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The title refers to the toy store where the main characters work, and the strip starts with Robin -- It's Walky's hyperactive speedster -- taking a position there as a saleswoman. Mike has already been working there for some time by then, in spite of... certain factors that may render this unlikely. The cast also includes:
- Ethan Siegal, a toy-obsessed 30-year-old Unlucky Everydude.
- Amber O'Malley, a bespectacled, detached Nerd type who has become a lot more confident and outgoing over the course of the comic. Currently engaged to Mike.
- Faz, an unctuous Smug Snake who only pauses from climbing the corporate ladder to try and get into Amber's pants. Turns out to be Amber's half-brother (much to her horror).
- Leslie Bean, a self-sacrificing romantic young lesbian who falls for Robin. They're currently exes, and now it's Robin who's pining after her.
- Jacob, the resident straight man (in both senses), trying to make sense of his coworkers' quirks. He's also a recovering sex addict with an addictive personality.
- Galasso, the deranged, tyrannical manager of the Shortpacked Toy Store.
- Ultra-Car, a talking car with robotic arms an an arrogant attitude. He works in the stock room and has been described as a "poor man's Mike."
- Drew, Ethan's ex-boyfriend.
- Roz, Robin's selfish, freeloading sister who runs a porn site.
- Ken, hired to fill the Asian quota. His main gag so far is the fact that people keep forgetting he exists. Also the Dogged Nice Guy to...
- Malaya, one of Ken's roommates. She started dating Leslie after her breakup with Robin, much to Robin's chagrin. Looks down upon nerds and pretty much everyone else that's not her or Leslie.
- Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the United States of America, capable of singlehandedly fending off armed criminals. With Patriotism. Left the store for parts unknown, though he's cameoed at least twice since.
- Jeshua, the historical Jesus Christ, brought back to work in the store by the same means Galasso resurrected Reagan.
- The following appear pretty sporadically these days:
- Conquest ('Connie'), Galasso's beautiful daughter. Used to really get around to satisfy her father's need for an heir, but has since moved on to be a successful toy-store-chain owner in her own right.
- Ninja Rick, who is obsessed with all things ninja and is under the delusion that his life is a manga. He doesn't talk much.
The general tone of the comic is lighter and wackier than its predecessors, and though its characters do indulge in angst from time to time, it's more the result of, say, the moral ramifications of keeping your boss prisoner in a storage closet than any realism in the storylines. It's also more pop-culture oriented -- jokes regarding Transformers and Batman abound -- and more prone to filler than Willis's previous works. Whether or not this is a bad thing depends on how big a fan you are of Transformers and Batman.
Shortpacked provides the page image for:
Shortpacked is the Trope Namer for:
Shortpacked contains examples of:
- Abusive Parents: Amber suffers from self-esteem issues out the cahoozie due to a rather demanding and unforgiving father who's been shown to be physically violent.
- Leslie was also disowned by her parents when she came out of the closet.
- Acceptable Hobby Targets: In-Universe. For Malaya, it seems every hobby is something worthy of total derision. Unfortunately, she's putting the moves on Leslie, a die-hard sci-fi fan.
- Adult Child: Everyone has their moments, but Robin and Ethan take the cake.
- All Girls Like Ponies:
- Artistic License Statistics: By the author's admission, statistics do not work like this. But why should that ruin a good joke?
- Art Evolution: Willis already had a pretty consistent style by the beginning of the series, but as the series has gone on it's gone from black-and-white to color, changed the color palette, and tended away from the more dynamic art of the initial strips.
- Asexual: Ultra-car. The antics of the sexual beings and their drama continue to annoy him.
- Ass Shove: Robin uses Faz to give Sarah Palin the Hancock treatment. "Faz is... envy of Fox News..."
- As the Good Book Says...: When Galasso tries to lecture Jeshua, He responds by quoting the book of Matthew.
- Author Avatar:
- Willis occasionally makes a cameo as Ethan's arch-nemesis on the Transformers wiki, most notably in one short storyline where he proposed to his girlfriend.
- When Willis isn't around, Ethan frequently acts as an author avatar, making instances of them meeting... interesting.
