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Exiern is a fantasy webcomic written by Drowemos (despite the obvious connections to dark elves and whiny teenagers, it's actually "some word" spelled backwards) and illustrated initially by Drowemos (2005), then by Studio Boom (2005 - 2010) and currently by Shipeng Lee of Drowtales (2010-). Recently, the comic was sold to Dan Standing, as Drowemos got tired of working on it. The writing duties have since been handed off to Thomas Knapp, the writer for Megatokyo's Endgames light novels.
The plot, which began as a riff off of an early storyline of The Wotch, is relatively simple: a hulking barbarian is fighting against an evil wizard. About to fall by the hero's sword, the wizard tries to use his dying breath to transform him into an animal, but somehow makes him a woman instead. Since it can't be undone, the barbarian, now going by the name of Tiffany, goes on a variety of adventures.
Although it is one of a number of Web Comics with transgender themes, Exiern is infamous for both mocking and revelling in Fan Service scenes; Drowemos in fact paid for his web hosting bills by selling access to the uncensored comics (as well as a number of other R and PG rated bonus comics) using a membership system. Memberships are still available through CCBill even though PayPal noticed what was going on and withdrew its donation facility.
Needless to say, among those who've heard of it, it's a little... controversial. Detractors said that Drowemos was shamelessly prostituting his story, while others viewed the "Membership = X rated, Non-Membership = PG-13" dynamic to act as a kind of self-imposed V-chip.
- Abomination Accusation Attack: Tiffany despises Teresa, among other things because Teresa is happy with having been magically turned into a woman. In one very public argument, with the population of Teresa's home city as audience, Tiffany talks as if it was a fact and common knowledge that Teresa is a Pedophile Priest child-molester.
- Accidental Engagement: Tiffany has managed to land herself one to Peonie's father the King, but no one has told her yet. Part of the reward for rescuing Peonie was A Royal Hand in marriage and since she no longer qualifies for Peonie's and has insisted on the full reward...Its good to be the king.
- Accidental Truth At one point, when discussing the life cycle of dragons, Tiffany says that she never sees baby squirrels and she figured dragons were the same, Fayden remarks, sarcastically, "that they reproduce by magical cloning and that there's really only one all powerful "all squirrel?" we see a squirrel on a nearby branch thinking "They know!" This is referenced a number of times later in the series, though it never directly impacts the plot....yet.
- Action Dress Rip: Played with. Tiffany tries, fails, and ends up rucking it up instead.
Tiffany: "What the hell is this thing made of?"
- Actually Pretty Funny:
- All There in the Manual: As cheezy as the strip is, Drowemos created a highly original mythology behind it, which was hinted at in several strips before he finally outlined most of it in several blog posts.
- A Month At The Bizarro:Starting here, this is what happens when an April fool's gag becomes an Overly Long Gag.
- A Man Is Not a Virgin: Defied, in that Tiffany has Virgin Power. Then inverted, in that the princess, Peonie... does not.
- Attractive Bent Gender: Tiffany, not that it helps her mood any.
- Authority Equals Asskicking: The King proves he doesn't just have to rely on his Praetorian Guard as he is just as capable of punching out Tiffany on his own. He meant it as a joke Tiffany thought that it was Actually Pretty Funny too.
- Implied to be an inversion.
The King: There is a reason I am king...and it is not because I am an excellent statesman.
- Big Damn Unicorn: Unicorns, for a rescue, not for a ride.
- Bizarre Alien Biology:
- Dragons leave their young in the still smouldering embers of burnt out buildings, the baby dragons resemble normal human infants and grow up looking like (and thinking they are) humans until they reach their late teens when some sort of homing instinct draws them towards other dragons. They spend some time in a half-human/half-dragon state while they gradually lose their human identities, before growing into their final dragon form.
- Also squirrels "reproduce by magical cloning and there is but one all-squirrel connected through a collective psychic consciousness".
- Black Magic: One of the central elements of the strip, with first Faden, and then an parade of other dark magic users, setting up human sacrifices and brain washings all over the place.
- B Side Comics: Dark Reflections, an alternate Bad Present in which Typhan-Knee succumbed to Faden's Mind Control and is now his bimbo Dragon, with Princess Peonie locked in his dungeon. Faden also possessed Peonie and wore a very revealing costume while in her body.
