This article relies largely or entirely on a single source. (July 2010)
Skin Horse, Volume 1
|Author(s)||Shaenon K. Garrity, Jeffrey Channing Wells|
|Current status/schedule||Updating daily, filler on Sundays|
|Genre(s)||Comedy, Science Fiction|
Skin Horse is a webcomic written by Shaenon K. Garrity and Jeffrey Channing Wells, and drawn by Garrity. The storylines center around the misadventures of the staff of a little-known government agency working on "Project Skin Horse". The strip started on December 31, 2007 and updates every day of the week (although the Sunday updates consist of fan art, sketches, and background). Skin Horse is part of Webcomics Nation, where it is free to read. It is also syndicated on GoComics, where the past month's updates are free to read, with further archives available to subscribers.
"Project Skin Horse" is secret Federal government agency, a non-human advocacy bureau responsible for rescuing and resettling non-human sapient beings created by mad scientists. For example, in the "Cowardly Lion" story arc, a lion augmented with human intelligence is roaming loose in a zoo. Skin Horse field operatives subdue, transport, and resettle the lion in a sanctuary for sapient large cats. The rescued sapient beings are referred to as "clients". With the exception of the character Tip, the employees of the agency are themselves rescued former clients. An informal name for the organization is "Black Ops Social Services". They tend to cross paths with a rival black ops military research organization known "Anasigma".
Unlike Garrity's earlier comic, Narbonic, mad scientists do not play a central role. Rather, their monstrous creations do.
Although the strip was conceived by and is drawn by Garrity, she and Wells co-write, brainstorming ideas together, with some scripts written by Garrity and others by Wells.
The title is taken from a character name in the 1922 children's book The Velveteen Rabbit, where one passage reads: "'Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse, 'It's a thing that happens to you ... Then you become Real.'"
Dr. Dennis "Tip" Wilkin, a relatively new field operative and the only fully human employee of Project Skin Horse, is a decorated former captain of the U.S. Army, a trained psychologist, a passionate cross-dresser and an almost supernatural seducer. Tip is essentially a research psychologist, but in an emergency he can wield therapy puppets.
Captain's Fancy Valentine Sweetheart is a genetically modified sapient dog, created by a mad scientist. She now works for Project Skin Horse as a field operative. She is generally the most clear-thinking and rational team member, but periodically exhibits feelings of insecurity.
Unity is a "necrotic" being: dead tissue animated through a secret military process. A field operative for Project Skin Horse, she is Sweetheart's best friend. Unity was developed to be a bio-weapon, but proved to be too hard to control and was therefore moved to Project Skin Horse. Unity is good-natured, likes guns, and is inclined to use gratuitously unnecessary violence. Her safety phrase, "Blueberry waffles", to suspend her aggression patterns, was only revealed by Anasigma after Project Skin Horse had spent a fortune on obedience classes.
Unity as a creature is actually a nanotechnology ooze that controls the body it inhabits, as seen in the "Once and Future" story arc. As such, she can be transferred (with help) into another body or creature, although living bodies will reject her after a time, usually by vomiting her out. Her current body is an amalgam of various human corpses of varying ethnicities, and several times throughout the series, she has been seen to add, remove, or adapt to new body parts.
Unity is also seen to gain intelligence proportional to the amount of brains she consumes, although social graces are not included with this increase. During the story arc "Railway Children," she consumes a vast quantity of artificially produced brains, and with it gains superhuman intelligence levels. She repeats this during the events of "My brother Sam is Dead," only to use her insight to make comments about her teammates' behavior that leave them distrusting of her in this heightened state.
The administrative leader of Project Skin Horse, Gavotte is a collective being consisting of a swarm of bees that thinks with a single female mind. Most of the other agency employees are nervous around her—Tip in particular since he is fatally allergic to bee stings.
Moustachio the Thinkonium
A 19th century wind-up automaton of destruction with a clockwork brain, Moustachio is the receptionist at Project Skin Horse. He has a limited long-term memory and needs wax cylinders from cold storage to remember his earlier days. His legs were removed by the British government as a safety precaution. He thinks and speaks like a 19th-century gentleman and has little regard for or knowledge of new technology.
A young adult, introduced in the "I Can Fly" story arc, video game obsessive Nick was unknowingly co-opted into "Project Whirligig". The black military program intended to weaponize him by secretly installing him in a virtual reality, then removing his brain and implanting it in a black V-22 Osprey–a military tiltrotor aircraft–and finally subconsciously training Nick to control the Osprey as if it were his own body. In spite of Nick's love of shooting virtual bad guys, he abhors the thought of killing real people, and so joined the Skin Horse team.
- Russian black ops agent who joined the American police force after "very accidental and surprising death of Yeltsin." He was introduced in the "Cowardly Lion" story arc, and later became an Annex One security guard.
- Dr. Virginia Lee
- Introduced in the "I Can Fly" story arc as a mad scientist wannabe and member of a secret organization known only as "Anasigma". She was involved in the creation of both U.N.I.T.Y. and "Project Whirligig". Dr. Lee is specifically hired by Anasigma to reverse engineer Mad Scientist technology into "sane" technology, which she can do with moderate success. Unity was her first successful project, but others include the Brain-O-Mat that produces brain matter to feed zombies, and prevent them from feeding on living humans.
- Dr. Lee has an ongoing romantic interest with Nick, but neither party is willing to discuss or admit to this (even to themselves).
- Captain Bram
- A Canadian mad scientist who created Sweetheart and her pack mates, and developed a virus to afflict humans with lycanthropy. When his application to the American Kennel Club to recognize the "Genetically-Engineered Super Battle Dog" as a recognizable breed was denied, he vowed to force the organization to change its position by conquering the United States using said dogs. Bram died before accomplishing his goal, however, and his corpse was reluctantly eaten by his creations.
- Chris and Marcie
- Two nerdy scientists working for the Department of Irradiation in Annex One, Chris and Marcie are often found gaming with (and within) Nick. Tip and Marcie briefly dated until she dumped him for Chris in the "Tin Soldier" story arc.
- Dr. Berenice "Tigerlily" Jones
- Blaxploitation-themed mad scientist brought in on a work release program to repair Moustachio during the "Brave Little Toasters" story arc.
- Gold Bug
- The mysterious benefactor of Project Skin Horse, who is known to Gavotte.
- Outstanding Small Press award at the 2008 Stumptown Comics Fest.
- Skin Horse Chapter 26143, Strip 5 at WebComicsNation.com
- Skin Horse Chapter 35741, Strip 5 at WebComicsNation.com
- Skin Horse (official site)
- Skin Horse Chapter 25034, Strip 1 at WebComics Nation
- Skin Horse February 15, 2008 at WebComics Nation
- Skin Horse Chapter 32477 at WebComics Nation
- Skin Horse Chapter 25110 at WebComics Nation
- Skin Horse Chapter 32982, Strip 2 at WebComics Nation
- Skin Horse July 11, 2009 at WebComics Nation
- Skin Horse June 28, 2008 at WebComics Nation
- Skin Horse Chapter 41561 at WebComics Nation
- Skin Horse Chapter 43677 at WebComics Nation
- "Stumptown Trophy Winners 2008!". Stumptown Comics Fest. Retrieved 2010-10-10.