- Author Filibuster: Ethan is frequently used as the author's mouthpiece for ranting about Transformers Fandom as well as fandom in general. He goes through a fair amount of Self-Deprecation about this, though.
- Awesome McCoolname inciting Perverse Sexual Lust.
- Batman Can Breathe in Space: The Trope Namer.
- Bait and Switch Lesbians:
- Subverted - Robin tries to make Ethan jealous by pretending she is a lesbian, but it only irritates him (and of course, since Robin is now in an actual lesbian relationship, one has to wonder how much of her act was genuine pretence...).
- On Robin's advice, Amber tries to convince Faz that she is a lesbian by kissing another woman (a cameo appearance of a well-known webcomics critic who happens to be bi in real life) but he responds by giving a lecture on the Kinsey Scale.
- Big Bad: Sydney Yuss is the closest that the series has to one. And she's not very bright.
- Big No:
- Bilingual Bonus: Rick's sword makes a "Funana" sound.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Amber at times. She's genuinely nice most of the time, but definitely has a sadistic streak. Roz's Attention Whore and It's All About Me tendencies also become more apparent the more she appears.
- Blackmail: This is how Amber gets Mike to date her.
- Blush Sticker: At first just Ronnie, but due to Art Evolution they're eventually applied to the entire cast. Some characters, however, eventually lose them, and Mike only ever gets them when he's drunk.
- Break Her Heart to Save Her:Mike made his proposal to Amber as horrifying as possible in hopes that she'd leave him for someone better. It didn't work.
- Brick Joke: In the storyline where it's revealed that Faz is Amber's half-brother, we meet Rose and Zaph, two Amber and Faz look-alikes. Much later, Amber attends her father's funeral. Rose and Zaph are both attending.
- Butt Monkey: Faz, starting with his re-hiring.
- Caffeine Bullet Time: Robin blacks out for several months, and when she wakes up, she's a member of the House of Representatives. Funny thing is, she's continued serving for the rest of the decade, despite spending most of her time at Shortpacked.
- She attempts to do this deliberately in order to legislate World Peace. It technically works, but the resulting utopia only lasts a few weeks. And the effect these events had on Robins personal life was...rather tragic.
- Call Back: The conversation in this comic is a callback to this one.
- Cassandra Truth:
Ethan: What else did I miss?
Amber: Iowa okayed gay marriage.
Ethan: I'm serious. What's new?
Amber: The store had a near-orgy.
Ethan: You continue to tell me lies.
- Mike attempts to give his condolences for the passing of Amber's pet hamster. Her reaction? Rabid, disbelieving laughter. Granted, he may not actually feel sorry for the animal, but is still sincere in wanting her to feel better.
- Catch a Falling Star: Mike gets to play a hero and rescue Amazi-Girl like this here.
- Catch Phrase:
Batman: "I'm Batman."
- I KNOW.
- To the point where it's practically become The Coconut Effect - bad guys expect to hear "I'm Batman", and at least one bad guy realizes something's up when new Batman Dick Grayson doesn't say it.
- I KNOW.
- Ceiling Cling: Attempted, but Leslie watches far too much sci-fi to fall for it.
- Celebrity Paradox: The strip has done a crossover with Something Positive, with Davan appearing in a strip and delivering one of Chho-Choo's kittens to Roz. However, a Something Positive booth with a full-size banner of Davan was seen in the background of a strip set at a convention, and Randy Milholland was mentioned as existing in-universe.
- Cerebus Syndrome/Cerebus Retcon: Parodied in the "Drama Tag" arc.
- Characterization Marches On: When he first appeared, Faz was actually a little bit clever and his manipulations succeeded. This was changed pretty quickly.
- Similarly, Ethan started out as the Straight Man, with no real defining quirks outside of his being a fan of Batman and Transformers. But both of these elements, in combination with his Fan Hater tendencies towards members of the latter fandom, gradually turned him more self-righteous and more fanatical. While the Straight Man aspect of his character still lingers, the role's now much more likely to be filled by Leslie, Jacob or--as those two also have their fair share of quirks--a random bystander or Bit Character.
- Chekhov's Gunman:
- This grocer totally doesn't show up again.
