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Webcomic / Nineteen-Ninety-Something

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"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, created 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. Naturally, he's the odd one out in his family, which consists of his moral guardian mother Tina, his disinterested worker drone father William, and his shallow trend-obsessed younger sister Katy.

His friends include Michelle, his girlfriend and fellow gamer; Aaron, a would-be womanizer 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.

In January 2020, a reboot of the comic was released and is currently still ongoing. Barboza himself has stated that the reboot is his attempt at properly addressing the criticism he faced when writing the original NNS.

This webcomic contains examples of:

  • The '90s: In case the very title of the comic didn't tip you off.
  • Abusive Parents:
    • Tina, Joel and Katy's mother, is a downplayed example. She's very controlling and short tempered towards her family, and refuses to see the world as nothing else but a hive of smut and filth. Character Development allowed Tina to redeem herself, and be more laid-back towards her children.
      • It's later revealed that Tina is the way she is because of her mother, who doesn't show Tina any sign of respect even as an adult.
    • Rick, Aaron's dad, devolved into one in later strips. He loses his temper when Aaron declares that he was going to start his own band, and from that point onwards, he emotionally and verbally abuses Aaron at every given opportunity.
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    • Patricia is shown to have very high expectations of both Lindsay and Kevin, the former especially, and is implied to be the reason why they're both horrible people to begin with. Displayed notably well in the "Poor Little Bitch Girl" arc, where Patricia verbally and physically abuses Lindsay after discovering she quit the cheerleading squad out of remorse. At the end of "The Fall of the House of Duquesne", she ultimately abandons Lindsay and Brad when they chew her out after Kevin's incarceration.
    • 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.
  • Adults Are Useless: And how. Virtually every non-teenage character is portrayed as either brutishly authoritative, shamelessly selfish, or hopelessly incompetent. It fits well with what the MTV generation of teenagers really thought of adults at the time. After the "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Tina" arc, however, this slowly seems to be subverting, with the adults now becoming more caring and laid-back towards their children.
  • Agony of the Feet: Rick had several of the toes on his left foot shot off during the Vietnam War, which he angrily displays to Aaron as a way to demonstrate his efforts in the war.
  • Alcoholic Parent: Patricia is shown to be a pretty heavy drinker.
  • All Men Are Perverts: Boys at school follow Lindsay around like sheep, just to get a peek at her good stuff. Even Aaron struggles to resist her, despite knowing what a horrible person she is.
  • Alpha Bitch: Lindsay Duquense, prior to her Character Development, was the head cheerleader and a horrible person all around.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: Happens occasionally whenever the strip references some aspect of '90s culture that's been largely forgotten today. Some readers didn't know that the Lambada revival of 1990 was a real thing.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents:
    • Marion, Aaron's mom, who is perhaps one of the only adult characters in the comic that isn't a complete jerkass.
    • One comic following Tina's Heel–Face Turn has her wishing to be more supportive of her son and get to know his friends better. Her attempt ends up falling flat as she clearly has no idea what they actually do (for starters, she thinks they talk in "grunge slang").
  • Ambiguously Brown: An accidental example with Michelle. She's supposed to be Asian but in her early appearances, she had dark skin while her eyes were rounded, which made her look more Hispanic instead. It wasn't until much later, when she was given a slight redesign, that it was made clearer that she's actually Asian.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Kendra shows some signs of being on the Autism Spectrum. She has high levels of anxiety, is pretty socially awkward, enjoys going into detail about her interests (often without realizing it), and is highly fixated and defensive of her interests.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling:
    • Michelle's younger sister, Jenny, will do just about everything she can to annoy her.
    • Joel views Katy as one. On the inverse side, Katy also views Joel as this.
  • Apathetic Teacher:
    • Mr. Tucker crosses between this and Sadist Teacher, as he is generally a very horrible person who does not give a single fuck about his students and constantly verbally abuses them over the slightest thing.
    • 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.
  • Arch-Enemy: Kevin and (formerly) Lindsay, both to Joel and Aaron. Especially Joel.
  • Armor-Piercing Question:
    • Katy and Ashleigh's attempt to cheer up Lindsay shortly after a brutal beatdown she received from Jocelyn leads to the latter ranting about how she doesn't want their friendship...
    Lindsay: I've got plenty of people in my life who worship the fucking ground I walk on! [...] I don't need you! I've got TONS of friends!
