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Webcomic / When Heaven Spits You Out

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"Jesus, are you listening?"note 

"Even in the darkest hours, light comes into every life."

When Heaven Spits You Out is a series of graphic novels by Ruairidh MacVeigh that follows the story of 11-year-old Ryan Hanson, who lives in the rough inner-city of Baltimore with his mother, Jinny, younger brother, Mark, and his abusive, alcoholic father, Simon. The story, set in 1971, establishes Ryan's life of poverty and sadness in the decaying city, showing the relationship he leads with his parents and brother and how he survives day-to-day while set against the background of America's economic and social decline during the early to mid-1970s - events during the course of the comic are framed using real-world events such as the Attica Prison Riot, Apollo rocket launches, actions by the Nixon Administration, etc.

Following Part 1, Ryan becomes acquainted with Janie Hanzlicek, a young and wealthy Jewish girl he meets at boarding school who was placed into his dormitory through a clerical error, and very soon she begins to help the troubled boy conquer his mental demons while also introducing him to a life of luxury, their friendship being forced to be kept a secret due to Simon's hatred of Jewish people, throwing the future they have together into doubt.


The comic is available to read for free in HD on its official website, but can also be bought through Comixology. A novelization of the comic is also available on Amazon, which generally follows the same plot but is told from the perspective of a 30-year-old Ryan recounting his twisted childhood, and also elaborates on some scenes which are not illustrated in the comic. There is also an audiobook reading based on the novelization, narrated by MacVeigh himself, which can be found on Audible.

In November 2021, the series was joined by a spin-off series called For Love Nor Money, which follows the story of Eamonn Lees, father of Ryan's childhood friend, Peter, and takes a more mature route, being a crime drama rather than a slice-of-life series with dramatic elements like When Heaven Spits You Out.


