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And thus begins a new storyline, "Dave Vs. Dave," which is admittedly not so much a stoyline in its own right as a way of tying up the whole D-Con/island epic. I'd forgotten how long this sequence of storylines went on. It takes up the better part of 2002.

The three best things about this strip are, in ascending order of bestness:

3. When not called to deal with emergencies, the leaders of the Dave Conspiracy play video games on their computers with giant joystick controllers.

2. The blood of Daves is instantly identifiable as such.

1. "Not frosty! Summon the Dave Patrol!", still one of my all-time favorite lines in Narbonic.

Okay, so at this point I was running out of palindromic names. "Pip the Mutant Ur-Gerbil" is a pretty boss name, though. Right? Right?

ANTONIO SMITH's lines in the first two panels are from The Merchant of Venice. "Three thousand ducats; well," is Shylock's first line in the play. The Dave's line in the last panel is from Hamlet. I've said this before, but somehow the characters end up quoting The Merchant of Venice more than any other Shakespearean play.

I worry about how much of a hero ANTONIO SMITH really is, working for the Dave Conspiracy and all. I guess he aligns as Lawful Good and sees the Daves as a mostly benevolent force of order. They don't seem to be a really evil conspiracy, although that may be just because they're too laid-back to get around to perpetrating lots of evil.

I never did get any good at drawing fedoras.

Finally, finally, finally, the main characters make their reappearance. I decided to grow Dave's hair out for the desert island, and also because I was tired of drawing his old haircut. It was surprisingly hard to get right. I held a reader poll to decide whether to stick with the new hair or go back to the original. New Hair won by a narrow margin, which was good because that was what I was going to do anyway.

Wheelchair Dave is wearing a T-shirt bearing the likeness of Apple Butter Lad from my friend Rob's strip Hell on Wheels. That's because this Dave is the protagonist of Hell on Wheels.

Of course, Dave isn't actually trying to do anything about the sexual tension. He's just waiting for the ladies to volunteer themselves and grousing when they don't. (Or the lady, rather; at this point Mell is feral and swinging from trees in the jungle.) One of the things I tried to do in Narbonic was gradually mature Dave from near-complete social ineptitude to the point that he could approach a romantic relationship in an adult way. For the relationship he's contemplating, he'll have to be the mature, stable one, which is a pretty tall order for him.

He's already come a long way by this point, though. Each permanent change in Dave's appearance marks a subtle change in his personality; with the new hair, I started to write him as more confident and competent, more of an equal with the rest of the Narbonics Labs crew. I had the idea that being able to survive on the island gave him faith in his abilities. At the end of this storyline, Mell confirms that he's officially part of the team.

The only time I didn't match a change in Dave's appearance to a change in his character was when he shaved off the full beard and went back to the chin scruff, during the Moon storyline. I just did that because I was tired of the beard.

Gerbils don't have a set mating season, but, as Artie comments in the next strip, they're not randomly horny the way humans are. He probably gets very tired of listening to his coworkers go on about this sort of thing.

I think this is the one time Artie expresses an interest in the opposite sex.

Spending a lot of time thinking about gerbil sex is one of the signs that your life has gone seriously awry, but I admit I put some thought into the issue of how Artie experiences sexuality. Basically, he doesn't. Male gerbils generally become interested in sex when presented with a female in heat; females go into heat about every week and a half. Artie just avoids the ordinary gerbils at the lab (something he explicitly mentions in a much later strip), especially during the females' sexy time, thus avoiding the more insistent pangs of desire. At this point in his life, he sees it as a nuisance he doesn't need.

Later in his life, he may change his mind about that.

Olaf Stapledon's sci-fi novel Sirius, about a dog with human intelligence, was a major influence on the way I wrote Artie. In the novel, the dog does have sex with ordinary dogs, because he sees his canine sexual instincts as completely separate from his human-like romantic feelings. But I thought Artie would be squicked out by the prospect of getting it on with ordinary female gerbils even if [SPOILERS] he wasn't gay.

Wow, I have now talked way too much about gerbil sex.

