|Current status / schedule||Daily|
|Launch date||January 17, 2000|
Sinfest is a webcomic written and drawn by American comic strip artist Tatsuya Ishida. The first strip as a webcomic appeared on January 17, 2000, although the very first strip appeared in print on October 16, 1991 in the UCLA newspaper, Daily Bruin, while Ishida attended UCLA. A new strip is published daily on the Sinfest website. On July 9, 2006, the Sinfest website underwent a redesign and became self-published, no longer a member of Keenspot.
Originally, all strips were pure black and white line art, but larger Sunday strips with full color were introduced shortly after Ishida broke away from Keenspot in the summer of 2006, which also coincided with a site redesign.
Starting around late February 2007 Sinfest's style changed, and it was for a time drawn with different shades of grey. This change in itself was commemorated in a strip. Since February 5, 2012, characters in the Sunday strips have been silent except for occasional interjections.
Historically, the strip has been updated more or less every day, but the period leading up to the split from Keenspot saw significantly fewer comics, with two unexplained dry-spells lasting at least a month. Since the new site was introduced on July 10, 2006, there has been a new strip every day.
The subject matter of Sinfest is often human nature, with particular attention paid to human sexuality, gender roles, addiction, and religion. Less frequently, the strip will parody popular culture or indulge in political commentary. There are some recurring types of strip, such as "You Had to Be There" (where the reader is not told what the characters are discussing), "Japanese Calligraphy" (where one of the characters transforms over four panels into a kanji ideograph, usually related to the strip in some way), "Porn Script Readings" (where Monique and Slick read porn star dialogue in deadpan style, except for once where they used flash cards for a Silent Film reading), "The Matriarchy" (an alternate universe which features Slick, Criminy, and Squigly as leaders of a masculine resistance against a matriarchal regime), and "Ninja Theatre" (where the characters take on the roles of heroes and villains in a martial arts movie). Though there originally was little overarching story or continuity in Sinfest, the central characters have undergone some development and several of them are having their backstories fleshed out at irregular intervals, particularly Li'l Evil and Baby Blue. With the appearance of the Sisterhood in late 2011, story arcs have increasingly revolved around concepts of radical feminism, condemnation of patriarchal dominance, and oppression of male heterosexism.
In each strip, a unique epigram appears above Ishida's name, for example: "Da Bomb," "Patent Pending" and "Some Assembly Required." The new-style Sunday strips include no visible epigrams; the epigram is embedded in the html as a "alt" description of the image.
Sinfest in print
According to the "Futility Watch" that was on the website previous to the July 9, 2006 redesign, Sinfest had been rejected by newspaper comic syndicates 11 times as of January 25, 2006.
Sinfest has appeared in print in the form of anthologies, released by Ishida's own production company Museworks. So far, four books have been published:
- Sinfest ISBN 0-9724663-0-4 (published November 21, 2002)
- Life is My Bitch ISBN 0-9724663-1-2 (published November, 2003)
- Dance of the Gods ISBN 0-9724663-2-0 (published October 26, 2005)
- Sinfest: Viva la Resistance ISBN 1-59582-424-3 (published January 4, 2011)
In June 2009, Dark Horse Comics republished the first volume of compiled strips and added a bonus section entitled Sinfest: The College Years (When It Was Even Worse). A note from the author introduces the section by admitting that "Sinfest used to be even cruder and harsher back when I did it for my college paper. The original cast had no Monique, no Pooch, no Percy. And certainly no Buddha. It took years and years for me to learn the value of the soft touch."
As of February 2010, Dark Horse has announced it will republish the second volume. A two-page strip, without the usual epigram, entitled Sinfest: Street Poetry appeared in the May 2009 issue of Dark Horse Presents.
- A green-haired new recruit in the Devil's army of succubi and Fuchsia's replacement as "booth babe". She is very friendly and has adopted a pair of butterfly-winged spy-drones which were enlightened by Buddha.
- Anti-Porn Activist
- Unnamed African-American member of the Sisterhood who sabotages sex-based industries and runs a booth where she debates people about pornography.
- Ariel and Ezekiel
- Cheerful cherubs who pose as door-to-door evangelists and taunt The Devil during his angel hunts. If someone performs an act of kindness, the pair will shower him or her with "glitter points" that provide various benefits, such as zombie repellent.
- Baby Blue
- A succubus who enjoys tempting men, auditing sins and tormenting the damned. She has an unrequited crush on her best friend Fuchsia and attended "Divinity School" with the Devil and Jesus when all three were young.
- Barack Star
- A musically talented parody of Barack Obama.
- A holy man who rarely speaks and floats around on a tiny cloud. Close friends with The Dragon. He is occasionally provides "zen zaps," where he enlightens another person, momentarily or permanently.
- A bespectacled youngster who often acts as the strip's voice of reason. At first extremely meek, he hid in a fort made of books. He and Fuchsia developed feelings for each other and have formed an unlikely couple. He is the owner of two animated books that behave like dogs.
