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Look! The abandoned acid factory!

The black roses turned out pretty well. It's white ink on black, of course. I think a girl in middle school showed me how to do that swirly shorthand for drawing roses, and I never refined it much. Drawing flowers: not really my thing.

The black roses are a reference to the "Black Rose Saga" season of Revolutionary Girl Utena, an anime series I was very fond of in college. Actually there's a lot of black roses in anime. Don't know what's up with that.

"Evil Italian" is a direct, if veiled, reference to Andrew Farago, the cute guy behind the counter at the Cartoon Art Museum, who by that point had become my best friend. I had a huge crush on him. He didn't seem romantically interested in me, though, so by the time this strip ran I was dating someone else. I didn't think I had a chance with the evil Italian. He was way out of my league. We hung out every weekend and emailed constantly, though.

"Notari's," the name of the restaurant, was also the name of the family from whom I rented a room in Fairfax when I first moved to San Francisco. I was no longer living there when this strip was drawn.

Here we get the first hint that Professor Madblood isn't quite the sophisticated madman-about-town he seems to be. Well, that and the fact that he's a skinny little bespectacled guy in a necktie and lab coat.

All right, I suppose the time has come to address a serious problem that was overtaking Narbonic by this point. I'm talking, of course, about eyebrows. No, I don't know why I felt compelled to draw the characters with huge, antenna-like flying eyebrows. But it was not cool. I continued to draw this way until Joey Manley started to make fun of me for it. Thank goodness someone was there to stop the insanity. You can see how far gone I was, even at this early stage.

That spaghetti actually looks pretty tasty.

If I were doing this storyline later on, I probably would've cut this strip. It doesn't add much, although it's nice to see Helen enjoying biology as a spectator sport. And I like her little bag of popcorn. And Madblood trying to sneak an arm around Helen in the second panel. And the idea that watching open-heart surgery is too "highbrow" for Dave. You know, strike that--this strip is boss.

That's my friend Dana on the operating table. Also, those are some tiny little surgeons compared to Helen and Madblood.

Damn it, I still like this strip. It's not often that I managed to get clever with the wordplay like that. The poses in the first panel are, of course, bizarre, but it's a rare attempt at full-length figures and some kind of vague background, so at least I'm trying. I rested up afterwards by just drawing talking heads for the next three panels.

Dave's habit of singing maudlin songs, especially "Freebird," while drunk will come up again more than once.

45 comments:
Dave Van Domelen (dvandom) says: "Who's going to build my death ray? And grow poison flowers...poison flowers with me?"
Leon Arnott (l) says: Monday's Comic: It seems ironic that a mad biologist would be the one receiving black roses, don't you think? But I suppose mad scientists just can't constrain themselves to their chosen field. (The coloured beakers, for example, imply that every mad scientist has some appreciation for chemistry.)

Unfortunately for Shaenon, the era of photocopiers has rendered her audience unable to discern that the black-coloured roses are genuinely black, and not merely the colour red translated into monochrome ink! (Perhaps some spot crayon on the roses' leaves would have alleviated this?)

The billowing funnel in panel 1 makes me doubt the abandoned state of this factory somewhat. I'm also at a loss as to seeing where the Al Tsahir crystal went during panel 3.
Matt Wagner (bzarcher) says:

Like any suave mad scientist, Madblood obviously nicked the crystal out from under her arm as he handed her the bouquet, along with his cunningly crafted fake crystal so she doesn't suspect the switch.

 ...or maybe I stayed up last night watching Oceans 12...

M Lowe-Hentges (annechen67) says: No, that's too many levels of devious. Right now, it looks like he's just going to charm it out from under her. But of course, this is Madblood we're talking about.
Edwin Quantrall (reynard) says: These two give a whole 'nother meaning to the term "Mad Love"...
Izeas GT (izeas_gt) says:

Just had to say this, totally unrelated to Madblood or the Crystal:

Tonight on Leno, they ran Headlines (like every Monday), which included a description of Yom Kippur Eve as "Dave of Atonement."

That is all.

Chris Brunner (cjbrunner) says: Awwwww! Such a cute beginning of the story! =)
Dave Van Domelen (dvandom) says: And, as we find, Sarge DOES feel about evil Italian. ;)
Leon Arnott (l) says:
"Ok, I've got to ask. What counts as 'evil Italian'? (other than Mussolini *duck*)"
--Christopher Ellmann, 13 Dec. 2000

"It's like Johnny Carson's fictional restaurant 'A Little Touch of Newark' where one of the specialties of the house was 'Chicken in a shallow gravy.'"
--jawolf36, 13 Dec. 2000.

