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It's a Hard Life is a webcomic written and illustrated by Qlock, started in June 11, 2011 and currently ongoing. Set in Kanto, it follows the story of Robin, a 10-year-old girl who has been kicked out of her house and is trying to survive in the outside world along with the Pokémon she meets on the way.
The comic is based on the artist's actual playthrough of Pokémon Blue Version while following the Nuzlocke Challenge rules. For example, the first Pokémon encountered in each area is captured by Robin and becomes a part of Robin's party, while a Pokémon fainting in her game leads to the Pokémon dying in the comic. However, it features an original story, with each Pokémon being given its own name and personality. It also features several characters from the game and closely follows the actual geography of Kanto.
Due to the presence of violence, blood, and swearing, and the recurring themes of death and grief, it is an adult comic. Although it starts in a simplistic manner, both the drawing style and story gain in complexity through the comic. Despite the updates becoming more irregular in recent years, Qlock mentioned several times that she plans to keep the comic going.
Chapter 1: The Great King Rat
Robin is suddenly kicked out by her mother. When she is about to leave town, her mother's lover stops her to give her a Pokémon so she can protect herself. She chooses a Bulbasaur she names Skott, who is killed right away in Robin's first fight against Oak's grandson Gary. In replacement, Oak gives Robin a Squirtle she names Puck, and the two of them start their journey together.
The two travel through a forest, and on their way Robin catches three Rattata she names Regina, Rattus, and Edna, and a Weedle named Jojjo. They take shelter in a safer part of the forest and construct a hut, but are attacked by Gary, whose Bulbasaur kills Rattus, who sacrifices himself to save Puck. His death leads Robin and her Pokémon to break the legal rules of a Pokémon battle by directly attacking Gary together. They take his money (echoing the money wins of the original game), but decide not to kill him. Traumatized by their experience in the forest, Robin and her companions decide to go live a safer life in Viridian City.
Chapter 2: No one but you (only the good die young)
A few days later, Robin and her companions, who have been living in the street, realize that she is now being researched by the police as a criminal for assault and armed robbery. This leads the group to flee to Mt. Moon; however, early in their travel, Edna is killed in a Pokémon battle, leading to Robin's team once again beating and robbing another Trainer. However, following the advice of Regina, Robin decides to never steal again from another Trainer to avoid falling further into crime.
On their way to Mt. Moon, the team reaches Pewter City, where a crazy man in the street forces Robin to challenge Brock. Although she is initially too scared to fight, Robin is convinced by Regina to face the Gym Leader, which turns out to be an easy task since his Rock-type Pokémon are weak against Puck's Water Gun. As they continue their road to Mt. Moon, Regina is killed in a fight, leaving Robin with only Puck and Jojjo as companions.
Chapter 3: Keep yourself alive
Feeling responsible for the deaths of his friends, Puck starts an overly intense and non-stopping training despite the concern of both Robin and Jojjo. He encounters a Nidoran♀ named Cogito and assaults her as a part of his training. While she is about to go on her way, she is caught by Robin and is reluctantly forced to join the team, who attempts to find shelter in a cave. Despite the fact Cogito refuses to be a part of the Team, Robin uses her Poké Ball to keep her from fleeing, and uses her in combat by throwing her against enemies. This leads her to win experience and evolve to a Nidorina.
In the cave, they are spotted by two members of Team Rocket. One of them reluctantly obeys his partner to chase and kill Robin but is defeated and shows her the direction of the way out. While the group is in danger once again, with both Puck and Jojjo being paralyzed, Cogito makes another attempt to escape the group, leading to Robin bumping into the other Team Rocket member while running after her. Seeing a defenseless Robin being in danger, Cogito comes back and saves her, allowing all four of them to leave the cave alive.
