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Stuck in the Middle with You

At least one of those nerds listens to K-Billy's "Super Sounds of the Seventies"

Some sketches of upcoming comics.. I fig'd, why the hell not. Not much spoilage with these in particular.

Sketch Dump 3

Sketch Dump 2

Sketch Dump 1

Sketch Dump 4

168 thoughts on “Stuck in the Middle with You

  1. Well, I guess we know who is getting arrested this year! But at least Pumpkin got the hoverboard and Tara didn’t have to kill anyone. Sounds like the Buckingham sisters are ahead in the game right now.
    Still, flashing Santa! Shame on you Chris.

    1. According to http://gotopless.org/topless-laws , Florida has ambiguous state laws regarding topfreedom, so it could go either way. However, if police were inclined to charge her, the charges would likely be something in the disorderly conduct/disturbing the peace/trespassing vein.

  2. Is this Pumkin’s first Black Friday? If it is not, I would call bad hat choice.

    Also, tramatized Pumkin looks cute in teriffied small animal way.

    1. In “Ask Me No Questions”, Ginger indicates that Ellie “usually” works with Pumpkin. That implies that this is at least Pumpkin’s third Black Friday.

        1. It is to be expected that Black Friday shopping with a competitive Perfect One would be more traumatic than with the Lazy One.

        2. I suppose being tossed via pony tail is one thing towards being accepted in the Sister Council, but being manhandled by a mob of crazed nerds….

          Not even Visa would want to be there.

        3. I know a lot of girls Pumpkin’s size who got to the point of enjoying a bit of friendly being picked up and tossed around, so I could see the pony tail launch in and of itself being something that Pumpking might enjoy. Especially from a cosplay characterization stance (though I don’t know the character her hat comes from, so not sure if that character is one it would fit for or not).

        4. Kind of. I believe we’ve established previously that Pumpkin is wearing a Fionna outfit from “Adventure Time.” Fionna, and her cat Cake, was the Rule 63 version of “Adventure Time” cooked up by the Ice King in a fanfic he wrote, which proves that that show can just take meta and ratchet it up to a billion. Fionna, as Finn’s gender-swapped counterpart, is just as adventuresome, so getting chucked over a crowd of slavering fanboys is pretty much par for the course.

        5. Well, supergirl cosplay for one thing with a bit of LARP. But still… Who wants to be manhandled by nerds. Ask any girl at a con who has a costume, not a free license.

        6. Manhandling and otherwise being restrained was something I was assuming she wouldn’t be likely to enjoy, I’m just saying the pony tail launch might’ve been something she was fine with, especially if she’d managed to snag a hoverboard and roll to safety before the stampede. I’d bet she’d be pretty psyched about that.

    1. I think she means her hat’s missing an ear. Kinda like the youngest kid on Bob’s Burger and how she feels about her bunny ears.

      1. Or, ya know, another reference to Reservoir Dogs! I just accidentally saw that movie this past weekend (accidentally meaning it just happened to be on when we turned the TV on!), so I finally get a lot of these references. :-)

  3. After the last strip I would have been dissapointed if Pumpkin wasn’t missing an ear, the hat is the less horrific option though.

    Anise, well I’m sure Santa is flattered but… eh, I’ll fall back the old standby… DAY-YUM! Hope Herb set aside plenty of bail money for this shopping trip. Go team reject!

    1. A minor art/continuity critique. Anise is shown dumping her “extra” clothes on Cinnamon in the last strip but she still has her gloves on, in this strip (panel 2) it looks like she doesn’t have them on.

        1. Speaking of Anise I just noticed that her hair color is VERY similar to Santa’s beard and Rusche has said before that she dyes it. Holy crap, she doesn’t like Santa because she has a beard fetish. She likes beards because she has a SANTA FETISH!

        2. Damn! That makes sense. It must get really awkward when they watch Christmas movies at home.

        3. I heard they thought taking her to A Nightmare Before Christmas would be safe, but she stormed the screen and started ripping through it when Jack dressed up as Santa, because it wasn’t even a real beard.

  4. DAMMIT Anise.

    The best part is, she’s the only Buckingham sister to contribute absolutely nothing to any of the Black Friday proceedings. Even the oft-reviled Juni helped.

