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"This is how it starts: first with the jokes, then comes the heavy stuff."
Dr. Zoidberg, Futurama

A Tone Shift towards Dramedy over the course of a comedy series' run, named for the process undergone by the print comic Cerebus the Aardvark. (It should not be confused with the slide from drama to Author Tract which happened much later in the same comic's run, due to Creator Breakdown.) It's any story/series which starts out light, episodic, and comedic, and then assumes dramatic elements and a more coherent continuity. It chiefly occurs in works where parts have been broadcast/published before other parts have been written, as that means the older parts can't be revised into conformity.

Often seen in media where artists are expected to write a few short stories first to see how the public will react, and then start writing longer and more serious story arcs once the magazine/tv channel/company gives the go-ahead. It can also be intentional, with the lighter mood at the beginning allowing readers to meet and become attached to the characters before the story arcs with the dramatic elements begin.

Many Newspaper comics undergo the opposite process as a cartoonist puts some fairly serious storylines the first few years but then lapses into recycled gags.

This condition also has a temporary version. After a while, many shows will begin to get enough respect to be considered for awards, and will create a specific episode for this. Since there's a Comedy Ghetto in effect, an episode of a show made as Emmy Bait will have fewer laughs and will usually tackle a more intense theme. When watching a show on DVD or in syndication, these episodes can stand out.

If the series has previously been fueled by high weirdness, then the transition can be rocky. Some comics tie themselves in painful knots trying to Retcon an accumulated pile of weirdness with invented physics. Others sweep the stranger things under the rug and try to present a more respectable face. More often, the weird is left in place, but retrofitted into a more dramatic role. In a good case, the combination of drama and high weird can be invigorating. In a less successful case, it can be excruciating.

Expect an exodus of fans bemoaning the slide into "angst" as previously happy go lucky stories lose their Karma Houdini Warranty. When Cerebus Syndrome radically changes a series for the worse, it gets called First and Ten Syndrome, after a television series which notably skydived after the injection of drama. Despite this, it's not always a bad thing - in and of itself, adding drama to a comedic work can and often does work. It's just that frequently, the creators don't quite have the talent to pull it off.

May be a case of Growing the Beard if it actually works. Either way, fans may not wait to declare it Ruined FOREVER. See also Cerebus Retcon, Sudden Downer Ending, and Knight of Cerebus. Inverse of Reverse Cerebus Syndrome; if both of them happens, it's Cerebus Rollercoaster. An instance of Mood Whiplash. When this entire process happens in a single moment, it's a Gut Punch.

Compare to Shoo Out the Clowns, where the Plucky Comic Relief are written out of the show (or possibly killed off) to show that things have become serious. When this happens to actors in Real Life, it's known as Tom Hanks Syndrome.

Examples of Cerebus Syndrome include:


  • Inverted by the Evil Dead films, which started out as genuinely terrifying and ended up becoming Bloody Hilarious.
  • The Adam Sandler film Click starts off as a wacky comedy about a man who can pause and fast forward his life with a magical remote control. It eventually shifts from him making a hot blonde jogging go in slow motion to him fast forwarding through his life until he grows old and dies.
  • Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince is about 70% romantic comedy with a bit of magic and a couple of action scenes thrown in. Then, starting from when Katie Bell comes back from her absence, things get a whole lot darker.
  • Three Kings starts out as a madcap comedy/heist film until about a third of the way through, when we see a Republican Guardsmen execute a begging Iraqi civilian woman (in slow motion, no less).
  • Many of Pixar's films are starting to become much darker than the last.
  • Pleasantville starts out on a pretty light-hearted note, until the darker aspects of the 1950s start showing up.


  • The novel Nuklear Age by 8-Bit Theater author Brian Clevinger plays with this trope, mirroring the development of comics as a medium. It starts out over-the-top and cheesy, quickly becomes over-the-top and genuinely entertaining, but, near the ending, it becomes over-the-top yet heart-wrenching.
  • Joseph Heller's Catch-22 uses this trope brilliantly. From the beginning it depicts a hopeless and bleak world that the central character wants nothing more than to escape from, but as the book progresses it starts using the same things it played for laughs early on to a much more devastating and serious effect, such as the absurd and tongue-in-cheek importance of the mess hall officer leading to a few riots, multiple missing parachutes and a tragic bombing, all for the sake of manipulating cotton markets.
  • The Discworld series starts with The Colour of Magic: a raft of tropes, puns and SFX. Serious themes appear in later books, perhaps starting with Death in Reaper Man. A milestone in characterization is Vimes, the fallen idealist of Guards! Guards!. That said, it has remained comedic, albeit slightly more "realistically"; the author has said that the series has "grown up", and that, for instance, nowadays he'd never be able to just burn down the city for a cheap laugh like in the first book -- though he still sees the humor in referencing such times:

 The rumor spread through Ankh-Morpork like wildfire -- which had spread through Ankh-Morpork quite often since its inhabitants had learned the phrase "fire insurance".

