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I remember spending a lot of time deciding what type of statue Helen was planning to steal. And no, I don't know why Pakistan.

Man, I need to stop drawing those eyebrows, STAT. I like the little sweatdrops all over Madblood's face in the second panel. Poor little guy. Why was I so cruel to him?

This was one of the first strips I wrote for this storyline. I wrote Narbonic all out of order, filling in strips whenever I thought of a gag or a new plot twist; in the later storylines, there are adjacent strips that were written literally years apart. I think most of "Crystal of Marinia" was written around this strip. I also think Helen's dialogue is maybe a little out of character here, because it was written very early on.

The weird antagonistic flirtation between Helen and Madblood in this storyline is pretty entertaining. Alas, they were destined never to recapture that chemistry, mostly because Madblood turned out to be such a dork.

Sure, Madblood's an utter cad here, but it's also the last time he gets to be even remotely suave. More important, Mell has a totally awesome 8-ball jacket like Al wore on "Quantum Leap" (which Mell was watching at the beginning of this storyline, so that must be where she got the idea). One of my friends in high school had a jacket like this, and I was so jealous.

Man, do I ever love Mell's jacket. That thing is friggin' fun to draw.

I don't know if Helen's really had many, or even any, relationships at this point. She doesn't seem very experienced. And she's been very busy with the science, and the going mad.

In my original thumbnail, the last line was, "Men may be scum, but women are pure evil!" But I hate doing that kind of stereotypical battle-of-the-sexes stuff, so I changed it in the final version.

Another hilarious cartoon explosion that blows up every surrounding inanimate object but causes no real harm to anyone's person (but does destroy a necktie). If only I could have kept Narbonic at this level of plausibility forever. Sigh...

Helen: 1. Dave's Cars: 0.

In the background of the first panel, we've got Dave's beanie Darth Maul again. To my vast surprise, I'm able to remember that the other object is an action figure of that gross bloated guy from the David Lynch "Dune" movie. They used to sell those in the Archie McPhee catalog, which I got for years when I was a kid. The book behind them is Hogfather, my favorite Discworld novel (except on the days when it's Small Gods or Witches Abroad). Dave is wearing a "Weird Al" Yankovic t-shirt, because he's just that cool.

You'll note that Dave generally sports a lot of stubble when he's awakened in the middle of the night. Some might argue that it's unrealistic to depict such rapid facial-hair growth, but those people have not met my father, quite possibly the most testosterone-soaked engineer on earth. He shaves twice a day, morning and evening, and still has a permanent Fred Flinstone five o' clock shadow. My mother hates facial hair and forces him to stay as clean-shaven as is physically possible for him, but when I was a kid he would sometimes go off on a weekend business trip and come back with a full beard or moustache. This is the model of male hairiness to which I was exposed in my impressionable years. For that matter, my husband is pretty hirsute, being one of those swarthy Sicilian types, but he's got nothing on my dad.

This was the last daily Narbonic strip of 2000. And my art was already substantially less eye-gougingly hideous! Looking back, I'd made a lot of progress: the artwork's a little better, the lettering's legible if you've got good eyes, the characters are coalescing, and I've developed some idea of what type of material I want to do and where I want to take the story. In the balance, things could be much worse. Excelsior!

35 comments:
Michael Brazier (michaelbrazier) says: Monday: because in your secret heart, you knew Helen would end up marrying Dave, so Madblood had to be punished for presumption?
Leon Arnott (l) says: Monday's Comic: Okay, I can understand Helen Narbon, evil biologist, having some mad-scientific laser-oriented purpose for the Crystal of Link's Awakening Girl, but a 30-foot jade statue is simply pushing plausibility right off the catwalk and into the acid beneath.
I'll be expecting an even more contrived explanation linking giant archeological artifacts with mad biology to be on my desk by three o'clock this afternoon!

