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Here we learn that the death ray is an orbital space laser operated by either the console in the lab or a remote device. This is occasionally consistent with the way the death ray has been shown to function earlier in the strip. Not usually, but, you know, occasionally.

All things considered, though, I drew an okay orbital laser. Also, I apologize for the weird series of filters I used on the KER-CRASH! I never did really figure out Photoshop stuff.

Mell mentions here that she's of Irish descent, like her cartoonist. Her last name is Kelly, so it's reasonable, I guess. "Feck" is a word I enjoyed very much while I was a student in Dublin and continue to enjoy through my "Father Ted" DVDs. It doesn't appear on the official "Ratings Appropriate Swears" list I use when selecting expletives for Viz manga, so I don't know exactly how it ranks in offensiveness, but, given that I once saw it used in a headline for the Irish Times, it's not really very dirty at all.

(Huh. Can't say "shit" in a T+ title. Go figure.)

Yes, when Dave is dead, he still smokes a little ectoplasmic cigarette. I kinda like his miserable expression in the third panel.

It's a little surprising of Dave to list starting a family among his major thwarted life goals, but it's part of his personality that comes up from time to time, most crucially at the end of the strip. Now let us all take a moment to consider what we would regret, were we to be cut down by a death ray in the prime of our lives. Personally, I've still got half a pumpkin-gingersnap pie from Thanksgiving left in the fridge.

This implies that Dave thinks Buffy the Vampire Slayer is an actual person whom he can meet in the afterlife. Which seems dumb, but Dave himself is a cartoon character, so he may very well be right. Maybe he can meet the Buffy from the comic books.

"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" is one of those geek things that managed to seep into my consciousness despite never having actually seen an episode (except the musical one). I can tell you the plot of the entire series, but I haven't watched it. Narbonic made me miss a lot of television.

And with this strip, Dave passes into the Beyond, apparently never to be seen again. Right.

ETA: As folks in the comments have noted, this is the last strip in Volume 1 of the Narbonic print collections (available for sale now!), not counting the bonus story. Kind of weird to end the collection mid-week, but it works.

Hey, that dress Helen's wearing under the black lab coat is pretty sexy! I'm pretty sure this is the only time I'll ever draw it, too. She has another black dress for later storylines requiring evening wear. Also, and this is in no way meant as a value judgment, she appears to be wearing Wilma Flintstone's necklace.

"Spackle" is one of those self-consciously funny words that should only be used sparingly.

Helen wisely elects to sport a T-shirt worn by Val Kilmer in "Real Genius." Her prospective employee dresses to impress in a Thundercats logo shirt. My friend Jesse Hamm has that shirt. It's kind of his signature look.

The tech guy is kind of based on Dean Blackburn, the IT manager at Viz, but doesn't actually look much like him. I wasn't any good at drawing real people.

In light of later developments in the Narboniverse, this interviewee's blase response to Helen may be the result of reality blindness. That's a bit retconny, though, as I hadn't developed that concept yet.

50 comments:
Leon Arnott (l) says: Monday's Comic: But of course the space-borne death laser satellite would fall straight down mere moments after being deactivated (almost as if dropped from a distant studio ceiling) instead of entering a decaying orbit at an altitude of 600 kilometres and disintegrating in the atmosphere. It'd be nearly impossible for it to destroy Dave's car if that happened.
What I won't fail to disbelieve, however, is that it would plummet side-on.

Extinguished cars: 2.
Instances of the word "dude": 1.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

Note to Artie:  It would have been more like a Viking burial if Dave had been *in* the car.  If Dave's car was, as he previously noted, "a bug with a feature", then Helen just squashed a bug.

I love the comic recoil of the characters in panel 3.  Women wobble but they don't fall down.

Paul Colley (pacolley) says:

It's bothered me since I first read this comic that Helen says "disengage" instead of "deorbit".

On the other hand --- the prompt, vertical drop suggests it was low and not moving relative to the earth.  Obviously suspended on a tether from a geosynchronous satellite!  And once disengaged from the tether, would drop like a rock.  So "disengage" and the vertical drop both plausibly work for a space laser.   In a mad-science way.