    Katy: Where are they?
    • In the aftermath of a failed date with Kendra, Joel asks Aaron a pretty long overdue question, if you're familiar with someone like Aaron.
    Joel: Be honest with yourself, do you really love Kendra, or do you just think she's cute?
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Asian and Nerdy: Michelle. She designs her own computer games and enthusiastically rambles on about them if anyone asks. Plus she shares Joel's love of riffing bad movies.
  • The Atoner: Lindsay became one in later story arcs, attempting to Set Right What Once Went Wrong in regards to what she has done and who she treated in past arcs.
  • Attempted Rape: Kevin tries to rape Michelle in the "Let's Take This Outshined" arc, and probably would've been successful had Joel not noticed what he was doing to her. He later attempts to rape Lindsay, his own sister, during "The Fall of the House of Duquesne" arc, but was quickly foiled by Lindsay herself when she stabs him in the groin with one of her heels.
  • 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.
  • Author Filibuster: Barboza has made it no secret that he likes to use the comic as a way to vent his frustrations regarding certain real world issues (such as the Sunday strip that discusses the 1991 Louisiana gubernatorial election, which was posted four days before the 2016 presidential election).
  • Bare Your Midriff: The female characters often wear clothes that show off their bellies. Just look at the main image for proof.
  • Behind the Black: One comic somehow had William and Tina failing to notice the massive backhoes and bulldozers tearing the trees out of Patricia and Brad's backyard until they're revealed to the reader.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Tina, being the Moral Guardian that she was, became absolutely furious whenever she saw or heard something even remotely inappropriate.
    • Rick's fuse shortens up immediately whenever he encounters something that doesn't view his definition of "patriotism", e.g. enforcing background checks on gun owners, gay people in the military, women becoming anything more than housewives, etc.
    • 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.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Rarely does Joel ever get along with Katy and is perfectly aware of the stupid things she does, but there are a few times where he'll show legitimate concern for her, such as offering her support after getting humiliated by Lindsay.
  • The Big Damn Kiss: Happens twice to Aaron during the "Don't Ask Don't Yell" arc: first with Steve in an attempt to piss off the homophobic Mrs. Fitzsimmon, and the second with Kendra to prevent Rick from beating the crap outta Aaron when Fitzsimmon tells him about Aaron and Steve kissing.
  • Big Sister Mentor: Post-face turn Lindsay became this to Katy and Ashleigh.
  • 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: In an example long-overdue for fans, Lindsay is on the verge of winning Star Search and earning a recording contract. She smokes in front of the record executive, which he disapproves of. Since she needs to be a positive role model for young girls, smoking is forbidden by her contract (which she hadn't read). When she refuses to quit, the executive tears up her contract, the bad behavior catches the notice of the Star Search hosts, and Lindsay is disqualified and evicted from the premises. Fucking. Sweet.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Joel is a walking alternative rock encyclopedia and longs for an electric guitar of his own so he can create his own music... but dreads the idea of having to work a retail job to earn money for it.
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • Aaron often gets hurt or makes an idiot out of himself.
    • Joel has his fair share of this, though not as much as Aaron.
  • Casanova Wannabe: Aaron, definitely. Kinda gets deconstructed since Aaron eventually becomes depressed when he struggles to find a girlfriend.
  • Cassandra Truth: Craig refuses to believe Joel and Aaron when they tell him Lindsay is cheating on him, even when they present him with photographic evidence (though granted, the photos are too blurry to make out clearly).
  • 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.
  • Cerebus Rollercoaster: As of late, the comic has been having a tendency to shift tones every now and then. For example, the sad and serious "Appetite For Self-Destruction" arc was preceded by the more comedic "Hasta La Vista...Maybe" arc, which was then followed by the "Even the 'Loozas Get Lucky Sometimes" arc that was more of a mixture of seriousness and comedy. And the cycle repeats itself.
  • Characterization Marches On: In the first week of strips in the initial run, Joel is more of a peppy optimist while Katy is the sarcastic cynic like they were in Forever 16. It didn't take long for them to swap places.
  • Chekhov's Gun: A few pop up here and there:
    • One strip has Katy mentioning her unrequited crush on a boy named Brian Coulson. He eventually turns out to be the prime suspect in a rash of school supply thefts that Katy gets roped into investigating.
