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Webcomic / Nebula

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No one cares, Earth.
"Space is bad, to be honest with you."
Intro to Nebula Ultra

Nebula is a 2013-2017 Sci-fi/slice of life webcomic about the solar system, a very dysfunctional Cast of Personifications.

Basically, it's a drama comic (with no few moments of humor) about The Solar System/space objects in general, which are all sentient and humanoid (apart from the fact that they have representations of what they actually are for heads). It takes various characteristics of various celestial bodies and turns them into character traits and social situations —Earth is seen by her neighbors as overly interested in what everyone else is doing, Pluto is something of an outcast, Jupiter keeping a comet in orbit around him is regarded about the way as trying to keep a wild animal you found on the street would be, etc.

It has a rotating focus per comic, with pretty much all of the characters getting the limelight at some point— especially now that there's an on-going Story Arc about a mysterious being who has contacted Earth and Pluto, and who has plans of her own for the dwarf planets.

You can find Nebula Ultra, which contains comics 1-15 and the short story "Nix") for sale (pay what you want) at Gumroad here. Nebula Spectra, which contains comics 16 and 17 as well as the short story "Proco", can be found here.

Otherwise, the Ghostfruits tumblr has nearly all the comics and short stories online here.

Compare Milky Way and the Galaxy Girls, My Moon, Stellarscape, and Planetary Moe.

Tropes found in Nebula include:

  • Achilles in His Tent: Sun, who's been growing steadily more irritated with the planets, walks off and leaves them to deal with their problems on their own after Earth says that she can hear Black Hole's voice inside her.
    "... That's it. I'm not entertaining this any longer."
    • Of course, he still steps in when things get desperate and the planets really need his help.
  • After-Action Patch-Up: How #16 starts, with Earth bandaging Mars' wounds after the traumatic attack by Ceres in #14/15.
  • All Animals Are Dogs: Even comets!
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Poor Pluto... and Earth. Both are outcasts from the rest of the solar system and are implied to be lowly-regarded by most.
  • All There in the Manual: Details about the larger relations between and characteristics of stars, planets, and dwarf planets are on the official Tumblr, but haven't come up in the actual comics yet. (Beware of spoilers- it's unwise to start looking through those answers before being caught up, since some directly relate to large plot twists.)
  • All There in the Script:
    • Ceres' name is revealed in The Rant for #14 and #15, not in the comics themselves.
    • Black Hole's name is mentioned by Pluto in "Nix", a canonical short story.
  • Arc Words: "Something bigger than us."
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Delivered from Uranus to Saturn when they try argue that Uranus doesn't have the right to take Saturn's moons. Saturn doesn't have a reply.
"What if I just reached right out and *took* a bunch of your stupid moons. Would you even do anything?"
  • Art Shift:
    • In #16, the shot of Sun as Mars talks about him is the only thing in the comic that has shading.
    • In #17, when Pluto first reaches Black Hole the art changes to something much flatter and more geometrical to give it a more distorted, confusing look.
  • Asskicking Leads to Leadership: How the social structures in space tend to end up — the biggest and strongest ones there, the stars, control the smaller and weaker planets on the grounds that they're... bigger and stronger and they can burn people to death if they want to. How good of a job they do of it depends on the star, though most do seem to feel a genuine urge to protect their planets.
  • Bait the Dog: Despite the fear the planets have towards her, Black Hole spends most of her time at first befriending Pluto and telling him to stop pretending that the planets care about him. Hard as she is on them, it's hard to argue with the fact that she's right— the planets don't see Pluto as a friend, and he isn't one of them. The reader can start to feel that she might be a case of Dark Is Not Evil— harsh, strange, and creepy, but maybe not evil. And then she lies to Pluto, sends Ceres to their death, and nearly kills the planets.
  • Balloon Belly: After Jupiter's attempt to invoke Large and in Charge by eating enormous amounts and growing larger fails to work, he's left with a comically inflated stomach.
    Sun: ...OK, because it doesn't... so much as look like you ate all that. As much as it looks like you're just kind of holding it inside your body.
