Skin Horse

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Skin Horse is a Web Comic written and drawn by Shaenon K. Garrity (of Narbonic fame) and just written by Jeffrey Channing Wells. Launched in December, 2007. Within the comic, Project Skin Horse (named after a character in The Velveteen Rabbit) is the name of a government department devoted to helping the U.S.'s non- and part-human citizens. The department is so underfunded that it only contains six employees:

  • Dr. Dennis "Tip" Wilkin, psychologist, Wholesome Crossdresser, and Token Human. Often the Only Sane Man, and not just because of his profession. He also Really Gets Around and is able to seduce most women with minimal effort despite (or because of) the cross-dressing.
  • Unity, cheerfully violent high-functioning patchwork zombie, and former prototype Super Soldier. Has the body of several eighteen-year-olds, and a worrying case of Attention Deficit Ooh Shiny. Recently revealed to be technically not actually a zombie after all.
  • Sweetheart, Canadian talking dog and field commander. Often conflicted between her meek, civilized demeanor and her identity as a Mad Scientist's creation. Also the Only Sane Man Transgenic Dog pretty frequently.
  • Moustachio the Thinkonium, Steampunk robot and receptionist.
  • Gavotte, the boss, who happens to be a literal Hive Mind (a hive of bees, to be precise). She buzzes and produces honey. Refers to herself with the "Royal We", which in her case actually makes sense.
  • Nick Zerhakker, the newest member of the team. Also known as Biscuit, he is the Black Helicopter (An unarmed-to-the-teeth V-22 Osprey controlled by a Brain In a Jar, to be precise) and has made friends with the nerds in the Department of Irradiation. Not technically an employee since he doesn't get a salary; his fuel and WOW access are currently budgeted under "furniture".

The story so far:

  • "Cowardly Lion": A day in the life of the Project Skin Horse employees as they go to bring in a genetically-enhanced lion.
  • "The Borrowers": Tip tries to make peace among the many forms of intelligent life that have developed in the office basement over several decades.
  • "Wild Things": Unity urges Sweetheart to go on a destructive rampage.
  • "I Can Fly": The team investigates the case of a military helicopter that used to be a videogame nerd named Nick.
  • "Dead Dogs"/"Big Bad Wolves": Tip is in charge of a mission to Alaska. Involves werewolves and sapient canids.
  • "Tin Soldier": It appears to be Moustachio's turn to go on a rampage. Also features the return of Dr. Lee from "I Can Fly".
  • "Brave Little Toasters": Gorgeous and FUNKY mad scientist brought in to repair Moustachio due to his breakdown from the events in Tin Soldier.
  • "All The Lovely Ladies": Tip and Konstantin must mud-wrestle. The ladies of SH gather to watch.
  • "Come Swing From My Branches": The SH team is mobilized to serve notice to a Genius Loci, a sentient swamp.
  • "If I Ran The Zoo": Unity and Nick are sent to investigate the mysterious fire at The Cypress, while Sweetheart and Tip go to a talking animal convention.
  • "Once And Future": Unity wants to be a Notary Public, which coincidentally involves becoming part of an Ancient Order in Idaho, where Dr. Lee is looking into rogue robot sightings.
  • "Choose" While Sweetheart deals with issues, two former acquaintances of Nick investigate his disappearance.

