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Webcomic / Selkie

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Two Worlds, one family!

A webcomic, written by Dave Warren, about adoption... with a twist.

Selkie follows the adventures of an amphibious young girl, and the man who adopts her. No one knows exactly what she is, but somehow she ended up in the municipal orphanage, where she was recently adopted by Todd Smith. The comic follows her trying to adapt to her new life... and Todd and his family trying to adapt to her.

Also see The Adventures of Sue and Kathryn!, another webcomic by Warren that also happens to be a Show Within a Show cartoon franchise in this one.

This webcomic provides examples of:

  • 555: When Pohl gives his number to Todd, it's shown as 534-555-3474. The "534" places him in northern Wisconsin, where the comic is set. The "555" places him in fictionland.
  • Abuse Mistake: Briefly teased when Miss Lillian is cheerfully told by Selkie that her shades are "sos nobodys sees what happeneds to my eyes."
    Lillian: I'm sure that statement isn't as much of a red flag as it sounds, but maybe I should go say hello to Mister Smith all the same.
  • All Crimes Are Equal: Selkie runs afoul of the school's No Tolerance Policy when she kicked a boy in the groin in self-defense. Both Selkie and the bully receive the same punishment.
  • All Take and No Give: : Jessie's relationship with her girlfriend Alexis casts her as the giver, and Alexis as the freeloading, irresponsible taker. This is most obvious financially, where Jessie is the only one who is actually employed, while Alexis is the one with the expensive shoe habit, but it's also true emotionally, where Jessie is supportive and considerate while Alexis is willing to pull a prank that might cost Jessie her job in order to amuse herself. That prank, and Alexis' lack of remorse, ends up being what ends the relationship.
  • All There in the Manual: There are several physiology sketches, and Dave was nice enough to actually type up a couple pages of Selkie's case file, print them out and scan them for us. Also, reading through the comments reveals a wealth of information from replies to reader questions.
  • Alt Text: Called Secret Director Commentary, it's basically little facts about either the making of the strip or the continuity. Later altered to be viewable below the comic, because some browsers were having trouble viewing it.
  • Analogy Backfire: Theo states "You can't choose your family". His wife Mari quickly points out that, by adopting their three children, they did choose their family.
  • Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better: Amanda has one hell of a competitive streak, especially in regards to Selkie.
  • Art Evolution: The comic started out with hand-drawn black and white lines. Over the course of its run, it has gained smooth vector lines, followed by color, and then, finally, shading. The skill at which the art is drawn has also increased noticeably.
  • Artificial Limbs: Scar has an artificial arm to go along with his voice replacement collar and serious facial scars.
  • Ascended Extra: Thanks to her popularity with both the readers and Dave himself, Jessie the Wool-Mart clerk is now Jessie the third grade student teacher.
  • The Atoner
    • Scar is a character we meet at the end of his atonement arc. He's introduced as a scary-looking but friendly sarnothi who uses his skills to help a town full of refugees. However, years beforehand, he was the notorious figure known as "The Farmer" who lied about the dangers of war to use refugees as free labor, and sold many of them to the very government they were fleeing from. It's implied that his redemption arc started when one of his intended victims fought back and gave him the scars that are the source of his nickname.
    • Andi's character arc is driven by a desire to atone for one specific act: At the age of 17, she gave her newborn daughter up for adoption and told the girl's father that she had been stillborn. She blames herself for all the consequences of that decision, some rightly (such as the damage to her relationship with the girl's father), and some not so much (it's not her fault that the girl was adopted and returned by an abusive family), and she wants to make things right.
  • Bad Liar: Pohl has absolutely no ability to tell a convincing lie. Even children can see through him. This is a problem because he happens to know quite a bit of highly-classified information.
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment: Todd's landlady delivers a good one to establish herself as the Cool Old Lady.
    Euphemia: Is [the boardgame] Satanic?
    Mary: Oh good lord! No!
    Euphemia: Well then, how is it a horror story?
  • Barbie Doll Anatomy: Sai Fen often uses artistic nudity in her sculptures, but doesn't make them anatomically correct for "escalatingly uncomfortable reasons." When Selkie sees one, she asks why it doesn't have "girl-parts".