  • Bastardly Speech: Black Hole's speech to Pluto condemning the rest of the solar system in the wake of Ceres' death as violent killers instead of victims of Cold-Blooded Torture, and using that to argue that Pluto should desert them and join her. He swallows it hook, line, and sinker.
  • Being Watched: The sense that there's something out in the dark watching them helps make an already tense situation (Sun's recent Hair-Trigger Temper and Thousand-Yard Stare, Jupiter's increasing lack of subtlety in his plans to take over the solar system, Earth Hearing Voices that no one else does) worse. The fact that something is watching them doesn't make it any better.
  • The Blank: All of the characters have no facial features, combined with Non-Human Head. Though weirdly enough, the cast (kinda) gain expressions when we see Jupiter daydreaming.
  • Body Motifs: Panels focused on one of a character's hands (often clenched into a fist) reoccur, and indicate either that an important decision has been made or realization has been had.
  • Bookends:
    • The first comic both begins and ends with Earth saying "huh" thoughtfully while looking at a rock.
    • #13 begins and ends with Jupiter glaring at Sun's back and saying he hates him, humorously showing that he learned absolutely nothing from his misadventures during the comic.
  • The Bus Came Back: The comet that Jupiter met early on in the comic unexpectedly returns to befriend Earth in a short story set after the events with Ceres, much later on.
  • Cast of Personifications: All characters in the comic are the mostly-humanoid personifications of celestial bodies, with the solar system being the main characters. They act out various space phenomena in a human manner: Earth gets into other planets' personal space and asks them intrusive questions, Sun is in charge because everyone is intimidated by him, etc.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: What Ceres uses their powers to do the planets, keeping them in incredible pain while their bodies slowly crumble to pieces. It's implied that the entire point of doing that to them was to make Sun run out of time/options and get him to use force to help them, thus ruining everyone's reputation.
  • Color-Coded Characters: Used mostly when rendering the cast more symbolically at the start of a comic.
    • Earth: Green, originally blue
    • Mars: Orange (usually reddish)
    • Venus: Orange
    • Mercury: Grey
    • Jupiter: Orange, sometimes with stripes
    • Saturn: Beige
    • Uranus: Blue
    • Neptune: Dark blue
    • Pluto: Light blue/Teal
    • Sun: Yellow
    • Black Hole: Purple
  • Continuity Creep: The comic was mostly self-contained and consisted of humorous antics early on and gradually grew into a more continuity-heavy storyline. By #7 the different comics were interconnected enough that the authors started including links to prior installments in The Rant.
  • Conveniently Close Planet: Played with. The planets in the solar system are portrayed as close enough together that hanging out and talking between them is easy, regardless of how far they really should be from each other. On the other hand, the distance between various star systems is shown to be just as enormously huge and impassible as it is in reality. In other words, while the planets are conveniently close, the stars are not.
  • Conveniently Timed Distraction: Jupiter's incredibly hammy monologue to Venus and Neptune inadvertently provides one for his comet, allowing it to sneak away without him noticing.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Sun's 'fight' with the Humanoid Abomination that Black Hole sends to the solar system, which ends with Sun ripping them in half with his first and only attack.
  • Deer in the Headlights: In the very first comic, Earth freezes in place while a meteor hurtles straight towards her instead of trying to duck out of the way.
  • Downer Ending: In #15, Black Hole successfully convinces Pluto that the others are nothing but monsters and convinces him to join her in the void, with horrible consequences to him. The planets are still injured and traumatized from what she did, and Sun has to live with the fact that he had to kill someone with his bare hands who didn't fight back or even necessarily know what was going on in order to save them.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: It's pointed out by Mars that even though Jupiter usually just blames Sun for everything and thinks the worst of him because he hates him, in this particular instance Sun really is acting weirdly hostile and unhelpful and it's actually rational to think he's up to something.
    "Jupiter is... dumb. Jupiter's really dumb. But that doesn't mean he might not accidentally be right about something for once."