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In the comic

    A - C 

  • The '40s: As Jinny and Josie were born and spent their early childhood in the 1940s, some events are shown in flashback, as per below:
    • Jinny and Josie's father, Harris, is seen fighting at the Battle of Iwo Jima during World War II, this fight taking place between February 19th and March 26th, 1945.
  • The '50s: Much like the 40s, events in the 1950s are used to frame dates during Jinny, Josie's and Simon's childhood, as illustrated below:
    • The night Simon and Jinny make love for the first time is the night famed actor Errol Flynn died on October 14th, 1959.
  • The '60s: Much like the 70's, events in the 1960s are used to frame dates during Ryan's flashbacks, as illustrated below:
    • During Part 2, when Ryan recalls to Janie the first time his abuse started under his father, he and his brother, Mark, are watching news coverage of the 1966 University of Texas massacre, which occurred on August 1st of that year.
    • In Part 3, when Ryan reminisces on the tale of his brother's birth, he is sat watching President John F. Kennedy declare an end to the Cuban Missile Crisis, which concluded on November 20th, 1962.
    • In Part 7, Ryan and his family have to evacuate their home during the height of the Baltimore Race Riots - these occurred between April 6th and April 14th, 1968.
  • '70s Hair: As this starts in 1971...
  • The '70s: As the series is set in the 1970's, there are plenty of visual and spoken references to contemporary pop-culture, with certain events being used to mark dates as the story progresses without stating the date on-screen. Aside from frizzy hair, flared jeans and big cars, a few examples are illustrated below:
    • In Part 1, President Richard Nixon is seen declaring his intention to travel to communist China in 1972 - the speech was made on July 15th, 1971.
    • In Part 1, Apollo 15 can be seen launching on TV during Ryan's 11th birthday party (July 26th, 1971).
    • In Part 1, When Ryan leaves for boarding school, a newspaper article announcing the end of the Attica Prison Riot can be seen at Baltimore station - the riot was quelled on September 13th, 1971.
    • In Part 3, Ryan, Janie and her family go to watch the first playing of Fiddler on the Roof at their local cinema - this film opened on November 3rd, 1971.
    • In Part 4, the opening flashback to when Janie proposed to Ryan that he goes on vacation with her to Israel to witness her Bat Mitzvah takes place on the same day as when Richard Nixon met Chairman Mao for the first time in communist China (February 22nd, 1972).
    • In Part 6, the Munich Olympic Massacre takes place on September 6th, 1972, which throws Janie into a hate-filled depression.
    • Part 8 centres around the impact of the 1973 Oil Crisis, which began on October 19th of that year, which results in wider economic effects that nearly ruin Ryan's life.
    • Part 9 begins on November 10th, 1975, as in a newspaper Ryan's reading, the front page headline reports the sinking of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, which foundered during a storm on Lake Superior with the loss of all hands.
  • Abandoned Pet in a Box: Quite by accident, Ryan and Mark encounter their future pet, Chessie, abandoned as a puppy in a box after Mark kicks them over in a fit of rage over hippies. After a bit of emotional blackmail, Mark is able to convince his mom to keep him.
  • Abusive Parent: A focal point of the story, Ryan is constantly tortured both physically and emotionally by his father, Simon, with a few examples below:
    • In Part 1, Simon throws Ryan to the floor with such force it breaks his arm.
    • He fails to show up to Ryan's 11th birthday, and instead chooses to spend the day drinking.
    • He refuses to allow Ryan to share a room with Janie because she's Jewish.
    • In Part 2, he drags Ryan out of bed in the middle of the night and beats him senseless before forcing him to clean the bathroom, even though he had already done so hours earlier.
    • The following night, he drags Ryan out of bed and throws him down the stairs.
    • There is a general pervasive fear that if Ryan talks about his abuse that Simon will do something to his younger brother Mark.
    • In Part 3, it's revealed that Simon tore up a music scholarship that Ryan had achieved, claiming that only 'faggots' go into music.
    • In Part 4, Simon seems ostensibly supportive of Ryan's friendship with what he believes to be another boy, although he initially suspects some kind of homosexual element to their bonding. Furthermore, the general thought he has is that Ryan should use his new rich friend in order to make himself some money.
    • In Part 6, Simon decides to kick Mark and Ryan out into the cold in order to brush the snow off the car, a task he could easily carry out himself but is likely too lazy to accomplish.
    • In Part 8, during a spat between Simon and Jinny after the family was forced to give up Chessie to Aunt Josie for monetary reasons, Ryan tries to get a devastated Mark away from it all by taking him out of the car. Rather than stopping to get the boys back in, Simon opts to simply drive off and leave them at the side of the road.
    • He and his wife, Jinny, are near constantly fighting verbally over one thing or another.
  • Accidental Pervert: Both Mark and Ryan have a moment during a flashback in Part 7, when, during a sibling fight over a toy dinosaur, their mother, who's in the shower, comes downstairs to shout at them while completely in the buff, leaving the two boys silent and stunned at the sight.
    • Taken a step further later in life with Mark, as when he, Ryan and Peter are in the park, he spies a woman sat on an adjacent bench who's skirt is somewhat revealing. Less out of some sexual desire but more a curiosity in the female form caused by seeing his mother naked years before, Mark goes in for a closer look, only to be smacked over the head with a book by the woman and called a pervert.
  • Adults Are Useless: A mixed bag. In some instances, adult characters provide much needed help to the main child characters of the story, including Ryan's mom, Jinny; Josie, his aunt; Mr. Milton, his gym teacher; and Shirley, his neighbour. In other instances, the characters directly hinder and threaten our protagonist, primarily Ryan's abusive dad, Simon.
    • Played with slightly in Part 9. While the teachers are conscious of a sex and drugs problem at Port Royal high school, it's only the students themselves who see the true magnitude of the problem. Once Ryan publishes his expose in the school newspaper, and is subsequently beaten over the head for doing so by Richard, the adults have no choice but to act on this, and begin a shakedown of the school.
  • An Aesop: Part 6. If someone you know is going through a hard time, they don't want simple pity, they want you to really understand why they feel the way they do.
  • All Abusers Are Male: Appears to be the case, as Ryan's main tormentors are his dad and a school bully named Scott.
  • All Gays Are Pedophiles: Phil is notable for being the first gay man depicted in the series, and is shown to be a local pederast who attempts to coax Ryan into his car during a snowstorm, but is harshly intervened by Nico, who threatens to crush his skull.
  • All Gays Are Promiscuous: Touched on briefly with Phil, a local pederast who attempts to coax Ryan into his car during a snowstorm, but is harshly intervened by Nico, who threatens to crush his skull.
  • All Men Are Perverts:
    • Played with around Mark. During a flashback, it's revealed that Mark, as a baby, was exposed to seeing his mother fully naked, which began a fascination in the female form. Years later, his fascination culminates in him trying to look up the skirt of a woman sat across from him on a park bench, resulting in him being smacked across the head with a book. It should be noted his perversion is less for a sexual thrill (seeing as he's only a child), but more a curiosity akin to a form of trauma.
    • Phil, a local pederast, attempts to coax Ryan into his car during a snowstorm, but is harshly intervened by Nico, who threatens to crush his skull.
    • Played straight in Part 9 as, after winning their baseball championship, the boy's team begin to share dirty magazines with each other after light's out, including a very strange Swedish one which makes their own American magazines look like children's books.
    • This is also the main tool and philosophy of Lizzie Bishop in having a certain degree of power over boys in order to do her own mischievous bidding, filling their minds with the promise of sex in order to do whatever she wants.
  • All Up to You: When Ryan is brought up to bat in the baseball game, his Home Run is the only thing to break the tied scores between the girl's and boy's teams.
  • All Women Are Lustful:
    • Jinny Hanson is illustrated to have allowed her lusts to overcome her common sense when she forces herself upon an oblivious Simon during their teenage years, resulting in her accidentally becoming pregnant with Ryan.
    • Lizzie Bishop knows she's beautiful and can wrap boys around her finger in order to get them to do whatever she wants them to.
  • The Alleged Car: Due to Ryan's family being in a not too spectacular position financially, their modes of transport at limited to varied number of worn-out bangers:
    • The partially rusty 1960 Envoy Special that Simon owns and poses as the family car, although it is not often used.
    • The 1952 Chevrolet 210 that Simon buys from the janitor at the orphanage for a cheap price. This car subsequently becomes the place Jinny and Simon make love for the first time and potentially conceive Ryan by accident, and is eventually burned to pieces during the 1968 Baltimore Race Riot.
    • At the end of Part 8, Jinny purchases with her newfound cash a 1970 AMC Gremlin to provide herself and the boys with transportation that doesn't rely on the whim of Simon.
  • The Almighty Dollar: Due to Ryan's impoverished state, money, when it rarely comes by, is a fascinating thing to both himself and those closest to him, as illustrated in several instances:
    • In Part 1, Ryan and Frank are amazed when Peter presents them with a $20 bill he stole from his dad's jacket pocket.
    • In Part 6, Ryan presents Mark with a $20 that had been given to him by Janie as a gift, which amazes his younger brother - the pair subsequently use it to go bowling.
  • Animal Lover: Several characters within the series demonstrate a love for creatures great and small:
    • While Ryan and Mark both love their little dog, Chessie, Mark appears to love him much more, which is reciprocated by Chessie who often gravitates towards him rather than his older brother.
    • Natasha is illustrated to have an almost fanatical love of the humble Beagle, so much so that she's even willing to throw tantrums and chase after them whenever she gets a chance.
  • Apologetic Attacker: In Part 8, after Jinny gives Simon a piece of her mind for abandoning Mark and Ryan on the side of the road the previous day, Simon responds by strangling her, but is forced away by Nico. Months later, he follows the three to their new apartment, whereupon he apologises for having done what he did to her. While she doesn't accept his apology, she does indicate that she still has some sentiment towards him.
  • Armor-Piercing Slap: While not a slap, Mark receives a book over his head for looking up a girl's skirt.
  • Art Evolution: As the series has progressed, MacVeigh has refined his art style, gradually adding more shading, textures, and realistic body proportions.
  • Anyone Can Die: As demonstrated in Ryan and Mark's flashbacks in Part 7, the violence of their hometown is reflected in that they have witnessed multiple homicides, usually related to mafia activity in their neighbourhood.
  • Asleep in Class: Ryan, during his flashback.
  • As the Good Book Says...: Regarding his perception, more like what the good book doesn't say. His sermons are fiery and full of hate, stating that God looks dimly on the weak and useless, and instead empowers the worthy.
  • Attempted Rape: In Part 8, after moving into their new messed up apartment, Jinny, Ryan and Mark witness an attempted rape on the train tracks below their window. Fortunately, the man is stopped before he can do the deed by the woman's brother, who promptly puts a bullet in him and runs away.
  • Author Appeal: Given MacVeigh's track record of writing period pieces with copious amounts of historical tidbits and transport - such as cars and planes - there is a wide scope of this due to the 1970s setting.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Despite their apparent mortal hatred of one another, Simon and Jinny are glimpsed snuggling and recounting better times after making love in bed. However, this would apparently be the last time the two would feel this way for each other, as following the birth of their second son, Mark, Simon showed nothing but indifference to him, for which Jinny never forgave.
  • Awkward Father-Son Bonding Activity: In order to make up with Ryan after breaking his arm, Simon takes Ryan to the park for a walk, although Ryan is initially reluctant to do so. Once there, the pair do very little interaction, mooching silently around the lake while walking their dog, Chester.
  • Back to School: Part 1 shows Ryan finish Elementary School, and move on to High School by the end.
    • Again in Part 6, where Ryan and Janie return to school for their second year, only to find that Janie has been moved to a different dormitory.
    • Again in Part 8, as Ryan nearly loses his place at Port Royal due to the recession caused by the 1973 Oil Crisis, but is bailed out by Janie's dad at the last minute.
  • Backstory Horror: Illustrated through a flashback illustrating the abuse Ryan suffers at the hands of his father.