With this strip I started adjusting the contrast on Photoshop to make the linework darker. It looks a lot better already.

I don't really have much to say about this strip, but it's nice to see that, even hundreds of miles from civilization, Artie can find hopeless causes with which to align himself. Island species tend to be extremely vulnerable to invaders from the large land masses where competition is fiercer. The ur-gerbils are probably even worse than pigs, which have devastated many islands around the world; sailors used to just set them loose so they'd have something to eat the next time they dropped anchor.

As this strip demonstrates, island species also tend to be delicious.

54 comments:
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE:  "She'll Be Comin' Round The Mountain", traditional)

We're in trouble, better call the Dave Patrol!
We're in trouble so the Daves have gotta roll!
'Cause this note was wrote in Dave Blood,
Not in gravy, fudge, or cave mud!
It's not frosty!  Summon now the Dave Patrol!

Mike B. (epenthesis) says: Shouldn't it be the blood of Davids?
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: DUN DUN DUNNN!!!
Andrew Kerrigan (akerrigan) says: Of all the things I love about Narbonic, "Not frosty" is the only one in my daily vocabulary.  This strip's awesome. 
Pete Bleackley (petethemadscientist) says:

My impression is that designating someone a "David" doesn't actually remove their fundamental Dave nature, merely strips them of the protection of Dave Law.

We in the International Petes Conspiracy have no time for such inconsistencies.

Leon Arnott (l) says: Monday:

Alfalfa! Once again we're reminded of the silliness of the ur-gerbils - even remade as wild predators, they still adhere to the diet of humble housepets.

"Not frosty" ranks up there with "to be perfectly Francis" among characteristic synonym substitutions.
Pete (westrider) says: "Not Frosty!" has become one of my favorite exclamations ever. Whenever someone asks me where it comes from, I point them over here.
John Ross (jon_a_ross) says: www.dorktower.com currently has a shout out to narbonic on page 10 of the current arc 'The Tao of Igor.'  Just wanting to share the love eh?
Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says:

Holy crud, the Dork Tower fairy is so cute!
Zarathustra's Id (zarathustrasid) says:

That's no fedora! Flee Dave, get out while you still can!

http://overcompensating.com/posts/20081201.html

Something is rotten in the state of Narbonics.

Leon Arnott (l) says: Tuesday:

Even though Helen seemingly bred exclusively for size and ferocity, the ur-gerbils (presumably as a size-effect of enlarging their brains) possess mental capabilities for producing written English. Evidently, though, that extra intelligence doesn't extend to outright deception.
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: dun dun dunnnnn...
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "O Come O Come Emmanuel")

O what a rogue and peasant slave am I,
Is it not monstrous that this player here
Should force his soul to his conceit
That from his visage there should come a tear?

Alas!  Alas!  An-to-o-ni-o Smith!
Don't end a sentence preposition with!

Johnn Reynolds (sleepyjohn) says: Any conspiracy that can put three thousand ducats on the table is a benevolent force of order in MY book!
Johnn Reynolds (sleepyjohn) says:

Alas!  Alas!  An-to-o-ni-o Smith!
Don't end a sentence preposition with!

I am the grammarian about whom your mother warned you.

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

@Johnn:  My mother is a grammarian.  And if my son ever has kids, she'll be a great grammarian.

kicking_ k (kicking_k) says:

(TUNE: well, obviously...) 

Pip the mutant ur-gerbil

Lived by the sea

And frolicked on the palmy sands

Of an isle, owners: Dave Conspirac-ee...

(We now return you to your usual programme of songs that scan properly.)

Esther DePlume (myhandle) says: But don't you ever get paranoid writing dialog for Antonio Smith, that you might break some sacred but tragically obscure law of grammar?
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Nice.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Wednesday:

R.I.P Dave's office hair. Personally, I'd have switched up his hairdo after he stepped out of his metal-and-glass womb back in Zombie Woof, to signify that he literally is a new man. (And I wonder: has Narbonic finally grown the beard?)

