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Awww, the little Mell sprite in the last panel is so cute and so psychotic-looking. I love it. That particular sprite is, of course, Killing Urge.

Behind Mell, you can see not only the ubiquitous three-eyed smiley mug, but a big soup-bowl-sized cappaccino mug featuring P-chan from Ranma 1/2. These mugs were largely unsold merchandise at the Viz Shop-By-Mail warehouse, just sitting around gathering dust, and a large number mysteriously teleported two doors over to the Viz offices over the years. There was a time when the P-chan mugs were everywhere at Viz. Most of them disappeared in the move to the new location a couple of years ago, and now everyone just uses glassware from Ikea. Pity.

Helen's shirt reads "I Hit Stone Cold." At the time, there was a storyline in the WWF involving Stone Cold Steve Austin getting run over by a car driven by an unknown assassin. RUN DOWN LIKE A DOG IN THE STREET! The hunt for the guilty party (who, of course, had to be another pro wrestler) was dragged out for many entertaining months while Austin recovered from a real-life injury. It ended unsatisfyingly. Come to think of it, it would've made just as much sense if it had been Helen.

I wish I still had this internal flier from Microsoft that Dave Barker sent me years ago. It was a poster urging employees to refer their talented nerd friends to Microsoft, and it featured shadowy, vaguely sinister blue figures and the legend, "If we could clone you, we would." By comparison, BrainScan for Windows seems positively benign.

Man, I can't believe I lost that flier. I'm looking through my folders of Narbonic-related research material, and here are a few of the many things I did keep:

-A Scientific American pullout on the brain.
-A list of comic-strip characters who vanished from their strips, including Lyman, Shermie, Ham Gravy, Bumbazine, Uncle Max, and every female character to appear in Bloom County.
-The receipt for my couch.
-A flier from the Bakken Science Museum in Minnesota.
-The definition of the word "eusocial."
-A whole bunch of quotations written on individual Post-It Notes. Sample: "I didn't do it for science. And I didn't do it for glory. I'M JUST MEAN!" From Chopper Chicks in Zombietown.
-Instructions on the care of gerbils.
-A certificate of my ordination as a minister of the Universal Life Church.
-A set of "Pee-Wee's Playhouse" temporary tattoos.
-A note Dorothy Gambrell included with my purchase of a Cat and Girl t-shirt and set of frosted glass mugs.
-A number of photos of AMC Gremlins.

But no Microsoft flier! Man, what a letdown. Because I'm unable to scan it for you, let me share a Viz internal flier instead:

This is a something that Jason Thompson drew after a European publisher sent the office a big tub of horrible ammonia-flavored Swedish fish. Jason was the only person who would willingly eat them. Everyone else started using them to spell out rude messages on the breakroom tables. What you see here is Jason's noble but futile effort to put a stop to this.

Where were we? Oh, right. Brain scans.

This strip's on the wordy side, but I like all the dialogue. "I'll be allowed concubines as a reward for my faithful service"...come on, that's pretty good. Helen's still wearing shorts; she really needs to get into the long pants.

This storyline will turn out to be relevant to the larger story, oh, six years from now, when [SPOILER ALERT HEY LOOK SPOILERS] Helen clones a new Dave using the memories from these brain scans. I didn't have that planned at the time I drew "Employee Brain Scans," but I was really disgustingly pleased with myself when I thought of it later.

More random spot color! I'll get tired of doing that eventually. I like Helen's heart-pattern desktop wallpaper.

This may have come up before, and will probably come up again, but I was really, really into "Babylon 5" in college. It was a big influence on my decision to do a strip with a big story arc and a set ending. I planned for it to last about as long as "Babylon 5," too. I tried to avoid adding a bunch of annoying-ass telepath characters at the end, though.

Finally, a miniscule victory for Dave. I like to think he's learning to survive at the lab. Also, I got to draw him with blank Little Orphan Annie zombie eyes, and that can't be wrong.

Even when my art skills were this crude, I was still pretty good at drawing Mell with a mallet. Go figure.

I don't have much to say about this strip, but I think it's pretty darn solid. The last line is good, "I hardly brainwashed Dave at all" is very Helen, and Mell's got a sledgehammer. What more do you want from me? Also, I've started drawing Mell's skirt with checks instead of plaid, which looks much better. And thus ends the second-shortest Narbonic storyline, making way for the shortest one.

37 comments:
Dave Van Domelen (dvandom) says: But do the personality sprites have a union?
Kristy Valenti (alienjukebox) says: I have that P-chan mug. I love it!
Leon Arnott (l) says: >But do the personality sprites have a union?
No, but according to Sluggy Freelance they all hang out at the same bar.

(P.S: While searching for that one particular episode in the Sluggy archive, I suddenly asked myself "what is up with Narbonic's OhNoRobot transcription archive?")
Leon Arnott (l) says: Monday's Comic: Does Mell's Killing Urge have arms, or what? Also: write a 300-word dissertation on the meaning of her opaque glasses.
Melissa Trible (tamtrible) says: The Mel-sprite is obviously rubbing her hands together maniacally.
Dave Van Domelen (dvandom) says: Mell's sprite's glasses aren't opaque. If you look closely, you can just see eyes and eyebrows through them, but her hair tends to obscure things.
John Wells (johnwwells) says:

Eusocial? Was that to apply to Dave? 

Imagine a great termite's nest of geeks, scuttling among the coax cable, keeping all in order to ensure the survival of the breeding members of the species... no, that's not quite it. Mad scientists are dyssocial; they've adapted to avoid breeding, so they can concentrate on wiping out their species.