- The personification of love. No apparent relation to the other cherubs.
- The Devil
- Usually seen in a suit, but he sometimes wears outdoors gear in the style of Elmer Fudd when he's hunting cherubs. He is often accompanied by a three-headed Hellhound. Deals directly in souls, but also runs a vast business empire that produces any number of harmful products. He has the power to transform people into devils and bring objects to life.
- The Dragon
- Representation of Eastern philosophy. On friendly terms with God. He often encourages those caught in the middle of the heaven-hell conflict to play both sides, an allusion to the Middle Way philosophy of Buddhism.
- Father Time
- Father Time begins each January as the infant Baby New Year, then re-appears around December as the wizened old man being hunted by the Grim Reaper. His death is typically heralded by fireworks and yet another newborn incarnation of himself, delivered by stork.
- An unnamed robot that was purchased by Slick and who later escaped after a trip to the Reality Zone.
- Francis Sebastian
- Previously a stereotypical succubus, Fuchsia fell in love with the kind-hearted Criminy and quit her job to pursue a normal life. Enjoys painting but suffers flashbacks about her previous employment.
- A giant hand in the sky. Often uses puppets to parody other characters, most often the Devil.
- Grim Reaper
- The anthropomorphic manifestation of death. He slays Father Time at the end of every year and holds a grudge against the resurrected, namely Jesus and the zombie. He hunts using a variety of scythes which double as firearms and often flies on a glider similar to the one owned by the Green Goblin.
- A thin, bearded ascetic. Enjoys playing sports against the denizens of Hell and always makes sacrifice plays. Very rarely, he turns devils back into humans.
- Lady Liberty
- The long-suffering wife of Uncle Sam, frustrated by his infidelities and imperialism.
- A massively muscled incubus who works as a bouncer.
- Li'l Evil
- A young boy who enthusiastically espoused wickedness until he lost his memory to the River Lethe; he has since become kind-hearted and vulnerable. Childhood flashbacks depict him as a lonely victim of bullies. He is best friends with the orange-haired devil girl. Only the Devil himself knows that Li'l E is his son. As a half-demon, he has horns but lacks a tail and access to demonic talents, like the ability to project fire or open hell-holes.
- Li'l Evil's Mother
- Unnamed white-haired woman. In flashbacks, she is depicted as a loving parent. Has the ability to petrify men with her gaze.
- Ishida's in-comic avatar: a cartoonist and owner of Percy and Pooch. Like Squigley's sofa, his drawing table can fly, carrying him and his pets when he experiences artistic inspiration.
- A fat, nerdy incubus who designs spy drones and fembots.
- Confident and sexy, 'Nique has a fluid temperament but a kind heart. She can cause men to spontaneously combust by shaking her rear at them. For much of the comic's history she enjoyed using her looks to toy with boys, but she eventually experienced a feminist awakening, cut her purple hair even shorter and adopted an androgynous wardrobe. Her stage name as a spoken word artist is It-Girl.
- Monique’s Fan Girl
- Monique's awestruck protégé. She spends all her time defending and emulating her idol, much as Seymour idolizes Jesus and Li’l E used to idolize the Devil.
- The elderly owner of a bakery and coffeehouse that doubles as a base of operations for the Sisterhood. She acts as a kindly grandmother, but is also a Stick Fighting sensei capable of beating bullies senseless.
- Orange Devil Girl
- An innocent young country girl who was turned into a succubus by the Devil. She has yet to be named, but Monique once jokingly called her “Pebbles.” Her personality ranges from giddy hyperactivity to towering rage, but she remains steadfastly loyal to Li’l E, whom she affectionately refers to as “Lily.”
- Percy and Pooch
- A sullen, independent cat and a cheerful, dimwitted dog. They both reside with the Master, rarely interacting with the outside world.
- A cynical blue-haired succubus who works as an exotic dancer. She typically wears an trenchcoat over lingerie.
- A Christian fundamentalist with an unimpressive halo and a perfectly round head, Seymour preaches a strict moral code yet hoards novelty religious paraphernalia and harbors homoerotic feelings towards his savior.
- A short blond male whose first appearance involved a casual attempt to sell his soul. He frequently wears a tie and nearly always wears sunglasses. Slick is a self-proclaimed pimp, despite his extremely limited success with womanizing, especially with Monique. He owns an intelligent laptop called “Lappy” and his reflection has become a demonic doppelganger that sows chaos at every opportunity. Slick’s alter egos include Wasabi the Pimp Ninja and Uranus the Beat Poet.
- An anthropomorphic pig with a frat boy mentality. Watches pornography, eats junk food and smokes pot. While high, he's able to fly his couch. During Slick's bid for the presidency, he dressed in drag and adopted the alter ego "Sarah Piglin.”
- A pink-haired member of the Sisterhood who works as a welder and mechanic.
- A young boy who enjoys stalking Master and praising his artwork. He and Monique's Fan Girl are good friends.