  • Berserk Button:
  • Big "WHAT?!": Amanda's reaction to finding out Heather got adopted is a "WHAT?" of impressive volume.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Tony often speaks in untranslated French. Understanding what he's saying isn't necessary to understand the action, but his dialogue is still there for the reader who can understand it.
  • Big Eater: Selkie has an endless appetite, especially when it comes to fish and other seafood.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: Selkie herself. Blue blood, gills, no external ears, a flattened nose with slit-like nostrils, an obligate carnivore with a healthy appetite for seafood and who "pukes purple" if she consumes plant matter ... and poisonous saliva to boot.
  • Bizarre Taste in Food: Selkie's favorite food is raw fish eyes. While she offers to share, her grandfather is the only one to take her up on her offer.
  • Bland-Name Product: Apparently Selkie enjoys watching movies on Flixnet. Dave also enjoys a nice cold "Dew of the mountains". And then there's Wool-Mart.
  • Body Horror: In the Show Within a Show superhero cartoon, the character Web-Spitter has a spider for a head (complete with legs) after eating radioactive spider eggs, and also pukes webbing. Selkie finds this more disgusting than disturbing.
  • The Bully: Tommy Trunchbull is a large kid who frequently uses force to get his way. Unlike many fictional cases, Tommy comes from a loving household albeit with a father whose forceful personality naturally steamrolls most opposition.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Subverted with Dr. Pohl De'Madiea. When we first meet him, we're told that he's the only expert who can deal with a sick Selkie, and he's literally wearing bunny ears. However, we quickly learn that he's actually a competent and sensible doctor who has a logical reason for wearing the bunny ears: They help him avoid frightening children (he's a pediatrician and rather scary-looking).
    Dr. De'Madiea: I use these to place patients' children at ease. I look very scary, you see.
  • Cassandra Truth:
    • The comic has a number of speculative fiction elements, as well as imaginative children who often know far more about what's going on than the adults around them. As such, there are multiple cases of children telling the truth, only to be brushed off with "Stop playing make-believe."
      • Amanda tells Ms. Flower that the bottle of goldfish water conditioner in Selkie's bag is her medicine because, "She has gills and webs. She breaths water." Ms. Flower brushes her off with, "Amanda, I can't play make-believe right now," but thankfully decides that Selkie must keep the medicine in the conditioner bottle.
      • Andi tells Todd about the ridiculous stories Amanda has told her about Selkie. They include that she breathes water (true), that Selkie and Todd took a trip to a secret underwater city (also true), that the CIA is marrying fish people (Agent Brown of the CIA is married to a fish person), and that Selkie has poisonous spit (also completely true). Only once Todd confirms the stories is she able to accept them as true.
      • Thankfully, when the unbelievable story is about Amanda, she is able to break through the initial round of disbelief with a demonstration and a hole in the wall. (link contains spoilers)
        Amanda: Wait you mean that wasn't a fib? Selkie gave me eye lasers?!
        Andi: Ha ha, eye lasers?! Kiddo, it's a bad time to play pretend, okay?
        Amanda burns a hole in the wall with her eye lasers.
        Amanda: ...Eye lasers.
      • Selkie tells her grandmother about the eye laser thing. Her grandmother's response: "Well at least she's keeping her imagination active."
      • Amanda lampshades the whole thing. She thinks that every adult that learns about Selkie is just really stupid about it.
        Amanda: Hell, we've TRIED telling people, but they just act like we're fibbing.
    • On a less comedic note, Amanda knows that a number of kids are being false friends to Heather, but, because Amanda and Heather have had a falling-out, Heather doesn't believe her.
  • Cats Are Mean: The first thing Todd's cat, Crook, does upon meeting Selkie is to bite her.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • In a blink and you'll miss moment, when Theo is trying to learn more about what Selkie's true species is the bottom of the webpage has an article about two fishermen who claim to have caught a merman on the great lakes. Later we learn that this is not only true but it's the inciting incident that eventually led to the Sarnothi civil war.
    • For a smaller scale one, Todd's mysterious present to Selkie turns out to be a phone that she uses to record Tommy in the act of bullying her friends, her, and then threatening a teacher. Justice is served!
