Unwinder's Tall Comics is a metafictional Magic Realism Slice of Life webcomic by Wilson "Eli" Parker, also known as the creator of Powerup Comics. The comic is a satire of modern youth culture—particularly the oversaturation of trivialities and entertainment—and an Affectionate Parody of suburban Minnesota.
At the heart of the comic is Unwinder, a kid who's clearly a little too Genre Savvy for his own good: wildly inventive, yet completely incapable of recognizing the fine line between creativity and idiocy. He thinks rock bands should play pranks on the audience instead of music. He consumes entertainment solely so he can reference it in his conversations. He sends unsolicited scripts for TV ads to Taco Bell. He invents internet memes, then invents webcomics solely to spread these memes. He is, in short, a product of the Information Age Gone Horribly Right.
Rounding out the central cast are Unwinder's eternally cheerful girlfriend, Mildred; his friend and punching bag, Barbecue Sauce; and the Only Sane Man, Horse-Man.
There is no overarching plot, though the humor is becoming increasingly dependent on continuity. The comic updates irregularly, usually on Saturdays.
It also features what may possibly be the most accurate examination of TV Tropes, ever.
This webcomic provides examples of:
- Affectionate Parody:
Wilson Parker, several years later: If I were to parody Dresden Codak today, I would just rail against monotheism for a while.
- This comic, for Dresden Codak. Parker even reenacts one specific fanservice-y panel—this time, with Dr. Minivan wearing the bathrobe instead.
- Alt Text: Added when Parker revamped the website.
- Amazing Technicolor Population: A lot of the cast are various Cartoon Creatures, but even characters who otherwise look human can have green skin or purple hair.
- Animal Athlete Loophole: "Iguana Bud":Barbecue Sauce: We should watch that movie you were telling me about.
Unwinder: Which one?
Barbecue Sauce: The one that's like a parody of Air Bud, but with iguanas.
Unwinder: No, I said it's not a parody. An actual iguana enthusiast made that movie. Who didn't know about Air Bud. I donated to the Kickstarter.
- Anti-Humor: Unwinder's box of rejected ideas includes "Normal Al", who parodies "Weird Al" Yankovic by doing straight cover versions of every song that Weird Al parodied as well as rewriting Weird Al's original songs to be completely serious.
- April Fools' Day: For 2010, he made a short comic.The Rant: Hilarious! My April Fool's joke was that I made the laziest comic possible!
- Arbitrary Skepticism: In "Dreamtigers", Barbecue Sauce dreams about Unwinder building an basketball court inside his house (with an antigravity field generator), then turning into the Eleventh Doctor and stepping into his TARDIS. Then he utters the Tenth Doctor's catch-phrase, and that's what finally convinces Barbecue Sauce that he's dreaming.
- Art Shift: Honestly, it would be easier to list all the pages that don't feature this.
- Back to Front: "The Accident", where the story of how Barbecue Sauce lost his lips is told in reverse order.
- Beige Prose: A defining feature of Sonty Mick's writing (and that of his relatives, like Sontford Mickhouse and Soncho Michez).
- Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Barbecue Sauce writes "Tesla fics", in which characters from fiction turn out to be an immortal Nikola Tesla in disguise. According to Felicity, this is a popular enough fanfic subgenre to have entire websites devoted to it.
- The Blank: Brian Rawturkey just has a nose and mustache, with no eyes or mouth.note All the staff at Garen Parks & Recreation Department are also "faceless horrors".
- "Blind Idiot" Translation: While watching fansubs of Tokyo Delta Jetlag D, Unwinder gets fed up that the subbers "leave everything as Japanese as possible," and decides to just wait for the official translation instead.Unwinder: Tell me, if they're speaking English in alternate-universe New Zealand, why would Jaded call Colonel Meathook "Meathook-san"?
- Blip Vert: Unwinder tries to make a Teen Sex Comedy, but Barbecue Sauce can't find good footage for the montage of sexy girls:Unwinder: Maybe we can squeeze about three seconds of sexy material out of this. And even then it's gonna have to jump cut every quarter second. Did you hear me, Barbecue Sauce? I just said that the only way to make your footage sexy is to make sure nobody gets a good look at it. I hope you're ashamed.
- B-Side Comics: Apocalyptus: Thrift and Peril, Your Guess is as Good as Mine.
- Canon Welding: Many prior works by Parker have been rolled into Tall Comics: Shadow and Chug, Sonty Mick, and a brief appearance by the cast of his old sci-fi comic Too Far.