Tropes used in Skin Horse include:
  • Action Prologue: "Come swing from my branches"
  • Affably Evil: Sweetheart's Mad Scientist creator, Captain Bram. Well, what else do you expect from a guy whose evil plan revolves around adorable puppies?
    • He's Canadian. He couldn't be mean about it if his life depended on it.
  • Agent Peacock: Tip Wilkin, the casanova crossdresser who's also handy to have around in a crisis (as long as he's wearing the right outfit).
  • Angst? What Angst?: Invoked in-universe by Sweetheart [to Unity]: "Do you ever angst?" Since Unity is programmed to be a weapon, she may simply not be capable of it--it'd get in the way of her ability to kill things.
  • Appendage Assimilation: Anything attached to Unity becomes a part of her; it's hinted that her blood is the "real" Unity and that it's some sort of colony creature. When a town becomes transfused with her blood to cure them of lycanthropy, they all start acting like her.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Sweetheart, a talking dog, has difficulty believing werewolves exist as seen here. She later has a problem accepting that a shaman successfully channeled the spirit of a dead man rather than faking it.
    • It's not arbitrary, per se: she's skeptical of it if it's not Science!
  • Artificial Human: Inverted with Nick, who is completely human, rather than an AI as the team first assumed, despite being stuck in a mechanical body. Played straight with Unity... Kinda.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: Gavotte politely explains to some nice young ladies why she can order them around.
  • Attractive Bent Species: When Tip is temporarily turned into a werewolf he becomes irresistible to female dogs as well as humans.
  • Author Appeal: "Let me have this, and later I'll draw Sweetheart in cute little goggles."
  • Berserk Button: The Macaw Bird does not appreciate hats. Possibly because of the historic practice of wearing stuffed birds on hats.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Moustachio has an "evil mode" that he could potentially slip into if the parts of himself that maintain his good-mannered gentlemanly nature are disturbed.
  • Big Applesauce: Subverted in a big way. The team is based in Washington D.C., but so far their adventures have taken them to New Jersey, Nevada, Alaska, Louisiana, Ohio, and Idaho. They're a Federal agency, so they have to serve all 50 states (plus territories).
  • Black Helicopter: A modified V-22 Osprey, with the brain of a foul mouthed gamer.

Tip: We've got a black helicopter! You know what that makes us? An officially intimidating secret organization!