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: The cast page describes George as "A daydreamer with an active imagination."
  • Color Failure:
  • Cool Old Lady: Lillian Haversham-Zhang is a grey-haired woman who is one of the caretakers at the orphanage. She's trained in judo, is always impeccably dressed, and typically has a much better grasp of the situation than the people around her.
  • Cool Old Guy: Todd's father, as it turns out. He has parenting advice for Todd, and has no problem trying Selkies rather...odd...favorite food. He's also the first to really forgive Andi for her massive lie regarding Amanda, as he was the first to extend an olive branch.
  • Cry into Chest: After witnessing her daughter using eye lasers and getting dragged into a meeting with the CIA, Andi wants nothing more than to find a chest to cry into.
    Andi: The only fully-formed thought I can process right now is an escalating urge to go fling myself into my girlfriend's bosom and panic-cry.
  • Curse Cut Short: "Someone stole her SHIRT?! What the f-" "Marta, Swear Jar" "...fudge. Fudge ripple."
  • Cute Monster Girl: Selkie is a fish person with razor-sharp teeth and webbed fingers and toes. She's also roughly as adorable as any other child her age.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Marta is typically the most sarcastic member of the Smith family.
    Marta: The absurdity of life is its own punchline.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: As a Funny Background Event in the last panel, the class rules are perhaps overly clear on the subject of spitting.
    Rule 6: No spitting.
    Rule 10: Seriously. No spitting.
    Rule 11: Actually, that bears repeating. NO. SPITTING.
  • Did I Just Say That Out Loud?: Said word-for-word by the Principal after he says "[Selkie]'s lucky not to be sent [to the hospital] every other week!" In front of the assembled PTA.
  • Dirty Old Woman: Downplayed, but Todd's landlady's reply to Todd mentioning he's not her husband? "Yet."
  • Do Not Adjust Your Set: From strip 1050 through 1052, Cern, the new Emperor of Sarnoth, hijacks the TV broadcast and pulls down The Masquerade and summarily exiles any Sarnothi not belonging to Clan Sar'teri.
  • Drama Queen: Selkie gets called one, and responds about as well as you'd expect.
    Giselle: "I rule with an iron fist." Literally you. Literally two minutes ago.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: At the art exhibit, Amanda, having just been called "awful" by her former best friend's father, decides to go drink some "juice" - downing 3 shots of wine before the attendants can intervene.
  • Epic Fail: Benny tries to ask both twins, Ke Ban and Ke Nan Be'Mara, out on a date. They are extremely ammused.
  • Faint in Shock: When Amanda's mom comes to retrieve her from the orphanage, the sheer amount of emotion causes Amanda to faint. Turns out it's not just negative emotions that can lead to unconsciousness.
  • Fantastic Racism: Mr. Trunchbull doesn't seem to have much concern over the safety of the frightened sarnothi children and is insinuating that they are a danger to the human students.
  • Fashion-Shop Fashion Show: Selkie tries on a variety of clothes on their initial trip to Wool Mart after she's first adopted.
  • Fish People: Sarnothi are an amphibious, cold-blooded humanoid species native to the great lakes.
  • Flipping the Bird: Selkie flips off some other kids to taunt them during a snowball fight.
  • Freaky Is Cool: Selkie was always passed over for more "normal" kids by prospective adopters, until Todd showed up and was drawn to her.
  • Freudian Excuse: Amanda's treatment of Selkie first seems like either Fantastic Racism or her being a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing, until it's shown that she hates Selkie because her arrival at the orphanage meant Amanda had no help in figuring out why her adoptive parents would dump her.
  • Full-Name Ultimatum: Professor Trunchbull finally learns what his son has been doing.
    Professor Trunchbull: Thomas Alva Trunchbull! You have been hitting people and LYING to me! I see nothing... Nothing! to be PROUD of here!
  • Genki Girl: Sandy is endlessly cheerful and endlessly energetic, as shown here.
  • Genre Savvy: When Todd's father finds out Selkie is a mysterious non-human species, he quickly things to asks whether they need to worry about The Men in Black kicking down their door. Luckly, Agent Brown is friendly.