- Captain Obvious: Here, Unwinder becomes a fan of The Important News, a news website that assumes its readers have no prior knowledge of any subject, and explains everything, no matter how obvious it might be.Unwinder: Read the Sarah Palin one! I swear they come this close to explaining what the United States are!
- Cartoon Creature: Horse-Man and his family resemble lumpy claymation characters, Howard looks like a yellow Muppet, and Painburger looks like a Skeksis more than anything.
- Cerebus Syndrome: In-Universe example: Nutflix, the (fictional) webcomic Unwinder reads in this comic, is centered around nutcrackers reenacting scenes from movies. By this comic, it has "jumped the whale shark. THE LARGEST SHARK ON EARTH", and become a serious drama that rarely even touches on its original premise.
- Chaos Architecture: The design of Horse-Man's house changed on page 140, in spite of Parker's efforts to keep things consistent.The rant: I looked through a whole bunch of comics to remember which side Horse-Man's garage is on, and I honestly thought that it was undefined, but while I was re-uploading the archive, I ran into a comic that placed the garage on the opposite side. I also made a similar mistake in the last comic where I ignored the established layout of Dr. Minivan's bathroom. I have no doubt that I will be mocked and beaten in the streets for these errors, and I as soon as this comic is uploaded, I will be boarding up my windows.
- Character Blog
- The Chosen One: When Howard tries to read Unwinder's mind, he doesn't get a clear message like he did from everyone else. Instead, flowers spontaneously grow from the pot in Howard's hand. He wonders if Unwinder is "The Chosen One?" then hands him the flowers and walks away.
- Clap Your Hands If You Believe: A trio of women want to meet Dr. Minivan. His doubt causes them to begin fading from existence.
- Comically Missing the Point: Nathan Blaine's K2: The Death of Kane (his sequel to Citizen Kane) has enough references to the original film's plot and dialogue to demonstrate that he's a big fan. Somehow, he still manages to miss the point of the original and make his K2 a generic action movie.
- Comic-Book Time: Characters reference up-to-the-minute current events, yet the kids never age. Lampshaded here, where Parker acknowledges that, "assuming a floating timeline," Unwinder and Mildred are now too young to be Millennials.
- Conspiracy Theorist: In "County Fair", a rigged carnival game turns out to just be a front for a 9/11 Truther to give his spiel about why the destruction of the Twin Towers was an inside job.
- Continuity Nod: Many comics reference random details from dozens of pages ago, and simple jokes can spin off into ongoing B-plots. The commentary below "I'm More Into Freedom" even lampshades that it borders on Continuity Lockout at times.The rant: I've done a whole bunch of comics in a row which reference no continuity and will presumably confuse no newcomers. This isn't one of them. This will confuse newcomers. Maybe don't link this one if you're trying to introduce someone to Unwinder's Tall Comics.
- Conveniently Unverifiable Coverstory: In Unwinder's resume, he claims to have co-invented "a social networking website with this guy named Mark Zuckerberg".Felicity: Mmm hmm. And if I call him, is he going to verify that?
Unwinder: Go ahead and try. Try to call Mark Zuckerburg.
- Conversational Troping: To the point of having a fake TV Tropes page appear in-comic.
- Cool Old Guy: Horse-Man is one of the few people whom Unwinder actually respects.
- Cool vs. Awesome: Unwinder thinks "Pirates vs. Ninjas" and "Vampires vs. Werewolves" are both old hat. He's pushing for "Permissive park rangers who let teens get away with underage drinking as long as they don't make a mess vs. guys who just got new arch supports for their shoes and now they love walking again" as a hot new internet meme.
- Cyberpunk: Howard takes up smoking an e-cig and starts dressing and talking like a cyberpunk protagonist.Unwinder: Why am I finding this cool instead of painfully dated? That e-cig... it's actually a really great touch...
- Deader Than Disco: In-Universe: One potential future shows that the next generation absolutely despises irony.The Rant: Basically my premise here is that to my children's generation, saying you did something ironically will be sort of like saying you did something because of hair metal.
- Détournement: In "Barbecue Sauce Creates a Shirt for People Who Are Stuck in a Tree", Unwinder and Barbecue Sauce get annoyed at popular t-shirts with sarcastic messages, and decide to add messages to the back of the shirt to completely change the original context.Front of shirt: HOW DO YOU KEEP AN IDIOT BUSY? (See other side of shirt)
Back of shirt: Get one of those shirts that says "How do you keep an idiot busy? (See other side of shirt)" on both sides.
