Out There is a webcomic by R. C. Monroe. It focuses on the exploits of Miriam, a hedonistic, self-centered, self-destructive bartender with a good heart and a strong desire to change for the better—as long the change doesn’t interfere with her endless search for pleasure. Yes, she's a bit conflicted. Out There features an ensemble cast (Miriam’s various friends, lovers, ex-lovers, would-be lovers, etc.), some of whom are occasionally featured in their own arcs, but it’s mostly The Miriam Show, because she wouldn't have it any other way.
Using a four-panel (five in the early days), black-and-white Newspaper Comic format, Out There updated six days a week without fail from June 12, 2006 to June 4, 2011. The week of June 6-10, 2011 marked the beginning of a five week strip- the author citing time constraints and the inability to support himself solely on the strip as reasons why he cut the Saturday strip. As of June 2013, it's switched to one larger color strip per week, alternating with new comics In Here (an alternate continuity involving Miriam) and Cliché Flambé (Miriam and company Breaking the Fourth Wall to present author rants about a new cliché each week). As of March 2016 there are no new updates.
Out There is a "quiet" comedy; there's a punchline at the end of every strip, but the humor is generally subtle and understated. At its heart, Out There is a character drama, and its characters are well-developed, complex, and realistic.
Not to be confused with the IFC cartoon, Out There.
- Abhorrent Admirer: Sherry finds her admirer Clayton fairly abhorrent, and while he has many flaws (surly, shiftless, dishonest, alcoholic), the other notable female characters seem to like him.
- Accidental Misnaming: James never uses Miriam's name, always referring to her as "Red". Sherry always calls her ex-flame Steven "Stevie". After Miriam breaks up with him, she takes to calling him "Stevie" as well, much to his annoyance.
- The Alcoholic: Clayton; Miriam is better represented by the Hard-Drinking Party Girl
- Attention Whore: Miriam is an unabashed attention whore. She is completely aware of it, and often refers to it self-deprecatingly. At times she comments on how shallow and ultimately unfulfilling it is, but that doesn't mean she doesn't still really dig it.
- Better as Friends: Miriam and Clayton. Although Miriam being Miriam, one never knows for sure about the "never happening again" part. Also, Miriam and Rod.
- Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: red-haired Miriam fits the Fiery Redhead trope reasonably well, but also has some Dumb Blonde tendencies; the usually dark-haired Sherry (who sometimes bleaches her hair blonde) can be seen as the Brainy Brunette; and the dark-haired Araceli, despite her occupation (she's an attorney) and hair color, is somewhat of a Shy Blue-Haired Girl.
- But I Would Really Enjoy It: Miriam has this dilemma all the damn time. ALL the damn time.
- But Liquor Is Quicker: In a slight tweaking of the trope, Rod gets falling-down drunk while attempting to seduce Miriam, who is spending a rare evening abstaining from alcohol. Miriam doesn't want Rod to attempt to drive in his condition, so she insists he come home with her. Not wanting to be tempted, she gives him her bed while she sleeps with Sherry. It is not until the morning, when both Miriam and Rod are completely sober, that she succumbs to his advances.
- Career Versus Man: Sherry until she thought better of it.
- Cheated Angle: Miriam has two strands of hair that stick out from the top of her head, and always do so at the same angle, whether she's facing you, in three-quarters view, or in profile, as this strip shows.
- Commuting on a Bus: Arguably, John. He certainly seems like a main character during the strip's initial 6-7 months (he's in almost every strip), but once he and Miriam reach Portstown, we start to see him far less frequently; sometimes several weeks will go by between his appearances.
- The latter can be said for all the other characters aside from Miriam, though; the only difference is John's first "co-starring" arc is at the very beginning of the strip, and lasts for a long time. It seems to establish him as a main character when perhaps all it really establishes is the pattern of long arcs starring Miriam and one of her supporting characters. Sherry, for instance, has a co-starring arc of about the same length a year later.
