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Smithson Thus Far... ·


All right, Dave's funeral! This one's way too wordy, but I like it anyway. The idea that absolutely no one would miss Dave strains credulity, especially since we later learn that he has a family with which he occasionally keeps in touch, but no one in the strip questions it.

Small text in the first panel: "Chris Ellmann reads these."

I don't know how there ended up being so much Unitarian Universalist stuff in Narbonic; as I've mentioned before, I'm Catholic. Originally, it was just to mess with Dave Barker, like half the material in the strip, but by this point I clearly just wanted to draw Artie in little bitty flaming chalice robes. I offer no apologies for this.

Artie is Unitarian because he appreciates a free and intellectually open theological framework within which to engage moral and spiritual questions. Dave is Unitarian because it doesn't make any demands on his free time. I can appreciate both approaches.

Yes, that's Sparky the Penguin from "This Modern World" on Helen's T-shirt. I have no idea why. We may have been doing something related to the strip at the Cartoon Art Museum.

Sometimes I think Artie's basic sense of decency is just his way of rebelling against his upbringing. I still really like his defeated posture in the last panel.

Helen and Mell are wearing the same funeral attire they wore in a previous Sunday strip, except that for some reason I didn't color Mell's dress black this time. I colored in Helen's black lab coat with Photoshop fills, a bad idea. I'm soooo lazy about coloring things in.

I don't have much to say about this strip, which is just about piling more needless abuse on Dave. But Artie's little minister outfit is still adorable.

If you think this is wordy, you should've seen the rough draft. I cut a lot of Mell's monologue. It was pretty bad. I did, however, manage to retain a reference to the fact that Mell used to wear both checked and plaid skirts, before settling on the checked for every strip. That's important, dammit.

I've got this strange fascination with Dar Williams. I've worked references into Smithson, too, for some reason.

For what it's worth, I do find this strip strangely touching.

Man, that third panel would look really keen if not for my crummy Photoshop coloring. Oh, well. I'll figure this out eventually.

Another really wordy strip, with some cramped lettering. Maybe I should've stretched Dave's pathetic funeral out to a second week. I like Helen's eulogy, though. It's pretty sweet, for a mad scientist. And, not for the first time, the idea is floated that Helen is only upset because she didn't get to kill Dave herself.

David Harmon (mental_mouse) says:

The idea that absolutely no one would miss Dave strains credulity

Well, only in the same way that most of the mad scientist schemes do....


Craig Westlake (rhadamanthus) says: Artie's philosophy is kinda' sad, but true though.
James Rice (jhrice) says:

What I want to know is where Artie pulled the robe from between the third and forth panels.


Brian Rogers (billionsix) says:

From the same dimentional netherspace that japanese cartoon chicks get their hammers from.

Leon Arnott (l) says: Moesday's Comic: There's a corpse in a mad biologist's laboratory, and all they're going to do is bury it? Obviously the staff of Narbonics Labs has more reverence for their late friend than they'd previously let on.

I for one am certain that Dave would find it completely appropriate that a cartoon rodent would be delivering his eulogy. 'Tis a fitting capstone to a life of pop-cultural consumption.
Owl Who says South (owlsayssouth) says:

well, i imagine they are just going to bury him because Helen is still reeling from her mother's visit. it obviously took a while before Helen remembered that Death is no Barrier to Science!

 and besides, half the fun is Digging up the body that you are going to re-animate.

Mac Hume (machume) says:

I can see the penguin now that you've pointed it out, but I always thought Helen was wearing a Sailor Moon shirt in this one.

Well, why not?  She is mad, after all.

David Harmon (mental_mouse) says:

...where Artie pulled the robe from...

Well, he was sitting on Mell's shovel, and we know she has access to "hammerspace"....


Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says: I like the idea of becoming a mail-order minister.  Now, is Artie truly interested in a free and intellectually open theological framework within which to engage moral and spiritual questions, or a tax deduction?  Remember, he was originally designed to do Helen's taxes.
David Harmon (mental_mouse) says:

Artie is Unitarian because he appreciates...

Actually, I suspect you had confused the Unitarian Universalists with the Universal Life Church.  (I bet the UUs hate that...)

The former is a "maximally liberal" faith, but with real brick & mortar churches, seminaries, and all that.  (And no problem with hosting outright NeoPagan subgroups!)

The latter is the original (IIRC) mail-order ministry mill.  I've probably still got my own ordination certificate somewhere....

(PS:  Both of the UU's parent groups still exist -- that is, there are also distinct Unitarian and Universalist congregations in various places.)


Craig Westlake (rhadamanthus) says:


remember the Universal Life Church. I had a friend in the 60s that got a ordination for a tax break (it worked for a couple of years).

I wonder though what a gerbil would need a tax exemption for... 

Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says:

I'm technically a minister of the Universal Life Church! I mean, it takes about fifteen seconds.

But no, I was thinking of the Unitarians. I figure Dave would require at least some kind of very minimal religious structure.
Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says:

Addendum: Specifically, the Unitarian Universalists, probably.
Metal Fatigue (metalfatigue) says:
Silly Leon! Everyone knows that a really fresh corpse has to ferment a bit before it's usable.
Zarathustra's Id (zarathustrasid) says: Cartoon Universalist Rodent, brilliant!  I'm revising my will regarding the administration of my eulogy asap.
John Campbell (jcampbel) says: I had never realized that that was a black lab coat (wait, that sounds like dog fur) and not just a generic dressy black coat. It totally makes sense that Helen would have appropriately mad-scientific funeral attire, but it's still funny.
Rachel S. (masamage) says: The real question is, does she have a Hawaiian-print lab coat?
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Ay.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Wednesday's Comic: That isn't really what "mortal coil" means, by the way. Also, one of Helen's locks is missing in panel 1. But on the plus side, I genuinely adore the subtle surreality of a priest using a very large flower as a staff.