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: In the first few comics, there's a noticeable 'glow' effect around the character's heads and Sun's fire. There's also a different method of coloring, with shading used instead of the flat colors seen in the rest of the comic.
  • Empty Promise: Venus' attempts to comfort Earth at the end of #16, telling her that everything will be okay when they very clearly will not in the aftermath of what Black Hole did and with the planets still nursing the severe wounds they sustained.
  • Eyeless Face: Comets are animals that have mouths and noses but no eyes, though their cheerful behavior and stylized designs keep them Ugly Cute instead of creepy.
  • Forbidden Zone: Sun forbids the rest of the solar system to go into the void beyond the solar system, on the grounds that any planet who goes out there dies. Pluto eventually goes out there anyway.
  • Four-Philosophy Ensemble:
    • For the inner solar system, Earth is the Optimist (has faith in and believes the best of people, eager to make friends, pursues her curiosity without much concern for consequences), Mars is the Cynic (pessimistic about the chances of his own survival, withdrawn and sullen in response to Earth's friendliness but is nonetheless correct in most of his assertions), Venus is the Realist (focuses on getting the best results, keeps a level head) and Sun is the Apathetic (too aloof to be involved in most conflicts between the planets, has enigmatic motivations and goals, and is a different species entirely from the rest of the characters).
    • And arguably the outer planets: Jupiter is the Optimist (believes completely that he'll be able to kill Sun one day despite no actual plan, stubborn and utterly self-confident in personality), Saturn the Cynic (keeps their distance from the rest of the planets, thinks that if their moons were alive they would hate them), Neptune the Realist (acts as a mediator between Uranus, Jupiter, and Venus, remains quietly in the background most of the time), and Uranus the Apathetic (unconcerned with everyone else's problems, has far different priorities than the people they interact with and screws with people for no reason but It Amused Me).
  • Flat "What": Uranus' reaction after Jupiter just grabs one of their moons and eats it in front of them is a deadpan "What the fuck" of shock.
  • Friendship Denial:
    • Jupiter flatly refuses Uranus' claims to be his "bro", though this doesn't really do much to deter them and they keep hanging around him anyway.
    • Earlier, Mars tells Earth to stop trying to be his friend... though it's implied that he's more bark than bite and he really does care deep down since she's still the first one he goes to warn when things get bad.
  • A House Divided: The fact that there's something out there waiting to kill them if they leave the safety of the area close to Sun only exacerbates the problems between the members of the solar system (several of whom disliked each other already).
  • I Was Just Passing Through: Jupiter claims that he's just hungry when he saves Earth from being hit by the meteorite by taking the hit for her, and brushes off her thanks.
  • Insignificant Little Blue Planet: Earth is one planet out of a multitude, and isn't regarded as anything different by the rest of them. She's often the viewpoint character, sure, but that doesn't mean she's particularly special.
  • Interquel: "Nix" is a short story from Pluto's POV, and takes place some time between #10 and #14. "Proco" is from Earth's POV, and takes place some time after #15. "Lux" is from Sun's POV and takes place after #3.
  • It's Probably Nothing:
    • Earth's response to Mars getting worried about how Sun has been acting. Unusual in that Mars does actually get her to take his concerns at least a little bit more seriously.
    • Pretty much everyone's reaction to Earth freaking out over the meteorite heading straight towards her.
    • Also Sun's reaction to the planets' concern over Black Hole watching them.
  • Klingon Promotion: Jupiter wants to kill Sun, which in his mind automatically would mean that he would take Sun's place as leader.
  • Literally Shattered Lives: The planets literally and painfully start falling to pieces with bits of them falling off when Ceres arrives. Later comics confirm that the damage from it is permanent- those pieces don't grow back.
  • Living Forever is No Big Deal: They're planets (or stars, or dwarf planets)— all of them are eons old and it's regarded as a matter of course.
  • Metaphorgotten: Uranus easily gets off-track when talking, and it doesn't exactly endear them to Jupiter.
    Uranus: C'mon! For real, fuck that Sun guy, right?
    Jupiter: Stop.
