Penny Blackfeather is a regencypunk fantasy adventure webcomic by Francesca Dare. It was being published since January 2012 and no longer updates, alas. The website is currently not accessible. Luckily it has been captured by the Internet Archive.
The plot takes place in 1812 in Vanilla, England, and centers around Penelope Blake, a young woman who dreams about a life of adventure rather than the life of "cushion embroidery and ballroom dancing" she can realistically aspire to. She is also the only person who can hear the ghostly voice of her grandfather Nathaniel Blackfeather, a pirate and sorcerer, who is condemned to haunt her.
One day Penny sneaks out from a ball and goes exploring the hostess' house, having heard rumors of a haunted library. A mysterious blue feather falling through a hatch in the ceiling lures her to the roof, where she meets a strange bird and its strange owner, and gets drawn into the kind of adventure she dreamed about.
Penny Blackfeather contains examples of:
- Abhorrent Admirer: For Penny, Mr. Poggleswede. Mostly because of her mother constantly trying to set them up. He himself doesn't seem to care for (or against) Penny all that much.
- Action Dress Rip: Penny here.
- Affectionate Nickname: Nathaniel calls his granddaughter "Sweet Pea". He calls the Adventurer, whom he doesn't like so much, "numpty".
- Agent Scully: The Adventurer utterly disbelieves in magic, monsters and ghosts. He's introduced as a travelling ghost-story debunker. This despite having obvious magical abilities himself, running into quite a lot of monsters and being the only one beside Penny who can hear Nathaniel.The Adventurer: I just hope we don't catch whatever weird skin disease it is poor Molly has.
Penny: Wha? Disease? She had tentacles, for goodness sakes!
- Alien Blood: Princess in her human form has blue blood. Possibly caused by magic.
- Alliterative Name: Madame Miriam Mim.
- All the Other Reindeer: Penny is considered weird, knows she's considered weird, and while she wants to have a friend, it has to be a True Companions, philia relationship, as opposed to shallow socialising.
- BFS: Too big for Penny to lift, in fact.Nathaniel: It isn't heavy, Sweet Pea, you just don't have the muscle to lift the thing.
- Badass Boast:Penny: I'm getting just a little tired of you all underestimating me.
- Big Ball of Violence: Most fight scenes, really.
- Big Damn Heroes: Quite a lot.
- Just as Nathaniel and the Adventurer thought Penny was drowned, who comes triumphantly back?
- Also Princess here.
- Prepare to face the wrath of Whitby! Okay, it ends pretty quickly, but he tried, didn't he?
- Later Ara, who's non-magical at the moment tackles the baddie right from the doorway. It does lead to chaos, but it's this sort of a story. A few pages afterwards, she taps into the magical potential of her curse, taking it back into herself to really scare the pants off a villain. She won't hurt him, but neither is she going to stop the snow spirits from doing so.
- Butt-Monkey: To be fair, Bugbear deserves it.Penny: I'm so sorry! Are you hurt? I didn't mean to land on- On... oh. It's just you, Bugbear. Never mind then.
- Can't You Read the Sign?: Bathhouse safety rules explicitly forbid running, pushing, acrobatics and women. So, of course, Penny (dressed as a man), runs full pelt through it, with some pushing and jumping. They also forbid ducking and petting.
- Christmas Episode: 2012 one was an elaborate 12-page reinterpretation of Twelve Days of ChristmasSample: "Four haunting ghosts, three henchmen, two elder gods and a parrot in a pear tree!"
- Crash-Into Hello: How Penny meets The Adventurer.
- Collapsing Lair: The castle in volume one finale.
- Curse Cut Short: Several times.Nathaniel: That's bo-
Penny: But that's not possible.
- Cursed with Awesome: Princess, and, after that healing magic mishap, the Adventurer. Pros - magical power extraordinaire! Cons - apparently overusing it will make you a monster. As well as a parrot, when outside of the Goblin Valley, and it seems "overusing" equals "using" (or at least, "using recklessly") in this case.
