Within the first week of my attendance, I began noticing a number of strange occurrences. The most prevalent of these oddities being the fact that I seemed to have obtained a second shadow.—Antimony
Gunnerkrigg Court is an Urban Fantasy/Science Fiction Web Comic by Tom Siddell about a strange young girl attending an equally strange school. The intricate story is deeply rooted in world mythology, but has a strong focus on science (chemistry and robotics, most prominently) as well.
Antimony Carver begins classes at the eponymous U.K. Boarding School, and soon notices that strange events are happening: a shadow creature follows her around; a robot calls her "Mommy"; a Rogat Orjak smashes in the dormitory roof; odd birds, ticking like clockwork, stand guard in out-of-the-way places. Stranger still, in the middle of all this, Annie remains calm and polite to a fault.
Meanwhile, Annie befriends the technically-minded Katerina Donlan, whose parents both teach at the Court. The two serve as foils for each other: Kat's energetic, outgoing personality plays off Annie's initial reserve, which enables much of their character development.
Kat soon gets roped into Annie's investigations of the Court's mysteries, but every answer they receive raises more questions: about the school, about their fellow students, about the woods just across the river, and about their own parents. Soon, they start stumbling on creatures and intricate symbols from all possible mythologies -- as well as plain old chemistry-- topped off by the Mesoamerican trickster god Coyote, who has his own designs for Antimony and the school premises. Throughout all this, Annie and Kat uncover the story of a truly frightening ghost woman, whose portrait is worshiped by Gunnerkrigg's crew of golem robots and who seems to be the key to some of the school's greatest mysteries.
Each chapter is a self-contained Story Arc. However, after several chapters, connections begin appearing between seemingly unrelated plot threads -- but the exact nature of their link remains tantalizingly (or frustratingly) unclear for now. Although the story draws on some dark childhood fears, there is more than enough optimism (both innocent and realistic) to offset it.
- Gunnerkrigg Court: Orientation (January 2009) collects the first 14 chapters.
- Gunnerkrigg Court: Research (March 2010) collects chapters 15 - 22, plus the City Face bonus comic.
- Gunnerkrigg Court: Reason (August 2011) collects chapters 23 - 31, City Face 2.
- Academy of Adventure
- Aerith and Bob: There are people named Surma, Antimony, Gamma and Zeta and Sir Eglamore as well as Jack, Janet, James and Andrew Smith, whose magic power is to make things orderly.
- Well, Eglamore is his family name, and his given name is James.
- Arc Number: 113. It appears many times across the comic.
- Boarding School
- Campbell Country
- Circus of Fear: Mort's creation to scare Paz.
- City of Adventure: Gunnerkrigg Court -- a school resembling an industrial complex the size of a city (with its own park!), just next door to a creepy forest.
- Dark World: A dark city, the evil twin of Birmingham.
- Eldritch Location: The Forest and the Court don't exactly fit in normal reality. For one, the Court is an enormous city, with multiple parks, lakes, and power stations, but it's virtually completely abandoned, and seemingly stretches on forever.
- Extranormal Institute: The Court. Virtually everyone inside it is some manner of bizarre, or related to people who are. There seem to be a few baseline Muggles but they typically have oddities in their jobs, like Eglamore being a Dragon Hunter.
- Floorboard Failure: Jones averts this by bypassing the rickety floorboards altogether.
- The Lost Woods: Gillitie Wood.
- No OSHA Compliance:
- The Year 7 dorms.
- The bridge to Gillitie Forest. It's wide enough to not be immediately dangerous unless people walking on it do something unusually stupid, and it lacks railing, since any shadow cast on it would allow the Glass-Eyed Men to cross it at night.
- Raygun Gothic: The plot of Dr. Disaster's simulator.
- Scenery Porn
- Urban Fantasy
- Spirit World: The Aether, which Annie enters when she uses her blinker stone.
- Staying with Friends: Invoked but not implemented. Yet.
- Where the Hell Is Springfield?: We've been given just enough information about Gunnerkrigg's location to know it doesn't fit anywhere on the map of the U.K.
- White Void Room: The inactive holosimulator.
- Wizarding School: The court is a subversion. Even though magic occurs on school grounds, the court considers any and all phenomena as scientific.
- The World Tree: A Cherry Tree (from Gillitie Woods) in the artificial habitat room; it is there Annie starts to open up to Kat. In "Divine" there is a callback to the tree as a place where Annie can put aside her "mask."
- Aborted Arc: The paintings from Chapter 2: Schoolyard Myths, as seen in page 7 were supposed to be part of a sub plot, but Tom has since dropped the concept.
- Absurdly Sharp Blade: The tooth Coyote gave to Annie in Chapter 26: The Old Dog's Tricks. On Kat's official sharpness classification, said blade is "Really damn sharp", to the point of cutting a shadow from the floor. But it doesn't cut Shadow himself, fortunately for him.
Coyote: The keenest blade you will ever find! Be careful with it, because it could cut the very earth!
- Adults Are Useless: Subtly deconstructed.
- A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read: Zimmy is discovering this to be especially true of Annie's mind as of this strip
- Amplifier Artifact: Blinker Stones.
- Anachronic Order: Chapter 11, "Dobranoc, Gamma", and Chapter 18, "S1".