- There is a whole saga that goes under the name "When Robin Didn't Meet that Other Guy", in which Robin (has the chance to but) doesn't meet Jake Manley. A LOT later, when fans had already forgotten about him, they finally meet.
- The above story arc also involves the list from this strip.
- Cluster F-Bomb: Malaya's introduction.
- Seems to be a habit for her. Case in point: She named her iguana "Fuckface".
- Cool and Unusual Punishment:
- Ultra Car's preferred method of dealing with people who displease him is to strand them in the Amazon jungle, a practice he refers to as "Amazoning".
- The ending of the "Robin vs Legion of Something" fight. Poor Sarah Palin! She didn't deserve that! (Faz did, though.)
- Coming Out Story:
- Ethan, mainly as a result of Robin's clumsy attempts to seduce him.
- Robin, who realized she'd been attracted to Amber at the start of the strip and later fell in love with Leslie.
- Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere: It turns out Jacob is a recovering sex addict. Who stumbles on a stash of hot librarians, seems to have a crush on Amber, and became an unwilling Chick Magnet in one arc.
- Commander Contrarian: Malaya has done two things since she showed up: hit on Leslie, and complain about absolutely everything.
- Creator Thumbprint: Transformers humor. And, to a lesser extent, other toy and comic book humor.
- Dare to Be Badass: Robin to Mike when he claims he is no good at comforting his fiancée because he's... what he is.
Dude, you are going to be a husband an' a father. Try harder.
- Dead Guy on Display: Galasso wants this done after he dies.
Ethan: May you live forever, sir.
- Death Is Cheap: Not only does Mike come back, somehow Galasso also resurrects Ronald Reagan (and later Jesus) to work in his store. It's never explained how or why he can do this.
- Discontinuity Nod: "Hey, everyone agreed to never mention that 'Second Eaton' crap ever again."
- Doppelganger Dating: Robin and Jake Manley.
- Dysfunction Junction: practically all the characters have issues. And let's not even get started on the relationships between them...
- Everybody Remembers the Stripper: In-universe. Robin's been a congresswoman key in landmark legislation for two terms with active campaigning for a third term, and before that was a decorated war hero. All anybody remembers is that one sex tape.
- Everyone Is Bi:
- By this point, everyone but Galasso and Reagan have had some form of romantic encounter with members of both sexes.
- Even Reagan is rather suspect, as he's still at least technically married to Nancy, and admits himself that he knew Rock Hudson. How well did they know one another?
- Evil Overlord: Galasso. At least he thinks he is. That his "domain" is just a freakin' toy store doesn't seem to register.
- Evil Twin: Inverted; there's another store called McAwesome's Parasailing and Chocolate Bakery, which is basically a much-improved version of Shortpacked!. Ethan juuust avoided going to work there because he happened to see Shortpacked! on the other corner.
- Expy: Galasso, is a mix of Norman Osborne and Ra's Al Ghul.
- Fan Dumb: Ethan's obsessions with Batman and Transformers is an In-Universe example, which mirror David Willis' own. (Specifically, he's a Fan Hater while being a member of the fandoms he hates.) Things get really surreal when Willis cameos...and gets into a brawl with Ethan over the Transformers Wiki.
- Fan Service Pack:
- Flat What: Mike's reaction upon learning that Amber has adopted a pair of hamsters.
- Foreshadowing: In the strip where Robin persuades Amber to snoop around Mike's room Mike's McAwesome's uniform is somewhat visible in his closet a while before it actually comes up in the story.
- Forgot Flanders Could Do That: Fans note Faz's tendency to speak in the Third Person and are thus continually surprised when he says "I" or "Me", which he has in fact done since his introduction.
- Fridge Horror: In-universe, Amber seems to suffer from a case of this when she realizes Faz might actually be her half-brother.
- The Fun in Funeral: A slightly low-key version at Amber's dad's funeral. Mike attends in party attire, complete with little paper hat, noisemaker, and confetti; Amber freely admits to one of the mourners that her father was an abusive asshole; Faz introduces Amber to his new girlfriend and their...disturbing sex life; finally, Amber berates her father's corpse for dying before she got a chance to stand up to him...and then Mike flips off both middle fingers to the corpse while delivering this line:
Mike: Later, jerkhole. I'm fuckin' your daughter.