  • The Casanova: Tip is somewhere between this and Kavorka Man. Tip is charming and attractive. However, the sheer degree and instantaneousness of his success with women would be mind-blowing even if he wasn't usually wearing a dress and make-up.
  • Chained Heat: Mentioned by name here, but it doesn't really play out that way.
  • Chained to a Bed: The friendly werewolf sheriff in Alaska chains Tip to bed so he won't get hurt when the town transforms into man-eating monsters during the night. Tip is a Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass, though, and very experienced with kinky chicks, so this doesn't slow him down much.
  • Chain of Deals: Tip and the basement creatures, but this upsets the equilibrium they had already established and causes disaster. Gavotte chides Tip later for meddling in affairs he didn't understand.
  • Character Blog: Nick has one, which explains, among other things, that he is a practicing Jew. Probably NSFW, as his censor filter doesn't apply here.
    • While the comic is following Tip and Sweetheart in Cleveland, the blog is following Nick and Unity going down to New Orleans. And Unity has seized control of it.
  • The Charmer: Tip can charm anyone who's female by presence alone, and can win over most hostile men in enough time, too.
  • Chekhov's Gun; Nick, in the swamp, with a freaking buzzsaw. Yippee kay o, melonfarmers!
  • Cleveland Rocks: Most of the talking animals seem to think so, anyway.
  • Clockwork Creature: Moustachio. Apparently at one point he once had arms and legs, but had them removed so he wouldn't be a threat to the community. Tigerlily installed tiny, mostly-cosmetic arms to him later.
  • Closeup on Head: This strip consists mostly of head shots, to conceal the fact that Tip and Sweetheart are prisoners of the crystal entity until the final panel.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Nick, before the censorship software kicked in.
  • Coincidental Broadcast: Parodied: Tip tells Sweetheart to turn on the news, and she has to flip past every news channel to find the one he's talking about.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: As Tip says, he served in Afghanistan. As Unity replies, that's kind of easy to forget.
    • And like his Casanova "powers", this too transcends species.
      • not really, it turns out, he turned the pack government into a representative democracy
  • Crush! Kill! Destroy!: Some robots say this, reflexively.
  • Crystal Prison: Tip gets caught in one when he interacts with the sentient transgenic colony beneath the facility.
  • Did You Get a New Haircut?
  • Distaff Counterpart: Recently-introduced character Violet Bee seems to be a female Tip. Just look at this comic (some spoilers, maybe?).
  • Divine Date: Played with and deconstructed. While Artie isn't quite a deity, he is a hyperintelligent posthuman, and as such, he cannot love someone of only human intelligence, because love requires the other person be on his level. He can, however, have a lot of fun with humans in the process.
    • It should be noted that the "Artie can't love an intellectual inferior" idea was put forth by Sweetheart to the team psychologist, Tip. Sweetheart could simply be dead wrong about Artie.
  • Eats Babies: Unity, reportedly.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: Tip suddenly finds himself going out for drinks with Artie, whose human form is indeed very attractive.
  • Even The Girls Want Her: Unity appears to have a crush on Tigerlily Jones.
  • Evil Laugh: Dr Lee tries to pull this off.
  • Evilly Affable: Many of the bad guys are disarmingly cheery.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Apparently only Projects (like Skinhorse and Pixiedust) get mysterious names. Departments follow a simpler scheme. They have been shown to include:
    • Department of Jetpack Suppression: Stupid Department of Jetpack Suppression...
    • Department of Irradiation: They irradiate whatever the home office sends them.
      • Not like...with any end in mind. They just point radiation at it until HQ says "when".
    • Federal Office of Giant Leaking Containers: Seen here during the "Borrowers" arc.
    • Department of Precambian Defense: Currently unstuck in time.
  • Expy: Unity is a psychopathically violent Genki Girl much in the vein of Mell.
    • Which only makes sense, as the filename hidden story strongly implies that her brain is a clone of Mell's.
    • And mostly confirmed by Word of God here.
  • Extranormal Institute: Skin Horse itself, and it shares the building with several others (see above).
  • Extra-Strength Masquerade: A sentient swamp unleashes a zombie horde on Louisiana, werewolves take over an Alaskan town, and transgenic animal-human hybrids have a mass convention in Cleveland, yet the public at large, somehow, is still unaware of the rampant paranormal happenings.
    • With the recent confirmation that the strip is set in the Narbonibrane, Weirdness Censor rules are now in effect. In the filename side story, Sweetheart notes to Tip after he's hired that, "…about twenty percent of humans psychologically block things they consider impossible; they can't hear me. If you were one of them, you'd be useless for this job, not to mention annoying as a coworker."
  • Extreme Omnivore: Unity
  • Faking Amnesia: Played for laughs: When Animal Control shows up to capture Sweetheart, Unity panics and feigns amnesia. She's apparently done this before.
  • Fan Service: The most recent arc requires Tip and Konstantin to mud-wrestle topless for some reason. Don't ask, just get a jetpack and a camera and head down to the river.
  • Fantastic Racism: The Transgenic Convention is full of intelligent mutant animals and hybrids, many of whom have utter contempt for Tip (such as some surly squirrels, and a part-Macaw woman whose inexplicable Berserk Button is people who wear hats.)
  • Fantastic Religious Weirdness: Nick's Judaism becomes a minor issue in his Character Blog.
