Follow TV Tropes


Webcomic / Zap!

Go To

Zap! (not to be confused with the classic Underground Zap Comix by Robert Crumb, or ZZap! the Commodore 64 magazine) is a science fiction webcomic which ran from 2003 to 2014, written by Chris Layfield and drawn by Pascalle Lepas.

A goofy amnesiac named Zap, though an improbable coincidence, becomes the captain of a Cool Starship called the Excelsior. He discovers that he is psychic and falls for the first officer, Reona, who is still heartbroken after the previous captain, Efrem had been killed in action - or was he? Reona and the ship's mechanic, Grontar, and navigation droid, Robot, aren't too thrilled about Zap being picked as the captain, mostly because Zap is a doofus and not captain material at all.

Meanwhile, generals of the Galactic Earth Federation, Maximus Verbatim and Feonix Yago, are plotting to overthrow the boofonish president Billings. Helping them is a mysterious figure who calls himself the Serpent and is organising a psychic army. Gambits accrue. The Serpent is very interested in news about a rouge psychic the troops encountered, and goes to search for Zap himself.

After some not-exactly-thought-out-wandering and a catastrophe or two, Excelsior crew goes to meet Kasey the Stickle, Reona's friend, to ask her help. At the same space station Zap runs into Gunner, a psychic who claims to be an old friend and worms his way onboard, ostensibly to teach Zap about his powers.

And then things stop being goofy.

The comic finally concluded in September, 2014.

