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"Most romance stories follow the same standard operating procedure — here's one person, here's another person, both have their own feelings and conflicts, they're crazy about each other, and eventually they overcome all odds and get together, and at the end of the film, they're a happy couple living happily ever after. That's so...boring."—Aeire, author of the comic.
Punch an' Pie is a comic, written by Aeire and illustrated by Chris Daily, about two bisexual women who start the comic in a relationship, break up, and rebuild their emotional lives afterward. It is a spinoff to Aeire's Queen of Wands, focused on the life of Angela, from that comic; her girlfriend to start, Heather, and the increasingly large social networks that they form after their relationship ends.
Angela is a short, enthusiastic young woman with a long history of troubled relationships. She has a very active imagination and a healthy sense of fun—which itself appears to be a thin denial against her own emotional issues. Heather is the taller, but younger, of the two, a quiet, introspective woman with a tendency to avoid change. Each has a separate and mostly self-contained supporting cast revolving around their jobs, although there is some occasional crossover between the two casts.
Angela's main supports are Justin, a quiet and blunt guy who manages to become hugely successful off a book he despises, and Dawna, her former manager and jovial mother figure. Other notable supporting players include Jerkass bookstore manager George, Cloudcuckoolander employee Aaron, and gal-pal Molly. These characters often inspire Angela to gain insight into her own flaws and false perceptions.
Heather's first on-panel friendship apart from Angela is Jack, Justin's older and much more talkative brother. After switching jobs to a zoo, she begins spending time with Aiden, who becomes a love interest after she breaks up with Angela; and Karen, a ditz of grand proportions. A few others rotate in and out, but Heather mostly sticks to these three; one of her defining character traits is a tendency toward excessive introspection and self-imposed isolation. She later dumps Aiden for the bookstore barista and burlesque dancer Lucy, who moves into Heather's apartment.
Relationships tend to be very messy for both Angela and Heather while both seem to hold their past relationship as a gold standard for love. Parallelism abounds as the comic shifts POV from Angela to Heather and back again.
The strip was originally written by Aeire, writer/artist of Queen of Wands, and drawn by Chris Daily, writer/artist of Striptease. After 2011 became a particularly bad case of Schedule Slip due to Aeire's schedule, she turned the scripting duties over to Daily as well, stepping back into a directing role.
- Adult Child: Angela started out as this, but seems to be growing out of it. It is implied that much of such behavior is an act.
- All There in the Manual: It is highly recommended to read Queen of Wands first to make a few things clearer. Angela's abandoned polyamorous views are only referenced obliquely in Punch an Pie, and she and Justin occasionally reference Kestrel, Seamus, and the Macarena Bear from the previous strip.
- And You Were There: One of Angela's dream sequence storylines makes use of this.
- Art Evolution: Chris Daily's art has changed very noticeably, mostly for the better. Recently, there has also been some pointed Writing Evolution, as Aeire has tried to cut down on Wall of Text dialogue in favor of snappy three-panel strips.
- Author Appeal: Aeire comments that a strip featuring Angela getting into bed wearing a Wonder Woman T-shirt and matching panties was the result of not giving artist Daily any panel descriptions; she goes on to say that she should give him free rein more often.
- Benevolent Boss: Dawna. She's a mother to her employees, especially Angela.
- Bi the Way: Angela comes out to Heather as bi, rather than lesbian, when she offhandedly refers to an ex as "he"; Heather comments that she wishes it could always be done so easily. Heather herself is identified as bi in a similar fashion.
- Bland-Name Product: Often used for background gags, most memorably Angela and Justin shopping at "Warm Mention."
- Book Dumb: Karen to a huge extent. According to Molly, Goodnight, Moon was "too literary for her".
- Also played with when Heather's fellow accounting students cry foul when she asks them questions not relating to numbers. They're likely more lazy than anything else.
- Call Back: One of many examples is this strip, which goes all the way back to one of Angela's punchlines from Queen of Wands.
- Camp Straight: Brian.
- Cartoon Creature: Frank, Angela's pet cat...dog...whatever.
- Catch Phrase: Justin's "Whatever."
- Cheerful Child: Heather's Dream!Angela, who is actually Heather's own inner child.
- Chekhov's Gunman: Lucy, who started as a colorful co-worker who taught Angela how to work the bookstore's coffee shop and later got a cameo in one of Heather's arcs as a burlesque dancer. And now Lucy is Heather's new girlfriend.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Angela was pretty good friends with Felix and Shannon toward the end of Queen of Wands, but she's apparently stopped talking to them since Kestrel left. Likely a case of Economy Cast.
- Clingy Jealous Girl: Angela, oh-so-very-much Angela during her relationship with Heather. Heather breaks up with her over it.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Angela's employee Aaron shows signs of this, with his Shakespearean/Don Quixotic speech pattern — he certainly comes across as one to the other characters. A little bit of narration reveals that it's a deliberate act he puts on to make life more fun. Still, he probably fits this trope as well as anyone can in an unembellished Slice of Life story.
