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Ooo, white text on black. Fancy. I did the dialogue with a white gel pen. I tell you, those things are excellent sometimes. I also shaded things in with a gray crayon, which mostly got washed out in the scan.

Helen's shirt says, "War is not healthy for children and other living things." I kind of wish I had more hippie t-shirts.

Here and in all subsequent strips, my idea of what the inside of a sewer looks like comes from the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" cartoon.

You know what'd really help here? SOME FRIGGIN' BACKGROUNDS.

In many ways, Mell is the most cartoony of the characters in the strip. For the others, there's at least some attempt to explain why they are the way they are: sure, Helen's an evil mad scientist, but she lives in a reality where evil mad scientists exist and can be qualitatively defined. There's no explanation for Mell. She just showed up at the lab one day, she appears to hang around mainly for her own immediate gratification, and she's superhumanly good at blowing things up. She admires Helen, but also happily betrays her and steals from her. She's a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a very short skirt.

I can't tell what's on Helen's shirt, but check out her rad mining helmet.

Helen's shirt advertises the awesome BBC series Father Ted. I got into "Father Ted" while I was at Trinity College Dublin in my junior year. I think the first episode I saw was the one where the priests enter the Eurosong Contest. Man, what a great show.

Dave's head is unpleasantly distorted in the third panel. It's hard to draw heads at that angle under the best of circumstances, and it's particularly hard with Dave, since it calls attention to the way his chin and beard don't conform to any known human standard. Mell's hands in the last panel are pretty screwy, too.

The personality sprites are just fun to draw. Even when my artwork was totally crummy (i.e., in these strips), I was always pretty good at drawing cute super-deformed things. It's a lame talent, but not everybody can do it! John Byrne, for example, is way better than me at drawing Superman eating chunks of Kryptonite, but check out his drawings of children sometimes. They look like 40-year-old dwarfs. Evil dwarfs.

Dave's inner teenage is wearing a Slayer t-shirt. Excellent.

Helen's good side is, of course, only slightly less evil than her evil side. People have pointed out that, while Dave's good side dresses in robes and halo, his evil side dresses pretty much like himself, and asked whether this signifies that Dave is secretly more aligned toward evil. What it actually signifies, of course, is that I didn't want to draw Dave's evil side in skimpy black dom gear like I did for Helen's evil side. It's probably for the best.

Helen's evil side has a little heart on her tail. Awww.

An historic moment: Dave officially becomes part of the team. Ah, but how did Helen hook him in the alternate timeline where he doesn't smoke? I sense a gap that can only be filled with fanfiction. Probably pornographic fanfiction.

Helen's out of the one-day-only t-shirts and into her standard uniform: evil tee, lab coat, jeans.

In the last panel, Dave has a Battle Beast on his desk. It's the rabbit, one of my personal favorites. This is not by any means the last time Battle Beasts will play a part in the Narbonic saga.

I always meant to do a cast pic of the characters dressed for evil softball, just for fun, but it never turned out very well. And no, I don't know how they form a softball team with three members. I assume that creating enough life forms to fill a roster is a standard part of evil softball.

32 comments:
John Wells (johnwwells) says: For some reason, I thought the shirt said "I am not healthy for children and other living things." Either way...
Leon Arnott (l) says: Monday's Comic: This episode guest-stars Shaenon's signature as a some kind of flattened hairball. (At least, that's what it looks like the first time.)

Also, panel 4's colour-inverting text wins you two technical points!
Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says: "I thought the shirt said ' am not healthy for children and other living things.'" Man, I wish I'd thought of that...
Dr. Carstairs (drc) says: We need a list of all the t-shirt slogans. I also thought Helens shirt said 'I' - drat it all that it doesnt. Another fun bit blasted to hades by reality.
Basil Jelly (basil_jelly) says:

You said you got the name from C'mell. That is how cats are.

 

 

Leon Arnott (l) says: Tuesday's Comic: Well, at this point in the strip, Mell was intending to follow Helen into a career of evil mad biology. It wasn't until "Mell's Major" that she found her true calling in evil law. So maybe her personality is due to her initial casting as an unrealised mad scientist?

Alternatively, she could just be a Mary-Sue.

(Joey, if you're reading this while recording this week's podcast, feel free to discuss these and other theories with our dear author. Also, point out that Helen seems to have impaled herself with her pick-axe in panel 4.)
rylen dreskin (rylen) says:

I initially thought she was one of Helen's experiments.  Take one intern.  Add some aggression hormones.  Implant a few brain electrodes.  Garnish with guns, knives, and a mini-skirt.

Like this:  http://www.danwei.org/trends_and_buzz/remote_control_pigeon_droids_o.php

And I recall an earlier SciAm where they altered the behavior of mice.

Basil Jelly (basil_jelly) says:

"Helen seems to have impaled herself with her pick-axe in panel 4"

I thought that was a large spanner, after seeing the pipes in panel 2.

 

klara (lovenmitt) says:

Oh Father Ted. I only saw a couple episodes while studying in Liverpool, but forever you are engrained in my heart -- along with Black Books!

 

Also, Helen looks great in the second panel. 