- Animal Motifs / Animal Stereotypes: Many, including Wolves, Foxes, Cats, Insects, Birds, Coyotes and Owls.
- Arc Words:
"She died and we did nothing."
"The court grew from the seed Bismuth."
- Awful Truth:
- Annie and Kat learns that the founders, especially Diego, were responsibles for Jeanne's death in Chapter 25: Sky Watcher And The Angel.
- Annie learns that she's responsible for her mother's death by her sole existence in Chapter 31: Fire Spike.
- Batman Gambit: Mediation involves noticing hints and predicting people's reaction.
- Blah Blah Blah: From Chapter 21: Blinking: "Chatter jargon strange words."
- Blowing a Raspberry: A truly epic one starts in Page 21 of Chapter 36: Red Gets A Name, and goes all the way through Page 22.
- Big Damn Heroes: Eglamore and Kat, on three separate occasions. Two were played straight, one was a subversion.
- Body Motifs: Lots of emphasis on the eyes.
- Brain Bleach:
- Kat after meeting Ketrak.
"I need new eyes and a new brain!"
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: The bonus page of Chapter 29 features Bobby the robot giving out pigeon facts. At the bottom of the page is this:
One day I saw a pigeon fall from a tree, its body twisted and broken from an attack somewhere above. It writhed on the floor in silence and eventually died. It had no expression, just as I have no expression. I have never relayed this story to anyone.
- Break the Cutie: Chapter 31.
- Breaking the Fellowship: Surma, Anthony, Eglamore, Anja, Donald and (presumably) Brinnie were one inseparable company as students and perhaps for some time later, but before the story started, Surma left the Court and broke all contact with the rest except Anthony, and it's unknown yet when and where Brinnie gone.
- Brick Joke:
- Antimony waving to that guy. Remember that guy from when Antimony snuck in to save Robot?
- "I bet there's a poster of Samus in Parley's room."
- Hyland Sr. and Surma. According to Jack, "Yeah, he said she was real nice."
- In ch. 33, you can still see the fingerprint Annie left on the moon in ch. 20 thanks to Coyote.
- Bug Buzz
- The Cavalry: The TicTocs
- Chekhov's Gun: The etheric scar which Annie received from Jeanne's sword in Chapter 8 has been repeatedly alluded to throughout the story, as it remains on her face, clearly visible to all etherically sensitive individuals. Its true significance still remains a mystery.
- Clingy MacGuffin: Blinker stones...but only when the owner wants them to be.
- Comically Missing the Point: Jones basically gives a compliment to Annie in this page comparing Shadow's open-mindedness to her's, but Annie still takes it literally.
- Cosmetic Catastrophe: The results of Kat's first attempt to use makeup were not pretty.
- Country Matters: Ouch.
- Cringe Comedy: The strips of Jack trying to hit on Annie after he was freed from spider control were painfully awkward for the both of them and the audience.
- Crossover Cosmology: Reynardine and Ysengrin are based off Reynaerde/Renard the fox and Ysengrimus the wolf, respectively, from Medieval European folklore. Muut, Coyote, and the Glass-Eyed Men are from Native American myth. There's also several ghosts, fairies, and, for good measure, a flashback montage featuring every psychopomp, ever. Chang'e, Brynhildr, and the Minotaur (of Chinese, Norse, and Greek mythology, respectively) have also made appearances.
- Cryptic Conversation: Invoked by Coyote:
Antimony: Coyote, can you tell me, what is Gunnerkrigg Court?
Coyote: Why... It is man's endeavor to become God! How is that for an enigmatic answer?
- Curiosity Killed the Cast: Not the lethal kind, but there were rather close calls. Curiosity also starts several plots, and often proves helpful when combined with compassion.
- Curse Cut Short:
- Cutting the Knot: Ms. Jones' way of dispelling fancy magic runes.
- Dada Comics: The dialogue and visuals in the super triple excellent City Face chapter and also its sequel which is known as City Face #2 invoke very much the feeling of this trope which describes them!
- Death Glare:
- "Hello, Winsbury. Can you wither a little, please?"
- By Antimony to Jack as he escapes.
- Deface of the Moon: Thanks to Coyote's friendly help. It's still visible in later portions of the story. At least in the Court.
- Department of Redundancy Department:
- "Spacemonauts! The evil Enigmarons are threatening the Earth from their moon base on the moon!"
- The creepy space aliens from outer space.
- Do Androids Dream?: The Court robots seem to have personalities and their own society out of sight of the humans, and they are explicitly trying to figure out their "purpose" beyond merely being custodians of the Court. One of the biggest questions they seek an answer to is why their creator, Diego, would engineer the death of someone he loved. They also think of Kat as an angel.
- Driving Question: What exactly is Gunnerkrigg Court?
- Easily-Detachable Robot Parts: Sometimes.
- Environmental Symbolism
- Epic Fail: Pretty much any time the court robots try to keep something secret from the students. Like posting signs telling you where the secret stuff is.
- Epic Hail: One of the many uses for Blinker Stones.
- Esoteric Motifs: Strange symbols abound at the school -- although some signs are less "mystical" than you'd expect.
- Ethereal Sciences: A lot, but some more than other, like literally Magical Computer.
- Explosive Leash:
Tom: Reminder: Coyote ain't your bro.
- Fantastic Aesop: Lampshaded.