Reference on tethers:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Elevator

 Given Helen's mad specialization, presumably she found an organic way to grow carbon nanotubes for the tether...

Edwin Quantrall (reynard) says: I can only wonder if, to add insult to inj...well...death, Dave's insurance company will refuse to pay out to his Estate. (After all, what insurance company covers for the possibility of a satellite falling on their customer's car?)
Owl Who says South (owlsayssouth) says:

Mercury perhaps?

 the satilite was probley being suspended in a pocket in the fabric of the universe, with a small, moveable hole that the laser would fire from. HElan says: Disengage, because she is shutting off the pocket realm, the satilite drops back into normal space, and promptly crashes into dave's car.

 which was most likely a complete fluke, as helan and Mel could have used that car, seeing as they dont have one themselves.

Leon Arnott (l) says: Tuesday's Comic: PPD. Not even death can let him escape the torturous whim of the cartoonist.

Today's strip shows that two of Narbonic's main cast are of Irish descent. Much later, this would also be implicitly confirmed for Dr. Narbon, and therefore Helen, proving once again that Narbonic's main characters are all merely personified aspects of the author's own twisted psyche. Or something.
Owl Who says South (owlsayssouth) says:

ah, but isnt that the case of all writers? well. all good writers anyhow!

Rob Douglas (freeradical) says:

Yeah, "Feck" doesn't have any dirty connotations at all, it just sounds like it should have...

Anyway, it's so uncommon for supposedly Irish things in fiction to sound genuine to an Irish ear that it's a pleasant surprise to get something like this which actually sounds believable...

Joseph Garvin (dapper_anarchist) says: I fully agree... Although, hearing that sort of phrase in an American accent is always odd...
Jim Baerg (jimbaerg) says: I thought all the Narbonic characters were rather feckless
Jaye Brown (illogicalv) says: Feck off, cup!
Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says: Today's strip shows that two of Narbonic's main cast are of Irish descent. Much later, this would also be implicitly confirmed for Dr. Narbon, and therefore Helen, proving once again that Narbonic's main characters are all merely personified aspects of the author's own twisted psyche. Or something.

Only Mell is Irish. Helen's forebears (to whom she may very well be genetically identical; I don't know how long the cloning thing has been going on) hail from northern Italy, as suggested by the fact that her mother speaks Italian in the Victorian strip. Dave is pure whitebread American mutt. Artie is Mongolian.
Jon Stout (brasswatchman) says: I'm curious about that "ratings appropriate list" you mentioned. Out of curiousity, if "feck" isn't mentioned, what is?
Michael Suttkus, II (the_mess) says: I'm extremely curious as well.  I always wanted a definitive list of how horrible various swear words are.

What scale is used?  Is "zounds" worse than "zowie"?  Is "sheesh" worse than explicitly religious lines?
Basil Jelly (basil_jelly) says: UMMM Ginger
Vlad Taltos (flyingfish) says: So many anime series unfinished...
Rachel S. (masamage) says: <3 Barfly.
Rockphed (rockphed) says: I just love Dave's ginormous shoe laces.  They make him look like a little kid.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Wednesday's Gray Void: I know that starting a family ranks low on my list of lifetime priorities, and not just for faux-ecological sustainability reasons. It is with no small hint of self-abasement that I admit that certain video games rank higher than my genetic preservation.

Diablo II: once again, the bane of all webcomics characters. And their creators?
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

I ... *sniff* ... I never finished Chip's Challenge ...

As for unfinished projects, I haven't updated my website in nearly 2 weeks ... how the heck did Shaenon do this every flippin' day?? 

Lenore Hoyt (landsnark) says: How the heck does she *still* do this every flippin' day?
David Given (dg) says:

I am so deeply in awe of that orbital death ray.

 It even managed to kill Dave's cigarette.

Rachel S. (masamage) says: Seasons 1-3 are amaaaazing.
Andy Holloway (garran) says:

The comic books are canon!

I remember taking the possibility that Dave was gone for good pretty seriously at the time. The comic had been around for a short enough time that the rules weren't clear. Maybe Narbonic was going to introduce and use up henchmen the same way it did evil lairs! (As it happens, they never move house again, either.)