    • Joel hears the Bleach album by Nirvana at the record store two weeks before he actually buys it. Two years later, one of the first strips of the year has kids swarming to the record shop for Nevermind.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander:
    • Denise, Katy, and Ashleigh all tend to be stuck in their own little bizarre fantasy world.
    • Aaron showed some signs of this in earlier strips.
    • Jenny can occasionally fall under this category. Justified as she's a young, hyperactive kid.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Joel and his classmates swear a lot. Justified, inasmuch as they're teenagers.
  • Comic-Book Time: The strip has run in earnest for over several years and none of the characters have aged despite the years progressing. Barboza himself has confirmed that the characters will, indeed, not age as he wants the comic to keep the teenage theme.
  • Cool Shades: Horrible of a person he may be, Kevin sports a nice pair of sunglasses. Up until "The Fall of the House of Duquesne," he was never once seen without his glasses.
  • Continuity Reboot: NNS itself was a reboot of Forever 16, an attempt made by Jesse to reestablish his characters and expand on them. Then in January 2020, Jesse decided to reboot the series again to rectify some of the complaints of the previous continuity, effectively starting the series over from scratch once more.
  • Crapsack World: As the author himself puts it, the setting isn't exactly the type of place anyone would want to spend time in.
  • Critical Research Failure: In-universe, this is what bites Aaron in the ass when he tries to fake his way through a literary analysis of Lord of the Flies, having gone to see the (very different) movie adaptation instead.
  • 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: Any strips that don't focus on Joel will typically focus on another character instead, such as Katy, Aaron, Lindsay, Michelle, Tina, etc.
  • 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 remarks.
  • Despair Speech:
    • Joel finally unleashes his frustration with Tina's lack of understanding:
    Joel: OKAY, MOM, I GET IT! I'm a big fucking disappointment, okay?! You've made your damn point! I mean, Jesus, God forbid I have feelings! God forbid I have interests that aren't the same as yours! God forbid you try to make an effort to learn about the shit I like! No, you're better off just fuckin' taking everything away from me because you're scared and confused! Yeah, Joel doesn't have any real problems! He's just some big fucking crybaby who wants to make you look bad, isn't he?!
    • Tina, of all people, has one of these after enduring insult after insult from her mother:
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Joel's ill-fated dates with New-Age Retro Hippie girl Denise and obnoxious Sinéad O'Connor fan Selina, as well as Aaron's disastrous attempt to ask out former cheerleading captain Jessica Sullivan.
  • Didn't Think This Through: The reason why a lot of Joel's plans backfire on him is because he hardly ever thinks them through.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Aaron can't even insult Lindsay without lusting after her.
  • Downer Ending:
    • The ending of the "Gothman Prophecies" arc Joel finds out Tabithia didn't love him so much as he liked his potential of being her ideal man. Joel doesn't take the revelation well and breaks up with her.
    • A number of stories don't end well for Joel, particularly early on in the series. Usually he'll come within a hair of victory, only to have it snatched away at the last second. These kinds of endings started happening less frequently once Joel's friends were introduced.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Katy, every time William tries to give her a driving lesson. She's way too excited to actually pay attention to the rules of the road.
  • Dysfunction Junction: A whole lot of the characters in the comic aren't exactly the most stable people or have the most normal lives.
    • Joel lives a family that consists of a sister who is selfish and oblivious to the fact that nobody really likes her, an overprotective mother who throws a tantrum whenever things don't go her way, an apathetic father who rarely does anything, and they all constantly berate Joel and the things he genuinely loves.
      • While on the topic of the Maxwell family, Tina was eventually revealed to have suffered from an emotionally abusive childhood, with her mom chastising her at every moment and her father is implied to have died when Tina was around Joel's age.
    • Aaron is a complete loser who is unlucky with women, has a very gullible mother who often fails to see any problems in her surroundings, and a very brutish father who constantly berates him for not being manly enough.
    • Jocelyn lives with her highly abusive, fundamental parents who are just as uptight as Tina is.
    • While Steve may be the second least dysfunctional one of the gang after Michelle, 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. 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.
    • Kendra suffers from large amounts of self-loathing and believes that her artwork, which very little people actually care about, is about as much garbage as she is.
