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First published in the campus newspaper, The Pertwillaby Papers follows Lancelot "Lance" Pertwillaby, a gifted but rather dense aspiring scientist and adventurer, who goes on expeditions around the world with various eccentric professors and his rather airheaded girlfriend, Feather Fluffnuthin, always closely followed by his sworn enemies, Schuyler Roatch III, Rich Bastard extraordinaire, and Professor Viktor Dimitrius Smyte, who is definitely not a former Nazi scientist and high-ranking SS officer in hiding, who are hoping to cause "an unfortunate accident" for our hero.
Don Rosa has later reused quite a few of the series' story elements for his Duck Comics.
This comic contains examples of:
- Absent-Minded Professor: Lance works with quite a few of these.
- The Charmer: Lance has a way with words that exempts him from most of the expenses that college students have.
- Dumb Blonde: Feather at first. Don Rosa tried to even her out a bit more in later comics by making her smart where Lance usually is dense.
- Freudian Slip: Professor Smyte constantly lets out stuff about his past, usually followed by a frantic attempt to cover it up
- Left Hanging: The Knighttime Story Arc had two additional chapters planned, but Don Rosa never got around to finishing these. The later Duck comic The Once and Future Duck can be considered a Spiritual Successor.
- Most Definitely Not a Villain: Don't let the accent or the Luger and SS papers in his desk drawer fool you. Professor Smyte was definitely born in "Coüncil Bluffs", Iowa, and is as American as "Apfelstrudel".
- Ms. Fanservice: Feather.
- Non-Indicative First Episode: The first series evolves around Lance's attempt to cheat himself into college, and contains elements of satire over The Seventies's politics. The rest of the series is about his adventures around the globe.
- Shirt Damage: "I gotta stop buying these cheap shirts..."
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here: When Smyte attempts to hijack their plane, Ted and Frank unanimously decide that they aren't going to bother with it, puts on their parachutes, and jumps out the cabin door.
- Speech Bubbles: Every characters' speech bubble has a notably distinct style.
- Stupid Jetpack Hitler: Doing the last few months of World War II, the Germans managed to invent and produce a prototype nuclear submarine and six nuclear warheads labeled V3. They were however lost in the Arctic Sea, until our heroes finds them again that is.
- Take Me Instead!: Smyte volunteers for a questionable and potentially lethal experiment and Lance ends up offering himself as a test subject instead. Smyte fully expected this to happen, as he knows that Lance is too much of a goody-two-shoes to allow another man to put himself in danger and hoped that Lance would perish in the experiment.
- Those Two Guys: Pilot Ted and Co-pilot Frank, who's work often brings them in some form of indirect contact with our heroes.
- Those Wacky Nazis