  • Getting Suspended Is Awesome: When Selkie is told that being suspended means that you have to stay home from school, she is overjoyed. The principal isn't pleased.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Downplayed in that Selkie and Amanda were rivals before becoming sisters and their rivalry lessens over time. Still, this strip encapsulates their initial dynamic quite well.
    Grandma Mari: Oh my Lord, you two are going to be those kids, I can already tell.
  • Good Angel, Bad Angel: When Todd is presented with the opportunity to throw Principal Ashton to the proverbial wolves, we get to see a classic angel versus devil debate. Unusually, both the angel and the devil agree that Principal Ashton should suffer, but disagree as to the method.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Scar's scars are highly disfiguring, and he's missing an eye, an arm, and much of his throat including his vocal cords. The latter two are replaced by prosthetics of his own making. These kind of textbook evil scars seem strange on an odd but kind man who spends his days building houses for refugees, but, back when he got the scars, he was at least as evil as they make him look.
  • Happily Adopted:
    • Selkie enjoys a happy life as Todd's adoptive daughter.
    • Meanwhile, Todd, his sister Marta, and his brother Antoine were all also adopted. They don't take kindly to people who think this means that their family bond is any less strong.
  • Harmful to Minors: Selkie got banned from watching spy movies after asking Todd how the chair and rope scene in Casino Royale (2006) worked.
  • Head Desk: Selkie bangs her head on her desk while trying to play matchmaker - she concludes that it hurts when doing it for real.
  • Heel Realization:
  • The Heretic: Ti'Veirn was a Sarnothi scholar who was exiled and declared a heretic for proposing that human legends of witches and wizards might have been inspired by humans who could tap into the resonance, a power universally considred to be Sarnothi-exclusive. Events in the comic proper suggest that he was probably right.
  • Hiding Behind the Language Barrier: When Pohl is talking on the phone to his wife about things that are heavily classified, he uses their native language, tensei, rather than English. His wife even comments that he wouldn't be using tensei unless he had a secret.
  • The Illegible: When Pohl gives Todd a handwritten note explaining some details about Selkie, none of the adults are able to read it (he is a doctor after all). Thankfully, as a third grader just learning cursive, Selkie has lots of experience with terrible handwriting.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Selkie demonstrates remarkably good aim with a playground ball. She bounces it off the heads of two trouble-causers, and right into the hands of her friend.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: The shoe store "C'est la Feet".
  • Indirect Kiss: Carrie doesn't directly kiss her husband Avery, but instead places her palm over his mouth and kisses the back of her hand. This is not due to lack of closeness or emotional hangups, but rather because her saliva is toxic to humans.
  • Inhuman Eye Concealers: Selkie doesn't usually bother to hide her nonhuman features (not that it's easy to hide periwinkle skin, webbed hands and feet, and a mouth full of razor sharp teeth), but when her eyes start glowing, she wears sunglasses until she can learn how to make them stop.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Amanda, post-adoption, manages to pull this with Selkie after remembering that "Your mom left, too."
    Selkie: Oh for craps sake... This is whys I don'ts helps you. GO!
  • Insistent Terminology: Selkie isn't blue — she's periwinkle.
  • Interspecies Adoption: The premise of the comic is that a human named Todd Smith adopts a sarnothi child named Selkie.
  • Interspecies Romance:
  • Large Ham: Selkie has a flair for the overdramatic, as can be expected from a kid who aspires to be a Mad Scientist. For example, when asked what happened on her trip with her dad:
    Selkie: DRAMA! Drama most fouls! A forsakens lands! A lost peoples!
    Todd: Selkie, dial it back.
    Selkie: A mighty beast fells upons me! The lands dids quakes at its passing! The sky openeds! The angels wepts! A single tear fells upons Jerusalem!
    All: Dial it back.
  • Literally Loving Thy Neighbor: After ending her difficult relationship with her freeloading girlfriend Alexis, Jesse finds a much better relationship with the woman who lives down the hall from her: Andi.
  • Long-Lost Relative: As it turns out, Amanda is Todd and Andi's daughter, whom Todd thought had died at birth.
