notably, Startec. To add to the surreality, sometimes the shows were shown to be fictionalized accounts of true stories; that is, FIB Agent Miller and his partner Sully were the basis for The XYZ Files's "Miller" and "Sully," the Alternate Company Equivalents of Agent Mulder and Agent Scully.
- A few real-life celebrities got Alternate Company Equivalents, too, most notably Clara Strudenberry, based on Majel Barrett Roddenberry, and Arlen Staranka, based on Harlan Ellison®.
- Taking it one step further, Clara Strudenberry's character on Startec, "Dottie," was a mix between Star Trek's Nurse Chapel and Scotty. Three guesses who Majel played on Star Trek. (The Scotty elements were likely added because of James Doohan's peaceful, happy acceptance of his role as Scotty, and especially one story Doohan told about a fan. The original of that speech, which is virtually the same except for that it's Doohan talking and the names are appropriately different, is from the documentary Trekkies.)
- Rumy's sensei Kana is clearly the basis for their world's version of Ranma ½.
- Author Appeal: The author's admiration of fandom could, at times, verge a little too much on the unrealistic.
- Author Tract: Ho-boy. Where to start.
- Betty and Veronica: Rumy and Alisin respectively.
- Body Surf: Body-swapping technology has become a fact of the protagonist's lives as of the revival, and has been explored in several ways. They've used it to defeat an unstoppable dragon, and a couple of the guys have tried it out to see how it affects their dating potential. An alternate-future version of Guth has appeared wearing Di's body, apparently the only way to "survive" something that happened before.
- Broken Pedestal : Timm The Fanboy, who idolized the core cast until they kicked out Guth's cousin Stu for bullying.
- Captain Ersatz: A semi-stealth insert in the relaunch with Alan Moore as Feral.
- The Cameo: Two of the mock-up golem versions of the representations of America that attack Obama are Stephen Colbert and Bandit Keith.
- Chivalrous Pervert: Tim.
- Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends: ...which was eventually tied up at the end in a unique fashion: Rumy, Rikk and Alisin mutually agreed to enter into a three-way relationship.
- Closet Geek: Shanna spends much of the early part of the series denying her geek-ness.
- Justified; after seeing her mother crack up, Shanna became afraid that her fannish tendencies were a sign that she was becoming mentally unstable as well.
- Cos Play: Everybody to some degree. Especially Will.
- Dark Messiah: Feddyg; like Rikk, he is charismatic and alluring, creating quite the group around him during his first debut. Unlike Rikk, his views on life are wee bit Darwinist. And a little nihilistic.
- Defrosting Ice Queen: Shanna, whose gradual Character Development from a snide Agent Scully was one of the most interesting character arcs.
- Depraved Bisexual: Keith Feddyg. Alisin qualified once, as well. She was a rapist, after all.
- Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: As shown with Keith Feddyg, this is averted. Thanks to his encounter with "Alisin", he's become an oppressive, manipulative, all-American asshole who will more or less do whatever he wants to prove a point. Which includes burning one of Ally's Littlest Cancer Patients ALIVE. Still, although no one excuses what she's done completely, everyone who isn't Keith Feddyg is quick to forgive her.
- Dysfunction Junction: As the series begins, there's nobody who's not a mess in some way. Much Character Development ensues...most of it adding more issues than it resolved.
- Fiction as Cover-Up: Practically everything on TV serves this function. Even Sesame Street.
- Fun with Acronyms: F.I.B. plays on both the F.B.I and M.I.B. Not to mention, they tell a lot of lies.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Future Lingo seems to be fairly good at accomplishing this.
- Gondor Calls for Aid: Many one-off cast members and forgotten allies arrived before the final battle against the God Machine:Will: We have...volunteers.
Rikk: How many, Will? If it's two or three, send them home. I won't sacrifice...
Kath (looking at the huge crowd of volunteers): Richard? Liege and lord? Your army awaits.
Rikk: You came. Of course, you came, right when you were needed, of course. What is there to say, except..."I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me!"
Meighan: Oh my God...
- Good People Have Good Sex: Played with, at least with regards to the 'kinkiness = evil' aspect of the trope.