    Uranus: Like, what's his deal? Thinking he's all hot shit? Well, in a literal sense I guess but—
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • #8 is a lighthearted comic about Uranus' attempts to befriend Jupiter... followed by one of the most dramatic comics, #9: Sun's confrontation with Mars and the introduction of Black Hole, the main villain of the comic.
    • #13 is humor about Jupiter and Sun completely failing at having a non-awkward conversation with each other about dinner... and is followed by #14 and #15, which are Black Hole trying to convince Pluto to join her and the planets very nearly being painfully murdered.
    • #15 itself, which switches back and forth between showing Pluto's joy at discovering that he isn't alone to the horror and agony the planets are experiencing as Sun frantically tries to save them.
  • Multi-Part Episode: #14 and #15, which were released together in Nebula Ultra. They were originally one comic but had to be split in two due to length.
  • Never Split the Party: Mars and Earth agree they should try to stick close together with the rest of the planets in case something happens with Sun. It doesn't end up helping though, as it turns out Sun isn't the one they needed to worry about.
  • New Era Speech: Jupiter delivers a fairly hammy one to Venus and Neptune about how Sun can't stop him and how his day will come— until Venus points out that while he was monologuing, the comet ran away.
  • No Ontological Inertia: The effect that Ceres has on the planets stops as soon as they're killednote . That doesn't mean that the injuries they caused went away, though.
  • Non-Indicative First Episode: In the first comic, everyone is far more openly dismissive of Earth and her (justified) panic over the meteor, and are just generally reluctant to interact with each other at all while in later installments they actively seek each other out. Only Mars really remains that way, and he turns into more of a Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Uranus attempts to claim that they're very similar to Jupiter and that they'd therefore be great friends if he gave them a chance, but he really doesn't care and just wants them to leave him alone.
  • Not-So-Omniscient Council of Bickering: Even before things started going bad, the solar system could barely agree when they met to discuss anything, with the meeting about whether to include Pluto eventually devolving into personal insults and yelling before Sun stepped in and made the final decision pretty much unilaterally.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: The aftermath of Ceres' attack on the solar system leaves the planets injured, possibly permanently, the possibility of further attacks from Black Hole wide open, Mars' trust in Sun shattered, and Pluto as a warped being under Black Hole's control.
  • Ominous Visual Glitch: The distortion that appears whenever the Big Bad Black Hole speaks, and the thick layer of static around her when seen in person. Taken even further when Ceres appears and the entire background changes to glitchy pink and blue spirals.
  • One-Word Title: A nebula is a large cloud of dust and gas in outer space, and archaically any diffuse celestial object such as a galaxy. The comic is about characters who personify different celestial objects, and who all reside in outer space; they therefor reside inside and are parts of a nebula- in this case, the Milky Way.
  • Our Giants Are Bigger: The stars, who are far, far bigger than planets, and who are also permanently on fire. They're just as intelligent and humanlike as planets, though it's obvious to everyone involved that they're a completely different species.
  • Painting the Medium:
    • Black Hole's dialogue appears directly onto the page with no word bubbles around it, is very large, is shown in a pixelated font, and usually has some kind of glitch effect around it. Fitting, as she's a Humanoid Abomination with telepathic powers.
    • Ceres' dialogue/thoughts appear the same way Pluto's do, but are a garbled jumble of letters overlaying each other so thick that they're impossible to read; both the characters in the comic and the readers are completely unable to figure out what they want. After being consumed by Black Hole, Pluto's speech is distorted the same way.
  • Poor Communication Kills:
    • The miscommunication between Pluto and the planets, though for once it isn't really the characters' faults. Dwarf planets and planets are physically unable to communicate with each other, but Pluto and the rest of the solar system doesn't know that. This leads the planets to assume that Pluto is lurking silently and ignoring their greetings deliberately, and for Pluto to think that the planets have never tried to talk to or befriend him at all.
    • Sun's refusal to communicate with the rest of planets or to tell anyone that what's wrong with him is that he's sick causes a lot of worry for Mars, and eventually leads to him losing trust in Sun altogether.