- Contemplate Our Navels: Many of the characters get introspective and philosophical at times. Sometimes a whole week of strips will be devoted to someone's (usually Miriam's) inner monologue.
- Cool Shades: James has yet to be pictured without his Ray-Bans (if that's what they are). You can't even see his eyes when he's in profile. Since you can see the eyes of the other characters when they're viewed from the side (even when they're wearing glasses), it's hard not to wonder: does James even have eyes?
- Yes. Yes he does.
- Did You Just Have Sex?: The insightful Miriam concludes that Sherry has broken her long dry spell upon observing the latter's visible discomfort with discussing the topic; James makes a lucky guess based on a similar observation, and Clayton explains the most compelling reason she's unable to conceal what everybody else can see.
- Disappeared Dad: Miriam's mother makes occasional appearances, but the first time Miriam mentions her father, she implies she hasn't seen him for awhile, if ever.
- Turns out there's a pretty good reason.
- Ethical Slut: Miriam's promiscuous past is strongly hinted at, and she seems to be constantly at odds with the question of continuing along that path, or abandoning it. Her trepidation with the Ethical Slut lifestyle seems to be based not on moral or societal grounds, but with the fact that she finds it ultimately unsatisfying.
- French Maid: Miriam decides the costume is ideal for cleaning Ari's condominium, and also for seducing her.
- Friends with Benefits: Most notably, Miriam and Steven, post-breakup. A few other pairings have taken place (or are implied to have taken place) as a part of the back story: Sherry and Steven, Miriam and Wally, and possibly even Miriam and Sherry; there is also a reference to a Friends With Benefits relationship between Miriam and a character named Carlos in one of the flashback stories in the third Out There book.
- Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Miriam gets the "Smoker is sexy" rule suspension
- Grey-and-Gray Morality: Everybody is a little bad but they are at least overall a Nice Guy or have a Hidden Heart of Gold.
- Harem Seeker: Rod is rarely seen not hitting on Miriam, Araceli, Sherry, or some other nameless female who works in his office. He's successful far more often than he deserves to be.
- Ignored Confession: Araceli, who is drunk, is talking to Sherry. Ari likes Sherry, and Sherry is straight.
- I Have This Friend: Ari is at Sherry's bar, commiserating:Ari: I have a hypothetical question for you.
Ari: [Incredibly detailed summary of her most recent character arc.]
- Sherry, knowing everyone who was given a hypothetical persona, figures it out.
- Incompatible Orientation: Rod and Araceli, Araceli and Sherry
- Incorruptible Pure Pureness: John. It tends to drive everyone else (especially Miriam) nuts, but at the same time he is respected by all for it.
- I Need a Freaking Drink: Miriam always needs a freaking drink. Sherry, Araceli, Rebecca, et. al. sometimes need a freaking drink. Clayton never needs one, but he'll have one anyway, thank you.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: To varying degrees, almost all of the major male characters (the exceptions being John and Chuck). James is selfish and abrasive, arrogant, constantly borrowing money without paying it back; he also volunteers at a homeless shelter. Clayton is surly, has been known to steal alcohol from his favorite bar, and is constantly seen mooching off of others; but he refused to take advantage of Miriam when she was drunk. Steven and Rod are unrepentant philanderers, but are generally loyal and respectful towards their ex-flame-cum-best-friends (Sherry and Araceli, respectively). Wally is a repentant (and former) philanderer. Considering the fact the main character, Miriam, has enough flaws to fill a book (while remaining unerringly sympathetic) Out There seems to be a world where everyone is a little bad, but nobody is too bad (although the near-saintly John is an idiosyncratic exception).
- Lady Killer In Love: Rod is genuinely in love with Ari. It's a bit more complex than a standard Incompatible Orientation; he's still playing around, but has made it perfectly clear that he'd give it up in a heartbeat if she ever decides she wants him.
- Lampshade Hanging: This alludes to Out There having passed 2000 strips, although it itself appears to be strip 2010.
