Starslip

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Webcomic by Kris Straub, a hybrid Science Fiction / Fine Art comic.

Originally set in the year 3440 on the Terran Directorate Ship Fuseli, formerly the Crimson Fall, a 'luxury battle cruiser' converted into a museum ship. Originally built so that the crew would get a morale boost of the opulence of the Fuseli, the caviar rations made the crew sluggish and easily overcome. The ship was repurposed as an art museum.

The comic was named for the Starslip drive, the main form of FTL for the universe, which actually slips between parallel universes and is normally kept to a very close set of universes where you switch places with a copy of yourself in that universe. Because so many alternate universes use the drive the changes are so small as to be non-existent.

Originally named "Starshift Crisis" until a potential copyright issue with the video game StarShift: The Zaran Legacy caused Straub to change it to "Starslip Crisis" in the "Overdrive" storyline. Afterwards all mention of Starshift was changed to Starslip in not only the domain name, but the comic itself. And after "The End of The End" the comic was shortened to simply Starslip, and given an Art Shift to boot.[1] The drive now works by moving the ship along two points on a straigher than straight line, with a wonderfully forced explaination for why this is still called a "starslip".

Main characters include Memnon Vanderbeam, the fussy, arrogant curator of the Fuseli; Cutter Edgewise, the drunk ex-pirate who is now Fuseli's pilot; Mr. Jinx, a cirbozoid, a Stoic insectoid with Bizarre Alien Biology, whose race has repeatedly faced extermination at the hands of others.

Tropes used in Starslip include:


  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Works in humanity's favor for once-a robot shows up in the current arc having last been seen planning a revolt against humanity. At some point between then and now, it downloaded the intelligence of a couple hundred robots buried (alive? Functioning, anyway...) rather than leave them. This caused it's IQ to explode, at which point it reevaluated it's priorities and decided organics were okay after all.
  • Alien Arts Are Appreciated: One of the main themes.
  • All Crimes Are Equal: All crimes on Cirbozoid are punished by an acid bath.
  • All the Myriad Ways: Technically, the entire main cast.
  • Alternate Universe: Starslip drives switch with a double in an alternative universe.
  • Anachronism Stew: A 2008 series of strips cleverly plays this with Concrete Universe, future CSI-type "historical drama" set in "the twentieth century" which casually mixes technologies, attitudes and stereotypes from "the past"; detectives ride in covered wagons, wield scimitars, and deal with criminals who "smoke booze".
  • Art Shift: The recent "The End of the End" reboot provided Straub with a convenient place to update the style of the strip to the quality and detail he currently prefers to draw in.
  • Berserk Button: Teasing Cutter for only having one eye tends to piss him off.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: Mr. Jinx's physiology gets increasingly ridiculous as the series progresses, and is frequently lampshaded.
    • "His" anesthetic saliva and ability to vent chloroform are used frequently.
  • Body Backup Drive: Quine does this. If his body is killed, a new one is created in a cloning tank on board ship and his consciousness downloaded into it.
  • Bottled Heroic Resolve: Cutter.
  • Broken Pedestal: Vanderbeam to Holiday, after she discovers his lingering obsession with Jovia, and the lengths he'll go to to restore her.
  • Brown Note The Spine of the Cosmos, when viewed in context, makes people into mental slaves of whom ever owns it. But it's art, so if you alter its context enough to make the artist's intended meaning inapplicable...
  • Buffy-Speak: Used by Vanderbeam on occasion when he tries to sound "authoritative".

Vanderbeam: Target its go-parts and make explosions.

