Drive (webcomic)

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
"The story is serious. The characters are hilarious."
Jeff Kapalka, The Post-Standard

Drive is a scifi webcomic by Dave Kellett, author of Sheldon. It takes place a few hundred years in the future, in which humanity has discovered FTL space travel in the form of the Ring Drive, and has a large intergalactic empire, ruled from Madrid, on Earth. They are at war with mysterious aliens, called the Continuum of Makers, who invented the Ring Drive humans "discovered".

The story mainly follows an amnesiac lizard creature, using the name "Skitter", with an impossible talent for piloting ring ships, which even the Continuum can't match. But we're also shown some of the politics of La Familia, who closely guard the secrets of the Ring Drive in order to keep in power, and the history of a certain individual of the Continuum, which for lack of a name will be referred to as the "Rogue Maker".

Tropes used in Drive (webcomic) include:

  • Alleged Car: The Machito, before the Emperor upgraded it.
  • Exclusively Evil: The Tesskans appear to be this.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: The Ring Drive. Only the Continuum knows how it really works, and they aren't in the mood to explain.
    • The Fillipods have figured it out as well, but only their most important members know this for fear of retribution by La Familia.
  • Asteroid Thicket: Skitter loses a Continuum ship in one.
    • Subverted in that it's not your typical Space Is an Ocean Asteroid Thicket - they could easily avoid it, if they wanted to, and it's only dangerous because they're crossing it at FTL velocities.
  • Berserk Button: Nosh has a history with the Tesskans.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Nosh.

Nosh: Show respect to my captain.
Tesskan: ooOOooh...whatcha gonna do, pacifist? Punch me?
Nosh: No...but I am very good hugger. [picks Tesskan up from behind with a "hug"]

    • Also, Veetans in general. An info page lists the Tesskans flash-bombing a Veetan planet as the critical error in the three year Tesskan/Human war. The resultant mobilisation of the Veetan Defence Force resulted in Tesskil being conquered a week later.
  • Big Eater: Veetans. There's an in-universe poem about the sight of a Veetan eating. It ends, "A Veetan eating is not joy, but more like abject fear"
  • Bizarre Alien Biology:
    • The Continuum reproduce asexually, are born from silica-based cocoons with basic knowledge and motor skills after a 2-day term, and they feel nothing unusual.
    • Skitter's mohawk can detect gravity waves, allowing him to maneuver around obstacles nobody else would notice until too late.
    • Fillipods look kind of like caterpillars, and their legs/feet/stalks have an incredible grip via Van der Waals forces. They have a stinger on their head which injects its target with a sedative, which works even on the Fillipod it came from. Also, they're incredibly "huggable" to the point that pillow companies are trying to make pillows that feel like a Fillipod.
    • The Vinn are actually a number of species infected with a parasite, but this parasite spreads a number of useful genetic traits across each of those species. So most Vinn tend to have "bioelectrogenesis, venomous necrotoxins, chromataphore cells in their skin/hides, sharp vision due to minimal diffraction of incoming light, and shark-like electroreception".
  • Buffy-Speak: Lots.

Nosh: A Moebius is figure-eight that goes loopty-loopty-loop.

Taneel: Wonderful. So they're bigger and faster...and I'm flying the dang car I had in high school.
Nosh: Wait wait wait saying your car in high school smelled this bad? I find hard to believe.

  • Cool Ship: The Machito, after the Emperor has it upgraded. Also, La Invencible, being the Emperor's ship.
    • And especially the Spark of Thought, on the Continuum side.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: More a Genius Ditz than moron, but Nosh fought off a bunch of mooks on his own.

Nosh(mid-fight): Maybe you forget why you lost the war, Tesskan. You didn't lose because of the lost because you made my lovely, joyful, peace-filled people...PISSED OFF.

  • Cutting the Knot: The Tesskans, in their city-sized stolen Continuum ship, were attacked by another Continuum ship. The Tesskans still hadn't figured out the weapons systems on their ship, so they just drove right through the attacking ship.
  • Deflector Shields: Mentioned, but averted. Armada ships, at least, only have a sort of energy field which vaporizes small debris. Not nearly enough to be called a Deflector Shield.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: How La Familia deals with anyone who tries to steal the secret of the Ring Drive, because that would put their supreme power in danger.
  • Disturbing Statistic:

Nosh: Our armada ships...have a 1-in-600 chance of catastrophic impact anytime we pinch space.
Skitter: I...I'm gonna die in space.
Fernando: Nosh, that number is a lie, spread by the royal family. It's not's 1-in-400...we lose five or six ships every week.
Skitter: [slow clap] Wonderful. Awesome. Let's all thank Fernando for clearin' up the math, there.

Nosh: ...You are like bad episode of "Gilligan's Island".

Cuddow: We went from zero manufacturing to space travel in two generations!

  • Genius Ditz: Nosh is the science officer of the crew, interested in all types of science, but lacks common sense.

Nosh: I am researching lung capacity of common earth-wolf.
Taneel: Good lord...why?
Nosh: Pique of my interest, mostly. I read in earth story how wolf able to bring down house with massive lung capacity...
Taneel: ...Did the aforementioned wolf happen to "huff and puff" before he blew said house down?
Nosh: Yes! Amazing creature, no?...I research the pig construction techniques, next.

Nosh: Is too much anger in Monopoly... Share the railroads! Everyone benefits!

