1/0 starts, appropriately enough, with darkness. Tailsteak, the ever-present and all-powerful narrator and author, thinks for a moment, says, "Let there be light," and from there goes about creating his universe. He starts by stealing bit characters from other Webcomics, talking to them, creating other characters from them, and begging them to do something interesting.
As any good author will tell you, a good character is your worst enemy. If you are doing your job properly, you don't always know what they'll do; they'll write themselves, occasionally mess up your plans for long term plots, or break dramatic moments with idiotic questions. A good author doesn't control their characters—their characters control themselves. And that is what 1/0 hinges on—the characters are aware, and they don't always agree with Tailsteak.
They know everything we do, like who the president is and how long a year is, even though neither exist in their universe. Confronted with overt intervention by their author, they strike for months of strips, refusing to speak or move or think until he promises never to change the laws of physics again. They contemplate where they go when Tailsteak isn't writing them; they question whether they, as fictional characters, are actually alive or if their writer is just schizophrenic.
And they wonder about, and fear, the end. At 1000 strips, a nice round number at which point their creator, Tailsteak, has told them, "Your universe will end."
In less prosaic terms, 1/0 is a Web Comic that was started to get the author a girlfriend, and he began to explore the possibilities of a series that firmly established there was No Fourth Wall for one of the most poignant examples of Metafiction yet.
This comic provides examples of the following tropes:
- A God I Am Not: Tailsteak, the all-powerful creator of the universe the characters inhabit, is quite emphatic about his lack of divinity.
- Apocalypse Anarchy: It's the creator who decides to break all the rules when the apocalypse comes, removing the consistent physics and resurrecting all the characters who were Killed Off for Real so he can send them into our world before the comic ends.
- Author Avatar: Averted, just barely. Tailsteak talks to the characters on a regular basis, but never appears in-panel.
- Author Tract: Lampshaded very aggressively in the debate between Ghanny, Mock, and Marcus. Petitus points out that it was very much an Author Tract coming from a Christian writer, and proceeds to explain exactly why the point Tailsteak was trying to make is completely irrelevant to the in-comic universe anyway.
- Back from the Dead:
- Everyone gets one "ghost point", which lets them more or less do this. They're still technically dead (and incorporeal) rather than getting resurrected physically, but they're able to participate fully in the comic's society, so it hardly matters.
- Those who did disappear for good are physically resurrected shortly before the world ends.
- Book Ends: In the first strip, "Let there be light!" In the last strip "Let there be darkness!"
- Brick Joke: Junior mentions that it smelled like an old Arab woman here, leading to a small serial about whether or not he had been at CN Tower. Later, when he tries to smoke the grass...
- Call-Back: Zadok and Terra quote The Empire Strikes Back's "I love you"/"I know" in strip #672. They say echo the same words again at the end of strip #998.
- Calling Your Attacks: "Spark punch! Clap shocker! Thunder fists! ELECTRIC BODY SLAM!"
- Card-Carrying Villain: Junior is defined as "evil". He discusses his status several times and often both he and the author try to enforce it. It's ultimately deconstructed, courtesy of Ghanny.
- Cerebus Syndrome: The comic starts as pointless doodles. Philosophy grows naturally out of the tomfoolery once there are enough viewpoints to fuel conversations, which may give a charming low-key atmosphere, but is tough on new readers.
- Chekhov's Gun: The greasy stuff from the grass didn't exactly turn out to be a plot point, but it was used to blow bubbles shortly before the world ended.
- Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Everyone's adventures in Portland, if they have any, after the end of the comic are left by Tailsteak to the audience's interpretation.
- Contemplate Our Navels: There's pretty much nothing for the cast to do but this.
- Deader than Dead: Deanthropomorphization, which destroys a character's personality and reverts them to a non-sapient version of whatever creature/object/body part they were made from, although it doesn't destroy anything material. Actually dying is no big deal (although the event itself is unpleasant), because you just come back as a ghost.
- Deadpan Snarker: Most of the characters at some point, but Zadok constantly.
- Designated Villain: In strip #599, Tailsteak admits in-universe that he pigeonholed Junior as one of these and that he apologizes for stifling his character development by doing so.
- Discount Lesbians: Tailsteak specifically introduced Terra as a lesbian to have a female the guys can't date, which is justified by saying that earthworms are hermaphrodites, but he's characterizing them all as female. The fact that she's not a "real" lesbian is key to her being with Zadok without a fourth wall.
- Dissimile: According to Barnacle Jones, war is "...sort of like being friends. Only it's completely different, and with more suffering."
- Door-Closes Ending: Ends this way, with a happy ending where everyone is Back for the Finale. Those who died during the comic's run are resurrected and everyone gets turned into humans (except the Running Gag, which gets turned into a fish). The door in question is a dimensional door between the world of the comic (which will be destroyed) and the real world.
- The Eeyore: Petitus, especially in his earliest days. Tailsteak directly tells him in a later strip that he was created to be The Eeyore of 1/0.
- Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory: Discussed here.
- Face Palm: Zadok has a realization.
- Fake Crossover: The comic's first character, Barnacle Jones, was lifted directly from Absolute Tripe. Towards the end of 1/0, Jones laments that Absolute Tripe didn't acknowledge this in any way, and Tailsteak points out that they didn't have to, because it wasn't a real crossover.
- Fantastic Aesop: Thanks to the ghost points—in the words of Max, "Gee, I hope none of our readers have suicidal tendencies."
