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Webcomic / The Guide to a Healthy Relationship

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The Guide to a Healthy Relationship is a webcomic created by Copper the Carutor, also known as Dani, and published on Spiderforest and Comic Fury. It started July 7, 2015.

The protagonist Apollo is a young, irresponsible, and immature alcoholic on a downwards spiral he isn't too aware of. He's somewhat ripped from his comfortable routine when he runs into Julian, his childhood best friend who he thought was dead for years. Apollo tries to reconnect to them, and Julian tries to avoid him — because they have seriously enough of their own problems, coping with mental issues, trauma from spending part of their life in harsh psychiatric treatment, being intersex, having an abusive boyfriend... But while neither of them is in a good place, it's obvious that they still care for each other and are trying to be there for one another while just dealing with their lives.

The comic is definitely Not Safe for Work — it contains alcohol abuse, drug abuse, disturbing hallucinations (of, among other things, Body Horror), queerphobia, violence, severe psychological, emotional and physical abuse, mental illness, and some nudity and swearwords.

Tropes that show up in this webcomic:

  • The Alcoholic: Is Apollo ever. Of course, he claims he could stop anytime... Admittedly, with most of his friends being alcoholics as well, it might be easy for him to overlook.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Apollo aside, no one likes Julian because they're "weird" and unsociable. They seem to prefer staying for themselves anyway.
  • Ambiguous Gender Identity: Julian is intersex, but they never specify their gender identity or preferred pronouns (Apollo uses he/him, Daniel uses they/them). When Kevin asks innocently if Julian is transgender, they react extremely touchy after having suffered years of gendered insults and abuse over their appearance not matching their voice and the like.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Daniel is friendly and charming, and everyone in Apollo's circle of friends likes him. He's also an abusive asshole who's exploiting his romantic partner's mental illness.
  • Blatant Lies: First time Daniel tells about his partner, he claims it's like living with a roommate he has to take care of, and that he's the breadwinner and does all the domestic work. Once we meet him with Julian at their home, Daniel shoos the latter around to make dinner for their friends, and Julian later on insists that they have to clean the house, in a manner that indicates it's routinely a work they do. Not to mention Julian has a job of their own.
  • Brainless Beauty: Apollo is a well-meaning, cute Pretty Boy. He's also an utter idiot.
  • Camp Gay: Apollo can be somewhat simpering and prefers dressing in garish colors and very tight jeans.
  • The Caretaker: Daniel says he's this for Julian, and it's possible that their relationship started out like that, what with Daniel being a nurse and having met Julian in a psychiatric clinic. By now, he has Julian entirely under his thumb, controlling and manipulating them at every turn, and it's blatantly obvious that Julian is scared of him.
    • In a more straight example of the trope, Julian and Apollo are taking care of each other. Apollo knows what upsets Julian and how to get them to eat, and Julian helps Apollo get around the place when the sunlight is too much for his eyes.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: Poor Julian has issues beyond counting and smokes like a chimney. With their asthma, it results in a nasty cough.
  • Cool Shades: Subverted. Apollo is wearing the shades (if he hasn't lost them once again) because of his ocular albinism; he has extremely light-sensitive eyes.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Julian. Apollo met them when he was eight years old and on a walk with his babysitter — Julian was sleeping in a bag by the riverside, unable to give any information about themselves like a name, where they were from (they initially spoke only Russian), or where their parents were. Cars and other everyday things seemed to disturb them, and Julian has flashbacks of being mistreated in a psychiatric hospital. Not that the present is any mre pleasant...
  • Deadpan Snarker: Surprisingly, Julian. When they're not utterly miserable, they are snarking at Apollo, or at their own hallucinations, as a coping mechanism.
    Julian: It is ironic that an alcoholic is trying to help me with my "addiction".
  • Domestic Abuse: Daniel gaslights Julian like nobody's business, seems to think it's fun to scare them by sneaking up on them, orders them around to such a degree that Julian asks for his permission to use the bathroom, forces them to eat when Julian doesn't want to, makes them go out with him and friends when Julian would much rather stay at home, Julian is scared shitless of Daniel getting angry about anything they say or do, curls up in Troubled Fetal Position crying that they're sorry when anyone gets angry with them... yeah, and then there's the wince when Daniel says to them: "We'll discuss this later at home." Next time we see Julian, they're full of bruises. Hints at beating aside, it's confirmed that he cut Julian's face... claiming it was an accident.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Might be why Apollo started drinking. His parents kicked him out after he came out as gay, he thought his best friend died, he's working in a dead-end job, and has no prospects of ever getting any better.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Julian is one, with long, black hair and very pale skin since they're permanently working the night shift on their job and don't get out of the house if they don't need to. The impression is completed by the lack of sleep causing Creepy Shadowed Undereyes and their constantly bad mood.
  • False Friend: Daniel to Apollo; he's actually trying to sabotage his rekindling friendship with Julian.
  • Fan Disservice: One could think a naked Apollo and a bunch of half-naked young people would be a nice view to behold, but the morning after a frat party, with everyone in a drunk pile and one of the guys decorated with his own vomit...
  • Fiery Redhead: Apollo can get pretty vexed, although he's not very intimidating in it.
  • Gaslighting: Daniel does this all the time, especially to Julian and including transferring their medicaments into a different receptacle to make them doubt their perception, but the most jarring incident has to be when he gives them sleeping pills and later claims that Julian demolished the house while blacking out during "one of [their] freak-outs" — and he lets Brandon beat Julian up over this, knowing that Julian was asleep the whole time. However, Daniel also uses Apollo's alcoholism to claim the latter's memories are unreliable.
