May 16, 2008 - In the span of a single day, Amal calls off his arranged marriage, comes out as gay to his conservative parents, promptly gets disowned, goes on a bender...and wakes up the next morning to find TJ, a lanky, dreadlocked vagrant, frying eggs and singing Paul Simon in his kitchen.
TJ claims that the two have made a drunken pact to drive all the way from Berkeley to Providence. As it happens, Amal promised his sister he'd be there for her graduation from Brown University. And TJ, well... TJ has his own reasons.
The agreement is simple: Amal does the driving; TJ pays the way - but a 3500-mile journey leaves plenty of time for things to get complicated...
The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal is a webcomic by E.K. Weaver that follows the form of a typical Road Trip Plot. It features the budding romance of the title characters in the nerdiest, most believable way possible, as well as some superb dialog, well-crafted characters, and great art that pays special attention to the little details of life.
Tropes that pop up in this webcomic:
- All There in the Manual: There's lots of information on the website about side characters who don't appear in the author's sketches and notes. So far the biggest source of information about, for one thing, TJ's past, has been the author's various Tumblr accounts.
- Anime Hair: Amal has a little bit of this going on. The gray streak is natural though.
- Arranged Marriage: Amal was in one of these. Subverted from the usual in that he really liked his fiancee Kavita...as a person. As a romantic partner, not so much. His parents were unhappy about this.
- Beat Panel: Done beautifully in the moment before they take the U out of UST and then some.
- Bittersweet Ending: Despite their feelings for each other, TJ leaves Amal during his reconciliation with his family, and the two never see each other again. However, TJ is now free to start a new life in Providence and while Amal's parents are still grappling with Amal's homosexuality, they no longer disown him and his siblings are firmly on his side.
- Bollywood Nerd: Played with where Amal is concerned. Yes, he's a med student and a bit of a geek. He's also such a well-rounded character of so many parts that it takes a while to get around to the fact that he's in med school.
- Can't Hold His Liquor: Amal repeatedly calls himself a lightweight, though he may just be referring to pot.
- Chekhov's Gun:
- As of Chapter 33, the Harry Potter CD collection from Chapter 18 has come back. (In fact, taking a second look at TJ's face the earlier scene reveals some foreshadowing.)
- The entire scene is full of foreshadowing - for example, the way TJ talks about the series, it's easy to see that he knows barely anything about the Harry Potter series, looking really blank-faced when Amal starts talking about it in more detail and answering the favourite character question with "Well...I've always been partial to mentors," instead of just saying "Dumbledore".
- TJ's fondness for the song "Graceland." It's the name of the tattoo parlor in Providence.
- Cigarette of Anxiety: TJ, particularly after realizing the extent of his feelings for Amal.
- Closet Geek: Oh Amal.◊
- Coming-Out Story: The comic starts with Amal's with regards to his parents, but it's mostly over with by the time the action gets going. The consequences of coming out, though, have either occurred largely in the background or have been suspended entirely while the boys are on the road (and Amal's phone is mostly off).
- Cue the Rain: "We'll be fine as long as it doesn't sta--"
- Dark and Troubled Past:
- Blink and you'll miss it because it's subtly done, but when you see E.K.'s notes, and the scars TJ's sporting... Not to mention this◊.
- And if you're paying attention, you notice that TJ is clearly on the run from something or someone. If you skimmed you'd miss it, but look at this page, or this page— in the first he hides from the guy coming out of the car, and in the second, he lies about where they've come from and where they're going. So what exactly did he do...?
- According to  (spoilers), it gets worse.
- Distracted by the Sexy: on Chapter 6, Page 4, TJ spills soda accidentally because he was too busy staring at shirtless Amal.
- Dreadlock Rasta: Which makes TJ look like a dandelion, according to Amal.
- Drinking Game: Done in-story, with the Back to the Future quote-a-long.
- Drives Like Crazy: Averted. TJ even mentions how super slow and careful Amal is driving most of the time.
- And then THIS happened. TJ takes it surprisingly well, though.
- Drowning My Sorrows: How TJ first encounters Amal. Amal has a good reason for getting wasted.
Amal: Uh, you... you want to get a beer?TJ: I would like seven beers.
- TJ drowns his after explaining his past to Amal and flushing all his cocaine.