    • The transition here is rather similar to the Trope Namer in that the first book, and at least most of the second, were clearly intended to be a wacky parody of standard fantasy to the extent it's often possible to tell specifically which author is being parodied (for example, the bizarre punctuation in the names of the dragon riders). The parody aspect gradually faded to the point that most of the newer novels are more or less standard fantasy with comedic elements rather than comedy with fantasy elements. (Although "standard" might not be the right term for a fantasy novel about renovating the postal system...)
  • The Hobbit was written for children and adults. It starts off pretty fun and silly, but becomes more solemn by the end. The Lord of the Rings, which was welded into the same world after the fact, was written for a more adult audience and is much darker than The Hobbit. Although Tolkien strenuously denied that the story was an allegory for World War II, Tolkien was a World War I veteran, and the horrors of both World Wars almost certainly influenced the major themes, such as corrupting power, just and unjust war, and the necessity of change in the meantime.
  • Inkheart gets pretty damn depressing and extremely violent. In the second two books of the trilogy, which take place in the Inkworld, it turns out the place isn't the wondrous fantasy world it appears to be. The villains in these novels make Capricorn seem like a harmless bully by comparison, and even the heroes all seem to have prominent dark sides.
  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe is very much guilty of this. In general, the Thrawn books and early EU are about on the same level of darkness as the original movies. There's darkness, but in a clean and epic way, and most of the mains survive the experience. The New Jedi Order uses the same kind of darkness (heroes struggling against a seemingly invincible evil) upped to eleven, featuring casual genocides, an entire species of sadomasochists, graphic torture, and relatively high gore, as opposed to "just" Space Nazis, offscreen torture, and mostly "clean" violence. Legacy of the Force backs off a bit on that but took a dive towards the cynical end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism.
  • The Fablehaven series takes a fairly dramatic turn for the, uh, dramatic after the first book. The first book has a light-hearted cover, an only-somewhat-threatening villain, and while there are certainly scary, tense, and at least one bona fide disturbing moment, there's a lot of comedy and sheer excitement it in at the same time. (It's got scenes like milking a giant cow and giving a troll a foot massage.) The second book gets a bit creepier, as it introduces just how unsafe the magical world is... and the third and fourth books are just out-and-out scary and disturbing. Up to and including a horrifying subversion of Strangled by the Red String. So much for the Official Couple...
  • The Warrior Cats series is normally very serious, but the third series starts off with one of the most lighthearted and optimistic books in the series, and then gradually became more and more dark until it ended with one of the most dark and depressing books in the whole series. Since the third series was mostly character driven, this was likely done to show the Three's loss of innocence and more mature outlook on their responsibilities, much like the Harry Potter example above.
  • The Book of Fred began as a sitcom-esque story when a girl, Mary Fred, having raised in a wacky cult (that, among other things, valued the color brown, fish, and the holy name of Fred) was put into a foster-care program and tried to adjust to normal life. By the end, the book had tackled rape, drugs, comas, and other crises--completely seriously.
  • Pierre Beaumarchais' Figaro trilogy. The Barber of Seville is a farce. The Marriage of Figaro delves into class issues, culminating into a lengthy monologue delivered by Figaro. Then there's The Guilty Mother, which is a more serious play along the lines of Tartuffe (the play itself was subtitled "The Other Tartuffe").
  • The Dresden Files, sort of. The first book, Storm Front, certainly had its dark elements; murder, drug addiction, etc. were all involved in the story, but there was a lighter background and Harry seemed to actually enjoy his life, Perpetual Poverty aside. The books have trended steadily darker since, particularly when the Wham Episodes of Grave Peril (Susan is half-turned by vampires, Harry flips out and starts a war), Dead Beat (Most of the White Council is annihilated within two days), and Changes (Which can basically be summed up as "It Got Worse") hit.
    • In book one, Harry fends off a vampire with a handkerchief full of sunlight. By book six, he can't do that any more, because it turns out you need to be happy to fold sunlight into a hankie.
  • P.N. Elrod's Vampire Files series started out as a subversion of vampire wangst, in which Jack Fleming's undead state was treated more like a superhero's abilities and weaknesses than like an occult curse. Basically, he was a detective who could turn invisible and walk through walls, the sort who'd literally use his powers to play pranks on gangsters. But things changed as the villains got nastier: Jack was tortured, his Horror Hunger intensified, his mortal best friend's horrific past was revealed, and the erstwhile subversion of Wangst was nearly Driven to Suicide. While the latest book suggests Elrod has reversed course, pulling Fleming back from the brink, for a while there things had gotten so grim that Lifeblood, the second book in which Jack argues in defense of his Vegetarian Vampire nature, had almost become an in-universe Funny Aneurysm Moment.
  • Moby Dick starts of in a light-hearted style, as if embarking on a jolly romp around the Seven Seas in search of diversion and adventure. Then the obsession cuts in.
  • From Book Three onwards, Percy Jackson and The Olympians gets steadily darker, with the deaths of major good-guy characters and more mature themes
  • Books 7-9 of the Undead and ... series have taken a turn for the dark, with unexpected deaths of supporting characters, increasing evil behavior of Laura, who is the Antichrist and the main character's half-sister, and various depressing tidbits of info gleaned from time traveling 1000 years into the future, where It Got Worse. Word of God is that this change is deliberate, and even the cover art for the three books changed from it's original "chicks who love shoes & pink" theme to more of a "noir thriller" look.
  • T. H. White's The Once and Future King starts off very light and playful with Arthur as a child going on magical adventures under Merlin's tutelage. Then he pulls the sword from the stone and it goes downhill from there.
    • He actually went back and rewrote the first novel to be more serious, so they could be read in order without experiencing Mood Whiplash.
  • The Dragons/The Last Dragon Chronicles starts off as a merry romp involving clay dragons and a student saving a squirrel. Then in the second book the Mind Screw-y stuff starts to set in, and by the third book the main character, David, is killed by being impaled with a spear of ice! And it just keeps going on from there...
  • Flinx in Flux marks the transition of the Humanx Commonwealth series from a light-hearted and mainly episodic Space Opera to a battle for the fate of the entire galaxy when it introduces the Great Evil. It also marks Flinx's transition to full maturity by introducing his ongoing Love Interest, Clarity Held.
  • To a certain extent, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams invokes this trope with Mostly Harmless, written around the time Adams suffered some private personal difficulties that led to him writing an incredibly depressing ending to the series. He wanted to write a sixth book to counter the Cerebus Syndrome but his infamous Author Existence Failure stopped him. Eoin Colfer wrote And Another Thing, but everyone is certain it will never match Adams' own unwritten sixth Hitchhiker's book.
  • This is visible in Septimus Heap where the first mbooks start out with a rather cheery atmosphere but progressively darken until the very existence of the Castle is threatened in Darke.
  • Famously, Harry Potter started out as a light-hearted novel for kids with some darker themes in the climax and matured as its audience did, so that the books had on-screen deaths starting in Goblet of Fire and getting Darker and Edgier from there.