    • The entire Duquense family are all horrible, horrible people who practically rip at each others throats. Lindsay, in particular, started off as an evil alpha bitch but a severe beating from Jocelyn and Jessica led her to see herself as the monster she truly is. Lindsay is currently now a sobbing wreck who is trying to be a better person, but the anxiety, guilt, and the abuse she receives from Kevin and Patricia make it extremely hard for her. And it's shown Brad is becoming fed up with the nightmare Kevin and Patricia are making him go through.
  • Easy Come, Easy Go: Lindsay manages to procure a contract with A&M Records via her appearances on Star Search (and assorted shenanigans between her and her mother, Patricia). Within seconds, the contract is torn up because she violently refused to even consider quitting smoking. She continues her tantrum, and it ends up costing her the Star Search championship.
  • Ephebophile: Adam, an 18-year-old college freshman introduced in the "Bloom Is Off The Melrose" arc, is discovered to be one as he tries to woo Katy, who is about four years younger than him.
  • Erotic Dream: An example that doesn't start out erotic, but later sways into it; Aaron dreamt that he took part in American Gladiators, in which the dream ends with Aaron about to have sex with the two female gladiators who practically handed him his own ass. He even jizzed himself, if the context suggests anything.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Lindsay and her parents are selfish, arrogant Jerkasses, but even they balked at Kevin defending Mike Tyson after being convincted of a rape.
  • Everyone Knew Already: When Kendra confessed to Michelle and Jocelyn about her crush on Aaron, they already knew who the boy was.
    Jocelyn: You only talk to our boyfriends and one other guy. Who the fuck else would it be?
    Michelle: Also, all these drawings of naked guys with long hair.
  • Fan Myopia: An in-universe example: Joel is an avid fan of bands like the Pixies, Sonic Youth, Jane's Addiction, and Mudhoney in 1990, before the success of Nirvana's Nevermind album made alternative rock mainstream. Naturally, whenever he sings the praises of these bands, nobody in his family knows or cares what he's talking about.
  • Flanderization:
    • Played straight then later subverted with Joel. His snarky attitude and tendency to never think his plans thoroughly grew and grew until it practically dominated his character. It wasn't until Barboza received complaints about this that he has tried to rework Joel into a more sympathetic character in which his actions are justified.
    • Tina started out as a stereotypical Moral Guardian, but this trait of hers, along with Tina's increasingly short temper, ended up turning her into a crazed Control Freak who tries to ban just about everything she deems inappropriate. This finally ceased after the "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad Tina" arc.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling:
    • Joel and Katy often switch roles; Most of the time, Katy acts a bit more level-headed than the more rebellious Joel, but there have been more than a few times where it's the other way around.
    • Played more straight with Jenny and Michelle, with the former being the foolish one while the latter is the responsible one.
  • Foregone Conclusion:
    • If you've read the original Forever 16 comic strip from which this originated from, you should know that Joel and Michelle are going to hook up, Steve and Jocelyn are going to hook, and Aaron will start his own band called "WestWorld".
    • "This is going to end with you getting slapped, isn't it?" (It actually doesn't, but Aaron still manages to make an ass of himself.)
  • For the Evulz: Kevin really didn't seem to have any motivation for his horrible deeds other than just for his twisted amusement.
  • 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.
  • The Fundamentalist: Jocelyn's parents (her father especially).
  • 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.
  • Gag Boobs: Well, not exactly "gag" since they're fairly realistic looking but, out of all the female characters shown so far, Denise has the biggest pair of boobs.
  • Gainaxing: Lindsay's boobs jiggled quite a bit when she tried auditioning for Star Search in a vain attempt to get chosen for the show.
  • Genki Girl: Katy and her friend Ashleigh are very optimistic people most of the time, even when it's painfully obvious people are insulting them or showing them the truth about their less-than-stellar beliefs (such as thinking Lindsay wants to be their friend).
  • Granola Girl: Again, Denise, who appears to be trapped in her own little hippie world.
  • Groin Attack: Kevin has Lindsay on the ground and is about to rape her, but she grabs one of her stiletto heels that fell off in their fight and STABS HIM IN THE DICK WITH IT. The next strip has him wailing in pain in all four panels while a crowd gathers. He absolutely deserved it, but DAMN.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper:
    • For someone whose New Year's resolution was to "redouble [her] efforts to be a better person, both outwardly and inwardly", Tina loses her patience an awful lot, especially with Joel. This died down completely after her Heel–Face Turn.
    • It really doesn't take much to put Mr. Tucker, one of the teachers at Joel's school, into boiling rage.