- However, it seems like just about anyone in the strip over the age of 60 tends to fulfill this trope even better.
- Completely Missing the Point: Justin tells Aaron not to care so much about whether or not he gets Karen's attention. Aaron, instead of trying to be himself and let life take its course, proceeds to try his hand at being a Justin clone (and fails at it).
- Continuity Cameo: Felix and Shannon from Queen of Wands, and their daughter Adrienne, cameo as customers at the zoo where Heather works. Canon guest storylines by R.K. Milholland feature Wannabe Wiccan Girl, Linda and Kestrel.
- Cool Old Lady: Heather's world-traveling hippie mom. Also pretty much the only elderly character who isn't completely insane.
- Covert Pervert: Heather losing her composure to stare slack-jawed at a burlesque show paints her with a touch of this.
- Deadpan Snarker: Justin
- Did You Just Have Sex?: Karen is very curious about Heather and Aiden's goings-on. Heather delights in provoking a Your Head Asplode reaction when Karen tries to puzzle out whether Heather's mood and expressions indicate getting laid or not.
- Distracted by the Sexy: Angela in her Firefly dream, Heather and Aiden in unison at a burlesque show.
- The Ditz: Karen. Complete with Valley Girl speech patterns. She's dumb enough that she thinks "oblivious" is an infection and she dislikes reading to a comical degree.
- Double Subversion in a recent Karen Arc.
- Dogged Nice Guy: Aaron.
- Don't Explain the Joke: One of the first signs of Karen's ditziness is that she feels the need to explain jokes that everyone got in the first place.
- Dream Sequence: Used to contrast Angela's and Heather's different thought processes. Angela has wacky and meaningless dreams involving her favorite TV shows, video games and books; Heather has introspective dreams where she re-examines her flimsy Freudian Excuse and tendency toward projecting her repressed traits onto others.
- ...and then Angela has a dream that's pure Nightmare Fuel.
- Estrogen Brigade Bait: Aiden, if tattoos are your thing.
- "Falling in Love" Montage: Used in flashback during the breakup scene.
- Fauxtivational Poster: Angela likes to hang them in her office.
- Freudian Excuse: Double Subversion with Heather. She first claims that her parents' divorce was amicable and that her childhood ended up better off for it. A dream sequence later reveals that she has some major abandonment issues due to her interpretation of the divorce. She even knows deep down that she's wrong.
- He Is Not My Boyfriend: Angela and Heather both have a lot of these moments post-breakup. Heather has to deal with Aiden's frustrating ambiguity, while Angela has to correct other people's perceptions of her and her close friend Justin.
- Not to mention that Heather had to pretty much tell Angela (truthfully) both He's Not My Boyfriend and She's Not My Girlfriend in regard to every one of her friends.
- Genius Bonus: Angela makes a subtle reference to Pavlov's experiments in this comic.
- Hidden Depths: And I quote, "So who's the moron now?"
- How We Got Here: After a very lengthy Angela arc, the comic switches back to Heather in real time — meaning that several months have passed, she's graduated from college, has a new (and much less fun) job, and has cut off her quasi-relationship with Aiden to go out with Lucy. Flashbacks are being used to fill in up to the present.
- In Name Only: Justin has received offers to turn his book into a Lighter and Softer cartoon that bears no resemblance to his teenage vision of a mass-murdering gothic bat.
- Insane Troll Logic: Karen is prone to it, such as her assertion that Lady Gaga's "Pokerface" is "kid friendly".
Karen: What? Come on. There is nothing wrong with Gaga. Babies say gaga. Hel-lo, it's fine!
Angela: [[[Visible Silence]]]
Karen: SEE? Totally makes sense!
- Insistent Terminology: "Don't call me sir."
- Kavorka Man: Joe.
- Leet Lingo: Used to make sure the reader knows the characters are talking about World of Warcraft without actually calling the game by name. Also separates the main characters from the jerks on WoW. Lampshaded by Angela, who finds it incomprehensible gibberish at first.
- Locked Out of the Loop: Heather knows that there is something up with Karen and Aiden's past with each other, but neither of them is speaking up.
- The Matchmaker: Karen attempts to do this with Heather and Aiden — that is, she wants them to have sex together, but not to have a relationship. Her reasons are still somewhat unclear; she wants Heather to be happy, but it is possible that she is also sore over a one-night stand with Aiden not leading to a relationship.
- Meaningful Echo: Angela has a bit of an Oh Crap moment when she hears that her ex-boyfriend Seamus' reasons for breaking up with her were identical to Heather's, more or less right down to the same wording.
- Milestone Celebration: Subverted quite nastily. The 100th strip has Angela and Heather declaring their love for each other and affirming their relationship in a genuinely heartwarming fashion...the 101st strip is the full-color Wham! Episode where Heather breaks up with Angela.