- Didn't Think This Through:
- "The Accident". On a dare, Barbecue Sauce kissed Gasoline-Spit Debbie, then tried to smoke a cigarette immediately afterwards.
- Here, Chad and Jason are inviting everyone they know over to their house for a "God of War party". At the very end, they admit they don't have a copy of the game, or a system to play it on, and they're just hoping someone else will bring them.
- In Gary P. Rastov's Computer Inquisition, the supercomputers of the world hold a conference to plan for a coming disaster. But the Computotoreum is insufficiently ventilated, so the computers overheat so badly that they all melt.
- Diegetic Switch: Discussed. In Nathan Blaine's film Elite Force Vampire: "a vampire spy has a tiny gun hidden inside an iPod. There's no trigger. To fire, you have to play Evanescence music, which becomes the soundtrack."
- Doctor Whomage: In this comic, Barbecue Sauce is reading "some non-canon comic continuations of old, canceled, BBC science fiction shows". We get a closeup of the Professor Bluebottle comic cover, featuring a scientist hero in a goofy white suit, accompanied by two younger companions, squaring off against aliens known as the Dops.
- Dodgy Toupee: When Dr. Minivan loses his hair for the cause of science, he gets reimbursed... with a hair-colored tattoo on his bald head. Eventually, Mildred donates her own hair to make Dr. Minivan a wig. But in comic 126, he has to stop wearing it when the lice living inside the wig become sentient because of his continued drug testing.
- Don't Like, Don't Read: Felicity's default response to Unwinder's criticisms of Your Guess is as Good as Mine. Unwinder throws it right back at her.Felicity: That's just your opinion. Thanks, but I'm going to keep doing things my own way, thank you. If you don't like it, just stop reading.Unwinder: You know, if you don't like my comments, you don't have to read them.
- Dream Within a Dream: "One of These Characters Is a Brony" turns out to be a multi-layered dream.
- Duct Tape for Everything: Unwinder: Doc, pick a masculine thing to learn about, or I'll pick one for you.
Dr. Minivan: Well, I've heard good things about using duct tape for various tasks.
Unwinder: Excellent choice! Horse-Man, go over to Hardware Hank and get this guy a roll of duct tape large enough to compensate for something.
- Dude Looks Like a Lady: Dr. Minivan gets mistaken for a woman thanks to his long-haired wig.
- Dying Alone: Barbecue Sauce's greatest fear.
- Easy Evangelism: Prudence spends her free time writing saved-fics—fanfiction about the protagonists becoming "hardcore Christians", usually in response to their very first exposure to the Gospel.
- Embarrassing Tattoo: At the end of this page, Howard gets "Butt-Brain" on his forehead and "Poop Eater" on his arm. Unwinder calls them tasteless, but mainly because of the fonts Howard chose.
- Epic Fail: Unwinder, Barbecue Sauce, and Felicity wind up with a bunch of "Minnesota fireworks" with no gunpowder. While playing with them, Unwinder still manages to burn himself and lose a finger. (He gets better.)
- Equal-Opportunity Offender: Unwinder claims his favorite political satire, Barracudavision, goes after conservatives and liberals alike.Unwinder: I'll have you know, Barracudavision is completely bipartisan. To a fault, if you ask me. It always seems forced when they do liberals.
- Fantasy Twist: Here, Unwinder records himself crashing his sled, intending to upload it to Youtube. He fantasizes about getting 14 million views, and getting mocked in public by everyone who recognizes him, and employers turning him down because "We don't hire international punchlines."
- Faux Symbolism: As seen here, Tokyo Delta Jetlag D is rife with it.
- Fauxtivational Poster: Unwinder thinks the Foundation For A Better Life is getting really out of hand with their posters expositing values tangentially related to popular movies.
- Fictional Media: So, so many. The most-often referenced ones include:
- Tokyo Delta Jetlag D, a weird anime that Unwinder and Barbecue Sauce enjoy.
- The War of the Seven Stars, a Space Opera novel series. Incredibly epic, and incredibly dull.
- After Dark, a wildly successful series of teen novels featuring romantic zombies.
