What happens when you mix Victorian-era illustrations with modern day insanity?
Welcome to the world of David Malki !'s Wondermark. A world of top hats and Steampunk laptops played down to contrast the modern, neurotic characters that populate it. A gag-a-day webcomic with Negative Continuity and no recurring characters (except maybe the alien Gax and "superevil" puppy butt Mr Meanscary), each strip is a brief window into the lives of absurd but not entirely unrealistic new people.
The humor is a little diverse on a strip-to-strip basis but the bulk of it comes from good ol' human neuroses and eccentricities. Common subjects are banter and 'duels', often between spouses, observations about society and culture, poop jokes and a healthy dose of hypocrisy and narcissism. There's also an occasional abstract strip that relies more on visual gags and general weirdness. One thing that always remains prevalent is a strong sense of irony.
The author has arranged some of his favorite strips on a single page as an introduction to new readers; this can be found here. Of particular interest to tropers is this strip, featuring the Electro-Plasmic Hydrocephalic Genre-Fiction Generator 2000.
Wondermark provides examples of:
- Advanced Tech 2000: The Electro-plasmic Hydrocephalic Genre-Fiction Generator 2000, a cutting edge steampunk device to automatically generate genre fiction summaries.
- Alt Text: Of the bonus joke kind.
- Anachronism Stew: The DeLorean as a train.
- Art-Style Dissonance: The art is taken straight from sophisticated Victorian art. The jokes are absurd and often nonsensical.
- Author Tract: Frequently subverted. Characters will start off making a typical 'angry webcomic author' rant at someone, only to go somewhere very, very strange. Example.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: The Starhorse arc invokes this in the most frustrating way possible—the fisherman ends up only catching one of five horse-heads, and every time he tries to make a wish the single head warns him that whatever he wishes for will be reduced to one-fifth in the most inconvenient way possible. It's ultimately revealed that it could have granted him a whole wish at any time it wanted.Linehorse: ...But alone, I can only one-fifth grant wishes.
Fisherman: Ah! So if I were to ask for five million dollars, might I still get one?
Linehorse: Kind of like that. You would get five million fifth-dollars. Like, bills, but only one-fifth of each bill. Or sacks and sacks of wedge-shaped coins. No vending machine will take them.
- Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: "At the Walforth Barber Academy, our credentialed graduates coif kings, popes, and emperor-pope-kings."
- Comedic Sociopathy: All over the place, but especially Gax, who loathes the Earth and everyone on it.Jascobb: I wonder how many times you or I have some very generic bad luck, like missing a job interview, and it redounded to the absolute life-changing benefit of some stranger we'll never meet.
Gax: I hope every action I take is causing ripples of unfathomable misery that'll eventually blight the life of every human being on this putrid planet, otherwise I've been wasting my efforts.
- Continuity Nod: Strip #245 features an elephant on a runaway wheeled contraption. More than 10 years later, Strip 1425 provides an origin story of sorts for this elephant, showing how he ended up on his wild journey. A series of strips starting at Strip 1437 are also sequels to the first 25 strips or so.
- Critical Research Failure: This one: Salesman: "Hello sir for order a camel?"Customer: "Capital! Thank you! Just one question before I set off. How high can this beast fly? Are we talking mountain-vaulting altitudes or is it more a graze-the-steeples type of affair?"
- Cut-and-Paste Comic: Most of the time, made from old Victorian etchings cut and pasted together. Though image manipulation is fairly common.
- Dead All Along: Word of God says this has been true for everyone since the very beginning.
- Deliberate Flaw Retcon: In-universe, the plot of #1074. A writer tries to write a book where the characters have flaws and immaturities, with the goal of showing a more realistic setting. When he shows it to someone, she notes that she doesn't like any of the characters, at which he declares that they were actually meant to be unsympathetic all along.
- Disneyfication: Discussed and defended in this comic, where the turban-wearing man says that most original fairy stories were barely-disguised lectures that rewarded children who obeyed rules, and part of the value of Disneyfication is recognising children want stories where the heroes get to make choices and improve themselves.
- The Fantastic Trope of Wonderous Titles: Electro-plasmic Hydrocephalic Genre-Fiction Generator 2000, with a long, elaborate, and slightly made-up name for a wondrous steampunk fiction summary-generating device.
- Feghoot: As of #1424, at least 10 consecutive strips all consist of scenarios that exist to end with the punchline "Check out my sick elephant", the references becoming increasingly convoluted and pun-based with time.
- Franchise Zombie: In-universe example in the Comic Strip Doctor column, Malki dissects this phenomenon as it relates to newspaper comics. Established strips run on brand recognition for decades after they cease to be funny, and newspapers are afraid to take risks on new artists. The result is, it's extremely difficult to get into the business, and the majority of newspaper comics are boring, predictable drivel. He considers webcomics to be the cure, because while Sturgeon's Law still applies, the truly talented now have an outlet to get their work recognized without having to compete for space on the funny page with the likes of Dennis the Menace (US) and Ziggy.
- Gibberish of Love: Possibly. A woman says hello to a baseball player, who responds with "GROOB". An awkward silence follows. They never meet again, and he never gets over it.
- God Is Evil: Discussed in a series of strips beginning here.
- Grammar Nazi: Larry the Language Nerd. He grows out of it, saying that correcting people becomes more annoying than the mistake itself. Except...Man: Ginormous.