I was never sure what this punchline meant, so I'm glad that you explained it.

Leon Arnott (l) says: Thursday's Light: It's a wonderful idea, that the fictional dead and the non-fictional dead are united beyond the valley. But then, most of the living would probably object to sharing final destinies with such riffraff.

(Not to mention the fact that "if you've watched Star Wars Episode IV, the Doctor Who episode 'Logopolis' or The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy ... the number of deaths you will have witnessed ... is into the billions." That's pretty extreme considering that the non-fictional dead within our own species already outweigh living humans by a factor of 12. Heck, even postulating a fictional planet in the first place presupposes a few billion years of... of... aaaa.)

That reminds me: despite Dave's valiant attempt in panel 1, there's no lampshade big enough to contain The Light that you Go Into.
Sharon Lee (sharonlee) says:

Gee, I had always thought that Dave's comment meant that he was passing into a condition (aka heaven) where he would know everything.  Granted, this notion may be peculiar to me.  I went to a Catholic elementary school and the Good Sister of Mercy who was my, third grade teacher explained to us that, When (some (*very few*) of us) Went to Heaven, All Mysteries Would Be Revealed.

I remember being torn, at eight years old:  Did I want to go to heaven and instantly know the end of All the Books Ever, thus ruining the chiefest of my mortal pleasures?  Or would it be better to shoot for That Other Place, which surely had an extensive library...

 

Owl Who says South (owlsayssouth) says:

Buffy was an alright show. had its moments. The musical was great. but i think i liked Angel better. But thats probley because i love watching bad things happen to Wesley.

 poor wesley.

kinda like how enjoyable it is to watch bad things happen to dave.

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

I kinda like the comment Terry Pratchett (all genuflect) made in one of his footnotes ... that, given the size of Heaven stated in the Book of Revelations, and allowing for the number of people that have existed on Earth in all history, each soul would have about 1,000,000 cubic feet of space all to himself or herself.  This implies that either souls from other planets share the same space, or that, hopefully, pets are allowed.

Dagnabbit ... now I gotta spend next weekend re-reading "Good Omens".

David Harmon (mental_mouse) says:

It's a wonderful idea, that the fictional dead and the non-fictional dead are united beyond the valley.

But... Dave is fictional dead too!  And he's going to a fictional Hell!    The question is whether it's the same fictional Hell Buffy would have gone to....  I like to consider all fictional worlds (and afterworlds) to be enclosed by the realm of Gaiman's Dream.  (Yes, he encloses his own story.  So?)

 

David Harmon (mental_mouse) says: Oh yeah ... and so ends the storyline for the first printed volume, except only for a bonus story.
Basil Jelly (basil_jelly) says:

(Yes, he encloses his own story.  So?)

 Assuming that he stayed true to the Cabellian model he indicates he is using in #8 (I  think that is where Horvendale is mentioned) the model also includes him. Check "Beyond Life" and "Cream of the Jest" mostly although it is visible elsewhere esp. "The Silver Stallion"

 

 

Paul DeVere (pdevere) says:

Interesting. I wondered what that last line was supposed to mean. When I read it, I interpreted it as a cliffhanger. I didn't think Dave would stay dead (this is comics after all), so I kept waiting for the twist that would bring him back. His reappearance over the last couple days strengthened that impression. Then Thursday's punch line suggests that Dave has learned something between panels 3 and 4. So when I read it, I just figured he had learned what that twist was, and that we the readers would see it soon.

Not correct, obviously, but a nice bit of misdirection to keep me guessing. On rereading, I had to come up with another interpretation, so I went with the "all mysteries will be revealed" idea. I hadn't even considered the "I might meet Buffy here" interpretation.

Andy Wetmore (efogoto) says:

"Or would it be better to shoot for That Other Place, which surely had an extensive library..."

 Ye, but all final chapters are missing. :-)

James Rice (jhrice) says:

It looks like Marge Simpson's necklace to me.

