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Helen looks genuinely distressed by Dave's drunken protestations of lust. These are not the circumstances under which she wanted to hear this kind of thing.

Madblood keeps getting smaller and smaller as this scene progresses. I never had any clear idea of how big the robot was.

Tragically, I never got any better at drawing phone cords than this.

"Night Terrace" is a terrible pun. At the time I drew this strip, Andrew was working on a comic involving an evil overlord with an army called the Night Terrors, so the line is a tiny little tribute.

Now the robot is simply enormous compared to Madblood, and they totally look like some crude cartoon approximation of a Kelly Freas giant-robot illustration. What can I say? I had a lot of trouble with basic graphic storytelling skills, like not making a character suddenly double in size.

Helen's pose in the second panel is pretty weird too, albeit dramatic.

Pretty straightforward strip. Throughout the strip, Mell is consistently disdainful of Helen's crush on Madblood, although she tends to relent when confronted with Madblood's weapons stores.

Mell, like Helen, is usually left-handed. I may have screwed that up once or twice.

Helen quotes Iago in Othello, Act III, Scene 3:

Who steals my purse steals trash; 'tis something, nothing;
'Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands:
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him
And makes me poor indeed.


Artie responds with Iago's next lengthy line in the scene:

O, beware, my lord, of jealousy;
It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock
The meat it feeds on; that cuckold lives in bliss
Who, certain of his fate, loves not his wronger;
But, O, what damned minutes tells he o'er
Who dotes, yet doubts, suspects, yet strongly loves!


It's all way literary.

Meanwhile, what the hell is up with all the giant ears?

That's my parents' house in the second panel, except that my parent's house doesn't list dangerously to the right. Honestly, is it that hard to draw a straight line?

I was working in Viz's HR department at this time and had to deal with OSHA-related issues, so it comes up more than once in Narbonic.

Andrew's on the bus in the first panel. Man, did I draw him into the strip a lot, or what?

I wrote some side stuff on Professor Madblood's family for the eternally unfinished Narbonic RPG:

Professor Lupin Madblood is the son of noted evil computer pioneer Felix Madblood, killed by his own creations before Lupin's birth. Vague rumor has it that Lupin's mother was not impregnated directly by Felix, but by a rebellious evil computer of Felix's invention; this kind of thing is exactly why even other mad scientists avoid prying into the private lives of the mad. Felix Madblood and Caroline Schumann were never married. After Felix's untimely demise, Caroline raised Lupin without telling him about his father's shady career. Lupin began to exhibit tendencies toward mad genius early in life. He cracked after finally learning the truth about his father, or perhaps the muddy details of his own conception. Taking the Madblood name for himself, he vowed to devote his life to evil.

Obviously, I was weirdly fascinated by the classically bad 1970s sci-fi movie Demon Seed.

Anyway, Madblood's mom's name is Caroline Schumann (Schumann after my roommate Mark Schumann, Caroline after Dr. Frankenstein's mother in the novel). She seems pretty grounded, all things considered. She hangs her Christmas decorations early.

"Little boxes made of ticky-tacky" is a line from the song "Little Boxes" by Malvina Reynolds. I didn't know this until thirty seconds ago, but it was inspired by the Bay Area suburb of Daly City, which I lived near at around the time I wrote this strip. It's kind of a depressing town, but I've spent a lot of time there because there's free parking next to the movie theater.

Have you ever been to a house where they put plastic sheeting on the floor so you don't mess up the carpet? I encountered this pretty regularly as a kid growing up in the Ohio suburbs, and even then I knew it was messed up. If you're having kids, you might as well accept that your house is going to look like crap for fifteen years.

Note the childhood photos of Madblood on the walls. Even in the baby picture, he's bespectacled and scowling.

76 comments:
Jed Kwon (jed) says: Oh My.
Owl Who says South (owlsayssouth) says: mabye madblood isnt getting smaller. mabye the robot is getting bigger?
Vlad Taltos (flyingfish) says: I picture Dave as quoting that phone conversation from the original Terminator at this point. He would totally do it; it's even thematic.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Monday:

It's these horribly awkward moments that remind you that you're alive. Cherish them, every one.

Much as I hesitate to admit it, I fell madly in love with this episode.

Madblood's unexplained unintentional diminishing reminds me of that one scene in that Robin Hood Looney Tunes cartoon.
So It Begins (soitbegins) says:

1. Could this be the beginning of true love?

2. She's wearing the evil(heart) shirt!

3. Yeah... the robot's definitely getting bigger.

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

Robot Dave talks to a woman ... and he's getting "bigger"?? Any other observations, Dr. Freud?