    One wonders if Mama Rosemary’s irritation with Juni was over her missing the dinner, or over more deep-seated life choices. Was Juni even invited to the Buckingham family dinner?

    1. pretty sure thats why anise and not juni was put on team reject. given her well know preference to the bearded folk, i doubt she’s ever been much help once santa started to get deployed for black friday.

      1. I think something with having digested half of the desserts already may have lead to a fanatical childish C6H12O6 rush of pre K raised to Motley Crue Rock Concert powers.

    2. Cinn has contributed nothing either. I wonder if pairing her with Anise is expectation, punishment, or just her turn.

    3. They’re using Anise’s profound infatuation for the bearded one to provide for a decoy. Because actually, which one would the police respond to first? Strangulated fat man, Breaking and Entering, or flash mobbed children run amok in mall?

      1. Depends on the cop. In the grand scheme of things, a credible threat of bodily harm with a crowd involved (so potential riot) is more serious than a couple of nipples that were unexpectedly displayed.

        1. Still depends. If their toy store info was simply “hostage situation”, I could see them telling the parents too damned bad but they had something more important than their kids getting a glimpse of a couple of pink tipped mounds of flesh and they’d dispatch someone for the flasher once they handled the more important situation.

  5. The Internet connections in our various households were intensely busy that night, and every one of us present bitterly lamented that we were without a camera at the time that magnificent, world-changing sight appeared to our unblinking, unbelieving eyes. We could not stop looking. It was as though the sun had appeared, in the mall itself, just thirty feet from the Santa pavilion. We began the day simply waiting for that jolly old elf to make an appearance, so very late on Thanksgiving night that it was edging into Friday. But by the end of that day, we realized that we were no longer little boys, but rather…Little Men.

    –the lost chapter of Jane Austen’s “Little Men 2014: Boobs! There Were Boobs!”

    1. I emerged from that man’s sweaty grip several minutes later, down an ear, but still clutching my prize. I had not only managed to recover one of the only five hoverboards the toy store had, but I had even managed to recover one of the non-pink varieties that would have so damaged a little boy. But the cost…oh, the cost. Sometimes I still snap awake at night, remembering what happened to my poor lost vestigial ear, remembering how my sister had to garrote a fatty to secure my release. Sometimes I can still hear him gasping: non-canon.

      The horror. The horror.

      –Col. Pumpkin Buckingham, “Black Fridapocalypse Now.”

      1. Challenge?

        Downtown Lakeland was prepared for the annual bacchanalia of peace on Earth and goodwill toward men. The corner window at Kohl’s was the high-water mark of the season, and even my lazy little sister had landed a job there this year so as to smuggle out goodies for the family at spectacular Black Friday markdowns. But for me, there was nothing more I wanted that Christmas than an official Kat Von D Four-Speed Carbine Action Tattoo Gun, with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time. Well, maybe Santa himself hogtied and lightly oiled under the Christmas tree, but even I had to be rational about things. For weeks, I had been scheming to get my mitts on one of those brutally efficient ink-laying master-grade devices, and my brain–already feverish under the best of circumstances–seethed with the effort of determining the infinitely subtle devices necessary to implant the Kat Von D tattoo gun indelibly into my family’s subconscious. Yet everywhere I turned, the refrain struck like a hammerblow: ‘You’ll Tat Your Eye Out.’ Didn’t they know I already had? Well, sort of, anyway, but that was why God gave us bangs.”

        –Anise Buckingham, “In Beard We Trust, All Others Pay Cash,” or “A Beardy Christmas Story.”

        1. Then you really should be more specific. But me and Marty McFly, man, we just can’t resist a challenge.

          “You know what this is?” the old man–granted, he was only old in the sense that he was 10 while we were eight, but for us, that was all the difference it took–sputtered with glee from behind us in the Santa pavilion, only half speaking to us as he beheld the sight. “This is a flashing!” “Yeah….flashing,” we gasped, breathless before what was going on. The whole center court was turned on. It could be seen from the Kohl’s anchor all the way to the Mrs. Fields Cookies, the symbol of a mall Santa’s profoundly unlikely victory. And though it was now 6:45, and time for reruns of Little Orphan Annie for some reason–I figured it must have had something to do with the fact that not even the lowliest intern would work at a radio station on Thanksgiving–nothing could drag us away from the soft glow of pale goth boobs gleaming in the Black Friday florescent lights.