- Flanderization: Played with in this strip. Unwinder has a dream that "you and I were fictional characters, and our personalities were really broad and predictable!" Then, in the waking world, Unwinder and Barbecue Sauce subvert their usual character dynamic, with Unwinder defending his geeky interest from Barbecue Sauce's embarrassment.
- Flash Forward: "Thirty Years Later" pages are a minor running gag, depicting adult versions of the cast in contradictory futures.
- Flipping the Table: Unwinder ends his practice interview by flipping the table and walking away. Then he says he thinks it went really well.
- Foe Yay Shipping: In-universe; after watching a few episodes of Tokyo Delta Jetlag D, Unwinder starts shipping Jaded Lament and Colonel Gunarm.
- Follow the Leader: In-Universe. Unwinder is annoyed at the success of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, because he thinks it's the sort of idea he should have come up with first. He tries to jump on the bandwagon with A Tale of Two Cities and an Alien Invasion, Mushy Teen Romance and Vampires, and Moby-Dick Minus Moby Dick before eventually finding "success" with The Importance of Being Earnest in Hell.Unwinder: The thing is, I want to do something pretty much exactly the same as P&P&Z, but I don't want people to think it's a ripoff or anything, you know?
- Forced Meme: In-Universe, Unwinder invents his own variation on a Cool vs. Awesome meme, and tries to sell t-shirts based on it. And then he invents a bunch of webcomics to make his meme look legitimate.
- Funny Background Event:
- Glurge: In-Universe, this is Unwinder's biggest criticism of the anime My Brother Was a Dancing Robot.Narrator: My brother cheered everyone he met. If only I had known that he was going to die.
Unwinder: It kind of loses something when they remind us every less than two scenes that the robot dies. Bittersweetness should not be this crass.
- The Greys: Unwinder resembles one of these, but Parker is deliberately vague regarding his true nature. The old Rant below "A Proposal to Facebook" (the first comic to reveal Unwinder's last name) used to read, "Basically I tried to choose a name that would not settle the issue of whether he is an alien, or just Swedish."
- Hacked by a Pirate: Unwinder discusses his idea for hacker identity with Amy, who actually is a hacker:Unwinder: I'd call myself "Maestro". My thing would be that when I hacked a website, it would play classical music. I'd refer to the songs as "1337motifs".
Amy: You wouldn't last five minutes.
- Halloween Cosplay: Happened in 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 (where Unwinder gives it a big Lampshade Hanging)...Unwinder: It's not called "cosplay" if it's for Halloween! Look around you. Does this look like a "con"? This is just "dressing up." This is something you can do without being a nerd. We don't need a special word for it, because it's not sixty percent of our lifestyle.
- Unwinder has a complicated relationship with Gary P. Rastov's novels. He has a lot of criticism for the books' shortcomings and professes to hate them... yet he's read the entire series three times, and even read the autobiography of Gary's son, Warren, in hope that it would shed some light on who Gary was.
- Happens again with Felicity's Your Guess Is as Good as Mine. Unwinder hates the comic so much that he takes it upon himself to make Felicity improve by heckling her. He proceeds to read the entire archives and leave disparaging comments on nearly every page.
- HeelFaith Turn: Prudence writes saved-fics, fanfiction where the protagonists immediately become nicer people and solve all their personal problems by converting to Christianity.Felicity: Usually, the result is that the characters' lives are improved, and all of their problems go away.
Unwinder: Man, what the heck? Does Prudence actually want to watch a version of House where everyone gets along? What would the show even be about? Medicine?
- He's Back: One of Unwinder's unsolicited Taco Bell ads is a surreal but triumphant return for their retired chihuahua mascot.[The Taco Bell chihuahua is seated in an empty room w/ white floors and walls. He is panting and looking around. Avoid cuts. Should be about 27 seconds of footage. Can be cut down to 15 seconds for shorter time slot.]
Announcer: He's back!
[Cut to Taco Bell logo.]
- High-Class Glass: Sontford Mickhouse wears two monocles.
- Hilariously Abusive Childhood: More than once, Unwinder's parents chain him to a stake in the front yard (like a dog) as punishment. Unwinder also mentions needing to "lie low" because his dad's particularly angry about Mt. Rushmore.
- Ignore the Disability: Here, Starship Captain Basil Fawlty is having Darth Vader over, and warns his staff not to mention "the war" around him. Then Fawlty gets a black bucket dropped over his head, starts gasping and wheezing, and chokes his manservant.Darth Vader: What is the meaning of this... insult??? You dare to mock me??