- Guy-On-Guy Is Hot: Robin and Amber both think this. Witnessing anything of this assortment makes Amber lose the ability to form coherent sentences.
- Genki Girl: Robin.
- Genre Savvy: Robin.
- Gilligan Cut: Mike cleverly hurts his boss.
- The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Robin vs. Roz
- Heroic BSOD: Well, actually, Heroic Network Timeout. There's an actual Blue Screen a bit later, but it seems to be more like the universe breaking. To make matters worse the story arc is called "heroic bsod."
- I Am Spartacus: I'm Greg Killmaster!!
- I Banged Your Mom: This is practically how Mike says hello. Averted by name in one arc, entitled "Mike Doesn't Fuck Amber's Mom". Jacob does.
- If It's You It's Okay: Robin, towards Leslie, as she confides to Ken here. She also had at least one pre-Leslie girlcrush - Amber.
- If You Die, I Call Your Stuff: Luigi does this to a naive Daisy here.
- Improbably Predictable/The Tape Knew You Would Say That: Faz's voicemail message is absurdly specific for this situation.
- Informed Judaism: Ethan. Literally informed, as seen here.
- Instant Awesome, Just Add Ninja: Not just his shtick, this is Ninja Rick's entire LIFE
- Intercontinuity Crossover: Leslie acquired a hairless, pink, hypoallergenic kitten; one of the litter sired by Choo-Choo Bear (Something Positive) on Sprinkles (Girls with Slingshots).
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Leslie, towards Robin.
- This was also Mike's motive for trying to break up with Amber. Her definition of happiness didn't turn out to be what he expected, however.
- Lamarck Was Right: Choo-Choo Bear gained his special abilities because he was on chemo. Apparently, his kittens share the same abilities now.
- Large Ham: Galasso, a Card-Carrying Villain intent on ruling the world via running a toy store.
"GALASSO'S ASSEMBLED AN ARMY OF CANNON-WIELDING HAMSTERS!"
WILL NO ONE FLOOD MY DAUGHTER WITH SPERM?
- Last Het Romance: Robin for Ethan. She already suspects that he's gay, but was pursuing him anyway. He's not interested. She gets pissed off when he bangs a chick, and when he asks why she shouts he's supposed to be gay. Confronted with this, something goes click in his mind. Cue gayness.
- Late Arrival Spoiler: If you're reading for the first time, avoid the comments section unless you really want to know in the first few strips about every relationship snag and plot twist throughout the whole comic.
- Living in a Furniture Store: Drew's apartment, in contrast to Ethan's and Played for Drama.
- Love Chart: Robin's drawn one up to insure things never reach Love Dodecahedron levels. It hasn't really worked.
- Luke, I Am Your Father: It's implied that Amber and Faz are half-siblings.
- Seems confirmed now. Robin secretly had their DNA tested.
- Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter: Well, mad store owner's beautiful daughter, Conquest Galasso. She has a lot of sex, at her father's urging, as he "needs a male heir". What he doesn't know is she's on birth control and has been for quite a while.
- He wants an heir, and she's a nymphomaniac. "Lots of sex" is the one thing they agree on.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Subverted; Robin's attempts at this usually just wind up annoying the crap out of people.
- Meganekko: Amber this time - lampshaded repeatedly, subverted at least once.
- Meta Guy: Robin. She refuses to engage in any political commentary during her time as a Representative, actively charts the comic's Love Dodecahedron, knows that Head Alien II "speaks in orange", and mentions tropes by name. But the real kicker is when she unwittingly becomes the comic's Knight of Cerebus, pulling the Drama Tag when she realizes her new surroundings are lighter, softer, and consequence-free:
Robin: Before I moved here, there was danger. People died. I lived on the edge of my seat. B-but I've been here a year and I got it all figgured out. Nothing happens here. Ever. There's no Love Triangles. Only people nobody ever saw before get fired. Just you watch. Here I am, gone totally bonkers, and this will all end on a joke.
- Mistaken for Gay: Subverted - it turns out that Ethan is gay, he just didn't realize it himself.
- Mood Whiplash: Get back here, I'm not finished capturing the Riddler!
