Follow TV Tropes


Webcomic / Nineteen-Ninety-Something

Go To
"It's the 90s, do a lot of coke and vote for Bill Clinton." note 

Nineteen-Ninety-Something is a webcomic by Jesse J. Barboza, as a snark-filled love letter to the 1990s and serves as a reboot of Forever 16, which was also created by Barboza.

The series focuses on Joel Maxwell, a high school student with alt-rock aspirations and a natural compulsion to sarcastically strike back at every dumb thing he sees or hears. He is joined by his delightfully Midwestern family, including his supportive mother Tina, his level-headed office-working father William, and his perky trend-obsessed younger sister Katy.

His friends include Michelle, his girlfriend, computer genius and fellow gamer; Aaron, his cheerful and excitable best friend and the lead singer of his band Westworld; Jocelyn, a bisexual punk-lover who delights in discomforting the uptight Moral Guardians at school and at home; Steve, a laid-back artist and the group's chief Deadpan Snarker; and Kendra, a more introverted artist with dreams of creating the next great cartoon.

In keeping with the 1990s backdrop, the strip not only references popular culture and current events of the time, but is drawn in the style of a '90s newspaper strip like Calvin and Hobbes or FoxTrot, both of which Barboza cites as major creative influences.

Can be read here.

This webcomic contains examples of:

  • The '90s: In case the very title of the comic didn't tip you off.
  • Abusive Parents:
    • Ronald and Phyllis, Jocelyn's parents, are more emotionally abusive than physically abusive, but their Christian values clash with her punk-rock attitude and bisexual tendencies. In a later strip, Ronald locks his own daughter out of the house.
    • Deb Hargreaves, mother to little Jacob, is very controlling towards him, and refuses to see the world as nothing else but a hive of smut and filth. It later turns out she’s attracted to women (more specifically, Tina, her arch-rival) and is acting out of self-hatred.
  • Adults Are Useless: Played With. The adults in the comic range from caring (e.g., Tina, Marion, Lars), to flawed but trying (e.g., William, Rick, Phyllis), to outright vain (e.g., Mulroney, Mr. Tucker, Ronald).
  • Agony of the Feet: Rick mentions that he had several of the toes on his left foot shot off during the Vietnam War.
  • Alpha Bitch: Jessica Sullivan was the head cheerleader and a horrible person all around until Nice Girl Lindsay usurped her.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Downplayed with Tina, who is a lovable dork most of the time, but she did once try to speak to Joel’s friends in “grunge slang”, much to his embarrassment (and amusement of Jocelyn).
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Michelle's younger sister, Jenny, is always on the lookout for immediate thrills, forcing big sis to always be ready to reign her back in.
  • Apathetic Teacher:
    • Mr. Tucker is usually this, having given up on life at some point and just bored.
    • Principal Mulroney. He's actually well aware of the behavior of his students and the overall state of his school, but believes that there isn't much he can do about it and eventually just stopped caring. He even got worse in the rebooted continuity, calling Joel a slacker on his way to a life of petty crime, in front of his parents.
  • Art Evolution: The comic's art style has shown some noticeable improvement over the years. Namely, the characters' eyes are now smaller, their heads aren't as big and blocky-looking, and they each display more wider ranges of emotion. The reboot is further refined in its art style.
  • Art-Style Dissonance: The stylized art work, layout, and storylines of the comic would not be too out of place as a 90s newspaper comic among the likes of Calvin and Hobbes or Zits. However, while those particular comics were (mostly) family-friendly, Nineteen-Ninety-Something is full of profanity, references to sex and drugs, Male Gaze, and deals with mature subjects that clearly appeal to an older, teenage demographic.
  • The Atoner: Lindsay is revealed to be this, having been a former Rich Bitch similar to Jessica, something she is deeply ashamed of and tried to keep buried.
  • Author Appeal: Barboza is a self-professed dork for '90s pop culture, having grown up in the decade.
  • Author Avatar: Steve bears a rather slight resemblance to Barboza himself.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Deb, being the Moral Guardian that she was, became absolutely furious whenever she saw or heard something even remotely inappropriate.
    • Ronald, being the strict Christian that he is, will throw a fit whenever somebody does or says anything profane.
    • As it turns out, one of the few things that makes Aaron genuinely angry is intolerance.
  • Bland-Name Product: Notably averted. Every product depicted in the strip is not only real, but even the packaging is accurate to how it looked in the time period. Even the magazine that appears in this strip is an accurate rendition of an issue of Profane Existence, a real punk rock zine that circulated in the Minneapolis area in the early '90s.
  • Break the Haughty: The antagonists will usually receive a satisfying comeuppance that will leave them raging in their defeat.
  • Butt-Monkey: A character will often find themselves in this trope depending on how big of a Jerkass they are. Kevin was mainly this in the beginning, but since Character Development had him become a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, he's vacated this position mostly to his romantic rival for Amber, Nick, who suffers it worse than he ever did.
  • Can't Act Perverted Toward a Love Interest: Subverted; neither Steve or Joel have any problem with expressing their perverted behavior around Jocelyn and Michelle.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Denise, Katy, and Ashleigh all tend to be stuck in their own little bizarre fantasy world.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Joel and his classmates swear a lot. Justified, inasmuch as they're teenagers.
  • Comic-Book Time: Played with. Barboza has confirmed that the characters ‘’will’’ age, but every three years or so.
  • Cool Shades: Kevin sports a nice pair of sunglasses. He used to wear them over his eyes in his less pleasant days, but as Character Development set in and he became more of a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, he wears them on top of his head most of the time.
  • Damned By a Fool's Praise: Tina mentioning in passing that she really likes MTV's "Unplugged" is enough to make Joel and Aaron swear it off.
  • A Day in the Limelight: While Joel is technically the main character, the strip is very much an ensemble piece where any character can get the spotlight.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Joel, full-stop. William shows shades of it too, but his observations generally aren't nearly as clever.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance:
    • The 90s are supposed to be one the more progressive decades, but a few of the Jerkass characters made a few homophobic or racist remarks.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Jenny's impulsiveness is her most prominent personality trait. "It looked fun/funny on TV" is basically her mantra.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Aaron can't even insult Lindsay without lusting after her.
  • Dysfunction Junction: A whole lot of the side characters in the comic aren't exactly the most stable people or have the most normal lives.
    • Jocelyn lives with her highly abusive, fundamental parents.