- Last-Name Basis: The number of times Clayton's first name has been said can probably be counted on one hand. It's Craig.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: When Miriam is told that she's the best soap opera around, she replies with, "Sometimes I wish I was written better, but I do the best with the material I'm given." This could also double as Self-Deprecation on the author's part.
- Lie Back and Think of England: Sherry, who Hates Being Touched, uses "while I think of my homeland" in reference to hand-shaking, in a parody of this trope.
- Little Black Dress: A favorite of both Miriam and Sherry.
- Love Dodecahedron: All of the major characters, with the notable exception of John, have at one time or another been infatuated with at least one of the other major characters. Miriam, as the main character, has dated, had flings with, or been otherwise at least temporarily fascinated with no less than 8 major characters: John (unrequited love/lust), Wally (fling, as part of the back story), Chuck ("officially" dated), Clayton (aborted fling), Sherry (unconfirmed, but strongly implied, past fling and/or relationship), Rod (fling), Steven ("officially" dated), and Araceli (infatuation); this doesn't even cover the list of characters (most of them minor or non-recurring characters) who have been at least temporarily captivated by her. While Miriam holds the record in all love/lust categories, Sherry's list is almost as impressive (embarrassing?): Steven (dated, as part of the back story), John (brief, and relatively mild, infatuation during a short period of essentially platonic dating), Chuck (big-time crush, finally culminating in an "official" relationship that is ongoing), Rod (brief interest until he "blew it"), Clayton (one-sided—he wants her, she's repulsed), Araceli (one-sided—Sherry is clueless about Ari's infatuation), and of course, Miriam (unconfirmed). Out There is unabashedly a soap opera.
- Mile-High Club: Implied, subtly, here
- Modesty Bedsheet: Characters (mostly the females) are sometimes shown bathing, undressing, or lounging in bed. Usually they are seen from the shoulders up, or from the rear (so that only a naked back is visible); otherwise, a Modesty Bedsheet provides cover. Interestingly, Rebecca and Wally, the only married couple in the strip, are also the only people ever portrayed under the sheets ''together''; non-married couples are usually seen fully clothed, laying on top of the sheets.
- Modesty Towel: Miriam on occasion, others (like Sherry) less frequently.
- Ms. Fanservice: Miriam, most obviously, who is often seen in states of undress or semi-dress; even when she's "fully" clothed she usually shows a lot of curves and/or skin. Sherry, Araceli, and Rebecca also have their showoff-y moments but not with the same frequency or intensity.
- No Communities Were Harmed: The main action takes place in Portstown (Boston), with occasional sojourns to Los Vicios (Las Vegas) or Oceanic City (Atlantic City). It is a bit jarring to see Boston called "P'Town"...
- Also, Wally Green plays for the Arch City Starlings (St. Louis Cardinals).
- Noodle Incident: Miriam makes a list of wild things she's done and shows it to Chuck. We never see what they are but we learn that some of them seem impossible and require at least two people. One of them involved Sherry in some way, much to her embarrassment (and attempted denial). Another one (which also involved Sherry) was "stupid", but apparently fun enough that Sherry would be willing to do it "once more", but "only once". Chuck responds by writing down some things he did, one of which makes Miriam's eyes widen and results in this exchange:Miriam: You are so doing that with me tonight.Chuck: I don't think we can. The supplies are usually on back order.
- Some or all of these "Noodle Incidents" could also be examples of Comic Sutra.
- Not a Date: Sherry and John "didn't date" for awhile, awakening Miriam's curiosity and penchant for shipping. It ended, painlessly, when Sherry decided she was interested in someone else.
- Oblivious to Love: Sherry is so oblivious to Ari's attraction to her, she thinks that since Ari looks at her differently than she looks at Miriam, it means Ari's attracted to… Miriam. Meanwhile, Miriam, who has decided she's attracted to Ari, can't get Ari to realize it; Ari thinks she has embarrassed Miriam by offering her menial work.