    • Rick has an incredibly short fuse, and has no problem verbally abusing or threatening physical abuse on others when provoked (which is a lot).
  • He-Man Woman Hater:
    • Kevin. His misogyny gets more blatant and violent with each appearance.
    • Rick shows some signs of this, though it appears to be more of the Stay in the Kitchen type of sexism rather than full-blown misogyny.
  • Heel Realization:
    • Lindsay, while in the hospital recovering from her beating by Jocelyn, hears the doctor describe the injuries suffered by the girl Linday pushed down the stairs in her debut storyline. The look on her face is the first time we've seen anything close to regret on Lindsay's face.
    • Jessica's Breaking Speech in a much later strip does its job, and Lindsay is finally forced to admit the truth to herself:
    Lindsay: Oh my God...I'm a MONSTER!!
    • Selina has one when she returns for the first time since the 1990 strips, when she finally realizes that she's letting Sinéad O'Connor's influence practically take over her life and vows to stop.
    • Tina, after being outed by both her son and mother, comes to a rather harsh realization on what a terrible mother she truly is.
    • Jenny during the "I Am A Fugitive From A Day Camp" arc, where she comes to realize just how much of a pest she can be to Eric.
  • Henpecked Husband:
    • William is bit of a pushover, who constantly gets blown off and/or just submits to everything Tina says or does.
    • Brad is later shown to be one too, as he's forced to do just about everything Patricia wants him to do.
  • 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. Tina misinterprets this as the gateway to her son turning into a sex-crazed heroin addict.
  • Humans Are Bastards: This appears to be one of the comic's central themes, considering almost everybody that appears are all deeply flawed at best and downright amoral at worst. Additionally, the comic also tackles social issues that are presented as being the result of humanity lacking any reasoning, compassion, or common sense.
  • Humiliation Conga: To finally get her out of her hair, Lindsay tells Katy that her crush (whom she previously, accidentally, had expelled) loves her too. When he bluntly dismisses her (with a "Reason You Suck" Speech, no less), she runs back to Lindsay, gets Lindsay's lunch thrown on her, and leaves the cafeteria crying with the entire school laughing at her.
  • I Have Boobs, You Must Obey!: Lindsay often attempted to use sex appeal in order to get what she wanted, namely film and music auditions.
  • I Have No Son!: Patricia disowns Lindsay as she divorces Brad and leaves the house after Kevin's incarceration.
  • Ignorant of Their Own Ignorance: Aaron 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.
  • Internal Reveal: In the "Going Into Overtime" arc, Craig finally learns why Lindsay broke up with him, even though the audience already knew a long time beforehandnote .
  • It's All About Me: Patricia refuses to see Kevin for the monster he is (or even get him help for the issues she does acknowledge) because that would me she failed as a parent.
  • Jerkass: The Duquesne family. All of them. Although eventually subverted with Lindsay and Brad thanks to Character Development.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: The "A League Of Katy's Own" arc has Katy and Ashleigh join a baseball team, and Katy harshly gets chewed out by one of the players for catching the ball with her hat in the middle of a game. However, the player had every right to do this since, apart from Katy not following directions, catching the ball with anything other than your glove is a very illegal move for a fielder to do in baseball, as this automatically results in the batter being given three bases.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Joel. Snarky and uncaring as he may be, he's still shown to be far more nicer and having better standards than either his family or classmates.
    • Aaron. He's a total perv and somewhat of an idiot, but like Joel, he's still nice and has better morals compared to everybody else in the comic.
    • 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.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Within days of arriving in Eden Prairie, Lindsay trips a girl down the stairs and shatters her pelvis, possibly crippling her for life, and manages to turn the entire school against Jessica Sullivan by spreading the (false) rumor that she has chlamydia, just to steal her boyfriend and usurp her position as the most popular girl in school. Despite Joel and Aaron's best efforts, she receives no comeuppance for any of this.
    • Her brother, Kevin, is even worse. Assaulting Michelle twice (one on national TV) resulted in house arrest, both times. Bashing his court-appointed councilor's head in brought even fewer consequence. Not to mention the ongoing implication that he may have raped and murdered one of Lindsay's rivals. After the "The Fall of the House of Duquesne", this may have finally been subverted.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Two of Jenny and Eric's classmates are a pair of bullies named Evan and Ryan, and they're far from likable.