Bob: Hmm, there's a lesson in all this... (...) Never let sixty angry kids use a herd of laser cows to take over your house.
- Fling a Light Into the Future: The original Magitec robots didn't have the means to reproduce, so they designed the modern court robots as their successors.
- The Force: The Ether, which, like the Trope Namer, infuses all living things, can be directly harnessed only by a few humans, and bestows upon its users the abilities of telekinesis, clairvoyance, teleportation, flight, and superhuman speed and jumping abilities, and can even be used to create Magitek like 'etheric computers', which can project Deflector Shields or bind people/things if their users will it.
- Friend Versus Lover: Antimony, Kat, Alistair.
- Fractured Fairy Tale: Basil's backstory.
- A Friend in Need
- Functional Magic: All kinds.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar:
"Very impressive! And such a good view from down here!"
- Giant Engineer Crab: Lindsey
- Green Lantern Ring: Blinker Stones -- lenses for psychic powers, whose full uses have yet to be revealed.
- The Guards Must Be Crazy: The Guardbots, Doorbot.
- Ham-to-Ham Combat: Parley and Mort improvised it once.
- Hard Light:
- Dr. Disaster's simulations.
- The Glass-Eyed Men seem to be made of pure shadow, but Kat deduces that they're actually just very thin layer of matter that may as well be a layer of light. Or, you know, dark.
- Harmony Versus Discipline: In just about every sense, from magic, nature, and world view, the Court and Gillitie woods are opposed. The Court favors rational methods, control, and gray expansive industrialization. The Wood represents nature, unbound and at times terrifying.
- He Is Not My Boyfriend: Thanks for clearing that up, Annie.
- Improbable Species Compatibility: Apparently, Annie and her mother are descended from a cross between a human and a Fire Elemental.
Coyote: What an interesting first union that must have been...
- To say nothing of Bud and Lindsay...
- Hug and Comment: Chapter 32 ends with Annie and Kat hugging, and then Kat saying "Annie ... I love you and everything, so ... it is with love that I must inform you that you really gotta take a shower."
- Humans Are Flawed: Chapter 29:
- I Have to Go Iron My Dog: Annie needs to go... find... a book. To the left. Or to the right. Whatever.
- Important Haircut:
- Both Annie and Kat start wearing their hair differently after the incident on the bridge.
- Later, half a chapter is devoted to a visit to the barber.
Tom: Thank you for reading this chapter about girls getting haircuts.
- Played with more than played straight.
- Kat gets another one after her opinion about the Court changes in Chapter 29.
- And once again, Annie and Kat have noticeably different hair after the summer holiday between chapters 31 and 32, Annie having grown hers longer than it ever was and begun to tie it back, and Kat having cut hers shorter than it ever was, accentuating the growing rift between them.
- Inconvenient Summons: Parley, to herself.
- Incredibly Lame Pun:
- Kat completely unabashedly tossing off this line is just one of the many ways she's so very lovable.
"It may be empty but it's full of potential!"
- Annie's attempts at humor are a bit more...forced.
- Insult Friendly Fire
- Interspecies Romance:
- Sort of. Poor, poor Kat...
- Reynardine, with an unrequited love.
- Jeanne and her elf lover.
- Antimony's ancestors.
Coyote: I admire man's ability to see beauty in everything! Even a flame!
- Intoxication Ensues: Cherry-induced tipsiness.
- Ironic Echo: Eglamore responds to the students' complaints about camping in the cold with "Good question. Night!" At the chapter's end, the sleeping arrangements have reversed, and Annie tells Eggers: "You know where the tents are. Night!"
- Is That What She Never Did Tell You: Annie collected a heavy basket of this looking for answers in all the wrong places. Now this began to hit her, mostly in the face. When she finally talked with her mother's best friend directly, she made some... little discoveries. Like why Surma left the Court to never return, or related to Annie the tales of Coyote but didn't mention knowing him or say anything about other notorious inhabitants of Gillitie Wood she knew at least as well.
- It Was a Gift
- Jigsaw Puzzle Plot
- Kill It with Fire: As of Fire Spike, traumatizing Annie is a really bad idea.
- Letter Motif: Gunnerkrigg, Gillitie, Good Hope: the letter G seems to be important. One wonders what this implies about Miss Gamma Czarnecki.
- A Light in the Distance: Annie, lost and alone in the Annan gorge, sees a light on the opposite shore. Then it gets worse.
- Limited Wardrobe: Averted. The characters wear all kinds of clothes, appropriately to the situation. And the two female protagonists even change their hairstyle regularly.
- Literal Metaphor: Both Renard and Coyote repeatedly told Annie almost word for word "You have a fire in you, fire that belonged to your mother". This turned out to be not a runaway compliment, but a fairly straightforward, concise and accurate statement.
- Living Emotional Crutch: Kat to Annie, Gamma to Zimmy, Annie to Renard.
- Love Transcends Spacetime: Hello Parley! How did you get here?
- Magic A Is Magic A: It's implied that all magic follows specific rules. So far, the best covered is Rey's Demonic Possession -- e.g. he's able to occupy a toy simply because it has eyes.
- Reynardine is also bound in the wolf toy and forced to obey Antimony because it has her symbol on it, which is why he hasn't just jumped to something else.