Chapter 4: Doing all right
The group continue their traveling in hopes of reaching a safer place. While traveling on Route 4, they catch a Sandshrew named Kato. They reach Cerulean City, where Cogito learns it is now impossible to get back to her home and reluctantly has to stay with the group until she finds a way to go back. As it seems the town has not heard of Robin or her crimes, the team decides to settle for a simple and happy life in Cerulean City. However Gary, who happens to walk by, attacks them once again. They defeat him quite easily, but he tells Robin he will tell the police of Cerulean City about her crimes.
This leads to the team being chased by the police and forced to flee the town, while a police officer named Adeela calls Misty in order to find and capture them. The group encounters the second Team Rocket member they faced in Mt. Moon, who offers to let Robin join the Team Rocket. She refuses the offer, not considering herself a criminal, with Cogito kicking the man into the water and the group leaving him to drown.
Chapter 5: Seaside Rendezvous
The group encounters Swann, an effeminate, poem-declaiming Bellsprout who enthusiastically joins the group. Once again the group has to face that they are without a home and a goal right before encountering Nickan, a Weedle who talks to them about an abandoned house they could use as a shelter. The group peacefully rests and eats, unaware that Misty has found them. They get to know Nickan and learn that he is sick, and due to that, has been rejected by all the Trainers he met. Meanwhile, Robin laments the fact she left the Team Rocket member to die, even if the rest of the team feels like he deserved it.
In the morning, Nickan gives Robin a ticket for the S.S. Anne he found in the house, with Robin seeing it as a golden opportunity for them to get away from trouble. However, as they leave the house, they are attacked by Misty and other Water-type Trainers. All the other Trainers' Pokémon are easily defeated by Swann, who reveals himself a powerful ally. Puck fights Misty's Starmie but is defeated. As he is about to be killed, Nickan attracts the Starmie's attention and sacrifices himself. This gives Puck the opportunity he needed, as he uses the distraction and defeat the Starmie. However, as he is about to kill it, Robin stops him. Misty tries to catch Robin herself with handcuffs, but the team flees away. Meanwhile, the Team Rocket member Robin left to drown is saved by his teammate, and Robin runs into them after feeling from Misty. She knocks them out and continues her way with Puck, Jojjo, Cogito, Kato and Swann.
Chapter 6: Hang on in there
The team reaches Vermilion City to take the boat. Meanwhile, Robin uses her map to find a way home for Cogito who leaves the group. However, while passing through a tunnel, she is attacked by many Diglett and Dugtrio who make the tunnel collapse which forces her to return to the city.
As the group continues their travels, they are joined by Peach, a Bellsprout and Swann's cousin, and Bimm, a Spearow. While Puck has more trouble than ever dealing with grief and guilt, Robin starts training Kato, who increasingly becomes more powerful and learns to use Dig. During a battle, he is badly wounded by a Growlithe, but survives. After his near-death experience, Kato realizes that when he is surrounded by his friends, he doesn't feel as afraid as before and decides to continue fighting.
Chapter 7: Under Pressure
While the team gets on the S.S. Anne, Adeela, who has been chasing Robin since Cerulean City, finds Lt. Surge to tell him about Robin. Despite being disturbed when realizing that the criminal is only a young child, he agrees to help her. Meanwhile, the team relaxes on the S.S. Anne. However, Gary, who once again happens to be in the same place than them, places Robin's "Wanted" posters everywhere on the boat, leading the passengers to attack the group, and to tell Adeela, who happens to be on vacation on the ship, that Robin is planning to sink it.
The group is spread all over the boat, fighting their own battles. In doing so, Swann evolves into a Weepinbell. Robin faces Gary, and she discovers she is now wanted for attempted murder and burglary. Having no other Pokémon at the moment to fight him, Robin uses a Moon Stone on Cogito who evolves into a Nidoqueen and kills two of Gary's Pokémon.