  • The Prodigy's sound and videos show a clear move away form their campy early works such as "Out of Space" and "One Love" into Darker and Edgier territory, with works like "No Good". This shift became gradually more apparent as The Nineties progressed, to the point where it would be difficult to believe that "Out of Space" was even made by the same group as songs such as "Breathe".
  • W.A.S.P. were a 80s heavy metal band with a slight pop/glam bend once infamous for their dirty, innuendo laden lyrics and shocking stage shows. They were largely lumped together with the Hair Metal bands of their time. But after the release of The Headless Children in 1989 they became a lot Darker and Edgier and began making music that was a lot more focused on themes of politics, religion and violence. Most metal fans agree it was for the better.
  • Green Day started out doing pretty straightforward punk with lyrics about getting high, masturbating and being a deadbeat. By American Idiot they instead started focusing on politics and becoming more serious. The fans are now very split up around this. 21st Century Breakdown continued from American Idiot.
  • Pink Floyd may not have been quite the lightest of bands in the first place, but the departure and mental breakdown of Syd Barrett lead to severe Cerebus Syndrome - and, in an excellent example of Tropes Are Not Bad, also produced much of what is generally considered their best music, including Wish You Were Here and The Dark Side of the Moon.
  • The Beatles had a moderate version of this. While the Silly Love Songs never disappeared altogether, their structure and the songs that got mixed in with them changed. This made it possible for rock to be considered a serious genre.
    • And they widened their themes. Following their first not-love-based-singles ("Nowhere Man" and "Paperback Writer"), they recorded with an album that included a Tear Jerker story ("Eleanor Rigby"), a criticism on taxes ("Taxman"), a song about drugs disguised as a love song ("Got to Get You Into My Life"), a song praising sleep ("I'm Only Sleeping") and a childish song ("Yellow Submarine"). And then came a Concept Album, some mindblowing singles (which were shoehorned into an "album," not entirely without filler), followed by a Genre Roulette album.
  • Reversed with Gwen Stefani: Her earlier songs with No Doubt feature relationship drama (she had just broken up with her boyfriend, who is also the band's bassist) while her more recent solo albums are about how much fun she's having as a rich and famous celebrity.
  • The Beastie Boys came to prominence with such intellectual works as "Girls" and "Fight For Your Right", only later to be distracted by such droll projects as organizing the Tibetan Freedom Concert and becoming an alternative rock band.
    • Their earlier works were actually a Stealth Parody of fratboy cuture, which were taken seriously by their audience and is now considered an Old Shame. They partially changed their style to seperate themselves from that era, and seem to be disowning or downplaying everything from the "License To Ill" period.
  • The 69 Eyes started out as a typical Glam Rock band, but ever since "Angels" have developed a more Gothic sound.
  • The Monkees, once employed as a fictional, manufactured bubblegum pop group (based on The Beatles' films) signed by Don Kirshner for an NBC TV show. Other people produced and wrote the material on the records, while session musicians were secretly employed to provide backing tracks. When the truth was revealed to the public, leading to a Critical Backlash, the band members rebelled against their superiors, had Kirshner fired, and controlled more of their recordings and show episodes. The music took on serious and often sociopolitical tones while becoming musically more experimental and progressive. Meanwhile, the show took on more surreal and psychedelic tones. By 1968, with the series cancelled and Monkeemania fading away, the original quartet would film Head, an experimental and fairly incomprehensible film allegorically criticizing and dissecting the same media machinery that created the band in the first place. This movie, now a Cult Classic, would help put the final curtain on the band's teen following, but would give the group a hipster credibility in The Seventies.
  • In the early '90s, Alanis Morissette was pretty much the Canadian version of Debbie Gibson, singing light dance-pop songs. Then in 1995, she released Jagged Little Pill, an album full of angry breakup songs, turning her into an international superstar. The shift was successful enough that many of Alanis' non-Canadian fans don't even know that she was ever a bubblegum pop star. Watch this if you need convincing.
  • Oh, ABBA. In ten short years they went from shiny and upbeat to angsty and vaguely political. You can say what you want about early sad songs like "S.O.S." and "Knowing Me, Knowing You", but when both couples divorced we got really heartbreaking songs like "The Winner Takes It All" and "Happy New Year". There are only two songs on their final album that are remotely upbeat: "Head Over Heels", about a childish woman and her long-suffering boyfriend, and "Two For The Price Of One", about a man who feels so lonely and worthless that he religiously scours the personal ads (and was suicidal in the demo lyrics).
  • In 2007, "Evelyn Evelyn" was what Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley called themselves when they pretended to be conjoined twin girls and sang a cute song about riding an elephant. As of 2010, Evelyn and Evelyn are two full-fledged characters whose backstory is 99% rape, pedophilia, slavery, beatings, more slavery, abandonment and death.
  • Inverted and then played tremendously straight with "Frank Zappa"'s work. The early Mothers of Invention albums were dark, scary, and subversive. As his compositional style got more and more colorful, Zappa got farther and farther away from this, doing straighter comedy and only occasionally becoming as dark as he once was. Then, in the last years of his life, he created Civilization Phaze III, which is his darkest and most serious album, complete with an insane plot about Pigs & Ponies he had started years before.
  • When a part of The Jackson 5 Michael Jackson sang whatever a kid his age was expected to, cute songs about romance and such. After he grew away from the group he sang lighthearted tunes. An album or two later, his songs became more angsty and dark (even including cursing on more than one instant), before eventually changing back.
  • Can be seen throughout the album Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys by My Chemical Romance. Starts out on the light-hearted, you-suck-we-win themed track "Na Na Na", before the tracks get more and more angsty and tragic. However, their last track, "Vampire Money", revamps the entire feel and ends the album with the same feeling it started out with, contradicting this trope in the first place.
  • Joy Division, who started off playing upbeat punk music with vaguely war related lyrics. By their last year, Ian was writing songs that came across as suicide notes. Their last recorded song "In A Lonely Place" mentions the process of a man hanging himself. And Ian did just that several days later. The band's evolution, New Order are an inversion, starting off a dark continuation of Joy Division and moving into poppier territory as they went on.
  • Miley Cyrus' first album outside of the Hannah Montana franchise, Meet Miley Cyrus was in the teen pop vein, with love songs devoted to her then-boyfriend Nick Jonas. After they broke up, her second album naturally reflected the breakup. Her EP The Time Of Our Lives, despite being more lighthearted, contained some angrier/punkier material like "Talk Is Cheap" and her cover of Ashlee Simpson's "Kicking And Screaming", while some songs show the beginnings of her image makeover to come. More of the makeover was found on Can't Be Tamed (although more of the songs invoked empowerment that sexuality), while songs like "Stay" and "Forgiveness And Love" were more reflective and/or melancholy.
  • Although Bruce Springsteen's early songs have occasional moments of melancholy, the overall impression of his first three albums is a manic world of street racing, fairgrounds and lots and lots of sex. After a long court case, he came back with Darkness on the Edge of Town, which was just what you'd expect from the title. A few years later, he put out Nebraska


  • Computer magazine MacAddict, one of the two magazines split off from the defunct CD-ROM Today in 1996 (boot, now Maximum PC, was the other). When it started out, MacAddict was unafraid to have fun: they often included little cartoons in the letters section and back page (even a stick-figure mascot, Max, who was also used in their reviewing scale); the pages were bright, colorful and rife with Running Gags (for several issues, they joked that each magazine was soaked in Downy before it was shipped out); the CD that shipped with every issue would include something funny like a video of the staff destroying a Windows computer; and so on. In the early 2000s, the magazine got a white, sterile makeover (replacing the Max scale with a normal five-star scale), and the tone gradually shifted to a far more serious and straight-laced approach. This shift culminated in 2007, when the magazine was renamed Mac|Life.


  • Let George Do It initially started out as a comedy about a soldier back from the war going into business as a professional odd-jobs man, doing things too silly or embarrassing for others to do, including occasional work as a private detective. He had a lovely young woman to assist him, with a gee-whiz little brother to get into light-hearted trouble. Over the course of several episodes, however, changes like the sudden disappearance of the kid brother and the music going from full orchestra to organ-only darkened the tone of the show to the hard boiled detective series that the show is known for being now.


  • Shakespeare wrote Measure for Measure while composing his greatest tragedies. Described as his "farewell to comedy", it ended in weddings (as all his comedies did) but had very little to laugh about. It was also the last one he wrote, except for The Tempest and Merry Wives of Windsor.
  • Most of the first act of Wicked is a light-hearted story about a green girl trying to fit into school and becoming friends with her popular, ditzy roommate while also falling in love with the class clown. By the end of the Act, culminating in "Defying Gravity", Elphaba discovers the truth behind the Wizard and vows to right his wrongs, getting her labeled as public enemy number one and having her best friend choose fame and power over the side of good and truth. That's just Act 1; it gets much worse in the second act.
  • Next to Normal is all fun and jokes for most of the first act, until Gabe is revealed to be dead. It only deteriorates more in the second act.