  • Luke, I Might Be Your Father: Scar believes that he's Selkie's biological father. He was in a sexual relationship with her mother at around the right time. It's unknown if there are any other potential fathers, as Selkie's mother isn't around to answer that question. When Scar tells Todd, Selkie's adoptive father, of his suspicions, they agree not to tell Selkie about it until they can confirm one way or another. However, Todd does tell Scar that he's welcome to be part of Selkie's life if he wants to be.
  • Luring in Prey: The sarnothi farm a species of massive eel that can mimic voices and phrases they hear to lure in lost sarnothi.
  • Mad Scientist: Aside from the Show Within a Show having one, Selkie also fantasizes about being one.
  • Meaningful Background Event: When Theo is scouring the internet for information regarding a secret city of Fish People that he (correctly) believes is located in Lake Superior. His computer screen is shown shortly before he gives up the search. This includes a search result for a tabloid article about a "merman" caught by fishermen on Lake Superior. Not only does that story turn out to be true, but it was the triggering incident for a civil war that is currently tearing said hidden city apart.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • A selkie is a creature from Irish mythology that can change from a seal into a person and back again-in other words, it can live both on land and in the water. This may also explain why she likes seals.
    • The Trunchbull's last name indeed comes from that Trunchbull, as reflected by their venomous personalities.
  • Meaningful Rename: : Carrie and Bennie are refugees who opted to take English names when they moved to the United States in order to better fit in and move beyond their traumatic past. Their previous names were Thei Foh, and Voh respectively.
  • The Men in Black:
    • Todd's father expresses worry about the possibility of them showing up because of Selkie. Todd points out that Selkie has public records, including a medical one, meaning that such an event would be unlikely.
    • As it turns out, there are actual men in black. Specifically, there are CIA agents who deal with human-sarnothi relations. We meet two of them (both of which wear the suits typical of the role). Agent Brown is an alright guy who helps as much as he can within the limits he has to deal with. Agent Then is a bit more unpleasant, but he's still well-intentioned in his own abrasive way.
  • Missing Mom: Selkie's mother left her at an orphanage several years before the start of the comic. Her reasons for doing so have not been fully explored.
  • Mistaken for Gay: After Selkie buys flowers for her classmate Te Fahn in an attempt at matchmaking gone wrong, her classmakes start to tease her for "Having a girlfriend." The student teacher, Miss Flower (who is gay herself) even offers help and advice before realizing what actually happened.
  • Moment Killer: When Selkie is having a heart-to-heart with her dad in line at the drive-through, someone ruins it by honking at them.
  • Mood Whiplash:
  • My New Gift Is Lame: Amanda receives some very nice gifts at her birthday party, but Keisha's Peek-At-You backpack earns a very stilted "I. Love... this." Then Keisha reveals the real present is inside - a self-written short story, carrying on a tradition they'd had at the orphanage.
  • Named After the Injury: Scar takes his name from his multiple, disfiguring scars. His actual given name is never mentioned (and he seems to prefer the nickname to avoid association with the person he used to be). Everyone talking about him from back before he got the scars refers to him as "the old farmer."
  • NEET: Shinji from one of the nearby apartments is too busy playing video games to look for a job.
  • Never My Fault: When Principal Ashton is forced to resign over his mishandling of a bullying incident, he takes no responsibility for his actions and instead blames the bullying victim (Selkie) to her face.
  • No, You: Amanda creates some Mood Whiplash when her Show & Tell story is criticized.
  • Non-Mammalian Hair: Downplayed with the sarnothi, they have hair on their heads like humans but according to Dave, he intended for Scar to have a large beard before deciding against giving them facial hair.
  • Non-Mammal Mammaries: Selkie's species has them. She was also depicted as such in aged-up fanart before Dave posted the physiology sketch that proved it. Justified in that the reason they develop breasts is because they nurse their young for a few weeks until teeth develop.
  • Noodle Incident: Did ya hear the one about the frog and the cigar? Well, it earned Tony a week with no dessert...
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Agent Brown allows Dr. Pohl to sneak a note to Todd containing classified information that he wants to know. After everyone has left, he makes it clear that he wasn't fooled.
