String Theory is a webcomic about the life of Dr. Herville Schtein, an abnormal scientist who descends into a life of supervillainy. Think if a Start of Darkness was the first book in a series that you read, and it starred someone who was a Jerkass Woobie scientist, and you've got the right idea.
Set in an alternate timeline in the 2057-2060s where the Cuban missile crisis was never averted, the world in String Theory is recovering from a major war which split the world between capitalist and communist superpowers—with the scale tipped a little in the USSR's favor.
Also, while String Theory is not R-rated, it nevertheless contains adult concepts and is written for adult sensibilities.
Now has a character page.
This webcomic provides examples of:
- Abusive Parents: Schtein's mother, both mentally and physically. She believed showing your children affection gave them unrealistic expectations of the adult world. Might not be so far from the truth considering what kind of world they live in.Marcus: Hey, did you know Dr. Schtein can dislocate his shoulder really easily? It's 'cause his mom pulled his arm out of its socket so many times!
- All There in the Manual: Schtein has a formspring account (now inactive), where he discusses a lot of his past including his divorce with Janet and relationship with Alice, weeks before it was really talked about in the main comic.
- Art Evolution: Of an unusually dramatic kind as the creator gets better. It starts off as zero background unshaded outlines and ends up as full color scenery porn.
- Ask a Stupid Question...: Delia Osgood to Ben Langstrom in the hospital:Delia: Ben, how are you doing?
Ben: Well, I'm a gnarled, slimy torso now, I feel like I'm still on fire, and I can only see out of one eye. So I guess I'd say I'm doing JUST PEACHY.
- Black Eyes of Crazy: Actually, they're just prosthetics. Foreshadowing though, maybe?
- Body Horror: The last three panels of this page.
- Breakout Character: Marcus was first intended to be one-time-only, but fans liked him so much the artist decided to make him a recurring character.
- Briefcase Full of Money: How Schtein is convinced to visit Chicago.Schtein: You can't be serious! I refuse! You couldn't pay me to go in there!
Abel: [opens a briefcase full of money]
Schtein: Or, perhaps you could.
- Buffy Speak: Schtein, surprisingly enough, is quite prone to this when excited or upset.
- Cast of Snowflakes: Even background characters have individual designs. Not to mention many characters can be identified by their hands alone.
- Crapsack World: Megacorporations run rampant, people living off the grid are hunted by the government and thrown in prison, much of the United States is a radioactive dust bowl, Chicago is a quarantine zone devoid of human life but filled with fungus zombies, the list goes on.
- Days of Future Past: It's set in the 2050's, yet society is that of the 1950's.
- Dirty Communists: How everyone views the USSR. We haven't actually seen any yet, but considering the above trope...
- Disappeared Dad: Dr. Schtein has an estranged daughter named Alice. Schtein's father also died soon after he was born.
- Divided States of America: The United States—flags only have less than half of its original 50 stars—had to consider radioactive territories as "disincorporated territories", which became fringe areas that are unihabitated except for private prisons and squatters.
- Dr. Jerk: Schtein, though he's Not That Kind of Doctor.
- Dumbass No More: Dr Schtein was born with some degree of mental retardation - his genius intelligence was a result of his grandfather's experiments.
- Electronic Eyes: Dr. Herville Schtein
- Evil Genius: Schtein's future. At the moment he's just on the 'genius' side.
- Eye Scream: The comic starts shortly after an accident that resulted in Schtein's eyes melting out of his head. Laurence had an eye gouged out by a so far unseen character.
- Flat "What": Schtein's reaction when he's been told that he's been assigned to the garbage duty at the prison.
- Foreshadowing: Schtein slowly obtaining, by natural and unrelated events, the hallmarks of a stereotypical mad scientist. The gloves, through his phobia. The cat, through the stupidity. The eyes, through the accident. Also foreshadowed with his controversial political opinions.
- And on the opposite end of the spectrum, Langstrom seems to be becoming a super hero. Scientist who was severely injured in an accident caused by an antagonistic colleague. Miraculous survival. Sudden obtainment of strange powers.
- Geeky Turn-On: Schtein falls for Delia the moment she suggests a way to improve the station's plasma fusion generator.
- Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke:
- Parodied when a forced evolutionary virus creates "man-kitty-things" that get into everything. Schtein also keeps one as an adorable pet.
- Played entirely straight with the fate of Chicago.
- Genre Savvy: Dr Schtein in Chicago.Schtein: Uh, yeah, I don't know if you guys noticed, but we're already in a horror movie. I'm the stalwart hero, destined to face his scary, estranged grandfather. You are the stupid teens destined to die while making out or whatever. So, sweetie, you may as well go ahead and take your top off. We're pretty much guaranteed to see your tits.
- Hallway Of Overheard Insults: Complete with Evil Plan Exposition via Exact Eavesdropping.
- Hates Being Touched: Schtein
- Hidden Supplies: Phineas gives Schtein a weapon to defend himself against the other prisoners, and tells Schtein to hide it inside his mattress.
- Hot Scientist: Osgood. Schtein for some.
- Insufferable Genius: Schtein and Langstrom
- Jerkass: Benjamin Langstrom and Schtein.
- It should be noted that Langstrom was civil (even cloyingly nice) to Schtein when they first met, until Schtein pissed him off. Schtein is definitely a Jerkass to everyone he meets; that's probably not the case for Langstrom.
- Drew MacManus. After pages of him beating and otherwise tormenting Schtein that lead up to a very disturbing rape threat, readers are actually rooting for Schtein to kill him.
- Likable Villain: Schtein, though he hasn't reached the villain bit yet.
- Mistaken for Gay: Phineas.Phineas: No, no, no. Don't. Be. Dense. I know you, Dr. Herville Albert Schtein.
Schtein: Oh God. You've got a weird crush on me, don't you?
- The Mole: JayJay tells the warden about the explosives in order to lighten his sentence.
- Oh, Crap!: Schtein's face when he hears the name Warden Langstrom.
- Politically Incorrect Villain: Osgood is horrified by Schtein's opinions.
- Poirot Speak: Dr Orville von Schtein's speech is sprinkled with bits of German.Orville von Schtein: You did not speak until you were sechs... oder sieben? Ja, I believe you had just become seven.
- Panel four is highly suggestive of rape.
- Rival Science Teams: The U.S. Government intentionally sets this up, thinking it will make the scientists work faster. It backfires.
- Schtein's attempt to sabotage Langstrom's team jump-starts the plot.
- Scenery Porn: The artist really likes to go all out on backgrounds.
- Shoe Phone: When Schtein sarcastically asks Phineas how he communicates with his employers.Schtein: How, exactly, are you contacting them? Telepathic waves? Cloned messenger pigeons? Secret phone in your shoe?
- Start of Darkness: The comic is billed as "The disastrous rise of a supervillain superstar," so this really shouldn't be a surprise.
- Teleporters and Transporters: Schtein (and Langstrom's rival division) is trying to build a functioning matter teleportation device. So far he has gone through a lot of guinea pigs.
- Terrified of Germs: Schtein is severely mysophobic and wears gloves all the time except when he's eating.