- Dances and Balls: A part of each volume takes place in the ballroom. Usually there's exposition and avoiding mr. Poggleswede.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Why the Adventurer is such an Agent Scully. As a child, he's been beaten for expressing belief or interest in magic, to the point that he'll fervently deny it even now. He also spent some time with pirates, which may or may not be unrelated.
- Deadpan Snarker: Penny has her moments, often triggered by her mother:Mrs. Blake: Who knows, maybe the man of your dreams will appear and sweep you off your feet!
Penny: Unlikely. He's have to get past the man of my nightmares to do that, Mama.
- Description Cut: Penny is introduced saying exactly what she thinks of mr. Poggleswede. Cue our narrator:Nathaniel: Thus enters Penelope Blake, an innocent, charming young ingenue.
The Adventurer: There's no way those things can get through this sturdy door.
- Later, guess what happens when the Adventurer says:
- Distressed Dude: The Adventurer, when captured by Miss Quinn's monsters. He botches the escape attempt (well, Nathaniel is to blame...) and ends up chained to a post to be used for a Human Sacrifice.
- Divided We Fall: This, dear children, is why you should not argue bitterly and loudly while hiding from mooks in the forest.
- Drill Sergeant Nasty: After getting rid of Nyx, madame Mim becomes Penny's governess - officially. Unofficially she becomes her and the Adventurer's magic tutor and she's a Strict Teacher, let us tell you.
- Excuse Me While I Multitask: Penny and the Adventurer continue their discussion during the Fight Scene.Victor: Shut up! What sort of gormless ninny stops in the middle of a fight to chat? You have no idea what you're doing! And furthermore-
Penny: (thwacks him) Thanks for the advice.
- Empathic Healer: The Adventurer wasn't actually intending to take the cut upon himself, he's just untrained. When he tries for the second time, he gets all the Princess's magicalness and fancy blue clothes.
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Princess, real name Ara, but she is a princess, actually.
- Exactly What I Aimed At: Subverted. Penny was aiming for their heads.Penny: Grr... I'll teach you to call your elders and betters names, you little brat! Take that!
(throws a candlestick at Bugbear and minions, but hits the ceiling)
Bugbear Ha! You missed us you stupid girly-armed girl!
(the ceiling collapses with a CRUNCH)
- The Fair Folk: Snow spirits, if seemingly cute and harmless (well, Winter is cute), are nevertheless vulnerable to Cold Iron, selkie-like shapeshifters (as in, they keep the magic necessary in their cloaks).
- Fake Faint: Georgiana, to distract everyone from Penny sneaking out.
- Fat Bastard: Aldous Brobdiggon. Doubles as Fat Idiot, or at last Fat Someone Very Unobservant (out of her disguise, it's really not a sign of smartness to mistake Penny for a boy).Brobdiggon: Hah! You can't put the wool over my eyes! (Adventurer proceeds to sack him)
- Feather Motif: Beginning with the cover page and throughout the story, blue feathers symbolise adventure.
- Fearsome Critters of American Folklore: Antelabbits are, basically, talking jackalopes. Also known as snow spirits. The townsfolk thinks they're rats.
- Follow the White Rabbit: In part one Penny eagerly follows Princess (a blue parrot) onto the roof and into the plot.
- Goggles Do Something Unusual: Mim has spiritual glasses that allow you to, well, see spirits.
- Gorgeous Garment Generation: One of the perks of tapping into the parrot curse is a totally awesome, flowy, blue costume spontaneously replacing your drab, boring clothes.
- Grin of Audacity: Penny as she stands her ground to monsters.
- Groin Attack: Perhaps mr. Poggleswede should have thought a little when he advised Penny to "put a little kick into her dancing"... But it still doesn't get him out of her hair.
- Healing Spring: The bathhouse pool is fed from one.
- The Hero: Penelope, who loves the thought of swashbuckling - as of Volume Two the Adventurer has taught her some fencing.