Leon Arnott (l) says: Wednesday's Comic: Now is a good enough time to ask how they're even able to get electricity in a sewer. Surely they can't get away with stealing it from the grid for several years?
Matthew Miller (mattdm) says: I expect they get a monthly bill and pay it regularly. 
Mark McQueen (deviantyouth) says: On Father Ted: Still can't beat the episode where they got lost in the department store. "It's Ireland's biggest lingerie department, they say"- genius. Just a shame Ardal O'Hanlon (Father Dougal) went and ruined his image by doing My Hero afterwards.
Matt Katinas (nidoking) says: Electricity? I'm still wondering how Mell can have any control of a rope when it's not tied to anything on the surface. Is she some sort of lasso diva? I guess it could be considered a weapon, but it doesn't explode as brilliantly.
Edwin Quantrall (reynard) says: "I control the only rope." Things could be worse: it could be prime-a-cord...
Leon Arnott (l) says: Thursday's Comic:
Appearances of personality sprites: 2.
Star Wars quotations: 2.

Someone tell me if Dave's talking to the audience in panel 4, so I know whether to increment the fourth-wall dialogue counter (currently 5) as well.
Jeffrey Channing Wells (jaychanning) says:

I vote yes.  Dave does not actually say anything TO the sprites; his line in four is either self-reflective or metatheatrical.  The joke, then, is funniest if Mell calls him on an additional form of "insanity", i.e., talking to us, the viewers.

For the briefest moment, my brain actually registered Common Sense's dark trousers as some kind of nylon stocking.  Discuss:  What does it mean when your inner avatar of Common Sense is a transvestite?

Liza Furr (liza) says:

The first time around, I didn't notice Dave's Inner Baby.  It's a nice touch.

Leon Arnott (l) says: Friday's Comic: Appearances of personality sprites: 3.

"Is that all we get to choose from, sexy or cute?
Now the guy-attracted folks, they get a whole RANGE of Davefairies to admire.
What are you saying, Shaenon, what do you mean?"
--Ed Wells, Oct. 28, 2000.
Dave III (dave_iii) says: Both Helen-sprites dress less modestly than Helen herself does, it's mainly a question of Dom Revealing or Classy Revealing. If Dave's sprites' clothing choices mean something, then what does that say about /her/? ^_^
Joseph Garvin (dapper_anarchist) says: FATHER TED!!! YAY!!!!! Linehan was in my college a while ago, he's great, though he hasn't done anything good since Black Books... And one of my lecturers used to get confused with dermot morgan in school.
Esther the Pester (pester) says:

Late in the comics run, my friends and I- and I'm sure all of you people that actually know eachother, spent a few days talking about the fogginess and unfogginess of Dave's glasses after he went mad. How they cleared up in a great moment of wisdom and understanding, even going so far as to draw parralels between Dave and Odin when he had one clear-eye and one foggy eye.

So what does it mean that out of Dave's sprites, only Common Sense is foggy-eyed?

Leon Arnott (l) says: Saturday's Comic: "C++ Made Difficult" made me laugh even more that the rest of this week combined.

Perhaps the evil softball team could include the much-deserved comeback of the porcine henchman from The Phone Call?
Dave III (dave_iii) says:

Maybe she provided him with Mountain Dew storage space in the break room fridge? It's the only other vice I can think of that would tempt him that way.

Paul Gadzikowski (pgadzikowski) says: Casual dress isn't enough?
Paul Anderson (pmanderson) says: I always thought evil softball was how mad geniuses socialized. It doesn't have to be the three of them; I'm sure Lupin Madblood would play on Helen's team.
Matt Katinas (nidoking) says:

It works the same way Helen would make anything else work. "Dave, you're playing first base, second base, third base, right field, left field, center field, and shortstop. Mell will be pitching, and I'll catch."

"But what about batting? What do we do if the bases are loaded?"

"Oh, you'll be hitting nothing but home runs. I've got a vat of sulfuric acid waiting for you if you don't." (evil smile)

It is EVIL softball. 

John Wells (johnwwells) says:

Extra trivial trivia: When Narbonics Labs was shoddily-but-lovingly recreated for the Ditch Day stack in a campus basement, it boasted dripping pipes, vermin, and a wet, muddy underground tunnel. This was not our doing.

Glen Williams (doctor_hu) says:

Sprites! I've been calling them Pixies all along. :-)

"No, Helen! Only maim him! Break his kneecaps!" coming from the good side remains one of my favorite bits.

Tommy McGuire (dave) says: "C++ Made Difficult" is redundant.
Mark Chapman (aardvark86) says:

Apropos of nothing in particular, this strip keeps reminding me of Bloom County (now with added mad scientists!)

 Frame of Helen with good and evil sides - cuteness factor off the charts.

BlackWolfe Coyoten (blackwolfe_coyoten) says: Tuesday's shirt appears to be a Jigglypuff.
Alex O (alexo) says: I don't understand Dave's hesitation, this must be one of the best (dis)organizations a programmer can work for. I'd take the job in a jiffy.

[As to my qualifications, I can make C++ look difficult without a book, my daughter claims I'm evil (being 12 and female makes her an expert on the subject) but, alas, I don't smoke]

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The education bestowed on Shaenon K. Garrity by her parents had been expensive, athletic and prolonged. ... full profile