  6. Oh Anise… you DO know that’s most likely a fake beard, right?

    But I guess it’s better to be young in spirit rather than old. Even so, why not keep the flashing limited to times when there aren’t any kids around.

    I’m starting to get what you meant, Chris, when you mentioned that Anise is just a adult aged child. On an off topic, now I’m wondering what things are like when you’re in the middle of drawing a new comic. How awkward is it when you’re in the middle of drawing something like this, and someone knocks on the door, or when one of your kids comes around? Do you turn off your monitor or something? Or do you pull a wizard of Oz and say “pay no attention to the boobs on the screen!”

    1. If Anise had the presence of mind to notice the children, she’d probably have had the presence of mind to find a normal pen for notes on her hand.

      Also, you have to admit it’s hard to catch Santa without kids around, and this is probably one of her most successful gambits for being able to do so later.

      1. Anise’s actions give some light to Michael Jackson having so many kids over. It’s the Peter Pan syndrome. However in light of wanting to keep the childish mentality, the lack of consequential thought leads the person to a point where they utilize their adult means to gain their childish wants.

        That, or it’s just depending upon the amount of sugar and the need for attention getting, or something like that.

  7. I’m also curious about this new person (or rather, fist) on the cast page. Some long lost karate master in the family?

    1. Given that one of the strips was called “The Ninth Sister,” as I recall, there may be a couple extra Buckinghams hiding in the wings.

        1. Sister X, oooh spooky (and no I can’t take credit, that’s her pictures thumbnail title).

          I like that all the sisters got fleshed out a little more on the cast page.

          And to Steve’s point, Quinn would indeed bring the count to 8 AND Ellie’s screen name was “The9thSister” way back at the start of the strip (strip 5 to be specific.) So even if sister x is a formerly unmentioned sister (and you would think at this point if there was going to be a sister “we don’t talk about” it would be miss “hits rock bottom, then keeps drilling” aka Juniper) there is STILL another sister not accounted for since Ellie didn’t know in strip 5 that she would meet Quinn and quasi adopt her into the sisterhood. (If you really want to blow your mind consider that if Ellie counts HERSELF as number 9 then Cinnamon and Pumpkin would be sisters 10 and 11 respectively and the addition of Quinn would be 12.) Is your mind blown yet? Is it? Is it? Damn it, why not?

        2. considering its two Xs one could guesstimate that this new sister could either be dead (or thought to be dead given the invading fist). thus explaining why she is not talked about. also given all the sisters penchant for violence an accident is certainly not out of the question. also would lend reasoning to mom’s religiousness, which doesn’t seem to be reflected in poppy.

        3. Or it’s a cyborg. They rebuilt her. They have the technology.

          It would also resolve who has the fake eye.

        4. They took the infant from their mother only minutes after she was born, claiming the need for a crash cart due to the bluish tint of the skin. After the child was whisked from the room and brought through the morgue of the hospital, she was then given to an elderly Chinese man who ran a shop for Macguffins and Mogwais.

          The child was then taken to the mystic realm, where the Mogwai live, grow and actually get something to eat at least once a day. It was there that she was trained by them to be a cybernetic ninja. And it was her mission to kill all of the gremlins that have been running amok in this world. Or at least rolled off of the assembly line floor.

        5. If you’re going to go the vein of saving a parallel universe, then I think it’d have to be Tarra’s identical twin. Problem with that is she would’ve been done in time to come back and attend Kindergarten with Tarra.

  8. I need an emoticon that properly displays my jaw hitting the floor, breaking through it, going the basement and then recoiling and slapping me in the face. Anise show some sense! The children!

    1. You know, I don’t think seeing a pair of female breasts would be particularly traumatic to a child who wasn’t taught that it’s supposed to be traumatic.

      While this is certainly only circumstantial evidence, any time I’ve seen pictures of a society where women don’t cover their breasts (think National Geographic on African villages), it’s never been accompanied by children yelling and screaming, eyes filled with terror, trying to flee as fast as they can.

        1. Something like that is a significant moment in their young lives. Makes you wonder why Radar was so enamored to use the Officer’s latrine.

