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Webcomic / Real Life Comics

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Real Life Comics is a Life Embellished webcomic by Maelyn Dean. It's not as faithful to real life as it claims, but the majority of the cast does consist of the Author Avatar and people she knows. The comic has been going since 1999, making it among the oldest webcomics out there, predating Keenspot, Megatokyo, and Bob and George.

Not to be confused with, well, Real Life.

This comic provides examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: One arc was a parody of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, but the Artist cancels it a few strips in because it would take forever and the movie wasn't all that interesting to begin with. That, and she gave up trying to work out how to write strips without spoiling anything.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Averted with the various computers and consoles that have gained sentience over the course of the comic, like Dave's PAL and Dreamcast, which are nice and friendly. Though when Dreamcast returns years later in an Aperture Science Personality Core, Maelyn briefly worries that there's a psychotic A.I. somewhere that wants to kill her. Tony says there is, because that's just what he does.
    • Also, when Dave was experimenting with new voices and gave PAL the voice of HAL 9000, PAL claimed it was encouraging him to do terrible things.
    • There was a story arc where an AI played this straight. Naturally it was one built by Tony for his holographic double.
  • Alternate Universe: There's an arc where the cast visits one with gender-flipped versions of themselves.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: invoked In one strip, Maelyn puts forth the theory that Walt Disney, who took existing works and rewrote them to suit his own tastes, was a Fanfic author. Liz threatens to murder her for this.
  • Antidisestablishmentarianism: Maelyn says that she's switching her political party and becoming one.
  • Art Evolution: Despite being a Cut and Paste Comic, longtime readers notice things like more detailed characters, detailed backgrounds, color being used for all the strips, etc.
  • Author Appeal: When it's time for another Limited Wardrobe change, real Maelyn puts Liz in a bunny outfit, and comments "Fans be damned... this one's for me."
  • Author Avatar: There is not only Maelyn Dean in the comic, but also the Cartoonist, who is usually portrayed as a disembodied god. When she does appear in-strip, she looks like Maelyn but with slightly longer hair and different clothing.
  • BFS: First an Authentic Scottish Claymore. Then a full-size replica of Cloud's Buster Sword.
  • Berserk Button:
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Maelyn and Dave find a to do list on the table, judging by the things on it, it's Tony's.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The Shirt Ninja speaks in Japanese.
  • Brain Uploading: Literally, when Dave's sentient computer PAL uploads itself to his brain to escape the self-destruction of Tony's space station. He later downloads himself into a new computer by having Dave vocally mimic a dial-up modem.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: Completely averted despite being such a long-running series. Although it's had short story arcs, they're never serious, and has managed to stay funny without ever running out of material. (Except for a few comics where the creator has no ideas for a strip, which still end up being funny).
    • Well, the story arcs where Tony battles an FBI agent who wants Tony's tech for the U.S. government get kind of serious at times, but it's hard to worry that any major characters will die when you know that every one of them is based on a friend or relative of the creator.
  • Character Development: Mae at the start of the series was a goofy college student that would get obsessed with video games for days on end, and plan spontaneous trips while having No Sense of Direction. 2021 Mae is a parent to two children, so game time is more regulated and she has not gotten as lost while planning trips ahead of time. She may, however, forget to bring chargers for her kids' tablets...
  • Character Level: "Harper just dinged."
  • Cliché Storm: An In-Universe example was done during a dimension-hopping adventure where they wound up in a world where "everything is a Sliders cliche!". Naturally, this involved their dimension-traveling device fizzling out, a doomsday scenario, joining and fighting a rag-tag resistance group led by a double of someone they knew, getting involved with and solving the world's problems and a last second escape. Well, almost all their problems.
    Alt Dave: That's great, but what about the huge freaking asteroid about to hit the planet?!
    Tony: Sorry, pal! You're on your own!
  • Closer to Earth: While this could always be said to have been the case between Liz and Maelyn, the comic has really started to abuse the use of this trope (and all that typically goes with it) in the later years. Like, "Last season of Everybody Loves Raymond" abuse it. One could argue that Liz is, basically, a live-in Straight Man to Maelyn's wise guy, a role which used to be filled by Dave and Tony.