  • Power Fantasy: Jupiter's daydream about how things will be different once he's in charge, featuring him as king of the planets and everyone bowing and scraping to him. Also, he's inexplicably on fire. It crosses over with Dream Sue, with how the rest of the dream characters act like he's the single greatest thing to ever grace the world with his presence.
  • The Promise: When Sun starts acting worryingly aloof and Not Himself, Mars asks Venus to promise to break his moon if he dies, no matter what it takes. She agrees.
  • Protectorate: The planets are one for Sun: he sees it as his duty to protect them from any dangers out there, and in return expects their obedience. This relationship gradually starts to fray during the comic as Sun's behavior becomes more and more erratic.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Sun speaks with barely suppressed rage after Mars tries to call him back after he abruptly ends the meeting with them and starts to walk off.
    Sun: We. Move. On.
  • Put on a Bus: Jupiter's comet dog, which leaves while Jupiter is talking to Venus and Neptune, floats off to places unknown. Partly due to its warm reception by the fans, it eventually returned much later in the comic.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The solar system is depicted as one. There's a planet who is almost physically unable to keep her nose out of everyone else's business (Earth), her more mature younger sister (Venus), an office worker who can barely start a conversation without insulting everyone else in the room (Mercury), a melodramatic Leader Wannabe with more ambition than brains (Jupiter), a moon-thief and borderline con-artist (Uranus), a recluse who would really just rather not interact with people in general (Saturn), a Jerk with a Heart of Gold who speaks Cassandra Truth like a second language (Mars), an often spoken-over voice of reason (Neptune), and a member of a completely different species who's barely suppressing the urge to murder all of them (Sun).
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Mars delivers one to Earth when she tries to find out more about him, accusing her of not really caring about what he's like and that she's just trying to befriend people to satisfy her own curiosity. Earth doesn't really have a reply or rebuttal to it, and is left dumbstruck as he walks off.
  • Red Filter of Doom: The last few panels of comic #3 are silent shots of the rest of the characters of the solar system, all tinted red, and then Sun's ominous final lines.
    Sun: ...Hungry. I'm hungry.
  • Right Behind Me: Sun interrupts in the middle of Jupiter's rant about how he needs to do more to try to surpass him. Since Sun's not exactly inconspicuous, it might double as Failed a Spot Check on Jupiter's part.
  • Rotating Protagonist: The focus characters switch comic to comic, with the various plotlines (Black Hole lurking, Sun getting sick, Jupiter...being Jupiter) slowly being progressed from multiple POVs.
  • Science Fantasy: There's a mix of accurate science elements of how space works mixed with some fantastic ones- everybody's humanoid appearance and sentience, for one.
  • Second Episode Introduction: The first comic introduces Earth, Mars, Uranus and Jupiter, while the second one introduces Mercury, Venus, Saturn and Neptune (plus Sun and Pluto).note 
  • Small, Secluded World: The solar system (and star systems in general); no one new comes in, no one who was born there has ever been outside of it, and no one really knows what's beyond it or if there's anything at all.
  • Society-on-Edge Episode: #11, which is Venus and Mars reflecting on how tense things have become in the solar system, what with everything going on with Sun, Earth, and Jupiter.
  • Spell My Name with a "The":
    • Averted completely with Earth, and played with in regards to Sun. Weirdly enough, only Jupiter, the one person who completely despises him, calls him "the Sun".
    • Much later, played for drama: when Mars loses all trust in Sun, he switches to calling him "the Sun" in the same the way that Jupiter does in order to show their new distance.
  • Split-Screen Reaction: To all the planets (and Pluto) on one side and Sun on the other after Earth says she thinks that Black Hole is talking to her.
  • Stealth Pun: Sun tells Mercury that he needs some space and asks him to leave him alone for a while.
  • Stylistic Suck: The daydream sequence that Jupiter has is notably lower quality than the regular comic, complete with scribble art and really clumsy out-of-character dialog.
  • They Were Holding You Back: One of Black Hole's justifications for Pluto to join her and leave the solar system is that they were only holding him back from becoming more than he was.