  • Bionicle took itself seriously (for LEGO brand, at least) since the start, but also had a lighthearted, welcoming feel to it. Then, in 2005, the writers drifted into much darker wartes, and seemingly enjoyed it there. Every story from that point on was dead serious and increasingly darker in tone. When originally, it was just taking mind-control masks off animals and letting them go, by the last couple of years, characters continuously slaughtered and mercilessly murdered each other, and the only humor came from the sarcastically dry remarks and occasional pop-references the characters made. No more cute little animal sidekicks[1], no cheerful village people... just utter bleakness. In this sense, it's a relief that the final movie that came out was so canon-defyingly zany and inappropriately Slapsticky.

Web Animation

  • Red vs. Blue begins with a comedic and zany plot for the majority of The Blood Gulch Chronicles. It then becomes almost completely serious during Out Of Mind and Recovery One. Finally, in Reconstruction, the drama meets the comedy in a batshit insane mash-up of genres.
    • This is one rare instance of the drama complementing the comedy. Wash's dead seriousness was entertaining in and of itself, and it also made Caboose's stupidity even more hilarious than it already was. The side stories similarly complement the main series; it is implied that the main characters are a source of comedy because they completely suck as soldiers.
      • Now imagine RvB without the main cast. That is Season 9, apparently. All drama, no comedy (or not much, at least.) It's understandable actually, since it's about Project Freelancer, and Project Freelancer was kind of messed up.
      • Actually, according to Word of God, the Freelancer prequel is going to be only half the story- the other half will be following the main cast. Thus, half the season will be almost completely cerebus, and the other half will be almost completely humor.
  • There She Is by SamBakZa started out as a silly romantic comedy about a rabbit-girl pursuing a cat-boy who finds himself falling in love despite his own prejudices and those of society. Then a rock crashes through his window at the end of the third installment, and the fourth sees the world go into all-out Fantastic Racism, with bad things happening to both the cat boy and the rabbit girl, and with things rather firmly in the Darkest Hour by the end. It all gets better at the end, though.
  • Marvel/DC: After Hours had this in a big way. What started off as an uber-topical superhero satire slowly started to become a kind of uber-fanfic, placing the gamut of comic book characters in a world with very flexible rules. The first series only even begins to have a plot at episode three, the second series consists of five 20-minute episodes, and is so plot-centric that the jokes start to become slightly forced (most of them come from the Green Goblin being on tranquilizers, and then pretending to be on tranquilizers) it remains to be seen how long the creators can keep up the game before they run out of plot.
    • N.B.: they still do intermittent comedic side-series as well, which have thus far retained the comedic element completely.
      • It seems to be the method RandomGuy is adopting. Start off a new series with comedy and delve into darker elements by the finale, rise and repeat.
        • Lampshaded in the teaser for Season3 - Zero Hour.
    • Season 2 is explicitly a Deconstruction of Darker and Edgier
  • Chris Ushko's Ducktalez series got a massive dose of this. The original short was a crudely animated piece revolving around fart jokes, with the main story boiling down to Scrooge trying to kill Glomgold with a tank. While darker moments surfaced with Residuck Evil's horror imagery, Ducktalez 3 and The Duck Knight really saw this trope set in with Huey dying, Scrooge having and emotional breakdown and Quackerjack blowing up a gondola full of civilians. Vegeta acted very much as a typical Knight Of Cereberus (though pretty much all his dialogue with Scrooge constitutes as a Crowning Moment of Funny.) Let's not even get started with the rather morbid scene where Huey finds all the costumes of the sidekicks Darkwing got killed over the years, or Quackerjacks' gruesome death.