Skitter: What? What possible way could that help me defeat these jer-
[cut to milkshake bar]

Narration: Evolution is funny. Generation after generation of Fillipods were naturally selected for stalks capable of ever-stronger van der waals forces. Basically, for reasons of diet. The Winter Tilla fruit has an amazing combination of proteins, carbs, and vitamins... but has a tree bark that's glass-smooth, and impossible to climb. Hence the natural selection towards van der waals forces: the Fillipods who could climb... could live to breed. It's an ability that's kept them alive for thousands of years. And, oddly enough, did so again when their planet was cracked in half... and every Tesskan alive was flung 30 meters in the air.

Fernando: Captain, no! An asteroid field is certain death! Open space is bad enough... we can't intentionally fly into debris!
Skitter: Wait--why not? Just turn on your doo-dads or shields or whatever.
Nosh: What shields?
Skitter: Don't you have some kinda... energy bubble that can... I dunno... push aside material or somethin'?... Like a snow-plow?
Skitter: Or some kinda... reinforced hull thingy... that can survive impacts at speeds of...?
Skitter: I'ma skip a step and launch my escape pod now.

Fernando: Do you know what my family will do to your people when they find out??
Cuddow: What, crack our planet in half? Oh wait.

  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Nosh.
  • Planet Killer: Every single Drive-equipped ship can cause seismic events on a planet by pinching too close to it, see the Misapplied Phlebotinum entry above. When a ship is big enough, well...
  • A double whammy of Plot Time and Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale, in a way that negatively impacts the internal consistency of the story. The ring drive is the only way to travel FTL in this universe, and only humans and the Continuum have it. However, the Veetans somehow crossed lightyears in something less than a week to end the Tesskan war after one of their worlds was somehow bombed by Tesskans trying to attack Earth, hundreds of species come together to trade at locations like Slaughter, and there are multiple civilizations spanning tens of thousands of light years. And the crew just took a hop on a sublight freighter to Slaughter, where Empire ships are not welcome.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Literally. The language of the Continuum is so complex and nuanced, traditional translator devices can't decipher the whole thing. This leads a Tesskan to decapitate a Maker out of frustration.
  • Properly Paranoid: Standard procedure for all imperial ring ships returning to Earth is that nobody but the captain may steer the ship in to dock, and Earth's coordinates are to be top secret, and never recorded anywhere. This is because before this policy was implemented, the Tesskans captured a ship, and the Fillipods were able to recover Earth's coordinates from it. If not for the Fillipods keeping the secret of the ring drive to themselves, the Tesskans would have won the resulting war.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: The hat of the Tesskans.
  • Quest for Identity: Skitter. Fortunately, he's been roped into a hunt for his own home planet.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: To ensure the monopoly, The Drive is serviced and run exclusively by members of La Familia, so they all have to train and go through Drive Corps. Though they also take great pains to keep it that way; see Disproportionate Retribution above.
  • Shout-Out: To Gilligan's Island, later Tetris.
  • Sign Language: Familia again.
  • Stealth Hi Bye: The Tres Primos do this to Fernando while he is alone on the Machito.


  • The Emperor: The current Emperor killed his uncle for the position, and framed Nosh.
  • The Empire, The Federation: It's technically an Empire, but it shares parts of both of these tropes. For example, they formed an alliance with the Veetans, which is a trait of The Federation. But anyone with blood ties to the royal family (La Familia) gets extra privileges, everywhere, which seems to fit The Empire trope more.
  • The Mole: Orla O'Malley is actually part of La Familia like Fernando, but only the reader knows this: She's here to keep an eye on the crew.
  • Twitchy Eye: Nosh, upon learning the crew's next destination is Tesskil. More so when he finds they're being pursued by a Continuum Dreadnought ship.
  • Unfortunate Name: Skitter wanted to call himself Steve, but...

Taneel: Well, lessee now... "Skitter" is a ridiculous name that sounds like an 18th century case of the trots... but "Steve" is the name of my jerk of an ex-husband.
Skitter: ...Skitter it is?
Taneel: Skitter it is.

    • Still, it might've been worse. Nosh's ideas were "Pablo Picasso", "Mr. Fancy Pants", and "Boopsie-Diddle".
  • The Virus: The Vinn aren't actually a single species; they're at least 14 species all infected with the Vinn parasite. The parasite bonds to the nervous system and restructures the brain, resulting in an entirely new, unique mind. Most, possibly all Vinn are trying to spread across the galaxy in an attempt to find their "gods", who developed the parasite as a misguided cure for an unknown affliction.
  • Wham! Episode: Every now and again, a page will reveal something shocking, even if the consequences of the revelations aren't apparent at the time.
    • The strips detailing the "Rogue Maker's" actions turn out to lead up to the events of the very first strips.
    • The "Tres Primos" came out of retirement recently. Their pilot happens to be the same species as Skitter.
  • Wham! Line:

Maker: Prepare a leap directly above the planet. We shall crack it like an egg.

    • Also: "...we already know how your Drive works."
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: Nosh spent 6 years stuck in Moscow when he ran out of cab fare, and so speaks with a ridiculous Russian accent.
  • When It All Began: "He has never piloted before. But then, he has only been alive for fourteen hours..."
    • On April, 22nd 2011 this came full circle.
  • Wretched Hive: Planet Slaughter.

Taneel: You'll meet 100 species on that planet, and each one is a mob hitman.