- Drugs Are Bad: Averted. TJ and Amal buy from a trucker and partake sparingly, and this doesn't lead to any kind of negative consequence. Played straight when Amal discovers that TJ has been transporting cocaine and makes him flush it.
- Fan Nickname: Both fans and the author refer to the comic as <Epic.
- Flat "What": "The last bite of pie is yours if you want it." "What."
- Foreshadowing: The way Amal compares his 'destiny' of studying medicine with love.Amal: It sneaks up on you and hits like lightning — BAM! And you know it! You just...know!
** Ironically, this is exactly the way of reaction that both portray.
- Friend to All Children: TJ shows signs of it here and here.
- Geeky Turn-On: Mostly Geeky Bonding at this point, but, well...see below.
- Good People Have Good Sex: Or at least loud, frequent sex that leaves them smiling like fools afterward.
- Gym Bunny: It's implied that Amal used to be this after he first started exploring the gay scene. He's certainly jacked.
- Have a Gay Old Time: Played with in the bonus art.◊
- Hideous Hangover Cure: TJ's eggs, according to E.K.'s notes.
- Hidden Depths: Both of them, but TJ especially.
- I Have No Son!: Amal's dad all but did this to him when he came out to his parents.
- The Illegible: Amal's future-doctor handwriting.
- The Immodest Orgasm: Amal, apparently. Who knew?
- The Modest Orgasm: TJ, to the point where Amal first assumed that something was wrong or that he wasn't all that into it. He's apparently "used to keeping quiet."
- In Vino Veritas: According to TJ, this is how he and Amal wound up agreeing to drive across America to Amal's sister's graduation.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Rather than use his then-fiancee Kavita as The Beard (and it's implied she would be okay with this) Amal broke off their engagement so that she could be with someone who would fully love her. Or so he says.
- Love Epiphany: Chapter 29 has a powerful, almost entirely non-verbal version of this. If you still don't get how it applies, Google the chapter title along with "lyrics".
- Manic Pixie Dream Guy: TJ to Amal, sorta.
- Measuring the Marigolds: TJ accuses Amal of this.
- Nonindicative Name: When TJ looks for rock on Amal's iPod.TJ: Heyyy, Death Cab! That sounds pretty badass!
Amal: Actually, that's, um...
TJ: The hell, man. That is one dirty-ass bait and switch. [Amal laughs] Hey, there we go — "Destroyer", that's gotta rock.
[cue "Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Sea of Tears)"]
TJ: Your iPod is filled with lies.
- Opposites Attract: A fairly minor version, but TJ and Amal seem to come from totally opposite backgrounds.
- The Promise: A good portion of Amal's motivation comes from his refusal to let his promise to see his sister graduate college go unfulfilled, despite having come out and been disowned by his parents.
- Real-Place Background: And how. Weaver spends an incredible amount of time not only illustrating real scenes from locations along the journey the boys are making but also carefully plans out their route to make it plausible in real life.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni
- Road Trip Romance
- Sexy Discretion Shot: Chapter 17. Very much averted in the previous chapter.
- Scars Are Forever: TJ has several◊ very prominent ones on his body.
- Scenery Porn: Some pages take a small reprieve to show off just how beautiful nature really is.
- Sex for Solace: Amal, who starts to initiate sex with TJ to avoid having to think about his family.
- Shout-Out: Each chapter title is a different song lyric.
- Shown Their Work: Taken to an extreme with the notes page.
- Silent Scenery Panel: The entirely of chapter 14 is done without dialog.
- Silence Is Golden: Two whole chapters of the comic are completely like this. It's a mark of the artist's skill set that you can tell exactly what's going on anyway in the content of the (non-existent) dialogue, including Chapter 17, which is one (long) page and arguably a Moment of Awesome.
- Skunk Stripe: Amal's got one.
- Straight Gay: Amal. TJ (according to Word of God) is more Straight Bisexual.
- Tempting Fate: "We'll be fine as long as it doesn't sta-" Cue the heavy raining.
- There Is Only One Bed: Neither of the boys seemed to be too bothered by it, even before they got stoned and hooked up.
- Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny: TJ and Amal play a variation in Chapter 12.
- Will They or Won't They?: More subtle and organic than in most cases where this trope is used, to the point where you could see them being good friends just as easily as lovers. But They Do.