Web Comics

  • The webcomic Striptease started out with a cartoony art style, and lighthearted jokes about a comic artist and writer working together and the hijinks they and their friends engage in along the way. After a few chapters, we get not only a major Art Shift to a more semi-realistic style (still quite cartoony, but not compared to earlier strips) but the plot changes to something that would be a hilarious parody of soap operas if it wasn't taken so seriously-complete with evil twins, brain tumors, "I am your father" moments, character makeovers and a lot of other things that make it completely different from the story the readers had initially enjoyed.
  • The Polymer City Chronicles are a good example of this. They start out as a simple four-panel gag comic about games with a wacky cast with minimal backstory. They sometimes feature story arcs, but they only last for a couple of strips and are done mostly for the humor. It then develops into an elaborate adventure story with space travel and demons, which comes to a screeching halt since the author himself seems to have lost track of the plot. He lampshades this himself by revealing the plot to be a Show Within a Show and letting the actors complain about the sudden interruption. The rest of the story is summarized in-universe before returning to the gag format for some time - only to start another serious storyline half a year later, which is still in progress.
  • Sluggy Freelance was probably the first webcomic to grapple with the tendency towards drama. Different readers locate the turning point at different places, but the early "Vampire Arc" was probably the first arc with ongoing continuity, characterization and character death. The final strip of the arc hung a little bit of a lampshade on the shift.
    • Nowadays, the strip deviates back and forth between dark and dramatic plotlines and light and goofy Slice of Life plots, currently passing a dramatic peak and becoming somewhat more airy. However, the strip is still somewhat less whimsical than it's early days. For example, the Medium Awareness and No Fourth Wall of the early days is pretty much gone or delegated to non-canon guest/bonus strips.
      • For a time, there was a special Sunday series of guest strips, called "Bikini Suicide Frisbee Days," which focused on the light, quirky days of the early days of the early comic, but it is currently discontinued and now sketches adorn the weekend updates.
  • Emergency Exit does this with surprisingly good results. Starting as nothing more than a strip of wacky cartoonish hijinks and a vague plotline about college roomies, it abruptly takes a darker, edgier turn around the time they do a crossover with Parallel Dementia and plunges into a rather gripping dramatic stortyline. It tends to remember its comic roots, however, and doesn't hold back on quips, zingers, and punchlines. Character death has thus far been scarce, but it doesn't hold back on other brutalities, such as ripping the face off one of the main characters.
  • Megatokyo started out as a light humor strip. This led to Creative Differences between writer Rodney Caston, who liked it that way, and artist Fred Gallagher, who preferred a more serious, ongoing plot. Rodney eventually quit, at which point Megatokyo became more of a Seinen romance manga about the characters Piro and Kimiko, combined with a zombie-horror action story about Largo, and with comedic elements from the early strips.
  • College Roomies from Hell engaged Cerebus Syndrome with "The Adversary", a six-month arc that played the Devil (previously a minor comic relief character) as a terrifying threat, and the Butt Monkey's (previously humorous) romantic woes as heartbreaking. It is not universally liked.
  • Parodied and played straight while being Lampshaded in Shortpacked: after Ethan explains to a toy store customer how "Try Me" products come to the store with a tag on the battery which, once pulled, means the battery's unstoppable decay, Robin accidentally pulls the comic's "drama" tag.
    • It's also a Call Back to the author's previous Web Comic, It's Walky!, which attempted the transition with varying success; an alternate universe version of the Big Bad from that comic shows up when Robin pulls the tag, although in this incarnation he's more of a Meta Guy than a straight villain.
    • It's Walky as a whole is an example as well, as it is a more drama and action heavy sequel to Willis' previous strip, Roomies. Of course, Roomies went through its own bout of this starting with the death of Ruth.
  • When Bob and George started, it was simply a stand-in for another comic the author, Dave, was planning on doing and, as such, was mostly just one-off jokes from comic to comic. After the comic that Dave was working on never managed to lift off the ground, Bob and George began to get storylines and continuity, although it stayed humorous; the story is mostly told one punch line per comic, with an ending that borders on making a Shaggy Dog Story of a two-year storyline.
  • Parodied in this Checkerboard Nightmare strip.
  • The webcomic Exploitation Now started as comedic, but changed into a drama (with the comic's focus shifting from two characters to two other characters), ending up with a main character Killed Off for Real.
  • Done fairly successfully with Order of the Stick (with Lampshade Hanging in this strip). The fact that the comic stayed funny, and the quality of the plot itself, mean that the comic has only grown more popular as the increasingly complex plot unfolds. The strip's creator has even stated that he believes it would never have garnered such a large following without the story.
    • Yamara, also a D&D-based comic, did a similar shift fairly early in its run, with a rather more elaborate Lampshade Hanging in this strip.
  • El Goonish Shive. After the heavily plot-based, action-packed "Painted Black" arc, the author admitted that he didn't really feel comfortable with that sort of thing. His next arc was about the interpersonal relations of the cast; it was still dramatic, but in a different way. The series continues to shift between drama, humor, and outright weirdness. There are definitely more serious storylines, and previous weirdness is often explained away but the author refuses to go all the way and sacrifice humor entirely
  • Dominic Deegan: Oracle For Hire did this, while not ultimately forgetting its roots; the author still at least uses puns for comic relief during its more serious arcs, though needed to be reminded to do so by his readers in the wake of his first. The resulting Mood Whiplash is relieving to some and jarring to others.
  • Sam and Fuzzy started out as a episodic comedy Web Comic about a taxi driver and his psychotic bear friend, but once the Ninja Mafia is introduced it ends up as a long but still hilarious tale of deception, murder, demons and ninjas.
  • RPG World went from gaily romping through RPG tropes to blank-eyed villains killing people and fetishistically licking the blood off their swords. It slid back into the middle for a while, before it was dropped entirely.
  • Questionable Content provides an unusual example, as a general plot has been running since the first strip along with the usual gag-a-day format of jokes; however, a deeper storyline was hinted about main character Faye's life prior to the start of the comic. Comic # 500 started an arc entitled "The Talk" which, in Faye's own words, was "like interrupting an intricate waltz with a sledgehammer to the knee." Despite handling the arc and its fallout with realistic seriousness, the comedic element was retained in nearly every strip in the arc and since then.
  • Parodied a few times in the Stick Figure Comic Stickman and Cube. The first comic has Stickman assure the audience that there will be no Cerebus or First And Ten Syndrome, because "adding drama would probably involve more drawing". Then, this comic has Stickman guarantee that there will be no Cerebus or First and Ten, only to have Cube then announce he's pregnant. Stickman is not amused.