  • Oh, Crap!: Todd's realization in this comic that things may not be going well between Selkie and Amanda, her arch-antagonist and recently-discovered adoptive half sister.
  • Oh, My Gods!: One common Sarnothi curse is "teeth and scales" in reference to the eel god. Selkie herself, having lived among humans for much of her life, translates it to english and adds some human profanity for flavor.
  • Ominous Crack: After a vicious attack by Pants the eel, a small crack is shown forming on the helmet of Todd's diving suit.
  • One-Word Title: And that one word is the protagonist's name.
  • Orphanage of Love: The Calumet City Municipal Orphanage is full of kind people doing their best for children in a tough situation. It isn't perfect, but nothing is.
  • Outcast Refuge: The Sarnothi clan Jin'Sorai was on the wrong end of a civil war that turned into a genocide. Most of the survivors live in a secret underwater village known as Havei Jin'Suir.
  • Papa Wolf: Todd is normally a fairly laid-back man, but he'll go to great lengths to protect his adopted daughter.
  • Parent Never Came Back from the Store: Discussed trope. Dr. Pohl is the kind of responsible family man who would never even consider abandoning his children, but, before leaving on a day trip to visit a hidden refugee village, he promises his infant daughter, "I'll always come back from the corner store." His wife calls him a drama queen for it.
  • Parental Abandonment: The story starts at an orphanage, so lots of characters have missing parents.
    • Selkie's mother left her at the orphanage for reasons that aren't fully explored three years before the story begins. Her biological father didn't even know she existed, so he wasn't in the picture either. Luckily, the story starts when she's Happily Adopted.
    • Amanda was given up for adoption at birth by her mother who didn't believe she was ready to raise a kid. Her father, who was actually looking forward to parenthood, was told she was stillborn. She was later adopted, but her new siblings abused her, and the parents ended up returning her to the orphanage, abandoning her a second time. Thankfully her original parents return to her life, her mother deciding that putting her up for adoption was a mistake, and her father immediately agreeing to be a part of her life once he learned she was still alive, but the ordeal left her with some rather understandable issues.
    • Tony's parents are in prison. He remains in the orphanage until the authorities are able to track down his grandmother.

  • A Pig Named Pork Chop: The sarnothi people raise giant eels both for food and for their leather, which is traditionally used to make clothing. Hinting at this eventual fate, one particular eel is named Pants.
  • Pluralses: A feature of Selkie's speech. Fans initially speculated whether it was a side effect of trying to speak English through fangs. It's actually because her native tongue has different rules for pluralization, and she learned English through 'crash-course immersion'. Selkie does not take kindly to having it implied to be a speech impediment. She eventually goes to speech therapy to help train her out of it.
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure: Being a member of an amphibious species who hasn't spent much time on the surface, Scar is confused by Then's Star Wars references.
    Scar: Something is wrong. I am feeling of it.
    Then: What are you, a Jedi?
    Scar: What is... "Jehd Eye"?
    Pohl: No... something is wrong. There's a tone shift in the Resonance. The Eternal Song has gone down in tempo a bit.
    Then: If you say so, Obi Wan.
    Scar: My translator is not knowing "Oh Bee Whan".
    Then: "Punch it"? Oh great, she's Han Solo.
    Scar: Stop making fake words, Then.
  • Possession Presumes Guilt: Keisha grabs Selkie's shirt from Heather, who stole it, at the same time Mina and Jess walk into the classroom, making them think that she did it.
  • Poster Patchup: When Selkie accidentally causes burn damage to her bedroom wall, she tries and fails to cover it up with a picture. Luckily her dad isn't mad.
  • Potty Failure: Played for Drama (mildly) when Selkie literally scares the piss out of her friend.
  • Power Nullifier: There exists a device to block echo powers. If used on an adult and calibrated properly, it should merely block said powers when worn. If miscalibrated, used on a child, and/or worn too long, it might cause the wearer's powers to atrophy entirely, even when removed. Selkie's hair clip is one such device.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: A low-scale variety with the Principal strictly adhering to the No Tolerance Policy. It's less that he thinks Selkie deserves punishment, and more that he doesn't want to deal with the Trunchbulls giving him grief over it. Unfortunately, they still do, getting their son off scot-free while Selkie gets suspended for the week.