The team make their escape from the ship, starting the engines to make them lose control. However, they are easily caught right afterward by Surge, who takes all of Robin's Pokémon. Rather than bringing Robin to the authorities, he sits with Robin and asks her to simply go home. They are interrupted by the S.S. Anne nearly crushing them, as the crew lost control of the ship due to Robin's actions. As they both run away from the crashing boat, Robin attacks Surge since she got her Pokémon back, injuring him. As the only Pokémon Robin managed to retrieve, Kato is forced to fight Surge's Raichu, Elektra, to get back their other friends. During the battle, he evolves into a Sandslash and injures her, making her blind. Ultimately, Surge simply lets Robin go while caring for Elektra. The news of the events on the S.S. Anne spreads, with Robin become a nationwide famous criminal now. Adeela blames Surge for letting Robin go, and continues her search for her.
Chapter 8: A Bohemian Rhapsody
The group finds a cave and decide to settle there, despite having no idea how much time they will be able to stay there. When Puck is chased by local Pokémon, Bimm proves herself a powerful fighter by defeating them all in a single move. The group then explores the nearby areas, and catches Regina II. Kato has trouble dealing with the guilt of blinding Elektra, and has trouble continuing to train. During a stormy night, Robin sees a gigantic bird into the sky, but none of her companions believe it.
The team lives happily on the mountain for three months, during which Bimm evolves into a Fearow, and Cogito bonds further with the group. However, Jojjo and Swann ultimately announce to Robin that they have to leave the group and go south for the winter. Instead, Robin decides that the whole group will go with them.
Chapter 9: The March of the Black Queen
The group arrives in Celadon City, planning to ultimately go to Fuchsia City and maybe catch a Ferry to the Hoenn region. Robin steals a man's clothes and uses a wig to hide her real hair. However, she is then mistaken for someone else by the Gym Leader. However, as she only uses Poison-type Pokémon, they are all easily defeated by Bimm. Feeling safe, the companions wander around town in small groups. Puck and Cogito happen to run into the Team Rocket, including the man who almost drown. Despite Puck's protests, Cogito attacks them, trying to free all the captured Pokémon.
Meanwhile, Zager, an Eevee, wins a Kanto beauty contest and dreams of a life away from his mistress. To celebrate their win, his mistress and her husband bring him to a very expensive restaurant where they run into Giovanni, who accepts their dinner invitation. Zager tells his mistress he needs to go the bathroom and uses it as an opportunity to escape. During the dinner, Giovanni is warned by the Team Rocket member that they are under the attack of Cogito.
Puck returns to the group, telling them of what trouble Cogito has gotten herself into, with the team deciding to go to her rescue. Cogito is attacked by Giovanni, but the rest of the group rescues her and starts a massive battle against Giovanni. During the fight, Robin uses items she bought in Celadon City, using a Leaf Stone on Swann, making him evolve into a Victreebel and using TM15 to teach Hyper Beam to Jojjo. Despite this, Jojjo's wings are ripped off by Giovanni's Kangaskhan, and she is nearly killed. However, she manages to recover and instead kills Kangaskhan.
The building starts to collapse because of the fight, and Robin's group flees through the sewers. She heals Jojjo, but realizes her wings will never grow back. In the sewers they meet Zager who, unbeknownst to them, asked Giovanni if he would train him. Giovanni agreed to train him only if he managed to become strong, which Zager plans to do by joining Robin. After they all leave Celadon City, including Zager, Cogito finally realizes that she prefers to be a part of the team, and agrees to stay with them indefinitely.
Chapter 10: The night comes down
Surge and a now completely blind Elektra pass through a cemetery, unaware that the supposedly blind child they ran into is actually Robin in disguise. The group, who arrived in Lavender Town, finds shelter in a church whose priest, Fuji, welcomes them. They finally feel secure for the first time in forever, but Gary, who doesn't see through Robin's disguise, happens to find shelter in the church on the very same night. Robin and her Pokémon are given a bed for the night, but Swann is more interested in the ghosts in the church, leading mush of the team to explore the church.
