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Webcomic / The Fourth

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Derk, Skärva, and Lorelei—our villains.

The Fourth is a satirical fantasy webcomic by Courtney Svatek and Victor Acuña about “the odd and helpless situation of being a villain in an adventure game.” The comic features a trio of colorful characters—hapless evil overlord, Lord Tiberius Skärva the Fourth, his right-hand lackey Derk, and Lorelei, a girl who "obviously never had a mother who warned her to stay away from strange shark people"—and their adventures in a world that runs on classic adventure game tropes.

Contains examples of:

  • Adorable Evil Minions: The first dungeon is full of these.
    • The Lurkins and Flish of Castle Skärva also qualify.
  • Affably Evil: The Skärva line seems to like this trope.
  • Affectionate Parody: Of fantasy quests and video games.
  • Ambiguous Innocence: Kicked around with Lorelei. She's a sweet, caring girl who loves Skärva dearly. But Skärva's a villain, so how innocent can that really make her?
  • Animate Inanimate Object: The ghosts of Skarva's keep can possess swords, pots, and the like.
  • Arson Murderand Jaywalking: The mountain hamlet does the Torches and Pitchforks thing to Skärva and Derk once because he demanded food as their ruler, then because he tried to steal it, and then finally he gave up and just tried buying it, but he didn't have any money.
  • Art Evolution: Compare the first page of the comic with some of the newer ones.
  • Art Shift: A crayon coloring illustrates the path that must be taken to reach Frostbite Fortress.
    • Skärva's moments of overlord mania often induce these.
    • Lorelei's recurring nightmare.
    • Skärva's schemes as they are told to others.
  • Ascended Extra: The little demon Davis eventually gets a job at Lord Skärva's castle.
  • Ascended Fanboy: In thanks for making donations for Courtney's iPad purchase, she intermittently put some of the contributors in as cameoes in the background of various strips.
    • It was actually a graphics tablet, so she could, y'know, make the comic better. :P
    • They've recently opened up a tier system for general donations towards the site and comic's upkeep resulting in fans being inserted into the background in various roles. The larger the donation, the more substantial the part.
  • Ascended Meme: "[Object/person] says [sound effect] all the time", in the comments, starting after the comic "Snowballs say "plop" all the time." This got to the point where a more recent comic was titled "Skärva gets hungry waiting for Blank all the time".
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: This strip gives a wordless moment that encapsulates this as a single image. Also doubles as a Let's Get Dangerous! moment.
  • Bad Boss: Surprisingly averted. For all his machinations, Skärva treats his minions reasonably well. The same cannot be said for the wizard at the Temple of Terror, though...
  • Badass Boast: Skärva often, usually accompanied by a Deliberately Monochrome Art Shift.
  • Bat Out of Hell: Parodied. A goddamned bat in Molten Mountain accidentally flies into a torch and promptly flaps around screaming in agony.
  • Behind the Black: Skärva is furious when Cyril's compass leads them to the ocean with no way to cross it, until Derk points out that Skärva failed to notice the harbour town within spitting distance.
  • Berserk Button: The various dungeon guides seem to have this.
    • The wizard at the Temple of Terror despises being called short.
    • Do not mock Frozio's tuxedo.
    • The Second, Skärva's grandfather, is a rather shy, easily intimidated ghost hanging out in the castle library. Skärva tends to walk over him and tell him to his face what he thinks of him, all of which he accepts without complaint...but when he spots Derk reading his books, he transforms into an Eldritch Abomination, and even Skärva flees in terror.
  • Big Eater: Derk.
  • The Big Guy: Derk.
  • Big Ol' Eyebrows: The wizard at the Temple of Terror. They nearly double his height.
  • Big, Thin, Short Trio: Derk is big, Skärva is skinny, and Lorelei is short.
  • Big "WHAT?!": Ecta will use this a bit if she can't believe what she's hearing and gets infuriated (more than usual), but when she does it to Skärva, he's not intimidated.
  • Bookcase Passage: In Skärva's office.
  • Burning with Anger: The wizard of the Temple of Terror.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Skärva delightfully proclaims his name to anyone that will listen. Many people, including Lorelei, have never heard of him.
    • When Davis returns, it takes some prodding before Skärva remembers who he is.
    • Slice has a crush on a Flish called Gilly, who doesn't know or care who he is.
  • Call-Back: On first introduction, Davis mistakes Skärva and Derk for door-to-door religious nuts and insists that he lives in a temple and doesn't need to hear about the gods. When he finally reaches Castle Skärva and is asked if he's there to see Skärva, he replies he's there to talk about the gods.
