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Webcomic / Starslip

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Starslip is a hybrid Science Fiction / Fine Art comic by Kris Straub.

Set in the year 3440 on the Terran Directorate Ship Fuseli, formerly the Crimson Fall, a "luxury battle cruiser" converted into a museum ship. Built so that the crew would get a morale boost of the opulence of the Fuseli, the caviar rations made the crew sluggish and easily overcome.

Was originally named "Starshift Crisis" until a potential copyright issue with the video game StarShift: The Zaran Legacy caused Straub to change it to "Starslip Crisis" in the "Overdrive" storyline. It was then named for the Starslip drive, the main form of FTL for the universe, which actually slips between parallel universes and is normally kept to a very close set of universes where you switch places with a copy of yourself in that universe. Because so many alternate universes use the drive the changes are so small as to be non-existent. Afterwards all mention of Starshift was changed to Starslip in not only the domain name, but the comic itself. And after "The End of The End" the comic was shortened to simply Starslip, and given an Art Shift to boot. The drive now works by moving the ship along two points on a straighter than straight line, with a wonderfully forced explanation for why this is still called a "starslip". (Incidentally, the retronym for the old tech? "Shift Drive".)

The strip began as a send-up of artistic and science fiction tropes, but incorporated longer and more complicated storylines — particularly after the Art Shift — while maintaining humor. It ended on June 15, 2012.

Main characters include Memnon Vanderbeam, the fussy, arrogant curator of the Fuseli; Cutter Edgewise, the drunk ex-pirate who is now Fuseli's pilot; Mr. Jinx, a cirbozoid, a stoic insectoid with Bizarre Alien Biology, whose race has repeatedly faced extermination at the hands of others; Meridian Holliday, chief engineer with a crush on Vanderbeam.

Starslip provides examples of:

  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Works in humanity's favor for once. A robot shows up, having last been seen planning a revolt against humanity. At some point between then and now, it downloaded the intelligence of a couple hundred robots buried (alive? Functioning, anyway...) rather than leave them. This caused its IQ to explode, at which point it reevaluated its priorities and decided organics were okay after all. It doesn't last long, as he's blown out an airlock and melts upon reentry into a nearby planet soon after that revelation is made.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Parodied. As Katarakis' plans fall apart, he gets a page where he laments his misfortune in artistic silhouette:
    Katarakis: All I wanted was to enslave a destroyed universe of tortured dead.
  • Alien Arts Are Appreciated: One of the main themes.
  • All Crimes Are Equal: All crimes on Cirbozoid are punished by an acid bath.
  • Alternate Universe: Starslip drives switch with a double in an alternative universe.
  • Anachronism Stew: A 2008 series of strips cleverly plays this with Concrete Universe, future CSI-type "historical drama" set in "the twentieth century" which casually mixes technologies, attitudes and stereotypes from "the past"; detectives ride in covered wagons, wield scimitars, and deal with criminals who "smoke booze".
  • Art Shift:
    • "The End of the End" reboot provided Straub with a convenient place to update the style of the strip to the quality and detail he currently prefers to draw in.
    • Near the finale of the strip, Memnon starts dreaming of the Renaissance era, in stylized sepia tones and more detailed artwork. It turns out that these are actually memories, somehow.
  • Berserk Button: Teasing Cutter for only having one eye tends to piss him off.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: Mr. Jinx's physiology gets increasingly ridiculous as the series progresses, and is frequently lampshaded. "His" anesthetic saliva and ability to vent chloroform are used frequently.
  • Bloody Murder: Most people might think that Cirbozoids would have acidic blood, but no: Mr. Jinx has an alkaline blood.
  • Body Horror: Mr Jinx often veers into this. So does Dahk Tarr when he is assigned as ship doctor. Tarrs species are shapeshifitng translucent blobs of jelly with clearly visible organs floating around inside.
  • Body Backup Drive: Quine does this. If his body is killed, a new one is created in a cloning tank on board ship and his consciousness downloaded into it.
  • Bottled Heroic Resolve: Cutter.
  • Brick Joke: The Jovians working on an alternative drive was first seen as a newspaper headline.
    • The Deep Time agents stop a pitched battle when they remember the weakest weapons they have put holes in planets. Much later...
  • Broken Pedestal: Vanderbeam to Holiday, after she discovers his lingering obsession with Jovia, and the lengths he'll go to to restore her.
  • Brown Note The Spine of the Cosmos, when viewed in context, makes people into mental slaves of whom ever owns it. But it's art, so if you alter its context enough to make the artist's intended meaning inapplicable...
  • Buffyspeak: Used by Vanderbeam on occasion when he tries to sound "authoritative".
    Vanderbeam: Target its go-parts and make explosions.
  • Butt-Monkey: Officer Quine
  • Canon Welding: Vore, AKA Vaporware came from Checkerboard Nightmare, Straub's previous strip.
  • Captain Ersatz: the directorate monoliths are the SEELE committee from Neon Genesis Evangelion. Word of God acknowledges this in a blog post.
  • Cloning Gambit: Quine's Body Backup Drive (see above) is cloning-based.
  • Cosmic Retcon: As of January 9 2009, forget everything you know. They've slipped two years into the past, in a world where Starslip Drive has been outlawed.
    • Perhaps also includes the major plot event when they slipped into a universe where Princess Jovia died several months previous. The Alternate Universe nature of the drive makes it insanely easy to do this, which used to be the titular crisis.
    • Its not really a cosmic retcon if you keep on adding to the old continuity with major plot points. The Chronomantic is revealed to be Time Traveling Vanderbeam's son.
  • Crack Pairing: Deliberately invoked to screw with the future. When Deep Time invades, they're invulnerable so long as they know what the future will be. Holiday decides that the most random and improbable thing to do to mess with the future is to start making out with Cutter right there on the spot. May have led to a Last-Minute Hookup (see below).
  • Creator Cameo: Straub was in attendance at SDCC when the Fuseli accidentally timewarped to 2007, seen here.
  • Death Is Cheap: For Quine, the cost of death is just the raw materials used by his cloning vat. And clothes. And pain.
  • Drinking on Duty: Cutter, in this strip, among others. In fact, there is nary a moment when Cutter isn't drinking on duty.
    • Sure there is. Even Cutter has to sleep sometimes.
  • Eldritch Location: The Fuseli, if you can believe it. During one arc exhibits start going missing, then turning up in other places badly mangled. It eventually turns out that, due to some bizarre and arcane technical specifications and factory defaults, the bulkheads of rooms connected to the outer hull actually move slowly, and the missing exhibits are simply being scraped off the walls as they pass.
  • Energy Beings: What mankind evolved into in the "really far future". Deep Time was created to protect the timeline from anything that might endanger that future.
    • Future Vanderbeam's plan ensured that humanity will never become this, meaning Deep Time will have never existed.
  • Exposition Beam: Subverted.
  • Expy: Zillion seems to share a few traits (mostly cosmetic) with Captain Reynolds, as played by Nathan Fillion.
    • Just to drive the point even further, Zillion even uses the name "Fillion" as an alias at one point.
    • For that matter, Admiral Huff of the Spacica calls Admiral William Adama of the Galactica to mind.
    • Ash Cordry (from another comic of Straub's, FChords) makes a prominent appearance in the Cutter Edgewise, P.I. storyline. He's identical to the original Ash, except he's actually a wig-wearing alien impostor.
  • Fan of the Past: Memnon is very much a fan of the past (his specific area of interest being late 20th to early 21st century), being an art curator. His art exhibits include the last remaining copy of the Catwoman film as well as World of Warcraft.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: Starslip
  • Flat "What": "She's made of pressurized vapor."