- Also, when Coyote gives away a power, it gains a side effect it didn't have when Coyote had it, like Ysengrin's artificial tree-body and his atrophied real body, and the fact that if Renard takes over a body, it dies when he leaves and the original owner is extinguished when he enters.
- There's also the fact that any power Coyote gives, he can't use until he takes it back.
- Magic Versus Science: Mostly because their philosophical disagreement between their practitioners. Ironically, mixing the methodologies seems to bring the most impressive results and according to a history lesson by Jones may have been the Court's purpose in the first place.
- Magical Underpinnings of Reality: Where psychopomps are concerned.
- Meaningful Echo:
"I'll save you, little girl!"
"Love makes you act in strange ways."
- Meaningful Rename: The fox Trickster's proper name is Renard. "Reynardine" he got from Surma. When she played with him. Which changed his life, eventually bringing him into the story's situation.
- Mechanical Evolution: The robots are an inversion: they evolved into simpler forms over time. Their creator was a genius, and the designs of his first generation of robots defied understanding; so after he died, the robots had to simplify their designs in order to maintain themselves.
- Memento MacGuffin:
- Annie's pendant, and later the photo of her parents as children... and the toy wolf.
- Surma's gift James always carries with him. "Handy and practical".
- Misfit Mobilization Moment: Occurs in "Residential", when the Queslett students band together to find out where their classmates have been disappearing to.
- Moment of Weakness: Annie and Reynard do this to each other in chapter 31.
- Mood Whiplash: Typically occurs for both the characters (i.e. as a narrative trope) and the readers at the same time.
- Mundane Utility: The blinker stones' amplifying powers have a wide variety of uses, including signal rocket and instant campfire; Annie has used hers as a torch and a psychic walkie-talkie, among other things.
- Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Girl riding fox-possessed toy Big Badass Wolf. Tree-armed wolf humanoid. A cab pulled by robot horse quoting Milton's Paradise Lost. Lawn-mowing and fire prevention via laser cows. A meteorology robot in a form of head-sized praying mantis. Proselytizing parkour robot.
- Non-Answer: If you ask any of the court's residents how the court was built, they will just say that the founders made it. If you ask anyone else who might know, all they will say is that "It grew from the Seed Bismuth".
- Noodle Incident: The cursed teapot.
Antimony: We've seen worse. What about that cursed teapot?
Kat: Yeah, but that was... I.. I don't even KNOW what that was about.
- Zimmy's entry on the science fair. All we see is a microscope and various people's reactions on The Thing.
- Oh Crap: A Giant Enemy Crab Kat believes Annie arranged as an apology ? Creepy, but manageable. Noticing that Annie is staring in horror and clearly had nothing to do with it? Yeah, time to be scared. Complete with Wide Eyes and Shrunken Irises.
- Our Demons Are Different: Reynardine, and Zimmy were called demons at some point. No guarantee in the first case it was not a popular simplification and the second was confirmed to be only an invective.
- Our Dragons Are Different: Rogat Orjaks ("horned giant" in Slovenian) are explicitly stated to be dragon-kin, but not the same as "usual" dragons. One is quoted making a distinctly Take That remark on the subject of "those [common dragons]".
- Our Fairies Are Different: "Regional Fairies" are so-called because they have spots on their shoulders showing which "region" they're from. They learn little kinds of magic (like rusting metal) and are said to come of age when they make their own clothes. "Red" and "Blue" are the only ones introduced in the main story. Others appeared only after becoming humans, as students in the Foley house.
- Our Ghosts Are Different: Mort, the Ghost with the Sword, and the boy in the hospital are all different from each other. It will probably all be explained eventually. Also, a blind man's ghost mentioned by Kat in her letters over the summer break.
- Overly Long Gag: Red's ridiculous reaction to Blue wanting to hang out with her lasts one whole page, dedicated to the Red simply going "PPPPBBBTTTTHHHHHPPBPTHTHHHH"
- Paper-Thin Disguise: Annie said she was clearly a robot. Just look at her antennae! And robots never lie.
- Parental Abandonment: After Surma's death, Annie's father sends her to Gunnerkrigg Court and then vanishes without bothering to tell her. We are told that she will not hear from him again for two years. Every so often we see beneath Annie's stoic facade to see how much this hurts her. There are hints here and there that he might have always been distant (to everyone but Surma).
- Perspective Magic: Coyote uses this, being one of the fundamental trickster deities.
- Pop Cultural Osmosis Failure:
Diego: She died. And I did nothing.
- Random Teleportation: Parley had that going on for a while.
- Rant-Inducing Slight: Occurs a few times, with Kat's rant in "A Bad Start", provoked by, well, a bad start to her day, and Annie and Rey's fight in "Fire Spike", beginning with Annie's copying of homework.
- Relationship-Salvaging Disaster: Deliberately invoked by Annie in "From The Forest She Came". Hilarity Ensues.
- Rescue Romance:
- Subverted in chapter 34.
- The Reveal: Happens a lot.
- Roof Hopping: Eglamore; Robot S13's parkour-capable new body.
- Rotating Arcs
- Rule of Cool: Laser cows.
Just like real cows! Only with lasers.
- School Uniforms Are the New Black: Averted, but played straight for the students who used to be creatures that lived in the forest.
- Science Fair: Chapter 5.
- Secret Legacy: Everything we learn about Annie's parents suggests that she's following in their footsteps. Kat has inherited a thing or two as well.
