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Not the most romantic first kiss, I suppose. It's probably just as well.

I always had so much trouble drawing the top of Dave's head. His hair doesn't really work from all angles.

Come on, that is a totally touching story. Even though it's ripped off from the segment with the lovestruck squirrels in The Sword and the Stone. Did anyone else end up watching that a lot in grade school? I think the school had a vague idea that it was educational because it had King Arthur in it, not realizing that it only succeeded in inspiring generations of future furries.

The poster in the last panel reads "Tumblebum Cat-Cat: The Movie," which is a family in-joke. Tumblebum Cat-Cat is what my cousin Killian wanted to name her little brother when he was born. She was four at the time. This is why you should not offer to let kids name the baby. It worked okay in the Anastasia Krupnik books, but in the real world it's playing with fire.

Helen still looks pretty cute in that outfit.

Ah, I'm so bleak about my own gender. I'd probably be less harsh on the myriad joys of womanhood if I were writing this today.

Helen's last line is not meant as any kind of comment on gender-based navigational ability, but simply to establish that she stole Dave's car to meet him at the movie theater. This is the kind of thing I worry about.

The numbers 3 and 6 appear a lot in Narbonic, for no other reason than that they're my favorite numbers and I'm sort of vaguely superstitious about them. Anyway, that's why the movie theater is Movies 33.

Mell wasn't the only one waiting the entire storyline to make this joke. I obviously wrote this strip early on and and built the entire plot around it. Sad, really.

In the first panel you can see a can of Snappy Cola, a reference to the comic Duncan's Kingdom, written by my friends Gene Yang and Derek Kirk Kim. Yang was later nominated for a National Book Award for American Born Chinese, Derek won the Eisner, the Harvey and the Ignatz in a single year for Same Difference, and I'm...still drawing online comic strips. I really need to rethink my five-year plan.

Anyway, I probably should've drawn one of the cans of Narbonicola from the Aaron Neathery guest storyline.

This really, really isn't legible at all, but Dave's pen cup in the second panel bears the name of the Kirby Grips, a band I was fond of.

I don't have much to say about this strip except that I still really like it. It has the feel of a conversation rather than a staged setup-punchline, which is nice. And Dave's mixed feelings about the event are amusing.

That's not Artie in the first panel, just a random unfortunate gerbil.

I just wish this comic gave Dave more opportunities to say, "I'm still all man, baby."

And thus ends "Gender Swap," the first Narbonic storyline that was not too bad all the way through. Next up: a considerably weirder chapter.

55 comments:
Rachel (admiralshazbot) says:

That fourth panel always makes me wonder where Helen's hands are. I know she's theoretically got her hands in her pockets searching for gum, but it kind of looks like she's doing some sort of, um, inventory of parts.

However, panel five helps me shake that worrying line of thought off because Dave and Helen's expressions are so darn amusing.

James Rice (jhrice) says: I notice that all the transformations changed their clothes as well, except the first one where Helen got the wedgie.  What are we to assume, that the clothes do whatever would be funny, or that the artist is a hack?  *grin*
NigaiAmai Yume (nigaiamai_yume) says: Can someone please explain to me what that is under Dave's head in the fourth panel? It wouldn't be motion lines for nodding, since, obviously....
Leon Arnott (l) says: Monday:

"...Oh. ...I see." Really, Dave? Really? I don't think he's genuinely taking heed to the plausibility of Helen's non-explanation.

Aww. Just look at that sheepish grin in panel 4. How often is Helen ever in a servile pose to Dave?
Leon Arnott (l) says:
"If I had somebody describe kissing me as "least repulsive," I'd look crestfallen, too."
-Prodigal, 29 Jan. 2002.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

Can someone please explain to me what that is under Dave's head in the fourth panel?

Possibly motion lines from turning his head rapidly to the side, to look directly at Helen (in shocked disbelief).

Today's band name: "Least Repulsive" (the world's most non-offensive band -- their album have warning stickers that read "Your parents would totally approve of you listening to this."

 

kicking_ k (kicking_k) says:

I thought their clothes DIDN'T change? Helen's T-shirt was too short, and Dave's shirt was much too big.

I did wonder about Helen's jeans apparently still fitting, and then I though - well, I wear boy's jeans and I'm female. You'd think Dave's would have trailed on the floor, though maybe he just turned them up?

Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says: Dave just went around with baggy jeans. As I mentioned before, there isn't actually that much size difference between male and female Helen. Regular Helen is already pretty tall for a woman.
Dov Mittelman (silentspeaker) says:

I know she's theoretically got her hands in her pockets searching for gum, but it kind of looks like she's doing some sort of, um, inventory of parts.

It does look like that, and then she offers him the gum that she found in her search with a supremely embarrassed look on her face. No real surprise that he turned it down.

Aaron Shades (prof_tinker) says:

And here Dave learns a mighty fact: Never take the @#$! mint.

