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Thomas is the main protagonist of Between Failures. He works as a Floor Manager and Clerk at the slowly-failing Megatainment store in the fictional town of Marbleton, Kansas. On the first 'day' of the comic, we find out he is 26 years old[1].

The comic periodically includes strips where Thomas effectively narrates, speaking in the first-person. In some cases, the dialogue appears to be a real-time voiceover[2], while sometimes it seems to relate to past events[3]. It is possible much of the comic is his telling of the story, possibly years hence.

Appearance

Physique

Thomas is relatively tall, and reasonably well built. He appears Caucasian and has blue eyes (which have a particularly striking effect on Carol[4]). He also has a relatively prominent, angular nose.

He has light brown hair, usually worn with a quiff at the front (parted to his right) and sideburns. At on point, this leads to Ed suggesting that he looks like Fry[5] (of Futurama fame / infamy). Thomas' sideburns usually appear darker (most likely due to Jackie's thick linestyle, which would make shading them appear odd). He claims to be "...bringing them back!"[6]. However, his hair also gets darker at the back (not unlike Carol's), which may suggest his sideburns do too. 

Based on a flashback to his High School years, we know he can grow a full moustache and beard, even when quite young[7] (the fact he is now clean-shaven may have been a conscious choice, noting his efforts to forget that time of his life - see 'Relationships').

Clothing

At work, Thomas almost always wears a uniform Megatainment button-down shirt. However, he never does this up, and often roles the sleeves up. He tends to wear a plain but brightly coloured t-shirt underneath. His trousers (when in shot) often appear dark blue, possibly denim jeans[8][9]. He seldom wears the uniform nametag, although is occasionally seen wearing what appears to be a small manager's keycard[10].

Outside of work, he frequently wears a long black coat, as seen right at the start of the comic[11]. He also owns at least a couple of baseball caps. Oddly, he often opts to wear these backwards during the daytime[12], but not at night[13].

Background

Family

We know that Thomas has one sister. His mother is alive and, judging by an interaction over the 'phone with Carol, cares deeply about him (or at least his romantic prospects)[14]. She is also likely aware of the pain Dawn had caused him (see 'Relationships'). From her t-shirt in on the preceding page, we can guess she lives in Kansas and that his family may be based there[15].

Childhood / Education

During Middle School (and his early teens), Thomas considers himself to have been shy and angsty (something apparently not atypical in his family), and thus an angry loner[16].

At High School, we know Thomas took an Advanced Art class, during which he first met Nina[17]. He subsequently went to a local college (or 'juco')[18], but dropped out in the second year (as a result of his break-up with Dawn the year before)[19].

Job Role

Thomas' job role is listed in his character bio on the Between Failures website as 'Floor Manager'[20]. This appears to be a full-time role. He is therefore senior to most of the other staff but, in theory, answers to Mike (the store manager). It is apparent that he has hired most of the current staff[21] (all but four, in fact[22]).

Thomas once told Ed that "...in addition to register, stocking and customer service, we [the staff] have a lot of nothing to do"[23]. We know he personally dislikes stocking shelves (at least bookshelves)[24]. He was previously offered (but turned down) the role of Store Manager, and used to regularly be the 'Employee of the Month'[25][25].

It is somewhat unclear whether his current role is more or less senior than Carol's - she is the Customer Service Manager while he is the Floor Manager, although Thomas has worked at the store longer. Some characters (including Ed) perceive her to be more senior[26]. He is supposed to assign part-time staff to each department, although Carol usually handles this each morning[27].

In practice, it appears that Thomas and Carol between them share out the duties of the Floor Manager[28]. They also seem to do several that Mike (the Store Manager) would normally do, if he had more experience in his role. Thomas uses corporate 'buzzwords' to confuse and placate Mike[29][30] (and possibly other Megatainment Managers). Despite his playing fast-and-loose with the rulebook, initially (perhaps ironically), he seems to appreciate the problems workplace romances might cause[31].

Relationships

Romantic / Sexual

Dawn

During their first year at High School, Thomas met Dawn while they were both working on the school paper[32] (assuming normal US Grades, we know they would have been around 14 or 15 at the time). Unlike many of his friends, who were experimenting drink and drugs, Dawn shared many of Thomas' interests. He found her beautiful, funny and intelligent and, eventually, they became a couple[33].

Thomas initially states that Dawn "...got tired of his shit[34]". However, later in the comic he ascribes their break-up to Dawn having goals and the drive to achieve them (something he feels he lacks). When she went away to a 'real deal' college in Texas, she met other guys who Thomas suspects made him seem less special. Following a fight at Christmas (seemingly the first after she moved away), she broke up with him over the 'phone after going back[35].