Captain Fawlty: No! No! No sir! Sorry! I'm just destroying Alderaan! ... I mean... I'm just deploying my finest man!
- Impossibly Cool Weapon: The katagun, a gun whose moving bullets trace the path of the blade. It's the preferred weapon of Jaded Lament from Tokyo Delta Jetlag D.
- Improbable Weapon User: The Apocalyptus characters fight with windmill blades and clock arms.
- Infinite Canvas: They're called Tall Comics for a reason.
- Intercontinuity Crossover:
- Invisible Parents: The kids mention their parents several times, but said parents never appear on-screen.
- I Take Offense to That Last One!: Here.Unwinder: Reading some manga there?
Barbecue Sauce: No.
Unwinder: Reading some non-canon comic continuations of old, canceled, BBC science fiction shows?
Barbecue Sauce: No! I mean, most fans consider them canon, since they got some of the original writers.
- It's All About Me: Felicity is certain that everyone who interacts with her is hitting on her, or trying to get into her webcomic, or lying to her—or some combination of the above.
- Jerkass: In "Barbecue Sauce Proves Himself to Be a Good Friend", Unwinder informs Barbecue Sauce that he's going to jump out his second-story window at 8:00 AM tomorrow—anticipating (correctly) that Barbecue Sauce would spend all night building a ramp to protect him from the fall. The Alt Text notes "Some people think Unwinder crosses the line in this one."
- Klatchian Coffee: "The Huffy Dimension." It contains coffee, lime juice, and vinegar. When Barbecue Sauce drinks one, the word "POWER" appears on his chest in red letters.
- Lampshade Hanging: Parker tackles the issue of "Why do Unwinder and Horse-Man spend so much time together?" by having the characters themselves ask the question and fail to arrive at an answer.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Howard somehow gets transformed into a square. Unwinder speculates that this happened because Howard "cut out a huge and immoral number of paper squares and this is your karmic punishment."
- Lightbulb Joke: Unwinder tries his hand at some Lady Gaga humor:Barbecue Sauce: Jokes about Lady Gaga's wardrobe aren't as edgy as you think they are, Unwinder.
Unwinder: Okay, let's try this again. How many Lady Gagas does it take to screw in a light bulb?
Barbecue Sauce: [annoyed] I give up.
Unwinder: Two. One to screw in the light bulb, and one to sing songs about wealth, fame, and admiring the famous. Is that good?
- Lions and Tigers and Humans... Oh, My!: The Tall Comics universe is a weird melting pot of somewhat realistic humans (the Walsh sisters, Golden Elvis, Chad, Jason), cartoonishly exaggerated humans (Mildred, Barbecue Sauce, Amy Sauce, Dr. Minivan), grey aliens (Unwinder himself), Cartoon Creatures (Horse-Man, Lion-Man, Howard, Painburger), Funny Animals (Jack Yak), and "faceless horrors" (Brian Rawturkey, the Parks & Recreation staff)—and they all more or less interact as equals, in ways that imply they aren't separate species at all. Except for the Furry Fandom characters, who seem to be on the receiving end of Fantastic Racism.
- Literal Metaphor:Unwinder: Lots of car companies talk about reinventing the automobile. We're going to do it for real!
Unwinder: OK guys, square one. We've got to get people from one place to another. What kind of machine can we make that will do this?
Amy Sauce: I hate this and I think you're only doing it to justify the ad campaign that you already started.Jeggly Shaper: My dad called! He wants his tie back.
Unwinder: AAAAAAARGH! [walks away]
Jeggly Shaper: Unwinder! Wait! That was a real one! That really is my dad's tie! He needs it for a meeting! He said he's going to swing by and pick it up!
- Little Miss Con Artist: Amy, preteen cracker.
- Loose Canon:
- Minor Flaw, Major Breakup: Horse-Man goes on a date with a girl he met online. They seem to hit it off, but he gets weirded out by her quoting Forrest Gump, completely by accident.
- Men Don't Cry: Chad won't listen to "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" in public. "I can't risk that on the road! What if a chick sees me tear up and thinks I'm gay!"
- Metaphorgotten: Hollywood does not have a good track record with book adaptations:Unwinder: Well, there's no denying that they're really boring. Book seven actually even had a twelve page excerpt from a space phone directory. But I didn't plow through 23 books of that so some guy who directs by pushing an "explode" button could whiz all over them!