  • Bait-and-Switch: In Part 8, it appears initially that Father Moynihan is, for once, about to give a consoling speech about how his congregation have been effected by the 1973 Oil Crisis. However, he soon reverts back into his old ways by using the crisis as an example of how the liberalism and perversion of modern society is entirely to blame, rather than international geopolitics and a generally misguided dependence on an inefficient lifestyle.
  • Baltimore: The setting of the series.
  • Barbie Doll Anatomy: Inverted. Janie is seen with visible nipples while she's showering, but as she is only eleven years old this is not considered explicit.
  • Baseball Episode:
    • In Part 2, Ryan plays baseball for the first time, and despite striking out once and being bombarded by insults from Scott, he is able to hit a superb home run for the girl's team.
    • In Part 9, Ryan partakes in his first baseball championship with the boy's team, and goes on to help them win the inter-regional finals against Lebanon in Pennsylvania, only for their victory to be ruined when it's discovered that Scott was taking amphetamines to improve his performance.
  • Basketball: Despite his more academic personality, Ryan is shown to be a capable basketball player, using his significant height over his fellow students to his advantage.
    • In Part 8, he is seen playing for the Port Royal team with some notable success.
  • Befriending the Enemy: While Simon considers Janie to be the enemy of all decent people - because she's Jewish - Ryan still makes friends with her.
  • Being Good Sucks: Appears to be the way for Ryan early in the story, as well as in the flashbacks to his abusive upbringing under the thumb of his father, Simon. Despite Ryan looking out for Mark and practically raising him as a parent himself, he is rewarded with nothing but bullying, violence and despair.
  • Belief Makes You Stupid: One instance of this is when Ryan is at church and is forced to kiss the feet of a figurine depicting Jesus on the cross. Needless to say, this fills him with discontent.
  • Berserk Button: Basically the entirety of Simon Hanson's character, who, in his drunken rage, violently takes out his anger on Ryan for no apparent reason.
    • Janie has one in Part 6 following the Munich Olympic Massacre, where she demands blood in revenge for the terrorist incident.
    • Mark has one in Part 6, where after being kicked out of the house and forced to shovel snow, he throws his shovel down in anger and snaps at Ryan, though he is immediately regretful of doing so.
    Mark: "GOD DAMN F$&%*!!"
    Ryan: "Mark, language!!"
  • Betrayal by Offspring: Jinny, when she essentially 'betrays' her family be sleeping around with Simon, ultimately leading to her accidental pregnancy.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: When undisturbed, Simon is illustrated to be very quiet and brooding, often stood alone and not interacting with anyone. However, once his drunken rage is unleashed...
  • Big Fancy House: Janie's mansion in rural Connecticut, an opulent palace with giant bedrooms and huge living spaces that perfectly epitomizes how far Mátyás Hanzlicek has come from his impoverished migrant background.
  • Big Game: While the baseball game played in Part 2 isn't a formal competition, it is still a major moment for Ryan as it becomes his first time playing the sport, even scoring a Home Run.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: The Hanson family.
    • To a point, Jinny's own family, the Magranes.
  • Bigotry Exception: Despite Ephraim's feelings towards gentiles, he does eventually warm up to Ryan after getting to know him.
  • Bigot vs. Bigot: In terms of the two sides Ryan faces in his religious struggle, he is presented with his abusive and unflinchingly Christian dad, Simon, and Janie's strongly Jewish uncle Ephraim Hanzlicek. Both men are highly bigoted against anything or anyone that isn't their own religion due to their experiences, with Ryan torn between loyalty to his own father, despite the abuse he endures from him, and a new found loyalty to Janie and her uncle, a man who he admires for his struggles in life, but maintains a prejudiced eye against gentiles.
  • Birthday Party Goes Wrong: The moment Simon enters the room after a day of binge drinking on Ryan's birthday.
  • Bitch Slap: A girl in Ryan's church congregation gets one from her dad for yawning during the sermon.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: There are multiple instances within the series where the morality of certain characters, especially the ones who display the most morality, is called into question, using deceit and a certain degree of underhandedness to get what they want, most of which stems from trying to hide the truth of Janie and Ryan's friendship from the latter's abusive father, Simon:
    • While Ryan and Janie are both kind and generally honest people, their entire friendship, due to the ever-present threat of Simon and his bigotry towards Jews, is based on a plethora of lies wherein Janie is replaced by 'Jamie', with Ryan keeping this a secret even from his mother and brother despite the crippling amounts of guilt it causes him.
    • Jinny is the moral guidance of Ryan, helping to ensure he doesn't become a directionless, hate-filled waif like his father, but at the same time, as shown in Part 5, her own youth was one of mischief, malice and a desire to break the stringent rules of 1950s American society whenever possible, culminating in her accidentally being impregnated by Simon that results in her being disowned by her family.
    • Janie is almost always a sweet and gentle person who cares deeply for those around her, but when you cross the line regarding her religion, she'll come down on you hard.
    • Ephraim Hanzlicek is the epitome of this. He is a caring and deeply religious family man who wants only what's best for his loved ones, but is also willing to use lethal force to defend both himself, his relatives and his faith if necessary.
    • In Part 7, it is shown that Ryan and Mark have both witnessed multiple homicides in their neighbourhood home, but are apparently so used to it that they're no longer fazed by the sight of death.
  • Blackmail: Peter dabbles in this at the end of Part 7, when, after encountering an apparently rich, married man having an affair with his secretary, he makes a deal to protect his expensive Lincoln Continental in exchange for payment, otherwise Peter would slash its tires.
  • Blinded by Rage: Simon is shown to have no perception of what he's doing to Ryan when he's drunk, unable to see the pain and torment he's unleashing on his kids.
    • Followed to a point with Janie in Part 6, as in the wake of the 1972 Munich Olympic Massacre, she becomes bitter and vengeful, shouting at Ryan and claiming he has no understanding of the trials she faces being Jewish.
  • Boarding School: Port Royal High School; where Ryan is sent to attend at the end of Part 1.
  • Boy Meets Girl: Ryan and Janie.
    • Simon and Jinny during the 1950s.
  • Boyish Short Hair: After being ambushed by Richard, who sticks gum in her hair, Janie is forced to undergo a haircut to get the gum out, leaving her with a very short pixie cut.
  • Break the Cutie: Ryan and Mark on multiple occasions.
    • Jinny included after a violent argument on Ryan's birthday.
    • In Part 4, this happens to Janie when, after failing an exam, she marches back to her room in tears and slumps down on the bed to sob her eyes out - she explains that her inability to complete exams makes her feel dumb.
    • Plenty in Part 5. Jinny, having ruined her life by having sex with Simon and accidentally conceiving a child, is shown in tears on multiple occasions.
    • In Part 6, following the Munich Olympic Massacre, Janie goes from her usual kind, bubbly and fun-loving self into a deep and hate-filled depression, something Ryan eventually pulls her out of after writing an article about their journey to Israel and his understanding of the Jewish faith.
  • Breather Episode: Part 3 could be considered this, as it has less heavy emotional themes than the parts before and after it, being more based around Ryan's escape to the country and the time he shares with Janie and her family.
  • Briefs Boasting: Ryan and Mark's main choice of underwear. While Ryan doesn't usually like to show off his underpants, Mark seems to enjoy strutting around and joking about his clothesless state at Ryan's expense.
    • Inverted in Part 8, where Ryan instead opts to be the one strutting around in his briefs (although wearing his pyjama top), while Mark protests his lack of pants.
  • Broke Episode: In Part 8, the 1973 Oil Crisis occurs, during which the cost of living spikes and Ryan's family are unable to afford to live in their current impoverished lifestyle. The result is them having to give up their dog, Chessie, to Aunt Josie, move out of their house and into a cheaper apartment in a rundown, crime-ridden part of town, and nearly sees Ryan taken out of Port Royal. Fortunately, Janie's family intervenes by mailing Ryan a check of $25,000, saving them from the brink of disaster.
  • Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl: Ryan is something of a loner who discusses very little of the abuse he suffers at home, while Janie slowly begins to understand his pain and gradually bring him out of his shell.
    • The same could be said for Simon and Jinny. Simon was a brooding, angry and violent young man with a natural hatred for the world around him, his only anchor to any form of love or care in his youth being Jinny, before her love and desire became too much.
  • Burp of Finality: Ryan lets out a monstrous burp after downing a bottle of cola at the Bowling Alley during Part 6, which is enough to make Mark laugh.
  • Butt-Monkey: Poor old Ryan, no matter how good his intentions are in life, he always seems to end up getting violently assaulted by those around him.
  • Casanova Wannabe: Mark likes to think that he's a ladies man, but in reality gets really nervous talking to girls.
    • His knowledge of girls and love is even lampshaded by Jinny as to the relationship between Janie and Ryan.
  • Category Traitor: How Jinny's father, Harris, perceives her after she has become pregnant with Simon's child. Years later, her betrayal is still a bitter note for him, as demonstrated in a flashback during Part 7.
  • Central Theme: A life of quiet restraint trumps big egos and reckless abandon.
  • Character Development: Since Part 1, Ryan has evolved from being a weak, nervous and mentally unstable little boy to a more confident adolescent, willing to take more risks and try new things at the urging of his new friend Janie.
    • During Part 5, the childhoods of both Jinny and Simon are explored through a lengthy flashback sequence, where we see Simon as an angry, hate-filled orphan and Jinny as the daughter of a middle-class family but with a mischievous streak that makes her and Simon the best of friends, ultimately leading to their eventual romance, and her subsequent impregnation that costs them everything.
    • Jinny goes through more character development in Part 8, finally getting the strength to get the family away from Simon permanently, although part of this is fueled by having to move out of their old apartment. Regardless, when Simon tries showing up to apologize, she makes it clear that she doesn't ever want him near her kids again.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: While obvious to everyone else, Ryan and Janie clearly illustrate romantic feelings for one another, but are conscious of the fact that their religious differences mean a relationship couldn't be maintained.
    • Begins to be played with in Part 4. While previous volumes of the story had other people considering whether or not Ryan and Janie were dating, Part 4 has Ryan affectionately place his hand on Janie's while she's sleeping as they fly from New York to Israel. The prospect apparently becomes all to real to Ryan, though, after he overhears her uncle Ephraim's opinion and warning of a possible interfaith romance, and thus he speaks to god in order to dispel his worries and seek comfort in the truth.
    • Simon and Jinny, as explored in Part 5.
  • Christmas Episode: Part 8 is as close as the series has gotten so far to a Christmas episode as it is set around the holiday period, and includes many tropes of the season including trees, presents and cards.
  • The City vs. the Country: Ryan's upbringing in his decaying, crime-ridden hometown of Baltimore is contrast greatly against the peace and tranquility of Janie's home in the rural Connecticut highlands.
  • Comedic Underwear Exposure: Due to the intimate setting of the boarding school, it seems somewhat natural that the characters may be caught in compromising positions while only in their underwear.
    • In Part 4, Lars Holbrook joins the other boys of the dorm (and Janie) to watch a movie, but because his pajamas are in the laundry, he decides to watch the film while only in his underwear. This, naturally, arouses the curiosity of the other boys, with Janie pointing out that he should have simply just worn his normal clothes and then changed for bed.
    Ryan: "Yeah, Lars, why are you only in your skivvies?"
    Lars: "My PJs are in the laundry, so this is all I had to wear."
    Janie: "Well, why didn't you just wear your normal clothes and then get changed after the movie?"
    Lars: "I... I didn't think of that."
    • In Part 6, after playing a game of basketball, Janie decides to show off her athletics and stretches to Ryan, Lars and Fee Fee, only for her to accidentally reveal her training bra.
    Janie: "Check this, Ryan. You may be a champ at basketball, but can you bend like a pretzel?"
    Lars: "Probably not, but I do like the colour of your training bra, Janie!"