Larry: (convulsing with rage) AAAHHHHH
- Ice-Cream Koan:"God, with a sword, can make a man a king. But a king, with a sword, can only make a man a knight. A knight, with a sword, can make a man a corpse. So... I kind of forgot where I was going there."
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: In which most of the comics are named as such.
- In Which a Trope Is Described: Most strips have titles like "In which X happens".
- It's Been Done: A man claims to have invented "food inside of bread." He's less than happy to be told that dumplings already exist. In the followup strip, he thinks he still deserves some recognition for inventing them independently — a claim which, even if true, his friend finds unimpressive.Ben's Friend [wrapping up]: But so what? What do you want, a medal?
Ben: What is that
Ben's Friend: It's like... an award, that you wear around your neck.
Ben: Dangit I had that idea too!
Alt Text: Well, in MY conception they'd mainly give them out for military heroism and athletic achievement...you're KIDDING ME. YOU ARE KIDDING ME. FOR CRYING. OUT. LOUD.
- I Wished You Were Dead: Parodied here. A child angrily wishes his mother was dead. Her response: faking cancer for 20 years until he apologizes.
- Jerkass Genie: Turns out that the one-fifth of a starhorse could have granted one whole wish whenever it wanted to.
- Meaningful Name:Mr. Meanscary, a child-eating monster that happens to look like the backside of a dog. He angrily claims his grandfather was given the name on Ellis Island (although the Alt Text indicates he's still a child-eater).
- Mistaken for Pedophile: In strip 346, an artist is giving a child a lesson until the child's mother angrily and incorrectly accuses him of being a pedophile.
- Mundane Made Awesome: What was going through your mind? An interview with a football player just trying to catch the ball turns into a mystical journey.
- Necessary Fail: In one strip, a father posits that all mistakes and bad things that happen are necessary to avoid a Bad Future, and have already been attempted and evaluated by time travelers.
- Negative Continuity: While there are some recurring characters, most strips are one-offs with no continuity, though occasionally there are short story arcs.
- Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot:
- Nobody Here but Us Statues: This◊ Drabble Remix Comic from The Comic Strip Doctor.
- Oh Wait, This Is My Grocery List: Applied to an unfortunate Cyrano , who mixes up his grocery list with his love poems.
- Old British Money: Price SixpenceOr by post Sixpence Halfpenny
- Once an Episode: The Comic Strip Doctor column always ends with, "See you in the funny pages."
- Opinion Myopia: In-Universe: "It's tough to be cursed with perfect taste."
- Overly Long Airplane Banner Gag: Done in this strip, using a bird rather than an airplane.
- Overly Long Gag: at least 10 consecutive strips, as of #1424 that all consist of increasingly convoluted puns around the phrase "Check out my sick elephant". Lampshaded in #1424, where a character says, "Don't worry, I'm practicing getting a lot of mileage out of some very thin material."
- The Password Is Always "Swordfish": 
- Piano Drop: This is why you don't eat those little desiccant packets.
- Remix Comic: Some of the articles in The Comic Strip Doctor feature edited strips intended to feature better humor. One particular edit for Cathy at first has the punchline, "You didn't put them back in the bags." David, deciding that nobody would get it outside of comic book nerds, changes it to, "I can't see the TV."
- The Rant: Malki!'s news post consists of a mix of commentary on the comics, behind-the-scenes how it's made type work, and sideproject announcements.
- Retraux: The whole visual theme involves mashing up steampunk stylings with modern scenarios.
- Running Gag:
- So Beautiful, It's a Curse: "Isn't it just awful being pretty?"
- Space Jews: Parodied with a series of strips featuring the Mexicans, a race of aliens. Everyone assumes they're supposed to be an elaborate metaphor about immigration, but they have nothing to do with the real Mexicans of Earth.
- Space Whale Aesop: Parodied in strip #394. The real reason you're not supposed to eat those little dessicant packets is that if you do, you will be crushed by a falling piano.
- Stereotype Flip: A bunch of aliens from the planet Mexico, who are natural-born accountants and cobblers. When asked about them, Gax describes them as being renowned for their bravery, loyalty, and work ethic, only to reveal he was talking about the real Mexicans on earth, inverting the common "Lazy Mexican" stereotype.
- Species Surname: Gax the Gaxian.
- Steampunk: Most often used to stand-in for modern technology though more straight examples exist.
- The Talk: In the form of a tree trying to talk to his anguished son about "pollination."
- Talking Animal: Tagged as humanized animals.
- Those Magnificent Flying Machines: A regular fixture in many strips such as this one.
- Ticket-Line Campout: Subject of this strip where a bunch of people are supposedly camped out to buy the new Harry Potter book.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: If there are sights to be seen, odds are they're one of these. In this world, people can see anything from demons hiding in the skins of children to skateboarding manatees and take it all with a grain of salt.
- Vampire Vannabe: Parodied here. A woman is eager to be turned into a vampire, but unfortunately she's merely found an ordinary cannibal instead.
- What Do You Mean, It's Not Didactic?: Parodied here, where some people meet a group of aliens called Mexicans who they assume are part of a metaphor about immigration. They aren't.
- Wiki Walk: Played with in this strip.
- Your Normal Is Our Taboo: Gaxians consider hair-brushing a very personal thing.