 

Tiff Hudson (tiff_hudson) says:

"The fog's getting thicker."

"And Madblood's getting smaller!!!"

David Harmon (mental_mouse) says:

Helen looks genuinely distressed by Dave's drunken protestations of lust.

But perhaps surprised by his drunken creativity... perhaps it gives her ideas for later.  And if he's not equipped... well, she can fix that! ;-)

I never had any clear idea of how big the robot was.

No kidding... besides the inflation here, the robot will first emerge from the "lair", apparently without taking down any walls... then it will transform into something massy enough to make that transit rather dubious.

Ray Cornwall (wishlish) says: Maybe Madblood is slipping through Dave's grasp as Dave gets all robot-sweaty from his erotic thoughts about Helen.
Jim Noonan (tsuki) says:

Phone Cord suggestion:  Draw cordless phones!  Cell phones even.  Bluetooth ear phones.  Or use telephonic implants... that is certainly mad scientist.

 

 

 

 

 

Rachel S. (masamage) says: I love Madblood's expression.
Connor Harris (connor) says: You see, the robot is designed for combat. When the brain (dave) senses danger or *excitement*, the robot body responds by prepping for battle. So its not that anyone is changing size, the robot is just shifting... Well, I tried and thats what counts.
Justin Grubbs (the_purple_knight) says: I doubt fully that Dave remains unequipped for that forever.
Laura Rickelman (lazy) says:

For some strange reason, I always thought that the last line ("I don't think any man alive is equipped for that") was said by Madblood.  Maybe I just thought he needed a snarky remark for Dave hitting on his woman.  It must be a little discomforting to find a rival in the personality you've put inside your killer robot.

Dov Mittelman (silentspeaker) says: Helen, Helen, Helen. By what stretch can Dave be called "alive"?
Aaron Shades (prof_tinker) says: . .. . . . . . you have no idea how much I want to know what he said that got Helen to get that look on her face. My firstborn is on the auction block here.
Brian Rogers (billionsix) says: heh. Dashboard tracking system. Another example of "good idea at the time."
Leon Arnott (l) says: Tuesday:

Ahhh, Madblood was about to say "headquarters". How he wishes it weren't his only quarters.

I don't really mind the Night Terrace pun; I'm just glad you didn't station his house 24 doors further on.

What's happened to Dave's right fist in panel 4?
So It Begins (soitbegins) says:

Arrrhg. I think it's time for Helen to take a trip!

 

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

As to Madblood's speech, cut off in panel 2 ... well, if his mother doesn't know that he put in an extra bathroom down there, that would be a secret underground head ...

Personally, I like Helen's pose.  Sassy.

David Harmon (mental_mouse) says: Hmmm.  Maybe the robot involves "balloon-tech"?
Adam Underfoot (unnatural20) says:

Actually, his house would only have to be twelve houses down. Evens and odds staying to their own sides of the street, and all.

The right fist does have me a bit lost, though. 

Metal Fatigue (metalfatigue) says:
mental_mouse: No, wrong comic. That's Dr. Schlock of Sluggy Freelance.
Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says:
Oh, and I forgot to mention that the "1313" part is a reference not to "The Munsters," as the rational reader might assume, but to my grandma, whose address actually is 1313.
Aaron Shades (prof_tinker) says:

"Curse Your Inept Buffonery!" is the best way  to sum up the down side of Mad Science. Also, It's the first time that Dr. Madblood defines himselfas that. . . ah, shall we say 'Dr.Smith' stle of mad genus.

He trys to be evil, but is so much better at comic  relief. 

James Rice (jhrice) says: Why did you make Helen & Mell Left Handed?
John Campbell (jcampbel) says: They're clearly sinister characters.
Rachel S. (masamage) says: Badum-csssh.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Mell is not the least bit sinister. Don't you remember?
Leon Arnott (l) says: Wednesday:

Having been overwhelmed with the silliness of Dave piloting a giant robot under the influence, we now get a minor sanity break in the form of the teenage girl firearms specialist who talks to gerbils.

"Mutagen"? I won't ask. But I will ask: what's up with this comic and lip gloss?
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

Official Big Freakin' (tm) Gun count: 14

In the first panel ... is Mell's box from Gateway Computers?  Dave's gone, so now Mell has to be the techie?  Such a horrible fate ...