    • In Part 7, during Natasha's flashback to the many times she's attempted to imitate her older sister's stunts, she mentions a time when she attempted to follow Janie up a tall tree, only for her foot to become trapped on a branch and the helpless girl left hanging upside down with her dress over her head.
    • In Part 8, as payback for an earlier practical joke, Ryan steals all the underwear out of Lars' sock drawer and claims to have stashed it all around the dormitory. In reality, he had taken it with him on a school trip in his backpack, leaving Lars with no way of finding them regardless.
    • In Part 9, as part of a prank, Fiona gets her skirt glued to a chair in the classroom and she is unable to escape, thus requiring her to take her skirt off and be lifted out by a teacher, where she's stood essentially bottomless in the classroom.
    • Later in Part 9, Fiona is taking a shower in the girl's changing room when a boy, at the behest of Lizzie, secretly snaps pictures of her both naked and in her underwear and spreads them around the school.
    • Later still in Part 9, after Ryan ends up in hospital from being hit over the head by Richard, he encounters a young boy in the next bed named Robin, and while they're showing off each other's scars, Robin lifts his hospital gown to show where he had his appendix out. Ryan points out that the nurse is looking at him and he drops his gown again in embarrassment.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: The entire story essentially follows the life of Ryan as, through his friendship with Janie, he is able to overcome the unstable and depressed young boy he once was under his father's abuse and gain the confidence necessary to face life and make his own decisions.
    • In Part 5, Janie undertakes her Bat Mitzvah to become a woman in Jewish law.
  • Confess in Confidence: Ryan confesses the truth of his abuse to Janie, who promises not to tell anyone else.
    • Josie confesses the truth of his parent's childhood to him in Part 5.
    • In Part 6, Ryan reveals the truth regarding him and Janie to Mark.
    • In Part 8, after receiving a large check from Janie's family in order to save them from destitution, Ryan is forced to reveal his deception to his mother, to which both he and Mark are angrily rebuked. She does, however, understand why he did it and doesn't tell Simon about any of this.
  • Conflicting Loyalty: Ryan is presented with this when he has to choose between either his family or his budding friendship with Janie.
    • This comes to a head when Ryan is presented with an offer to spend the fall break at Janie's house, therefore having to lie to his family about who he's truly going with, to which he ultimately accepts.
  • Conspicuously Public Assassination: In a flashback during Part 7, a particularly gruesome drive-by shooting is witnessed by Mark, Ryan, Peter and his brothers when a mob hitman wipes out Floyd the butcher for non-payment of protection fees.
  • Cool Car: The 1971 Cadillac Eldorado owned by Mátyás.
    • Ephraim owns a former British Army Bedford lorry, which he had converted for his use as a man missing a foot, and used it during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
  • Cool Kid-and-Loser Friendship: Ryan is demonstrated to be something of a loner, while Janie is a very popular girl among her peers. Together, they make an unlikely friendship.
  • Corporal Punishment: In a flashback during Part 7, it is revealed that Janie, through a misguided attempt to put herself into the history books, nearly blew herself and Natasha to pieces after detonating a bucket full of firecrackers when trying to send a soup can to the moon. She mentions that, after the literal smoke had cleared, her dad gave her such a spanking that she couldn't sit for a week.
  • Corrupt Church: Against the word of the bible, Father Moynihan uses his church in Baltimore as a means of spreading divine fear among his congregation while also using it as a platform to speak out against what he considers the vices that are ruining society.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: In Part 9, all Lizzie had to do was accept that Ryan wasn't going to fall for her charms, instead she goes and tells Richard a lie that sends the drug-addled youth into a violent rage that causes him to hit Ryan over the head with a rock.
  • Covert Pervert: You wouldn't imagine it, but Mark is revealed to be a boy fascinated by the female form, even going so far as to look up the skirt of a strange woman in a public park.
  • Crisis of Faith: Upon his stay at the Hanzlicek farmhouse in Israel, Ryan is confronted with problems regarding whether or not he is allowed to practice his Christian rituals in their Jewish house, and worries about the potential damage his relationship with Janie may cause, especially in the eyes of her highly conservative uncle, Ephraim.
  • Crowd Chant: The girls chant Ryan's name as he finishes off his Home Run during the baseball game.
  • Culture Clash: To an extent. Ryan's Christian upbringing is somewhat out of step with Janie's strongly Jewish heritage, which becomes apparent during Part 4.
    • Explored in Part 5 with Jinny and Simon, Jinny being the daughter of a middle-class family in suburbia, living the American Dream, while Simon is an unloved orphan growing up in the harsh inner-city.
  • Curse Cut Short:
    • When Mark is about to say something profane at the end of Part 3, Ryan gives him a dirty look to stop him.
    Ryan: "What are they fighting about now?"
    Mark: "Oh, who the fu-"
    Ryan: (Gives dirty look)
    Mark: "Erm... I mean, who knows."

    • In Part 9, after Dominic finds out Scott has been taking amphetamines when playing in their baseball championship, he doesn't take it well and is about to say something profane before the coach intervenes:
    Dominic: "Shut up! Scott, explain these?"
    Scott: "I... erm... reasons..."
    Dominic: "Son of a Bitch! They could take the title off us for this, you stupid motherfuc-..."

  • Cut Himself Shaving: In a flashback, while Ryan is getting changed for gym, the extent of his injuries received from the abuse he suffered at the hands of his father are shown to his classmates. When they ask, he simply answers that he 'fell'.
  • Cute Little Fangs: Ryan wears a set of fake fangs on Halloween to compliment his vampire costume.

