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Throughout the run of Narbonic, Chris Ellmann wrote to me regularly to point out the nigh-illegible incidental text in the comic--on labels, posters, signs, etc. To keep him entertained, I started putting his name in the tiny text. You'll notice I misspelled it here--only one N.

The Crystal of Marinia was named after Marin County, where I was living at the time I wrote these strips. I think I'd moved out by the time I actually drew them, however.

Mell's Styrofoam container of Chinese food looks exactly like a lunch I used to get regularly from a restaurant near the old Viz location. It's Blue Lake green beans and rice. I don't know what she's eating in the last panel, though. Noodles, I hope.

I was such a big fan of "Quantum Leap" in high school.

Dave is watching "Mystery Science Theater 3000" in the first panel. That's actually a pretty good tiny Tom and Crow. In the second panel, Mell is eating Men's Pocky. It's bigger and manlier than regular Pocky.

The blonde dot-eyed anchorwoman returns to give us our first clumsily-drawn glimpse of Professor Lupin "Wolf" Madblood. Madblood ended up being a much more important character than I originally envisioned. I always intended to use him as a recurring character, but I built more storylines around him than I thought I would, and those storylines included some of the longest in the strip's run (the very longest, "Professor Madblood and the Doppelganger Gambit," clocks in at nearly eight months). He's just really easy and fun to write.

Lupin Madblood gets his first name from manga antihero Lupin III.

The headline in the first panel: "EVIL GENIUS STRIKES AGAIN! 'He's Dreamy,' Says Chief of Police." The headline on the back page is "DOG READS PAPER," a reference to a Wallace and Gromit gag. The newspaper is, of course, The Ellmann Times.

In my personal backstory for Professor Madblood, he went mad as a teenager, like the majority of mad geniuses. He got his act together enough to get through college and grad school, but most tech schools probably don't even notice this sort of behavior.

Beaker and Electrode is the first of many mad-science periodicals mentioned in the strip. I like to think of Beaker and Electrode as a light, Popular Science-type magazine, as opposed to weighty mad-science journals like Maniagnosis and The New Journal of Malology.

The name "Al Tsahir" comes from The Neverending Story, my absolute favoritest book as a kid. My friend Joshua Wigley and I shared an obsession with it in second grade, and regularly played Atreyu and Moon Child. (Also, He-Man and the coveted dual role of She-Ra and the Sorceress.) In The Neverending Story, Al Tashir is a gem, hence the use of the name here in the context of a jewel heist.

Those saurian robots are actually pretty cute, especially with the little sound effects. Also, I clearly spent a lot of time on the crudely-drawn mansion in the first panel, so let's give it up for the Shaenon of 2000 and her pathetic but noble efforts.

Okay, I am officially cracking up at these robots and their oversized duck heads. Also Helen's mildly peeved reaction to them. I'm not very good at drawing robots, but I am pretty good at drawing dinosaurs; here, I clearly decided to just draw dinosaurs and put some bolts and things on them. It's undoubtedly for the best.

After two weeks of buildup, Professor Madblood finally appears in person. And it's all worth the wait, right? Right? If nothing else, I manage to write him in character from the very beginning; his lines in this strip wouldn't be out of place in a strip from 2006. Of course, Madblood's a pretty flat character compared to Helen or Dave, so it's easier to keep him consistent. Just give him the most purple prose you can come up with, and you're set.

Notice that I don't even try to explain how Helen escaped from, then destroyed, Madblood's robots. I will go to enormous lengths to avoid drawing action scenes, and besides, this was before the strip was sophisticated enough to require logical plot progression.

The reflections in Madblood's glasses in the second panel are a nice effect, and have the side benefits of a) delaying the full reveal of Madblood for one last panel, and b) saving me from having to draw an actual view of the robotic carnage.

43 comments:
Leon Arnott (l) says: Monday's Comic: My favourite fictional gemstone is the Klopman Diamond from Garfield and Friends. Mostly because of how the writers knew how inherently hilarious its name was, and made a point of having characters mention it wherever possible.

How the heck do you pronounce "Marinia"? Methinks you should rename it to "Maridia", thus catering to the gamer audience.

Webcomic Time update: this arc takes place on 20 November, one week after the previous arc, and eleven days after the federal election of whatever country this strip's allegedly set in.
(At least, based on the assumption that our author is using conventional Webcomic Time. For all I know, they're set on the 15th of every month, except where indicated.)
Liza Furr (liza) says: Leon:  It's mah-RIN-ee-uh, of course.
Matt Katinas (nidoking) says:

It's not a misspelling... the name just wraps around the can. I assumed that there was an H off to the left, and Dave was hilariously drinking an aluminum can of mayonnaise.