        2. I certainly don’t think any red blooded American boy would be running AWAY from that sight either (nor would I have been at that age). As I’ve gotten older, I’ve just gotten more irritated about the attitude towards female breasts being taboo in this country. I’m not sure if it was the catalyst to point out to me how ridiculous we’d gotten, but the Janet Jackson Superbowl kerfuffle was definitely an amplification point for me as, “Why do people want to consider this such a big deal!?”

    1. Well…no. Last year, the Santa had a fake beard, and after Anise’s rampage…the kids are much better off seeing someone flash flesh.

      1. Nah, I’m sure Anise is excited enough to see Santa that she’d look the same as at a lower ambient temperature.

        1. I doubt it’s dark enough in the mall to see the static crackling as she pulled her shirt up, so I don’t think they missed anything there (though I freely admit that would’ve made a much more epic flash).

        2. When a nuclear device is utilized, there are double flashes. One from the detonation of the device, and the second, more intense flash from the devices nuclear criticality event going chain reaction china syndrome.

          The static electricity would have sent double flashes….. Like one of those new fangled auto focusing light balancing red eye removing cameras.

          However, those people are going to have red eyes in the morning if they don’t start to blink.

  9. At first I thought Anise was Ellie flashing folks to get Pumpkin released, but I was thankfully wrong. I think there would be a bit more fanfare if Ellie was the one doing the flashing anyway.

    So, Pumpkin is sensitive about her hat? Or her height? I’m guessing someone mistook her for a child and tried to put her into some sort of daycare to keep her out of the way of the crowds. She didn’t catch a glimpse of Anise’s rack and got insecure about her own, did she?

    1. Flashing her boobs seems like it’d be really out of character for Ellie, especially with a dating history that could be categorized as slim-to-none. It just seems like something Ellie would be very upset and/or embarrassed about.

      Now Anise or Juniper, on the other hand, wouldn’t seem out of character at all, though different stimuli would be likely for motivating factors. Cinn either, though she’d probably try to be more discreet (and fail miserably due to not noticing the electronics store camera putting her picture on a wall of big-screen TVs, the elevator having glass walls, or something along those lines).

      1. A list of movies that suggest situations for each sister.

        Ginger, unknown
        Tarra, unknown
        Anise – S.O.B.
        Juniper – A weekend at Bernie’s (?)
        Ellie, unknown
        Cinnamon – Kung Pow! – Enter the Fist
        Pumpkin – Thundercats, the live action movie, scheduled to be released after she’s 19.

  10. On the subject of the cast page (someone else brought it up today), when are we going to see more of the silhouetted characters? Also, are they characters that you’ve already planned out?

    1. Once we get through this story, I have 2-3 transitional comics that’ll work this story into the next. Then we meet the one to the right of Ellie.

      They’re all planned out in advance. I actually have two other cast panels to still put up for the other two major story arcs, and maybe some special ones. I’m not entirely sure yet. I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a poster with all the characters in it.

      1. The guy in a hat from the voting choice that was picked. I can’t remember, but was the character that would’ve been revealed for the other choice in the vote the one to the left of Quinn, or was that a different one?

      1. I don’t know about that but they definitely seem bigger than they seemed. Maybe her bra functions similar to a TARDIS?

        1. This question must be settled. Bring me my Science Calipers, my Science Digital Scale, and four gallons of Science Chocolate Pudding. For science.

        2. Now we know the real reason he decided to defend a town called christmas. Obviously, he was waiting for her whales the whole time.

        3. The Doctor wanted to see Anise’s “Fields of Trenzalore”? He’d probably need the beard from series six for that.

        4. I’m not seeing any sign of a bra in panel 2, though perhaps that’s artistic license. Also, she looks the roughly the same size as she did running past Cinn to throw her jacket and after exiting the restroom. Granted, first panel of this comic looks smaller than all three of the other recent pictures, but I just considered that a very slight chibi-fying for characterization (like Ellie’s memories of Cinn cutting her hair, but just a shade in that direction and not all the way).

  11. …I’m probably reading wayyyyyy too much into it, but considering every mall Santa I’ve seen has a huge beard, I find the odds that Anise would fantasize about an extremely similar looking beard as the one that showed up are rather minute. Plus Ellie’s “mall Santa” comment before makes me suspect that this Santa and Anise probably have a history, and maybe Anise is either a stalker or just can’t let go of a previous relationship.