  • Filk Song: The comments section usually always features a filk related to that day's strip. This strip, about Unity literally freezing her butt off, inspired the song "Put On Your Weekend Butt", to the tune of "Put On Your Sunday Clothes" from the musical "Hello Dolly".
    • It needs to be pointed out that Ed Gedeon (of Everyday Heroes) writes a filk song every single day. Several other people are likely to contribute one as well.
  • Flashback Fail: Unity is prone to this.
  • Fun with Acronyms U.N.I.T.Y = Upgradable Necrotic Independent .... "We do not talk about my acronym!
  • Good Angel, Bad Angel: Because it's in the Narbonicverse, the "personality sprites" still exist, although the only one we've seen so far is Tigerlily's "inner fabulousness".
  • Government Conspiracy: Deconstructed. The whole comic is about how terrible real governments would be at this.
    • Skin Horse itself isn't really a conspiracy, just a moderately secret government department trying to help ... people ... who need help. The real Conspiracy is Anasigma, which is sometimes what Skin Horse is rescuing them from. (And, according to the blog story, even has Men in Black.)
  • Groundhog Day Loop: More weirdness at Anasigma.
  • Gunship Rescue: courtesy of Nick, interrupting Sweetheart's Rousing Speech.
  • The Hat Makes the Man: An avian-humanoid thinks hats turn their wearers evil, and flips out when Tip puts one on.
  • Hard on Soft Science: Dr. Lee thinks very little of the "soft sciences," including psychology. Tip is forced to show her the error of her ways by using psychology to effortlessly seduce her.
  • Head Desk: Sweetheart is driven to this when the city of New Orleans thwarts her every single attempt to get information on their case.
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: ARTIE!!!!
  • Hikikomori: Nick, before joining Skin Horse. (Or at least he thought he was. His brain had already been removed and he was living in a simulation of his own dingy apartment).
  • Hot Chick in a Badass Suit: Inverted. Tip is a Hot Stud in a Badass Dress.
  • Hot Scientist: Dr. Lee. Possibly Tip as well, depending on your view of the soft sciences.
    • And Marcie, post-makeover.
    • And now Dr. Berenice "Tigerlily" Jones.
  • I Call Him "Mister Happy": "You named your tackle The Light of Culture and Reason?"
  • I Call It Vera: "I'd like you to meet Alice. Alice is a .38 Colt Commando service revolver. A classic."
  • I Have Nothing to Say to That: Tip explains to Dr Lee that this is exactly what it looks like.
  • I Love Nuclear Power: Radiation not only makes things sentient, but also gives them nationalities.
  • Instant Seduction: Tip does these. It's like a superpower.
  • Ironic Echo Cut: All the time! This is pure Author Appeal.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Nick's heart is strong and full of love!
  • Kavorka Man: See Casanova above.
  • Killer Rabbit: Sweetheart and her packmates. Or at least that was the plan...
    • The mad scientist who created her could also apply. Aside from this whole "take over the world with sentient sled dogs" thing, he was the nicest, most politely Canadian guy you could ever meet. Turned up to about seven hundred fifty three.
  • The Ladette: Unity.
  • Ladykiller in Love: Tip has fallen hard for Dr. Jones.
  • Let's Get Dangerous: Tip swinging into ass-kicking mode.
  • Literary Allusion Title: Skin Horse refers to a character in The Velveteen Rabbit.
  • Lost in Transmission: This guest strip.
  • Lotus Eater Machine: Until the illusion was forcibly shattered by the mysterious "Goldbug," Nick thought he was living in his apartment, testing simulations for military hardware, rather than actually being military hardware.
  • Mad Scientist: Genuine mad scientists are usually kept under lock and key whenever possible; the majority of the scientists-who-tamper-in-God's-domain that have been featured (like Dr. Lee, or the Irradiators) are "irresponsible" or just plain evil rather than clinically insane. Also the numerous and often defective results of mad science have repeatedly been encountered.
    • Apparently there's a government work-release program for mad scientists, which is how the team calls in Dr. Jones.
  • Marshmallow Dream: Unity describes an inverted one here.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Remy might have channeled the spirit of the dead groom of the swamp, or he might have faked it in a moment of desperation. The answer leans heavily towards "he really did it" since he knew the swamp's name, among other things, but he hesitates to confirm or deny.
  • Medium Awareness: Seen on this page.
  • The Men in Black: Subverted/deconstructed with a vengeance. Yes, they work for the government, and yes, they are tangentially involved in maintaining The Masquerade, but Skin Horse functions more as "Black Ops Social Services". Instead of neuralizers, black suits, and evil motives, Skin Horse makes due with a wind-up receptionist, a cross-dressing psychologist, and under-funded placement programs. There are other forces at work with more sinister motives, however, and their results often provide the project with even more work to do. But played completely straight by the sinister agents of Anasigma, right down to their perfectly-shined black shoes.
  • Minion with an F In Evil: In a better world, Dr. Lee wouldn't even be in the business of creating horrible sentient weapons out of people. She tries an Evil Laugh once and fails at it. She also has a confused motherly affection for her creations, even if they don't return it.
  • Mood Whiplash: The Alaskan Werewolves are downright terrifying, and the comic gets the goriest it's ever gotten when they show up. It also has a Bittersweet Ending for that arc.
  • Mother Russia Makes You Strong: Front Desk Guard Konstantin is mostly made out of this trope with assorted other Russian stereotypes as garnishes.
  • Mud Wrestling: Tip and Konstantin attract quite a large audience of ladies who want to watch them wrestle. Tip defuses the fight with his much-vaunted diplomacy, then the ladies are the ones who wind up doing the actual mud-fighting. Nick curses himself for not being present.
  • My Friends and Zoidberg: On this page.