  • The now-defunct Life of Riley suffered from this, starting out with the requisite author-and-his-friends characters in offbeat gaming-related hijinks and ending with an imminent final battle between the arch-demon Lilith and the reincarnation of Christ (in the person of the main character) over an artifact which could literally kill God. Sadly, a series of personal issues and server crashes left the comic drifting in the ether before the insanity could come to a head.
  • Dresden Codak started out with a series of gag strips with intricate art, until the author decided to introduce continuing characters and then do an ongoing story arc about them. There have been a few more gag strips since then, but the continuity has not gone away.
  • 1/0 originally started out as a nonsensical gag-based comic without a fourth wall, and eventually developed into an entirely serious affair full of symbolism and metaphor.
    • ... which (almost) entirely lacked a fourth wall. Very unusual in this.
    • Its also worth noting that despite all of this it still stayed pretty damn funny.
  • DMFA has mostly kept the syndrome out of the main comic, limiting it to side-stories. Recently, it seems to have crept in, particularly when Hannah is Killed Off for Real by Dark Pegasus in a flashback. The story in question did have its funny moments, although it kinda depends on the reader's sense of humor. The event that preceded it were also rather funny, since Dan's moral-guidance animal got into the liquor cabinet and proceeded to get drunk. Given that it's also poisonous...
    • That said, the aforementioned side-story has more than enough darkness, angst and bad things to make up for any hesitance shown by DMFA proper. On the subject of Abel's Story, the author had this to say:
      • With this comic, it's safe to say that the syndrome has come on full.
  • Newshounds began as a comedy strip comic, but as years progressed it started to contain a growing number of more serious plotlines. However, the comedy was still kept as the main point of the comic while the same author explored more serious content in the spin-off comic Manifestations. Newshounds ended temporarily in 2006 and was revived in 2007 as "Newshounds II". This time, the format changed from a 3-panel strip to a larger comic while also turning the series more serious (though not devoid of comedy, now just lacking the obvious punchlines). Fittingly, another new comic by the same author, Something Happens, was launched during the same year; it's the author's main comedy output now.
  • Nip and Tuck started out as a gag-a-strip comic about two young brothers, but became more serious as the two brothers grew up.
  • Venus Envy, probably due to either a particularly blatant case of Writer on Board or a Creator Breakdown.
  • Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic made the jump, complete with a previously humorous villain gaining sudden competence.
  • Adventurers! started out as a Gag Strip that eventually gained a plot. It still remained comedic, though, never getting more serious than an Affectionate Parody.
  • General Protection Fault started as a light-hearted comic with weirdness and humour, but eventually transformed into a complex story arc with angst, character death, and betrayal. Sometime after the first story arc, the comic designer declared an upcoming arc "even better than the last one".
  • A Modest Destiny had continuity and all that goes along with it from the start, but as time went on the story got progressively Darker and Edgier. The first turning point would probably be the dinner party, where the silliness was interrupted by the murdering of a bunch of innocents, a whole lotta backstabbing and the near-death of the main character. It just kept going from there.
  • Equinox, Defender of the Horde started out as a light-hearted romp, but progressively became darker and more drama-prone; at the same time, the female lead turned into a Mary Sue while the (deliberately silly) titular character faded into the background.
  • Josh Lesnick's Wendy took a straight nosedive into unexpected drama territory after its first "part" was finished, and according to the post-series epilogue was going to get even worse had it finished the way the author originally intended. Thankfully, this change was not without a bit of lampshade hanging.
  • Dub This! Seriously, check it out. Quirky anime in-jokes and satire quickly falls to melodrama by the buckets.
  • Ctrl+Alt+Del has been accused of this, leading to Internet Backdraft. While the comic has always been more character-based than gag-based (except for the actual gag strips), everything post-miscarriage has swung a lot more to the dramatic than pre-miscarriage.
    • It's possible that the author started the entirely gag-based "Sillies" sub-comic shortly after that to satisfy people that feel it's getting too serious.
  • God Mode did this twice. Plot slowly took over the comic, and after a while the creator just said "Screw it". The comic then continued on as if the plotline never happened. It got serious again, and another reboot was needed. The comic got a new artist/writer after each reboot.
  • Goblins transitioned from a deconstruction of fantasy RPGs in general and Dungeons & Dragons in particular to a more serious story when the original antagonists were discarded in favor of a truly villainous Big Bad. (Three Big Bads, actually, and that first probably has a Man Behind the Man.) The comic arguably got better, as killing off or discarding most of the cast allowed the main characters to become more well-rounded and the strip retained enough humor to keep it from getting too dry.
    • Also potential Fridge Brilliance when you realize this is an accurate representation of the progress of many roleplaying groups as the players get gradually more invested in the story.
  • Elf Only Inn started out as an online chat room and, after a year-long hiatus, came back a complex RPG story.
  • Nana's Everyday Life. So hard. It starts out as a random collection of off-color jokes using the cast of some anime, predominantly Elfen Lied. Then, around strip twenty-something, it suddenly drops the jokes almost entirely, to become one of the most tragic webcomics in existence.
    • Strip 27, where she drops off of a bridge. Her continued living after this event just serves to highlight her misfortune.
  • Goats went from basically being Dilbert with beer, to a sprawling, dadist, universe hopping epic about the nature of reality.
  • Fuzzy Knights. As with Cerebus itself, it went on to become seriously weird.
  • The Last Days of Foxhound begun as a ridiculously over-the-top parody of hilariously exaggarated (and violent) versions of the bosses of Metal Gear Solid. As the strip went on, it slowly turned into a story-driven, over-the-top parody of the hilariously exaggarated, violent and filthy-mouthed versions of the bosses of Metal Gear Solid, with an overarching, compelling and deep plot.
    • Not to mention the immense Downer Ending. Although, given its status as a Prequel, that was only to be expected...
  • Spiky-haired Dragon, Worthless Knight goes from somewhat humorous strips about a knight who can't touch weapons to dramatic story about curse of a family that is tied to dragons. It is unknown if it's intentional or not, since it happens after around first hundred strips.
  • Deliberately averted by Exterminatus Now, which started out as a merciless lampooning of the authors' Darker and Edgier Old Shame. Eastwood himself has stated literally that Cerebus Syndrome is one of his top signs to start murdering his co-authors.
    • Which is ironic, considering that the story has had several dramatic plotlines.
    • In a recent interview, East elaborated on his plan to murder his co-authors in this case:

 Virus: Never turn a funny comic into a serious epic drama. We have a murder-suicide pact that says if we ever turn into a drama, we're going to end it all rather than inflict that on the world.

Eastwood: No, I said I was going to murder the rest of you, change my name and spend the rest of my days as a painter in Brazil.

    • One can attribute this to the nature of the comic itself: EN's setting is, for all effects and purposes, already dark and edgy enough. This means the authors can stretch the drama a bit without it being detrimental to the comedy (as seen in the Morth Arc).
  • Twisted Kaiju Theater, although (a) the sophomoric humor refuses to stay completely out of the more serious arcs, and (b) the series continues to have strictly-for-laughs one-shots between arcs. Despite this the comic does stray into dark territory at various points and ends up dealing with mature themes like death, betrayal, morality, sacrifice, and political ethics.
  • Zebra Girl has undergone this transition.
  • And Shine Heaven Now underwent this, although it is justified in this case: the creator intended her comic to lead to the darker canon manga.
    • Actually lampshaded a bit: When Millennium asked when they would make their comic appearance, Erin had said that she couldn't go on to the main (canon) storyline until the identity of The She was revealed. Indeed, with her identity as the remains of Mina Harker revealed, Erin proceeded to head for the main plot.
  • Wapsi Square undergoes a transition from a light-hearted slice-of-life comedy, to a dark, supernatural drama where the main character has to save the world from a quasi-apocalypse; dropping nearly all of it's supporting cast in the process (although a few do pop in for cameos from time to time), and leaving a large number of unresolved subplots. Aspects of this were hinted at early in the series; but were mostly off-hand comments prior to the appearance of the "Golem Girls"; whose addition to the cast denote the transition point (although it takes a bit longer for the change to really manifest).
  • Apple Geeks started out -- and is still described on this wiki -- as "a Slice of Life comic with a few surreal elements," primarily Cloudcuckoolander Hawk, straight man Jayce, and various friends. Then Hawk turned out to be a tinkerer/inventor who made Robot Girl Eve, Jayce turned out to have a military-industrialist father who was interested in the technology, Gina had martial-arts champion parents, and even the seven-year-old Alice babysits for wants Hawk dead and has a mother who might be a witch and who caused a Freaky Friday.
  • 8-Bit Theater, while remaining a comedy strip, has had a few of what could be called "Cerebus Arcs". It dipped into it during the battle against Lich, and went quite a bit deeper into it during the battle against Kary, which resulted in Black Belt's death. It seems to be there again, although in 8-Bit Theater's case, it tends to abandon the Cerebus arcs abruptly. It's also been known to tease and then not deliver Cerebus arcs, such as the "battle" against Kraken.
    • Though another possible example could be the Light Warriors themselves. They change from being relatively harmless characters who are comedic as result of extreme character flaws, to THE worst people their world has ever seen. Fighter goes from merely being stupid to an enabler. Red Mage, originally so deluded regarding the power of D&D rules that he was too incompetent to implement his terrible plans, has become more powerful, but not smarter, resulting in brilliant train-wrecks. Thief has remained relatively the same throughout the strip, but was always a greedy sociopath; the only difference later on is that he manages to convince Red Mage, Black Mage and sometimes even Fighter to assist him. Then there's Black Mage, who was always hell bent on destroying everything in existence, but was previously too weak to harm anything, as exemplified by his only powerful spell which he only has the strength to cast once a day, and even then with horrible aim.
    • The final arc of the comic manages the remarkable feat of completely undoing any and all acts of Cerebus that had previously occurred, first by having Sarda de-level the Light Warriors, effectively pressing the Reset Button on their capability to commit atrocities, then having Sarda turn into Chaos, the original Big Bad of the game and comic, and finally by having Chaos defeated in an Anticlimax of epic proportions. But this is Brian Clevinger we're talking about here, who firmly believes that the best joke is the one played on the reader.
  • Sequential Art Twice the artist has taken a few months to due long arc stories involving our plucky characters combating dangerously powerful adversaries like the Denizens or Oz, only to have that conflict resolved and go right back to the "Gag-A-Day" Format.
  • Slightly Damned started out as a lighthearted, comedic story about Rhea and Buwaro's adventures in hell. And then Sakido died.
    • This was the author's intention all along. The first arc of the comic was meant to get the reader attached to the characters, and Sakido's death was planned from the very beginning. While certainly more dramatic than it had been up to that point (and getting even more dramatic recently), the comic is still very humorous and lighthearted in tone for the most part.
    • To put things in perspective, the hooded archer shot the comedy with an arrow, but Devenol shot it with an arrow, electrocuted it, and then stomped on it for good measure.
  • Schlock Mercenary appears to have done this on purpose: the author started light and fluffy (with a side of BLAM, a little OMINOUS HUMMMMMMM, and a bit of THOOM), and quickly got dramatic once the characters were introduced. It got really serious in October.
    • And for several Octobers afterward.
      • It recently took a turn for even more darkness. A light-hearted storyline about getting paid eight times for the corpse of an archenemy and wearing party hats to his funeral ends with the Toughs mind-wiped and made to think Petey abandoned them, as an upbeat ending - the UNS and Admiral Emm were perfectly willing to murder all of them and hand Schlock over to a Mengle-esque Fleet doctor for ongoing torture to hide the existence of Project Laz'R'Us from the public. The only ray of hope in the ending is that Schlock remembers everything due to his bizarre alien biology. It gets no better in the next story arc, where the Toughs are sent on an obvious suicide mission to deliver food to an anarchic space colony. Brad dies in a hovertank accident, Tag murders hundreds of thousands in an antimatter explosion to save the lives of millions, and then formally resigns and later commits AI suicide over the matter, the Touch and Go is wrecked beyond repair bouncing around inside the space colony without power, and the Toughs wind up accidentally installing an untested rogue AI as supreme overlord, who later turns the colony into a hyperspace cannon superweapon. It's a statement of how dark this arc is, when Schlocktoberfest is a relatively light-hearted breather from the action.
  • When Lint began it wasn't the least bit serious. Now it is chock full of drama, romance, and lots and lots of angst. Humour is still incorporated into the story, albeit at a more infrequent rate.
  • Happens in Material Girl around half-way through the comic.
  • Problem Sleuth started out as a silly romp starring a particularly hard boiled detective and his quest to rescue hysterical dames. By page 1000 or so, it became so complex that it literally needed several entire "recap" pages just to clue readers in on what was going on. Oh, and it's got its own wiki. Despite the increase in plot arcs as the series goes on, it still never really takes itself that seriously though.
    • Homestuck, on the other hand, quickly develops several intricate story arcs during the second and third acts, and by the time the Big Bad is revealed in Act 4, the series has gotten much, much darker and more dramatic than when it first started. Though, like Problem Sleuth, it hasn't lost its sense of humor entirely - the Big Bad is a dog wearing sunglasses.
      • Indeed, Hussie maintains that every "serious" dramatic event in the story is profoundly silly upon examination: recent events include an ersatz Harry Potter murdering a girl that comes back to life as an ersatz Twilight vampire who murders him in turn and a Juggalo murdering a Catgirl.
      • THE MAIN VILLAIN IS A DOG WEARING SUNGLASSES (who happens to both be an expy of Anubis and Yatagarasu at the same time, what with the crow wings and with only having three limbs.)
    • To put it all into perspective, the beginning's problems were fake arms, cake, the creepiness of Lil' Cal, stone wizards, and elusive pets. After they all started up Sburb? We've seen more onscreen deaths than we can count, seen the slaughter of an planetary army, seen the assassination of royalty, seen the Big Bad given god-like powers, watched nearly all the main characters die AT LEAST ONCE (if you count watching their dreamselves die), see WV be scarred for life and him slowly go crazy because of it, and met the creators of the universe. Of course, we also watched them die. But yes, the silliness doesn't go away. We have references to SBaHJ every three pages, watched Jack be tempted by Snausages, been given John's derpiest face ever, and a fundamental chunk of the plot comes from Con Air.
  • The Avatar went from being so random it screwed with your head to insanely serious while still messing with your head. The turn happens around comic 200 (or when you have "Avatar Psychiatrist").
  • Untitled follows the initial description exactly. It began as a low-continuity slice-of-life comic featuring thinly-veiled representations of the author and her friends, and over some years morphed into a dramatic redemption saga. One particularly illustrative example was an attempt to rationally explain an earlier pure-gag, fourth-wall-breaking character who was invisible, and had been initially introduced as "living in the gaps between the panels." Turns out he's really some kind of inter-dimensional alien plainswalker.
  • Triangle and Robert, a webcomic about a triangle and a rhombus went from jokes about how a geometrical shape can eat to an epic fight to stop the universe from turning into pudding. Or something like that. And became all the more hilarious for it.[1]
    • Triangle and Robert's wackiness was amplified by the seriousness it ended up taking on. For example, declaring a new and weird food group is moderately wacky. Declaring it in order to gain tactical advantage and thus secure a crucial victory is VERY wacky.
  • Looking for Group broke a record in this category - it started as a random parody of World of Warcraft, but right after the first few pages the writer to go for a fantasy action-comedy. This has not stopped the constant parody elements and reference jokes thrown in, though.
  • Death and The Maiden starts out as a Magic Realism romantic comedy, before the main characters life began to be seriously threatened.
  • Yosh! started out as you standard webcomic, with a bunch of weird stuff. By comic 60, the serious starts to set in (although there is a note in comic 59 that said he warned us). By 120, it's pretty obvious it won't be humor even a majority of the time.
  • Collar 6 went through a period of this, but is now going back to comedy.
  • Bittersweet Candy Bowl started out as generally plotless fun, and now has developed into an epic tale of lovecrossed kitties with a recommended minimum introduction of 191 pages. The humour's still there in abundance, though.
    • Lampshaded in a Project Wonderful ad featuring the characters with the word "ANGST" flashing in the background.
  • The Apple of Discord has also gone this way, in spite of the fact that the comic started as (and often is) mostly a "gag-a-day" comic with no continuity.
    • Which is even funnier when you realize that Ralph and Bimbo (from the aforementioned Exploitation Now) joined Apple of Discord's cast right after the shift started to happen.
  • Nedroid parodies the tendency for gag-a-day comics to develop Cerebus Syndrome here.

 Beartato: I can't think of any funny jokes.

Reginald: So why do you need jokes all the time? Turn your comic into a serious drama!