I never did figure out why the star of HOW was called "Dave" instead of the more obvious choice of "Rob McCarthy". I was also going to ask why you're called Norb in this and other places, but, I mean, who wouldn't want to be called Norb? It's a great name! It's like an 'everyman' name, but simultaneously unique!

Today's Trope Bingo: Ironic Echo Cut. You can't beat the classics!

P.S: Where did Dave get those sandals? He was washed up barefoot. And please don't say "off the feet of dead men."
Pete Bleackley (petethemadscientist) says:

To the tune of Fire Brigade by The Move

We put the Daves we exiled on an island near Brazil,

When I think about their fate it nearly makes me ill,

We got a note written in blood with a seagull-feather quill,

The Daves we designated David

Have been ate by mutant gerbils rabid!

Call out the Dave Patrol! Call out the Dave Patrol!

Our island's home to the Narbonic gang!

Call out the Dave Patrol! Callout the Dave Patrol!

It won't be long until something goes bang!

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says: The problem with using a thatched roof on an island full of giant herbivores is that they will eat you out of house and home.  *rimshot*
Maricruz Villalobos-Zamora (maki_p) says: I've always wonder, was Wheel Chair Dave a Dave to be in the Dave's Conspiracy or was he in the Dave's Conspiracy because he is a Dave?
rob McCartthy (roblew) says:

1.  Dave in Hell on wheels is named after EVERY OTHER male in a wheelchiar at SF STATE

2. Dave was never suposed to be anything like I was when I started writting the strip but me 5 years before

3. Dave was suposed to get married in strip 5 divorsed in strip and kill himself in strip 7

4. there was never suposed to be a norb or a Stewy or anything

5. but then my strip started getting DRAWN I liked that. I also liked Sheanon.

6. I especally like the idea that the Narbonic Characters dont like "the Cartoonist but my dave LOVES her

7. now your on your own trying to figure out why the Daves can't make him walk!

Rockphed (rockphed) says: If I had the choice between walking everywhere and being in a wheelchair but being able to walk , I would be in a wheelchair, provided I could get up whenever I wanted.
ribbles (ribbles) says: I like how we spent the rest of the week building up an imminent threat to the main characters, only to find them all stoutly ignorant of the whole thing.  Which is pretty much their M.O. for the rest of the strip, come think.
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Heh.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Thursday:

I can't remember very many instances of 'near-complete social ineptitude' prior to today. The most inept moment that springs to my mind is his accepting Seth's date, which, it must be said, had near-instantaneous consequences. But, then, it isn't really individual actions, so much as how much of himself he keeps to himself, isn't it?
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

"Can you feel the love tonight ..."
  [insert sound of record screeching]
"NO, DAMMIT!"

Johnn Reynolds (sleepyjohn) says: Dave, as long as you have your flannel, you're not alone.
kicking_ k (kicking_k) says: He hasn't got very much of his flannel, poor guy.
Tiff Hudson (tiff_hudson) says: Apparently it has been a loooong time since Dave read an unabridged edition of Gulliver's Travels. Every time I look at Dave's expression in the third panel, I'm reminded of Gulliver's description of the nauseating appearance of bare-breasted Brobdigangians [Now there's a band name!] because all the bumps, pores, and hairs are also 12 times bigger.
Adam Underfoot (unnatural20) says: ...was Gulliver a nerd before he went wandering?  
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

Now I'm picturing Dave, putting a wig on a rock and singing "Dammit, Granite, I love you!" from Rocky Horror.

So It Begins (soitbegins) says: A rock in a wig, mm? I think that could be arranged...
Leon Arnott (l) says: Friday:

I quite agree with Artie's reasoning. The tallest lady I would accept is a much more reasonable forty feet.

By the way, it seems that our artist has finally tamed those once-wild eyebrows. This news fills me with equal parts pride and melancholy.
Pete Bleackley (petethemadscientist) says: Artie did seemed to be interested in Dana, as well. My pet theory is that Artie's taste in gerbils is different from <spoiler>his taste in humans</spoiler>. As to why, I'll mention when the appropriate part of the story comes up.
Johnn Reynolds (sleepyjohn) says:

The guy who does the 'Celtic Music Podcast' has a band called the Brobdignagian Bards.  Worth a listen.