  • Call-Forward: When fighting in the seaweed room during the pirate trials, Skärva mentions he's taken lessons in swordfighting. We get to see them in Chapter Zero.
  • Canada, Eh?: The authors would like to remind you that northern Idenau is not Canada.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: Derk and Blank spend a fight deconstructing Derk's role as a Black Mage rather than The Brute, and then pointing out Light Is Not Good.
  • Cast from Calories: Magic is explicitly said to be powered by calories; Skarva claims that "mana potions" are just milkshakes.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Slice's Establishing Character Moment is to ask a suit of armour how his watch goes.
  • Comically Missing the Point: When Skärva brings out the love potion, Blank thinks he's developed some uncomfortable interest in his enemy.
  • Commonplace Rare: Blank is ecstatic when he thinks Skarva's giving him a bottle.
  • Convection, Schmonvection: Justified and subverted in Molten Mountain. For Skärva, Derk and Lorelei's visit they apparently turned the heat down so they can walk through unscathed. When the hero travels through, however, they can turn it up to unbearable levels until the hero wears the appropriate attire...which the dungeon keeps in the gift shop to avoid lawsuits.
  • Cool Shades: Worn by Veronika's bird.
  • Cool Sword: The Sword of Stabbing.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Whoever happens to be fighting Blank winds up soundly defeated.
  • Cursed with Awesome: The gods curses have a way of backfiring. The lurkins (the goblin like grey skinned people) used to be humans slapped with a disfiguring curse for ignoring the gods. They decided the gods abandoned them and they can do whatever they want now, and either as a consolation or due to being Touched by Vorlons, developed magic. According to the authors, the most the Ideneuian pantheon did was collectively say "darn it!" and move on.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Skärva's father was more about the business of evil rather than straight-up evil. People remember him as doing a lot for the community.
  • Cute Ghost Girl: Ecta, kinda.
  • Deadpan Snarker: When Skärva announces his intent to make a love potion for Princess Veronika, Floyd cheerfully reminisces about the other times he's done exactly that.
  • Death Glare: Skärva. Ecta does well too.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: In some of the earlier comics, Skärva would make a sadistically evil proclamation and the art would shift to a grainy black and white just to demonstrate how evil he is.
    • An orange filter connotes anger.
  • Did I Just Say That Out Loud?: Skärva furiously wonders aloud how he'll conquer Idenau when his plot for the princess to fall in love with Blank fails. He then remembers that Blank is standing right there.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Skärva's latest plan is for Veronika to fall in love with Blank, so Blank will be too preoccupied to defeat Skärva. His minions are astonished by the ingenuity of it.
  • Dumb Is Good: Derk, though still Lord Skärva's Dragon, is much more polite and kind-hearted, perhaps to the point of being a Gentle Giant.
    • Slice seems blissfully unaware that his boss is an antagonist, and probably wouldn't understand if corrected.
  • Dungeon Bypass: Used frequently by Skärva and company. It helps that villains know all the secret passages and maintenance tunnels to avoid the puzzles and traps they set up in the dungeons.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Floyd's keeping his well under wraps.
  • Evil Makes You Monstrous: At least, in the case of Lord Skärva's great-grandfather. If it wasn't for him, the Skärva's would never look like they do.
  • Evil Plan: On the tram ride to Frostbite Fortress, Skärva explains that he is looking for a place to hide the last piece of the Sword of Stabbing to the newcomer, Lorelei. But before he finishes his Evil Gloating, the tram driver points out a "No Evil Plotting" sign.
  • Excited Kids' Show Host: Derk is very excited to be MCing a castle staff meeting. The crowd, not so much.
  • Friend to All Children: Played with. Skärva seems to be developing quite the rapport with Lorelei, but when he returns to find it's "Take Your Child To Work Day" at his castle, he comes face to face with an adorable imp kid...nearly reducing it to tears.
  • Face Palm: Skärva gets a few during his inspection of the first temple.
  • Flying Seafood Special: The Flish, which are, well, flying, sapient fish.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: The Quirky Miniboss Squad made up of Ecta, Davis, Floyd and Slice.
    • Choleric: Ecta (Quick to anger, the appointed leader who is well-known through the castle for being astonishingly bossy).
    • Melancholic: Davis (Determined to get the job done and very confident in his ability to do so, an outsider among the rest).
    • Leuquine: Floyd (Calm and quiet, reliable and friendly. Ultimately the one keeping the team together).
    • Sanguine: Slice (The eternal optimist and space cadet who is eager to make friends and is just so darn happy).
  • Friendly Enemies: Blank farewells Derk rather amicably.