    • Though Liz does have her moments too, like when she and Maelyn went car-shopping ("NewBeetleNewBeetleNewBeetle!" "Maybe we should get a bigger car?" "NEW. BEETLE.")
  • Continuity Porn: This 2008 comic marks the beginning of an epic story arc that makes references to several past story arcs, including one that began in 2002.
  • Corruption of a Minor: Dave complains when Maelyn plays Diablo 2 with her newborn daughter Harper in her arms, but she insists that it teaches her important life lessons:
    Harper: Gweeee!
    Maelyn: That's right, Harper, demons do gots to be slain!
  • Cut and Paste Comic: Most of the comics consist of the characters and backgrounds being cut and pasted with new dialogue put in. The creator sometimes makes a fuss about new backgrounds or objects.
    • One arc, mirroring Maelyn and Liz' real-world house-hunting, had a strip in which the camera suddenly refused to follow the characters. Then a note floated down from the cartoonist, stating that due to the flurry of new backgrounds she's had to make recently, she had decided to go into a coma.
  • Death Ray: Tony has one.
  • Detonation Moon: Joked about in this strip, when NASA used the LCROSS probe to smash into the moon.
  • Deus ex Machina: In this strip, Maelyn wants to buy Diablo II but has no money. The author then declares she has enough money. In the following strip, the author makes a copy of the Collector's Edition of the game appear in the store.
  • Doom It Yourself: Mae repainting the house turned out generally OK, but she still managed to sit back against a freshly painted wall afterwards and get her hair stuck to it.
  • Draw Sword, Draw Blood: In one of Maelyn's first outings as the Shirt Ninja, she draws her katana without a target and announces in Inner Monologue that she can't sheathe it until it tastes blood. She satisfies this by using the sword to slice cold cuts.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Early strips made more references to anime and really abused the Life Embellished concept, as seen when Maelyn goes on a date with Belldandy and Tony builds a BattleMech which causes his girlfriend to complain until the author bribes her with an Evangelion. After a while most of the unrealistic wackiness was confined to Tony and his Evil Overlord antics.
  • Easter Egg: Repeated uses of the number 42.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Maelyn and Liz are creeped out when the Author makes Tony forget about screwdrivers after Tony points out he could make a Disney lightsaber rather than have everyone stage a heist.
  • Evil Overlord: Tony.
  • Fridge Brilliance: In-Universe: In one strip, Maelyn suggests that the graphic designer of the much-reviled Comic Sans font was actually a genius, because it's basically a huge flashing sign that screams "I'm incompetent and need the help of a graphic designer." Liz is stunned when she realizes that it makes perfect sense.
  • From Bad to Worse: Maelyn reveals to Liz that she is trans. Liz takes it pretty well, but develops a panic attack. In the hospital, Liz is then involuntarily committed, leaving Mae at home with Harper. Maelyn has to call repeatedly to check out Liz after three days.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Tony establishes The Nation Of Total Conformity. Or N.O.T.C.
  • Gender Flip: With alternate-universe versions of the main characters. This turned out to be prophetic when the creator, and subsequently the main character, realised that she's transgender.
  • Glasses Do Something Unusual: Dave's glasses have infrared, HUD, etc. which explains why they're not clear.
  • Groin Attack: Now and then. It's also discussed when Maelyn eventually has her orchiectomy: Liz (probably just jokingly) simply has to give her one last shot.
    Liz: This is their grand finale. I'm going to give you the MOTHER of all huevos rancheros.
  • Harmless Electrocution: Hilarity Ensues when Tony dials the home number while Maelyn works on the phone-line
    Maelyn: DO YOU MIND!?
  • Humongous Mecha: The arc starting here, where Tony builds a BattleMech and his girlfriend is given Eva-00 when she gripes to the author, resulting in an East vs West throwdown. The 'Mech destroys the Eva's power cable, but it doesn't have any weapons capable of penetrating its defenses so the whole thing ends in a draw.
