Hypothetical Handplates scenario in which Sans realizes he can teach himself Common.
(Ugh, tumblr is making them blurry for some reason so I guess full-view if you want the not-blurry version??)
Convoluted explanation incoming. Handplates is an Undertale fancomic by @zarla-s and if you like Papyrus and Sans, go read it, is good stuff. So I guess this is an AU fancomic of an AU fancomic? I dunno, the idea wouldn’t leave my brain until I did something with it. So. Zarla did a Christmas doodle where Gaster gave the boys a box of ginger cookies that had the word COOKIES on the side in big letters, and because my job gives me way too much time to think about random stuff, I realized something.
In Handplates, Gaster taught the bros to read and write Wingdings but deliberately did not teach them monster Common (ie: English) so they can’t read his nametag or anything. Thing is, Wingdings is a 1:1 substitution cipher for English. Every Wingdings symbol exactly equals an English letter; it’s not a different language, just a different set of pictures. As somebody who has taught herself a fair number of substitution ciphers, there are a few things you look for when you’re trying to translate a code and you don’t have a key in front of you. Most notably, single-letter words (in English they will usually be A or I) or double letters next to each other. Like the OO in “COOKIES”.
Sans is smart. Gaster has fed them junk food before and odds are good Sans knows how to spell “COOKIES”. The word is on the box in huge letters and Gaster just said it out loud, so it is fresh in Sans’ mind. That double-O is a huge tip-off. He would put it together that the word on the front of the box matches what’s inside. Once you figure out a few of the letters, it becomes steadily easier to decode the rest.
I feel like Gaster exposes the boys to enough Common (the nametag, food wrappers, computer monitors, the books Sans sits on) that Sans could pick it up with a proper starting point. Papyrus probably not, because he had a hard enough time with Wingdings, but Sans is eager for any opportunity to undermine Gaster and I’m sure he’d jump at the chance. In this comic he elects not to tell Papyrus, though. He doesn’t know Gaster has cameras in the cell (or even what a camera is) but he’s figured out that Gaster can spy on them somehow, and the last time Gaster caught them learning something he didn’t like, Papyrus got the ever-loving hell beat out of him. So Sans keeps quiet about it for now.
And thus starts the long-standing tradition of keeping important secrets from his brother.
On the technical side, it took me a freakin’ week to sketch and outline this whole thing. Coloring and shading only took me like a day. In the meantime Zarla actually kinda addressed the cookie comic, but this was almost done by then so oh well. I’m finding my poses and proportions turn out a LOT better when I’m doodling skeletons, like what, drawing basic anatomy will make you better at anatomy, you don’t say?? A lot of this was a self-challenge to see if I could imitate Zarla’s art style, and I referenced previous Handplates comics a lot for the backgrounds and Sans’ face. Full disclosure: Gaster’s pose up there is basically copied from Zarla’s original comic because I was rushing through to get on to the actual meat of the story. He’s just here for setup. I had fun trying to figure out how to do his Lost Soul head though. Also, I hate Papyrus’ face from the front. Also also, it was tricky trying to convey “mentally translating an unknown alphabet into a known one” when pretty much everyone who sees this comic is already familiar with the “unknown” one and not the “known” one, but I think I pulled it off.
TL;DR- I imitated somebody else’s style to do an AU of an AU; I am not Zarla; Zarla is the creator of Handplates and also Gaster’s pose in the first panel; I like ciphers too much and also I gave the cookies icing because that is the only kind of ginger cookie I know.