Having fallen completely in love with her, and with little else to focus his life and identity on, the break-up hit Thomas hard[36]. We can estimate he was aged around 18 or 19 at the time. During a following summer (either a few months later or over a year later, depending on whether Thomas tells the story chronologically), Thomas tried to resume the relationship[37]. This led to a farcical couple of months, ending in Dawn turning cold and Thomas bitter[38]. Afterwards, Thomas felt he hated her, although subsequently he has realised that may have been a coping mechanism[39], and a way to avoid blaming himself[40].

Dawn's book appearing in store[41] sends Thomas back over the edge, and forms a major part of the comic's first arc. He is still very bitter about their break-up, albeit he might occasionally exaggerate for effect[42].

Carol

At the start of the comic, Carol and Thomas appear to be good friends, as acknowledged by Nina while talking to Ed[43]. This doesn't stop them verbally sparring with each other[44]. Thomas does seem surprised (and perhaps jealous) when Carol implies she is seeing someone, to avoid having to date a customer[45][46]. He seems surprisingly willing to let her manhandle him[47], and openly admits to daydreaming about her in one of his narration strips[48].

Although it took them around four years to get together (partly owing to Megatinment store rules), Thomas and Carol are now in a seemingly committed relationship. Prior to Carol making him kiss her, he considered her somewhat goal-obsessed[49] and slightly heartless (although still physically attractive)[50].

Their first kiss seemingly changed Thomas' outlook on life, with the comic shifting from black-and-white to full colour when it occurred[51][52]. They initially agree to keep the relationship secret[53].

After Carol freaks out when caught using his smartphone, she also tries to return a spare key she'd taken to his apartment. He refuses, telling her that he loves her[54]. Surprised, she reciprocates, before chasing him into the shower[55].

Other Romances

From what we know, Thomas dated very little between Dawn and Carol. His own interests, heartbreak over Dawn and (possibly unrealistic) expectations of dating may have been a factor in this[56].

Friendships

Ed

The comic never specifically alludes to why he and Ed are friends. Given the five-year age gap, it seems unlikely they know each other from school. However, Thomas obviously likes Ed enough to get him a job at the store. It is also apparent Thomas realises Ed needs somewhere secure to 'find himself'[57], perhaps like Thomas himself did previously.

Jackie notes in a comment box that Thomas, Ed and John are all meant to have broadly similar relationship dynamics[58], and that all have a somewhat mean sense of humour.

John

Thomas and John have clearly been friends for some time, although it is unknown exactly when they first met. We do know they met at the store, with John having been hired by a previous manager to replace Thomas. Despite this, John came to respect Thomas as a worthy rival[59], and later a friend (after Thomas saved John's own job[60]). John is therefore one of the few employees not hired by Thomas.

During the early strips they casually insult each other, but also discuss their shared interests in both games and movies (notably Star Trek[61][62]). Later in the first arc, we find out that at least Carol considers John to be Thomas' best friend[63].

They also compete (physically, vocally and by proxy) for Jess' phone number[64] (albeit Thomas only wanted to win owing to his competitive nature). Thomas subsequently turns off the store lights, forcing John to publicly admit that "Thomas Blackwell runs Bartertown" ...over the store PA[65]. From Nina's comment on a preceding page (and later, Mike's) this has happened before, with John winning at least once[66][67]. She also subsequently notes they routinely humiliate each other and question each other's sexuality[68][69].

Nina

Thomas and Nina are close clearly close friends, who probably have/had some feelings for each other[70][71] (at least prior to her finding out about his dating Carol). They never got together, although they've apparently been through a lot together[72]. They have also known each other for longer than the other characters[73].

Jo

Thomas clearly cares about Jo, and wants her to develop at the store, hence his getting her to train Ed[74].

Other

Jessie

[Pending]

Mike

Thomas essentially considers Mike a 'puppet'[75], and reckons he'd be able to talk his way out of almost any situation if Mike called him on it[76]. However, he bears Mike no apparent ill-will[77], and clearly wants to ensure that an 'outside' Manager remains in place as a (largely sacrificial) barrier to insulate the staff from corporate management.

Reggie

[Pending]

Personality

Behavior

Realising almost every Manager at the Megatainment store gets fired within around six months, Thomas is anxious to avoid being promoted. However, he also wants his friends to keep their jobs and, apart from on a bad day[78][79] (where he is ultimately saved by Carol's intervention), usually wants to keep his. He is aware this shouldn't prove too difficult[80], even though he is often late in the morning[81].

Being reasonably charismatic and good with people, Thomas often manipulates the other staff (including his friends)[82][83], although for primarily benevolent reasons. He tries to protect his friends in store[84]. He is also well aware of the need for a 'thick skin' in the retail environment[85] and has a fairly cynical outlook in this regard[86].