It contains examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer:
    • How Reona sees Zap at first, not as much because he's a stowaway who smells like garbage, but because the first thing he does upon seeing her is try to flirt. Badly. While being held upside-down by Grontar, who caught him stowing away on the ship.
    • Robot is less than thrilled by Kasey's advances. This goes for most robots, actually.
  • Achievements in Ignorance: Zap, holding a lazer gun for the first time, zaps three troopers at once. By dropping it.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Kasey likes to call Robot "Sparky".
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Due to Poor Communication Kills Zap gets locked in the cell when he blunders into the Resistance members. He tries to escape through an air-vent. And he does. Problem is, on the other side of the vent there's Yago and his troops waiting...
  • The Alleged Boss: President Billings, nominally in charge of The Empire, keeps undermining his sinisterness by how incredibly, comically stupid he acts. Even his Evil Laugh is more weird than scary. The real mastermind behind his power seems to be the Serpent, who's trying to bring the empire down from the inside, and the generals who are plotting an Evil Plan of their own.
  • Always Save the Girl: For all his bad pick-up lines, Zap's attitude towards Reona.
    Zap: I'll make sure you're okay. Always.
  • Amnesia Danger: When Zap has to figure out how to work the hyperjump with his forgotten powers, or get shot out of the sky by GEF.
  • Amnesiacs are Innocent: That's complicated. When we meet Zap, he is an Idiot Hero, goofy, very childish and blundering, but generally well-meaning. As it later turns out, he was the mastermind behind the Evil Plan Gunner is putting in motion now. He began getting second thoughts (partly because he fell in love) and orchestrated another plan to give himself amnesia and invoke this very trope to have a chance with the girl he only saw in his dreams - Reona.
  • Amusement Park: The big, dramatic fight that marks the beginning of Cerebus Syndrome takes place in an amusement park (partly in the Hall of Mirrors).
  • Animated Actors: Not animated, but a filler comic portrayed the characters as actors playing parts, including a classically trained guy in a cheesy sci-fi role (i.e. playing Robot).
  • Animal Motifs: Gunner's associated with snakes and Zap with falcons. They're represented by those animals in psychic dreams and sometimes explicitly called their names. They have their respective motifs tattooed on their upper arms (which is how Gunner convinces Zap they know each other in the first place).
  • Art Evolution: Both Pascalle's art and Chris's writing noticeably improve over the years - from odd angles and somewhat awkward exposition to a polished comic that has more to it than snarky humor.
  • Artificial Limbs: In the backstory, Naveed cut off Reona's arm, necessitating one of these. It's Kasey's work, and early in the story Reona has her add a powerful blaster for self-defense.
  • As You Know: President Billings' emergency meeting of command.
    Billings: For those of you unfamiliar with my cabinet... To my right is Feonix Yago, general of the air and aquatic forces. And to my left is Maximus Verbatim, general of or ground troops and vehicles. Now, the reason you have been called here is of controversial nature. But in order to create dramatic suspense, I will now pause here for three minutes. (grins)
  • Batman Gambit: Gunner's plan not only allows for the generals' betrayal, it depends on it.
  • Battle Aura: Psychics, when seriously irked, emanate an aura in their colour (green for Zap, blue for Efrem, yellow for Gunner).
  • Beat Panel: Before the Cerebus Syndrome sets in, Zap's blunders are met with these. By everyone in the room making identical, "you idiot" faces. Aliens and robots included. Also, as they're arguing on page twenty:
    Robot: By the way... I'm picking up two GEF battle cruisers heading straight for us. Thought you'd like to know.
    All the organics in the room stare, jaws dropped.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The political plot gets neatly resolved, Gunner gets depowered and stranded with Naveed, but Efrem takes Heroic Sacrifice and dies and Zap seems to die, as well. Although this is Disney Death and he comes back in the epilogue.
  • Body Horror: The bizarre creature that kills the bounty hunters. It's some sort of goo beast that can bore through flesh and armor, and also has image-perfect shape-shifting ability - though it gives itself away when trying to talk.
  • Borrowed Biometric Bypass: Naveed uses a guard's severed hand to retrieve her sword while breaking out of a high-security prison.
  • Bookends: "For some people, the future is now" concludes both the Opening Monologue and the ending monologue.
    • Also, Reona sees Zap for the first time as he's hanging upside-down. He's hanging upside-down again as he returns to her in the epilogue.
  • Bounty Hunter: The four Elementaros are initially brought in by the Galactic Earth Federation as bounty hunters to pursue Zap and company.
  • Bridal Carry: After Reona is injured and faints during the battle on rebel outpost, Zap carries her into the ship this way.
  • Bungling Inventor: The Stickles. This is their hat. They're on their seventh home planet, having blown up the previous six, and Kasey, who has one working invention under her belt that hasn't blown up (yet... hopefully...) may be the least bungling one of her race.
    Naveed (regarding Reona's artifical hand): You let a Stickle put something on you on purpose?
  • Can't Kill You, Still Need You: Gunner is rather frank about only not killing William because he has a use for him.
  • Calming Tea: Grontar is introduced offering Reona a cup of something hot to drink along with emotional comfort when she worries about their lack of captain.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Zap's Dreaming of Things to Come (when he gets eaten by giant snake) and Reona's Past Experience Nightmares in which she relives losing Efrem as well as her Talking in Your Dreams session with Zap end like this.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: Before the crew visits Demonica, it's all goofying off and Zap's amnesia putting him in silly situations. Come the amusement park battle and revelations come, along with Blood from the Mouth wounds and characters actually, dramatically dying all of a sudden.