It appeared to work in Gobliins 2, anyway.

Basil Jelly (basil_jelly) says:

"Lupin Madblood gets his first name from manga antihero Lupin III."

 

Well it was either that or

"She's bloody dying and all you bring us is lupins. All we've eaten mate for the last four bleeding weeks is lupin soup, roast lupin, steamed lupin, braised lupin in lupin sauce, lupin in the basket with sauted lupins, lupin meringue pie, lupin sorbet... we sit on lupins, we sleep in lupins, we feed the cat on lupins, we burn lupins, we even wear the bloody things!"

 

Leon Arnott (l) says: Tuesday's Comic: What? No Shakspearean etymology?

Unwanted corrections: "Helen has been making a lot of spectacular heists lately." Or alternatively, "a lot of spectacular capers lately." Although, the latter does unintentionally invoke the tantalysing image of Helen as catburglar. Just lean back and picture that for a few minutes.

Most memorable quote so far: "When asked if the rumor was true, Madblood was quoted as saying, 'BWAHAHAHAHA!'" That'll never stop being hilarious. Of course, this raises the obvious plot hole: how could they interview Madblood when he's on the run from international police? (Incidentally, this has been a most coincidental broadcast, don't you think?)
Dave III (dave_iii) says: Leon: Duh, it's Madblood. ^_^ Of course he'll stop to give an interview while on the run from international police. This is the same guy who, in later years will build an army of robots for the specific purpose of taking over the entire planet, and make them all look like himself. The boy has ego issues, I'm tellin' ya.
Rachel S. (masamage) says: I love the fact that Lupin's media quote is exactly the same as Helen's from Friday.
Ken DeNisco (fenrisloki) says: Oh, the cat's died! Choked on the bloody lupins!   Ah, good Monty Python...
Matt Katinas (nidoking) says: On the further upside, Remus Lupin later got his name from Lupin Madblood. I defy anyone to prove otherwise.
John Wells (johnwwells) says: Say, was the New Journal of Malology at all inspired in name by the similarly acronymed New England Journal of Medicine?
Kate WB (kwilby) says: I just figured that one of the readers took umbrage to an editorial in the original Journal of Malology, hence the need for a new one.
Daniel Ross (nentuaby) says: Actually, Kate WB, if I recall correctly the original JoM ended when the editors of the NJoM turned on their creators...
Basil Jelly (basil_jelly) says: editors are a very dangerous breed
Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says: As is hinted at in other strips, the editors of the Journal of Malology were killed by zombies of their own creation, who then formed the editorial board of the New Journal of Malology.
Leon Arnott (l) says:
>In my personal backstory for Professor Madblood, he went mad as a teenager, like the majority of mad geniuses. He got his act together enough to get through college and grad school, but most tech schools probably don't even notice this sort of behavior.

That's all well and good, but in my personal backstory, Madblood went mad at the age of 13 when, owing to a glasses-related accident, he was bitten by a radioactive version of his namesake creature. I've gone and written it into Madblood's Uncyclopedia entry and everything.
Kate WB (kwilby) says: Ah, zombies!  Much better than disgruntled readers.  Did the quality of the submissions improve?  I can picture the editorial response- "This submission has too many run-on sentences; you owe us three chunks of grey matter for forcing us to read it.  Would you prefer pick-up or delivery?"
Basil Jelly (basil_jelly) says:

Kate

I don't think zombies are any scarier then editors.

 

James Rice (jhrice) says:

Back in November, the forum had quite the discussion about mad science periodicals.  For some informative reading, use this address: http://nice.purrsia.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=28;t=001492

James Rice (jhrice) says:

And look, the trademark Narbon laugh!

 

Leon Arnott (l) says: Thursday's Comic: I just have to say...
Those eyes! That self-assured grin! Truly evil!
I honestly don't think Helen ever looks more awesomely sinister than this.

You utterly should've had a second strip in which Helen continues Wile E. Coyote-ing for four more panels, her imagination wandering increasingly off-topic ("Helen B. Narbon, Super Genius...") while increasingly noisy robotic abduction happens to her.
Trisha Sebastian (trishalynn) says: My favorite part is the robot in the third panel going, "Wrr..?"  How exactly can a servo sound questioning???
Paul Gadzikowski (pgadzikowski) says: I always thought the laugh was solely Mom's, but that it should have been Helen herself who debuted it suits my own nefarious purposes.
Basil Jelly (basil_jelly) says:

"And look, the trademark Narbon laugh!"

No no no

As Mary Marvel said in " The Sivana Family strikes at the Marvel Family"

"That laugh! It’s the Sivana chuckle of evil glee!"