  • Frothy Mugs of Water: The author is quick to point out that whatever the characters are drinking, it just looks like booze. For example, a glass of beer is said to really be apple juice.
  • Funny Background Event: Much humor can be had simply by looking at small details in each panel.
  • Giftedly Bad: Cyril is an awful, awful, awful musician, and is entirely unaware of that fact.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Sometime after his initial appearance, Blank has picked up a couple of thin scars down the side of his face. Nothing particularly ugly, though. Skärva, for his part, has a permanent black eye.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Oh man, Ecta.
  • Healing Hands: Lorelei seems to have these.
  • Hello, [Insert Name Here]: The hero is actually named Blank.
  • Hereditary Curse: The MacGuffin that motivates Skärva throughout the comic, brought down on his family by his great-grandfather.
  • Hermit Guru: A little light on the Hermit side, since they're pretty common.
    Lorelei: It's a town, silly! Of course there's a wise old man!
  • Hero Antagonist: Blank.
  • Hyperactive Metabolism: Magic power comes from one's inner energy, so wizards have to cast on a full stomach. According to this strip, mana potions are, in fact, preserved milkshakes.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: One page dedicates a panel to Blank rummaging around in his pocket to pull out a spray plunger.
  • I Am Not My Father: When people remind him of what his father had accomplished, Skärva changes the topic as fast as he can.
  • I Ate WHAT?!: Derk builds himself a giant sandwich and consumes it rapidly, only for a sickened ghost to emerge from his mouth. He promptly flees in terror.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Blank defeats Ecta and the ghosts with a spray plunger full of starch.
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Skärva is an Affectionate Parody of this. He's actually a threat worth noting, but is continually defeated and the audience feels quite bad for him.
  • Insult Backfire:
    • Skärva's father isn't insulting Skärva, exactly, but the way he operates.
    Skärva the Third: I just wish you could be more like me.
    Skärva the Fourth: What, dead?
    • The Third gets a true one on the Fourth
    Skärva the Fourth: When I need advice on how to be defeated, I'll come running.
    Skärva the Third: Oh, I don't think you need any help with that.
    Skärva the Fourth: Hey!
  • Intangible Man: When she tries to block his way, Davis walks right through Ecta. Ecta is not impressed. Tends to vary, though, as she's later seen dragging him around by the horns.
    • Someone shoves a spear through her, which she understandably is rather offended about.
  • Jerk Ass Gods: The Ideneauian Pantheon doesn't forgive, and they punish "evildoers" quite harshly. Racial degeneration, generational curses, and eternal undeath are a few of their favorites.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Well duh.
  • Ki Manipulation: Floyd prepares to unleash one on Blank, but Blank counters with his sword's Faux Flame. Not long, later, though, Blank comes across Derk...who unleashes a Kamehame Hadouken on him. The ascension of badass levels cannot be counted that high.
  • Kick the Dog: Skärva finally gets fed up with Cyril, tells him exactly what he thinks of him, and tells him to take a hike. Cyril was last seen in mute tears.
  • Kubrick Stare: Skärva pulls this off frequently.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Slice dives in front of Blank to defend Gilly, making fists with his fins. Blank grumbles a bit and walks off, uncaring, but hey, Slice gritted his teeth and everything!
    • When Skärva and Derk are arrested, Lorelei prepares to get them out...with a cannon.
  • Lethal Lava Land: Deconstructed with Molten Mountain; Skärva notes with mounting dismay just how un-lethal it is.
  • Light Is Not Good: Turns out light magic is Derk's weapon-of-choice.
    Derk: Well, you figured wrong. Besides, you may be protected by the Gods, but only against dark magic.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Many characters have been seen in night clothes, and costumes are used from time to time for thematic and comedic purposes, but the daily outfit for any one character remains exactly the same.
  • Literal Surveillance Bug: Veronika's birds spy on Skärva.
  • MacGuffin: Minor ones throughout, like the delivery service below, but the over-arching one is the Hereditary Curse that Skärva is driven to overcome.
  • Macguffin Delivery Service: Ecta, Slice, Davis and Floyd spend a large chunk of time tracking down a flower for Skärva to use in a love potion.
    • Later parodied outright when the items Blank trawled through umpteen dungeons to find turned out to be food for Skärva to store.
  • Marilyn Maneuver: An imp in page 3 pulls one.
  • Miniature Senior Citizens: The aforementioned wizard introduced on page 2. Call him out on it though, and he won't be too happy.
    • The Wilderfall village elder. Who's also a raisin.
  • Missing Mom: Averted. Skärva's mother allegedly misses him and wishes he would call. He doesn't dwell on it.