- Catfolk: What looks like a tiger person turns up as a background character in Exiern's spoof of the You All Meet in An Inn trope.
- Chainmail Bikini: Thoroughly averted for Tiffany, who is not at all comfortable with her female body, and whose ceremonial armor given her by King Urtica is feminine but covers fully.
- Chess with Death: Played straight, but with a "twist" on how Death plays to win (NSFW!) in a filler strip, here.
- Chunky Updraft: in this strip when Cytx kinda loses it a little.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Peonie is hinted at having become this in captivity; she has largely shaken this off, but inadvertently used the word "mingalow" (a type of livestock she invented while a hostage) to her father.
- Cue the Sun: Tiffany's identity crisis arc starts during an evening dance, and follows the stages of night, with her slowly realising she is losing her grip on her identity, to a complete breakdown into a fragile little girl around midnight, and a massive set piece battle where she saves the day and acknowledges her new identity, just as dawn breaks over the battlements of the castle.
- Deadpan Snarker Faden. For example, when Typhan-Knee's name is described as "he who hunts by the piercing light of the northern ice stars" and Peonie replies that as a feminine name it has a slightly different meaning in the south, He observes, "Something like 'she who hunts diamond charm bracelets with her daddy's money!'" With Faden seemingly gone, Peonie has taken over as the strip's prime snarker.
- Comically Missing the Point: When the King gives Peonie a really tough moral dilemma, reminding her that she has royal responsibilities, and "nice" isn't in the options list for Royals Who Actually Do Something. He tries confiding in his bodyguards, but...
King: I have ordered men to their deaths and entire villages burned...but that, my friend, is the hardest thing I have ever done.
Bhors: Wait, we're friends? Would you be interested in joining our bowling team? We could really use a fourth.
King: Why not.
- Different for Girls: Mostly played for Fan Service.
- Distressed Damsel: Peonie has a tendency towards being kidnapped by various folks. When she was rescued from Faden's clutches she admitted "I was really scared this time" showing that it wasn't the first time (or last).
- Dumb Blonde: Averted twice over -- Tiffany isn't the brightest bulb in the circuit, but isn't even remotely stupid either, and Theresa is a very well-trained magic user.
- Everything Is Worse With Bears: Mainly because it triggered a Hurricane of Puns, it was an Un-bear-able, and grizzly situation. Fortunately Bhors didn't paw-s for thought.
- Evil Hand: Ctyx has one after accidentally (It Makes Sense in Context) replacing his own amputated hand with Faden's amputated hand.
- Fan Service: plays both sides of the fence -- it goes way overboard in many cases, but at the same time takes a self-mocking approach to it. Drowemos openly admits to having very little integrity in that regard.
- Faux Affably Evil: Faden. He's pretty much Exiern's version of The Joker, cracking jokes and being friendly even when he is trying to kill you. He's in the evil game as much for the lulz as he is the power.
- Fractured Fairy Tale: gets a nod here:
Tiffany: "OK, let's review: It's up to the fair young maiden to rescue the dragon from the fire breathing knights in shining armor. When the hell did the universe get turned inside out?"
- Fun T-Shirt:
- Gender Bender: The curse Faden uses on Tiffany is contagious when its existence is threatened so this happens more than once.
- First Law of Gender Bending: Not only is Tiffany unable to transform back to a male, but her condition is contagious, as a male water sprite, an itinerant young wizard, and a crew of priests attempting to reverse her condition find out. Played for Laughs when one of the priests, newly transformed back into a (younger and significantly more attractive) man sneezes... and reverts to female.
- Second Law of Gender Bending: One (but just one) of the gender bent priests
- Third Law of Gender Bending; One word: Corsets
- Gender Blender Name: Typhan-Knee/Tiffany.
Typhan-Knee/Tiffany: Typhan-Knee, it means "He who hunts by the piercing light of the northern ice stars".
Faden: Wait. Did she just say her name is Tiffany?
Peonie: Cough. Yeah, that is a feminine name around here. Ummm... it has a slightly different meaning though.