"Fetishini, torturini, smackaroni, ravisholi, the menu varies. The classier establishments use real blood in the marinara sauce, not that hokey tomato stuff."
--Ed Wells, 13 Dec. 2000
Leon Arnott (l) says: Tuesday's Comic: First instance of the "I am evil" catchphrase!

It seems that evil Shaenon has remembered that the evil method of inserting "evil" in front of various evil nouns (in lieu of evil actual punchlines) is an evil method of maintaining evil popularity with her maleficient audience.
Chris Brunner (cjbrunner) says: "So, Professor Madblood. We eat at last." Hahahahaha!! Somehow I missed the bad pun all the other times I've read this strip. Classic!
Michael Martin (mcmartin) says:

Now that I've actually read the whole archives, Helen identifying herself as "Omega" is kind of interesting too.  A much younger sister,  perhaps?

Rachel S. (masamage) says: Maybe 'Omega' is her subconscious asserting that it wants her to be the last clone in this family chain.
Leon Arnott (l) says:
"some prize to be chosen at a later time to the lunatic who can identify what sort of bottle holds the way cool dripping candle.

(And I want specifics here-- 'wine' and 'green' just wont do..)"

--Christopher Ellmann, 14 Dec. 2000
Leon Arnott (l) says: Wednesday's Comic: Prior to today, I could've sworn that this restaurant was actually named after Notary Sojac.

Reading today's episode, I was instantly reminded of a memorable line in this comic.

That, and "the Adversary, Destroyer of Kings, Angel of the Bottomless Pit, Great Beast that is called Dragon, Prince of This World, Father of Lies, Morningstar, and Lord of Darkness."
Dan Knapp (dankna) says: I second Chris's comment - that line is brilliant.
Joshua Kronengold (mneme) says: That pun in the first panel still gets me.  The play on words with Omega is quite fun too.
Izeas GT (izeas_gt) says: One of my all-time favorite Narbonic lines. Which was why I put it on the Wikiquote page. (By the way...expand that thing, folks! I'm STILL the only one who's put anything up there!)
Michael Suttkus, II (the_mess) says: Well, I helped a little.  I put the wikiquote link on the wikipedia page.
klara (lovenmitt) says: Madblood's crazy eyebrows are what keep me going, sometimes.
h b (eden) says:

It took me a while to figure out that those were actually eyebrows.  Once I did, though, I thought they were splendid.  They added to the overall quirkiness, too.

h b (eden) says: incidentally, I registered for a wcn account just to say that. 
Leon Arnott (l) says: Thursday's Comic: Aww! But the airborne eyebrows are a signature Garrity artistic convention! Comparable to Dilbert's non-mouth and the manga sweat-drop, no less! They've been steadily flourishing since strip number three, only to be cut down in the prime of their life! Fie on you, Joey Manley, spoiler of fun and seeming belater of Narbonic-related audio content!

For the impure-minded of viewers, the phrase "Ooo, look! Cheesecake!" accompanied by staring upon a page, springs forth a less savoury interpretation. And why's Helen skipping to the dessert menu having left her plate relatively untouched?

Something else that could I shall note is the astonishing expansion and contraction of Madblood's circle beard whenever he grins - which, unfortunately for him, is few and far between in Narbonic. Shaenon's imagination just isn't a very hospitable environment for nerdy evil men, it seems.

Madblood grinning: 1
David Harmon (mental_mouse) says:

Well, I already teased SKG about the eyebrows, but here we can see that Helen has them too -- they blend into her hair, but notice how she's "mirroring" Lupin in the last two panels!

Now, that sort of mirroring (someone's body language)  is a standard body-language thing, but it's also used on purpose by assorted cults and manipulators... thoroughly appropriate for evil scientists facing off over dinner!. 

Eden:   well, cheesecase is supposed to be sweet, not savory!  The Evil Italian should be savory.... ;-) 

Joshua Kronengold (mneme) says: Those are eyebrows?  I thought they were, like, stray pencil marks, or  maybe spark-lines. :)
Cameron Nielsen (cameroncn) says: But surely the eyebrows aren't all that bad! I mean, Jeff Smith does it. And he wasn't the first, though right now I can't quite remember who else did it...
Bill Livingston (billfl) says: Mmmmmm, spaghetti!
Jon Stout (brasswatchman) says: I'm with Cameron. The crazy eyebrows work with your particular style. Now, if you were drawing something hyper-realistic - like, say, Judge Parker or Mary Worth - then there might be a problem. But you're not - and honestly, I think we should all be thankful for that, because the world doesn't need more than one Mary Worth - speaking personally, it doesn't need Mary Worth at all...
David Given (dg) says:

 Well, obviously the eyebrows are not, in fact, literal eyebrows. There are merely an idiom used for conveying non-verbal emotional context that does not otherwise convey through the limited webcomic medium, that just happen to be manifesting like eyebrows.