*grabs a baseball bat* Now where's So It Begins, hmm? 

N La Teer (zapatos) says: Oh man, The Sword in the Stone.  I always wanted to be Madame Mim when I grew up.  She was an evil witch with style.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Tuesday:

Ah, the weird nerd analogy. Explaining life's heartaching situations through video games and comic books!

Today is one of the few times that Dave's smoking makes him look genuinely cool as opposed to just downtrodden.

That reminds me. Extinguished cigarette total: 46.
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: What a punchline.

Oh, and now that you mention it, did you just get an image of Madame Mim as a mad scientist? :)
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

SIB:  AARRRRRGGHHH!!!  Not until you just now mentioned it, I hadn't ...

(...and yet another idea goes into the fan art pile, which is starting to resemble the Matterhorn ...)

Rebecca Smith (epivet) says: I thought it was ripped off Belgarath the Sorcerer . . . with The Sword in the Stone, I always preferred the book to the movie, and it lacks lovestruck squirrels.  And is poorer for it.
Joe Charneskie (mutant-sentry) says: ...I got a bachelors AND a masters in English, largly inspired by early exposure to Disney's King Arthur.  When I was a kid I even got to pull The Sword from the Stone and was crowned "King of the Afternon" by Merlin... later followed by a knighting at Medieval Times on my next Birthday...
Aaron Shades (prof_tinker) says:

heh. Proof that DnD *can* teach you about the world...

erm, sort of.

Joe Charneskie (mutant-sentry) says: Also we should note that, clearly, Disney's Robin Hood is the film that REALLY inspired generations of Furries...
Leon Arnott (l) says: Wednesday:

The Internet does have a habit of overemphasising the female body's advantages, doesn't it? What with all the talk of "pain thresholds" and "tetrachromats" and "eight times more nerve endings" and "not sweating up everything your filthy body touches". Meanwhile, all my mother talks about on this subject is the menopause.

Gender-based navigational ability jokes: 0.
David Shaw (trazoi) says: On the plus side women aren't expected to wear ties. As a computer science major Dave has got to respect that.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

OK, so has Dave just gone through the "wedgie of my life" experience?  And if he went to the men's room to fix the problem, is he now going "commando"??

....Excuse me, I have to clean my brain out with sulfuric acid now.

Tiff Hudson (tiff_hudson) says:

"woman aren't expected to wear ties"...just underwires, slings, hose, and pumps or boots. (Hey - that makes them sound like fire trucks - especially when they get ladders in their hose!)

I'll stick to my tie, which I only wear for the married and buried.

 

David Shaw (trazoi) says:

Tiff: True, but computer geeks don't have a specific fashion policy against wearing those. For either gender.

Plus it must be nice to have a backup X chromosome just in case your first one happens to be busted.

Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says: Plus it must be nice to have a backup X chromosome just in case your first one happens to be busted.

Biologically speaking, that may very well be the number-one advantage to being a woman, but it's not something Dave would think of. Helen would.
Jon Stout (brasswatchman) says:

The numbers 3 and 6 appear a lot in Narbonic, for no other reason than that they're my favorite numbers and I'm sort of vaguely superstitious about them. Anyway, that's why the movie theater is Movies 33.

You and most of Western civilization, I suspect.

Joe Charneskie (mutant-sentry) says:

...3's, two 3's, 23...

6=2x3

 I'm having an Illuminatus! moment now...

kicking_ k (kicking_k) says:

Women aren't expected to wear ties? Maybe not, but girls can be... I wore one from age 8 to 17 as part of my school uniform. It's really not a good look once you get breasts. And I'd still rather wear a tie than most of the other stuff. I think I'm with Dave.

(My first two comments ever, and they're both about women's clothing versus men's. Must say something else next time!)

Aaron Shades (prof_tinker) says: I *like* ties, so go me. I just wish I could wear, ah, well-fitting pants without *pain*. augh.
Valerie Kaplan (shinyhappygoth) says: 6 is my favourite number!  It has many elegant properties.
Rachel S. (masamage) says: I also like ties, but I am not really hip enough to wear them. My favorite tie and the only one that is stored in my part of the closet rather than my husband's is patterned with dollar-bills. SO GOOD.
james m (ruasonid) says: Tip knows it: More exciting fashion options! My perpetual gripe about being male is that all the clothes are either boring or ugly.
Rockphed (rockphed) says:

Harping back to the clothing debate of yesterday, I like ties and suits.  They give me a space to fill and just enough detail to complement my coloring as I feel fit.  If you tie a tie right and aren't wearing a too tight collar on your shirt, you don't notice it is there until you go to bend over.

Furthermore, I wear conservative ties by which I mean solid or stripped colors.  I don't really do paisly, though I think I have one or two lieing around. 