  • Thought Caption: Dwarf planets, including Pluto, use them instead of speech balloons.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: Sun, who's just been staring out into the dark, looking at nothing since the third comic. Mars finds it incredibly unnerving, especially since Sun doesn't seem to hear when he tries to talk to him.
  • Title In: Most comics begin with the intentionally vague statement of "Really far away. Really long ago"note  over a shot of the main character(s) of that comic. Occasionally, this is changed:
  • Transformation Horror: Used in different ways for Sun and the dwarf planets consumed by Black Hole.
    • Sun is slowly changing into something else, growing physically much larger and burning hotter, and is conscious and terrified of the fact that his personality is changing along with it.
    • The transformation for dwarf planets is very rapid and makes them look outright monstrous (see Transformation of the Possessed below), with their minds either subsumed or controlled by Black Hole once the transformation is done.
  • Transformation of the Possessed: When Black Hole possesses someone, their appearance warps, spikes emerging from their body in random places and their hands shifting to have two thumbs each just as hers do. And sometimes, the changes are more... extreme.
  • Understatement: Earth admits that Mars looks "a little rough" when she's just finished putting bandages over most of his face after it nearly cracked apart and the rest of his body is visibly injured in a similar manner. In this case, it's due to forced optimism rather than snark.
  • Used to Be More Social: Mars mentions that Sun's suddenly become a lot more withdrawn, never seeming to interact with the others anymore and being distant when he does. While Mars himself admits he doesn't know why, the readers can surmise that it ties into what Sun admitted at the end of #3 about being 'hungry'.
  • Violence Is Disturbing: The violence in the comic is shown as horrific and terrifying, like Ceres torturing the planets and slowly shattering them apart, and Ceres then being violently ripped in half by Sun.
  • Violence is the Only Option: Trying to make Ceres stop or back off through talking has absolutely no effect at getting them to stop hurting the planets. The only thing that ends up stopping them and saving the planets is Sun ripping his hand through their torso.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Earth and Mars, though the vitriol is only on Mars' side. Earth just sincerely thinks of him as a good friend of hers, while Mars denies any sort of affection for her and treats her coldly unless things are really darn serious.
  • Void Between the Worlds: The void, which is the light-years of empty space that surrounds every star system, and is what keeps them all separate: nobody is allowed to stray very far from their stars because of the danger involved, making it pure speculation to them whether or not other people even exist besides their group.
  • Volleying Insults: Uranus and Neptune's debate during the meeting about Pluto starts to quickly devolve into this, but Sun cuts it off.
    Uranus: I think Jupiter is right.
    Neptune: No, Jupiter is loud.
    Uranus: Neptune is fat
  • Wham Episode:
    • #9: Black Hole makes her first appearance and introduction as the main antagonist of the comic.
    • #15: Sun kills Ceres, Mars and several other planets are severely and permanently damaged, and Pluto leaves the solar system to join Black Hole.
    • #17: Black Hole consumes Pluto, leaving him as something nearly unrecognizable and under her control.
  • Wham Line:
    • "I'm hungry." (#3) Up until that line there was no way of knowing what exactly Sun meant about being sick, as he himself admits that he doesn't really how to explain what was wrong with him. That line reveals it's Horror Hunger. That single line changes how all his subsequent interactions with the planets are viewed.
    • "It's like it's coming from... inside of me?" (#9) Earth reveals that not only does Black Hole have an active interest in the planets, she has outright supernatural powers.
    • "...Yeah." (#15) Pluto agrees to leave the solar system behind and join Black Hole, giving up his idealistic dreams of becoming friends with the rest of the solar system and cementing Ceres' death as his Cynicism Catalyst.
  • Wham Shot: The last panel of #17, showing Pluto post-transformation into something very similar to Ceres, having grown another pair of arms and having two thumbs on each hand like Black Hole.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Black Hole convinces Pluto that the others in the solar system are violent monsters for killing Ceres, whom she sent to die in the first place and who provoked the others by attacking first.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Poor Ceres: they get sent to die by their own commander in order to prove a point to Pluto.

...Next time.