  • Insane Troll Logic: In one strip, Maelyn goes into a Dave and Buster's and orders a Pepsi, but the waitress refuses to serve her because she's not old enough to drink alcohol. Maelyn the author has said this actually happened to her.
  • It Was a Dark and Stormy Night in a parody strip.
  • Just One More Level!:
    • here:
      Tony: How long have you been playing?
      Maelyn: 27 hours, non-stop.
      Tony: Well, you have stopped to eat though, right?
      Maelyn: Eat? Oh yeah...that thing I need to do to not die.
    • And here:
      Liz: Hey sweetie, I'm back- Good Lord, you're still racing on the same track!?
      Maelyn: Endurance race. 200 laps. Can't stop. Need money.
      Liz: You know, Gran Turismo has a pause button. It's not against the rules.
      Maelyn: Can't pause. Pausing loses races.
      Liz: Sweetheart, you... you haven't blinked since I've gotten here.
      Maelyn: Can't blink. Blinking loses races.
      Liz: [looking freaked out]...I'm just going to cut my losses, not ask what else loses races, and never sit on that couch again.
    • And another one here regarding a "Quick game of The Sims", to which Tony says there's no such thing.
  • Let's Meet the Meat: Liz wants to be "creative" with the lunch she makes for Maelyn.
    Maelyn: Liz, it's smiling at me. Why is it smiling at me?
    Liz: It's excited that you're going to eat it, of course.
    Maelyn: That's cute, and yet surprisingly morbid all at the same time.
  • Life Embellished: The comics mostly follow the actual events of Maelyn's life, but exaggerated for comedy. And then there's the occasional Tony plot that goes completely off the rails.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Lampshaded here, where Artist Maelyn shows the closet is nothing but the same clothes (including a monochrome version of the blue shirt).
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: In the 2018 return, Tony's simulation which began back in December 2014 is still running, 1,387 days later.
  • Mama Bear: When Mae plans a heist, she jokingly tells Harper that her job is to be the "patsy." Liz doesn't take well to this.
  • Medium Awareness: Liz has issues with the caption narrator.
  • Mr. Vice Guy: Maelyn has an addictive personality, plain and simple. Especially in regards to Final Fantasy. Any part of it.
  • Mundane Solution: How Alan Extra helps Mae, Liz, Harper, and Tony get lightsabers. He works at Disney and gets them VIP passes for a tour. During the tour, he looks the other way when they "borrow" some cool merch. None of the security guards question their passes and volunteer to answer any questions, something that Tony lampshades.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Maelyn goes into segue using this because Liz allegedly didn't listen to what she wanted for dinner.
  • Nintendo Hard: Said word for word when Dave asks Maelyn about the difficulty of Einhander.
    • Another story arc involved just how brutal the first Final Fantasy was.
  • No Fourth Wall: The cartoonist has physically appeared in the strip, and occasionally talks to the characters from outside the comic. The Plot Hole arc had Tony climbing through a plot hole into the real world.
  • Nonindicative Name: The strip itself. Lampshaded often.
  • Older Than They Look: Parodied in an cast interview: Tony claims to be born before 1934, the year they published Superman, whose life story he was deliberately ripping off.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted, since both Maelyn's wife and her previous girlfriend are named Elizabeth. Her wife goes by Liz, while her ex is usually called Lizzie to avoid confusion.
  • Plot Hole: They're kind of cute, actually.
  • Purple Prose: Discussed when Liz discovers how to BS on a college level report.
  • Random Number God:
  • The Rant
  • Real Life Writes the Plot:
    • A particularly bizarre, recursive example. Maelyn met her wife, Liz, through the forums; their marriage and her pregnancy with their first child have been part of the comic. It gets silly when, in-comic, Maelyn shows her child the comic. In short, Real Life wrote the plot of real life, which was then written into Real Life, which was shown in real life to the daughter who exists as a result of Real Life writing the plot of real life, which in turn wrote a strip in Real Life.
    • A more straightforward example is Mae's trans awakening arc — the author had her own trans awakening, and so her Author Avatar also had one.
  • Recurring Extra: Alan Extra.