A hint for any future tie tiers around:  Across the front, around the back, up and over the wide side,  back across the front, up and back under the front.  If you understood that, you either know how to tie a tie or have very good spacial reasoning skills and should become an engineer, physisist or surgeon.

David Shaw (trazoi) says:

Shaenon: I know if I was in Dave's position, I'd be mighty worried about the stability of my chromosomes! By now, Dave's X chromosome probably reads "CGATTCAGPROPERTYOFHELENNARBONCTTAGTAC"

I really like the way Mel can stick her head into frame like in the first panel there. It's so cheeky and nosy combined.

Leon Arnott (l) says: Thursday:

Now this episode is entertainment. Today's Lesson Learned: the comedic value of a character stepping onto a verbal landmine is directly proportional to the speed and mass of the self-realisation.

Fourth-wall punchlines: 24.
Off-panel heads inserts, seriously that boneless neck of Mell's is beginning to freak me out: 6.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

Shaenon, have I ever told you how much I love today's strip?  Love love love love love ... mad science, naughtiness, and one of the all-time greatest double ententres.  And I love Mell's expression in the first panel, and the second panel, and the final panel which makes me need to lie down and fan myself. 

Justin Grubbs (the_purple_knight) says: This is quite literally my favorite strip in the entire run of narbonic, although the one where Madblood is so happy to have a thousand duplicates is a close second.
Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says: I always wanted to work in a gag about Helen "signing" Artie's genetic material...and then that guy who created original life actually went and did it. It's like you can't even write science fiction anymore because real science rocks too hard.
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Congratulations. What a page.
Aaron Shades (prof_tinker) says: Oh, Dave. Ya just never learn, do you?
Edwin Quantrall (reynard) says: Yes, Dave. Yes she has...
NigaiAmai Yume (nigaiamai_yume) says:

"Why, thank you, Dave. Care for a caffine mint?"

She DID say "next time". VEG*

* Very Evil Grin. Did I make up this Internet Acrynom and forget, or has anyone else seen it around? I keep having to explain it... 

Leon Arnott (l) says: Friday:

And, of course, Mell gets the most mature line in this episode.

Incidentally... I recall that one of the originals that you, the cartoonist, wish to personally retain is "the one with Helen and Dave's first kiss." Was that, indeed, really, truly, Saturday last?
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Man, Helen couldn't resist taking one last shot at Dave, could she?
Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says: Incidentally... I recall that one of the originals that you, the cartoonist, wish to personally retain is "the one with Helen and Dave's first kiss." Was that, indeed, really, truly, Saturday last?

Heh...no, although I might still have that one. I'm too lazy to check right now, because it would involve bending over and opening a drawer.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

At my & my wife's ages, it's less "ingesting saliva" and more "trying to swap dentures".

Kidding (I don't wear dentures) ... but now you'll think of that next time you're kissing someone, right?

Heh heh heh ...

Dave Van Domelen (dvandom) says: Dude, the way things are going for me, the next time I kiss someone I'll probably HAVE dentures.
Justin Grubbs (the_purple_knight) says: Okay, so Helen collects bodily fluids correct. We learn that during D-Con. So that means that she certainly didn't have to do this. Instead she chose to kiss Dave rather than torture him even more. I should have figured that out the first time I read these strips.
Matt Katinas (nidoking) says: In the context of the last frame, with Dave's traditional floating cigarette, it looks like Mell's been smoking a lock of her hair. I think that would explain a lot about her, actually.
Aaron Shades (prof_tinker) says:

Great. Ed, you ruined *everything*. EVERYTHING!! *whimper*

 

Incog Neato (ghede) says:

Ed. All I have to say is:

Kinky.

Leon Arnott (l) says: Saturday:

And, to cap things off, it's the "not completely back to normal" trope, where after successfully returning to their original form and marvelling at how that dreadful experience is over forever, the victim will then reveal an unexpected trait that they have shockingly still retained - be it a mortal fear of cats, an attempt to grab and eat flies, or, ahem, today's case.

All in all, as comedy transformation arcs go, this one's pretty comprehensive.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

Now get out the magnifying glass and check for gerbil-sized lip prints.  Or was Artie's non-traditional orientation not yet established, as at this point he was still primarily influenced by his rodent biochemistry?  And how did I write the previous sentence without coffee?

Margaret Lipscomb (damama) says:

"Next up: a considerably weirder chapter."

 

And this differs from the rest of the comic how?

 

 

Matt Katinas (nidoking) says: The thing to remember is that Helen NOTICED the fresh lip prints. This probably means a good amount of staring at those lips herself.
Sean Duggan (duggansc) says: Hmmm... cheap gag or an implication that human sexuality is on a sliding scale? Tricky, Mrs. Cartoonist. Very tricky.
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The education bestowed on Shaenon K. Garrity by her parents had been expensive, athletic and prolonged. ... full profile