David Harmon (mental_mouse) says: Since John linked his copy of both filename stories over at SH:  "Hypercognitive dementia" I get, but "Walton's Disorder"?  Googling it came up with some guy picking on aspartame, before it trailed off into criminal cases involving schizophrenia.
Jaye Brown (illogicalv) says: Shaenon's left-handed. And tall. She's trying to subvert the dominent paradigm through cartoons.
kelly snedeker (telluride) says: Left handed + Tall = World domination. I love it.
Jeremy Berg (pisceneanteater) says:

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

... is Mell's box from Gateway Computers?

I think that's a somewhat rounded radiation symbol. 

 

So It Begins (soitbegins) says:

Sedative-infused lip gloss, maybe?

(See The Mad Scientist Wars, http://comicsbyshaenon.free-forums.org/comicsbyshaenon-post-8.html#8 . You'll have to scroll down a little bit.)

Edwin Quantrall (reynard) says: Riot Grrl band name: "Lip Gloss & Mutagen".
Aaron Shades (prof_tinker) says:

See, now i can never cisibly differentiate between left and right handed people. Ever. It has to be pointed out to me.

Somehow the concept never quite got across to me . . .

And the lipgloss is *clearly* because lipstick is too serious. 

Justin Grubbs (the_purple_knight) says: Doesn't Mell take the bus to get home? If I remember correctly Helen revoked her paid bus fare. Why would she care about riding another?
apple apple (mutevampire) says: On the other hand, at least by this point you seem to have reigned in the eyebrows, right?
Leon Arnott (l) says: Thursday:

You put the punchline in the first sentence of panel 1! What kind of webcomic is this?

And you can't just leave Artie leaping in midair while stuffing so many syllables into his tiny mouth. Can you imagine that panel animated?

I can understand every fixation you have with your art style, except this 'giant ears' nuance. To my eye it is not the size of out protagonist's shell-likes which is the problem, but their propensity to face forward along with the eyes. All they desire is to be flattened against the skull where they belong.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

Well, heck, the whole comic is a parallel of "Much Ado About Nothing", with Helen and Dave as Beatrice and Benedick.  And Caliban and Mell as Claudio and Hero.  And Madblood as Dogberry.

Panel 3:  Helen refers to Artie as a *cheap* test subject?  No wonder he starts swapping labels on stuff.

David Harmon (mental_mouse) says:

Ed:  No, that was Artie's crack, to which Helen responds.  I'll have to check out that grand parallel.

The irony of the Iago lines (in the original) is, of course, that he's the bad guy -- betrayer, schemer, and liar.  Indeed, the character is almost a handbook of deceit.

 

Tiff Hudson (tiff_hudson) says: All the better to hear you with, my dear.
John Campbell (jcampbel) says: And what big gerbils you have!
Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says:
The characters frequently quote the villains in Shakespeare. Whaddya want, they're bad guys.
Justin Grubbs (the_purple_knight) says: Yeah but Artie's the good one!
Tiff Hudson (tiff_hudson) says: And if you prick us, do we not mutate?
Aaron Shades (prof_tinker) says:

'A little more than kin, and less than kind.' would be pretty appropriate here as well, I believe.

 

and of course, the penultimate quote for Narbonic:

O most pernicious woman!
O, villain, villain, smiling, damned villain!
  • Hamlet, scene v
(Who, hamlet geek? Me? Nonsense.)

 

Rockphed (rockphed) says: Is that the dentist who is going to take in the Genetically enhanced hampsters right in front of Andrew?
Justin Grubbs (the_purple_knight) says: Helen gets so indignant it's silly.
John Campbell (jcampbel) says: I thought it might be Antonio Smith.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Friday:

Good golly, is this still the same day that Dave's head parted shoulders? ...well, let's assume that Madblood, like a professional evildoer, works by night, and that the brain-into-robot process took until the early morning.

Strange - not only does this city's busdrivers have to wear special caps, but their buses deposit people right in the middle of the road. Presumably.

...Gosh, Mell's legs are long.

In-universe Andrews: 5.
Matthew Miller (mattdm) says: I like the punchline to this one.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

Panel 2: It's the San Francisco influence on your subconcious.  San Fran = earthquakes = tilting houses.

Panel 1: Darned cute bus driver.

Elaine Corvidae (elaine_corvidae) says:

I love the idea of "Night Terrace" being such a bright, happy place.

 I always just figured Andrew rode the bus a lot... 

Aaron Shades (prof_tinker) says:

"Honestly, is it that hard to draw a straight line? "

. . . ... yes, yes it is. And I, personaly, hav no ability to correctly use a ruler.