Faden: Ha! Something like "She who hunts diamond charm bracelets with her daddy's money."
- Goofy Print Underwear: Captain Phi of the Royal Guard has some nice ones of the love hearts variety.
- Great Big Book of Everything: Faden's spellbook. It isn't evil per se, but it does seem to dislike Tiffany and delivers information in the most insulting manner possible.
Tiffany: It keeps calling me a bimbo.
Peonie: It's not calling... Hey this picture kind of looks like you. Right next to the definition of a bim... Never mind.
- Heel Realization: Tiffany hates Teresa for several reasons: They are both under a Gender Bender spell but Teresa actually seems happy about it, the guy Tiffany tries to tell herself she's not in love with seems interested in Teresa, and both Tiffany & Teresa are equally bigoted against each other's culture. After Denver gives her the appropriate What the Hell, Hero?, Tiffany finally realizes what a Jerk she has been to Teresa.
- Hot Amazon: Female Tiffany, as Typhon-Knee he was the typical male Barbarian Hero, as Tiffany she is the blonde statuesque stunner that adorns so many book covers.
- Human Sacrifice:
- What Faden apparently had planned for Peonie.
- The Fracture apparently had something like this planned for Denver too, but thankfully Tiff was able to save him (see Fractured Fairy Tale above).
- Hypocritical Humor: After defeating Faden, Tiffany and Peonie went to to replenish their armament and new wardrobe, resulting in a montage of very... curious outfits culminating in a Tiffany mocking the Chainmail Bikini with its nonsensical construction and nonexistent defense capacity... This from a Barbarian Hero whose normal battle outfit was a loincloth and a sword.
- Impossible Insurance: Occurs here; even when you get the best of that demonic lawyer, just try cashing in that policy. When it comes to insurance companies, Failure Is the Only Option.
- Innocent Bigot: Teresa. She doesn't seem to have realised that virtually all her "compliments" towards Tiff are nearly all racist in some way, which has the effect of making her something of a Jerkass. However she does genuinely admire Tiffany to the point of calling her "one of the country's greatest heroes" and seems to consider her a close friend. This only serves to wind Tiff up even more.
- Leeroy Jenkins: Tiffany admits that this strategy was a bad move, albeit a typical one for her. Note it is specifically name dropped.
- Loss of Identity:
- Lovecraft Lite: As a fanstory, they had Exiern instead be an upbeat teenage drama for a few strips. With a tentacle abomination that takes the soul of anyone who touches it.
- Magic Music: many of the magic users in Exiern are spellsingers, which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Female spellsingers, due to the extreme misogyny of the local priesthood, are usually silenced. King Urtica is not a fan of this policy, though he seems to lack the power to end it completely.
- Man, I Feel Like a Woman: Referenced but subverted in this comic, when Tiffany looks down at her new equipment and says, "You know, this really should turn me on."
- The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: Subverted. After Tiffany appears to be succumbing to this trope, it's revealed that she's been subjected to a magical spell intended to "tame" her. The King is not pleased as "[he has]no use for weak women" .
- Missing Mom: Princess Peonie's mother has significant pause disappeared. It's one of the reasons King Urtica wants to wed Tiffany as she makes an excellent replacement mother figure for Peonie.
- Moody Mount: The Unicorn. Especially when it comes to Peonie.
- Probably due to Virgin Power. And how Peonie hasn't got any.
- Money Fetish: Just seeing a room full of gold gave Tiffany an orgasm. A few strips later and she is lying in it giggling.
- Murder Is the Best Solution: Tiffany doesn't want an escort to the dance, or to look silly by not having one so...
Tiffany:"But mass murder would solve the problem, right?"
- My Eyes Are Up Here: A naked sorceress says this to a 13 year old boy, his comeback was:
- Mythopoeia: See Its All There in the Manual
- Naughty Tentacles: Spoofed in the Clothing store scene - Let's just say it does not go well for the Tentacled Horror.
- Nobody Calls Me Chicken: Any challenge to Tiffany's pride will result in her casting common sense to the winds to meet it, even if it is the implication she isn't feminine and ladylike enough to go to the royal ball.
- Old Shame: Drowemos' original artwork.