  • Mobile Shrubbery: A magical disguise in Lord Skärva's repertoire. It works for the most part, but Lord Skärva does not like to be touched.
  • Mood Whiplash: Slice loses his happy-go-lucky demeanour and goes toe-to-toe with Blank himself when Blank is about to end Gilly. Blank irritably storms off as Slice valiantly defends the love of his life. The next strip shows Slice turn around to discover Gilly, still unaware who "that other guy" is, thinks he simply has a death wish and leaves with her friends. You can see the exact moment Slice's self-esteem is crushed into powder.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: When Slice chats her up in a coffee shop, Gilly realizes she totally ignored him when he jumped between her and Blank.
  • Mundane Utility: The inhabitants of Castle Bladud use the fiendish puzzles as public transport (a hovering platform puzzle) and entertainment (a puzzle there one is suspended by strong fans)
  • Non-Mammal Mammaries: Averted, female Salamandrians don't have them; they're differentiated from the males by their scale patterns and eyelashes.
  • Non-Uniform Uniform: Floyd utterly refuses to adhere to the castle dress code.
  • Noodle Incident: We know that Skärva's great-grandfather and the first's partner did something to bring the curse upon Skärva's line, but every time WHAT they did otherwise naturally comes up in exposition, the speaker talks around it.
  • Number Two: Derk is Skärva's right-hand man.
  • The Obi-Wannabe: Skärva does not want his dead dad's help. When that sinks in, Skärva the Third sounds more like a grouch in a nursing home.
  • Offscreen Momentof Awesome: We don't actually see what the wizard does to humiliate Skärva.
  • Oh, Crap!: Often, but not always, caused by the appearance of Blank.
  • "Open!" Says Me: Blank's preferred method of entry, of course.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: There's an encyclopaedia entry detailing how.
  • Overlord Jr.: They don't call him The Fourth for nothin'!
  • Parental Abandonment: Honestly, we're not quite sure yet where Lorelei's parents are.
  • Plant Person: The inhabitants of Wilderfall are a blend of this and Animate Inanimate Objects.
  • Precision F-Strike: Dropped by Lorelei when running to Skärva's aid. Not the F-word you think it is, though.
  • Princesses Prefer Pink: Averted, possibly inverted. Princess Veronika defintely doesn't wear it, and she certainly voices displeasure at so much pink .
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: A rare non-shouted version, instead more exasperated.
    Skärva: Let's. Just. Move. On.
  • Puppy-Dog Eyes: Lorelei has quite the pair.
  • Put on a Bus: The creators have stated numerous times that Cyril is not coming back.
    • The Bus Came Back: ...until he did, having not improved at all. Bizarrely enough, Frozio came back in the same arc, though not in the same place.
  • Quirky Miniboss Squad: Skärva assigns this role to Ecta, Davis, Floyd and Slice, although he fully acknowledges Blank will take them out.
  • Rage Against the Heavens: The current arc has Skarva and co. attempting to talk to the gods personally, specifically, to chew them out for slapping the family with a multigenerational Curse of Failure and being Barred from the Afterlife. Skarva's counting on them being powerless, since they have to work through Blank to stop him.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: The Second, once his Berserk Button is pressed.
  • Redhead In Green: Princess Veronika
  • Rewarding Vandalism: Lorelei thinks the ability to cast magic comes from breaking pots. Skärva says apparently the pots are just full of milkshakes.
  • Right Behind Me: After capturing a hero in full plate armour, Skärva goes on a long rant about how it's obviously Posthumous that lasts nearly the whole strip. Naturally, Posthumous walks up behind him halfway through the speech.
  • Scenery Porn: In spades.
  • Schizo Tech: The technology and architecture of Idenau can jump between medieval and victorian-era.
  • Sins of Our Fathers: The First committed a crime so terrible the Gods of Idenau punished him, his associates and their descendants for it. The entire Skärva family line suffers from a Hereditary Curse because of this.
  • Slippy-Slidey Ice World: Frostbite Fortress.
  • Spirit Advisor: Skärva's dead father tries to be this for him. Skärva, however, will have none of it.
  • Shark Man: Skärva, and presumably his ancestors up to the First (upon whom the original curse that produced this effect was placed).
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Implied. After so much time spent touring through Frostbite Fortress and Molten Mountain, Blank's progress through them comes under Time Skips and he immediately reaches Skärva's castle. After Frozen Fortress, the only remote mention of the dungeon is the fact that Blank acquired the Sword of Stabbing, a piece of which Skärva hid there.