  • Knight of Cerebus: Kevin Duquesne. Whenever he shows up, the strip gets dark.
  • Left Hanging: Due to Barboza wanting to do another retool of the comic, many of the then ongoing plot threads were left without a conclusion.
  • Let's Wait a While: During the "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge" storyline, Joel and Michelle's abortive first time ended with them decided they weren't ready to take that step yet. Not that that stopped Tina from assuming the worst when she barged in on them putting their clothes back on.
  • Loser Protagonist: Joel at first. He was constantly bullied, mocked, and discouraged by not just his classmates but even his own family. After meeting Michelle, Steve, Jocelyn, forming a band, and his mother pulling a Heel–Face Turn, he finally seems to be getting his life back on track.
  • Marshmallow Hell: Lindsay forcibly does this to Joel in one strip when she tries to trick Michelle into thinking he's cheating on her.
  • Mathematician's Answer: Kevin would never confirm or deny whether or not he was responsible for the rape/murder of Lindsay's rival in California. The couple of times Lindsay broached the subject with him, he'd only respond with "I did what you asked me to do."note  After the "Fall of the House of Dusquene" storyline, this likely never gets a definitive answer.
  • 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 Aaron, who pretends to be gay just to piss off Mrs. Fitzsimmon and her husband after overhearing their displeasure over the recruitment of homosexuals in the military. Later Played for Drama when Fitzsimmon tells Aaron's Heteronormative Crusader father about him "catching the gay", which almost gets Aaron brutally beaten up for it.
  • Moral Guardian: Tina Maxwell, 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. Subverted after her above mentioned Heel–Face Turn, where Tina finally mellows out and allows Joel to do what he wants with his life.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Joel, Aaron, and Steve are all actually pretty good looking guys. Steve, in particular, appears shirtless more often than Joel or Aaron.
  • Ms. Fanservice:
    • Lindsay usually wears the skimpiest outfits among the recurring cast, most notably her cheerleading uniform.
    • Denise, thanks to her large boobs and shirt that shows off her massive cleavage.
    • Michelle sometimes, when her outfits show cleavage or a bare midriff.
    • Jocelyn, full-stop. Most of the outfits she wears are cleavage and midriff showing, plus her short shorts with fish net stockings.
  • Must Have Nicotine: The "Smoke Gets In Your Thighs" arc has Lindsay attempting to give up smoking. Having smoked since she was 13-years-old, the effects of cigarettes has finally began to effect Lindsay's health. She immediately decides to quit, but suffers pretty badly from nicotine withdrawal shortly afterwards.
  • New Year's Resolution: The first week of strips touched on this, as the Maxwells sought to make resolutions not just for the new year, but for the new decade. ("I resolved not to be annoyed by you, but I blew it already.")—
  • Naked People Are Funny:
    • Kendra draws herself nude as life model practice when Joel keeps asking questions about her artwork.
  • Nice Hat: Steve is almost never seen without his wool beanie. His comic book alter ego Hammerhead has a pretty spiffy fedora, too.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Averted, just like the Bland-Name Product trope mentioned above, with various strips guest starring Aerosmith and even Bugs Bunny.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: After Katy's humiliation, Jocelyn corners Lindsay in the girls' bathroom. Although Lindsay lands the first blow, Jocelyn fights back and beats the absolute shit out of her, delivering a scathing "The Reason You Suck" Speech after she's done.
  • Official Couple:
    • Joel and Michelle as of the "Misery Loves Company" arc.
    • Jocelyn and Steve as of the "What About Steve?" arc.
    • Eric and Jenny as of the "Play Date" arc.
    • Aaron and Kendra as of the "Don't Ask Don't Yell" arc.
    • Craig and Amber as of the "Going Into Overtime" arc.
  • Oh, Crap!: Joel and Aaron's reaction when they learn the full extent of Lindsay's evilness.
  • 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.
  • Older Than They Look: During the "The Bloom Is Off The Melrose" arc, Katy becomes the girlfriend of a boy named Adam who looks about the same age as her. Until it's revealed that he's actually 18-years-old.
  • Only Sane Man:
    • William is this to the whole Maxwell family, as he's not as uptight about everything (except maybe sports) and takes things far less seriously than either Joel, Katy, or Tina.
    • Joel is this when it comes to dealing with Aaron, often having to try and talk sense into the poor deluded fool.