    • While Steve’s situation isn’t ‘’too’’ bad, it's implied he lives in a neglectful household, as his parents (his father in particular) don't really seem to care much about what he does in his spare time, to the point they don’t even notice when he drops out of high school to join his friends at their new music school. This would explain his mellowly apathetic demeanor and love of pranks that, as also implied on a few occasions, has gotten him in trouble with the authorities.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling:
    • Katy is more foolish in that she sometimes lets her brain run away with her and get a little carried away, while Joel is usually more grounded in reality and will sometimes talk her down.
    • Jenny and Michelle, with the former being the foolish one while the latter is the responsible one.
  • Formula-Breaking Episode:
    • Characters will occasionally dream themselves to be the protagonist of a movie they've just seen, leading to a much more in-depth MAD magazine-style parody (i.e. William's dream after seeing Dances with Wolves in which he becomes Kevin Costner's character).
    • Steve's Hammerhead comics also count, with a slight Art Shift to go with it - the panel borders become wobbly and the shading becomes much more simplistic, to look like an amateur comic drawn by a bored teenager.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge" arc, or FUCK for short. Doubles as sort of a Meaningful Name, considering that the arc in question revolved primarily around sexual intercourse.
  • Granola Girl: Again, Denise, who appears to be trapped in her own little hippie world.
  • Her Code Name Was "Mary Sue": Steve draws an indie comic book about a Deadpan Snarker vigilante named Hammerhead, who looks exactly like him. Hammerhead's arch-enemy is a thinly veiled Principal Mulroney.
  • Historical In-Joke: Given the setting, there's quite a bit of this. One strip in particular spoofed the ousting of Manuel Noriega from Panama.
  • Humble Goal: Joel just wants to express himself through rock music.
  • Ignorant of Their Own Ignorance: Kevin is always convinced that his plans, whether they be to succeed in school with minimal effort or to ask a girl on a date, are utterly foolproof, when in fact they're incredibly stupid. He became slightly less oblivious of his own failures, however, as time went on.
  • Jerkass: Kevin in the beginning, although Character Development has softened him over time.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Joel. Snarky as he may be, he's still shown to be far more nicer and having better standards than either his family or classmates.
    • Jocelyn is very abrasive and has no problem with causing trouble, but it's clear she's still a caring person who will be more than glad than to beat the shit out of those who harm her friends.
    • Kevin started off as a rich moron who acted like a jerk to everyone around him simply because he thought he could get away with it – even when the universe would clock him upside the head for it – but a series of humbling incidents and a genuinely loving relationship with Amber has softened him into this.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Two of Jenny and Eric's classmates are a pair of bullies named Andrew and Ryan, and they're far from likable.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: The universe has a way of getting back at the antagonists:
    • Evan and Ryan have started losing more in their determination to mock and belittle Nice Guy Eric, getting reprimanded by staff more and even getting downright humiliated.
    • Jessica Sullivan tries to get “revenge” on the Lindsay for supposedly stealing her life (it was her own fault, really), only for Lindsay’s friends (Jessica’s own former friends that she was horrible to) to rally ‘round and defend her, ending with her getting arrested for breaking and entering.
    • Deb Hargreaves attempts to force the entire nation to adhere to her warped conservative view of the evils of sex, only to be called out during a live TV interview by her own son that she’d neglected, and, thinking she could salvage her reputation by stealing the tape (which didn’t exist because it was live) attacked the cameraman and was arrested.
    • Principal Mulroney realized that Lindsay could get students motivated and test scores up because she could do something he couldn’t: she ‘’cared’’ about them and their futures. Trouble is – she’s a senior and headed for college. So he altered her grades to flunk her and keep her back a year so she could keep working for him. The student body revolted and protested in response, and he went on an angry tirade about how much he hates the kids and wanted to really spite them all – only for the reveal that his assistant, Miranda, put the superintendent on speaker phone, he promptly fires him and makes him a janitor.
  • Mellow Fellow: Steve is very laid-back and chill. To the point where he almost never raises his eyelids any further than how they're depicted in the page image above.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Invoked by Steven and Aaron, and Jocelyn and Kendra, who all pretend to be gay just to scare Mrs. Fitzsimmon and her husband after overhearing their displeasure over the recruitment of homosexuals in the military.
  • Moral Guardian: Deb Hargreaves, who fits this trope to a freakin' T. To the point where she manages to get all the other mothers in the comic to follow her views on what she considers to be "safe" for children.
  • Must Have Nicotine: Rick goes through an arc where his most recent physical reveals he’s got to give up smoking, which he genuinely works at.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Averted, just like the Bland-Name Product trope mentioned above, with various strips guest starring — even Bugs Bunny.
  • One-Two Punchline: Occasionally extending into One-Two-Three Punchlines. No matter how many characters are in a given strip, nearly all of them will have something to say in the final panel.
  • Precision F-Strike: The characters know how to swear, and they want you to know that.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Miranda, who is Principal Mulroney's assistant, is a kind-hearted soul who still believes in the kids and will stop Mulroney when he goes too far.
