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Webcomic / Fans!

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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:

Supporting Characters:

  • 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.
  • Art Shift: The comic goes through several art styles, as some storylines are handled by various guest artists.
  • 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 .
  • Author Appeal: The comic's a giant love letter to fandom and fans of all kinds — but especially fandoms centering around science fiction and (to a lesser extent) fantasy.
  • Badass Normal: The main cast of characters (before they all got implanted superpowers). To start out, the only real muscle they had on their side was a quiet martial arts expert and a big bruiser. The leader was scrawny and two others had/have severe weight problems. Nevertheless, they hold their own against demigods, vampires, government agents, just plain stab-happy psychopaths, time-traveling warlords, frost giants, mental-brainwashing...the list just goes on. Granted, they did tend to grab their enemies weapons and unleash a wave of energy-blasts but that is just common sense.
    • And the returning threat against all this is a simple rapist/cult leader. Badass normal villain. The 'Faans' make gods run in fear but this creepy bastard has scored some nasty wins.
  • Bargain with Heaven: With his loved ones about to be tortured to death, Rikk sells his soul to what he believes to be the Devil in exchange for their protection. It's only after the deal is done that he realizes he was actually talking to God.
  • Betty and Veronica: Rumy (the shy, nerdy artist struggling to express herself) is the Betty, and Alisin (the wild, promiscuous Perky Goth with a dark path and huge anger issues) is the Veronica to Rikk's Archie. At the end of the webcomic's first run, the love triangle is solved by having them enter a threesome... though the revival does explore their relationship a little further and reveals that they all still had a number of issues to work out before the relationship was anywhere near stable.
  • 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 : Tim The Fanboy, who idolized the core cast until they kicked out Guth's cousin Stu for bullying.
  • Captain Ersatz: The comic is full of them, usually in minor or cameo roles or as Alternate Company Equivalents from "Superdude" to "Muffy the Vampire Killer." This is sort of dropped as the comic goes on, though; the last pre-revival storyline and pretty much the entire post-revival run tends to feature actual franchise characters in these cameo roles.
  • The Cameo: Two of the mock-up golem versions of the representations of America that attack Obama are Stephen Colbert and Bandit Keith.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: The comic starts out as pretty lighthearted, loving send-up of fans and fandom. It soon started taking up darker themes and heavier subjects, and while the comedy never completely went away, it got increasingly downplayed as the storylines got more serious and complex. Post-revival, the comic was even more serious and dramatic than before, with several characters and events returning and being played much more seriously than they had the first time around.
  • Chivalrous Pervert: Tim is eventually established as this. In the early parts of the comic he's a sexual harassment case waiting to happen, constantly making sleazy comments and inappropriately hitting on the women (and sometimes the men) around him, though it seems to be just as much about Trolling the people around him as anything else, and he never actually does anything. A bit or a horndog he may be, but if anyone, including the women he's been hitting on, are in genuine trouble, Tim will rush to help out and not even think of taking advantage of the situation.
  • 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.
  • Constrained Writing: The "Crossover" arc is structured so as to form a crossword puzzle at the end, with dialogue-free frames as black squares, and the first letter in each square with dialogue as part of the puzzle's solution.
  • Cosplay: As sci-fi and fantasy fans, the gang get into this on several occasions. The very first storyline. "The Fandom Menace," sees aspiring actor Will dress up as both Darh Vader and Wolverine.
  • Crossover: Fans! has crossed over with several other webcomics in its run, including twice with College Roomies from Hell!!!, which is presented as taking place in the same universe, and once with the Walkyverse, which takes place in a parallel universe. One storyline heavily involves Baughb from Elf Life, and two of the post-revival storylines hace the characters briefly come into contact with the cast of Penny and Aggie.
  • Cuckoo Nest: A storyline sees the F.I.B kidnap Shanna Cochran and - reasoning that, as the supposedly least imaginative and most 'mundane' member of the Science Fiction Club, her mind would crack under too much pressure - attempt to convince her that she is imprisoned in a mental hospital and merely hallucinating her admittedly far-fetched adventures in order to get her to turn on her friends, or at least reveal important information about them. Unfortunately for the F.I.B, however, this backfires quite spectacularly; convincing Shanna that she's crazy merely serves to break the self-imposed restraint on her imagination that she adopted after her own mother really went crazy, meaning that the now 'crazy', yet fiercely imaginative and inventive, Shanna finds it remarkably easy to outwit her captors, escape, and play a not-insignificant role in thwarting their latest plan.
    "The pain clears my head.. and reminds me of something I heard one time... It's impossible to get out of a straitjacket, because it uses the way your bones lock together. Of course, some people have escaped by dislocating their own shoulders... But to mutilate yourself, just to escape a straitjacket? While you're still in a locked cell in a holding facility? Why, to do THAT, you'd have to be...stark...raving..."
  • 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: 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.
  • 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.
  • Evil Plan: Which backfires on Feddyg. He captures Hilda and replaces her with a duplicate controlled by him, ultimately sending it to kill Rikk; Hilda, instead, causes it (apparently her) to shoot itself in front of him, who's already anxious about the new program. Might have thought that one out better.