    • This treat of his is actually foreshadowed in his very first meeting with Apollo: He introduces himself to him, they talk for a bit, and then Daniel leaves the store where they met, and Apollo takes a bit longer to pay. When he greets Daniel outside a few minutes later, the latter snaps at him that's not his name and he apparently didn't listen at all... only to laugh then and make a joke of how easy it is to pull Apollo's leg.
  • Gayngst: Apollo hides it rather well, but he experienced some of this due to his parents disowning him.
  • Groin Attack: Julian gives Apollo a kick where it hurts in an attempt to get rid of him. It doesn't stick.
  • Hair-Contrast Duo: Apollo has short ginger curls, Julian long, black, stringy hair.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Apollo thinks Daniel is unhappy about Julian's poor mental health and "really wants their relationship to work out". Guess again.
  • Icy Blue Eyes: Julian has those, although the icy expression is situational.
  • Improperly Paranoid: One of the ways in which Julian's illness manifests. Thing is, they're fully aware of that, and constantly reminding themselves that they're not being pursued or threatened.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Apollo, about Julian's mental illness and about his co-worker Galia being a trans woman.
  • Insane Equals Violent: Julian, according to Daniel — albeit the only times Julian has actually been seen to get violent was when they felt cornered.
  • The Insomniac: Julian seems to sleep not so much as to just pass out when they've reached their limit. Apollo asks them on one occasion how long it has been since they slept last, seemingly aware of this since their childhood.
  • Ironic Name: The name of the sun god for a guy who's not all that bright. Nevermind that the god Apollo is something of a Jack of all trades, associations including moderation and health, while the protagonist of the comic has yet to show up with any promising talents, really, besides excessive drinking.
    • Although an additional page does show him playing guitar, indicating at least an interest in music.
  • "It" Is Dehumanizing: Brandon, just about the worst Jerkass among Apollo's friends, tends to insult Julian by calling them "it" and some other awful things.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Best thing one can say about Apollo is that he at least means well and tries to be nice... if he's not too drunk to care about anything other than himself.
  • Long Hair Is Feminine: Interestingly, while Julian had short hair as a child, they apparently decided to grow it out later, despite the gendered insults they're suffering due to their appearance.
  • Massive Numbered Siblings: Julian remembers Apollo's siblings, mentioning triplets and at least one more.
  • Neat Freak: One of the less obvious signs of Daniel's gaslighting: He claims that Julian demolished a room during a "freak-out", but that doesn't gel with their characterization at all. Julian is repeatedly shown cleaning or tidying up; even a flashback to childhood features them folding laundry and offering to make breakfast for Apollo, and they are very thorough in their job as a janitor. Also, the first thing Julian says when they want to get away is they'll "go clean something".
  • One Head Taller: Apollo to Julian. Admittedly, Julian is shorter than just about anyone.
  • Only Sane Woman: Mrs. Curtis and Galia are the only ones ever talking sense. Oddly enough, the next in line for the most sane person would be Julian.
  • Parental Abandonment: Apollo's parents kicked him out when they learned he was gay — which Apollo admits he finds weird since he'd been in a pretty Transparent Closet anyway. His boss Mrs. Curtis is currently trying to be a bit of a motherly figure in his life, attempting to get him back on track with some much-needed strictness, but Apollo doesn't really listen, and her patience is wearing out.
  • Psychotic Smirk: Shows up with Daniel sometimes.
  • Really Gets Around: Part of Apollo's "lifestyle", according to his friends, although it's usually preceded by drinking.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Julian gets these from their hallucinations all day, every day.
  • Sanity Slippage: Returning periodically with Julian. The art reflects their hallucinations and paranoia, but most of the time, they are remarkably functional, and obviously practiced in keeping themselves in check.
  • Statuesque Stunner: Apollo's co-worker Galia is very tall due to being a trans woman, which doesn't stop her from being gorgeous.
  • The Stoner: Kevin, the potentially nicest guy of Apollo's group, is doing unspecified drugs. He's friendly and more considerate than the rest of them, but also extremely slow.
  • Sympathetic Adulterer: Daniel tries to go for some sympathy when he seduces a drunk Apollo one evening when Julian is at work, claiming that it's because he doesn't get any in his relationship. It doesn't neceassarily work on the audience, but Apollo, rightfully guilty and still not sober, totally buys into it, thinking it's because Julian is difficult to live with due to being a drug addict and he could salvage their relationship by getting Julian clean.note  What Daniel actually wants is to cut off Julian's friendship with Apollo.
  • Talking to the Dead: Apollo talks to a photograph of Julian early on while he's drunk and dejected. Subverted in that Julian turns out to be not dead after all.
  • Toxic Friend Influence: Nearly all of Apollo's friends enable his drinking, give him questionable pills, or encourage his irresponsible impulses.
  • Unequal Pairing: Friendly and bright nurse meets Troubled, but Cute mental patient in a hospital and helps them through life — Daniel's and Julian's relationship sounds like a recipe for a sweet Florence Nightingale Effect romance. Or would, if Daniel weren't a controlling, manipulative abuser.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: According to flashbacks, Julian, who always watched out for Apollo despite their own poor health. Downplayed because they were grouchy even as a kid.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Despite Julian avoiding people in general, being irritable and cranky and often yelling at Apollo, and despite Apollo being an insensitive moron, they always look out for each other, Apollo repeatedly asking about Julian's health and obviously having quite a good understanding of how they function, Julian helping Apollo cross the street or navigate foreign terrain when he's lost because of his extremely bad sight.