- How Do I Shot Web?: Besides being a powerful, but untrained mage, the Adventurer when turned into a parrot doesn't automatically know how to fly.
- I Am Not Weasel: Bugbear constantly calls Princess various bird species that start with a "p": puffin, pigeon and so on. She's a parrot.
- I Can Explain: Says Penny and wisely flees.
- I Just Want to Have Friends: Penny, who is considered very strange by all those who know her, wants to meet someone like her.
- The Ingenue: Penny is supposed to be one, but what she actually is would be better described as Plucky Girl Born in the Wrong Century - she's uninterested in marriage to mr. Poggleswede, dissappointed by the perspective of ballroom dancing and embroidering and craves adventure, preferring to read about it while she can't have the real thing, instead of dancing.
- The Infiltration: By the villain team, who place Elyssia Nyx in the Blake's house as governess.
- Infodump: Delivering these in a poetic, fairy-tale-like manner is the specialty of princess Ara.
- Interactive Narrator: With a dash of lemony, from the wizard and privateer extraordinaire, Nathaniel Blackfeather! Who, despite having no physical hand in the affairs, is still able to manipulate people into doing things.
- Invisible to Normals: Grandpa Blackfeather. Snow spirits. Possibly more.
- It May Help You on Your Quest: Cali's gift comes in useful within the chapter where it's given.
- Jumped at the Call: Penny is always keen on adventuring.Penny: Ohmygosh we have to investigate!
- Lady Drunk: Madame Mim. Abrasive personality? Check. Living in the past? Check. Strolling around town with a bottle of gin? That's her.
- Language Barrier: Princess in her human form speaks in squiggly runes of magic instead of English. Following his Power-Up, the Adventurer puts her under a translation spell.
- Lame Pun Reaction:Nathaniel: Well, she's in good spirits.
Penny: Grandpa, no.
The Adventurer: *yikes*
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
Nathaniel: But this is the most amazing fight! It must be very hard to draw- [next panel] -breath in a fight like that...
- At one point, Penny interrupts her grandfather by smacking his speech bubble.
- When Penny fights Miss Quinn, her grandfather comments on the Offscreen Moment of Awesome:
- Long-Lost Relative: As we learn here the Adventurer is the son of lord Whitby's Long Lost Relative, making him one, as well.
- Mark of the Supernatural: The color blue: magical clothes tend to be blue, the Adventurer has one blue eye (his other one is brown), Princess is a blue parrot and has blue hair in her human form, until she loses her magic and the hair turns black.
- Meaningful Rename: When The Adventurer mistakenly calls Penny Blake 'Miss Blackfeather', she refrains from correcting him, thus embracing her grandfather's name and his legacy. Later she uses the name Penny Blackfeather to introduce herself.
- Minion Maracas: Penny, while fed up with things and interrogating a minion.
- Mistaken for Servant: The Adventurer, here. Luckily.
- My Significance Sense Is Tingling: Cali can feel magic happening, but not who or why is doing it.Cali: It felt as though someone had opened the door and then closed it again.
- Neutral No Longer: Madame Mim tries to stay out of Penny's troubles, until they inevitably become her troubles, too.
- No Name Given: We never learn the Adventurer's name.
- Non-Human Sidekick: Princess, former Pirate Parrot and The Adventurer's loyal companion. Believed by Grandpa Blackfeather to be the brains of the operation. More to her than meets the eye, though - she's an enchanted woman. Mim's sidekick Cali, a highly intelligent talking plant, and Seed Of Cali, which Cali sends with Penny for help on her dangerous journey, are also examples.
- No Sense of Direction: Penny, but she tends to blunder into wherever the interesting things are happening anyway.
- Odd Friendship: The very magical Ara and entirely mundane Georgie quickly form a fast one which progresses to a Pseudo-Romantic Friendship by the end of the chapter.
- Painting the Medium: This page has wind so strong Speech Bubbles are blown to the ground.
- Power Makeover: The Adventurer, instantaneously here . Penny approves.