They run into Fuji, unaware that he became possessed by a spirit. Fuji attacks them, and the spirit subsequently takes possession of Puck, Cogito, and ultimately Robin, escaping with her body. After Fuji regains consciousness, he helps Robin's group in the hope of freeing her from the spirit. Meanwhile Gary, who recognized Robin, decides to attack her in her sleep, unaware of the recent events. After a possessed Robin attacks him, she runs away, followed by Jojjo and Kato who are unaware of Robin's condition, themselves being chased by Gary and his Pokémon.
While Robin's Pokémon face Gary's, Puck and Fuji find Robin on the roof of the church and fail to free her from the spirit. The spirit attempts to make Robin kill herself, seeking blood to calm its wrath, but Fuji convinces her to possess him and make him kill himself instead, which he does. Before being completely possessed and jumping to his death, he tells Bimm to fly her friends to safety, which she does. When Robin wakes up the next day in a nearby forest, everyone is safe and together. Not wanting to make them feel bad, Bimm and Cogito decide to keep Fuji's death a secret, and the group goes on.
Chapter 11: Dear Friends
Giovanni visits Zager's mistress and her husband, who gives him the prototype of the new product of his company: the Master Ball. Meanwhile, Pluto, a Snorlax Poké Cop, is informed of Robin's presence nearby and decides to take care of them.
The group continues their journey, trying to put as much distance as they can from Lavender Town, and Jojjo tries to learn to deal without her wings. The group is interrupted by an attack from Pluto, who turns out to be a powerful opponent, single-handedly matching the strength of all of Robin's Pokémon together. After badly wounding Puck, Pluto is about to kill a badly wounded Jojjo when Swann stands in his way. The two powerful attacks cause the cliff they were fighting on to collapse, with most of Robin's Pokémon buried inside the remnants.
Bimm and Kato, Robin's only two remaining Pokémon, try fighting Pluto once again but are quickly defeated and very badly wounded. However, due to Pluto's wounds he is defeated by Robin who uses a Great Ball to capture him. Robin desperately tries to save her Pokémon with the help of Zager, healing Bimm and Kato and asking Cogito, who makes her way out of the remnants, to search for the others. She finds a wounded Puck, who is taken care of by Robin, but the search is cut short as she soon finds what is left of both Jojjo and Swann. The team is deeply heartbroken by the deaths of their companions, but only a few seconds later, Adeela and the police rush to capture them. Due to all of them being badly injured, Robin pulls all her Pokémon back to their Poké Balls and has to face the fact she cannot escape. Giving Puck all of the Poké Balls, she orders him to flee by the sea and surrenders to the police.
Chapter 12: Fight From the Inside
Back in Lavender Town, at the burial of Fuji, Giovanni tells a man named Blaine about his "almost finished" product. Meanwhile, Robin's former Pokémon continue their travel without any goal, all deeply saddened and traumatized by the recent events. During the night, Puck and Cogito discuss what to do next. Cogito suggest there is no reason left for them to stay together, which Puck refuses to believe. Meanwhile, Zager secretly picked up Pluto's Poké Ball, and proposes to free him if Pluto helps him escape.
The group is unaware that they are in the Kanto Safari Zone, and Pokémon Trainers run into them and try to catch Cogito. Despite the Trainers being defeated and running away, Kato is poisoned during the fight. As the other Pokémon start to panic, a couple of Nidoran named Hobbes and Hobbes II offer to bring them to a safe place where a nurse could help. After they arrive, Lotus, who is both the nurse and the park warden, takes care of Kato. She offers to let them stay for as long as they would like.
During their stay, Puck trains and becomes convinced that if they are strong enough, they can rescue Robin from prison. Meanwhile, Zager begins his secret training with Pluto, although he still doesn't seem fit for battle. Kato, who recovers from his poisoning and hears from the radio that Robin's trial just begun, is falling deeper and deeper into depression, refusing to eat and distancing himself more and more from his friends, deeply affected by the loss of Jojjo.
Robin and her Pokémon
- Robin, a ten-year-old girl kicked out of her house. She is afraid of fighting and losing her friends.