- Sex Dressed: Relax, it was with Mr. and Mrs. Donlan.
- Shadow Archetype: The recurring theme of duality in the narrative makes this fairly common in both characters and other elements of the world, though it's sometimes difficult to tell who or what the 'shadow' is.
- Shrine to the Fallen: Diego and his robots have one for Jeanne. Overlaps with Stalker Shrine, considering how he acted towards her when she was alive.
- Shapeshifting: Coyote can change his shape at will, usually by stretching himself.
- Signs of Disrepair: John and Margo, looking for a replacement mandolin, came across a closet marked :Cursed instruments.
- Sorkin Relationship Moment: A non-romantic version. Kat calls out Antimony and Reynardine's awkwardness, and demands that they be friends again. While holding a pair of wire strippers.
- Something Completely Different: Chapter 10: "Dr. Disaster vs. the Creepy Space Aliens from Outer Space".
- Splitting the Arrow: "Fancy shooting" as performed by Janet and Willy.
- The Stinger: At the end of Chapter 3.
- Stylistic Suck: the "City Face" storyline (and a sequel: "City Face #2") which are portrayed in simplistic white and black (as opposed to the rest of the comic which is highly detailed and painstakingly colored). The dialog has a unique flavor (i.e. highly awkward and stilted, but apropos for the characters in question), and the overall effect is...interesting. The comments below each strip are part of the joke (presumably written by the author) and patterned as a mockery of internet flame wars. Strangely, despite the odd style and superfluous plot, the "City Face" storyline (and presumably the "City Face #2" storyline as well) are not merely filler: the events and characters in them are considered to be canon.
- Strong Family Resemblance: Annie and Surma. Strong enough that Ethereal beings occasionally confuse them, and Eglamore calls Annie by her mum's name in the heat of the moment.
- Turns out there's a reason for this: Annie and Surma are descended from fire elementals, and as soon as Annie was born she began absorbing her mother's spirit.
- Summon to Hand: The Blinker Stone allows its owner to do this.
- Suspiciously Specific Denial: The situation does not involve a large monster or two.
- Survival Mantra:
"Always remember one thing..."
- Switching POV: Mind Screwy version where we, without warning, switch away from Antimony and to a character who believes herself to be someone else.
- Take Off Your Clothes: Invoked by Jack, but denied.
- Tears From a Stone: "Kat forgot to mention the docking station also has tear glands".
- Teleport Spam: Bip. Bip. Bip.
- Tempting Fate: Invoked once (which in itself, of course, counts as a straight use).
- They Died Because of You: Delivered in a devastating, defensive rant by Reynardine to Annie. The effect is instantaneous, and doubles as a Wham! Line.
- Time Stands Still: Coyote can do this if he wants to.
Coyote: If you tell anyone in the forest about the tooth, even Ysengrin, this bind will snip off your hand.
- Trickster Mentor: Seems to be the Court's established modus operandi, at least to a degree: it's the playground for the individual initiative, even if it's occasionally acting "against" the rules or teachers. The unwritten rules seem to include "It's your project, tell me when you finish it" and "Not Cheating Unless You Get Caught". They also teach reasonable level of cooperation.
- They have security measures clearly designed to provide a reasonable level of challenge for students inevitably bypassing them, such as obvious and regularly hacked motion detectors, or security robots that we saw circumvented with tricks, hacking and plain outrunning -- compare this to their outrageously advanced and subtle technologies like the tracking system.
- Giving less than waterproof mundane explainations for weird events with a straight face -- that's combined with teaching good enough to reap Mad Scientist grade inventions.
- Unfortunate Implications: In universe: The first time Annie's father contacts her in years and it turns out to be a coded message. A coded message that doesn't make sense unless you include her father calling her name at the start of that message.
Annie: So... my name was just part of the message? He wasn't really calling me at all?
- The Un-Reveal: Ysengrin told Annie what Jones was. Or tried to. We, however, were not privy to that conversation.
- Visible Sigh: Antimony didn't ruin Red's life.
- Wham! Episode: So much that it has its own page.
- Wham! Line: Pretty much three in a row from the aforementioned Chapter 31.
- First off, Antimony to Reynardine:
Antimony: She never loved you.
- Reynardine's reply:
Reynardine: You are the reason Surma died!
- Finally, Coyote's own revelation to Antimony:
Coyote: Don't tell me no one has told the girl she isn't exactly human!
- When Annie tells Kat about her mother in Chapter 21:
Muut: The day Surma died...none of us came to take her.
Annie: I had to do it myself.
- Annie's first word in her telephone conversation at the end of Chapter 36.
Annie:: ... Father?
- What Could Possibly Go Wrong?:
- What the Hell, Hero?:
- Reynardine learning about the Memento MacGuffin bit.
- Later, Jack delivers one when Annie tries to set him up for heartbreak to hurt him for something he did while he was possessed and thus had no control over.
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: What to do if a robot fancies you. Considering all the Court's robots are "descendants" of a lovesick inventor, this probably happens a lot.
- Whole Chapter Flashback: Chapter 16, "A Ghost Story", Chapter 22, "Ties", Chapter 25, "Sky Watcher and the Angel".
- Wrong Name Outburst: Mr. Eglamore shouting "Surma!" This was not a flashback chapter.