Madblood grinning: 2.
Matt Katinas (nidoking) says: Only 30 feet? And you think that's implausible? Someone hasn't watched enough Mouse. The first episode is his theft of a tower probably on the scale of Big Ben.
Dave III (dave_iii) says: Dude-- Mad Scientists. Hormonally motivated, socially awkward mad scientists. The same circumstances make normal people do crazy stuff; when they're already crazy did you expect them to behave sane? ^_^
John Weiss (cheshirecat) says: You might have opted for the Jade statue from a monkey god because of Mr. Burns's search for the jade monkey statue, revealed by Smithers to have been found in Burns's glove compartment.  Simpsons has a way of sinking deep into your subconscience that way.
Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says: I think I may have chosen a monkey god because my friend Gene Yang was starting "American Born Chinese," which has a lot of the Monkey King in it. Or this might have been written before I knew Gene. I was always a pretty big Monkey King fan.
Jon Stout (brasswatchman) says:

Poor little guy. Why was I so cruel to him?

Because it was funnier that way?

(Captain Speaks-the-Obvious, AWAY!)

Leon Arnott (l) says: Tuesday's Comic: Indeed, why is Helen so seemingly heartbroken in panel 4? Surely she knows that she'd have done the same, had circumstances been different.
And surely "Fool! Bwahahahaha!!!" is the politest of mad scientific farewell salutations?
Dave III (dave_iii) says:

She never seemed heartbroken to me so much as suprised and disappointed in herself at being so easily manipulated. Kind of a rapid succession of "What?... aw dangit".

 The joy of Art, I guess. Different perspectives mean different interpretaions.

David Harmon (mental_mouse) says:

Well, the next strip or two will kinda change the dynamic on this one.

Shaenon's discussion explains the presence of that trailing punchline, which will be going home alone....

Leon Arnott (l) says: Wednesday's Comic:
"I get it. This is a ploy to distract me from the crystal."
"Wh- YES! YES! That's exactly it!"
His story checks out, sarge.

(This is seemingly the first of many occasions where a character's ineffectively delivered line - above - becomes or turns out to have been painfully earnest. It's a virtue of our author's skill that such tiny seeds of doubt are sown in advance of a character's turnaround, thus giving the turnaround retroactive legitimacy!)

Also, I reject the notion that anyone can be even remotely suave while wearing a toothy grin that spans half the length of one's own face.
Leon Arnott (l) says: I will concede, however, that this is the closest that Madblood comes to fulfilling the Magnificent Bastard trope.
Dave III (dave_iii) says: There were many times, particularly during the secret lair under the ocean sequences, when Madblood could have a truly worthy villian, perhaps even earning his own strip-- But, like Frank Burns on M*A*S*H, fell short for one reason or another.
David Harmon (mental_mouse) says:

Well if we're talking tropes, Helen herself is closer!  And she's about to seriously subvert his MacGuffin Delivery Service....  Remember, she's crazy, not dumb.  But she was probably hoping Lupin would be a little classier about the transaction! 

nathaniel miller (skavensrule) says: I wish there was some way to refute the assumption about my half of the species in this comic.....but we do tend to do really stupid things sometimes. :P
Leon Arnott (l) says: Thursday's Comic: Something else to wonder: is Mell's signature 'armsplay' in panel 2 (seen previously here) mostly unique to Mell, or is it equally represented in the other characters?

Also, Mell's lenses seem to have finally begun shrinking down to their modern diameters. Compare with a few weeks ago.
(Incidentally, Mell's glasses seem to be undergoing the opposite transformation as that taken by Piffany's glasses. Which reminds me: someday we should discuss the validity of mapping Dave-Helen-Mell-Artie with Nodwick-Yeagar-Piffany-Artax.)

I for one appreciate the imagery in panel 3 of a heart dropping from the air and bouncing off Helen's noggin.

Finally: Helen's expression in panel 4 is spot-on Damsel in Distress. Then again, perhaps genuine Damsels have larger mouths.
Leon Arnott (l) says: "But he's ruthless and megalomaniacal and he has a really evil goatee..."
This brings forth the question: is there really such a thing as a good goatee?