Early in the comic, Thomas sometimes lets his cynicism boil over, often insulting his friends in the process[87][88][89](although they seem to let this slide). He can also be insensitive at times[90], although usually only when he is angry or depressed. On one occasion early in the comic, he also takes his feelings out on a customer[91].

Despite his initial shortcomings, most of the other characters consider Thomas to be very intelilgent[92][93]. John clearly thinks he is capable of much more than working at the store[94]. Thomas is also seen to be generous, both to his friends and to strangers[95]. The other characters might not say it often (except Carol), but they'd often be lost without him[96][97].

Thomas clearly struggled to handle or initiate any romantic relationships between his relationships with Dawn and Carol. It is notable that Nina is well aware of this when the comic starts, and the possible reasons why[98]. Carol only finds out later[99].

Self-image / Beliefs

Thomas describes himself as "...a mediocre artist, and not much better writer"[100]. He believes most people are unsuccessful in these areas, and appears to have settled for working at the store, lacking any other career goals. Despite this, he clearly wants something more[101]. He is also angered by the success of his ex (Dawn) in having a book published[102]. He initially thinks of himself as a failure (although this may have changed as a result of his relationship with Carol[103]). He also considers himself unlucky[104].

Although he doesn't seem to recognise it, based on his description of his teenage years, Thomas must have grown as a person and become significantly more mature in the five or so years before the comic starts. While the other characters often recognise his stronger attributes, he either fails to, or acknowledges them in either tongue-check or self-deprecating manners.

Hobbies & Interests

Thomas enjoys hand-held games (which he considers a vital tool for survival in a retail environment[105]). He appears to enjoy tactical RPGs (notably the Fire Emblem series - a trait he share's with Jackie). However, he notes that games with a quick save or which you can easily pick-up-and-put-down such as "...Tetris, Pokemon, Metroid Pinball [are] all good workplace titles."[106]

Thomas is clearly familiar with DC comic book characters, noting that he compares Ed and himself to Green Lantern and Green Arrow[107]. He also enjoys collecting action figures, with this perhaps being a minor addiction of his[108]. His main collection may well be of Transformers[109].

It is apparent that he and Dawn shared an interested in Japanese pop culture. An early nod to this is given when he refers to Rock-Paper-Scissors by its Japanese name 'Jan-Ken-Pon[110]'.

His character bio on the Between failures website suggests that he writes and draws in his spare time. However, we haven't seen any particular evidence of this within the comic, and it is possible he no longer does so[111]. Like most writers, he also read other's works, including Sun-Tze's 'Art of War' (which appears to have influenced much of his outlook on life)[112].

Along with John, Jo, and some of the other characters, Thomas is part of the small group (informally referred to on this Wiki as the Ghost Hunters) who engage in urban exploration and hunts for paranormal activity[113].

Food, Drink & Drugs

Thomas' prefered soda appears to be Dr. Pepper[114]. He doesn't drink alcohol, as he is concerned that if he did (and liked it), he might not be able to stop[115]. He appears to be a non-smoker.

Gallery

Trivia

  • At the start of the comic (before he started dating Carol) he used to start each day by screaming "FUCK!"[116] (just after 7:45am). We don't know if he still does.
  • Early on in the comic (when the some of the characters 'spoke' in different fonts) Thomas used Comic Sans MS.
  • Jackie has previously mentioned that some of his characters have 'ear numbers' (as discussed on a 2017 podcast[117] with Moonhawk Studios Presents[118]). While the full list (and Jackie's reasons for them) has never been revealed, Thomas' was confirmed Jackie to be 4, or a rotated 'J'. Thomas is himself partially based on Jackie, as a 'self-insert' character. The rotated 'J' references Jackie himself and his own great-grandfather.
  • Thomas owns a car with an interesting backstory, revealed during the Ghost Hunter sequence at the Old School. It actually appears much earlier than this, in Strip 3 (when he collects Ed prior to his first day). Although no model is mentioned, it appears to be a 1952 Desoto Firedome coupe - although the features are common to many classic cars of that period.
  • Although we very rarely see the characters from behind, we see Thomas' back in at least once while talking to John in the store[119].
  • Thomas occasionally talks to himself (rather than use thought bubbles)... usually to advance the plot, but not always[120].
  • We know that Thomas dislikes clowns[121].
  • It seems that Thomas quotes TRON when stressed or upset[122]. Why TRON specifically is unclear.
  • Thomas at least passingly capable of writing soppy love poems...[123]
  • According to John, Thomas hates his neighbours[124].
  • On one occasion, Thomas appears to change the way he is wearing his baseball cap between pages[125][126]. From context, he may have moved it briefly to see more clearly.