  • Butt Monkey: Officer Quine
  • Canon Welding: Vore, AKA Vaporware came from Checkerboard Nightmare, Straub's previous strip.
  • Captain Ersatz: the directorate monoliths are the SEELE committee from Neon Genesis Evangelion. Word of God acknowledges this in a blog post.
  • Cosmic Retcon: As of January 9 2009, forget everything you know. They've slipped two years into the past, in a world where Starslip Drive has been outlawed.
    • Perhaps also includes the major plot event when they slipped into a universe where Princess Jovia died several months previous. The Alternate Universe nature of the drive makes it insanely easy to do this, which used to be the titular crisis.
    • Its not really a cosmic retcon if you keep on adding to the old continuity with major plot points. The Chronomatic is revealed to be Time Traveling Vanderbeam's son.
  • Creator Cameo: Straub was in attendance at SDCC when the Fuseli accidentally timewarped to 2007, seen here.
  • Death Is Cheap: For Quine, the cost of death is just the raw materials used by his cloning vat. And clothes. And pain.
  • Drinking on Duty: Cutter, in this strip, among others. In fact, there is nary a moment when Cutter isn't drinking on duty.
    • Sure there is. Even Cutter has to sleep sometimes.
  • Eldritch Location: The Fuseli, if you can believe it. During one arc exhibits start going missing, then turning up in other places badly mangled. It eventually turns out that, due to some bizarre and arcane technical specifications and factory defaults, the bulkheads of rooms connected to the outer hull actually move slowly, and the missing exhibits are simply being scraped off the walls as they pass.
  • Energy Beings: What mankind evolved into in the "really far future". Deep Time was created to protect the timeline from anything that might endanger that future.
  • Exposition Beam: Subverted.
  • Expy: Zillion seems to share a few traits (mostly cosmetic) with Captain Reynolds, as played by Nathan Fillion.
    • Just to drive the point even further, Zillion even uses the name "Fillion" as an alias at one point.
    • For that matter, Admiral Huff of the Spacica calls Admiral William Adama of the Galactica to mind.
    • Ash Cordry (from another comic of Straub's, FChords) makes a prominent appearance in the Cutter Edgewise, P.I. storyline. He's identical to the original Ash, except he's actually a wig-wearing alien impostor.
  • Fan of the Past: Memnon is very much a fan of the past (his specific area of interest being late 20th to early 21st century), being an art curator. His art exhibits include the last remaining copy of the Catwoman film as well as World of Warcraft.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: Starslip
  • Flat What: "She's made of pressurized vapor."
  • Future Imperfect: The Show Within a Show "Concrete Universe", which combines covered wagons with laser technology in a perfect example of 20th century police work.
  • Future Slang: Mostly parodied with "Space" being added in front of everything.
    • Even going as far as "What on Space-Earth?!"
    • "Good space heavens!"
    • Taken even further with Zillion's "Deep Slang", which largely consists of dropping the last word of every.
  • Hidden Depths: Cutter, paralyzed by seeing the Spine of the Cosmos in it's proper context, hears Vanderbeam pedanterizing about how it's not being seen in the proper context because they're just seeing a filmed projection of it. He processes this revelation and snaps out of it. The drunkard ex-pirate is the only one for whom this tactic works, suggesting that he actually understands what Vanderbeam's going on about.
    • He should. It was previously established he was an art student before getting involved with space pirates. He commented that he would never have remembered "all that arty stuff" if it wasn't for his work with Vanderbeam, though.
  • Historical In-Joke: Fuseli was an 18th-century painter.
  • Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act Deep Time used to kill Hitler then go back in time to save him as a way to pass weekends.
    • Historical In-Joke: Hitler survived a lot of assassination attempts through what seemed like pure blind luck.
  • Human Notepad: Katarakis uses this to cause Deep Time to detonate the Jupiter Bomb ahead of schedule...
  • I Didn't Mean to Turn You On: Poor Holiday...
  • Immortal Life Is Cheap
  • Infinite Canvas: "The End of the End", where the Starslip website itself was destroyed.
    • The archived version doesn't do it justice. On the day it ran, it took up an entire splash page. As an added bonus, the tumbling navigation buttons really worked!
  • Interspecies Romance: Quine and Raquel.
    • Silane and Cutter.
  • I Surrender, Suckers: Zillion uses this to bait the Xenotrids into range after he, Cutter, and Jynx are shot down.
  • It Only Works Once: Averted - when the ship finds themselves in the war against Katarakis for the second time, they defeat him in the exact same way they did before travelling back in time (i.e., Jinx wearing the Spine of the Cosmos as a hat.)
  • Loving a Shadow: Vanderbeam's obsession with Jovia.
  • Mad Artist: Xxxyyy (more below).
  • Meaningful Name: A quine, in programming terms, is a program that can reproduce itself.
  • Metamorphosis Monster: The Jinxlets are adorable little bug creatures that gain nourishment from cuddling. When fed Royal Jelly, however, they turn into terrifying berserker engines of destruction.
  • Myth Arc: Memnon's secret quest to find a way back to Jovia drives a lot of key plot and character development, and gives us many of the strip's more dramatic moments, but can sometimes be easy to lose sight of amongst all the shorter, more contained story arcs and gags.
  • Naked on Revival: Quine, over and over again.
  • Noodle Implements:

Aldus Vanderbeam: I also learned I wasn't good at talking to nude models, art professors, the dean of the art department, and campus police. You will never hear that story.
Ervoth Von Lucifuge: Remember the Harrakon disaster of '37? That was me. And six trained goldfish.

  • Noodle Incident: Hyper-Maine's accident
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: The transition from Starslip Crisis to Starslip.
  • Not So Above It All: Vanderbeam in this strip.
  • Planet of Steves: Nearly everything on the Cirbozoids' planet is simply named "Cirbozoid", from cities to rivers to their currency to warcries to the planet itself. The planet's moon is called Cirbozoidmoon.
  • Post Modernism: The Starshift to Starslip switch
    • And, more recently, "The End of The End" which also switched the title again to Starslip.
  • Quick Nip: Cutter, repeatedly.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: The Jinxlets. Their main source of nutrients is SNUGGLING.
  • Scheduleslip Crisis: As of 2010, it isn't always clear whether the comic will be updated on any particular day.
    • But it usually is except during convention season.
  • Serious Business: Fine Art is really, really important. At one point, Memnon's art curation skills save the universe.
    • "In order to save your life, you must make a classic, lasting piece of art. Now."
    • "This will be my greatest curation EVER."
  • Shout-Out: This strip.