(I'll only award partial credit to those who suggest Colonel Sanders.)
Matt Wagner (bzarcher) says: I'd suggest that Ollie Queen at least has a chaotic good Goatee, possibly edging towards a Lawful Vandyke.
Trisha Sebastian (trishalynn) says: Matt, that is the single-most nerdiest facial hair comment I have ever heard.  Bravo!
Trey Reilly (wgptrey) says: Matt, that was...wonderful. You just made my morning. Thank you.
David Harmon (mental_mouse) says:

Well, that jacket is certainly a good way to keep people from following her... nobody wants to be "behind the 8-balls".  ;-)

Whoever remembers what's coming up can retcon this and yesterday's strip as Helen winding Mel up for a bit... entirely in character! 

Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says: Whoever remembers what's coming up can retcon this and yesterday's strip as Helen winding Mel up for a bit... entirely in character! 

Or she genuinely is surprised about Madblood betraying her. That she shouldn't betray Mad would never enter her mind.
Daniel Ross (nentuaby) says:

Leon Arnot:

 William Riker. Duh.

  Matt wins, though. :)

Andrew Mlynar (mjolner42) says: Sorry, Daniel, Riker does not qualify as a goatee.  Mirror universe Spock does, but does that qualify as good?  Not sure...
Leon Arnott (l) says: Friday's Comic: Awwwwww - it's the return of the cartoon stun which leaves its victim with a stupid grin and possibly a non-sequitur on their lips. (Last seen here.) This most heinous betrayal has, of course, only redoubled Madblood's lust for our dear Helen. She will be his. Oh yes - she will be his.

Say, Madblood's cracked glasses almost resemble TV static. Either that, or the reflections of the numerous auroras surrounding him. It'd be neat if it'd actually been TV static, though.

Is this the end of Madblood's underground lair?! Or is this just the end of the nearby municipal bus stop?! We may never know.
Dave III (dave_iii) says:

I assume it's the end of the lair, since if I recall correctly he has moved his lab into his Mom's basement when we see him next.

Of course, if Helen had REALLY wanted to mess with Madblood's head, the fake crystal would have been a cyrstal-shaped gerbil who would then be gnawing on Madblood's head in Panel 3. Same amount of explosive destruction, naturally.

Pete (westrider) says: I'd always assumed that Madblood's "underground lair" was actually his mom's basement from the start.
David Harmon (mental_mouse) says:

"The future belongs to the winners...." 

 

Valerie Kaplan (shinyhappygoth) says: I agree with Pete: the "underground lair" was always the basement.  And I don't think her house got blown up.
Douglas Ryan (alternativeoyster) says: What?!

 

how can you like Witches Abroad over Small Gods or Hogfather?

Michael Brazier (michaelbrazier) says: That gross bloated guy from "Dune" is the Baron Harkonnen, probably the most evil character in the whole story.  Subtle foreshadowing?
Leon Arnott (l) says: Saturday's Comic: Be careful when driving, Dave, or else your car might fall into and plug up plot holes.

And so the Crystal of - let me check the spelling - Marinia, remained in the clutches of Narbonics Research from now on, powering their cellular destabiliser in ways that only giant light-generating crystals can. I'd have been nice if it'd turned up in the background later on, though, as a memory of triumphs past. (But maybe it did and none of us have noticed?)

Say... any chance of a Year's End Roundup podcast of some sort?
Matthew Miller (mattdm) says: Small Gods is the best, but Witches Abroad is really great too -- the witches' battle at the end beats most "serious" fantasy writing.
Liza Furr (liza) says: Douglas Ryan:  Small Gods and Hogfather don't have much (any?) Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, and Greebo.  End of story.
Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says: Douglas Ryan:  Small Gods and Hogfather don't have much (any?) Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, and Greebo.  End of story.

Precisely!

The cellular destabilizer, with crystal still intact, ended up getting raffled off at the Valentine's Day party, along with some cans of cat food and a package of banana yogurt. How the mighty have fallen.
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The education bestowed on Shaenon K. Garrity by her parents had been expensive, athletic and prolonged. ... full profile