- Government Conspiracy: The F.I.B. However, the government conspiracy, although secretive and ruthless, was not malevolent in intent and motivated by similar ideals, if more pragmatic and darker methods, to the club. It thus went through a form of Conspiracy Redemption. It still possessed corrupt elements and spawned a couple of villains, however.
- Half-Human Hybrid: Rumy has a child with an alien at one point. The child later returns to warn her of Earth's impending doom, but otherwise spends more time with its "father", since Rumy is limited to Earth by her strange biological needs, like breathing.
- I Have No Sister: Rumy is eventually disowned by her sister. Having a child with an alien was the last straw.
- Oddly, in a later story, when Rumy visited the grave of her sensei Kana, she observed her sister tending Kana's grave, While she acknowleged this act as a sign that her sister still respected her, Rumy had realized that their relationship was too toxic for them to ever truly reconcile.
- Hidden Depths: To almost Brick Joke levels; in the original run, a beautiful girl who Rikk is too intimidated to talk to in an early strip turns up in one of the last strips ... and turns out to have a heavy lisp.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Rumy loves Rikk but supports his relationship with Alisin.
- Intercontinuity Cross Over: The characters are accidentally transported to the Walkyverse, among others.
- Invisible to Normals: Subverted - the government conspiracy works diligently to cover up supernatural events and erase eyewitness memories, but over the course of the strip, the entire world gradually picked up on what was going on, and their efforts to save the world saw the members of the fan club gradually become well-recognized.
- Just the First Citizen: General Maximillianna only likes to be addressed by her rank or the honorific associated with it ("Sirrah"). She has no interest in self-bestowed titles, taking satisfaction only in those she's earned or taken by conquest.
- Lovable Traitor: Desmond Jones.
- The Men in Black: In the old incarnation, the FIB, a shadowy Government Conspiracy. In the new incarnation, the heroes work for its replacement, AEGIS, a similar organization, but better-run, less spooky, and more effective.
- The Mole: Jesse
- Musical Episode: the "Makin' 'em Sing" arc.
- Outdated Outfit: Rumy's family is so old-fashioned that they may as well live in the 19th century. Her sister in particular could give Mr. Burns a run for his money as far as an inability to comprehend what people are into these days, and she's never seen out of a kimono.
- Pluto Is Expendable: Pluto's moon, actually. The world eaters eat it on their way to Earth.
- Nerds, Geeks: These guys and girls are the heroes. It depends on your classification who is which, but there are examples of both provided.
- The latest installment begins to deconstruct geekdom, presenting these guys as disgusting, smelly drooling and overweight little men. Will is visibly disturbed by the fact that he was supposed to be one of them.
- Another story, which serves as a sort-of crossover with Penny and Aggie, also acts as a deconstruction by making the point that if these groups were to somehow become the mainstream, rather than the alternative, then other groups would consequently be pushed into the alternative — with all the issues and disadvantages that this would result in, which would not magically disappear (geeks being just as capable as such things as bullying, social exclusion, etc as any other group).
- Redemption Equals Death: The fate of Stu.
- Senseless Sacrifice
- Serious Business: Science fiction and fantasy fiction are serious business. This starts off slightly noticeable but becomes incredibly apparent post-time skip as now all of the world's human culture revolves around science fiction and fantasy and anyone who doesn't enjoy them is ostracized from mainstream culture and treated as slightly mentally handicapped. This is presented mostly unironically and as an indisputable improvement, sadly.
- This is probably intended as a deliberate reversal from the mainstream status quo, in which science fiction and fantasy tend to be ghettoized into genres that tend to be looked down upon, with their fans usually judged (according to the worst stereotypes) as a bunch of weird obsessive freaks. But still.
- It's arguable if it's considered an improvement. The comic began to lean towards the weird obsessive freak depiction of fandom.
- Shout-Out: Too many to list.
- Soap Opera Disease: What Alisin suffered from, complete with Incurable Cough of Death.
- Suspiciously Specific Sermon: Rikk and his two wives come to church to discover their favorite pastor has been booted out while they were elsewhere; the new preacher's sermon is on the evils of bigamy and the trio realize their identities have been leaked.
- Webcomic Time: The strip showed two years over a five-year period, resulting in several continuity errors.
- Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Will is defined by this trope. It's justified by his backstory.