Mr. Jinx: "My family doesn't talk about cousin Cloverfield, sir."[2]".

  • The Singularity: It exists in the far future, and is the reason for Deep Time's extreme measures against the Starslip drive.
  • Space Does Not Work That Way: Memnon has his degree in art, not science...
  • Space Pirates: Cutter has the eyepatch and everything. He was a pirate science officer.
  • Space X: Space-parodies this space-trope space-constantly. See also Future Slang.
  • Stable Time Loop: Used several times by both our heroes and Deep Time. One strip even thanks Heinlein
    • Well, it did, back when it was on Wordpress and had individual titles.
  • Standard Starship Scuffle: With occasional Lampshading.
  • Starfish Aliens: Invoked Here, with giant, armless centipedes.
  • Starship Luxurious: The Fuseli itself
    • It was originally constructed to test a theory that pampered soldiers would fight harder and win more battles so they could get back to the caviar faster. This failed predictably, and it was converted into a museum.
    • Diamond-reinforced mahogany....
  • Sufficiently Advanced Aliens: The aforementioned centipedes, who teleport the Paradigm and its crew along with every single celestial object known to mankind to the other end of the galaxy just to be left alone.
  • Talk Like a Pirate: Cutter not so much, but his friends back in the Space Pirates, oh so yes.
  • Ted Baxter: Vanderbeam
  • Teleporters and Transporters: Subverted -- the crew steps onto a "relevator" (with a design reminiscent of the transporters of Star Trek) which turns out to simply shoot down onto Cirbozoid's surface at near-light speed.
  • Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo: the islands of Japan are now In space.
  • Time Police: Deep Time
    • Deep Time could also count as a Deconstruction of the Time Police concept since they take the usually noble goal of "protecting the future" common to similar organizations to its logical extreme: making them crazed Knights Templar capable and willing to go to literal war with the past and using every underhanded tactic in the book, ranging from killing innocent people for the sole fact that they don't have any significant impact in future history, abusing Tricked-Out Time, as listed below and finally building and activating a giant bomb that destroys the entire timeline it's on and replaces it with one sure to result in the creation of Deep Time's "present".
  • Tricked-Out Time: Memnon uses A2-Z to compute a certain important Starslip path, but instructs him not waste computational time answering questions he answered the first time.
    • Deep Time especially abuses this. At one point they attack the Fuseli and go back in time to plant hypnotic triggers in every member of the crew. Some more harshly than others. One agent goes back in time and FATHERS AND RAISES A CHILD so that the child can grow up, become a guard on the Fuseli, and not be able to make himself shoot his father when the Deep Time agents raid the ship.
  • True Art Is Angsty /TrueArtIsIncomprehensible: Many art-centered strips, but especially Xxxyyy (pronounced "zee"), a deconstruction of the modern artist, rebelling against the label, trying hard to create something that will make people wake up and realize she's just a hack. Offensiveness included here because one piece involved driving a species to extinction to use their pelts as a canvas. Oh, and I suppose attempting to blow up a ship with full complement counts, too.
    • And, y'know, remaking the entire universe.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Memnon Vanderbeam, step right up.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: Much of the humor can come from artistic related puns, while art context is at least once the key to saving the galaxy.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Type 2: Cutter and 'Beams' almost never stop sniping at each other, but will defend each other against outside criticism, attempt to protect each other, and have plenty of nonromantic (and often promptly lampshaded) Aw, Look -- They Really Do Love Each Other moments.
    • Jinx and just about anyone else might count as Type 1; Jinx is submissive to a ridiculous degree and takes all manner of insults from everyone but Holiday, but the others have gone out of their way to help him on several occasions, and vice versa.
  • Welcome to The Real World: A haphazardly-plotted Starslip jump caused the Fuseli to crash into the 2007 San Diego Comic-Con.
  • What Do You Mean It's Not Awesome?: "This will be... MY GREATEST CURATION EVER!"
  • What the Hell, Hero?: "You have no idea how much of my respect you've lost. For good."
  • When All You Have Is a Hammer: Vanderbeam and Art.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: When a Deep Time agent needs to think they will time travel away to think and come back a second later. At least one agent wastes his entire lifetime on a stupid idea, asking a friend to stop him from wasting it on that idea.
  1. I suppose you could call it an... Art Shift Crisis?
  2. This strip was put up the day after someone commented on the forums on how the Cloverfield monster reminded him of a Cirbozoid. Straub replied with a linke to the strip and the phrase "CANON'D