- Morality Pet: Amber to Mike after he falls in love with her. Comes with a twist however, since she actually prefers Mike just the way he is.
- Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: "GALASSO'S ASSEMBLED AN ARMY OF CANNON-WIELDING HAMSTERS!"
- Of Corsets Sexy: Amber briefly tries this when Robin informs her that it will make her attractive and therefore unapproachable.
- Oh Crap: Amber punches Mike hard enough to make him smile. The end times are upon us all.
- Only Sane Man: Ethan in early strips, but as he was revealed to be just as screwed up as the rest of the cast, Leslie took over the role. Now she's caught up in craziness too and it's Jacob's turn to be the Straight Man (literally). And then it turned out even he has a quirk.
- OOC Is Serious Business: For the first time in seven years, Faz stopped smiling smugly when he discovered Amber is his half-sister.
- Or Was It a Dream?: Galasso burning the drama tag.
- Overly Narrow Superlative: The Avengers: the best movie Jesus Christ has seen in his entire life. (Out of a sample size of The Avengers, Short Circuit and Short Circuit 2.)
- Paper-Thin Disguise: Robin has no idea who Amazi-Girl actually is. Her confusion lead to her accusing Amber of being Ultra-car for some reason. Fans continue the joke, never recognizing Amazi-Girl.
- Perverse Sexual Lust: A very negative in-universe example: Omnios appeared in a three-strip run in November 2008, a 26-year-old social outcast with "Aspergers-y" symptoms who continuously raves about his crush on Jenny Wakeman.
- Punny Name:
- Leslie Bean, who is a Lesbian. HURRR
- A more subtle one is Faz's full name: Faz O. Lee, punning on the Italian restaurant chain Fazoli's, which at one point had an ad campaign featuring a kid with an infuriatingly smug smile on his face.
- Also subverted a bit later :
Robin: Hey, it's that guy !
Thad: My name is Thaddeus.
Robin: Thad ? Is your last name "Guy" ?
Robin: Dang, that would've been convenient.
- Malaya means free in the Philippine language. Doubles as Meaningful Name.
- Put on a Bus: After the "end of Shortpacked" storyline, Ronnie quietly announced that he was retiring again.
- Robin literally put Roz on a bus after her first appearance. It didn't take, apparently.
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: Amber, when cursing the fact that she can't afford the new 80s Ninja Turtles toys because she's buying stuff for the coming baby instead.
- Replacement Scrappy: In-Universe Discussed with regards to the "Prime killed Animated" school of thought here.
- Riddle for the Ages: How did Mike come back to life? Yes, Death Is Cheap, but Mike's resurrection is impossible even by the methods present in the Walkyverse. General consensus among readers is that he came back to life through sheer spite.
- Relatedly, how exactly does Galasso manage to bring back dead people? And why does he have trouble with basic concepts like gender?
- Ridiculously Cute Critter: Leslie's new cat looks less like an actual cat and more like a Mew.
- Refuge in Audacity: Okay, we need to repeat this. Robin shoves Faz up Sarah Palin's ass.
"Faz is the envy of Fox News!"
- While not reaching that level of ridiculous, we should also point out that Mike tricked Amber's mom into sleeping with their relapsing sex-addict neighbor, recorded the sounds from said sex, and then spliced several of the sounds together to form the message "Amber, will you marry me?".
- Revenge Before Reason: Sydney Yuss makes some odd plans to get revenge for being fired.
- Running Gag: Major characters calling minor character Ken by the wrong name: "I knew it was something from Street Fighter!" Picked up quickly by the commenters, where it's become obligatory to call him by a new Street Fighter character name every time he's referred to.
- Sanity Slippage: Anyone who works at Shortpacked (and quite a few of the customers) will inevitably regress/evolve into or reveal themselves to be a tangled, neurotic mess. Or a jerk. Or both.
- Shark Pool: Galasso has one installed right under the store.
- Actually, to TV Tropes! Robin refers to the term Crowning Moment of Awesome here.
- Willis' design for Shattered Glass Buzzsaw, seen here, rips off Woodstock.
- A very subtle reference to It's Walky! in the title of this strip, "Four Words". For the uninitiated, Head Alien surprised Walky with the knowledge that Sal is his twin sister by saying: "Okay, four words..." This reveal is similarly brain-shattering.