- Fourth Wall: Both literal and bad news. All the characters can see through it by default, but those who no longer want to put up with Tailsteak's arbitrary rules can generate a personal Fourth Wall, which appears as tiny "4"s in their eyes. Ghanny loathes it and tries to break any fourth wall he encounters, which turns into a plot point near the end—he's finally able to break through, but it's through blunt force (necessary, to help his friends in time) rather than witty repartee and debate. It's a bit of a hollow victory for the poor guy.
- Geek Physiques: When Marcus asks Terra to describe Tailsteak's appearance in #486, she deduces that him, being a computer geek, must either be "really fat or really skinny".
- Genre Savvy: The characters converse with the author about the rules of their universe and the author's plans for them, and try to use this knowledge to stop him from killing them off. Petitus is particularly good at that last part.
- Giant Corpse World: The characters living on the corpse of Teddy Weddy.
- Golem: Zadok, Petitus, Mock, and Teddy Weddy.
- A Good Name for a Rock Band: Well, album title.
- Hand Wave: Tailsteak's explanation of how light behaves. It's a one-time exception, and it's Played for Laughs.
- He Who Must Not Be Seen: The jar.
- I'm Your Worst Nightmare: Here.Tailsteak: Don't mind [Junior], he's evil.
Manny: Evil, you say?
Tailsteak: 'Fraid so.
Junior: That's right! I'm your worst nightmare!
Manny: My worst nightmare, sir, is a proton accelerator.
Junior: Well, I'm one of those, then!
- I Know Your True Name: Golems are brought to life by a character saying their true name out loud. After Zadok realizes that "Teddy Weddy" is a nickname, he uses "Theodore" to resurrect him as a golem.
- In a World…: Zadok does a Don LaFontaine impersonation in strip 818, complete with underlined text.Zadok: Beyond known space. An ancient evil lurks. Now, six friends must join forces to do the impossible.
- Jerkass: Marcus, a little bit, before he gains a Fourth Wall, and later to the point of insulting his son for his insufficient "structuration". Junior is also, though he isn't sure what to do about it. Ghanny, Tailsteak, and Petitus all have moments of this as well.
- Killed Off for Real: Barnacle Jones and Max. Until the laws of the universe start breaking down at the end.
- Meaningful Name: Mock turns out to be an adept shape-shifter.
- Mind Rape: Ghanny reluctantly inflicts this upon Junior as punishment for sexually harassing Terra.
- No Fourth Wall: Taken to an art form. In fact, it's in many ways the main point of the strip. Explicitly stated in strip 16.
- Oh, Crap!: Mock releases a stream of these in strip 863 when Marcus suggests that the reason why Junior hadn't moved in 30 pages is that he made a Decoy Getaway.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Teddy Weddy never became a golem because no one ever spoke his real name. He does when Zadok finally realizes this.
- Overly-Long Gag: Junior is focused on in the last panel beginning in this strip and ending in this one, annoying the living hell out of him and cutting off the rest of the character's conversations.
- Papa Wolf: Max.
- Person as Verb: Those who escape in their own thought bubble are "pulling a Ribby".
- Prefers the Illusion: Ribby. Early on he leaves their world for his dream bubble. Near the end, he is pulled out and describes the dream world as "the most horrible thing ever".It's... at first, you think it's real. But everything... everything is in your mind.It's literally impossible to surprise yourself. If you don't like something, it fades away.
- Put on a Bus: The Running Gag. Disappears early, returns late, though it makes a minor appearance somewhere in the middle.
- Rage Against the Author: The reason Junior exists.
- Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: At one point the proudly evil Junior makes a rape joke, which provokes the exasperated response, "Okay, Junior, we know you're evil!"
- Running Gag:
- Science Marches On: Terra the earthworm needed to surface during the rain in the comic, but, contrary to previous scientific belief, earthworms wouldn't actually drown by staying underground during rainstorms.
- Tailsteak takes plenty of jabs at his inability to draw, write characters, and poor sense of humor.
- His characters join in self-depreciation as well. For instance, in strip #903:Mock: You know what we've never had? The 'explanation' punchline. You know, like a situation unfolds in the first few panels that is stupid... ...and then, in the last panel, we see one character explaining it to someone else. "And that's when I killed him." Like it was all a flashback. We never have that comic structure.(Beat)Petitus: That's because we aren't funny.
- Seppuku: Attempted by the Running Gag when Andy dies, but it can't quite jump high enough to impale itself successfully. It runs off into the distance instead. Later in the comic, Junior.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Marcus attempts this, but many of the big words he uses are made up.
- Show Within a Show: "Max's World", a strip drawn by Max to show Marcus what a comic strip is. It doesn't last very long, as the 1/0 characters gets jealous of the main character's girlfriend and drop an anvil on him in the next panel. (A fan of the strip created The Max's World Archive, which places all canonical episodes of "Max's World" in one place.)
- Situational Sexuality: The fourth-walled Marcus, having no concept of femaleness as everyone in his world is male, briefly flirts with homosexuality prior to the introduction of the first female character.
- Smooch of Victory: Between Terra and Zadok.
- Symbol Swearing: Marcus is the only character who can actually understand the swears because he's the only one who heard swearing while fourth-walled.
- Trade Snark: Zadok, when advertising the "Horizonite™" or the "Oil®".
- Who Writes This Crap?!: The Official Couple gets frustrated by the cartoonist's inability to write romantic dialogue and takes theirs entirely off-panel. Consciously rebelling against one's own characterization is about usual around here.
- Your Size May Vary:
- Justified—Ghanny mentions in one strip that he often uses his ghost shape-changing powers to alter his size based on who he's with at the time.
- Played straight nearer to the end—Teddy Weddy is huge compared with all of the other characters, including Barnacle Jones, who's supposed to be about the same size.