Pack Member 1: "That's why we need you for this crisis! You've dealt with humans!"
Pack Member 2: "And Americans!"

  • Nanomachines: Unity was recently revealed to not be the Frankensteinian mishmash of teenagers she appears to be, but rather a nanobot horde suspended in whatever passes for her blood. This explains why she can attach different parts and still have them function; she can even be removed and put in other things (like a goat). However, the body we've become familiar with does have enhancements that prevent it from rejecting her (which is not an amenity the goat had).
  • Nice Hat: Tip has been seen wearing one quite often. Women's hats, of course.
    • And in a semi-meta example: after Unity ran into a cute little fox, fans collectively decided that it would look cute with a little hat on. Shaenon warned them that they'd be sorry to have said it...and in the next strip, said fox became a cute little hat for Unity. Ouch.
  • Noodle Implements
  • Noodle Incident "Most people don't have a panda incident!
  • Not That Kind of Doctor: Tip is a psychologist, not a therapist.
  • Oddly Small Organization: Justified due to budget issues.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: They're Canadian. And downright terrifying.
  • Our Zombies Are Different : Unity's really more akin to a classic Frankenstein's Monster than a zombie in the same sense the word is usually used, but "zombie" is probably easier to fit in a sentence.
    • Later a sentient swamp creates a zombie horde of its own in Louisiana. These are mostly just puppets, though, filled with plant matter that the swamp can control.
  • Personality Blood Types: The blood types are included where applicable in the cast page, although some of the characters don't have blood in any conventional sense. The three who have normal human blood types follow the trope though.
    • Tip: O
    • Dr. Lee: AB
    • Tigerlily: B
  • Poke the Poodle: Sweetheart's "rampage" is tipping over a cup of coffee.
    • Also Moustachio's attempts at maintaining the Machines Union strike. "Have some undesirable popcorn!"
  • The Pornomancer: Tip
  • The Professor Is Crying Again: Fortunately, the ancient, mystic order of notaries has a special couch for scientists.
  • Pulling Themselves Together: Unity can repair herself so long as she's got one working arm and her head is intact (and as long as she has a needle and thread, of course).
  • Real Dreams Are Weirder: In this strip, Unity responds to the Abbess's description of her prophetic dream with an inverted Marshmallow Dream.
  • Really Gets Around: Oh, Tip.
  • Religious Robot: Nick has an entry in his Character Blog about going to see a rabbi about how he can keep Judaism while being a sentient helicopter.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Subverted; you have never seen such adorable cobras. They have puppy-dog eyes, the mentality of a sweet four year old, ingrained terror at Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness, and when scared shout "HUG ME!" and coil about our hero.
  • Restraining Bolt:
  • The Reveal: On two occasions, characters have revealed important information and then commented that it would have been much more dramatic had their intended audience been paying any attention.
  • Sapient Steed: Nick
  • Selective Obliviousness: Tip shows an amazing lack of self-awareness towards his lack of long-term relationships.
  • The Seventies: Personified in the form of Tigerlilly Jones and her robot, Sweetdaddy Jupiter Velvet.
  • Science-Related Memetic Disorder: Mad Genius really is a mental disorder in this universe. It's a pity that the institute in charge of taking care of mad scientists is, itself, totally out of its tree and in fact makes the problem worse.
  • Sesquipedalian Smith: Berenice "Tigerlily" Jones.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Prior to dating Tip, Marcie appeared to be scientifically engineered to disable the boners of all but the most selective of fetishists. After she hooked up with Doc Wilkin, the term "Nerdy Hot" definitely applies, and she hasn't gone back since. And it turns out her would-be boyfriend Chris cleans up pretty nicely too.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: Tip, regarding Dr. Lee, though she's certainly the closest he's come to a meaningful relationship so far.
  • Shipped in Shackles: Tigerlily Jones in her first appearance can be seen in a straightjacket on a handcart. Since she is a dangerous mad scientist who can turn anything into a deadly robot, this is mostly justified; in this continuity, people with that condition can make death rays out of X-Box remotes.
  • Shout-Out:
    • A number to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and its sequels, as seen in arc titles like "Cowardly Lion". A list of the characters who are shout outs to Oz books would include almost almost all of them.