- You Do NOT Want to Know: Perhaps it would be better for Kat if she thought longer than a split-second before answering:
Kat: Say, uh... I don't see him.
Annie: Do you want to?
- You Imagined It: Annie's early Adults Are Useless approach wasn't quite unwarranted.
- Your Mind Makes It Real: Zimmy's little Crapsack World is a sort of collective dream: participants go there and back without anyone else ever noticing.
Zimmy: It's only as real as you let it be.
For a more complete rundown, see the spoileriffic Character Sheet.
- Armless Biped: The Enigmarons from Chapter 10: Doctor Disaster...
- Artificial Limbs: In a bizarre reversal, Robot was given a prosthetic arm made of wood.
- Big Guy, Little Guy / Fat and Skinny: The two ghosts unleashed by John and Margo. The male is short and fat, the female is tall and thin; unfortunately they don't get much characterization other than they're terrifying and in love and just want someone to finish their song.
- The Blank: The Nobodies
- Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Parley (comparatively reddish-brown hair) and her two friends, dark-slate-purple-(or so)-haired Cookie Monster (Lily Cooke) and a Darkskinned Blonde Jan (January).
- Blue and Orange Morality: Annie and Kat ran into this trying to reconcile two ex-fairies. According to the fairies, mutual understanding and respect are not the most important things for choosing your friends, it's cool hair. Later it turns out that once reconciled, these two taunt each other and fight all the time. Other Foley kids merely see it as a sign of strong attachment.
- Blush Sticker: Orchid-haired fairy girl called as "her too" on the Chapter 36 character guide, still has it (both in the real world and in ether at that).
- Cast of Snowflakes
- Cuddle Bug: Ex-fairies sometimes are like this. Up to an etheric cuddle-pile. Being "a little inspired by Foley kids" may also explain why Lily has No Sense of Personal Space.
- Cute Machines: Several, including the cuddliest clawed metal mantis ever.
- Eldritch Abomination: Lindsey has 47 eyes, and 151 not-eyes, and part of her brain functions in a different dimension. She's also an accredited couples therapist.
- Eye Tropes: There's a lot of emphasis on the eyes.
- Fantastic Foxes: Reynardine is based on the folktales of Reynard the Fox.
- Generation Xerox: Subverted when appears. This generation of protagonists are descended from parents who were also adventure buddies back in the day -- but the two generations are different in just as many ways as they are alike.
- Directly defied by Mr. Donlan to Antimony eventually. Antimony for one is glad to be treated as her own person instead of her parent's child, especially soon after this got more unsettling.
- Gentle Giant: Quite a few, such as Lindsey the giant crab. In fact, it's almost a reliable guarantee that the bigger and more intimidating someone (or something) is, the nicer they're going to turn out to be. Eventually lampshaded.
- Happiness in Slavery: Diego's Golem/Robots consider activity itself to be the best thing about life, and thus consider working for humans self-rewarding (not that they need a concept of "reward").
- Looks Like Cesare: Martin.
- Ridiculously-Human Robots: The various Court Robots are comically incompetent in ways that are nevertheless far beyond the capability of any Real Life AI. Probably a result of their Magitek origins.
- Theme Naming: Antimony and Surma; Zeta and Gamma; Reynardine and Ysengrin.
- An Aesop: From Chapter 24: Residential:
- Art Shift:
- The City Face specials, which are canon.
- Also, a slight shift when Annie is using the Blinker Stone. (Everything is generally more detailed and her hair connects panel to panel.)
- Art Evolution: Tom is consistently evolving his art. It's most noticeable in Annie's case: Compare her design on page 18 with her design on page 437 (which, incidentally, is a Flash Back to the same scene from page 18). Now compare with a page 775 strips later.
- Tom's own illustration (on his Tumblr).
- And Now for Something Completely Different: City Face.
- Audience-Alienating Premise: The Rant occasionally makes a joke out of this:
"Thank you for reading this chapter about girls getting haircuts."
"Thank you for reading this comic about magical boots and awful hats."
- Author Appeal: Given Jack's spider motif and, the Whitelegs themselves, and Tom's tendency to have spiders in his self-depictions, one can't help but think that he likes drawing them.
- Author Catchphrase:
- "Mystery solved!" in the commentary when something random and completely unexpected sheds a little light on a previous question while raising far more questions.
- "It's that guy!" and "The big guy is Eglamore" are everywhere, too.
- Bilingual Bonus: A few Greek and Latin signs, a few lines in Spanish, and some Polish dialogue. (Meta 4 compiled a list with translations.)
- Blatant Lies: T-shirt coming soon.
- Call Forward: Somewhere between this and Early-Bird Cameo, the adult City Face was (possibly) introduced in an Omake published between arcs that most likely happened before he was born.
- Continuity Nod:
- In Chapter 12: Mainly Involves Robots: "Hello Annie!". Later, in Chapter 24: Residential: "Hello Kat".
- Also in Chapter 24: "My main babe" and "Night!".
- Also, from Chapter 20: Coyote Stories: "The rocks and stones, powerful teeth of mine!". Later, in Chapter 26: The Old Dog's Tricks: "Handy and practical gift", indeed.
- Deadpan Snarker: Tom, in his rants.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: Used to comedic effect between the friendships of humans and the friendships of fairies. Also pointed out to be a dominant cause for the strained relationship of the court and the woods.