  • The Chessmaster: The Serpent has at least three plans going on at once and is only really thwarted by The Power of Love.
  • Clothing Damage: Zap, Reona, and Grontar ruin their spiffy clothes in the amusement park battle. But Reona's nice sheer hose survive the fight without even a run. Gunner's cloak gets dramatically torn, as well.
  • Color-Coded Characters: The three main psychics have different colored Battle Auras and eye glows. Zap's are green, Efrem's are blue, and Gunner's are yellow.
  • Conspicuous Gloves: Reona begins the story wearing an elbow-lenght glove to hide her prosthetic hand.
  • Contrived Coincidence:
    • Just a Excelsior crew are preparing to launch, and Zap is preparing to stow away (under fire from GEF), Excelsior decides she's found a new captain and won't move till he's on board. Of course, Zap being a psychic and her creator, this is less contrived than it seems. In any case, he literally trips and falls into the cargo hatch - just in time to escape.
    • The guy who got Zap chased by GEF? That's Jason, who was trying to get them off his back.
    • Zap just happens to meet an old friend on a random marketplace on a random space station... It's really blatantly obvious that it's the Serpent, who's been looking for him. Gunner's even wearing the same cloak he wears as the Serpent, only with the hood down.
  • The Empire: The Galactic Earth Federation is a classical example, complete with stromtroopers, conniving generals and an evil psychic plotting to take it over. It also has a President Evil, although his actual competence is low-to-nonexistant.
  • Evil Costume Switch: As a good guy, Efrem Nutari wore baggy pants and pilot jacket. As a bad guy, well, hello, black leather and red accents. Zap's initial bad guy garb is more grey, and his good guy garb is Efrem's clothes. His Brainwashed and Crazy garb is classic black.
  • Evil Versus Evil: The GEF against the Serpent's rebellion (which has nothing to do with the Resistance the heroes belong to).
  • Faceless Goons: The very first page has a shot of GEF troopers wearing their trademark evil-looking helmets against a background of blood-red sky, in case the reader didn't believe it's The Empire.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: The GEF grunts are pretty much comic relief in Red Shirts (or face-concealing armor). Besides that, Kasey once makes robot guards leave their post by reprogramming another robot to run around in circles and insult them.
  • The Gunslinger: In a setting where blasters are standard, Gunner uses real bullets he can influence with his telekinesis.
  • Hall of Mirrors: Here, Reona and Naveed end up fighting in an amusement park's house of mirrors.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Happened in the backstory to Zap himself, which is why the plot turns out the way it does.
  • He Is Not My Boyfriend: Reona, about Zap, for most of the silly part of the story, because she's pining for Efrem. After the amusement park battle where Zap is wounded and abducted, and Efrem revealed to have been in league with Gunner for the entire time her loyalties shift, but it still takes her a while to admit she's in love.
  • Hypno Trinket: The psychic Amplifier Artifact devices called "crowns" can be used to do this. At the GEF psychic academy, they are used to keep all the psychics underneath the GEF's control. Gunner manipulated all of this into being, and plans to use the mind controlled psychic army to Kill All Humans as revenge for the destruction of his world.
  • Identity Amnesia: A couple of hours before he got shoved into the plot, Zap has forgotten his entire life story. A bit later, the villains exposit he's an escaped psychic test subject. Which is a lie. He's actually escaped, but enacting a Memory Gambit.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The GEF troopers follow the fine tradition of not being able to land a shot. Gunner, however...
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Gunner, helped by powerful telekinesis.
  • In the Hood: The Serpent, when dealing with Billings, follows the example set by Sith lords of old and wears a voluminous hooded cloak that hides everything but his glowing eyes.
  • Inner Monologue: Quite a lot of the characters' thoughts are stated in thought bubbles.
  • Instantly Proven Wrong: Robot's Only Sane Man moment on page 34.
    Robot Whatever. It's not like Reona's dumb enough to actually let you drive.
    Reona (on communicator): Zap, that lazer blast damaged the engine coil. I have to help Grontar, so you have to land us on that planet.
    Zap grins.
  • I Will Find You: Reona won't believe Efrem is dead, despite all odds. She will contradict the Resistance orders if she has a chance to find a clue about where he is. Later on, after learning of Efrem's betrayal, she acts the same about finding Zap.
  • Jedi Mind Trick: Gunner is a dab hand with it, although his level of subtlety varies, dictated by Rule of Drama nad Rule of Funny. Lampshaded:
    Zap: How did you do that?
    Gunner: I saw it in a movie once.
    Zap: Oh... Was it from... Titanic?
  • Just a Machine: Several intelligent robots are destroyed for avoidable or petty reasons. Made more jarring by the fact one of the main cast is a robot.
  • "Kick Me" Prank: Zap sticks an "unplug me" note to Robot's back once.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Provides much of the comic's humor, especially in the first chapters.
  • Laser Sight: For some reason, the Bounty Hunter uses one here. In a setting where most guns are lasers. In a place he would realistically use lethal weaponry first and ask questions later.
  • Last of His Kind: The Elementaros are the last of their species. Zap, Efrem, and Gunner are also the last three members of their species.
  • La Résistance: The GEF is being opposed by a fairly standard one, which the Excelsior crew are part of. Although they do seem to do their own thing more often than not. Demonica also works for the Resistance, and two named members of it are minor characters.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Zap's very first use of his powers is a downplayed example. As enemy ships are approaching and Excelsior is in no way prepared for battle, Reona has him sit in the captain's chair and his powers activate on their own, turning on the hyperjump. Later on, until he learns a little control, his powers tend to overwhelm him when he's angry.