Mildred: I wish you wouldn't keep talking about going to the bathroom in public.
Unwinder: Well all I'm saying is, when these guys open a book, they set it down in front of them, spine out, and lift the cover up like a toilet lid. But then they just pee all over the floor. They're drunk.
- Mockumentary: The in-universe webcomic Fun Backyard is presented as a documentary about animals you can find around the house, but it's all deliberate misinformation.Barbecue Sauce: So, it's like a parody of nature shows?
Unwinder: No, that would be a joke. This is a lie. It's more elegant than a joke.
- Mouthful of Pi: The Hitler Calculator says he'll stop persecuting the Jews as soon as he's done listing all the digits of pi. Then he just rattles off digits without end.
- Mundane Ghost Story: Since Barbecue Sauce's greatest fear is Dying Alone, Unwinder invents a story to scare him: the dreaded Dying Along Snakes, which bite you, inject you with venom, and then abandon you.
- Narrative Filigree: Cranked up to eleven by the in-story novel The Gun and the Grapes, a mystery story where every relevant detail is buried under a mountain of irrelevant ones.
- Never My Fault:
- Unwinder gets a Cease and Desist letter for sending his "relentless, morally deranged" TV ad scripts to a Taco Bell executive's home. But Unwinder thinks they're just discriminating against him because he's young.
- Here, Unwinder farts while talking to a girl, but blames Dr. Minivan for making him look bad.
- Noble Demon: Spondulio Wealthmonger claims to be thoroughly selfish, and that his many extravagant acts of charity are just the first steps in elaborate schemes to make himself filthy rich.
- Not Cheating Unless You Get Caught:Felicity: Hmm. Your resume says you're a career criminal. If we run a background check, what's going to turn up?
Unwinder: Nothing! Never been caught!
- Offscreen Inertia: Page 89 ends with Dr. Minivan hiding in a public bathroom stall, too scared to walk out (lest he be mistaken for a woman). On page 95, Dr. Minivan finally emerges—after hiding for so long that he grew a beard.
- Periphery Demographic: In-Universe. Lion-Man enlists Unwinder to make image macros of him, in hopes that his stoner wisdom will "go viral". Instead, cannibals become his fans, and co-opt his image for pro-cannibalism propaganda.Unwinder: We don't get to choose how we go viral. I'd bask in it.
- Periphery Hatedom: In-Universe. At the county fair, suburbanites Unwinder and Amy mock the idea of awarding prizes for livestock. They can't see how the blue ribbon-winning hog is any different from the other hogs at the fair. (The alternate title for the comic is "Unwinder doesn't 'get' agriculture.") As soon as Unwinder and Amy are out of earshot, the farmers make fun of their ignorance.
- Perverse Sexual Lust: In-Universe. Mildred makes a snow version of Miley Cyrus in a bikini, and Unwinder spends a little too long staring.Mildred: UNWINDER! Are you... mentally undressing her??
- Posthumous Character: Gary P. Rastov. He died before the comic began, but his legacy lives on in the War of the Seven Stars novels he wrote.
- OOC Is Serious Business: On page 132, the perpetually-easygoing Lion-Man decides he's finally had enough of employment, and as he ponders how best to part with his employer, he frowns for the first time.Alt Text: Drawing Lion-Man with any expression on his face other than stoned euphoria feels really wrong.
- The Omnipresent: In the in-universe short story "The Gimel" (which appears in "Dreamtigers" and "The Secret Miracle"), Soncho Michez finds a Gimel at the bottom of a barrel. It causes him to exist everywhere in the universe at once for as long as he touches it. (The whole story is an Affectionate Parody of Jorge Luis Borges' "The Aleph".)
- Only Sane Man: Horse-Man.
- Only Six Faces: Parodied in the anime quiz:What kind of woman do you prefer/identify with?
● Cute girls who look the same as other girls but have blond hair
◦ Cute girls who look the same as other girls but have pink hair
◦ Cute girls who look the same as other girls but have blue hair
◦ Cute girls who look the same as other girls but are secretly demons with dark hair
- Our Zombies Are Different: The zombies of the After Dark series are super-handsome basketball players who can fly.
- Precision F-Strike: Not actually heard, but Unwinder threatens one after Mildred balks at watching a PG-13 movie. Unwinder: Mildred, if you don't go to this movie with me, I will say the F-word two times. And that will be worse than PG thirteen.
