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Nathaniel "Nate" Ashborne spends his dreary life working at the Food Baron’s convenience store, a task he performs with limited enthusiasm. When Nate moves into his friend's Steve Adams and Derek Wilkins' apartment, it doesn't take long before he meets the spunky girl Rose Crowley. They get off to a good start, quite good in fact. Really... very... good. It looks like this could be the turning point of Nate's crappy life, but there are two problems: Rose is known as the neighbourhood bicycle, and she's 16 years old.
The comic follows Nate and Rose, as well as their friends and work pals, as they try to make their relationship, jobs, school and life in general work out. The script and dialogue is fast and sassy, and the humour is direct and disrespectful, with some of the situations Nate encounter in the supermarket taken from the author's personal experience. Occasionally, some pages are marked NSFW, mostly due to Rose.
The comic has had a long life due to ongoing breaks in the author Nick Wright's attention; only 77 strips were between 2003 and 2006. From February 2010 onward, he finally managed a steady Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule, producing the remainder of the 251-strip plotline in less than a year and a half. The webcomic concluded on Friday July 8th, 2011, but the author plans to release a few supplemental strips. There is also a sequel series, Peached, featuring two of the supporting characters of Treading Ground going off to college in Atlanta.
Treading Ground provides examples of:
- All Women Are Lustful: Rose, her mother and her sister all have a big sexual appetite, as well as Tracy later on.
- Art Evolution: Compare this to this
- But I Would Really Enjoy It: "I'm a sexual hypocrite."
- Can't Hold Her Liquor: Aya.
- Cerebus Syndrome: A relatively mild example, but the comic started out as a lighthearted comedy about Nate and Rose's Jail Bait Wait and his interactions with his roommates and coworkers. Then Rose got impatient with the wait, and it took a turn for the dramatic.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Purvous is mentally challenged and more than a little... strange.
- Hot Mom: Rose's mother Beth.
- Idiot Ball: The day after Nate dumps Rose, Aya talks him into making up with her. He comes to meet her and apologize, and Rose pulls an impromptu Operation: Jealousy before he can say a word. It goes over about as well as it would in real life. The light bulb goes on after Aya chews her out, but by then the damage is already done.
- If It's You It's Okay: Rose and Aya are both ostensibly straight, but Rose admits she thought about propositioning Aya during a dry spell.
- The Jailbait Wait: The entire foundation of the plot. The last panel of this comic is also that trope's current title picture.
- Jerkass: Arne, Nate's supervisor and Nate's roommate Steve.
- Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: After the disastrous Operation: Jealousy, Rose starts having meaningless sex with Trevor (whom she doesn't even like), telling herself that it doesn't matter now that Nate wants nothing to do with her.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Rose starts out hitting this trope pretty hard.
- Operation: Jealousy: Rose thought her best friend wanted her to do this, and went ahead with it before she could explain. It put the final nail in her relationship's coffin instead.
- Shout-Out: Albeit quite an inappropriate one to Questionable Content.
- SoCalization: Lampshaded here.
- Urban Legend Love Life: Despite rumors to the contrary, Rose has only had sex with three guys. Granted two of those were at the same time. And at only 16 years old, 3 partners is nothing to sneeze at.
- Right Behind Me: Subverted with Nate's reaction. And Arne's.
- Throw the Dog a Bone: Les regains his former position as a butcher, and even gets a date with his ex, Lilith.
- Write Who You Know: Word of God states that Purvous is based on someone the author previously worked with, and several of his lines were taken verbatim from the original source.
- Yaoi Fangirl: Derek's unseen ex-girlfriend, as well as Nate's.
- And then Lampshaded by Nate in the very next panel.