    D - H 

  • Daddy Didn't Show: Simon demonstrates this when he doesn't attend Ryan's birthday; instead having an all-day binge.
  • Darker and Edgier: Compared to MacVeigh's previous comics, this one deals with much darker themes, including parental abuse, bigotry, teen pregnancy, family disownment and forbidden friendships. While his previous comics had dramatic moments (and Outsiders especially so toward the end before it was deleted), they still had enough light-hearted moments to keep things balanced. This comic, however, is perhaps his bleakest one yet, with the few light-hearted moments coming from Ryan and Janie bonding.
    • Part 9 gets very dark especially, as it revolves around a drug problem at Port Royal High School and a female character who uses a system of sexual favours to manipulate boys into doing what she wants.
    • Taken a step further in Part 7 as Ryan and Mark elaborate on their witnessing of several murders in their neighbourhood due to the presence of the Gambino crime family.
    • Throughout most of Part 8, there is a pervasive sense of despair and melancholy as, following the fallout of the 1973 Oil Crisis, Ryan's family are forced out of their home, have to give up their dog, and made to live in a one-room apartment in the worst part of the city, all while the prospect of Ryan having to leave Port Royal hangs in the balance, ruining his chances to better himself.
  • Dark Shepherd: Father Moynihan instils the fear of god into his followers through threats of eternal damnation for those who are misled, weak or useless.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Discussed in Part 9. After light's out, the boy's baseball team break out a stash of dirty magazines to read, with Ryan commenting that Dominic better keep his hands out of his shorts.
  • Death Glare: When Simon bursts into Ryan's room and drags him out of bed.
  • Deep Sleep: In Part 4, Janie is so completely unconscious that she doesn't know she's using Ryan as a pillow.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: As opposed to other people's flashbacks, Ryan's flashbacks have the colors muted in order to emphasize the dreariness and despair of his past.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The attitudes of Ephraim Hanzlicek towards gentiles, and especially Arabs, are more reflective of the era in which the comic is set, when tensions between Israel and the surrounding Arab states were reaching their peak.
  • Depraved Homosexual: Phil, a local paedophile who tries to offer Ryan a lift during a snowstorm, only to be stopped by Nico.
  • Despair Speech: Mark gives a passionate speech about his family's bleak situation when trying to convince his mom to keep Chessie the dog, as he believes it would bring a little bit of joy into their lives.
  • Dinner and a Show: Jinny and Simon's bickering is not forestalled by breakfast, lunch or dinner.
  • Dirty Kid: Mark, as it's revealed he has something of a perverted curiosity in him.
  • Dirty Old Man: Phil, who attempts to lure Ryan into his car, likely for amoral reasons.
  • Dislikes the New Guy: Scott, the moment he lays eyes upon Ryan, displays immediate animosity and contempt towards him.
  • Don't Look at Me!: When Ryan wets himself, Janie is helping him clean himself up when she unexpectedly turns to face him while he's naked. Though he doesn't say anything, merely covering his privates with his hands, the implication is clear to Janie, and she turns around to face the other way for the rest of the scene.
  • Door Slam of Rage: Simon, as he marches out the house after a verbal argument with his wife on Ryan's birthday.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: It could be argued that when Jinny forces herself on Simon in his car, this constitutes as a manner of rape as he wasn't exactly consenting. She knew what she wanted, and he wasn't fully aware of what she was doing to him, therefore, at the very least, the act could be considered statutory rape.
  • Down to the Last Play: When Ryan is brought up to bat in the baseball game, his Home Run is the only thing to break the tied scores between the girl's and boy's teams.
  • Downer Beginning: Within the first few pages, Ryan has his arm broken by Simon during a drunken rage.
    • Part 2 starts with Ryan having a horrifying nightmare, causing him to wake up in tears.
  • Dramatic Sit-Down: After running away from the baseball game in a panic, Ryan falls to the floor and begins to cry.
  • Dream Intro: At the beginning of Part 4, Ryan has a dream of playing a white grand piano in some kind of ethereal realm, before being joined by Janie who watches him blissfully.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Given the setting and time period of the series, there are plenty of instances where people are shown taking narcotics as the drug culture of America reached its peak:
    • During the opening scene in Part 1, a pair of stoned teenagers collapsed in a heap on the street.
    • Shown in a way in Part 5 when Jinny is introduced to both smoking and drinking by Simon, but in both instances she reacts poorly and thus doesn't pursue them.
    • Multiple instances in Part 8, including a gaggle of collapsed junkies littering the floor of Nico's apartment building while claiming they'd found Jesus in the toilet, one man threatening another with death for losing his cocaine stash, and two girls pushing heroin while one of them cries down the phone claiming that dogs are coming for her.
  • Dude Magnet: Lizzie Bishop; she wins over any boy she encounters just by showing up.
  • Dumb Blonde: Lizzie isn't dumb, in fact she's very intelligent, her problem is she's not smart. She thinks that lacing boys with drugs and manipulating them through the promise of sexual favours will make them completely willing servants, not realising that they act for themselves and cause trouble that ends up getting Ryan beaten over the head and several students expelled.
  • Dumb Muscle: Richard turns into this during Part 9. Having been turned fully into an addict by Lizzie and Scott, he ends up doing the former's dirty work by sticking gum in Janie's hair and hitting Ryan over the head with a rock.
  • Dying Town: Throughout the course of the series, it is apparent that Baltimore is long past its industrial might during the early 1900s, and is now a stagnating, economically bereft city, where the cracks are filled with crime and unemployment.
  • Dysfunctional Family: If it weren't for Simon, Mark, Jinny and Ryan would make a somewhat happy family.
  • Dysfunction Junction: The entire Hanson family.
  • Eating Lunch Alone: Ryan Hanson.
    • Simon Hanson as a child.
  • Education Through Pyrotechnics: During chemistry class, the class is heating magnesium in a fragile crucible when Ryan is suddenly knocked over by two boys fighting behind him. Knocking over the apparatus, the crucible falls to the desk and breaks, revealing the white hot metal that blinds the surrounding students and starts to melt a hole in the desk. The teacher quickly puts it out with a fire extinguisher.
  • Eiffel Tower Effect: On the train to Janie's house, Ryan and Janie's arrival into New York is signified through a distant shot of the yet-incomplete Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.
    • The Dome of the Rock and the Wailing Wall are used to establish the city of Jerusalem during Ryan and Janie's visit in Part 5.
  • Elaborate University High: Port Royal High School in rural Pennsylvania.
  • Emancipated Child: Ryan, when he leaves home to go to High School.
  • Embarrassing Damp Sheets: One evening, Ryan wets himself in his sleep, which is discovered by Janie. Janie, however, helps to get him cleaned up without anyone else finding out.
  • Embarrassment Plot: Much of Part 2 centres around Ryan's fear of embarrassment due to his mental strains, including his fear of being put on the spot while playing baseball, and when he accidentally wets himself in his sleep in front of Janie.
  • Entertainment Above Their Age:
    • Mark has a fascination with the female form after an accidental exposure to seeing his mother naked when he was very young, and now finds great entertainment in being something of a pervert.
    • The entire boy's baseball team in Part 9, who share around dirty magazines after lights out in their hostel, one of which involves two Swedish lesbians having sex with a Volvo.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Several during the course of the opening parts:
    • Ryan's first scene shows him walking home from elementary school alone while reading a book, showing his solitary nature but also his bookworm ways.
    • Jinny's loving nature towards Ryan is demonstrated immediately as she showers him with affection, and illustrates genuine care for his wellbeing despite their situation.
    • The first time we see Mark, he immediately says something vulgar, establishing his propensity to pick up and use bad words.
    • Simon's first appearance in the series has him screaming at his wife due to his alcoholism, and subsequently, in a fit of violent, drunken rage, he breaks Ryan's arm.
      • As a child, the first time he is introduced to Jinny, he had stuck a pin tack on the teacher's chair in class, establishing the mischievous cord both he and Jinny share that makes them immediate friends.
    • In the first scene we see her, Janie is in the middle of her evening prayer, kippah and all, both establishing her Jewish faith, but also her devotion to it.
    • Lars Holbrook's first appearance in Part 2 is shown as he is being threatened by an upperclassman, followed later by him clumsily shoving a boy into Ryan during a science experiment, nearly causing a fire.
    • One of the very first words that comes out of Scott MacCready's mouth is him calling Ryan a 'faggot', establishing an immediate rivalry between them.
    • Janie's dad, Mátyás, has one when he meets Ryan in Part 3, wherein his death camp tattoo is briefly glimpsed, revealing a significant part of his past.
    • Natasha Hanzlicek's arrival on the scene is greeted through her attempting to sneak up on Janie to make her jump, demonstrating the playful rivalry her and her older sister share.
    • Janie's uncle Ephraim has one in Part 4, where his right foot is missing due to action he saw fighting the Nazi's during World War II.
    • Harris Magrane is first shown fighting at Iwo Jima during World War II, illustrating his military past and the sense of honour he held in order to serve his country.
    • Anthony Nicoletti's rough background needs no spoken introduction, as he seems to tell his story through the tattoos on his arms.
  • Establishing Series Moment: Within the first twenty pages, the dire poverty of Ryan's life, as well as the abusiveness of his father, are established and illustrated.
  • Everybody Cries: Mark, Ryan and Jinny are all left in tears after a vicious argument with Simon on Ryan's 11th birthday.
    • Happens in Part 5 after Jinny has been kicked out of the Magrane household due to her getting pregnant and shaming herself.
  • Everybody Smokes: Due to the setting of the series in the 1970s, smoking was far more prevalent than it is today, even among the younger characters:
    • In Part 5, during the flashback to Jinny and Simon's youth, Simon attempts to introduce Jinny to smoking, but upon taking one puff she breaks down in coughing fits, much to his and his friend's amusement.
    • Peter Lees, from Part 7, is seen to smoke.
    • In Part 9, Scott is shown to secretly smoke weed.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Played with in Part 8, when, after being mailed a check for $25,000 by Janie's family to help Ryan's family out during their financial crisis, Jinny uses part of it to help buy a new 1970 AMC Gremlin. As Ryan is the declared car enthusiast of the family, he states the choice came down to either the Gremlin or a Ford Pinto, the latter he dropped because he didn't want a car that bursts into flames.
    Ryan: "Well, it was either this or a Pinto on the lot, but I didn't like the idea of a car that bursts into flames!"
  • Everyone Can See It: Apart from Janie and Ryan themselves, everyone else is convinced they're in love with each other.
  • Evil Mentor: It's clear to see where Scott gets a lot of his aggression and petulance from when his dad is briefly seen in Part 9, siding with his son after he's suspended from school for taking drugs and explaining that no one can get through school life without them.
  • Evil Redhead: Scott. He's got red hair, and he treats everyone around him like bums.
  • Expy: While the story as a whole has enough to make it stand out from MacVeigh's previous comics, the two main characters do exhibit a few character traits similar to those in the Maddie series and Outsiders:
    • Ryan Hanson to Siobhan Pattinson. Both are prone to nervousness and have, or had at one point, messed up family lives, with their father being the main issue. Both meet someone who helps them out of their shell and exposes them to a more fun lifestyle. They also are proficient pianists.
    • Janie Hanzlicek to Ebony Larsson. Both are the more upbeat friend who helps the nervous one come out of their shell, and both exhibit traits of athleticism. They also have a strong sense of family heritage and duty.
    • Furthermore, the relationship between Janie and Ryan could be likened to the one between Andy Taylor and Maddie Grey from the Maddie series, with Ryan being a poor boy from a working class household in the city, and Janie being a rich girl from a wealthy mansion out in the country.
    • In terms of character design, Mátyás looks very similar to Matt from the Maddie series, considering his brown hair and glasses, and is referred to by his wife as Matt.
    • The gag of a barely working or stupidly installed shower is played with in Part 8 when Ryan and his family move into a run down apartment building, where the landlord, Anthony Nicoletti, has converted a broom closet into a tiny shower that only has enough pressure to summon a dribble of water. This is similar to a plot point in the Maddie series, where Maddie and her family move into a house where the shower, for whatever reason, has been installed in a cupboard outside the building itself.
  • Family Honor: The Hanzlicek family, who have a strong sense of honour and heritage for their roots.
    • After Jinny has been impregnated by Simon as a teenager, the two are forced into a shotgun marriage and, to distance themselves from her disgrace, she is disowned.
  • Family of Choice: Ryan feels himself almost part of the Hanzlicek family when he visits them in Part 3.
  • Fanservice: A few instances peppered throughout the series that are either played straight or used as gags depending on the situation:
    • At multiple points throughout the series, Ryan, Janie, Mark and others are depicted either naked or in their underwear. However, as they are child characters, this is NEVER depicted in a sexual manner and simply used either for jokes or due to the confined nature of where the characters live, be it the confined dormitory of the Port Royal High School or the intimate setting of their homes.
    • Jinny Hanson is seen either naked or in her underwear at several points throughout the series, most of the time being played straight due to the situation, although in Part 7 her nudity is used as a joke involving part of Mark's Character Development.
    • Similarly, in Part 7, Mark's curiosity for the female form, started due to seeing his mother fully naked, drives him to peek up the skirt of a woman sitting opposite him on a park bench. He is subsequently punished by said woman when she bashes him over the head with a book.
  • Fell Off the Back of a Truck: Peter claims that the $20 in his possession just 'happened' to fall out of his dad's jacket pocket.
  • Financial Test of Friendship: A sentimental inversion in Part 8 between Janie and Ryan. While Ryan is already a poor boy from a poor family, the fallout of the 1973 Oil Crisis pushes his family to the brink of destitution, and with no money left to spare, he is taken out of Port Royal high school due to his inability to pay the admission fees. While most friends would likely consider this just a sad fact of life, Janie and her family stick by Ryan by sending him a check for $25,000 so he can come back to school, cementing the fact that she truly cares deeply for him.
  • First Day of School Episode: Part 2.
  • First Kiss: In Part 6, Janie slaps a kiss on Ryan's cheek as thanks for writing a nice article about her faith in the school paper - this is not meant to be a romantic statement, though, but more a gesture of appreciation.
  • Flashback: From Part 2 onward are used to convey images of Ryan's past. In each instance, Ryan's flashbacks are distinguishable through the colour of the comic becoming muted:
    • In Part 2, Ryan's history of abuse at the hands of his father is described in flashback when he admits the truth of his life to Janie.
    • In Part 3, Ryan reflects on the history surrounding the birth of his brother Mark.
    • In Part 4, there are several short-term flashbacks and one long-term flashback. In the first half of this volume, Ryan flashes back to when Janie proposed the idea of him joining her on her trip to Israel to witness her Bat Mitzvah, and also to the evening before he was set to depart with Janie, preparing his case with his mom and brother while also illustrating how riddled with guilt he is over lying to his family. The longer term flashback, which is only one page in length, shows how Ryan as a child cared for his infant brother, Mark.
    • In Part 5, there is an extensive, silent flashback that shows the childhoods of Jinny and Simon, as they evolve from immature pranksters, to lovers, and then fall terribly from grace as Simon accidentally impregnates her, leading to them being forced into a shotgun marriage and Jinny being disowned by her family, having to start afresh, with a little help from Josie, in the ruins of inner-city Baltimore.
    • In Part 6, there is a short flashback to when Ryan first used a typewriter at his Aunt Josie's house when she was babysitting him.
    • Part 7 comprises many flashbacks, primarily as the kids, during their tent sleepover, recall either scary or funny moments of their lives.
  • Folk Music: A hippie guitarist attempts to impress his girlfriend with this in Part 1.
  • Foreshadowing: During Mark's flashback to the day he witnessed the murder of his local butcher, Floyd, the white Cadillac which performs the drive-by can be ominously seen waiting just behind the fire hydrant Ryan, Peter and their brothers are playing with.
  • Forbidden Friendship: Ryan and Janie.
  • Free-Range Children: Despite the inherent danger of their hometown, Ryan and Mark are shown to wander the streets of Baltimore without supervision.
    • The same could be said with Janie and Natasha, as they are allowed to take Ryan boating, go trick-or-treating and walk into town without their parents.
  • Freudian Slip: In Part 9, when Lizzie attempts to seduce Ryan in the hallway, she comments that Ryan is a lot 'bigger' than the other boys she's dated. Whether that's a reference to his physical height, as he's noticeably taller than those around him, or the size of his manhood, is somewhat ambiguous, but given Lizzie's character it's probably the latter.
  • A Friend in Need: Ryan to Janie.
  • Friend or Idol Decision: Ryan is left with this when Janie offers to bring him home with her for Fall Break, thus lying to his family about where he's actually going.
  • Friendly Rivalry: Janie and Fee Fee are highly competitive against each other, but also make it clear that their rivalry is all in good fun.
  • The Fundamentalist: Ryan encounters two on his travels, both his father, Simon Hanson, and Janie's uncle, Ephraim Hanzlicek. Both are highly religious men and both have strong opinions against people who aren't of their faith, with Simon having a strong hatred of Jews, though his reasons have yet to be specified, while Ephraim is untrusting of gentiles due to his experiences in World War II and the Arab-Israeli War of 1948.
  • Gangland Drive-By: In a flashback, Ryan and Mark witness one when, as they're playing in the street after cracking open a fire hydrant, their local butcher starts shouting at the kids for flooding the street, only for him to be gunned down mid-rant during a mob hit after failing to pay his protection fees.
    • Though not seen, it's implied that the later murder of a high ranking mobster and his girl in a car outside Ryan and Mark's house is a drive-by shooting.
  • Gay Cruising: Phil, who is clearly on the prowl for young boys, happens upon Ryan and attempts to lure him into his car, but is stopped by Nico.
  • Ghost Story: When Ryan and Mark spend a night in a tent with Janie and Natasha, Janie tells them of the camping tradition of telling scary stories to one another, to which she proceeds to tell them a spooky folk tale about a local Mafia burial ground in the nearby woods. The two boys, however, are distinctly unmoved, as their own experiences of the Mafia back in Baltimore quickly overshadow Janie's urban legend.
  • Girls Like Musicians: Janie shows a real affection for Ryan's piano playing skills.
    • Played with further in Ryan's dream of her in Part 4.
  • Good Shepherd: Rebecca's dad, Father Paul, is shown to be a far more welcoming and open-minded preacher than Ryan and Mark's own priest, Father Moynihan, allowing the Jewish sisters, Janie and Natasha, to join his congregation in the church as the two boys partake in the service, before inviting them all back to his house for breakfast.
  • Gotta Pass the Class: Played with in Part 4. After failing a test, this reduces Janie to tears, her reaction attributed to the fact that she does poorly at exams and tests, thus making her feel dumb.
  • Graceful Loser: While Ryan is a little broken-hearted about having to surrender his nomination for the English award for fear Simon would find out about his secret friendship with Janie, he comforts himself in the knowledge that he helped cheer Janie up with his written piece.
  • Grand Romantic Gesture: At the end of Part 3, Ryan buys Janie a small, plastic light-up Menorah as a gift for having him stay at her house, possibly also as a romantic gesture.
  • Guilt Complex: Ryan has a severe one thanks to the lies he's been telling his family about his secret Jewish friend.
    • His guilt is made most apparent when he's forced to tell the truth of his friendship with Janie to his mother, leaving him broken down in tears as to the lies he's told. Jinny, however, knows the truth as to why he did it and quickly forgives him.
  • Halloween Episode: Part 3.
  • Hammered into the Ground: Simon throws Ryan to the floor with such force it breaks his arm.
  • Harmful to Minors: Seen in a flashback during Part 7. After Mátyás shows Janie and Natasha a trick using a firecracker, a bucker of water and a coffee can, launching the can high into the air, Janie decides to replicate this on a grander scale by taking all of her father's firecrackers and putting them in a bucket in an attempt to launch a coffee can to the moon. The result is a massive explosion that blows the two girls backwards and leads to some fairly severe corporal punishment for Janie due to the obvious dangers - at the very least the two girls were protected from the blast by the sieve and colander they were wearing on their heads for helmets.
  • Heartfelt Apology: Debatable with Simon. In both Part 1 and Part 8, he sits down and apologises to members of his family for violent actions he had inflicted upon them previously, breaking Ryan's arm in Part 1, and strangling Jinny in Part 8. Regardless, how genuine Simon is as to his apology is up for conjecture, a point even lampshaded by Ryan after the apology he gives in Part 8.
    Mark: "D...did I just hear dad apologise for something? I never thought I'd see that before!"
    Ryan: "I have, trust me when I say 'don't get your hopes up'."
  • Head-in-the-Sand Management: Played with. While it's clear in Part 9 that there's a lot of bad things going on at Port Royal with the drug problems and the system of sexual favours being perpetrated by Lizzie Bishop, the teaching staff seem to be largely oblivious as to what's going on. It's only when Ryan, through his article in the school paper, breaks open the story that the teachers begin to act on the situation.
  • Head-Turning Beauty: Lizzie Bishop, she can win over every boy's attention just by showing up.
  • Held Gaze: Between Janie and Ryan on several occasions throughout Part 3. This is lampshaded by Natasha during the first instance when she declares the two of them lovebirds.
  • Hereditary Hairstyle: Inverted. Ryan and Mark have very blonde hair, while Jinny is a redhead and Simon has brown hair.
  • Heroes Love Dogs: Ryan is the proud owner of Chessie, a Jack Russell Terrier who he and his brother found abandoned in a box near their home.
  • Heteronormative Crusader: To a point with Nico. While he violently threatens to mutilate Phil for attempting to make off with his 5-year-old nephew and a pre-teen Ryan, there's nothing to say he has anything against gays in general.
  • High School: Becomes Ryan's new home at the end of Part 1.
  • Holding Hands: In a somewhat romantic gesture, Ryan puts his hand on Janie's while she's sleeping when they're aboard their flight to Israel in Part 4.
    • Are seen again doing it in the cover of Part 5.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Shirley, a hooker who lives on Ryan's street, is shown to be a kind and generous neighbor.
  • Horrible Housing: While Ryan's tiny townhouse wasn't exactly palatial, the apartment they are forced into following the 1973 Oil Crisis is a major stepdown, being overrun with drug abusers, violent criminals, peeling wallpaper, and a DIY shower that barely works.
  • Hotter and Sexier: In Part 9, aside from Lizzie Bishop's system of sexual favours which she uses to manipulate boys into doing whatever she wants, as the kids are getting older they start to indulge in the more adult aspects of teenage life, as is the case when the boy's baseball team start sharing dirty magazines with each other and discuss masturbating.
  • How Dad Met Mom: Mátyás explains to Ryan how he and his wife Justine met.
    • Shown in detail throughout Part 5 for Jinny and Simon.
  • How We Got Here: The opening of Part 9 begins with Ryan in an ambulance being sent to the hospital after suffering a serious head injury after being hit with a rock by Richard.
  • Humiliation Conga: Happens a lot in Part 9 when Janie and Fiona cross Lizzie Bishop. From an initial slew of physical pranks, including Janie being hit with a hot dog, the pair having a bucket of water thrown over them and Fiona getting glued to her chair, the real humiliation begins when one of the boys sneaks into the girl's locker room and takes photos of Fiona showering before spreading them around the school, leaving the devastated girl literally in tears and shaken for several days.