    It took me a while to figure out what’s going on with Pumpkin’s comment about being deformed. Was she pancaked under a pile of nerds fighting for toys? Is her butt still shaped like a car seat? Is she the one with the glass eye and it popped out after impact, causing her to have to get it back in while clutching a board with her free arm?

    Then I realized the ear broke on her hat. …at least, I think that’s an ear. Never watched the show.

    1. Also, ick. Tarra probably has to wash fat nerd sweat out of her braid if she held it so tight he passed out.

      It might be worth just letting a different sister have a haircut “win” because I don’t know how many showers it would take to feel clean again.

  12. Does “The Weird One” do this every year?”

    And I’m starting to wounder if she really thinks this is the real Santa, and not one of the many helpers The Big Man carefully handpicks to represent him?

    Poor, deluded creature.

  13. Hmmm…

    Does Anise’ love fore beards stem from her love of Santa, or vice versa?

    Chicken or egg? Dog or cat? Porky or Mickey? Deep philosophy thoughts.

    1. Anise’s backstory is somewhere along the lines of having a religious mother, who disciplined her a lot for acting up and forcing her involvement in the church.. etc etc. So as a small child, her world revolved around Jesus, God, Santa.. and probably some Abe Lincoln book reports. So she’s made the conclusion beards equal manly goodness.

      1. They all have backstories except for Pumpkin, who will develop as the story draws out. Tarra’s won’t be until the second major arc of this comic, and Ellie’s is kinda half now, half then as well. Ginger and Juniper will be a pairing we’ll see again as most have speculated for a certain reason. And Cinnamon is just kinda ‘there.’

        1. Oooo yeah. I saw Cinnamon’s update in the cast page.

          I’m eagerly awaiting the moment Pumpkin looks right at her and says “You’re a sociopath,” like that episode of Adventure Time did with the Cosmic Owl and the Ice King.

        2. Squeeeeeee!!!

          I mean, ahem. Yes. Character depth and such appeals to my high aesthetics. Carry one.

      2. That’s an interesting parallel. Makes sense though.

        Also probably a good thing Easter kept the bunny from pagan traditions, because it’s probably best if Santa’s the only holiday mascot she reacts this way to.

      3. “So she’s made the conclusion beards equal manly goodness.”

        Hmmm… I can’t argue with this logic. It is solid.

  14. Also, this somehow ended up being fanservice week the way the comics came together. My apologies to everyone/anyone expecting more of me. It’s over now. ;P

      1. Though I do want to lobby a complaint, between the title and blatant Reservoir Dogs reference I’ve had “Stuck in the middle” stuck in my head since this morning. Stupid catchy music.

    1. None of the fanservice is forced. It reads completely like things these characters would do.

      Art should be allowed to be sexy, silly, and fun. ;)

      More fanservice, more I say!

    2. I don’t think I’ve seen anything this week that I would consider fanservice (at least, in the vein of the earlier discussion). Logical story reasons for it all, everything gave us insight into the characters, and you didn’t show as much as you could have while staying PG/PG13 (if you really wanted to).

      All good as far as I’m concerned.

      1. Considering none of this really compares to the Hot Girl 180 that filled ad banners for a while, I don’t think you have anything to worry about.

    1. See, that’s where I was thinking Anise learned. By stopping before she gets within arm’s reach of Santa, it’s harder to make the case of it being assault as opposed to simply propositioning.

  15. This comic is an absolute pleasure to read.

    Today’s installation is ridiculously hilarious (& sexy).

    Thank you for creating this art.

        1. I would like to think I have a unique taste that is all its own. ;)

          Darnit! I need to go to the lab and make a new flavored soda in my image! Cure you, Erik (if that is your real name)! This will take me months! Cure you!

        2. Look for grocery store generics. I know Kroger-brand Dr. Pepper knockoff is Dr. K. Now if you can just find a grocery store chain that starts with Z, you’ll be set.

          @Erik – You cannot prove to me that Dr. Pepper is not a real, fully trained and licensed medical doctor.

        3. It is, and if you want some help, I think blueberry is woefully underrepresented in today’s soda market.

  16. Is that last sketch with the coat and headband Cinn wearing Anise’s discarded clothes? I see no facial tattoo, and the letter looks like U or N (and chest is too small for Ellie).

    That also makes me wonder if the side view of someone in that outfit in panel 2 is Cinn or Anise.

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