- Skott, a male Bulbasaur and Robin's first Pokémon. He is given to her in Chapter 1 only to be killed right away by Gary's Charmander in his very first fight.
- Puck, a male Wartortle and Robin's second Pokémon. He is given to her as a Squirtle in Chapter 1 to replace Skott. Robin's most loyal companion, he is initially positive but becomes more and more overwhelmed by the deaths of their companions. He begins to consider it his responsibility to protect the whole team, refusing to be switched out during fights. Although Robin's Pokémon tend to call her by her name after bonding with her, he refers to her as "master".
- Regina, a female Rattata and the first Pokémon caught by Robin. A trustworthy adviser to Robin, she is the first of of her four Ratatta and the last surviving of her original three Rattata. She dies in Chapter 2, crushed to death by an Ekans's Wrap.
- Rattus, a male Rattata caught by Robin in Chapter 1. He is an older, disillusioned Pokémon who finds his master and companions to be too innocent. He sacrifices himself later in the chapter to protect Puck from Gary's Bulbasaur.
- Jojjo, a female Beedrill caught by Robin as a Weedle in Chapter 1. She becomes increasingly strong during the comic, developing high flying and speed skills. In Chapter 9, her wings are ripped off by a Kangaskhan during a fight against Giovanni, leaving her unable to fly. During this battle, she learns Hyper Beam, which becomes her signature move. Robin's longest-lasting companion other than Puck, she dies in a fight against Pluto in Chapter 11.
- Edna, a female Rattata caught in Chapter 1. She is killed by a Bug Catcher's Caterpie in a battle in Chapter 2.
- Cogito, a Nidoqueen caught as a Nidoran♀ in Chapter 3. A very independent, sarcastic, and strong-spirited Pokémon, she refuses to consider herself a part of the group for a long time, first trying to escape and then only staying because she is unable to return home. She progressively becomes more attached to the group and more protective of her companions, becoming the strongest of Robin's Pokémon. In Chapter 9, she finally considers herself a part of the group.
- Kato, a male Sandslash caught as a Sandshrew in Chapter 4. A gentle, shy Pokémon, he initially refuses to fight other Pokémon but is happily accepted by the group, bonding with Jojjo in particular. He subsequently learns to fight and becomes a worthy fighter of his own.
- Swann, a male Victreebel caught as a Bellsprout in Chapter 5. He is an effeminate, delicate and well-speaking Pokémon, using French words regularly. His full name is Mounsieur Francoise Swann-Pierre Aguste de Lastevrie du Salliant. He has a big tendency to recite his own poems, which leaves other characters uninterested, but he is also a very skilled fighter. He is killed by Pluto while defending Jojjo.
- Peach, a male Bellsprout and Swann's cousin who willingly joins the group in Chapter 6. Although he is a part of the group, he is not a fighter and appears more rarely than Robin's other Pokémon. However he proves himself to be useful over time.
- Bimm, a female Fearow caught as a Spearow in Chapter 6. She is a cheeky Pokémon full of humor, but also a powerful fighter.
- Regina II, a female Rattata caught in Chapter 8. Robin's fourth Rattata, she is named after Regina and is not a fighter. She is not seen or mentioned again after joining the group.
- Zager, a male Eevee who willingly joins the group in Chapter 9. He is trained for beauty contests, and he won the Kanto beauty contest several times. He secretly hates his mistress, hoping to escape her and become a strong Pokémon, which leads him to join Robin. He secretly plans to join Giovanni after becoming stronger.
- Pluto, a Snorlax caught in Chapter 11. A powerful opponent, he almost defeats all of Robin's Pokémon by himself, killing two of them, before being defeated at the very last moment by Robin catching him with a Great Ball. Robin is subsequently captured by the police, but Pluto's Poké Ball is secretly kept by Zager who intends to be trained by him and become stronger.