- Only Sane Man: Peonie, and Tiffany take turns at being this, depending on what the situation is.
- Orphaned Etymology: the world of Exiern contains "yaoi porn", "bandaids", and "Hallmark Cards" (Though the reference to that last one included "whatever that is", implying that the speaker was getting outside information due to his unusual condition. Leeroy Jenkins is also name dropped.
- Poisonous Captive: This was Faden's entire schtick. Captured a couple of strips in, spent almost the entire time in captivity, and still proved to be an effective villain the entire time
- Praetorian Guard: The King's Personal Guards. They have big scary armour, Really Big Magical Swords and most tellingly, have been the only people in the comic to outfight Tiffany, managing to knock her out and throw her in a jail.
- Punny Name: Neils and Bhors, as Those Two Guys.
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: Cytx, when his Evil Hand takes over.
- The Rival: Tiffany and Teresa eventually evolve into this relationship, especially where Denver is concerned.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Urtica is a very busy working monarch who starts off as a playful tyrant, but it quickly becomes clear he is deeply burdened by the hard choices he has to make for his country and family. Peonie really wants to not be a working princess though, and is desperate to avoid the trap of duty and retain her freedom to have adventures.
- Running Gag: We have the squirrels, the "infectious" spell, the tendency for clothes to fall off for the flimsiest reasons, Denver's recitations of Exiernian law, and the "Doom"-ifying guy.
- Scary Shiny Glasses: Denver breaks them out here, as he transitions from nerdish bookworm, to guy who makes the laws of magic his bitch..
- Sdrawkcab Name: "Drowemos" has nothing to do with elves and even less to do with whiny failed goth wannabes; in fact, it was just a sarcastic response to someone who suggested he pick "some word" as a pen name.
- Set Swords to Stun: The King's Praetorian Guard actually can do this, their BFS are shown crackling with magic and the next comic has Tiff waking up in a cell with a headache.
- Shameful Strip: Turns up too many times to count, but always Played for Laughs.
- With a literal shout:
Tiffany: "Did you just hit me? In the hall? With a candlestick? YOU COULD KILL SOMEONE DOING THAT!!!"
- Drow has also mentioned that the northern barbarians worship a god known as "Ash, the One-Handed".
- Speech Bubble Censoring: The sound effects usually cover up anything too revealing; the comic will then include an offer to buy the uncensored picture.
- Standard Hero Reward: Played with: Ok, so maybe Princess Peonie can't marry Tiffany. But King Daddy sure can!
- Sure, Let's Go with That: Drowemos admits to it having happened at least twice, once in response to reader demand, once because of a divergence between the script and the art.
- Tempting Fate:
- Those Two Guys: The king's Guardsmen Neils and Bhors.
- Tomato Surprise: Denver is actually a larval dragon, a fact that Tiffany found out when she found Denver's half-transformed sister. Denver does not yet know.
- Transformation Comic
- Transsexual: One (but just one) of the Gender Bent priests seems quite thrilled by the prospects of his newfound femininity. (The rest find his/her reaction to be extremely annoying.)
- Unicorn: Its "purity" helps Tiffany resist Faden's magic, thankfully Tiff doesn't seem to have worked out the implications of that. Said unicorn has also helped Peonie on several occasions, but recoils from her touch... again, for obvious reasons.
- Villainy Free Villain: Teresa. Is the opposition for Denver's hand, and also is comfortable and pleased with her transformation into a woman. To balance out her having to endure a near constant stream of insults (including accusations of paedophilia) from Tiffany because of this, she is thankfully a snob and a bit (unwittingly) racist, so we can all feel comfortable hating her.
- What Measure Is a Mook?: Pip and Ce; Ctyx and Mira. In general, Drowemos doesn't seem keen on throwing away incidental characters.
- White Magic: In theory this is the Church of Rem's domain, but it doesn't seem to have the power or popularity of it's dark counterpart.
- Wounded Gazelle Warcry: Mira saves her boyfriend Ctyx by letting him save her. A big scary guard is threatening to kill him, but his fear does not trigger his Super-Powered Evil Side. And thus she draw the guard's attention to herself, sobbing for mercy and everything - turning Ctyx's fear into the rage he need to activate his powers.