  • Love Redeems: Although it's only shown through flashbacks, it's made clear that Zap Vexler was the original mastermind behind the "crown" plan, which he only stopped when his dreams introduced him to his future love.
  • Making a Splash: Callisto uses water in battle. The Aquarians, who are an aquatic race (even though they resemble pterosaurs), can control water around themselves to an extent, making bubbles for landdwellers to breathe.
  • Memory Gambit: Zap, having searched the future for the most beneficial path after his Heel–Face Turn, found the best outcome would be reached if he had his memories erased. So he had his memories erased and set the plot in motion.
  • Mind-Control Eyes: Gunner seals William's mind, because he wants to use Will in his Evil Plan, something Will would never, ever agree to. After that, the affected person's eyes turn black-on-black, with hints of their controller's signature color.
  • Moment Killer: Robot rather deliberately ruins the very first moment Reona has with Zap by yelling at them. Zap later returns the favour by walking in on Robot interfacing with Excelsior.
  • Psychic Powers: Not very common in the setting especially since GEF genocide of Zap's home planet, but a number of characters have them. It's usually the whole spectrum (telepathy, telekinesis, prophetic dreams), but a degree of specialisation is possible. For instance, Gunner mostly uses and is very proficient with telekinesis (up to being able to heal), while Vitale is very good at seeing the future. Zap's more of a Technopath. And, of course, there's the psychic army Gunner's building.
  • Psychic Starship Pilot: The Excelsior and the Deadalus, having been built by a certain psychic genius, require a psychic to use some of their features, hyperjump and Deflector Shields included. They were built specifically to search the universe for psychics.
  • Psychic Dreams for Everyone: Aside from the confirmed psychics, Reona gets a couple of those. This allows her to communicate with Zap.
  • Put on a Bus: After William captures them, Jason and Justin are taken away. Only to get rescued by Grontar and Kasey after the amusement park battle.
  • Ray Gun: The standard in the setting, called "lazer". Used both as sidearm and spaceship cannon.
  • Restraining Bolt: The psychic crowns. Reona breaks the one placed on Zap in the climax. And Robot's programming to obey the Captain, like it or not (he does not).
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: Robot is rude, snarky, contrarian, cowardly, pessimistic, apparently has a love life with A.I.s and is introduced being "woken up" - holding a teddy bear. He is missing an important personality chip, though.
  • Robosexual: Aside from Stickles who treat robots like teen idols, there's Billings fooling around with robotic secretaries.
  • Running Gag:
  • Scenery Censor: Here Zap is naked, with Robot's head "tastefully" interposed.
  • Some Call Me "Tim": Zap, being unable, unwilling or both to remember the ship's robot's complicated designation, renames him Robot. Robot's unhappy about it, but it sticks.
  • Space Is Noisy: There are some sound effects during the space battle.
  • Spaceship Girl: The Excelsior is sentient and sometimes manifests as a hologram of a naked, glowing blue woman who resembles Reona. This is because she was built by Zap and the hologram is modeled after the girl he dreamt of - Reona. Holograms for the other AIs he built are also modeled after her.
  • Space Whale: Space squid, a giant, space-borne... squid, provides a Big-Lipped Alligator Moment when Zap goes to fight it in chapter 2.
    Author's comment: No space-squids were hurt in the making of this comic. Maybe a couple of regular squids... but none from space. We couldn't find any, and we looked, really hard. Twice.
  • Spot the Imposter: The Body Horror creature takes Zap's appearance. They're side by side, and the entire group is debating who to shoot, until Gunner comes up and just unceremoniously shoots the fake. The monster was quite easily distinguishable ("Meeee, Reaaal Zaaaaaap..."), and the remark from Robot seemed like it was an obvious Lampshade Hanging.
  • Stellar Name: The last four Elementaros, the Galilean Satellites, named after four moons of Jupiter. Io, Callisto, Europa, and Gannymede.
  • Story-Breaker Power: After Zap regains his memory, his powers and his freedom (thanks to Reona breaking the crown), he makes short shrift of hitherto invincible Gunner, depowering him and marooning him on a backwater planet with Naveed.
  • Super Registration Act: Psychics are being rounded up as Cannon Fodder for Gunner's Evil Plan.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: As Billings announces the founding of Universal Psychic Academy and a recruitment drive for it...
    Billings: Don't worry. (heh heh) We don't plan on exploiting the psychics for personal gain... (looks very shifty and turns red as Verbatim and Yago stare dissaprovingly)
  • Technopath: One of Zap's first displays of psychic ability is activating the Excelsior's hyperdrive. In fact his mental commands are apparently the only thing that can do so. Of course, as it turns out, he built the ship, so... Gunner, as his name implies, uses his psychic powers to improve his aim.
  • Thinking Out Loud: For a while in the beginning, Zap. This allows the pursuing troopers to locate him.
  • Thrown Out the Airlock: Reona wasn't really going to have Zap thrown out of the airlock, but she sure words it that way when dealing with a stinking, badly-flirting random guy who gets on her already frazzled nerves.
  • Title Confusion: Due to the old URL, the comic is often called "Zap IN SPACE". This is also something of a Berserk Button for the author, to the point that they've migrated to a new URL.
  • Trash Landing: Zap's introduction consists of him falling into a dumpster, scrambling out, commenting to himself that wasn't a very good idea and "they" are still on his tail and legging it as the dumpster is blown up by his pursuers.
  • Understatement: Zap has a tendency.
    (when Robot tells him how Reona lost her arm and Efrem) Zap: Wow... this sucks.
  • Unsound Effect: "Rattle" and "shake" as Excelsior is under fire by GEF mooks. "WARNING" when the reactor is acting up. Also "DOOM" a couple of times.
  • Webcomic Time: A few years of comics following a few months of plot.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Zap's fear of space squid is played as a Running Gag.

Alternative Title(s): Zap In Space