Leon Arnott (l) says: Friday's Comic: A rare instance of realistic consequences descending on the domain of the deific death ray, now dearly departed. Let's hope, considering that the lab is several metres below a functional highway, that no motorists were unwittingly obstructing the beam. (Maybe some small animal, trying to avoid becoming roadkill, was struck by the beam on the threshold of safety, and in its last moment reflected on the gross injustice of it all.)

Apparantly the death ray was fired only six times in its lifetime - twice by Dave, three times by gerbils, and once by Dr. N - so Mell doesn't have too much to complain about.
Joseph Garvin (dapper_anarchist) says: Its Marge's. Wilma's is made out of badly cut pieces of stone, not spheres of... something.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

Spackle spackle spackle spackle spackle spackle spackle spackle spackle spackle spackle wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Just wondering ... in addition to the "extra crispy" setting, can the death ray be adjusted to "popcorn" or "S'mores"?  Well, not any more it can't, now that it's a flattened abstract metal sculpture in a crater.

p.s. Spackle!

 

Eric Fretheim (ericthefred) says:

Are you kidding me? Mell has nothing to complain about? Six shots, and not one of them fired by Mell. I'd expect her to see this as the all-time greatest injustice.

 Well, that, and the fact that she wasn't the  one that got to off Dave...

james howe (sailorjames) says: last night i dreamt of narbonic. it was sorta surreal as dave and mel were both kinda jungley, and helen had a giant floating lab that was connected to multiple dimensions. it just goes to show you that you can never have enough narbonic.
Michael Suttkus, II (the_mess) says:

But why, oh why, isn't "spackle" on wikipedia's list of inherently funny words?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inherently_funny_word

<>If it's not listed on Wikipedia, it must not be an inherently funny word. 

<>I  name this conflict the Spackle Debacle and cackle!
Leon Arnott (l) says: Saturday's Comic: I do not care for retcons, that I do not.

Now that Dave is in the past, the first-time reader of Narbonic might be eagerly looking forward to a future in which the "tech guy" cast position changes hands at least once per year, with a spectrum of nerds, eggheads, milquetoasts, deadbeats and odd ducks filling the job in turn, each pouring their own eccentricities and traits into the humour mix, and each meeting their own disasterous and increasingly ridiculous ends.
Fortunately for them, however, the first tech guy comes back to reclaim his original position much sooner than one would reasonably expect.

Helen's bluff deserves to be called - the horrors of Narbonics Labs are in fact very speakable.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

Ur-gerbils, orbiting death lasers, cellular destabilizers, re-animated zombies, transmogrification via teleportation, universe-destroying time-travel technology, and something called "Mr. Stabby".

There, I speaked them.

David Harmon (mental_mouse) says:

Just collecting my responses after having reviewed the week... 

Basil Jelly:  I hadn't known about James Branch Cabell, thanks for the side reference....

Leon:  Also, neither Helen nor Dr. N. actually claimed Dave's soul, which is off having adventures of his own.  Of course, Hell can't hold him either...

Ed:  Also instant sex changes, demonic loansharks, yogurt monsters and sentient stereo systems, and of course... EVIL COFFEE!

 

Justin Grubbs (the_purple_knight) says: Just a thought, but don't you guys find it a little sad that almost all the links go to wikipedia?
Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says: I use Wikipedia for most of the links because Wikipedia pages are unlikely to vanish in the foreseeable future.
Jeremy Berg (pisceneanteater) says: I think it's less retconned reality blindness then it is the fact that he really is even worse than Dave.  I mean, at least Dave was in touch enough with the non-CS world to wear a dress shirt and tie to his interview.
Jeremy Berg (pisceneanteater) says: Also, I love how brought-down Helen loks in the last panel when she sees how little her evil has impressed the technician.
Adam Underfoot (unnatural20) says: Few things make me sadder than dead links in webcomic archives. I'm not entirely sure why.
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Instant sex changes? Urgh. Here, a mint will take your mind off it. (innocent grin)
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says: The Giant Orbiting Space-Borne Death Laser (tm) finally makes an on-screen appearance (albeit briefly), so it gets added to the Big Freakin' (tm) Gun count (now at 9).
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The education bestowed on Shaenon K. Garrity by her parents had been expensive, athletic and prolonged. ... full profile