    • Mr Tucker walks the line of this and Apathetic Teacher. Most of the time he’s a jerk, although he will hear the students out when they present a decent enough case, such as when Steve insisted on proving Aaron’s innocence when accused of wrecking Tucker’s yard, or when Jocelyn proved Nathan White was a pervert using his The Fundamentalist shtick to cover his ass.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • In the "High School Consequential" arc, Principal Mulroney finally gets his comeuppance via Superintendent Wexler, who'd heard him confess to intentionally failing Lindsay (half out of spite, half to keep her in place so he could use her ideas for improving the school):
      Wexler: Y'know, Vic, I always wondered, why your school? The low test scores, the building held together with toothpicks and Elmer's Glue... Gosh, it's all down to you, isn't it? You just don't care. you gave up on life, then started kickin' yourself over it 'n now you gotta take it out on your students? Well, y'know, maybe this just isn't the job for you, Vic? [...] And maybe you'd prefer more time to work out your master life plan while you're scrubbin' those pee-pees off the bathroom stalls, Vic. Sound fair?
      Mulroney (mortified): No.
      Wexler: Great, glad we had this talk.
  • Riot Grrrl: Jocelyn is a considerably mild example. She rarely talks about feminism, but when she does, it's clear she knows a lot about defying certain gender stereotypes.
  • Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Eric is much more down to Earth than the mischievous Jenny.
  • Self-Deprecation: The whole "Stripped From the Headlines" arc, which reflects on Barboza's own struggles with making NNS.
  • Serious Business: Cartoons and comics for Kendra. She got on a seller for selling one of those bootleg "Calvin pees on something" shirt claiming they were "robbing money from the artist" (despite the irony that Bill Watterson brought it on himself for not allowing his strip to be merchandised) and sometimes goes into vivid detail on cartoons movies much to the annoyance of her mother who just sees cartoons as kid's stuff.
  • Sequential Artist: Kendra. It's interesting in that she draws comic strips instead of comic books.
  • Sex Is Evil, and I Am Horny: Nathan, the antagonist of the "Anita Hill To Die On" storyline. A Heteronormative Crusader who seems to honestly believe his ultra-conservative rhetoric, even as he assaults and harasses virtually all of his female classmates.
  • Shout-Out: Oh, so many.
    • An entire week's worth of strips is dedicated to The Simpsons and the impact that its first season had on the American cultural landscape.
    • One of the 1991 Sunday strips is a loving tribute to Street Fighter II.
    • Several shout outs to Mystery Science Theater 3000 - both series have main characters named Joel, and the strip is set in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, the Minneapolis suburb where MST3K was filmed.
    • In-universe, Joel is known for dropping appropriate movie quotes into his conversations. A couple strips from the Universal Studios arc are noteworthy examples - one strip only gives Joel two lines of dialogue, and both of them are movie quotes.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang:
    • Joel, a snarky rebel who loves rock music, and his younger sister Katy, who is more ditzy, oblivious, and a total sweetheart.
    • Jenny, who is an energetic troublemaker, and her older sister Michelle, who is far more mellow and considerably saner.
    • Kendra, who is nice and outgoing, and her older brother Vence, who is cynical and more of a Jerk with a Heart of Gold than a straight-up nice guy. To an extent, the youngest child Eric, as he's a lot more shy and sensitive than either of them.
    • Vicky is the exact opposite of her sister Phyllis, being more outgoing, laid-back, wild, and generally nicer. In fact, Vicky is where Jocelyn gets her punk-rock persona from.
  • Smug Straightedge: Downplayed with Joel. His refusal to use drugs is a point of personal pride, but he has no problem at all with bandmate Steve being The Stoner.
  • Sunday Strip: Laid out the same way as early Calvin and Hobbes Sunday strips too, complete with throwaway panels, even though a webcomic doesn't really need them. Ironically, they're posted on Tuesdays, not Sundays, thanks to the calendar years of 25 years ago not being synchronized with the present calendar.
  • Take That!:
    • There's quite a lot of this, usually from Joel and his friends, aimed at the more ludicrous or detestable aspects of 1990s culture like Vanilla Ice or Captain Planet and the Planeteers.
    • The strip's depiction of most adults is a seething Take That! at the Baby Boomer generation and its clash of attitudes with Generation X'ers (and, by extension, Millennials). From Deb’s fervent efforts to censor her children's entertainment intake to Rick's pro-war macho swagger and Michelle's parents' utter bewilderment when it comes to any and all modern technology, nearly every prominent character from the Boomer generation is painted as hopelessly out-of-touch and desperate to resist all the cultural changes of the '90s.
  • Tomboy: Jocelyn, full stop. She's caustic, wild, has tattoos, strong, and has a rather less-than-profound vocabulary.
  • Tomboy with a Girly Streak: Jenny is shown to like cutesy things such as dogs and dolls, but she often likes to twist them around to fit her wild personality.
  • Vaporwear: Denise, in true hippie fashion, never wears bras.
  • Villainous Breakdown: If an antagonist doesn’t get their way, they ‘’will’’ fall apart, and it is usually ‘’glorious’’.
  • Vocal Range Exceeded: Invoked in the rebooted version of the Star Search arc: Lindsay, faced with a tough initial opponent, goes for broke and chooses to perform Mariah Carey's "Emotions." The production assistant warns her against it, as the last girl to attempt that song needed medical attention and there were still loose ceiling tiles.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: One strip has Ronald regurgitate an entire cup of salt-filled coffee, directly in front of Reverend Wilson. It's Played for Laughs.
  • World of Snark: Everyone in Joel's group has a sarcastic streak a mile long, and they're not afraid to use it. Even characters like Katy and Lindsay get off a good one every now and then.