- Gary, a spoiled child originally portrayed as an overly-exaggerated mean character, who becomes Robin's primary enemy. Introduced at the very beginning of the comic, he becomes more realistic later in the comics. Gary's Pokémon are:
- A Charmander first seen in Chapter 1. In Chapter 10 Gary lights a candle for him, indicating he has passed away.
- Ivy, a Bulbasaur first seen in Chapter 1, then seen as an Ivysaur.
- A Pidgey first seen in Chapter 1, and then as a Pidgeotto in Chapter 4, killed by Cogito in Chapter 7.
- An Abra first seen in Chapter 4, then seen as a Kadabra in Chapter 10, killed by Jojjo in the same chapter.
- Ratty, a Rattata first seen in Chapter 4. In chapter 10 Gary lights a candle for him, indicating he has passed away.
- Growlie, a Growlithe first seen in Chapter 10.
- A Gyarados first seen in Chapter 10.
- Adeela, a cop chasing after Robin. She is first introduced in Chapter 4, but her name is not mentioned in the comic until Chapter 7.
- Nickan, a wild Weedle encountered in Chapter 5. Rejected by Trainers because he is weak and sick, he offers shelter to Robin and her friends.
- Lt. Surge, introduced in Chapter 7, a former soldier and the Gym Leader of Vermilion City. He has a Raichu named Elektra, who has a blind eye and fights with a sword, and a Pikachu named Pika-boy.
- Giovanni, introduced in Chapter 9, the secret leader of Team Rocket. His Pokémon in the comic match those he uses in Pokémon Red and Blue.
- Fuji, a priest introduced in Chapter 10 who offers Shelter to Robin.
Concept and creation
Qlock based the events of the comic on her playthrough of Pokémon Blue Version. She played while following the rules of the Nuzlocke Challenge: a fainted Pokémon is considered dead, the player can only attempt to capture the first Pokémon he meets in each area, and all Pokémon fainting means a definitive game over. The events of the playthrough are echoed in the comics, and determine the Pokémon caught by Robin as well as their potential deaths, and other events such as evolving, a Pokémon being near death in a fight, or the opponents they encounter.
Relation between the playthrough and the comic
For her very first Nuzlocke Challenge, Qlock chose Bulbasaur as her Starter, but lost to the Rival in their first fight less than five minutes after starting. As the result, she created a new game, this time choosing a Squirtle she named Puck as a starter. Since the comic had not really started yet, she reflected those events in it by having Robin pick a Bulbasaur as a starter only to him die right away against the Rival, and be replaced by a Squirtle.
At the end of Chapter 1, Robin is facing her rival Gary. In the game, Qlock's Squirtle, Puck, was underlevel compared to her rival's Bulbasaur and nearly died, with only 1 HP left. This made her use her other Pokémon instead, leading to the death of her Rattata Rattus. Since she considered that "in a way Rattus died to save Puck", in the comic Rattus dies by actually saving Puck and taking a hit in his place.
Just like Robin in Chapter 2, Qlock was highly nervous about confronting Brock, but ended-up winning very easily. Similarly to Puck at the beginning of her game, her Sandshrew, Kato, came close to death and survived with only 1 HP left, leading her to make him almost die in Chapter 6.
The big fight against the Snorlax Pluto in Chapter 11 closely mirrors Qlock's actual fight with a wild Snorlax in the game, in which it almost killed all of her Pokémon and successfully killed two of them and kept using Rest and Snore to both heal his damage and attack her, making it nearly impossible for her to defeat him.  He happened to be the first wild Pokémon Qlock faced in the area, and so she was able to defeat him and save her other Pokémon by capturing him, the exact way Robin does in the comic. She felt so bad after the match that she stopped playing the game for a week.
Although Robin's Pokémon are separated from her in Chapter 11 and continue on their own, their adventures are still related to the fights of Qlock.  The two Nidoran that the characters meet in the Kanto Safari Zone are actually the two Nidoran she caught in it (they were released afterwards following the rules of all Safari Zones).