    • Eric is not nearly as mischievous or annoying as his friend Jenny.
    • Marion is this when compared to the other adults in the comic. She may be a tad oblivious and ditzy, but Marion is still a more significantly nice person who doesn't have a problem with what Aaron and his friends does.
  • Perverse Sexual Lust:
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Rick isn't so much a "villain" as much as he is just a total jerkass, but it's clear he's very much right-wing. He refers to African-Americans as "coloreds," thinks that women should Stay in the Kitchen, is heavily opposed to the idea of enforcing background checks on gun owners, and doesn't think homosexuals should be allowed in the military (in addition to openly referring to gay people using only homophobic slurs).
  • Precision F-Strike: An odd example. Throughout the first few months of the strip, the dialogue was fairly light on the swearing, aside from the occasional "hell" or "damn". When Lindsay was introduced, one of the first sentences out of her mouth is "Get the fuck off my family's property before I punch you in your tiny little balls," letting the reader know exactly what kind of person she is. Thereafter, the floodgates are wide open for the strip to turn into a Cluster F-Bomb.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil:
    • Kevin is a remorseless rapist who attempted to rape his psychiatrist and has twice tried to rape Michelle.
    • In "The Fall of the House of Duquense", Kevin even goes as far as to try and rape his own sister!
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • Joel delivers an epic one to his sister Katy when she accidentally deafens him and pins the blame on him to their mother, leading to the confiscation of his guitar.
      Joel: OH, FUCK YOU KATY! DO YOU EVER STOP TO THINK WHAT'S IMPORTANT TO ME? NO! NOBODY IN THIS HOUSE FUCKING DOES! This may be hard for you to believe, but I didn't take up the guitar just to annoy the shit out of you! I took it up because I wanted to learn a new skill! I wanted to do something meaningful with my life that I enjoyed! And now mom's treating me like some sort of drugged up juvenile delinquent! She's got it in her head that I blew up my own eardrums, even though I told her it was your stupid Mariah Carey tape, but of course she won't listen to me because I like rock music, so obviously I'm just some dumb brainwashed criminal, aren't I?
    • After beating Lindsay senseless, Jocelyn gives one that's just as epic, if not more so:
      Jocelyn: Do you feel that, Lindsay? You feel that horrible stabbing sensation all over your body? That feeling like you just want to be fucking dead so it'll finally all be over? That's pain, Lindsay. That's what pain is. And that is all you're good for in this world. That's the only thing you know how to do. You thrive on destroying people, just to make yourself feel better. And this is what it does. This is what the great Lindsay Duquesne's legacy will be. This is what you had to do to everyone you've ever met, to get where you are. You just lie there for a while and fuckin' think about that, 'kay? Awesome. Have a great night.
    • Lindsay gets an absolute mother of a TRYSS from Jessica, one that finally induces in Lindsay a major Heel Realization.
      Jessica: You think the world is out to fuck you? It's people like you who are out to fuck the world! You're absolute scum, Lindsay! And you know it! It's all you've ever been, and it's all you'll ever be!
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni:
    • Aaron often fits the category of red to Joel's blue.
    • Jenny is definitely the red to Eric's blue.
  • Rejected Apology: Lindsay attempts to make amends with Katy and Ashleigh for all the times she treated them badly. While the two seemed accepting of it, Joel shows up and quickly snatches the both of them away, clearly not believing Lindsay.
    Katy: Jeez, she said she was sorry...
    Joel: It's called lying Katy. It's kind of her M.O.
  • Retcon: Before getting its own website, the strip ran in bits and spurts on Barboza's DeviantArt page (under the name Forever 16, and before that, Maxwell Silver Hammer), jumping around randomly from week to week within the '90s and even into the 2000s and 2010s. Word of God says all the pre-website comics are no longer canon. Indeed, a good many character introduction stories from Barboza's DeviantArt gallery have been totally rewritten for the current run of the strip.
  • Right on Queue: Seen in the Universal Studios arc, as the Maxwells wait in line for the Jaws ride.
    Tina: I've never seen so many people this eager to be eaten by a shark.
  • 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.
  • Sadist Show: Oh yes. Bad things happen to just about everyone in this comic, regardless over whether or not they deserved it at the time.
  • Sadist Teacher: The utterly humorless Mr. Tucker. He sticks Michelle with a detention just for knowing more about how to use a computer than he does, then gives the same punishment to Joel when he comes to her defense.
  • Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Eric is much more down to Earth than the mischievous Jenny. Somewhat deconstructed in a later story arc, with Eric breaking down that he acts so careful because he doesn't want to let anyone down, and Jenny realizing that she hasn't been a particularly good friend to him with her hi-jinks getting him in unwanted situations.
  • Saw "Star Wars" 27 Times: Joel isn't too upset when Tina forbids him to watch The Simpsons again until he brings his math grade up, mentioning that he's already got every episode memorized.
  • Scary Flashlight Face: Aaron does this in his attempt to put a scary spin on the early '90s AT&T commercials.
  • Selective Obliviousness: Despite the fact that Lindsay has never been anything but malicious and horrible to them, Katy and Ashleigh are too desperate to be seen as "cool" to see her as anything other than someone to befriend and emulate.
  • 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.
  • Shaking the Rump: Katy does this when she listens to "Baby Got Back".
  • 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 slightly meaner.
    • 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 extension, 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 out going, laid-back, wild, and generally nicer. In fact, Vicky is where Jocelyn gets her punk-rock persona from.
  • The Sociopath: Kevin. Having a complete Lack of Empathy and being entirely unfettered to any threat made towards him doesn't even begin to describe it.
  • Stage Mom: Lindsay figures out that her mom was living vicariously through her in an attempt to relive her Glory Days as a high school cheerleader:
    Lindsay: ...oh my God. That's it, isn't it? All of this, the cheer squad, the "you gotta be ruthless" shit—you were just trying to turn me into you!! It's true, isn't it? Because you never finished high school 'cuz you had me! So, what, I was just your puppet?! You wanted to relive the success you had to give up, so you raised me to do all the same shit! Is that it?! IS THAT FUCKING IT, MOM?!
  • 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 Thursdays, not Sundays, thanks to the calendar years of 25 years ago not being synchronized with the present calendar.
  • Super Not-Drowning Skills: An alternate universe version created by Jesse has this trope in play, even featuring Westworld playing underwater without getting electrocuted.
  • 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 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 Tina'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.
  • Teens Are Monsters: It's telling that Joel, an abrasive rebel, and Aaron, a perverted hound dog, are some of the more morally saner characters in the whole comic.
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted in the "We Need To Talk About Kevin" arc, where Brad hires a psychologist in hopes that it would help deal with Kevin's sociopathic behavior. It doesn't work. In fact, Kevin straight-up attempts to murder the psychologist.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Jocelyn and Michelle, respectively. Downplayed in Michelle's case, however, as she isn't really much of a girly girl.
  • 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.
  • Values Dissonance: In-Universe; Adam tries to use the excuse that it's normal for adults to hit on teens in other countries (like Japan) so Joel wouldn't beat him into a pulp for trying to date his younger sister. Joel doesn't buy it, and neither does Katy when she finds out herself.
  • Vaporwear: Denise and Kendra, in true hippie fashion, never wear bras. Though Kendra might've gone back to wearing a bra as she has since decided to give up her hippie lifestyle.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Lindsay has been embarking on one since she lost on Star Search, taking out her anger on the well-meaning Katie and engaging in a catfight with Jocelyn. The latter doesn't work out too hot.
  • Villainous Incest: An extremely one-sided example: Showing just how depraved he really is, Kevin kicks the crap out of Lindsay and then attempts to rape her.
  • Virtue Is Weakness: Lindsay tells tells Jessica that she's popular and at the top is because she believes that remorse makes a person weak by letting yourself drop your guard to be eaten alive.
  • 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.
  • Walls of Text: There is a lot of text in each panel of almost every strip.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Tina is revealed to be this in the "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Tina" arc.
    Larry King: So, you're trying to pass a law that takes away people's right to freedom of expression just so your mom will love you?
    Tina: ...Well, it's not like anything else has worked.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Tina just wants to live in a world that's safe for her kids, but a lot of her actions do more harm than good.
  • World of Buxom: Downplayed, as most of the female characters that are old enough to have breasts tend to be either a C-cup or larger. Justified, as a majority of the characters are teens who are otherwise still developing.
  • World of Jerkass: Much of the cast consist of either short-tempered adults who are willing to go to absurd lengths to achieve their own selfish needs or apathetic teens who screw each other over for their own amusement.
  • 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.