    I - P 

  • I Don't Want to Ruin Our Friendship: Ryan confesses this is the reason why he defied his father's demand that he change dorm to get away from Janie.
  • I Just Want to Have Friends: Ryan admits this to Janie as he cries over the fact they can't be together.
  • "I Know What We Can Do" Cut: As Ryan asks what he and Janie's family are planning to do on his first day at their house, Janie mentions she has a few ideas in mind, whereupon it immediately cuts to them carrying a rowing boat out to the water for a day on the lake.
  • Implied Love Interest: At several instances throughout Part 3, there are general hints that Ryan and Janie are forming an emotional attachment to each other through longing stares.
    • Touched on further in Part 4, as Janie's uncle, Ephraim, suspects that the two may eventually be lovers, and warns Mátyás of this fact.
  • Important Hair Accessory: In Part 4, when visiting Israel, all the female members of the Hanzlicek family are required to wear headscarves for the purposes of modesty.
  • Improbable Sports Skills: Played with. In Part 2, Ryan is demonstrated to score a Home Run on only his second ever swing, leaving the opposing boy's team in disarray.
  • Inconvenient Summons: During a flashback, because Ryan and Mark are fighting over a toy, Jinny has to come downstairs and break up their scrapping while she's in the middle of showering, hence she confronts her two sons fully in the buff.
  • Indian Summer: Part 2 of the story is set in September, and the heat is illustrated as being so intense, even at night, that it keeps Janie up in a puddle of sweat.
  • Informed Obscenity: Ryan toys with this when Janie shows a curiosity in his knowledge of curse words, though no words are actually spoken.
    Janie: "Curse words? Like really 'bad' ones?"
    Ryan: "Mmm... yeah, the baddest ones of all."
    Janie: "You mean like... th-the S-word?"
    Ryan: "Worse than that."
    Janie: "Th-th-the F-word?"
    Ryan: "Even worse than that."
    Janie: "There's worse? Don't worry, you can tell me."
  • Injured Limb Episode: Almost the entire of Part 1.
  • Inner City School: Ryan's elementary school at the beginning of the series.
  • Innocent Swearing: Played with. While no swear words are actually said, Ryan toys with Janie's curiosity when he mentions he knows pretty much all swear words in the book due to his working class upbringing.
  • Interrupted Intimacy: Not so much interrupted, but in a flashback, a two-year-old Ryan does peer in on his parents after they've made love.
  • Irrational Hatred: Simon Hanson against his son, Ryan.
  • Jerkass:
    • Simon is the abusive and violent father to Mark and Ryan who has no qualms beating his children violently whether he be sober or not.
    • Scott is the Jerk Jock who always insults Ryan for his perceived lack of athleticism and quiet demeanor, despite the fact he can ably match him on the boy's baseball team.
    • Lizzie Bishop is a manipulative girl who uses her physical attractiveness and the promise of sexual favours to win over boys in order to do what she wants, usually for mischievous ends.
    • While Richard was seen more as a secondary antagonist to Scott, being merely a tagalong in earlier volumes, in Part 9 he becomes the real villain after Scott is suspended, doing Lizzie's bidding to an almost fanatical degree and even putting Ryan in the hospital.
  • Jump Scare: Natasha attempts to make Ryan jump by sneaking up on him in bed and waiting for him to wake up before shouting 'Boo!', it doesn't work.
    Natasha: "Boo!"
    Ryan: "Mmm... Hi, Natasha."
    Natasha: "Aww, come on, Ryan, weren't you scared?"
    Ryan: "Nope."