  • Fanboys aimed for this after posts on Something Awful criticized it for being too generic. It went too far, irritated its original fanbase, and toned back down again, trying to find an intermediate stage between shallow humor and angst. The process was lampshaded in what's currently the page picture.
  • Concession started out as a furry comic about the workers of a movie theater, but eventually half of the characters become gay, quite a few die, and Joel and Artie have supernatural powers. Chaos ensues
  • Housepets follows this trope slightly. While there are still funny talking pets, there is a lot more drama, especially involving Peanut's crush on Grape, Pete turning Joel into a corgi named King, Tarot's psychic powers, and Sasha and her owner.
  • Castlevania RPG started as an extremely light hearted action-comedy that managed to stay lighthearted even during the more serious arcs (Blacula's rise to power, the alternate world, etc). Then, towards the end of the second major arc, they party accidentally unleashes an Elder God. Long story short, Alec, Princess and Darkmoon die horrible, painful deaths, Katrina's CatGirl curse mutates and turns her fully cat with absolutely no hope of reverting back, and Angel is possessed by the Elder God, who then states his plan to subjugate the world. Damn.
  • Bunny went through something that... is closer to this than anything else. It has always been a gag-a-day strip with no storylines, but as it progressed, hints of continuity started to creep in, as the comic started to slowly paint a portrait of the surreal world The Bunny and his friends inhabit rather than just making isolated jokes.
  • While it still is largely a comedic strip, PvP is sometimes accused of this. Mainly, this is due to its decreasing reliance on game-related humor, the increasing importance of the character relationships within the strip, and the development of long-term dramatic storylines. This has been going on so gradually and for so long though that, combined with the tendency for the strip to still use one-off gags from time to time, it sort of underwent this process so subtly that it's actually debatable if it happened or not.
  • Oak Fable parodies Ceberus Syndrome by setting a new record in how quickly comedy circums to drama: It takes effect in the second issue.
  • User Friendly started out as a comic about life behind the scenes at a small Internet Service Provider. The latest stories have dealt with Sid getting cancer, and A.J joining the army, being sent to Afghanistan as a combat medic, and getting shot in action.
  • Freefall was a hard sci-fi comedy. It gradually got more dramatic. Then this happened.
  • Darths and Droids has been shifting this way during the Episode III story arc, as the players' personal lives (Jim and Annie's in particular) start impacting the way they play the game and causing fractures within the role-playing group. There's also a nasty air of Foregone Conclusion hanging over the whole thing, since Darths and Droids loosely follows the plot of the Star Wars movies and Episode III... didn't end well.
  • Zig-zagged in the defunct comic Alice!. While it did feature gag-a-day like random newspapers, it started to get some dramatic storylines in place such as Alice's conflict with her dad's girlfriend, Joan, and Dot having an out of body experience. The story would resolve, but then go right back to gag-a-day strips and the title character's Calvin and Hobbes like imagination.
  • AsLAN, Leo the lion's comic-within-a-comic in Skin Horse. Originally a poorly-drawn gag strip about lions telling a Straw Man antelope his opinions on technology are wrong, and then devouring him, it's now about a lion with a drink problem, another with father issues, and an antelope whose imminent death is a matter for serious concern.

 Tip: This is ... different than I remember.

Leo: Yeah, but wait'll you get to all the miscarriages.

  • 200:20 is a great example of this, the series itself seems to want to keep a comedic tone but keeps getting drawn into a more serious subject matter as the story goes along. The creator didn't agree with this, and wanted to keep the story light hearted so it was rewritten. Three times. Although it is up to debate whether or not that the series won't take another turn for more serious subject matter, it would appear that for now the comic itself is keeping the drama within the story to a minimum successfully.
  • The World of Warcraft comic Equinox: Defender of the Horde was rather silly and light hearted at first, but near the end of the first series it starts getting more serious and dark, to the point where by the end of the last story it is almost completely serious.
  • They're getting faster. Modest Medusa began in January 2011, began its first serious arc by June, and lampshaded the drama influx by the arc's end in August.
    • Lampshaded here : "Hey. Do you remember when we used to do fun stuff?"
  • The Lounge: Originally a gag-a-day strip, inclusion of longer story arcs led to some more serious plots being incorporated, culminating in serious family conflict between Italy Ishida and her father, and the introduction of the children of her father's former business partner, hellbent on destroying the family business
  • Sinfest resisted for a long time, but has been creeping into territory for the last few years. It started with the story of Fuschia the Devil-Girl falling for Criminy and wanting to be human, and since has involved characters falling into various realms (Hell, The Reality Zone, The River Lethe) to to angst over character flaws that had previously been played for laughs. The recent addition of a young femininist on a big wheel condemning characters for their chauvinistic ways and causing Monique to have the most seriously played character development arc yet has fans crying foul.
  • Princess Pi fell victim to this in the appropiately-titled "Princess Pi vs. Cerebus Syndrome". In it, Pi marries Cerebus, catches his syndrome, and subsequently speaks only in overly grim or sad stories. One of them details how she avenged her mother's death by killing her palace's invaders, the US Army, and America's dictator, all in one day, with her bare hands.

Web Original

  • The Ed Stories start out in blog format, then continue as a more formal type of prose fiction with a fairly whimsical tone (cf. "An Admin Password for the Universe"), then suddenly takes a turn for "the dreaded continuity", turns a hinted-at running gag into a major plot point for a longer story arc, and culminates in a Downer Ending.
  • Bonus Stage started as a funny, video game based, cartoon series, but took a turn towards serious right after Rya's death. The series was still basically a comedy after that, only much angstier and with more drama.
  • Oh, Doctor Horrible. The first act introduces the light-hearted tale of an incompetent supervillain, the girl of his dreams, and his cheezy superhero rival. Act Two starts with "My Eyes," Doctor Horrible's half of which at least is pretty dark, but really, it's just him bitching because Penny is going out with Captain Hammer instead of with him. The act then ends with "Brand New Day," which announces that Dr. Horrible intends to go through with Bad Horse's command: "There will be blood / It might be yours / So go kill someone! / (Signed, Bad Horse)" And then there's Act Three. Of course, considering the short length, it was obviously planned from the beginning
  • The Church of Blow does this deliberately and with great effect; it starts off as a light satire of youtube vlogging, religion and cults, with episodes about deciding on the Church's logo (smiley face or weird mouse creature?). Then Cornelius Blow, the protagonist, dips further into insanity, the comedy gets darker and darker, someone shows up at Cornelius' house wearing his face, Cornelius kills at least two people before finally having a breakdown and discovering he's a fictional character and going off to find the real world. The whole series turns into an intelligent and elaborate parody and Take That of Youtube and everyone who uses it, raising questions about whether anyone's Youtube persona is actually the real them at all and if the very presence of a camera fictionalizes everything it records. Also it has lizard monsters, which may or may not be figments of Cornelius' imagination.
  • The Saga of Tuck has been accused of this, though the dark points of the plot have been implicit since day one. This didn't stop some fans from jumping ship.
  • Awkward starts off as pure grossout humour but turns quite dramatic and serious as the series progresses.
  • Ah, the Anti Cliche and Mary Sue Elimination Society. Started up by three British girls with way too much time on their hands, with enough crack to make Scarface jealous. Now? It recently hit the two hundred story mark, with maybe two dozen writers, has an actual, slightly epic, plot, and (depending on the author) angst. Puh-lenty of angst. There's still a copious amount of crack, though.
  • Both New Prime and The Last Scene by Olan Rogers undergo this. The Last Scene started as just a nonsensical dialogue parodying action movie cliche`s in against a white background. Soon this white background became a plot point, and eventually it (almost) starts to take itself somewhat seriously. More so with New Prime, as it has now included plot twists, a (kind of) serious plot, with characters being Killed Off for Real. However, this trope is not entirely played straight as the series never lose their humor. New Prime takes itself more seriously than The Last Scene, as the latter moves more towards an Indecisive Parody than the original straight Affectionate Parody.
    • New Prime 5 pretty much goes all the way.
  • There She Is. A story about a girl bunny who falls in love with a boy cat. The first three episodes are extremely cute and hilarious, but by god does it get sad by episode 4.
  • The Ask a Pony blog Ask Jappleack started off with Surreal Humour, Dead Baby Comedy, Black Comedy, Crosses the Line Twice, and the likes. But after Applebloom dies, and Jappleack is asked "What's the point of growing apples?", Jappleack goes through a bit of an existential crisis. Much drama follows.


  1. well, one did appear at one point, but the writer quickly got rid of it
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