- Deliberately Monochrome: Dr. Disaster's simulation.
- Don't Try This At Home:
- Double Meaning Title: All over the place with the chapter titles. One of the most prominent is the title "Fire Spike", which uses meanings for both the noun (a surge in power) and verb (to add a small amount of one substance to another) forms of "spike".
- Fish Eye Lens: When things aren't quite normal and/or there's an actual camera involved, and to emphasize Annie's Heroic BSOD.
- Flashback Effects: Textured backgrounds and rounded panel corners.
- Most of the stuff is related to the events and reveals of Chapter 31: Fire Spike. Chapter 3: Reynardine introduces us to Renard himself. At one point, he recognizes Annie as Surma's daughter, and is sad when he concludes that Surma is dead. At some other point, in a flashback in Chapter 18: S1, the one who is sad is Anja, after reading Annie's transfer letter. In Chapter 20: Coyote Stories, Coyote tells Annie of the origins of both the Court and Gillitie Forest. At some point, he says "There were some humans and creatures living on both sides. Many of the current inhabitants are descended from those humans". It turns out that Annie is a descendant from a fire elemental. From Chapter 21: Blinking, page 28: "The day Surma died, none of us came for her." and "I had to do it myself." From Chapter 23: Terror Castle of the Jupiter Moon Martians, Renard does a comment towards Annie: "You have a fire in you, child, a fire that belonged to your mother!". This turns out to be a Literal Metaphor.
- In the bonus page of Chapter 11: Dobranoc, Gamma, Zimmy wants to chase spiders. Cue Chapters 27 and 28: Spring Heeled, where it's revealed why they need to be chased down.
- In Chapter 18: S1, Tom, once again, makes a snarky comment about someone, this time it's Diego. ("You see he probably had a good personality") Cue Chapter 25: Sky Watcher And The Angel.
- Girl-On-Girl Is Hot: Invoked by Reynardine when Kat and Antinomy are having a heartwarming moment. Plot point, too, because it's the reason Antimony orders him not to speak until she commands it.
- Goggles Do Nothing: Averted, and then lampshaded in Tom's rant here.
- Invoked Trope: In case Zig-Zagging Trope just isn't awesome enough, here's a recursion: Tempting Fate in What Could Possibly Go Wrong? way via intentionally invoking Tempting Fate and What Could Possibly Go Wrong? (as tropes), snickering.
- Kudzu Plot: Comes with the Jigsaw Puzzle Plot.
- Lampshade Hanging: Just take a look at this page.
- Loose Canon: Bonus pages are distinctively one step away from the main continuity and may bring extra Exposition, or teasers, or comedy, or something wild -- or all at once.
- Mind Screw: Samples this whenever the characters end up in Zimmingham, particularly in chapter 28 (which has triggered so much Wild Mass Guessing and speculation among the fanbase that it can only be described as the Epileptic Trees equivalent of the Cambrian Explosion).
- Mood Whiplash: Much.
- Chapter 6: A Handful Of Dirt - Our characters go from laughing their heads off to bawling their eyes out in a single page. Yay.
- Chapter 19: Power Station - is dark and depressing, but still manages a genuinely heartwarming moment on page 468... then yanks the rug out from underneath Annie and the readers on the very next page.
- Chapter 25: Sky Watcher And The Angel - "Oh no!" "A sad face!" "The saddest face!" Due to the phrase's use as an Ironic Echo.
- Chapter 27: Spring Heeled Part 1 - A guard robot is the subject of a joke about learning to whistle--then gets Killed Mid-Sentence.
- Chapter 30: The Coward Heart - Goes from being reasonably upbeat, to horrifying revelations about a character's death, then the same character trying to kill the protagonists... and finally then ends with two characters admitting their love for each other.
- Chapter 31: Fire Spike - It begins with undefined unease, explodes into anger, and ends in tears.
- Narrator: Two of them, Annie for the main story and Tea for bonus pages and announcements from Tom.
- Nostalgic Narrator: Antimony's narration is from at least two years in the future.
- Never Trust a Title: Chapter 34: Faraway Morning (And Three Short Tales), where some characters tell three short tales. Sounds like a short chapter, right? It's the longest chapter to date thanks to all of the Character Development and plot revelations going on between each of the tales.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Parley Sr. won millions of pounds for successfully completing the "Eugene Gould" Psychic Challenge.
- Odd-Shaped Panel: Pages where Annie looks into the ether tend to have no panels borders at all. Even more trippy is when the etheric forms of characters themselves become the panel borders. Annie's flowing red hair goes from one "panel" to another, reconnecting with her head multiple times one one page. In "Fire Spike", the perspective starts to warp after The Reveal, in order to convey Annie's Heroic BSOD.
- Frame Break: When Annie puts up a wall of flames between herself and the Court, it burns the panel dividers up.
- Reclusive Artist: Tom Siddell, the author of Gunnerkrigg Court, is very reclusive. There are no confirmed pictures of him on the internet. He lives in Birmingham, and used to have a job as a graphic artist at an undisclosed video game company. He's pretty good friends with Magnolia Porter. And that's just about all we know about him. He is possibly the only Web Comic example of this trope, considering just how open you can be on the internet.