Ken DeNisco (fenrisloki) says:

Hey, nothing better than robot dinosaurs!  The perfect geekdom!

 First post! :)

Daniel Ross (nentuaby) says:

Ken DeNisco:

 I believe you may be confusing them with teenage ninjas that <i>turn into</i> skyscraper-sized robodinos.

Leon Arnott (l) says: Friday's Comic: I continue to assert that there ought to be more strips consisting entirely of Helen monologuing.

I also demand proof that you are pretty good at drawing dinosaurs, so that Narbonic, too, can be inducted into the Saurian Webcomic Confederacy!
Dave Van Domelen (dvandom) says: Me, Grimlock, think robo-dinos rule!
Izeas GT (izeas_gt) says: What I like is Helen's first line. It makes her current predicament sound almost commonplace. "Drat! Red light!" "Drat! Got outbid while I was asleep!" "Drat! Stepped in dog crap!" "Drat! Giant robot!"
David Given (dg) says:

I'm sure it's pure coincidence that both of today's editions of the only two mad scientist comics to be doing reruns, Narbonics and Girl Genius, are featuring the heroine clutched in the claws of a giant robot.

 It is a coincidence, right?

Norman Thallheimer (norman) says:

Just a coincedence.  Besides, today's GG101 was Pix retelling Agatha's fight with the Crab Monster.  And getting a few details wrong, and leaving out Olga entirely.  Let's not tell Gilgamesh about those little details just yet.

What we have here is a roboraptor striding off with Helen, in realtime.  Sort of, within the context of the rerun.

ribbles (ribbles) says: I kind of like the missing action - we all knew it would happen, and then it turns out it happened.  Kind of like the missing reel in Planet Terror.
Rachel S. (masamage) says: Thank you for teaching me to use the word "purple" in an exciting new way!
Leon Arnott (l) says: Saturday's Comic: As xkcd has its velociraptors, and IWC has its allosaurus, so too does Narbonic have its robotic ornithomimus. Why did you choose that, of all dinosaurs?

"Love, a secret admirer." And with that, the parodoxical relationship between these rivals begins.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Circle beards: eviller than goatees [Y/N]?
David Harmon (mental_mouse) says:

I like the way Madblood's own antennae are so expressive, much like his robots'...  oh, were those meant to be eyebrows?  ;-)

 

Dave Van Domelen (dvandom) says: Leon: Vandyke beards are the most totally evil.  Madblood needs to flesh out the chin part.
Andrew Farago (andrew) says: As xkcd has its velociraptors, and IWC has its allosaurus, so too does Narbonic have its robotic ornithomimus. Why did you choose that, of all dinosaurs?

Smartest dinosaurs!
Edwin Quantrall (reynard) says: Leon Arnott (l) says: Circle beards: eviller than goatees [Y/N]? Y: http://calwestray.tripod.com/images/dr_who_master.jpg
Metal Fatigue (metalfatigue) says: I prefer the boxed circle beard, myself (combines the Van Dyck [note historically correct spelling] with the chinstrap--more or less what Dave will end up wearing). It covers the blatant evil of the Van Dyck with a veil of civility, which makes public relations easier. The only problem is that it requires frequent trimming to stop it from becoming a Garibaldi, which just looks scruffy.
Ken DeNisco (fenrisloki) says: Dino with largest brain-to-body size ratio: Troodon. :)
Joshua Wigley (johnnyeczema) says: The Neverending Story still IS one of my absolute favorite books, Shaenon.  There's a joke in my family how I refused to put it down until I'd read it straight through about six times.  I've been thinking for a long time about getting a tattoo that incorporates serpents and an infinity symbol in an Auryn/ouroboros kind of thing.

      We were quite the imaginative pair as children.  It's good that our parents let us spend time together and develop our relationship as gifted outsiders so early on.  Somewhere I still have a unicorn puzzle with your childhood signature on it that you gave me when I was sick.

Love, Joshua Wigley

johnnyeczema@gmail.com
Skreyola the Mysterious (skreyola) says: Quantum Leap and more Ghibli. Awesome. Simply awesome. :)
Jacob Churosh (jakesbrain) says:
I prefer the boxed circle beard, myself (combines the Van Dyck [note historically correct spelling] with the chinstrap--more or less what Dave will end up wearing). It covers the blatant evil of the Van Dyck with a veil of civility, which makes public relations easier. The only problem is that it requires frequent trimming to stop it from becoming a Garibaldi, which just looks scruffy.

I've always felt that the chinstrap is actually quite sinister in and of itself - and ever since the introduction of Gendo Ikari to the world stage, I've been telling people that my suspicions were confirmed.

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