- Your mission, should you choose to accept it....
- Along a similar line...
Amber: "...YE NOT GUILTY!"
- I did it thirty-five minutes ago.
- Either a Shout-Out or a Take That flavored with some Refuge in Audacity: The banner ads featuring some weird picture of David Willis (say, sitting in a bubble bath, or eating a corn dog on a toilet) with "Please Read: A Personal Appeal From David Willis" in the style of the donation drive ads that appeared on The Other Wiki.
- Robin versus the Axis of Something is Shortpacked!'s version of "Code of Hero".
- Amber is unimpressed with a plot summary of Roomies.
- Shown Their Work: The "Secondish Coming" arc has a realistic-looking portrayal of Jesus as a short, dark-skinned man.
- Smug Snake: Faz. He's hilariously bad at it. Roz is a more subtle example, given her efforts to insinuate herself into her sister's life and seduce all of her friends.
- Spin-Off: From the Walky saga, with Robin and Mike as the spin-offees.
- Spit Take: Played with. Robin hears something shocking while taking a drink, only to swallow. She then takes another drink just so she can have a proper spit-take, complete with Unsound Effect.
- Stating the Simple Solution: Robin questions the logic of Sydney Yus' Disproportionate Retribution plan.
- Straight Gay: Ethan was probably the most normal character until Jacob came along. At one point, Amber laments that he is not a Magical Queer.
- Straw Fan: Numerous one-shot characters, and a few nameless recurring extras. Oddly enough, most of them are actually members of the Transformers fandom, not the comic's.
- Sure, Let's Go with That: "Yes. My real offer."
- Take That: Strangely, Willis seems to have a remarkable amount of self-awareness about this.
- Test Kiss: When Ethan turns out to be gay, Robin tries this.
- Third Person Person: Faz slips in and out of this speech pattern. Can be blamed more on his arrogance than on any difficulty speaking English.
- The Talk: Leslie and Ethan decide they must give this to Galasso when they discover he not only doesn't understand what sex is, but possibly what gender is.
- Ticket Line Campout: For Revenge of the Fallen.
- Transplant: Ultra-Car comes over from the Walky saga, and occasionally drags Joe in with him.
- Two Words: Obvious Trope: This time, "that is very good," with only the strip's title pointing them out, since the line again reveals a hidden relation, Amber and Faz being half-siblings.
- Unexplained Recovery: Mike, "Ronnie."
- Unsound Effect:
- Wacky Marriage Proposal: Well, depends on your definition of "wacky"—see Refuge in Audacity above.
- Willis proposed to his girlfriend via webcomic.
- "Well Done, Son" Guy:
- Conquest shows signs of it as well.
- Wham! Episode: Right before a two week hiatus, no less.
- Mike proposing to Amber... by rearranging a recording of the noises of Jacob and Amber's Mom having sex into a proposal.
- Also? We find out Amber is pregnant.
- Mike proposing to Amber... by rearranging a recording of the noises of Jacob and Amber's Mom having sex into a proposal.
- Wham! Line: Both in real life and in-universe: "Wow, I'm marrying the Devil."
- What Does She See in Him?: Jacob point blank asks Amber why she would possibly want to marry someone like Mike telling her she could do better. It might have worked if he had given her this speech a year or two ago, but by this point she's genuinely in love with him, against all odds.
- What the Hell, Hero?: At one point, Ethan gets into an argument with one of the recurring straw fans (Duncan), only to have it pointed out to him that he's in no position to criticize anyone due to letting the others keep Galasso locked up. Cue brief Heroic BSOD, followed by him deciding enough's enough.
- Word of God: Faz's full name ("Faz O. Lee") has yet to appear in the comic itself.
- Writer Revolt: Malaya was originally created and put up on Twitter as a sarcastic response to a fan that said that you can't create a character specifically to be non-white or female because of 'the dangers of tokenism'.
- Yandere: Robin this time, towards Ethan, until she got over him.
- Your Mom: Mike's Catch Phrase.
- To the point where he uses a...unique variation to propose to Amber
- You Taste Delicious: Leslie tries to seduce Robin by invoking this trope. It doesn't quite work.