- Xanthe Justice
- The most prominent member of a group of Big Wheel-riding feminists called the Sisterhood who attempt to help women fight a sinister reality-bending force called the Patriarchy. She typically keeps her blonde hair in a pony tail and wears sunglasses.
- A yet-unnamed, damned and misunderstood soul who escaped from hell after Seymour accidentally raised him from the dead. He lives in a cave but often wanders in search of someone to tell him stories, as Fuchsia did before quitting her job.
The Sinfest universe houses some peculiar landmarks, constant fixtures in many strips of the comic.
- Master's House
- Home to Percy, Pooch and Master. An ordinary house with drawing equipment, where Master creates his strips and resides when not interacting with his world.
- The Devil Booth
- Homage to Lucy's booth in the Peanuts strip, it's a simple booth where the Devil tries to buy and sell souls. Later strips have the booth staffed with Fuchsia and Baby Blue, Baby Blue alone and the Green Devil Girl. The booth has also been shown to transform on demand to sell any items that a Sinfest character (usually Li'l Evil) needs for wreaking havoc or otherwise indulging in sinful impulses.
- The Devil's House
- A lavish mansion, housing much high-tech surveillance gear to keep all Sinfest's characters in check, Fuchsia and Baby Blue's room and a personal access to Hell (see hellholes). Home to many lavish parties.
- Li'l Evil's House
- Owing to Li'l Evil's nature as the self-styled 'number one fan' of the Devil, the house is a complex mansion with a large cache of weapons (mainly Japanese swords and guns) and Devil paraphernalia. A pitchfork flag marks its spot, and several deadly traps are scattered all around. Currently Li'l Evil's House is the main base of operations for Pebbles and Li'l Evil, as the succubus is now taking care for an amnesiac Li'l Evil. Li'l Evil's house is adjacent to Seymour's.
- Since Hell in Sinfest is stereotypically placed below Earth, digging enough or summoning demonic powers may open large holes in the ground and effectively create portals to Hell. Despite the Devil's wishes, some demonic creatures may escape the hellholes, roaming free in the Sinfest Universe: for surveillance purposes the Devil's home houses a permanent hellhole, staffed with guarding succubi and/or incubi and a detector of positive thoughts. Owing to the cracking-booming sound made by the earth splitting open, Pebbles has given a name to the act of opening a hellhole, namely, "Bkow."
- A parody of McDonald's, presumably owned by The Devil, who owns most of Sinfest city. Li'l Evil used to work there, earning money to spend on Devil paraphernalia, before he lost his memory. So far, this is the only thing resembling a regular job that any of the Sinfest characters has been shown to have (barring Master, who works as a cartoonist).
- The Lethe River
- The river of forgetfulness. While dipping a body part in the Lethe may cause numbness, diving or drinking from it can make people forget everything about themselves. Its effects appear to be inconsistent; Slick once jumped in seeking to forget that he was a cartoon character, and upon re-emerging, a simple jog to the memory was enough to remind him of who he was. In contrast, Li'l Evil merely washed his face in the river yet still has to regain his memories. Buddha's "Awakening Touch" is a known cure for Lethe-induced numbness and forgetfulness.
- The Tree of Knowledge
- Based on the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil from the Biblical Garden of Eden, this tree always bears a single apple which when eaten gives characters uncomfortable revelations about themselves. Li'l Evil once attempted to chop it down, but it appears to have survived this attempt.
- The Reality Zone
- Located in the woods around the town, it's a place where characters gain realistic proportions and qualities (for example, Squigley becomes a mere pig, Slick becomes taller and more proportioned). Imaginary creatures and anthropomorphized items like Hell's pitchforks (flying pitchforks with their own minds) can't survive in the Reality Zone: placed there, they die, only to spring back to life when returned to the Sinfest Universe. Devil people gain briefly a realistic and more proportioned form, akin to a human version of their comic selves, but still having horn and tails, then start to painfully dissolve.
- The Friend Zone
- Located in the public park, it's a reference to the platonic relationship of the same name. The Friend Zone is a section of the park where a female character is able to effortlessly fend off the advances of a lovelorn suitor. Devil People, owing to their lustful nature, are unable to enter the Friend Zone, greatly suffering upon approaching its border, whereas lovelorn and sexually aggressive human characters are merely distressed at the knowledge that they have been "Friend Zoned". Innocent characters, as Pebbles and the amnesiac Li'l Evil and the platonic couple Fuchsia and Criminy are able to frolic in the Friend Zone, celebrating their friendship and chaste love.
- The Trans-State
- A section of the woods where the characters become gender-bent version of themselves.
Tatsuya Ishida is the author of Sinfest. He was also a penciller for Dark Horse Comics, where he worked on comic books of the licensed properties G.I. Joe Extreme and Godzilla. In the 1990s he co-created and penciled a comic called StrangeLove for Entity Comics with partner Stacy Freeman.
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