 And where does Dave get cigarettes?  And how is he lighting them?

Jon Stout (brasswatchman) says: Well, if you go with the genetic theory of same-sex attraction, is it possible that Artie's human form is gay, but his gerbil form isn't? (I presume that his DNA changes when he changes forms.)
Adam Underfoot (unnatural20) says:

Wait, the guy from Brobdignagian Bards has a Celtic Music Podcast?

(I highly recommend the B-Bards' 'If I Had a Million Ducats', by the way)

Edwin Quantrall (reynard) says:

"Would you be attracted to a 50-foot woman incapable of human speech?"

In Dave's circumstances? Yes, Artie! Yes I would...

Johnn Reynolds (sleepyjohn) says:

Wait, the guy from Brobdignagian Bards has a Celtic Music Podcast?

 iTunes, Podcasts, Music, Marc Gunn's "Irish And Celtic Music Podcast".  Sometimes he's a little self-serving, but he carries a wide range of musicians and styles.  

Joyce Melton (halfelven) says: Delicious? Seagulls? Blearrgh!
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Heh.
Tiff Hudson (tiff_hudson) says:

I'm surprised there were any left for the ur-gerbils. Imagine a colony of largely-heterosexual males on an island, bound together by a common davidity and shared boredom. Constructing Gilligan's-Island-style slingshots to plink seagulls would have been one of the top forms of entertainment. It's deep, deep in our male DNA, legacy of the time when, to simply survive, we all hunted for animals instead of hunting for a good kebab place. Each of us has buried withing him that burning, viceral, essential, eternal question: Can I hit that thing over there with this thing over here? Bowling, golf, shooting, archery, forking the cafeteria ceiling, basketball, pitching pennies, and dropping ordnance down a small thermal exhaust port all come from that one instinct.

And if you're ever in Laurel, Maryland, I'll show you where to hunt the best kebab...

Tiff Hudson (tiff_hudson) says: Oh, and Artie's hands-behind-his-back pose is just darling! If I ever commision a Narbonic artpiece, it'll be little Artie with his hands behind his back, pacing the deck in his Horatio Hornblower hat.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Fly Like An Eagle", Steve Miller Band)

I'm gonna try, build a seagull,
Not a myth ...
Try, build a seagull,
Reconstruct from coprolith!

Eric Williamson (nytefyre) says: Where in Laurel?  I'm originally from Ft. Meade area (used to live in Maryland City).
Sor Cyress (sorcyress) says: @Eric: Hee! You beat me to saying "I'm Marylandy too!" though blessedly, I only have to live down in Columbia over the winter and summer holidays now. (Boston? Faaaaaar superior to Columbia. Suburbia scares me.)
Jeremy Berg (pisceneanteater) says:

One time Bawlmer resident chiming in here.  I've been to Laurel; I've got friends there, a couple I went to school with.  Tell me you've got kids, the female half is an elementary school teacher.  That would be too weird.

And yes, suburbia is quite frightening. 

 

Thomas Davidson (hellfury) says: Living in Glen Burnie, here, but it was Russet unil my parents retired. I, for one, don't think suburbia is all that frightening, but I prefer ruritania.
Edwin Quantrall (reynard) says:

Half a feather and a bill? Oh well, MacGyver often did more with less...

 

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

 

Tiff Hudson (tiff_hudson) says: Cripes - I'd better cough up and hope it doesn't break the moderator's rules or the EULA or anything. Gourmet Shish Kebab on 198 between 295 and Rt 1, across from the fire station. The naan is to die for.
Eric Williamson (nytefyre) says: It's more than a few miles between 295 and Rt 1 on 198...  care to narrow it down?  At the very least, closer to which road - so I can at least decide if I'm going to come down 95 or 295?
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The education bestowed on Shaenon K. Garrity by her parents had been expensive, athletic and prolonged. ... full profile