References

  1. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/192-now-it-does
  2. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/1-wakey-wakey-eggs-bakey
  3. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/216-what-dreams-may-come
  4. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/149-all-along-the-watch-tower
  5. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/130-the-rookie-lands-one
  6. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/20-old-muttonchops
  7. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/1144-the-mind-killer
  8. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/502-slowbro
  9. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/626-ripened-might-be-a-better-word
  10. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/1156-its-me-carol
  11. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/2-life-is-what-happens-between-failures-2
  12. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/327-jedi-mind-trick
  13. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/747-delegation
  14. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/885-mah-boi
  15. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/884-the-usual-thing
  16. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/1143-rage-quit
  17. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/826-the-broken
  18. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/223-unforgiven
  19. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/1147-tommy-knocker
  20. http://betweenfailures.com/cast
  21. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/66-thats-different
  22. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/140-sleeps-with-the-fishes
  23. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/18-getting-ahead
  24. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/21-so-much-to-do-so-much
  25. 25.0 25.1 http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/200-fallen
  26. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/14-beautiful-eyes
  27. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/324-days-of-our-lives
  28. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/279-foiled-again
  29. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/85-fishy
  30. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/86-destination-exploitation
  31. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/128-bringing-it-back
  32. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/1143-rage-quit
  33. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/1144-the-mind-killer
  34. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/179-end-of-line
  35. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/1145-ymmv
  36. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/222-dead-inside
  37. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/1147-tommy-knocker
  38. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/1148-cradle-of-hate
  39. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/1149-addicted-to-love
  40. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/1150-so
  41. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/151-nemesis
  42. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/223-unforgiven
  43. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/79-careless-talk-costs-lives
  44. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/10-lineage-in-question
  45. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/97-mask-cracks
  46. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/98-incorrect
  47. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/117-resistance-2
  48. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/118-aftermath-2
  49. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/14-beautiful-eyes
  50. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/19-drama-sandwich
  51. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/228-prelude-to-a-kiss
  52. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/229-a-kiss
  53. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/237-the-introduction-of-doubt
  54. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/850-i-belive-in-a-thing-called-love
  55. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/851-wreckers
  56. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/39-let-it-begin
  57. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/300-one-act-of-kindness-at-a-time
  58. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/256-typical
  59. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/144-men-of-honour
  60. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/145-how-it-begins
  61. http://betweenfailures.com/cast/outline/synopsis
  62. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/26-nerd-rituals
  63. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/160-of-men
  64. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/49-objectification
  65. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/62-who-runs-bartertown
  66. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/61-embargo
  67. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/84-mike-hernandez
  68. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/81-phoenix-wrong
  69. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/340-queer-eye-for-the-jedi
  70. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/22-exhibiting-certain-properties
  71. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/271-a-cookie-for-coping
  72. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/138-you-must-be-this-tall
  73. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/162-bored
  74. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/258-shut-up-richard
  75. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/87-broken-strings
  76. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/206-silver-tongue
  77. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/90-indebted
  78. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/155-peachy
  79. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/206-silver-tongue
  80. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/243-scott-free
  81. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/333-safe
  82. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/224-best-laid-plans
  83. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/250-switching-tactics
  84. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/259-significance
  85. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/5-advanced-slacker-theory
  86. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/8-bad-bad-man
  87. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/174-return-of-the-king
  88. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/192-now-it-does
  89. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/184-someone-elses-dreams
  90. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/193-for-the-gold
  91. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/203-better-off-dead
  92. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/145-how-it-begins
  93. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/149-all-along-the-watch-tower
  94. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/186-havent
  95. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/168-green-ranger
  96. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/226-family-ties
  97. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/271-a-cookie-for-coping
  98. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/82-play-ground-logic
  99. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/223-unforgiven
  100. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/2-life-is-what-happens-between-failures-2"
  101. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/184-someone-elses-dreams
  102. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/172-the-ultimate-failure
  103. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/226-family-ties
  104. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/263-the-world-is-safe
  105. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/4-vital-for-survival
  106. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/5-advanced-slacker-theory
  107. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/13-red-green-arrow
  108. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/166-addiction
  109. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/168-green-ranger
  110. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/54-ah-nee-may
  111. http://betweenfailures.com/cast
  112. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/245-sun-tzu
  113. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/747-delegation
  114. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/104-devious
  115. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/1149-addicted-to-love
  116. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/1-wakey-wakey-eggs-bakey
  117. https://youtu.be/NWCHoJcrblU?t=1h5m23s
  118. http://msp.starshipmoonhawk.com/
  119. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/33-retard-logic
  120. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/64-to-the-office
  121. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/169-clowns
  122. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/180-nothing-more-than-feelings
  123. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/334-thomas-the-bloody
  124. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/339-would-you-be-mine
  125. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/775-escape-plan
  126. http://betweenfailures.com/comics1/while-my-blog-gently-weeps