    • Invoked and played with during the Lightsaber Heist: this makes Alan Extra the perfect Inside Man.
  • Rouge Angles of Satin: The comic occasionally contains misspelled words. Maelyn has particular trouble with the word "caffeine" and "definitely."
  • Share the Male Pain: Discussed. Mae is thrilled when learning that her surgery for removing "T" has been approved and scheduled. Liz reassures her that means that Mae's worries about potentially not being trans are assuaged, as Dave screams off-screen while hearing about the surgery. As Liz puts it snarkily "Cis guys tend not to be excited about having their nuts removed".
  • Signed Up for the Dental: Maelyn defects from Tony's NOTC to Liz (The other Liz) for this reason.
  • Significant Wardrobe Shift: A 2021 arc has Liz telling Mae that the shirt and tank don't have to limit her style now that Mae is transitioning. After doing bra shopping online, Liz helps her wife choose a new outfit, where Mae is comfortable in her skin and sporting a new look. The resulting wardrobe is stunning, and Liz goes Squee after she gets over her shock.
  • Smash Cut: When Mae is going under general anesthesia for her orchiectomy and talking about how she's never experienced that before, the comic jumps midsentence to her waking up afterward in a completely different room. It's as jarring for her as it is for the audience.
  • Sprite Mirroring: in this strip. Though Maelyn seemed to have caught this and every instance of Crystal with Lain's single sided hair bangs doesn't do this anymore.
  • Super-Sargasso Sea: The back of the Volvo, which contains several missing rock stars, an unspecified number of humans who worship the comic, and all the lost socks you can eat.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: Accidentally invoked here, with 'Not Poison' bottled water.
  • Take That!: When arguing about why Liz hasn't had an Art Shift to reflect the changes in the real-world Liz's appearance, Mae jokes that she won't have to redraw the kids if she never writes any comics containing them, to which Liz says "What do you think this is, 9 Chickweed Lane?!"
  • Taste the Rainbow: Literally.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • In one strip, Maelyn says she prefers Google+ to Facebook because it doesn't have any annoying things like people poking your or inviting you to Farmville. Dave immediately goes to his own computer and messages Maelyn, saying simply "*poke*".
    • Mae and Liz look at potential new games and pick Celeste. They say that surely a game with great reviews can't be too hard. The caption confirms that Mae and Liz were wrong. Very wrong.
  • Those Two Guys: Dave and Tony.
  • Time Is Dangerous: Discussed after a time bubble was used to rapidly age mead 6 months.
  • Time Travel
  • Token Evil Teammate: Deconstructed with Tony in a September-October 2021 arc. He fully acknowledges he's an Evil Genius that could Take Over the World if he wanted and trolls world governments by taunting their defense agencies. When Tony tries to recruit Dave for a Zany Scheme brainstorm, Dave refuses. Why? Because Tony's ego has grown so big, that it means he has no time for his friends, treating them like underlings. He has a body count that Dave can't ignore, and a reputation for causing evil. There's a difference between joking about being evil, and actually committing crimes.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Pepsi. Apparently some guys from Pepsi looked the comic over once and didn't see anything objectionable, so they didn't ask Maelyn to stop.
    • And why should they? She LOVES herself some Pepsi. She is not damaging Pepsi's reputation.
    • While traversing alternate dimensions in one arc, she finds a universe where she drinks Coke. She chokes her while screaming "Die infidel!"
    • A strip had Maelyn admit she could not stop drinking Vanilla Coke. In the background, Dave answers a phone call from Pepsi, informing him that Maelyn accounted for 10% of their annual sales.
    • It transpires that Mae's real life counterpart has been drinking Diet Coke since 2006, which brings about the expected reaction.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Maelyn, Dave and Tony. Over time they've become more vitriolic and less bud-like.
  • Wham Episode: When Greg talks with Maelyn in the subconscious and fades away, allowing her to takeover. There's a sincere talk about how Maelyn has been there the whole time.
  • Wham Shot: Maelyn was reading a Facebook post when her name was still Greg. A Facebook post identifies her as having body dysphoria which is common for people in the closet. Mae's eyes bug out with sudden realization.