  • Protagonist Title: The titular "Selkie" is the main character.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "Ares. Yous. Fulls. Ofs. Craps?"
  • Publicly Discussing the Secret: : Todd has the bad habit of talking about things that are heavily classified without checking to see who's in earshot. For example, when he tells his dad that the mysterious laser beam in the sky means that he has to tell Andi about Selkie, he doesn't realize that Kenneth and Barbara were close enough to hear him.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Heather gives Amanda a withering one after Amanda hits her for telling Selkie a secret.
  • The Reveal: The name of Selkie's species is sarnothi.
  • Retcon: Originally, in the background of Todd's room there was a book clearly labeled The Secret Kingdom, named so because it sounds like the title of a generic kids novel series, right? Turns out there was a book already written under the same title by Pat Robertson, "the person who blamed Hurricane Katrina and the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks on homosexuality and abortion." Needless to say, a new title was quickly substituted.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: Todd's family seems to have a knack for it. Or more accurately, Theo and Antoine accidentally make rhyming statements, and Marta deliberately continues the rhyming both to amuse herself and annoy her mother.
  • Shipper on Deck: Jess encourages Mina's crush on Todd.
  • Ship Tease:
  • Shout-Out: Several.
  • Side Bet: Dr. Pohl and Agent Then have an ongoing bet on the existance of human echoes. Agent Then wins $10 and the opportunity to give one hell of an "I told you so."
  • Slippery as an Eel: There is a species of giant eel that inhabit the same lake as the sarnothi that can mimic their language in order to lure them into attack range and eat them. The Sarnothi farm them for meat and eelskin clothing.
  • Spoiled Brat: Truck's parents, The Trunchbulls, firmly believe that their son can do no wrong. This line of thinking led to Truck declaring "When I tell you to do something, you gotta do it" to the victim of his bullying. This is later given some depth, as Professor Trunchbull had legitimately never seen his son behave the way he does around others, and goes so far as to take him to a psychologist that very night when he learns about Tommy's issues.
  • Show Within a Show: Selkie loves The Adventures of Sue and Kathryn, which is a television cartoon about the misadventures of a ten-year-old zombie and wraith, respectively. There's even in-universe merchandise, as Selkie at one point wants a pair of Sue and Kathryn shoes. The author later spun it off into its own webcomic.
  • Sneeze Cut: After Pohl and Sai Fen talk about the difficult things they're going to have to tell Selkie, the comic cuts back to Selkie sneezing. Mari then discusses the trope, saying that a sneeze means someone is talking about you.
  • Sommelier Speak: Parodied when Selkie gives a stereotypical "wine snob" speech about her cup of chai tea. However, the real goal is to distract Andi and keep her from worrying too much about Selkie not being human.
    Selkie: Goods body. Excelents vintage. 1922 was the bests year for this vineyard.
    Andi: Who taught you how to "wine snob"?
  • Squee: Some of the kids (usually Selkie) tend to squeal with delight when they're really happy about something.
  • Stepping Out for a Quick Cup of Coffee: Agent Brown agrees with Todd's statement that Selkie deserves to know what she is, but he's only authorized to give out information related to physical care needs. However, what he can do is call in Dr. Pohl to help with those "physical care needs," and look the other way when Pohl gives Todd a handwritten note with the desired information.
  • Straight Gay: Todd's brother, Antoine is a large, muscular man and an avid gamer. He also happens to be gay.
  • Stunned Silence: A background example is seen here, in which a parent wants more peanut butter added to the lunch menu because it helps brain growth. Asked about a source for the dubious claim, they proudly state that they added it to Wikipedia earlier.
    PTA Member: I don't even know how to respond to that.
  • Supernatural Soap Opera: The comic features a mysterious amphibian humanoid, and is primarily about the chaos, drama, and wacky plans of the cast's social lives.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: When Amanda asks Todd what the deal is with the mysterious laser beam coming from Lake Superior, Todd tries to claim he doesn't know, but does so in an overly-specific and not very convincing way. Luckily, Amanda doesn't notice.