Rachel S. (masamage) says: So how did the couch receipt come into play?
Leon Arnott (l) says: I'll be expecting scans of several of those items (nay, exhibits) to make appearances at apt occasions later in this series! That is, if it isn't too much trouble, sir.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Tuesday's Comic: What on Earth would Helen want with subliminal message shareware?
Metal Fatigue (metalfatigue) says: I would like to see the note from Dorothy, please! Also your couch receipt!
Leon Arnott (l) says:
"Dave could see Helen's fairies if Helen let him look at the readouts from the brain scans. Which she won't. So there's no way he could find out Helen's thoughts, with or without fairies, unless he went to the trouble of breaking into her files and downloading all of her readouts into his own computer, and he'd never do that, right? Right? At least, not until Wednesday."
--Shaenon, 7 Nov 2000
Bauke Schildt (tephlon) says:

Swedish Fish Licorice is mana from the gods! (Hades and Charon possibly, but still)

But then again, I'm Dutch. We like licorice.

Mike B. (epenthesis) says: Ronald-Ann Smith was a <i>Bloom County</i> character until the very end, and even got to be in <i>Outland</i>. Dismal track record otherwise, though.
Mike B. (epenthesis) says: @#$%^& HTML.
Cameron Nielsen (cameroncn) says: Whut? A minister of the Universal Life Church? You're kidding, right?
Jeffrey Channing Wells (jaychanning) says: All I can think about reading this comic is how horrible it must taste to be both smoking and eating a sammych at the exact same time.
Jeffrey Channing Wells (jaychanning) says: Oh, and... yes, Mell, DO ask Dave about that subliminal-message shareware.  Learn as much as you can, for two years hence IT WILL VERY NEARLY PROVE YOUR UNDOING AT THE MERCILESS HANDS OF MY ABSURDLY-LONG FANFIC!!!
Matt Katinas (nidoking) says: Steve Troop did something with vanished characters in Melonpool when Mayberry was cast out of the strip and spent a few weeks hanging out with Lyman and some other characters I've forgotten. Then his archives were brutally erased to make room for... whatever the heck it is he's doing over there these days. Last I checked, it was puppet shows.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Wednesday's Comic: For those who didn't get the joke: the art of Hieronymous Bosch. Or just mentally picture a disgustingly self-satisfied Shaenon. It's all good.

"Peons," by the way, is a marvellous word.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Also: the last panel reminds me of the last two panels of this episode of the other best comic on the Internet.

Which itself brings forth the question: does Helen represent Satan? And is Narbonics Labs the Underworld?
Edwin Quantrall (reynard) says: Ah, yes; Hieronymous Bosch: One part Salvatore Dali, one part Jack Chick...
Daniel Ross (nentuaby) says: Instead, you merely added very cool characters that were smart enough to extrapolate what you were thinking.
Rachel S. (masamage) says:

Whee, B5! If the implication is that you hated Byron too, I like you even better now.

(I courted my husband by showing him that series. ^____^) 

John Wells (johnwwells) says:

EXTRA TRIVIAL TRIVIA: In the Narbonic Ditch Day stack (see archives), the brain scanner was used as an excuse to give players personality tests to match them to appropriate characters. It worked pretty well; Mell liked smashing things, and Artie continually begged her to consider the Geneva Convention.

(The scanner was a collander with wires, if I recall correctly.)

Leon Arnott (l) says: Thursday's Comic: So, the only reason Helen asked Dave to make the subliminal message shareware was so she could subliminally prevent him from stopping her immoral brain scans?

Poor, poor Dave. That's the story of his life, isn't it?
Dave Van Domelen (dvandom) says: No, Helen also wanted to use the subliminal message program to stop him from wasting time fantasizing about the B5 ladies. So it was only 50% successful, at best.
David Harmon (mental_mouse) says: Actually, the real moral is a day or two down the line....
Leon Arnott (l) says: Friday's Comic: I never thought I'd say it this soon, but Dave is evil! Evil, I say! My earlier analogy was right: he has Fallen From Grace.
Dave Van Domelen (dvandom) says: Well, it isn't really Mell without the mallet, after all.
Jeffrey Channing Wells (jaychanning) says:

This just goes to show that cartoon women have superior hammerspace access.  Dave can produce cigarettes out of thin air, true, but what about a giant mallet?  Nope.

Edwin Quantrall (reynard) says: Mallet + Cute = Mell Kelly. You go, Grrrl!
Dave Van Domelen (dvandom) says: Oh, and Mell's last sentence? Lie. Total lie.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Saturday's Comic: And thus ends BrainScan v3.5's role in the monochromatic line art epic that is Narbonic. The destruction of Helen's computer, and Dave's subsequent refusal to reinstall it, guarantee that no newer scans of Dave are ever made.

To experience the "D, D'" arc from the perspective of Dave, immediately click here. Ahh! Mell's glasses! So tiny and round!

Panel 1: the wisps of magic smoke unfortunately give the impression that two of the computer's components are saying Mell's dialogue. Maybe some tiny auroras would have sufficed?
Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says: I like it. It's like those talking duck butts in Mark Trail.
Lenore Hoyt (lkhoyt) says:

"To experience the "D, D'" arc from the perspective of Dave, immediately click here."...

 Oh dear--Leon has just disproved his own theory about  the Dave at the beginning of "Employee Brain Scans" having "enjoyed three months of gainful employment," since the rebooted Dave has been working in the lab only "since last week."  It appears that Narbonic time is simply not like our Earth time.

Alex O (alexo) says: Time to debunk a few misconceptions about programmers:
1. We hardly ever advertise the fact that we are not human.
2. Not all of us fantasize about the female cast of B5, some prefer the female cast of Farscape.
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The education bestowed on Shaenon K. Garrity by her parents had been expensive, athletic and prolonged. ... full profile