    • Except driving Rikk mad with grief and confusion was Feddyg's plan from the start.
  • Experimented in College: Shanna mentions that she and Kathryn were Lesbians-Until-Graduation and were even a couple at one point. After having conflicting feelings at the sight of Kathryn with Will, Shanna wonders if she might still be attracted to her... until she realizes it's Will she's jealous over.
  • Fantastic Honorifics: "Sirrah", the honorific used to address General Maximillianna, is a real, if archaic, English honorific. You see it all the time in Shakespeare. However, the strip (or Maximilliana's culture/timline of origin) use it in the opposite way from its historical usage: "Sirrah" was not a "greater" form of "Sir", but a lesser one, used to address someone younger or of lower status than oneself.
  • Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse: No one except Ally has much sympathy for Keith Feddyg. What he suffered at Alisin's hands was awful, but almost none of his many, many victims had anything to do with it.
    • And of course, the Freudian Excuse offered by Robert Worthington, Alisin's uncle in the Order of the Dragon, is just absurd.
  • 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.
  • The Gadfly: Tim. He loves to rile people (particularly Will and Shanna) up with bad jokes and inappropriate remarks.
  • Geek: These guys and girls are the heroes, though later installments 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).
  • 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...
    Shanna: Shh!
  • 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 Son!: 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.
  • Hot Guy, Ugly Wife: Shanna is entirely aware of her stick-figure build, whereas Will is practically a body-builder. The relationship seems to have done wonders for Shanna's body-image issues.
  • 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.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: One of the symptoms of the "Jackalope" virus is "a feeling you're being watched from a distance of inches away."
  • 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.
  • My Nayme Is: Rikk (instead of Rick), Rumy (Rumi) and Alisin (Alison or Allison).
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted, as one of the new recruits to the science-fiction club is also named "Tim." One of the first things he says is that he has "no relation" to "the great Tim Mitts," which combined to his incessent hero-worship of the original member, earns him the nickname "Tim the Fanboy."
  • 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.
  • Pair the Spares: Toward the end of Book 5 (the strip's original Grand Finale, before it was revived), Tim ends up married to Julia. In a conversation between Guthrie and Meighan, it is more or less revealed that Meighan had hired Julia (an old friend of hers from college) for the express purpose of setting her up with Tim.
  • Panty Shot: Rumy's a frequent provider of these in the comic's early days, when she still wears a Japanese schoolgirl uniform and does a lot of jump-kicks and acrobatics in a fairly short skirt. Later on, she starts wearing pants, and the trope vanishes — though in a later storyline she discovers that she used to flash her underwear to everyone every time she got into a fight, and is mortified.
  • Parental Abandonment: When it is learned that Alisin has an unknown blood disease which appears to be slowly killing her, the Worthingtons decide to give her whatever she wished for, including, when she rebelled against their over-protection, her freedom. While it seems that they continued to give her any money she asked for and poured vast sums of money into finding a cure, they otherwise had no part in her life afterwards. This is entirely in Alisin's Back Story; the only appearance which Senator Worthington makes at the time of the main story is on television, and Mrs. Worthington is seen only in flashbacks.
  • Perky Goth: Subverted. Alisin is cheerful, fun-loving, and free-spirited, and it's only when you look closely that it's revealed that underneath the perky exterior she's neurotic, self-loathing and nihilistic mess.
  • Polyamory: Rikk, Alisin and Rumy become a triple.
  • Revival: Had two revivals. It began as an independently-published print comic book in 1999, only for the creators to cancel it within the year due to lackluster distribution and sales. They revived it eight months later as a webcomic, which ran untill 2005. In 2008, T Campbell planned to do an one-shot Sequel story as a donation drive incentive, but found he had so many ideas for new stories and characters that he and artist Jason Waltrip instead relaunched the webcomic entirely. It lasted until 2012, when Campbell once again felt the story had reached a suitable ending.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: In the ending of "Don't Know Him from Adam", Tim founds out that 1) this is not earth 2) he's a clone of the original Tim and 3) this was all the aliens' experiment to breed humans.
  • The Unmasqued World: One the first book, the Masquerade slowly starts to break, as the main cast goes from thought insane to folk heroes. Later books take place more-or-less entirely in The Unmasqued World, even though the FIB try so hard to hold on to at least some secrets for another four, until the heroes take them over, too.
  • Weaponized Teleportation: Done in the reverse of the usual way. They figured out where their enemy's ship was about to materialize, and dumped a bunch of garbage into that sector of space. The ship (and some of the crew) was severely damaged by TeleFragging into it.
  • Webcomic Time: The strip showed two years over a five-year period, resulting in several continuity errors.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Book five has Shanna writing a book of her experience during the God Machine incident as a framing narrative, closing with Shanna recounting the current activities of her old friends, notably Rikk and Ally inviting Rumy to join them as a polyamorous union. T. Campbell had planned on this being the final chapter, but a couple of years later he brought the comic back, set shortly after Shanna's book was published.
    • The final arc of the revival ends with a series of wordless single-panel pages showing the future of the strip's cast. Rumy resumes her art career, the Oberfs have their first child while also bonding with Soulson (Rumy's child with an alien from an early arc), Di hooks up with Dexter and Rico starts noticing Helga. The last strip shows the entire cast as crewmembers of an Enterprise Expy seeking new adventures.