- Missing Mom: Part of Heather thinks of her mother this way - another part of her is wise enough to know that it's not the case at all.
- Mistaken for Cheating: Angela apparently took her polyamory views and Heather's bisexuality to mean that literally all of Heather's friends were hot for Heather and vice versa.
- Mistaken for Gay: Karen and Heather's boss, Brian.
- "Seriously, I can't believe this guy is married. To a girl."
- Mood Whiplash: Ah, a Dream Sequence Filler Arc parodying Disney Animated Canon! Surely this will be some good, lighthea-HOLY JESUS CHRIST WHAT THE HELL IS THAT THING?!
- The Napoleon: Angela. She's very sensitive about her height, and we'll leave it at that.
- Noodle Incident: "-THAT'S WHY [Seamus] ALWAYS WORE THE TIGHTY WHITIES? HA!"
- Not Distracted by the Sexy: Brian is completely unfazed by a burlesque show and enjoys it as art while the straight man and bi woman next to him ogle slack-jawed.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Karen's not exactly Agatha Heterodyne, but she's not quite as dumb as she looks.
- Older Than They Look: Angela has a difficult time convincing people that she is 26.
- One Steve Limit: Averted with two Aarons.
- Pointy-Haired Boss: Subverted with George. At first he comes across as a sadistic and socially inept Jerkass, but it turns out that as poor as his personal skills are, he is a pretty decent boss.
- Queer Romance: As both leads are bisexual.
- Really Gets Around: Karen claims that Aiden has slept with all of the girls at the zoo, and that he is reliable for a fun, uncomplicated sexual experience. The "sleeping with everyone" part is left up in the air, but the "uncomplicated" part? Dead wrong.
- Relationship Upgrade: Heather is still trying to figure out whether or not she and Aiden have had one of these. Subverted when he up and proposes...and she rejects him and breaks up with him in the same breath.
- Romantic False Lead: Angela thinks that Jack is one. He certainly wasn't in Heather's eyes, and wasn't in his eyes, either.
- Schedule Slip: From April 2011-March 2012, only 15 strips were posted. Apparently this was due to Aeire's schedule being quite busy, preventing her from writing. She turned the writing reins over to Chris Daily in late 2011, and he began working on a buffer so that the schedule wouldn't slip that badly again, finally returning with a regular schedule in April 2012.
- Selective Obliviousness: Angela seems to ignore any details of her relationships that don't fit in with her own self-loathing.
- Sex Equals Love: Subverted. Heather and Aiden eventually have sex, but it doesn't make their relationship any less ambiguous. They're still trying to figure out whether they're even in a relationship for a long time afterward.
- Ship Tease: Angela and Justin. Plenty of He's Not My Boyfriend moments, but the Slap Slap Kiss moment and a few ambiguous exchanges make it clear that Aeire wants readers to consider it a possibility.
- Shout-Out: To Coraline in Angela's dream. Angela has an earlier dream about Firefly and massaging Mal's biceps with Inara.
- Show Within a Show: Justin's book, featuring the adventures of an angsty machine-gun–toting bat named Rawrbat. He wrote it in his early teens and turned it in to a high school English teacher; the teacher liked it and sent it to a publisher, leading to a best-selling release. Justin himself despises it because he is now stuck with fame derived from an Old Shame.
- Slap Slap Kiss: Done here and here.
- Splash of Color: Kestrel's familiar green eyes are usually colored in.
- The Stoic: Aiden. He is infuriatingly detached, which is part of why he and Heather have so much Unresolved Sexual Tension.
- Stylistic Suck: Justin's best-selling book about bats and guns. In the story, it's dismissed as terrible by Angela and Justin but revered by critics as an allegory; readers agree that it's So Bad It's Good.
- Take a Third Option: When George and Molly drunkenly kiss at a party, there is speculation among those in the know about whether George will resign or fire Molly. In a big Pet the Dog moment, George simply reworks the schedule so that neither of them works at the same time as the other. This is in stark contrast to Heather's cheerful and benevolent boss, who is forced by the higher-ups to fire Karen for lusting after him...after she had given up on her crush.
- Take That: Aeire really doesn't like Twilight. Or at least its fans.
- Wham! Episode: The breakup. Complete with the first use of color, which has only been used, aside from splashes in one filler strip and one guest strip since.
- Will They or Won't They?: It is legitimately unclear whether Angela and Heather will ever get back together, or even contact each other for that matter. Karen, Jack, Justin and Lucy have all been set up as possible Chekhov's Gunmen that would make a reunion plausible.
- Also applies to the Angela/Justin Ship Tease, which is more on the Won't side but nonetheless appears increasingly plausible.
- You Need to Get Laid: Karen insists that Heather should have a one-night stand with Aiden to break her post-breakup mope.
- As the most recent storyline indicates, this was not entirely spontaneous.