Of all the characters created within the Questionable Content comic, green-eyed blonde Hannelore Ellicott-Chatham is by far my favorite person. Aside from some foreshadowing (a realtor's mention of an upstairs neighbor who vacuums at odd hours), we first really meet Hannelore in the ladies room of a bar, where a drunken Marten has accidentally wandered while going on a bender to mark his acceptance of rejection by then-love interest Faye (in the awkwardly brief window between this rejection and the initiation of Marten's doomed relationship with Dora). It turns out that Hannelore is in the bar at all because she is essentially stalking Marten -- not in a bad way per se but because she lives upstairs from Marten and Faye, and thinks they seem nice, and can't quite wrap her head around the notion that simply coming downstairs and knocking on the door and introducing herself would be socially acceptable. This behavior is actually very forward and out-of-character for Hannelore as we later come to know her, and is explained by her being heavily medicated at the time of first meeting.

Her name is, by the way, among the most unusual in the cast though not unheard of; historically it has been a rare German derivation combining Hanne (from the Hebrew "Hannah") and Arabic "Eleonore". Hannelore cleans and counts things obsessively -- indeed, she derives her income by being a thing-counter for hire -- and tends to stay up for days on end before experiencing hallucinations, crashing and sleeping deeply to recover. She has strong aversions to filth and bodily fluids. She cuts her hair short when Wikipedia teaches her about head lice. Although she has never had sex (and is averse to the messiness of the whole concept), she becomes convinced after throwing up one morning that she's somehow become pregnant, and takes multiple pregnancy tests before conceding that she is not. She keeps a list of types of animals which "can't be trusted" and goes to the zoo to evaluate the tapir (she is kicked out of the zoo for a screaming fit brought on by being licked by a giraffe, and later has tapir nightmares). Despite these hangups, she has no aversion to consuming copious quantities of alcohol, has multiple piercings in her ears (explained by the sanitariness of ear-piercing operations), and smokes (explaining it away as "a girl's got to have her contradictions). She has an anthropomorphic oversize IPad named Winslow, who is initially harassed by PintSize but later becomes his most frequent coadventurer.

Hannelore is completely aware of her hangups, and sometimes even goofs on them -- when Faye asks her about her multiple ear piercings, Hannelore pretends to freak out as if she didn't even know her ears were pierced (and then delivers the gotcha!! moment).


Once they come to understand Hannelore's particular set of dysfunctions and vulnerabilities, most of the characters become protective of and nurturing toward her. She is in many ways a child, an innocent in the ways of the world, and so this is recognised by her friends.

We never meet Hannelore's father, but are told that he lives in a space station orbiting the Earth (in one strip she points out that particular light in the night sky). Her quite-earthbound mother is a high-strung corporate tycoon who, when offended by a business owner, will vengefully buy the real estate out from under them to put them out of business.

Hannelore and Marten have a particularly poignant friendship. He is the first member of the group that she meets, and while he initially is alarmed by her odd stalkerness (to the point where he arms himself with a taser, and then promptly accidentally tases himself), he quickly warms to her. Faye is the next to meet Hannelore, in the awkward posture of Hannelore straddling a self-tased unconscious Marten. Faye pretty quickly grasps that Hannelore is harmless-crazy and takes up Hannelore's therapist (Hannelore labels them "therapy sisters," in the same strip where she chops her hair off). Faye quickly nicknames her new friend "Hanners" -- one of the few times where a Faye nickname is essentially adopted by the whole group, because, let's face it, "Hannelore" is a mouthful of a name. When the drummer in Marten's band quits, he invites Hannelore to try drumming for his band, and she instantly develops a talent for it based on the realisation that drumming is essentially "counting with your whole body."

PintSize sells Hannelore pictures of studly firemen; when her encounter with real firemen puts her off this fetish, he offers to sell her pictures of studly veterinarians. He makes her wear a scarlet "A" on another occasion for fondling the butt of a robot boyfriend her father had sent her, but the sentence is commuted by Marten under the "rule of thumb" ("he who has the thumbs, makes the rules"). PintSize and Winslow also "tame" Hannelore's Roomba and make it draw their miniature chariot.

When Hannelore comes down with the flu, it is Dora who takes care of her, insisting that doing so is the opposite of her maternal instinct -- which would be to eat her young. Eventually, Dora hires Hannelore (along with Cosette) to work in the coffee shop, another significant step in Hannelore's movement toward normality, as she promises to be brave in the face of dirt and sweat, and learns to make a mean latte. Dora's oft-libidinous big brother Sven takes Hannelore on a pretend date once, so that Hannelore may experience what it is like to go on one. On this date, Sven is gentlemanly toward Hannelore, but confides in her that he misses Faye's body.

When Dora and Marten take PintSize to geeky gamer Marigold's apartment for repair, the stunning level of messiness their inspires Dora to summon Hannelore, who shows up in a hazmat suit arrayed with cleaning products and obsessively spends hours cleaning and organising the place (then bawls Marigold out for letting it reach that state in the first place). But Hannelore and Marigold seem to strike up a friendship founded on their shared sense of compulsion, Hannelore to cleaning and Marigold to gaming; Marigold introduces Hannelore to anime, lets her sit in on an online gaming "raid," and they attend a local sci-fi/fantasy convention together.

And so, in closing....

Hannelore's innocence, openheartedness, and gutsy willingness to eventually push herself against certain of her fears, makes her a highly endearing character. And, that the rest of the group accepts her and nurtures her makes the Questionable Content pseudo-family more endearing as a group. Perhaps it is for this reason that Hannelore has been viewed by some fans as the breakout star of the comic, registering an overwhelming win in one character popularity poll, and has been named by creator Jeph Jacques as his favorite amongst his own creations.

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