- Running Gag: Tom's comments below each comic sometimes are variations of Epileptic Trees, the line "Oh. It's that guy." or "[Obvious event in-comic]! ([Obvious event in-comic])"
- Or explaining that it is/isn't Mr. Eglamore. When Trees Attack, "Eglamore looks pretty different. (This was a joke, that is not Mr. Eglamore)". When the Minotaur (!) returns, "It's this guy! (It's Basil, not Eglamore)".
- Jones. She's still not a robot. The next time, when something makes a sound in her pocket:
"If Jones keeps beeping like that people are going to get the wrong idea."
- Schedule Slip: Not the webcomic itself -- Tom has maintained a 30-page Strip Buffer since day one -- but both published volumes didn't hit shelves until months after they were scheduled to come out. The delay of Orientation was bad enough that Tom thought Archaia was defaulting on the publishing contract.
- Series Hiatus: Several times, each one lasting, at least, two weeks, and coinciding with the end of each book.
- The first was after the end of Chapter 14: The Fangs of Summertime. In the timespan between this chapter and Chapter 15: Red Returns, bonus material and guest comics filled that void.
- The second hiatus occured after Chapter 22: Ties, and this time it was the Omake City Face, featuring the titular bird.
- The third hiatus happened after Chapter 31: Fire Spike, and, like the second time, it featured an Omake of City Face, City Face 2.
- Shout-Out: Check the page.
- Shown Their Work: Attention to fine details in itself became yet another layer of fun. If something looks dubious, usually this get fixed by more research on the viewer's part. Mongolian draw and archery bracers? Baby pigeons? Canine skulls? Moon pools? A girl musses her hair up after removing the hair tie? Check-check-check...
fan 1: Well, this is the same guy who knows that baby pigeons look really bizarre.
fan 2: New theory. Tom knows EVERYTHING.
- Silent Scenery Panel: Often used to signal scene transitions.
- Sliding Scale of Silliness Versus Seriousness: Entire chapter can be either silly and hilarious or serious and downright horrifying. Compare Chapter 24 to Chapter 27-28.
- Speech Bubbles: A subtle example of Medium Painting: the background color in speech bubbles is different for different characters.
- Stealth Pun:
- Jack got HIJacked.
- A very subtle one. One of the strips is just a random collection of real photos. One of the pictures is of a mineral called Stibnite (it's easily identifiable by it's bladed crystal habit). Not only is that briefly mentioned as Surma's maiden name at one point, there's also the fact that the mineral contains an element that isn't found in many minerals; Antimony.
- Strip Buffer: A nice thick one of 30 strips.
- Take That: A regular occurrence.
- This, directed at someone who complained that the flashbacks weren't made obvious enough. There were a few "helpful" notes for those who get disoriented by the Art Evolution, take jokes too literally or both at once.
- Tom's reaction to a weekend of speculation that Jones is a robot, months after Reynardine told Annie that she isn't.
- The second panel of strip 540 is hard not to interpret as a Take That against the fans who speculated that Jones was the third girl in the photo after Tom Siddell quite clearly said that she wasn't.
- "City Face" -- placing the birdspeak into the beaks it belongs to. If it's not enough, there were Fourth Wall-dissolving comments (Tom said more than once that he doesn't like Leet Lingo and internet loonies).
- One at our very own wiki, via formspring.me:
Q: Gunnerkrigg Court is very well represented at TV Tropes. Is there any particular reason as to why you aren't a fan?
A:'Because the JAMES VELDT FACTOR is SKYBRICKED due to the LETS DO THAT AGAIN principle being SHORTFORM INVERSION HONEYPOT'd and FIFTEEN TO SUNDAY having less than BLUE FOAM DICE AWAY for TIMEPIECE COORDINATION so it can subvert the MOUSER MOUSER THATS WHAT SHE SAID.
- They Do: In chapter 30, Parley finally admits that she's in love with Andrew. Word of God already said they were totally going to get married.
- Unsound Effect: Used repeatedly. Lampshaded in this page's comments from Tom.
- Viewers Are Geniuses: It helps a lot that the forum community is comprised of readers from all over the world (some of the most frequent posters are from places like Russia, France, Spain, and Alaska) and so most mythology symbols, folk songs, and bilingual bonuses are frequently able to be first noticed/explained by a native of the region in question.
- There's a Moment of Awesome for the fandom, which (using a bare minimum of information) figured out that Brinnie's spoiler: "Old Man" is Odin from Norse Mythology, and shortly after, that Brinnie herself is Brynhild the Valkyries. The full extent of the information they had? Brinnie is Scandinavian, and she uses triangles in her magic.
- Less than a day of this page going up and people wondering whether the girl was Chinese, Japanese, or Korean, a bunch of posters on the Gunnerkrigg forum immediately identified her from Chinese mythology.
- Visual Pun: Annie burning bridges.
- Wall of Blather
- What Do You Mean It's Not Awesome?: Red starts Blowing a Raspberry on page 996 aaand...
"Here it is. The best page of Gunnerkrigg Court."
- The Wiki Rule: This way.
- Zig-Zagging Trope: Sivo is a case of a triple subversion of the Knight vs. Dragon story.
- For those interested in minutia, this isn't the first print version of GC. Back in 2006, Tom published the first seven chapters as a paperback through Lulu.com's print-on-demand service. This is the reason for the "Treatise" page at the end of Chapter 7. This paperback was discontinued months before Orientation was announced.