      • Nick Zerhakker deserves special mention--in addition to his last name sounding like "the hacker," which he sorta is, and actually translating to "helicopter" or "chopper," which he definitely is, it is also a reference to "Nick Chopper"--the Tin Woodman's real name.
      • Unity's sewed together appearance and personality are a weaponized version of the lesser known character and sometime love interest for the better known scarecrow, The Patchwork Girl of Oz. First seen in... The Patchwork Girl of Oz.
      • Tip is the name of Ozma when she was in the form of a boy in The Marvelous Land of Oz.
      • Moustachio the aged robot receptionist is a lot like Tik-Tok the clockwork man.
      • The Department of Irradiation wears green goggles.
    • Unity's car has a bumper sticker that says "Rocket Nixon 2008". This is a reference to the webcomic "The Chronicles of William Bazillion", which is drawn by Shaenon K. Garrity's husband.
    • The recent shout out to The Big Lebowski.
    • Gavotte the leader, is the one who drinks the tea in homage to Esmerelda Weatherwax.
    • They borrow a Flying Machine from Wendy of the Department of Jetpack Surpression.
    • Perhaps a slight stretch, but we also have Gerda, who works in Cryonics.
    • Chris shows up wearing an Xkcd t-shirt.
    • This strip has a quick one to Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress": Cypress is said to "grow vaster than empires and very quickly."
    • Unity just had to make at least one Frankenstein movie reference. In this case, "Fire...bad?"
    • "Choose" has a number of references to Spider and Web, starting here
  • Sir Swearsalot: Nick Zerhakker, though his profanity filter keeps his dialogue family friendly. His blog, on the other hand, does not.
  • Snarky Non-Human Sidekick: Totally inverted: Sweetheart is sometimes bitterly snarky, but she's supposed to be the leader. Nick might count, depending on how human you still consider him to be.
  • Spiritual Successor: A good chunk of Narbonic's tone and themes are present and accounted for. As of May 6, 2011, it officially became a Spin-Off and official part of the Narbonic with the appearance of Artie (in his human form)
  • Stealth Pun: Dogs don't know it's not Bacon...
  • Stockholm Syndrome: Seems to be the case with Sweetheart, who loved her creator despite all the crazy things he did to her.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: "I am a totally normal alive human federal agent."
    • And in the blog-story, Unity finds two interior decorators at Remy's house: "I should stress here that we are not kidnappers on a mission from a sinister quasi-governmental conspiracy or anything." She buys it.
  • Talking Animal: Sweetheart, Leo, and half the creatures living in the office basement.
  • That's What She Said: Nick's follow-up to Dr. Lee saying, "I can't help thinking we've bitten off more than we can chew."
    • And Dr. Lee took her gender-inverted turn when Nick said, "I'm a machine."
  • Theme Naming: Captain Bram gave all his talking dogs ridiculous names like "Captain's Fancy Sweetheart" or "Captain's Fancy Snugglebuddy." "Captain's Fancy" is apparently their surname.
  • They Called Me Mad: Remember how mad scientists often shout "Those fools at the institute laughed at me!"? Well, it turns out there actually is an Institute that trains people to be Jerkasses who laugh at the failings of others. Apparently this is simply to instigate even more scientists to go mad, which they then capture.
  • This Is for Emphasis, Bitch: Nick would love to do this, except that with his profanity filter, it always comes out, "This is for emphasis, BRANCH!" Or "BIRCH!" Or "BANDOLEERS!" Never what he wants it to be.
    • Unity can do it, though. "I'm the government, beyatch."
  • This Is My Side: In the blog story, Unity attempts this with Nick's cabin. Nick tries to point out that she's telling him to stay out of half of himself, but she ignores him.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: SAMMYCHES!!!
  • Two Gamers on a Couch: The lion rehomed in chapter one draws one of these, called "AsLAN". Examples can be seen in the Sundays. Later, it became subject to a ridiculous parody of Cerebus Syndrome with death, tragedy, and (in a jab at Ctrl+Alt+Del) miscarriages.
    • Chris and Marcie. Nick would be with them if, you know, he wasn't the game itself.
  • Unsound Effect: SCYTHE!
  • Unusual Euphemism: Nick is forced into this by his swearword-replacement control chip.
  • Up to Eleven: Gerda is a Kinsey Seven, a type of lesbian so profound it was once thought not to exist in nature.
    • And even she can't resist going off to watch him mud wrestle. Maybe his ambiguous beauty had something to do with it?
    • Bonus Shown Their Work: The Kinsey Scale is a real thing, which measures how gay a person is on a scale from 0, totally hetero, to 6, totally homo (1-5 don't define the gradation well. This means that a similar scale may be required to gauge sex appeal, so that Tip can be put above the top category himself.
  • Verbal Tic: The Killotron robots, who will "destroy" everything.