- Reality Warper: Howard can apparently turn himself into a giant square by accident, or bring Unwinder's imaginary creations (like Moist Rider) into reality.
- Real-Place Background: Horse-Man goes on a date to Barley John's, Parker's real favorite brewery in the Twin Cities.
- Refuge in Audacity: Deliberately invoked by Unwinder here, claiming that the raunchy hedonism in his Taco Bell ads is too over-the-top to take seriously.
- Rule-Abiding Rebel: Horse-Man warns the kids to stay away from Jack Yak. But, aside from smoking, Jack turns out to be a surprisingly good role model, who gives money to the homeless, adopts animals from the shelter, plays sax at charity concerts, and volunteers at the retirement home.
- Rule 63: Amy drew a picture of BBQ She-Sauce and Unwinder finds that she's attractive.
- Scare 'Em Straight: Horse-Man tries to dissuade Unwinder from smoking pot by introducing Unwinder to Lion-Man's pro-weed blog.
- Self-Parody: When Unwinder invents webcomics to spread his new meme, one of them is a parody of Powerup Comics. This particular page came out before Parker's involvement in Powerup Comics was widely known.
- Serial Escalation: How metafictional can the comic go? How tall can the comic get?
- Shallow Parody: Discussed in The Rant and played with. In one strip, Eli Parker admits that he doesn't know very much about Lady Gaga at all—so instead of making a joke about Lady Gaga, he made a joke about his characters not knowing very much about Lady Gaga. Then for the strip about K2: The Death of Kane, Parker notes how many "Citizen Kane sequel that completely misses the point" jokes only seem to parody the plot points that have spread via Popcultural Osmosis—so Parker made his own version of the joke that only makes sense if you've actually watched all of Citizen Kane.
- Dr. Minivan shops at The Green Grocer.
- "Creamquake" is an homage to the art style and dark humor of The Perry Bible Fellowship, and the Ice-9 Cream is a reference to Cat's Cradle.
- Here, Unwinder's wearing a Dinosaur Comics t-shirt.
- "Dreamtigers" and "The Secret Miracle" both feature references to numerous Jorge Luis Borges short stories.
- For Halloween 2011, one of the trick-or-treaters is dressed as Wonderella.
- "Mintato" is a Nedroid tribute.
- Here, Unwinder drops by the Garen Parks and Recreation Department, hoping it'll be as funny as Parks and Recreation the TV show. Instead, he gets surreal humor straight out of Terror Island.
- Skeletal Musician: Unwinder's favorite character from After Dark is Ulysses, the saxophone-playing skeleton. When a twist reveals that Ulysses is actually a shapeshifter in the form of a skeleton, Unwinder loses all interest in the series.
- Skewed Priorities: Dr. Minivan interviews Painburger for the US Census. After discovering that she has a dead body in her house, and she may be a murder, he staunchly insists on finishing the interview.Dr. Minivan: (thinking to himself) Stick to the script, Minivan. Don't let your fear of being murdered ruin the interview.
- Small Name, Big Ego:
- For all that Chad and Jason like to portray themselves as gods of gaming (both here and in Powerup Comics), they get quite embarrassingly beaten by Dr. Minivan, who apparently has never even heard of Halo before.
- Felicity thinks her webcomic is a big enough deal that everyone around her is trying to get featured in it.
- Smoking Is Cool:
Unwinder: He's so cool! Like a dangerous Chester Cheetah!
- Howard proves that e-cigs are an essential part of a cool cyberpunk ensemble.
- Unwinder and Barbecue Sauce get really inspired by Jack Yak, former mascot of Yak Cigarettes.
Barbecue Sauce: I kinda want to be like him.
Unwinder: I want to emulate him in every way. Every difference between me and him disgusts me.
Barbecue Sauce: I want to ravage my lungs like him. Can kids vape?
- Smoking Is Not Cool: Painburger, the one who encourages Unwinder and Barbecue Sauce to smoke in "The Accident", is some barely-civilized monster. And the whole incident ends with Barbecue Sauce burning his lips off.Painburger: Young boy... ravage your lungs.
- Something Completely Different: Apocalyptus: Thrift and Peril, a story based on a Steampunk tabletop RPG session, was initially placed in the middle of the comic's main archive. But when the website was revamped, Apocalyptus was moved to a separate archive.
- The Stoner: Lion-Man.Alt Text: It is not April 20th. The image of Lion-Man carries a powerful and mystic "4-20 aura".