Today's Lesson Learned: Funerals are hilarious.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says: Speaking of "mortal coils" ... what did they call Nikolai Tesla's cadaver?  Heeee, I kill me ...
Lenore Hoyt (landsnark) says: Ed, I am deeply chagrined that I never thought of that joke before.  But I am hopeful of having an opportunity to use it.
David Harmon (mental_mouse) says:

(wait, that sounds like dog fur)

Maybe not lab coats, but I do know a couple of people who've knitted stuff from the shed fur of their Labrador Retrievers.


Eric Fretheim (ericthefred) says:

Golden Retriever fur would be better for that. Lab fur is so short. My yellow leaves little 1-inch hairs everywhere.

 Nice touch on Arty's stole. Flaming chalices are a Unitarian fav.


David Hungerford (davetheinverted) says:

Earlier this year, I was...something between bemused and discover that there are in fact *two* books available on Amazon on the subject of knitting a sweater from shed dog hair.



Metal Fatigue (metalfatigue) says:
Ed: That's appalling. Duly stolen.

Also, I want—no, need—a black lab (-oratory, not -rador) coat. Anyone have a lead on a supplier?

Rachel S. (masamage) says:

Failing anything else, you could just dye--

Oh my goodness. A tie-dyed lab coat.

Benjamin McCracken (angafirith) says: Oh Davey boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Thursday's Comic: It's funny... I thought I'd be noticing the absence of Dave's unique voice and character potential by now, but it appears that the Narbonic comic is capable of functioning perfectly well without him. The recent inclusion of Artie, and his relationship with the other surviving characters, has almost made Dave irrelevant.

Certainly the reader at this point would consider Dave's return increasingly unlikely.
Joseph Garvin (dapper_anarchist) says: Tubes, not pipes.
David Harmon (mental_mouse) says:

Happy Thanksgiving to all the Americans here!

Leon:  Or, perhaps the reader might be waiting for a Tom Sawyer riff?  This comic was never so predictable!


Lenore Hoyt (landsnark) says: It's actually very easy to find a tie-dyed lab coat.  There's a certain subclass of high school science teachers who think wearing one makes them Cool. The rest of us tend to be a little embarrassed for them.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(singing to the tune of "That Norma Jean Song")

Goodbye, Davenport  ... though we only knew you a bit ... you had a rather clever mind, and a pessimistic wit ...

Then came Helen's mom ... she turned the laser up to "clean death" ... you sounded out a quite impressive scream, with your final breath ...

It seems to us ... you lived and died ... like a comic character ... not as popular as the hot girls, or the guy with fur ...

I would have liked to zap you ... it kinda looked like fun ... your brain got burned out long before, your part to play was done ...

James Rice (jhrice) says:


I just spotted a minor drawing error in the first panel.  Artie's tail is on the wrong side of the robe.

Pete (westrider) says: This is another one of my all time favorites, mostly because of the dialogue in the first two panels. I've got it bookmarked.
Rob Wright (mirk) says:

I'm curious about something: Mell says she was "barred from college events due to that time [she] went around kicking in windows."  How does this fit in with her later popularity and sweet--albeit feigned--disposition if she's a documented vandal?

 Furthermore, ginchy is a good word and should be heard more frequently in daily conversation.

Leon Arnott (l) says: Friday's Comic: It's about time we received some further insight into Mell's character, or at least her voice. Despite the necessity of keeping her in the background for most of the time, she does lend a certain kind of variety to the strip.
Rachel S. (masamage) says: It's so wonderful and spooky when Mell gets to be poignant in her odd way.
Ralphm Erridew (ralphmerridew) says: What's so strange about liking Dar Williams?
Dave III (dave_iii) says: Wow... Mell admited she was (obliquely) resposible for Dave's death, and is almost guilty about it. That's some heavy character development.
David Harmon (mental_mouse) says:

Reb Wright:  Mell says she was "barred from college events due to that time [she] went around kicking in windows."  How does this fit in ...

You mean, as compared the time she'll bring live weaponry to the CS department's fragfest? 

Actually, that and related incidents may be the key -- kicking in windows is "sane" enough for people to remember, while her later abuses are outrageous enough to invoke the Mad Scientist Protection Act, and disappear into Official Impossibility.

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says: I really like Mell's necklace ... a rosary / garotte / nunchuk combo?  Or is it more like a morningstar than nunchuks?  Morningstar or nunchuks; I can't decide!
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Of course, this is the Narbonicverse. Death is impermanent.

To put it another way:
The world on death: "I can't do that, Dave..."
Leon Arnott (l) says: Saturday's Comic: But how could anyone even think of bringing back Dave after a eulogy as earnest as this?
Jaunty Rabbit (jauntyrabbit) says: Watch and learn, young grasshopper.  The Mistress is not yet finished.....
Daniel Barkalow (iabervon) says: Come to think of it, Helen never does get to kill Dave, and she's always upset when somebody else kills him. Later, she's got better reasons to be dissatisfied, but still...
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The education bestowed on Shaenon K. Garrity by her parents had been expensive, athletic and prolonged. ... full profile