Killotron-1: "Happily, we are purged of our old destructive impulses and live only to destroy. And by 'destroy' I of course mean 'serve obediently without destroying.'"
Unity: "Nice save."

    • To clarify--they really do mean that. It's like a really ominous version of "smurfy."
  • Wacky Wayside Tribe: Tip deals with a whole slew of them in The Borrowers.
  • Wetware CPU: Nick got his brain attached to a black helicopter because the company that produced the helicopter were too inept or too lazy to produce an actual AI for it.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Tip Wilkin is fashion conscious and uses a variety of complex female outfits, but he makes no attempt to appear female. This is some kind of strange self-flagellation on part of the artist, whose Narbonic starred four obsessives who didn't always keep track of whether or not they were wearing pants.
    • It's more likely co-writer Jeffrey Wells torturing expanding Shaenon's artistic horizons.
    • Emphasis on the wholesome part too; Tip manages to make it seem totally normal for a manly stud to wear frilly things.
  • Verbal Backspace:

Sweetheart: Sorry friend. That could have gone better. Tip doesn't really have the training for field work. Or the shoes. Sometimes I wonder if being our token human has cracked him even more. When you come to, I'll see that you only deal with the other members of our t--
Unity: Sweetheart! Praise me! I punched out these monkeys real good!
Sweetheart: With me. You will only deal with me.

    • And again when Tip's reaction to her saying "This is a job for Tip" means it becomes "This is a job for Tip, supervised by me."
  • The Virus: Unity is, technically, a set of nanobots in a special fluid; anything injected with the fluid then becomes Unity. Fortunately for the rest of us, she can't replicate very well and non-dead tissue tends to reject her after a while.
  • Werewolf Theme Naming: Julie Rome (as in Romulus) and Sergeant Willoughby (as in Joan Aiken's Wolves Of Willoughby Chase). The unfortunate victim of the werewolves also has a Meaningful Name -- Private Hood.
  • What Do You Mean It's Not Awesome?: Everything related to the Notary Public, which is basically a religious order, complete with sacred relics, is treated with religious reverence and awe. Special mention to the Abbess, who treats her past as a member of Parliament Funkadelic the way more conventional abbesses would treat a past as a witch.
  • Wire Dilemma: More on the trope page.
  • Zombie Gait: Completely averted by Unity, unless she's screwing with her co-workers or Lurching For Life.
    • Completely evoked by the swamp zombies.