    • Quite a while later, it's implied Blank did find the Fortress unusually frustrating and painful... but it's simply not possible for a dungeon to do more than delay a hero. The point seems to have been building character and world rather than plot.
  • Shout-Out: The whole comic's premise is based on The Legend Of Zelda
    • The Mire Manor arc is a shout-out to Scooby-Doo mysteries.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Davis's Badass Boast gets cut off midsentence by Blank.
  • Shutting Up Now: Ecta furiously demands a more competent team than Floyd and Slice. Skärva gives her a magnificent Death Glare and she sheepishly runs like hell.
  • Slasher Smile: Skärva. The teeth help.
  • Spooky Silent Library: There's two sections - the main library, deserted but for a Flish at the sign-in desk, and the back section, where the ghost of the Second hangs out. It's the Second's presence that makes it spooky. Not because he's a ghost, but because of what happens when someone manhandles his books.
  • Spoony Bard: Cyril.
  • Smug Penguin: Frozio.
  • Subordinate Excuse: Derk uses one.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Ecta and Davis, so much.
  • Temple of Doom: What the first dungeon claims to be, but it turns out to be nothing more than a Noob Cave.
  • Tempting Fate: After the Frostbite Fortress arc, Skärva loudly proclaims Blank will not defeat him this time. Within hours his castle is on fire.
  • Tentacle Rope: Ecta tangles with some vines in the Mother Tree.
  • Terrible Trio: Skärva, Derk, and Lorelei are shaping up to be something akin to this. Aren't they terrible.
  • That One Level: In-universe, there's Frostbite Fortress. It's seen from the villain's perspective as a very good place to store Plot Coupons.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Blank cuts down Skärva with a single sentence.
    Blank: Well, to be honest, the gods hate you.
  • Then Let Me Be Evil: Implied in Skärva's character bio; gaining the trust of the people isn't easy for a shark man, so he just said 'screw it' and went for their fear instead.
  • Throwing The Orb of the Gods Always Works: No, no it doesn't.
  • Time Skip: After the first onscreen encounter with Blank, there's a jump forward. Enough for Lorelei to have seen a lot of failures, apparently.
  • Token Trio: With Derk as the white male, Lorelei as the white female, and Lord Skärva as the male of Shark Man descent.
  • Tongue on the Flagpole: Well, actually on a ice wall. Likely a Shout-Out to the Trope Codifier.
  • Took a Level in Badass: The first time we see Blank and Derk together, Derk is huddled up on the ground in fear. The second time...Derk unleashes Ki Manipulation.
  • Torches and Pitchforks: Mountain hamlets don't take well to megalomaniacal shark men.
    • Initially it's because he demanded food. Then it's because he tried to steal it. Then it's because he didn't have the money to buy it...
  • Unconventional Formatting: Each character has his or her own distinctive font for their speech bubbles.
  • The Unreveal: After much preamble, the main characters capture a hero wearing full plate armour, including a helmet, and after eliminating their chief suspect since he was right behind them, they set about unmasking him. It turns out to be some zombie they've never met before.
  • [Verb] This!:
    Blank: I don't want to hurt you, Derk, but I have to save the princess.
    Derk: I understand.
    Blank: Then you won't mind THIS!
    Blank tries to slash Derk with his sword.
  • Villain Protagonist: Lord Skärva of course.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Invoked, then averted. The common people don't like him at all, but earlier, when Derk is worried about walking a path covered in baddies, they all wind up treating Skärva like a big celebrity.
  • Villains Out Shopping: Skärva takes the time to spring-clean the castle.
  • Visual Pun: In Wilderfall, a sign saying "Fight the power" is being held by a flower.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Ecta and Davis don't get along at all. Unless they're making fun of Floyd and Slice together.
  • Weird Trade Union: Skärva's Evil Minions.
  • What The Hell, Love Interest?: Gilly gets told by one of her friends that the guy she blew off was trying to save her life.
  • Wingding Eyes: When attempting to woo a bystander, Lord Skärva grows a pair.
  • With a Friend and a Stranger: Lord Skärva and Derk have known each other for a time before the comic's beginning. Lorelei is the stranger.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Skärva is often on the verge of tears when his hopes and dreams are slapped around.
  • "YEAH!" Shot: Skärva and Frozio slap a truly epic high five.
  • Zeppelins from Another World: Owned by the operators of Molten Mountain. Yes, the volcano.
    • The irony of this is not lost on Skärva, who comments
    Skärva: I can't wait to *explode.*
  • Zerg Rush: Outlined when Floyd, Ecta and Slice bring Davis up-to-speed on the tactics for when Blank attacks.