- The Power of Friendship: Ara swears by it.
- Premise Ville: Vanilla, England.The Adventurer: 'Visit Vanilla', they said. 'A nice normal town', they said.
- Previously on…: At the beginning of each part, we get refreshed on the plot so far by Nathaniel, with full snark on.
- Right for the Wrong Reasons: Mrs. Blake, nearly all the time.Mrs. Blake: (Thinking about Mr. Poggleswede, to Penny) Who knows, maybe the man of your dreams will appear... And sweep you off your feet!
(The same evening, Crash-Into Hello with The Adventurer quite literally knocks Penny of her feet.)
- Running Gag: Penny hates being startled. Seriously.
- In Volume Two, the score-keeping metafictional whatever-it-is.
- Scared of What's Behind You: Mildly, and it's short-lived, since behind Bugbear is Cali, a friendly, erm, plant-monster.
- Secret Room: The haunted library. By means of magic.
- Shipper on Deck: Princess might have actually planned all the Meet Cute and subsequent shenanigans between Penny and the Adventurer. If the little heart is anything to go by.
- Significant Green-Eyed Redhead: Penny, as the full-color chapter 3 reveals.
- Spell Book: Everyone, human or monster, wants to get their hands on it.
- Splash of Color: Most of the comic is Deliberately Monochrome. However, Princess, The Adventurer's blue eye and Cali's vines appear in color. The Goblin Valley appears in full color. So does the Adventurer upon getting magicked up.
- Sweet Polly Oliver: Penny dons a disguise to investigate a gentleman's club.
- Source Music: A sort of Running Joke throughout Volume Two, part II. Turns out it's Christabel playing the piano.
- Suspiciously Specific Denial:Brobdiggon: I had nothing to do with his strange disappearance.
- Surrounded by Idiots: Miss Quinn:Miss Quinn: You know, Molly, you may in fact be the smartest of all my minions. That's depressing notion.
- Take Our Word for It: Played for all sorts of comedy in the page 89.
- Targeted Human Sacrifice: "Magical blood" is required for Miss Quinn's ritual to work. Now who has magical blood that she can spare?
- Unsound Effect: *shove* and in the next panel *another shove*, as well as *dramatic key change*.
- Unreliable Narrator: The ghost of Nathaniel is the narrator, and he has a somewhat self-serving approach to the truth.Nathaniel: So this book is obviously bad news, but then Idiot Adventurer reads from it anyway. Anyone who says I persuaded him is lying. Lying.
- Rook, however, explicitly calls him "unreliable narrator" when claiming it was Grandpa Blackfeather who murdered him, not the other way around - we have no way of knowing who is lying, but as they were both pirates, it might be complicated.
- We Were Rehearsing a Play: The excuse Penny goes for when magical-ed Adventurer is beating a bad guy up.
- Whodunnit to Me?: Grandpa Blackfeather has an understandable preoccupation with his murderer, Rook. Mim wants to avenge him, leading to this exchange of comments:Nathaniel: Is all of this devotion sweet or disturbing?
Winter: I'll go for "undeserved".
- Would Hit a Girl: Don't tell us you expected Victor to be nice...A large mook: WHAT WAS THAT? YOU KNOCKED OVER A LADY!
Victor: No! Elysia is not a lady!
- The Adventurer reasons that if the girl is an evil monster, she's not real (metaphysically speaking), so he can kick her all he wants.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Mrs. Blake, relentless shipper of Penny and Mr. Poggleswede.Mrs. Blake: If novels have taught me anything it is that couples that argue will eventually fall head over heels in love and have dozens of babies. La!
- Verbal BackspacePenny: Don't think I'll let you just turn into a monster and take my only friend away...
Penny: Oh... I mean my only living friend...
Penny: ... My only human living friend.
- Unfazed Everyman: Once she sees past the Masquerade, and befriends Ara, Georgiana is shaping up to be one, helped by her unflappable common sense.
- You Fight Like a Cow: Elyssia challenges Mim.