- One Dialogue, Two Conversations: A rather subtle example (keep in mind that Clayton's serious, and Sherry's just bantering):Clayton: I can't believe someone as unconfident as you won't at least consider giving someone as unchallenging as me a shot.
Sherry: Another in a series of life's paradoxes.
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
- The Philosopher: The whole cast occasionally takes turns playing this role.
- Reformed Rakes: Rod offers this.
- And Wally does it...after being married a while.
- Ship Sinking: Martha, echoing a large part of the audience, thought that Sherry and Miriam had been sleeping together in their younger years; Sherry shoots the idea down flat, apparently genuinely surprised Martha thought so—although Martha herself still isn't convinced.
- Shrug of God: Since sex is never actually depicted in Out There, Monroe states in his blog that it's up to the reader to decide how far things go.What I’ve tried to do with Out There is have it both ways. Whichever way you think it oughta be, you win. If you think that Miriam and Chuck should have had sex, and Araceli and Rod should have had sex, and Sherry and Steven must have had sex, then okay—they had sex. Everyone who you think should have had sex with whoever they should have had sex with, did. You just didn’t see it. If, on the other hand, it makes you happier to think that Miriam and Chuck made out a lot but stopped before things got too out of hand, then that’s cool too—there’s nothing in the strip that proves otherwise. Winners everywhere.
- Sign of the Apocalypse: When Miriam stops talking.
- Sorry, I'm Gay: It's very strongly suggested Araceli only started identifying as fully lesbian to escape Rod's advances.
- Spicy Latina: Araceli is an aversion to this trope. She's more shy and vulnerable than the other two (white) female leads, and usually dresses more conservatively. Less of a tomboy as well. And a lesbian, if that means anything.
- Sherry actually fits the trope reasonably well, notwithstanding the fact that she's not a Latina.
- Toplessness from the Back: Miriam is seen shirtless from the rear occasionally; as are others (such as Rebecca), although less frequently.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Out There is something of a World of Snark, so many of the close friendships therein follow Type 2 (Miriam and Sherry, Sherry and Steven, Araceli and Rod, James and Chuck), and a few of the relationships seem to embody Type 1 (Miriam and James, Sherry and Clayton, Miriam and Clayton). The schizophrenic nature of these relationships is well represented here; Miriam and Sherry's volatile friendship borders on a parody of this trope at times; when they're not sniping at each other, they're often caressing each other.
- Wham Line: When Clayton lobbies for Miriam to get a job as a stripper, Miriam gets offended—not so much at the notion of being a stripper, but because she suspects Clayton is just trying to get her to leave Sherry's bar. Clayton, offended that Miriam has taken offense, attempts to elucidate: "Anyway, don't you think any of these losers wouldn't flock to see you [work as a stripper]? Hell, I'm sure I would." The kiss afterward serves the same general purpose.
- What Did I Do Last Night? / Did They or Didn't They?: This trope is established early in the strip's run. On the first night they meet, Miriam and John end up spending the night in a hotel together after she ties one on (nothing happens, except a REALLY good dream). In another arc about a year later, Miriam and Sherry go out drinking and the next day Miriam's memory of the night is so spotty that she can't remember if she cut her own hair (she didn't; Sherry cut it while she was sleeping). Another time, a hung-over Miriam thinks she remembers Sherry sabotaging her one-night stand, and assumes she must be remembering wrong (she isn’t). Not long after, Miriam and Clayton end up in bed together, and Miriam needs a recap the next day to find out what happened. Later, while touring with Steven's band, Miriam gets drunk at a party and and is later surprised to find a phone number written on her belly in indelible ink. Still later, Miriam wakes up on Araceli's couch and has trouble remembering what they did the night before, but she figures it out on her own, confirming (in her own mind) that she doesn't have a drinking problem, after all.
- World of Snark: Almost all of the characters can be categorized, at least occasionally, as Deadpan Snarkers.