    • She's a lot more successful in scaring Mark by tickling his feet to wake him up, and then popping out of the sheets shouting "GUESS WHO!!!"- but a little too much so, as this causes Mark to fall out of bed, and after being worried that she may have hurt him, Natasha tones down her rambunctious tendencies around him from then on.
  • Karma Houdini: Lizzie Bishop causes absolute mayhem in the school through her provision of drugs and system of sexual favours, yet due to her clever ability to avoid being held culpable, she manages to avoid punishment while others take the fall for her.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Demonstrated to a terrible degree in Part 9, as the kids become involved in drug pushing, violent behaviour and mischief largely at the behest of Lizzie Bishop.
    • Janie gets a sausage thrown in her face, with Lizzie making an anti-Semitic comment.
    • Janie and Fiona get a bucket of water thrown over them in the hallway.
    • Fiona gets her skirt glued to a chair and she has to be rescued by having to take her skirt off in the classroom and be lifted free by a teacher.
    • Later that same day, a boy secretly takes pictures of her in the shower and spreads them around the school.
    • Richard sticks gum in Janie's hair which requires her to have her hair cut short, thus leading to all manner of insults.
    • Someone steals Janie's menorah, a present from Ryan, and puts it under the wheel of a car where it is crushed to pieces.
    • Richard smacks Ryan over the head with a rock after Lizzie convinces him that the two had slept together.
  • Later Installment Weirdness: In Part 9, as the characters of the series reach their mid-teens, the innocence of their younger years is replaced by the more darker aspects of adult life creeping slowly in, such as drug abuse and sexuality. Ryan, however, is fully prepared for such bleak prospects as he has no innocence left to lose.
  • Leave the Two Lovebirds Alone: The implication of Natasha when she leaves Ryan and Janie alone in the spare bedroom after their first night together.
  • Life-or-Limb Decision: Ryan is left with this at the end of Part 2, predicated on whether or not he should lie to his family and go on a secret vacation with Janie to escape his torment at home. He ultimately accepts.
  • Loan Shark: In Part 7, as Ryan and Mark tell stories of the various mafia activities they've seen in Baltimore, Mark recalls the first time he saw someone being killed in a mob hit as their local butcher, named Floyd, is gunned down in broad daylight in a drive-by shooting due to non-payment of protection fees.
  • Long Last Look: Jinny, when she is forced out of her home, takes one last look at her childhood suburban house and family before being sent out into the world by her parents after she had become pregnant with Simon's child.
  • Longing Look: Janie and Ryan on multiple occasions in Part 3.
  • Looming Silhouette of Rage: When Simon bursts into Ryan's bedroom before dragging him away.
  • The Mafia: In Part 7, Ryan and Mark recall the activities of the Gambino Mob on the streets of their neighborhood in downtown Baltimore, which include witnessing multiple hits on people who fail to either pay their drug money or protection fees. At the end of Part 7, Ryan and Mark are awoken by a mob hit just outside their door when a local mafia member and a girl are gunned down in a car during the night.
  • Malaproper: Ryan has one of these at the end of Part 5, when just as he and his brother are going to bed, he accidentally reveals that his rich friend at school 'Jamie' is in fact a girl named 'Janie'. He quickly covers it up, though, and blames his mispronunciation on Mark's earlier lewd comments.
    Ryan: "I promise one day you'll meet Jamie, though, she really wants to meet you."
    Jinny: "She?"
    Ryan: "Dah! I mean he! Great, now you got me thinking about girls, you fiend!"
  • Manipulative Bastard: Lizzie Bishop.
  • Meaningful Background Event: The first instance of when Simon began to abuse Ryan is illustrated in graphic detail.
  • Meaningful Look: When it's revealed by the family doctor that Jinny is pregnant with Simon's child, unlike the rest of her family, who are devastated, Josie gives a knowing look, clearly aware that something like this was bound to happen.
  • Meet Cute: Ryan and Janie's meeting at the end of Part 1, when Ryan accidentally walks in on Janie during her evening prayer.
  • Mistaken for Gay: While Ryan never does anything specifically that looks gay, due to his apparent lack of sporting prowess, he is often called a 'faggot' for not being as athletic as the other boys.
    • Most frequently happens with Scott, who looks for any opportunity he can to call Ryan a 'faggot', or try to find evidence of any gay connections he might have.
    • In Part 6, when Ryan says he wants to confess the truth about himself and Janie, Mark assumes he was about to confess that he was secretly gay for her male alter-ego 'Jamie', to which Ryan reacts in shock at the suggestion.
    Ryan: "Mark, hold up a sec, there's something I need to confess, about Jamie and I."
    Mark: "Oh, don't tell me you're gay for each other after all!"
    Ryan: "WHAT?! NO!!"
    Mark: "It's okay, you know I don't care if you play for the other team."
    • Lampshaded by Lizzie in Part 9 when she tries to seduce Ryan. While it's clear that Ryan is aroused by Lizzie presenting herself to him in just her lingerie, he refuses to give into her, to which she threatens to use him turning her down as a tacit admission that he's gay - Ryan remains unintimidated by this threat.
  • Mob War: Implied that one is about to start at the end of Part 7, when, after a high ranking mobster is shot in a car outside Ryan and Mark's house in Baltimore, the latter comments that they'll be finding bodies in dumpsters for weeks.
  • Modesty Towel: Ryan has to wear one while he and Janie sneak back from the bathroom after washing up.
  • Moment Killer: Natasha, when she breaks up Janie and Ryan's longing stare on the boat.
  • Moment of Weakness: Multiple instances throughout the series, either caused through the trauma of Simon and Jinny's arguments or from physical violence from Simon against his kids:
    • When Jinny states that he appears to be ready to mentally crack due to the abuse he suffers, Ryan, who is eavesdropping with Mark on the nearby stairs, begins to cry and almost breaks from the revelation. It's only the presence of his brother that pulls him out of his despair.
    • Another instance is when Ryan's train departs Baltimore on the way to boarding school, leaving his brother and mother behind. As he takes his last glimpse of them, the weight of his situation hits him, and he is nearly overcome with emotion. However, he is able to quickly recover and relax into the journey ahead.
    • In Part 2, Ryan wets himself in his sleep while Janie is in the dormitory with him, resulting in the pair undertaking a clandestine mission to the bathroom to clean him up.
    • After Ryan scores his first Home Run, a vision of his father flashes through his mind, and in a fit of primal panic he runs as fast as he can into the woods. Eventually, he stops and falls to the floor in tears.
    • In Part 4, after falling while playing soccer, Ryan suffers a nosebleed, and the sight of blood on his hand causes him to briefly flashback to when he was thrown down the stairs by his dad, causing tears to run from his eyes and for him to freeze in terror. It's only after some consolation by Janie that he's able to snap out of this trance.
    • Plenty for Jinny in Part 5. While she had often given into her mischievous inclinations, it was being overcome with lustful feelings towards Simon that ultimately led to her impregnation and subsequent disowning by her family.
  • Monochrome Past: Flashbacks in this series are often shown with more muted colors, although part of this is likely due to their often dark nature.
  • Mood Whiplash: Frequently. Scenes go from ones of joy and fun to pain and torment in the span of a page or two, mostly due to Ryan's rapid mood swings or events around him that throw the mood into discontent.
    • Even more so in Part 4, when he lies to his family that he's going to California instead of Israel, the guilt of which keeps him up at night.
  • Morality Pet: Despite the hardships that Ryan faces in his life, he is still motivated to act happy around his brother Mark.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Jinny Hanson. Though she isn't a brainless pinup, there are several situations where she is depicted either scantily clad or fully nude, this being played straight or used as a visual gag depending on the situation:
    • Played straight in Part 5, as Jinny is shown undressing down to her underwear as she forces herself upon Simon Hanson, resulting in her accidental impregnation and the ruin of her life.
    • Used in a humorous manner in Part 7, where, in order to break up a fight between Ryan and Mark, she is forced to get out of the shower and confront her two sons while fully naked, resulting in her being seen nude by the pair and leading to Mark's somewhat perverted curiosity regarding the female form.
    • In Part 8, due to the decrepit nature of the apartment, the heat radiator is stuck fully on and thus leaves the room in sweltering heat, forcing her and Mark to strip down to their underwear to mitigate this.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: The baseball game in Part 2.
  • Murderers Are Rapists: Completely inverted. In Part 8, the murderer kills the other man in order to stop a rape.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: In Part 8, while viciously beating his sister's attempted murderer may be considered enough for many, the incensed brother chooses to drive things to their logical conclusion by emptying a magazine into the potential rapist.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Perhaps the most poignant is in Part 5, when the family doctor informs Jinny's family that she is pregnant, leaving Jinny with a shocking realisation that reduces her to tears.
    • Another from Jinny in Part 8, when, after finding out about Ryan's secret friendship with Janie and the lie he'd spun to keep it from her, she angrily scolds him for what he's done, reducing Ryan to tears of guilt. Seeing that she may have gone too far with her rebuke, she calms herself and gives him a hug to try and lift his spirits, realising that he didn't do it out of malice but instead out of fear from Simon.
  • Mythology Gag: In Part 8, the name of the Hanson family's landlord is given as Mr. Niemczyk. Niemczyk is what MacVeigh originally considered as a last name for Janie.
  • Naïve Animal Lover: Noted by Janie in Part 7, when, due to Natasha's love of Beagles often getting her into trouble or causing her to run away from her mother in order to chase them, she comments on the fact that if anyone ever wanted to kidnap her, it would be easy to find the perfect.
  • Naked Freak-Out: Ryan, when Janie turns to face him while he's undressed.
  • Naked People Are Funny: Subverted. When Ryan ends up naked after wetting the bed, Janie treats this very seriously, and does what she can to clean him up and get him back into their dorm before anyone sees him.
    • Played with in Part 4 when Lars watches the movie with the other boys in just his underwear because his pajamas are in the laundry, only for Janie to point out that he could've watched the film in his normal clothes, leading to his embarassment.
  • Naked People Trapped Outside: Ryan technically ends up like this when Janie takes him outside the privacy of their dorm to wash him up after he wet himself, with the strong possibility of being caught by the other students.
  • Near-Rape Experience: Happens to a woman outside Ryan's new apartment, but fortunately it is stopped when her brother intervenes and murders the man attempting to ravish his sister.
  • Never Bareheaded: In Part 4 and 5, as part of their customs of modesty, all the female characters when out of doors wear headscarves that cover their hair, though not completely.
  • Neverending Terror: Ryan is haunted by the fear of his dad's abusiveness, so much so that he sees visions of him and hears his voice, causing him to fly into a panic.
  • New-Age Retro Hippie: As the series is set in the early to mid 1970s, the hippie movement is still going strong, although its depiction within the comic is far from the romanticized 'peace and love' aesthetic many still believe it was, as per a few examples:
    • Throughout the series, hippies are often seen either taking or suffering the effects of recreational drug use.
    • In Part 7, a group of hippies are seen hurling abuse and shouting at the passing hearse of a dead serviceman, as witnessed by Ryan and Mark, although the fit of rage that Mark is pushed into causes him to kick over a stack of boxes inside of which is their future pet Jack Russell, Chessie.
    • Also in Part 7, a trio of hippie girls are seen taking drugs and sitting against a ruined van, with one of them commenting on how a couple of pigeons in front of them are able to find happiness yet they are not. This derives a somewhat poor response from Mark and Ryan.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: After Simon breaks Ryan's arm, Ryan has to make out that his injury is due to his own clumsiness.
  • Nightmare Sequence: Two are illustrated in Part 2 of the story.
  • Noble Male, Roguish Male: Ryan (Noble) is polite, soft-spoken and has strong ties to history and tradition, while Mark (Roguish) likes to use bad language and is seen to be something of a pervert.
  • Not Distracted by the Sexy: In Part 9, Ryan is confronted by Lizzie Bishop in a hallway, and after some quick jabs at each other's ideas as to the morality of her system of sexual favours, she attempts to seduce him by stripping down to just her lingerie. While Ryan is aroused by this (mentioned, not shown), he refuses to let her words, and later threats, draw him in, although it does leave him very shaken that he was so tempted.
  • Not Even Bothering with an Excuse: After Ryan offers to take Mark bowling, the latter brings up that they still need to shovel snow off the car, for which Ryan concocts an off-the-cuff excuse that it was simply reburied by the snowplough.
  • Oh, Crap!: Dominic and Miguel, after they find a severely injured Ryan on the floor outside their door.
  • One Crazy Night: With the number of intense, strange and generally unpleasant events that happen in Ryan's life, it's a wonder how any of them get any sleep:
    • Throughout the first few volumes, Ryan is the victim of his father's extremely violent abuse, being dragged out of bed to wash up the bathroom and being thrown headlong down the stairs, while also being kept up by the vicious arguments of Simon and Jinny elsewhere in the house.
    • In Part 2, Ryan, through his phobias, accidentally wets the bed, and it's up to Janie to help him get cleaned up.
    • In Part 8, on the first night at their new and terrible tenement after being forced out of their old house, Ryan, Mark and Jinny are unable to sleep as the radiator is stuck full-on, the landlord, Nico, decides to have a late night conversation with his friend, Tucker, who's even brought his loud train with him, and there's an attempted rape and subsequent murder down on the train tracks that leaves the trio being questioned by the police into the early hours.
    • Several in Part 9, starting with Ryan witnessing Scott, Richard and Lizzie taking drugs up at the top of the service stairs, leading to a scuffle between the two boys while Lizzie looks on in pleasure.
    • Later, when the boy's baseball team are spending the night in a hostel in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, after lights out the boys take to reading dirty magazines, including one which involves two Swedish lesbians having sex with a Volvo, before finding out that Scott has been taking drugs to improve his baseball performance, followed by the group encountering their teammate, Leslie, who, while smoking weed with Scott in the bathroom, was nearly kissed by the latter, leading to a kafuffle that gets them all caught and their stash of drugs and dirty magazines thrown away by the coach.
    • Later still, after Ryan has written his expository piece on the drug and sex problem at Port Royal, he is confronted by Lizzie in the hallway, who attempts to seduce him by stripping down to her lingerie and offering him a good time if he takes her side - he refuses and walks away despite being tempted.
    • The following night, Ryan is subsequently smacked over the head by Richard after Lizzie told him that she and Ryan had slept together, putting him in the hospital.
  • Only Friend: Janie to Ryan.
    • This expands over the course of the series, though, and soon Ryan has been able to gather a small group of friends, though he's nowhere near as popular as some.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: "Fee Fee" ("Fiona").
  • Old-School Chivalry: Ryan shows he is determined to be polite and kind to his new friend Janie, even going so far as to pass her towel over the top of her cubicle to her so she doesn't have to expose herself when she leaves.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: Several instances throughout the comic as characters are tested in various ways:
    • Janie has an example in Part 6 following the Munich Olympic Massacre, wherein her usual kind and friendly demeanor becomes hate-filled and vengeful. Ryan, however, decides to write a special article for her in the school paper to show that he understands the pains of her faith, and this helps to cheer her up.
    • In Part 6, Mark, who is usually a laid back though often nervous young boy, descends into an angry rage after being insulted and forced to shovel snow by their dad, even snapping in frustration at Ryan who he otherwise loves and cares for dearly - after Ryan calms him down, he is immediately regretful.
  • Pants-Free: After having a shower at the motel in Part 8, Ryan decides that, because he's in a happy mood and wants to cut loose, he only puts on his pyjama top but remains bottomless (with the exception of his underwear) - this is done mostly for laughs.
    Mark: "Don't you wanna put some pants on first?"
    Ryan: "I'm in one of those rare happy moods, so I'm gonna cut loose for a while, besides, at least you know I won't stick my butt in your face!"
  • Parents as People: Mátyás and Justine.
    • Harris and Leah to their twin daughters Jinny and Josie.
  • Parental Issues: Ryan and Mark's violent relationship with their father.
  • Parental Obliviousness: Simon demonstrates this when he doesn't attend Ryan's birthday; instead having an all-day binge.
    • While it may have been due to them knowing Simon as a friend of Jinny's, allowing her to go alone with him in his car out into the countryside could constitute an act of obliviousness, perhaps because they were unaware that the two were romantically involved, or felt they could put their trust in their daughter not to get up to funny business.
  • The Peeping Tom: Revealed in Part 7 to be Mark, after he tries to look up a girls skirt due to his fascination with the female form.
  • Persecuted Intellectuals: Ryan, a notable bookworm, is called names and treated badly by Scott MacCready, a jockish boy who's better than him at sports.
  • Personal Horror: The guilt of Ryan's lies begins to stack up on him, especially in Part 4 after he lies to his family about going to California when in fact he's going to Israel, which keeps him up at night with worry. Eventually, he tries to talk to god in order to dispel his worries.
  • Picked Last: When Janie offers Ryan to the boys team as part of their baseball game, Scott MacCready, the boy's captain, snidely refuses, instead calling him a 'faggot'.
  • Police Are Useless: A mixed bag:
    • During the 1968 Baltimore Race Riot, while the police do help Ryan and his family escape their townhouse, it's only when the rioters, burning and looting every step of the way, are literally at the end of their street, that they decide to get them out.
    • Based on the rampant crime and with mafia activity apparently allowed to happen without interruption, law enforcement in Ryan's neighbourhood is practically non-existent.
  • Porn Stash: In Part 9, the boys baseball team, after winning their championship, break out a sizeable stash of dirty magazines after lights out, one of which is an incredibly strange Swedish magazines which involves two lesbians 'making love' with a Volvo.
  • Poverty Porn: A common feature of the series, especially in Part 8 after Ryan and his family are plunged into a world of destitution following the 1973 Oil Crisis.
  • Prayer of Malice: The teaching's Father Moynihan, who instils fear into his congregation while condemning the weak and useless to everlasting damnation.
  • Prayer Pose: The first thing Ryan sees Janie doing when they meet.
    • Ryan adopts this pose during a terrifying nightmare when he is confronted by Jewish and Christian symbols.
    • Ryan takes this pose briefly to say grace when dining with the Hanzliceks in Israel.
    • Ryan adopts the same in Part 4 when he has a crisis of faith, hoping to share his inner guilt and worries with god.
    • In Part 7, Ryan and Mark both adopt the pose when attending church.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: While there was no guarantee that Ryan would have won the award, the fact that his written piece for Janie was nominated was a victory in itself, but sadly one he couldn't accept for fear that his parents, specifically Simon, would find out about his secret trip to Israel and his association with a Jewish girl.