 Also, I didn't even notice until someone pointed them out.

Liza Furr (liza) says:

That spaghetti actually looks pretty tasty.

You subliminal influencer, you!  I didn't connect it at the time, but when I was wandering around the kitchen tonight I did choose pasta.  This is unusual for me.  I blame you.  It's good blame, though, because the pasta was tasty.

Sean O\'Neil (sponeil) says: I'm not big on the floating eyebrows, especially the extra-dark ones Madblood has, but that smile Helen has when she says something silly is one of my favorite things about Narbonic. Well, that and almost everything else about the strip. ;-)
Dave Van Domelen (dvandom) says: What with treasure hunting no longer as profitable as it used to be, career-minded Hobbits now take up surgical practice.
Cameron Nielsen (cameroncn) says: I guess Dave would be a bit hard pressed to get his brows as high as Madblood's here...
Leon Arnott (l) says: Friday's Comic: Quite possibly the best one in the entire storyline (Y/N)?

I'm pretty sure that in reality there's some kind of transparent layer separating the audience from the surgeons. Also, perhaps the patient should have an anaesthetic mask?

(Fortunately, it is here that my limited intimation with surgical procedures prevents me from identifying further nitpicks. What can I say? I don't like medical dramas.)
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

Here's a nitpick ... if their date was at midnight, when are they watching this?  Who has bypass surgery scheduled for 2am?  (OR ... maybe it's MAD surgery?  They're performing a brain bypass!  Cut out the rational thinking and moral decision centers, to enable the patient to enter politics!) (No, wait, presidential candidates are assembled in Minnesota ...) 

Hmmm ... would it have been stealing a joke to give Helen a box of Junior Mints?  Anyway, I did like this strip ... and I never noticed Madblood trying to sneak his arm around Helen until now.

Hey, people used to go see midget wrestlers ... why not midget surgeons?

David Harmon (mental_mouse) says:

I like this strip too, mostly on the "how Mad Scientists do things" theme.  But am I the only one who, reading "theatre+highbrow" as "stage play", was pre-jarred by the bag of popcorn?  (I don't think they even sell popcorn at "real" theatres these days!)

Also, I'm pretty sure "Sutre" should be "suture".   Unless they're duing Ayurvedic surgery or something, then it could be "sutra".

David Harmon (mental_mouse) says: Bah.  Whose rule is it about correcting spelling errors...?  ("doing").
Matthew Miller (mattdm) says:

The surgeons are tiny because they're far away down on Level 1. We are clearly up on Level 2 nearer to our protagonists. Antagonists. Whatever. Helen and Lupin.

Hmm. Or maybe they're tiny because of the distorting effects of the otherwise-invisible barrier Leon mentions. Yes, that's clearly it.

Leon Arnott (l) says: Saturday's Comic: Lamp posts and drifting leaves - an excellent way to send off the week. But are our misanthropic masterminds walking along a path extending infinitely into the distant horizon?

And the multifaceted McGuffin returns to view again. It's been out of shot so often this week that any number of complicated shell game switches could've happened to it. Which reminds me: what on Earth are these two wanted individuals doing striding unmasked in public, openly carrying a pilfered legendary artifact?
Leon Arnott (l) says:
"The last time Helen walked down this path, on September 3, 2000, page 5, she was alone and dressed in men's clothing and soliloquizing about loneliness. What can we infer about Helen?"
--Ed Wells, 17 Dec 2000.
David Harmon (mental_mouse) says:

Leon:  I thjink they're leaning on the "social invisibility" of madness and bizarrie, as detailed during Dave's visit to his brother.

Panel 3 made me flash on the Lost In Space movie.  "Mother always said I needed to make my own friends..." 

Of course, both Lupin's robots and his hologram do eventually rebel, while Helen's remarks lead directly toward "Zombie Woof"... hey, notice she's already mentioning Dave while out with another guy?

 

Joseph Garvin (dapper_anarchist) says: Well, there does only seem to be one police officer around, Foxy Cop...
Rachel S. (masamage) says: I just wonder if she's tried the fomaldehyde part yet or what.
Edwin Quantrall (reynard) says: Book title idea: Cloning and Formaldehyde: A Mad Scientist's guide to making and keeping friends by Helen B. Narbon
Blake Peterson (blakepeterson) says: Those surgeons aren't small, it's just that you're influenced by outsider art! You must have decided to indicate with size the hierarchal relationship of what's important in the composition.
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The education bestowed on Shaenon K. Garrity by her parents had been expensive, athletic and prolonged. ... full profile