    Todd: I-I don't know, Amanda. I have no knowledge of anything unusual that may or may not be located in Lake Superior.
  • Symbol Swearing: The author's preferred way of dealing with cursing. It comes either as a Fun with Acronyms version (Star House Ice-cream Turtle) or short-hand symbols (Such as crossed gender-symbols to illustrate a Precision F-Strike).
  • That Came Out Wrong: Due to the language barrier, Te Fahn proudly proclaims that she's going to be part of Selkie's harem. One whispered conversation later...
    Te Fahn: FRIEND! I meants "friend". I dids nots use the rights words. AT. ALLS.
  • Teacher/Parent Romance:
    • Todd has some chemistry with Mina, his daughter's third grade teacher. While both of them would probably want a relationship, Mina calls it off because she doesn't think it's appropriate to date the father of one of her students.
    • Jessie is only a student teacher, but she still ends up romantically involved with Andi, the mother of one of her students. While the two didn't meet at any sort of parent-teacher night (instead they happen to be neighbors), there's still all the requisite awkwardness with Andi's daughter.
  • They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!: It's Professor Trunchbull.
  • Time Skip: A four month one, during which the adoption process takes place.
  • Unishment: Selkie's in tears over getting suspended for a week. Then she finds out what suspension means.
    Georgie: Dude! If I kick a kid in the nuts, I get to skip school for a whole WEEK?!
    Principal: It's not a reward!
  • The Unmasqued World: After the use of a laser weapon visible throughout the entire Great Lakes region, and a hijacked television broadcast, the Sarnothi go from a secret known to a select few to public knowledge.
  • The Unsmile:
    Selkie: Okays, I have my owns fangs, and I stills poopeds myself a little.
    Sai Fen: Gentle discouragement of aggression through implications of gruesome carnage. Also works with in-laws!
  • Unsound Effect: What's the correct sound effect for a woman who runs off in a panic to see what happened to her daughter? Why, "MOMMA SWOOSH," of course.
  • Verbal Tic: Selkie frequently adds unnecessary esses to her words. It's apparently a common issue with Sarnothi, and demonstrative of the differences between their language and English, as Pohl and his wife learned to overcome it.
  • Webcomic Time: Ignoring the Time Skip, the entire comic so far has covered just a few days in-universe, with strips released over nearly a year in real time.
  • Weirdness Censor: Adults not in the know can’t figure out that Selkie isn't human. The official story is that she's a human with a rare genetic condition. Sure, she has periwinkle skin, a mouth full of razor sharp teeth, and webbed fingers and toes. She's also an obligate carnivore, is cold-blooded, and her nose is blatantly non-human. However, her gills are typically covered by her clothing, and she wears her hair down to hide the fact that her ears are entirely internal. Notably, every child who has spent meaningful time around her knows the truth. Amanda says it best:
    Amanda: Ms. Flower WATCHED Selkie huff water, and just told me it was "medicine". Frankly, most of the adults that learn about Selkie are just really STUPID about it.
  • Wham Episode:
    • The Reveal that Amanda is Todd and Andi's daughter.
    • And the trip to the hospital, featuring several Wham Scenes in short order: The formal reveal of Pohl De'Madiea, followed shortly by his wife and family; the name of Selkie's species, sarnothi; and, both in one page, the reveal that there was a civil war and that Selkie is from "Clan Jin'Sorai", a line that's followed by a major Reaction Shot of despair from the listener.
    • The Do Not Adjust Your Set moment when Sarnoth is forcibly revealed to the world on a hijacked TV broadcast.
  • Wham Line: " aware were you that Selkie's been carrying a hidden message from a war criminal?"
  • Wham Shot: Amanda's eyes glow the same green energy as a sarnothi echo after being in proximity to Pohl and Selkie's lesson.
  • Who's on First?: A sarnothi CIA agent is named "Then". When Agent Brown tries to mention him in conversation, an already panicking Andi fails to recognize his name as a name and gets confused.
    Agent Brown: Then knew one day you would need approval to be told details about Sarnoth.
    Andi: Then who knew?
    Agent Brown: Then, my partner.
    Andi: Oh god, then your partner WHAT?!