Smithson is a webcomic written by Shaenon Garrity (Narbonic, Skin Horse) and drawn by Brian Moore (Teddy & Anna), Bob Stevenson and Roger Langridge (The Muppet Show Comic Book). It's the story of a girl called Micki, her first year at Smithson College, and the campus superhero. And magic. And weird phenomena. And possibly a smattering of mad science.
But mostly it's about friendship, romantic complications, and Micki wanting to be a cartoonist. The main characters are:
- Michelle "Micki" Wrigly: The Only Sane Woman. Wants to be a cartoonist, and is disappointed that studying studio art doesn't appear to be the way into that career. Is fascinated by campus superhero Chamucka Man, and is in a bit of a Love Triangle with Scooter and Chuck.
- Gemma Thomas: Micki's roommate. A bisexual punk girl with a lot of casual partners. She's studying astronomy because it means she doesn't need to get up early. She's the junior member of a guerilla chair-decorating movement that roams the campus at night. She hates Serena.
- Selena Suárez: A serious-minded young woman studying English, she'd probably qualify for Only Sane Woman status over Micki, if it wasn't for the fact she's mixed up with a coven disguised as a glee club, and is possibly their Chosen One. She gets on well with Micki, only Micki's generally hanging around with Gemma. As part of her initiation ritual, she can't talk.
- Kenichi "DJ Scooter" Tanchibi: The late-night DJ on the campus radio station, and the heir to a Bland-Name Product version of Hello Kitty. A big fan of retro music, he dresses like a mod. Micki has a crush on him, and he seems to be flirting with her.
- Chuck Tang: Scooter's roommate, Chuck is a huge comic book nerd. He's also attracted to Micki, but isn't sure she feels the same way. Oh, and he's Chamucka Man, patrolling the night to defend justice. He has, however, very little idea about some of the more sinister goings-on, such as the aforementioned coven.
- Dr Al: Micki's studio art professor. Disapproves of comics. Has creepy thought bubbles about the life models. Is the Sitcom Arch-Nemesis of Professor Finnagan.
- Professor Finnagan: ...sorry Jack. Computer geek. Encourages Micki to join his multimedia English class since it has comic book aspects. Described by Micki as "the same as Dr Al, but in reverse".
- The Mysterious Floating Woman: As the name suggests we don't know much about her, except that she seems to be responsible for half the weirdness, and fighting against the other half.
Currently on hiatus since 2008.
This comic contains examples of
- Appeal to Obscurity: Gemma believes former child prodigy Darryl O'Doyle, who became normal following a brain operation, only to suddenly start writing avant garde poetry as an old man, through automatic writing with his left hand, is faking the whole thing. When Chuck asks why anyone would pretend not to be a genius for sixty years, she names three (real) child prodigies, and asks if he's ever heard of them. He hasn't.
- Character Overlap: Minor character Queensbury Joe is the former Homeschool Joe from Li'l Mell, which would seem to place Smithson in the Narbonverse. (You can tell because he announces "I like bats!")
- Clark Kenting: Chuck is genuinely perplexed that Micki can't recognise him because he's wearing goggles and a miner's helmet. It's implied that this is the influence of the Mysterious Floating Woman.
- Completely Off-Topic Report: Evidence that Gemma is a Genius Ditz comes when, after weeks of avoiding her astronomy classes, she casually solves Newell's conjecture, when she was asked to write an essay about lunar eclipses.
- Foreshadowing: Dr Al's rivalry with Professor Finnegan is mentioned in a thought bubble long before we learn who Professor Finnegan is.
- Genius Ditz: Gemma's lack of interest in her major is such that she keeps calling it astrology. But when forced to actually study for a night, she creates a major scientific breakthrough because that's more interesting than writing about lunar eclipses.
- Mundane FantasticMicki: Smithson is kind of a strange place, isn't it?Jael: I think it's about average.
- The Nicknamer: In Chapter Two, Gemma declares that everyone should have nicknames, and Michelle is now Micki. It sticks.
- No Communities Were Harmed: "Any relation to a certain college whose name starts with "V" is completely coincidental."
- Once per Episode: Every chapter starts with a student-tutor discussion, presented in a tight format of each character facing the reader during their part of the exchange. (Or the student only appears in the final panel, to show why there hasn't been an exchange.)
- Pretentious Latin Motto: The motto of Smithson College is "Facite Aenigmata, Non Expositiones" ("Create enigmas, not explanations").
- Really Gets Around: Gemma and Blackbird Epstein.
- Sexiled: Gemma does it to Micki here.
- In Chapter Two, the college radio station is playing a series of losing Eurovision Song Contest entries. While most of them are real, the scene opens with the last line of "My Lovely Horse".
- In Chapter Three, the line "She's a gig, she's roadside, man" is fake made-up slang from For Better or for Worse.
- The graffiti in the steam tunnels. All of it.
- DJ Scooter opens a philosophical speil on his radio show with "Not to get all Chris in the Morning on you..."
- Silent Snarker: Selena is under a vow of silence. This doesn't stop her making it clear that Gemma's dislike of her is mutual. Ironically, Gemma is the only person she can communicate with like this, making Gemma a Translator Enemy when Selena wants to talk to Mikki.
- Tunnel Network: The steam tunnels beneath campus, used by Chamucka Man.
- Two-Person Love Triangle: Micki is at the very least intrigued by Chumucka Man, and it's not clear how she feels about Chuck, least of all to Chuck.