Oh, and Thus begins the moment where we lose all remaining respect for Dr. Lupin. 

Andrew Lakin (fabricati) says:

... So I nap today. Or something, I'm not quite sure. So I'm walking around and talking to people and I see, of all things, talking to me, a punk-rock version of Lupin Madblood, nasty spikes all over his head and all. 

I don't know who to blame for this, but I think I'll start with Narbonic in general and see where it heads. 

Matt Katinas (nidoking) says:

Mell looks like she's got a little Hitler-stache in the third panel.

It works. 

Bill Morse (montanto) says: Interesting... I always thought it was one of Pete Seegers. Ah well. Live and learn. 
Justin Grubbs (the_purple_knight) says: I am lucky that where I come from people do indeed accept that the house will be dirty. I think the most radical thing I've encountered is someone asking me to take off my shoes before I walk on the carpet.
James Rice (jhrice) says:

A minor bit of trivia, Disneyland's address is also 1313, (as was the Munster's).

 

Rachel S. (masamage) says:

So much information! :D I totally never noticed the baby picture. That's awesome.

I have always deeply enjoyed Madblood's mother.

John Campbell (jcampbel) says:

o/` ... and they're all made out of ticky-tacky, and they all look just the same! o/`

I like the casually bored way Mell is holding that mad gun-like object on Madblood's mom.

Michael Martin (mcmartin) says: Much love for the Daly City parking!  Many are the times I have driven to Daly City and then BARTed to where I actually needed to go, because it was far faster than actually driving there to begin with and *then* attempting to find parking.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Saturday:

This strip shows further that the Narbonic scientist's brand of evil is cute and pink-hearted also because it is homegrown and makeshift. It is, shall we say, 'indie evil'.

"...the muddy details of his own conception." Yipe. How fortunate for everybody that this was never mentioned.
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: I do not like Mell's grin.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

"I like the casually bored way Mell is holding that mad gun-like object on Madblood's mom."   -- I believe that's actually the gerbil inseminator.  "Hey Lupin, sweetie, guess what, yer gonna have six new baby brothers and sisters in a coupla weeks!"

During my teens, my best friends' mom had clear plastic slipcovers on the living room furninture.  Apparently the sofa wasn't for sitting on, just for looking at.

David Harmon (mental_mouse) says:

<i>She seems pretty grounded, all things considered.</i>

In the same way that Bill Davenport will be, anyway.

SIB: Mell's grin:  Oh, she's already thinking of how to abuse Madblood with this. 

 

Laura Rickelman (lazy) says: Until he changed his name, Madblood was Lupin Schumann.  Can you imagine the elementary school rhymes?  No wonder he related so well to Helen's case study!
Elaine Corvidae (elaine_corvidae) says: Mell's gleeful smile is awesome.
Metal Fatigue (metalfatigue) says:
“Little Boxes” needs to be updated for the post-'80s housing market, though. You don't find pastel-colored subdivisions going up any more; no, it's condo complexes, where “There's a beige one / And a cream one / And a taupe one / And an olive one….”

According to Dr. Demento, “Little Boxes” (as originally performed by The Womenfolk) was the shortest single ever to make the Billboard Hot 100. It's just over a minute long.

Daniel Barkalow (iabervon) says:

How could you see Daly City and not know it inspired Little Boxes? I mean, it's these little boxes on the hillside made of ticky-tacky, and they all look just the same. They're even in blue, green, red, and yellow. Sure, it's hard to tell the occupants' professions from the highway, but that's hardly necessary after the first two verses are so obvious. 

Aaron Shades (prof_tinker) says:

. . . . wow. That, that kinda sucks.

Easy to see how you can get a bit of a chip on your shoulder from something like that.

. . . . Bad Shaenon! Bad! Stop making me like Lupin! He's a twerp! Bah! 

John Campbell (jcampbel) says:

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says: "I believe that's actually the gerbil inseminator."

There's a resemblance, but there's also enough differences from definite inseminator appearances that I'm not convinced that it's it. But the inseminator's appearance has never been really consistent, so it could be. That's why I said "gun-like object"... it looks like a gun, but Helen being Helen, it's not easy to tell whether it shoots death rays, does something intensely personal to gerbils, or cures intoxication.

Though it's probably not that last. If they'd brought the intoxication-curing gun along, I think she'd have used it.

Brand Willis (brandyllyn) says: 'Little Boxes' is also the theme song to Weeds on showtime.
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The education bestowed on Shaenon K. Garrity by her parents had been expensive, athletic and prolonged. ... full profile