    R - Y 

  • Rape as Drama: The near rape of a woman just outside Ryan's new apartment is used to illustrate the horrific conditions of his family's new neighbourhood; somehow worse than the crime-ridden hellhole they'd known before.
  • Real Is Brown: Set in 1971, brown is represented prominently throughout the series.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Throughout the course of the series, the school principal at Port Royal has always demonstrated a fair sense of judgement and is willing to listen to those who have genuine concerns, as is the case with Ryan and his home problems in Part 6, and when he raises the problem of drugs and sexual favours in Part 9. It's clear that the principal has a genuine liking for Ryan and is therefore seen, in return, as someone Ryan can confide in.
  • Red Light District: Essentially where Ryan lives in Baltimore.
  • Rejected Apology: As shown during a flashback in Part 7, Jinny's father, Harris, refuses to accept any form of apology from his disowned daughter after she disgraced their family through her pranks and mischief, before accidentally becoming pregnant with Simon. His refusal to accept his daughter extends to her children too, as he doesn't even acknowledge them and is sickened by the thought of seeing them.
  • Run or Die: Ryan, when he is confronted by a vision of his father after the baseball game.
  • Saintly Church: Unlike Ryan and Mark's own church in Baltimore, Father Paul's church in Connecticut is used to instill a sense of community spirit, this extending not only to the Christian population of the town, but members of other faiths.
  • Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Ryan is shown to be quite downplayed and understated in his excitement, while Janie is loud, raucous and full of energy.
  • Scenery Porn: The comic captures a wide variety of long-gone scenes from the seventies, ranging from the idealized rural America of the Pennsylvania countryside to the urban ruin of Baltimore. And then there's the scenery of Israel in volumes 4 and 5.
    • Part 8 is spent primarily during the winter months of 1973 and early 1974, showing the Northeast USA coated in thick snow.
  • School Play: In Part 8, Ryan, Janie and Fiona take part in a variety show attended by both Ryan and Janie's families. In the roles, Ryan plays a Cajun piano teacher who's attentions are fought over by two feuding Southern Belles played by Janie and Fiona.
  • School Sport Uniform: Worn by the students during gym class.
  • The Scream: Ryan, after Simon breaks his arm.
    • Another instance is when Ryan is thrown down the stairs by Simon.
  • Secret Relationship: After Jinny takes pity on a distressed Simon, leading to her kissing him, the two embark on a secret sexual relationship, pursued primarily by Jinny, as she leaves notes in Simon's desk telling him where they'll meet for a sexual liaison. Naturally, it ends badly.
  • Seven Dirty Words: Ryan plays with Janie's curiosity when he says he knows the worst swear words known to man, to which she eagerly wants to know. He doesn't tell her.
  • Sexless Marriage: While it is shown that Simon and Jinny have made love in the past in order to conceive Ryan and Mark, after the latter's birth and Simon's apparent rejection of him, Jinny has lost all physical or emotional affection for her husband, and now the two are barely on speaking terms, let alone having an intimate relationship.
  • Sexy Scandinavian: As shown in a magazine that one of the boy's baseball team players presents for his friends when they share dirty magazines after light's out. Apparently having picked it up in Sweden, the magazine depicts two lesbians as they make love with a Volvo, apparently making use of the tailpipe as this is the closest thing the car has to human anatomy.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: More a case with Janie, as her friends appear to bombard her with suggestions that she and Ryan are in love, which she flatly denies. Ryan, meanwhile, isn't asked about his potential feelings for Janie.
  • Shipper on Deck:
    • Both Janie's sister Natasha and her friend Becky seem to be this for her and Ryan.
    • By Part 6, it seems that Lars and Fee Fee have become them too.
  • Shotgun Wedding: Simon and Jinny after she was accidentally impregnated by him.
  • Shout-Out: There are various references to pop culture throughout the series, including:
    • In Part 3, Janie, Ryan and Natasha are watching the Vincent Price horror film House on Haunted Hill.
    • In Part 4, as part of the sixth grade movie night, the boys dorm are watching Mackenna's Gold.
    • In Part 5, Ryan, together with Janie, Natasha and their extended family, are watching Thunderbirds on the TV.
    • In Part 6, Ryan and Mark while away the winter watching the original series of Astro Boy, before their dad insults them and demands they go and clean the snow off the car.
    • In Part 7, the kids decide to watch the 1950's sci-fi horror movie Them!.
  • Shower Shy: Ryan has this concern when it comes time for he and Janie to wash up, primarily because she's a girl in a boy's dormitory.
  • Sibling Rivalry: A humorous one is examined between Janie's cousins, Tirzah and David Hanzlicek, who are constantly but playfully making jibes at each other.
    Tirzah: (Writing in the sand at the beach) "David is the Fattest"
    David: (Writing in the sand at the beach) "Tirzah is a Moron"
  • Sickening "Crunch!"!: Ryan, after Simon breaks his arm.
  • Single Mom Stripper: Shirley, after two boyfriends abandoned her when she was carrying their respective children.
  • Skinny Dipping: In Part 7, during a flashback, Peter's brother Nick does some when the boys are playing in the spray of a fire hydrant.
  • Sleep Cute: In Part 4, on the flight between America and Israel, Janie uses Ryan's shoulder as a pillow, which he seems to find cute.
  • Slice of Life: The story largely follows the everyday lives of Ryan and Janie as they try to endure an ever-changing world.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: The series illustrates both the innocence of being young in the 1970s (before mobile phones and the internet), but also shows the urban, social and economic stagnation of the United States; especially in Baltimore.
  • Staircase Tumble: In a flashback, Ryan is thrown down the stairs by Simon during a drunken rage.
  • Sticky Fingers: Peter.
  • Starving Student: In Part 8, Ryan is unable to pay for his schooling at Port Royal due to fallout of the 1973 Oil Crisis plunging his family into crippling debt, threatening his entire future.
  • The Stoners: Plenty of occasions where hippies are seen abusing drugs and suffering their effects, either passed out in the street or babbling nonsense.
  • Stoners Are Funny: Due to the series being set in the early 1970s, there are no shortage of hippie's openly smoking drugs and getting up to weird antics as a result.
  • Street Walker: Plenty on Ryan's street.
  • Struggling Single Mother: While Jinny is married to Simon, he might as well not be there for what little he does, therefore a majority of the work raising Ryan and Mark, as well as bringing home the family income, falls upon her shoulders.
  • Suspicious Spending: Played with. Peter steals $20 from his dad's jacket, and then spends it with his friends, Ryan and Frank, as soon as possible in order to cover up his crime.
  • Symbol Swearing: Used in Part 6 when Mark throws his shovel down in frustration, likely because his nasty curse word was muffled by the face mask he was wearing against the cold.
  • Sympathy for the Hero: Janie spends much of Part 2 trying to understand why Ryan is in so much emotional distress, and is willing to listen when he finally has an emotional breakdown and admits the truth of his past.
  • "Take That!" Kiss: Janie gives Natasha one when she tries to sneak up on her after she arrives home in Part 3.
    • Mark gives Natasha one towards the end of Part 7 as a joke while Ryan is playing 'Oh My Darling, Clementine' on the piano.
    • In Part 8, Natasha gets her own back by slamming a kiss on Mark after watching Ryan and Janie perform in the school play.
  • Taking the Bullet: After being caught spying on their parents argument, Ryan is captured by his drunken father and subsequently has his arm broken; allowing Mark to scamper away to safety.
  • Tap on the Head: After being thrown down the stairs by Simon, Ryan receives a large cut across his forehead.
  • Tears of Fear: Ryan on multiple occasions, both awake and when he's asleep.
  • Teenage Wasteland: In Part 9 especially, once the more adult aspects of teenage life start to appear such as drugs and sexuality.
  • Teen Pregnancy: Implied with Ryan's mother Jinny, who mentions that she and Simon were 16 the first time they made love. [[spolier: Confirmed in Volume 5]].
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Ryan is demonstrated to be a kind and caring person, but is constantly abused and hurt by his father.
  • Train-Station Goodbye: Multiple instances throughout the series. As the younger characters aren't old enough to drive and their only option is to travel by train, there are plenty of moments where the characters bid farewell to each other - usually at the end or towards the end of each volume - at a train station.
  • Trauma Button: Ryan's fragile state of mind means he is susceptible to sudden bad memories that will overcome him with dread:
    • In Part 2, Ryan is suddenly thrown into a panic after scoring his Home Run during a baseball game, the implication being that just the act of associating himself with Janie - a girl he's been strictly told by his father not to be around because she's Jewish - is enough to uncap the fear of his father's wrath.
    • In Part 4, Ryan is illustrated to have a fear of blood when, after getting a nosebleed when falling over during a football game, he is frozen in terror at the sight of blood on his hands, taking his mind back to nights of abuse he suffered at his father's hands.
  • Traumatic Haircut: In Part 9, at the behest of Lizzie, Richard sticks chewing gum into Janie's hair which requires for large portions of it to be cut off.
  • Troubled Backstory Flashback: As Ryan explains to Janie the truth of his violent background, this is visualized in the form of a flashback showing in detail the pain he has suffered.
    • Part 5 with Simon and Jinny.
  • True Companions: Ryan and Janie. Both stick up for each other and support each other despite their religious and social differences, each character bringing to the other a new perspective and new experiences which help to make them more rounded people.
  • Underdogs Never Lose: At the start of the baseball game, Ryan has never played before and is thus looked down upon by the other boys in the team. However, he soon scores himself a Home Run, shocking the boys and leaving them in total panic, allowing the girl's team to win.
  • Urban Hellscape: Baltimore.
  • Vacation Episode: Part 3.
    • Part 4 and Part 5, but this one has a little more of a purpose as it's in order for Janie to undergo her Bat Mitzvah.
    • Part 7 shows Ryan, this time with Mark in tow, travelling to visit Janie up at her Candlewood Lake mansion.
  • The Vietnam War: The series is set against the backdrop of discontent caused by the Vietnam War, which helped fuel the social decay of American society during the 1970s. It is also shown through images on TV and mentioned.
    • The character of Anthony Nicoletti was a Master Sergeant with the 101st Airborne, and fought during the Vietnam War with many stories to tell.
  • Victorious Loser: Though Ryan has to surrender his nomination for the English award after writing a written piece about Janie for fear his parents, specifically Simon, would find out that he'd secretly gone to Israel and been associating with a Jewish girl, he takes comfort in the fact that the piece cheered Janie up, which to him was the real award.
  • Villain Killer: Ironically, the man who murders the villainous attempted-rapist of his sister, is himself a villain by way of being a member of a violent Puerto Rican gang.
  • Violence Is Disturbing: Ryan asks why his dad does such terrible, violent things to him, to which Simon responds by threatening him with death.
  • Visual Pun: In Part 5, during the montage of Jinny and Simon's destructive adolescence, Simon is seen to smash someone's Jack-o'-lantern with a sledgehammer to Jinny's amusement - given MacVeigh's taste in music, this is an obvious visual gag to the band, The Smashing Pumpkins.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: Jinny gets multiple, two due to her suffering the effects of morning sickness, and another when she tries whisky for the first time and promptly brings it back up in a toilet.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Simon and Jinny were once best friends in their youth, but have now become the worst of enemies after being chained together in a shotgun marriage.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Ryan has a lot of ideals in his head when it comes to how the world should be, although they are often smashed by the realities of what life actually is.
  • Wild Hair: Ryan and Janie are usually left like this after exerting themselves, such as playing Baseball or swimming.
  • When You Coming Home, Dad??: Simon is frequently absent from family events due to his drinking addiction.
  • Working-Class Hero: Ryan Hanson.
  • Working-Class People Are Morons: Played with in many cases. While not every working class person in the series is depicted as stupid, Ryan, Peter and their respective families being fine examples, there are still plenty of morons to choose from in the dark streets of Baltimore, including junkies, alkies, violent criminals and deluded hippies.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Simon has no qualms about violence towards his children, especially Ryan, who he even throws down the stairs.
  • Wretched Hive: Ryan's home of Baltimore is illustrated to be crime-ridden, impoverished and filled with vice, a place in which he and his family just barely get by.

In the book

    A - R 

  • Adaptation Inspiration: The book, while following the same general story as the comic, expands greatly on the character of Ryan, making it a retrospective story by his older self rather than real-time as depicted in the comic. It also dives deeper into the wider decay of American society during the late sixties and early seventies to help set the scene.
  • All There in the Manual: The novelisation of the comic essentially gives greater background detail as to the scenes depicted, elaborating on character traits and histories in a way the comic doesn't.
  • The Alleged Car: Simon's Envoy Special sedan is described as being a rusty, broken down wreck.
    "Our chariot of choice was a clapped out, partially rusted Envoy Special sedan from the early sixties; its stout body and round headlights looking starkly out of place among the boxy, modern replacements that passed it on the open highway."
  • Amtrak: The formation of Amtrak is discussed during Part 3 as Janie and Ryan head north to her home in rural Connecticut.
  • The American Dream: A major theme that is explored more in the book than the comic is the concept of the American Dream and its place in the decaying society of the time.
    "The American Dream isn’t some kind of washed up movie actor; pensioned off to a dusty retirement home in southern California while occasionally making guest appearances when people start to feel nostalgic. It’s a real thing; a living part of our country’s spirit that can be bestowed – like a dream come true – on anyone."
  • Angry Black Man: Ryan states that due to the strong presence of the Black Panthers, he, his brother, and his friends, can't play safely outside for fear of being kidnapped or killed for either ransom or as a political statement.
  • Cool Car: The Dino 206 GT that Ryan encounters on the way to the Park with Simon.
    • At the end of Part 7, Ryan and Mark encounter Peter guarding a brand new and very expensive Lincoln Continental as part of a makeshift protection racket, the two brothers choosing to join him in using the car's massive hood as a sunbed.
  • The Alleged Car: A stolen Corvette which is dragged out of the lake at Druid Hill Park after being deposited there by the thieves.
    "A little way beyond, a stolen Corvette – unceremoniously deposited the previous night by a gang of joyriding youths – was winched ashore under the supervision of two policemen."
  • Darker and Edgier: Compared to the comic, the book goes into greater detail as to the scale of the social and urban decay, with coarser language and descriptions of events that help set the ruined scene:
    • In one example, Ryan describes the murder of a young girl as the reason why he and his friends always walk home in a group, especially during winter:
    "Two years prior, a young girl walking by herself had been lured into a car by a man asking for directions. She eventually turned up six months later in the Delaware River, barely recognisable as a human being. Without witnesses, the soulless beast who’d left her that way was never caught. Since then, we’d all taken extra steps to make sure none of us ended up the same way."
    • Though not obvious in the comic, Shirley - Ryan's neighbour - is elaborated on as a sex worker; the victim of two ex-boyfriends who abandoned her when she became pregnant with their children.
  • End of an Age: As part of the book's description of American society's decay during the late sixties and early seventies, many symbols of the national character are noted as ruined or dilapidated.
  • From Stray to Pet: Ryan describes how he and his brother found their pet dog, Chester, as a half-staved stray near their home, and how they decided to take him in as a pet.
  • It Began with a Twist of Fate: According to Ryan, the only reason he decides to recount his life is due to a letter from his long-estranged brother, Mark, who had spent years searching for him.
    "The decision to write this account of my life came suddenly; inspired by an unexpected letter received from my younger brother, Mark, about two weeks ago. This is the first time I’d heard from my brother for twelve years; apparently, he’d hunted me extensively in the hope that we may one day meet again."
  • Refuge in Audacity: Having stolen $20 from his dad's jacket, Peter attempts to use it in order to watch the recently released Klute at a nearby cinema, despite the fact that this is an R-Rated movie and all three of them are 10-years-old.
    "Since he’d procured the money in such an underhanded manner, the expectation was to take it as far as we could."