  • Future Imperfect: The Show Within a Show "Concrete Universe", which combines covered wagons with laser technology in a perfect example of 20th century police work.
  • Future Slang: Mostly parodied with "Space" being added in front of everything.
    • Even going as far as "What on Space-Earth?!"
    • "Good space heavens!"
    • Taken even further with Zillion's "Deep Slang", which largely consists of dropping the last word of every.
  • Friend to All Living Things: The Jinxlets, to the point where they emitt an energy that causes other animals to feel happy and at peace.
  • Hidden Depths: Cutter, paralyzed by seeing the Spine of the Cosmos in it's proper context, hears Vanderbeam pedanterizing about how it's not being seen in the proper context because they're just seeing a filmed projection of it. He processes this revelation and snaps out of it. The drunkard ex-pirate is the only one for whom this tactic works, suggesting that he actually understands what Vanderbeam's going on about.
  • Historical In-Joke: Fuseli was an 18th-century painter.
  • Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act Deep Time used to kill Hitler then go back in time to save him as a way to pass weekends.
    • Historical In-Joke: Hitler survived a lot of assassination attempts through what seemed like pure blind luck.
  • Human Notepad: Katarakis uses this to cause Deep Time to detonate the Jupiter Bomb ahead of schedule...
  • I Didn't Mean to Turn You On: Poor Holiday...
  • Immortal Life Is Cheap
  • Infinite Canvas: "The End of the End", where the Starslip website itself was destroyed.
    • The archived version doesn't do it justice. On the day it ran, it took up an entire splash page. As an added bonus, the tumbling navigation buttons really worked!
  • Interspecies Romance:
    • Quine and Raquel. To specify, Raquel was originally a drone from the Quel collective, a race of telepathic beings joined in a Hive Mind, until Vanderbeam accidentally caused them to develop independence.
    • Silane (a sentient gas cloud) and Cutter.
  • I Surrender, Suckers: Zillion uses this to bait the Xenotrids into range after he, Cutter, and Jynx are shot down.
  • It Only Works Once: Averted - when the ship finds themselves in the war against Katarakis for the second time, they defeat him in the exact same way they did before travelling back in time (i.e., Jinx wearing the Spine of the Cosmos as a hat.)
  • Kid from the Future: The Chronomantic turns out to be Vanderbeam and Jovia's son. Who spent his formative years in the Renaissance. Go figure.
  • Lame Pun Reaction: Vanderbeam probably isn't the only one rolling his eyes here.
  • Last-Minute Hookup: Implied in the final episode. Holliday and Cutter are holding hands.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: A not-quite-mock-combat-caused flashback gives Vanderbeam motivation.
  • Loving a Shadow: Vanderbeam's obsession with Jovia.
  • Mad Artist: Xxxyyy (more below).
  • Massive Multiplayer Crossover: One was planned between Starslip, Schlock Mercenary and a few others. However, due to various different factors, it was cut short.
  • Meaningful Name: A quine, in programming terms, is a program that can reproduce itself.
  • Metamorphosis Monster: The Jinxlets are adorable little bug creatures that gain nourishment from cuddling. When fed Royal Jelly, however, they turn into terrifying berserker engines of destruction.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: "This will be... MY GREATEST CURATION EVER!"
  • Myth Arc: Memnon's secret quest to find a way back to Jovia drives a lot of key plot and character development, and gives us many of the strip's more dramatic moments, but can sometimes be easy to lose sight of amongst all the shorter, more contained story arcs and gags.
  • Naked on Revival: Quine, over and over again.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: The insanely paranoid Zarde staffed his warship entirely with Tricked Out Time copies of himself. The instant Deep Time realizes that the warship only has technically one crewmember - a deranged psychopath they're more than willing to kill - they instantly vaporize it.
  • Noodle Implements:
    Aldus Vanderbeam: I also learned I wasn't good at talking to nude models, art professors, the dean of the art department, and campus police. You will never hear that story.
    Ervoth Von Lucifuge: Remember the Harrakon disaster of '37? That was me. And six trained goldfish.
  • Noodle Incident: Whatever happened to Hyper-Maine (which was meant to be similar to how Japan is now in space), people typically don't discuss it.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: The transition from Starslip Crisis to Starslip.
  • Not So Above It All: Vanderbeam starts giggling about holes in this strip.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Captain Zarde's "outside-the-box thinking" in a training exercise manages to royally piss Vanderbeam off.
    Zarde: We just had a weapons malfunction is all! Don't get so touchy!
    Vanderbeam: You're a bad captain, Zarde. People like you only learn by being touched, and hard. And you will greatly disapprove of where these men put their hands.
    Cutter: Oh my god.
  • Planet of Steves: Nearly everything on the Cirbozoids' planet is simply named "Cirbozoid", from cities to rivers to their currency to warcries to the planet itself. The planet's moon is called Cirbozoidmoon.
  • Postmodernism: The Starshift to Starslip switch
    • And, more recently, "The End of The End" which also switched the title again to Starslip.
  • Quick Nip: Cutter, repeatedly.
  • Red Shirt: Subverted. In a clear Shout-Out to the Trope Namer Star Trek, the "redheaded" protocol officer Quine is stabbed through the heart on the Paradigm's first mission, five minutes after landing on the alien planet. It's not until after Vanderbeam mourns his death that we find out about the Body Backup Drive.
    • Quine continues to die on subsequent missions, making him a recurring Red Shirt and moving the whole trope into Zig-Zagged territory.
  • Ret-Gone: The elderly Vanderbeam tricks Katarakis into using his time suit in an attempt to rewrite the Universe from the Big Bang. Instead, the suit spreads an engram that ensures that The Singularity Deep Time arose to protect will never form in the first place, slowly erasing Deep Time from the timeline and Katarakis with it.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: The Jinxlets. Their main source of nutrients is SNUGGLING.
  • Serious Business: Fine Art is really, really important. At one point, Memnon's art curation skills save the universe.