- Strictly Formula: In-Universe. "Hey Mildred! Let's go see The Incredible Hulk! I want to be thrilled without being surprised!"
- Stuff Blowing Up: Unwinder dismisses director Nathan Blaine as "some guy who directs by pushing an 'explode' button."
- Stylistic Suck: A lot of metafiction is deliberately (and hilariously) horrible.
- Suckiness Is Painful: Howard has "a really weird allergic reaction to boredom" that involves his eyeballs retracting into his head.
- Take That!:
- Parker had issues with "a comic distributed on Facebook by a classmate of an internet friend of mine." So he bet the author that he could make 50 installments of a similar journal comic in a single night, and did so. And then he worked those journal comics into Tall Comics canon as Your Guess Is as Good as Mine, and introduced Felicity Walsh as the in-universe author.
- Similarly, Prudence Walsh's comic Six Daze is a not-so-gentle parody of Dan Nuckols' various faith-based comics, which Parker says "have occasionally struck me as unnecessarily inflammatory."
- Both of those comics are In-Universe examples, too. In Your Guess Is as Good as Mine, Felicity just takes real conversations and makes the other person look stupid while her Author Avatar rolls her eyes. And Prudence's real purpose for writing Six Daze is "to imply that anyone who she's annoyed with at the moment is going to go to hell."
- That Came Out Wrong: Dr. Minivan gets scared of brushing his own teeth and puts out an online ad for a "brushing buddy" to help him. He accidentally words it like he's looking for a sexual partner, and winds up with four thousand responses.Preferred "buddy" is also a "dominant" type, who will not hesitate to be "hard" on me, as I am likely to develop further phobias which make me hesitant to carry out even my modified dental routine.
- They Changed It, Now It Sucks!: In-Universe. Even though he admits that Dawn's Glory was an insufferably dull novel, Unwinder still feels obligated to complain about the upcoming movie adaptation turning it into "Transformer poop".
- Tokyo Is the Center of the Universe: Parodied in the anime quiz:3. If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
◦ A futuristic Tokyo under a dome
● A demon-infested wasteland that serves as a metaphor for life in modern Tokyo
◦ A sort of "Neo-Tokyo" in space
- Tomato in the Mirror: The shocking ending to Sonty Mick's psychological thriller "The Murderer in the House":The killer was...
Later in a police station a psychologist told a police detective that the reason I had not known that I was the killer was that I had a brain problem.
- Touch Telepathy: Howard can read minds by placing his hand on someone's forehead. He doesn't use that ability very much (i.e. ever, outside that one page).
- Troll: Unwinder is an oddly dedicated internet troll (he once trolled a Linkin Park fanboard... after first spending over a year establishing himself as a constructive fan) and aspires to be a real-life troll as well.Other guy: OK, is it like a dream of yours to get booed off of a stage?
Unwinder: No, see, the real music is the jeers of the angry crowd! They are the true instruments, and you have been playing them from square one!
- Unresolved Sexual Tension: From the anime quiz (or rather, The Rant beneath it):What sort of relationship should the male and female protagonists have? (All answers are "sexual tension that is never resolved, except in extra-canonical pornography")
- Wealth's in a Name: Spondulio Wealthmonger, who's obscenely wealthy but also "the world's most generous man"though he insists he has ulterior motives for all his charity work.
- Wealthy Philanthropist: The webcomic plays with this trope. Spondulio Wealthmonger is obscenely wealthy, and he funds so many charities that he's hailed as the world's most generous man. But he's quick to proclaim that he's actually selfish to the core, and all his charities are actually schemes (very long-term schemes) to make himself even wealthier.
- What Do You Mean, It's Not Political?: In-Universe, of course.
Unwinder: Barracudas are a pretty difficult fish to ignore. The fact that we're seeing them superimposed over political figures is... well... it really casts things in a whole new light.
- they're all political allegories, "and nobody ever notices!" Unwinder decides he loves western films, because
- Unwinder insists that Barracudavision—a comic strip where a barracuda photobombs politicians—is hard-hitting political commentary.
- Where the Hell Is Springfield?: After avoiding revealing where Unwinder lives for 49 pages, Parker eventually gave the name of the town: Garen, a Ghost Town in Real Life.
- Win Her a Prize: Barbecue Sauce tries to win Mildred a stuffed Sonty Mick doll in "County Fair", but the game turns out to be completely rigged, and actually just a front for a 9/11 Truther to lecture people.