    • "In order to save your life, you must make a classic, lasting piece of art. Now."
    • "This will be my greatest curation EVER."
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Menmon. Even in old age. Even when he's dying.
  • Shout-Out: This strip.
    • A quick shout out to MST3K here. (Rocket Number Nine being the catch-all for any exterior shot.)
    • Jinx mentions a Titan-class Cirbozoid getting loose on pre-contact Earth.
    Mr. Jinx: "My family doesn't talk about cousin Cloverfield, sir."note .
  • The Singularity: It exists in the far future, and is the reason for Deep Time's extreme measures against the Starslip drive.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Vanderbeam
  • Space Pirates: Cutter has the eyepatch and everything. He was a pirate science officer.
  • Space "X": Space-parodies this space-trope space-constantly. See also Future Slang.
  • Stable Time Loop: Used several times by both our heroes and Deep Time. One strip even thanks Heinlein
    • Well, it did, back when it was on Wordpress and had individual titles.
  • Standard Starship Scuffle: With occasional Lampshading.
  • Starfish Aliens: Invoked Here, with giant, armless centipedes.
  • Starship Luxurious: The Fuseli itself
    • It was originally constructed to test a theory that pampered soldiers would fight harder and win more battles so they could get back to the caviar faster. This failed predictably, and it was converted into a museum.
    • Diamond-reinforced mahogany....
  • Sufficiently Advanced Aliens: The aforementioned centipedes, who teleport the Paradigm and its crew along with every single celestial object known to mankind to the other end of the galaxy just to be left alone.
  • Swap Teleportation: The titular drive system works by swapping the ship and its contents with a counterpart in another universe that's already at the destination. The issues become quickly apparent.
  • Talk Like a Pirate: Cutter not so much, but his friends back in the Space Pirates, oh so yes.
  • Teleportation: Subverted — the crew steps onto a "relevator" (with a design reminiscent of the transporters of Star Trek) which turns out to simply shoot down onto Cirbozoid's surface at near-light speed.
  • Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo: the islands of Japan are now In space.
  • Time Police: Deep Time
    • Deep Time could also count as a Deconstruction of the Time Police concept since they take the usually noble goal of "protecting the future" common to similar organizations to its logical extreme: making them crazed Knights Templar capable and willing to go to literal war with the past and using every underhanded tactic in the book, ranging from killing innocent people for the sole fact that they don't have any significant impact in future history, abusing Tricked Out Time, as listed below and finally building and activating a giant bomb that destroys the entire timeline it's on and replaces it with one sure to result in the creation of Deep Time's "present".
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Tea for Vanderbeam, alcohol for Cutter.
  • Tricked Out Time: Memnon uses A2-Z to compute a certain important Starslip path, but instructs him not waste computational time answering questions he answered the first time.
    • Deep Time especially abuses this. At one point they attack the Fuseli and go back in time to plant hypnotic triggers in every member of the crew. Some more harshly than others. One agent goes back in time and FATHERS AND RAISES A CHILD so that the child can grow up, become a guard on the Fuseli, and not be able to make himself shoot his father when the Deep Time agents raid the ship.
  • True Art Is Angsty /True Art Is Incomprehensible: Many art-centered strips, but especially Xxxyyy (pronounced "zee"), a deconstruction of the modern artist, rebelling against the label, trying hard to create something that will make people wake up and realize she's just a hack. Offensiveness included here because one piece involved driving a species to extinction to use their pelts as a canvas. Oh, and I suppose attempting to blow up a ship with full complement counts, too.invoked
    • And, y'know, remaking the entire universe.
  • Uncanny Family Resemblance: Zarde and Katarakis.
  • The Unintelligible: Zillion's Future Slang speech makes him almost impossible to understand. Especially his habit of leaving the last word off of his.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Mr. Jinx's information of his biology is occasionally countered by other Cirbozoids (like not needing their vestigial eyes to see) or himself (being unable to smell as Cirbozoids can only exhale).
    • At one point, he's surprised to find out that his species is ruled by a brood-queen. This may be explained by severe timeline changes. When they actually meet her, he offers several insightful observations about her, such as how she can't hear Memnon.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Memnon Vanderbeam, step right up.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Katarakis, for the future Vanderbeam. Future Vanderbeam took advantage of Katarakis' ambition (at the cost of his own life) as part of his plan to retgone Deep Time.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: Much of the humor can come from artistic related puns, while art context is at least once the key to saving the galaxy.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Type 2: Cutter and 'Beams' almost never stop sniping at each other, but will defend each other against outside criticism, attempt to protect each other, and have plenty of nonromantic (and often promptly lampshaded) Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other moments.
    • Jinx and just about anyone else might count as Type 1; Jinx is submissive to a ridiculous degree and takes all manner of insults from everyone but Holiday, but the others have gone out of their way to help him on several occasions, and vice versa.
  • Waxing Lyrical: This strip.note 
  • Welcome to the Real World: A haphazardly-plotted Starslip jump caused the Fuseli to crash into the 2007 San Diego Comic-Con.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: "You have no idea how much of my respect you've lost. For good."
  • When All You Have Is a Hammer…: Vanderbeam and Art.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: When a Deep Time agent needs to think they will time travel away to think and come back a second later. At least one agent wastes his entire lifetime on a stupid idea, asking a friend to stop him from wasting it on that idea.

Alternative Title(s): Starslip Crisis