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As usual, Helen's good side isn't all that good, and may in fact be worse than her evil side. I'm glad she's looking out for my interests, though. I wish I'd drawn Helen cuter in these panels. At least Evil Side looks hot.

For a while I toyed with the idea of Helen avoiding a romantic relationship with Dave simply because he was her henchman, but it ended up being more complicated than that.

I really like Dave's pause in the first panel. He's learned.

The island scenery is actually pretty good in this strip. Looks kind of like "Lost." The lettering's even more terrible than usual, though. It's hard to cram all those words into a panel.

Some nice poses here. I really make an effort to give characters distinctive body language, which can be hard with my limited art skills. The poses in the last panel, though, are so distinctively Dave and Helen that it almost makes up for the draftmanship not being very good otherwise. Like Rob Liefeld, I keep finding ways to angle the shots so I don't have to draw feet.

Oh, Feral Mell. One of my best ideas. Dirk Tiede later drew an awesome pinup of her.

All of Feral Mell's vocabulary comes from place names in the personal mythology of New York City street performer S.K. Thoth. My friend Joan and I saw Thoth performing in Central Park once and became kind of obsessed with him, to the point that I wrote him into a short story. It was therefore startling to see a short film based on his life win the Oscar a few years later. And he was there! On the red carpet! The loincloth of Thoth was flapping in the breeze.

I ordered the documentary, which is excellent, from Thoth's website. He sent the video and a small stone, both of which I still have.

The only really good part of this strip is the phrase "atavistic jungle woman," which I still think has a nice ring to it. Also Mell's sulky expression in the second panel. Oh, and Mell gnawing on Dave's arm. In fact, strike that. This strip is awesome.

Just as the writer of the strip, I'm less amused by funny lines than by lines that are perfectly in character, and, "Oh, poo. They've landed," is such a very Helen thing to say. The rest of the strip is just a lame excuse to get Dave beaten up, which is in character for Dave.

46 comments:
Dave Van Domelen (dvandom) says: I wholeheartedly endorse the "seduce Mell" plan.
Adam Underfoot (unnatural20) says: Second, and seconded.
Chris Reed (animeraider) says: The look on Helen's face in panel 4 is worth all of the buildup.
NigaiAmai Yume (nigaiamai_yume) says: Genki Kawaii Chibi Angel of Yuri!
Leon Arnott (l) says: Monday:

W-what? Personality angels, fourth-wall breaking, and fanservice lampshading in one episode? This webcomic was just becoming refined and cultured!

Sure, I suppose it naturally follows as the counterpoint to David's own clashing urges. But, come on, "seduce Mell instead"? (Actually, if Helen suddenly discovered herself with that urge as well, then it might be quite funny as a punchline in and of itself, rather than a lead-in to this, ahem, well-trodden gag.)

Fourth-wall breaks in Roman numerals: XXX.
Appearances of personality sprites: 7.
Leon Arnott (l) says:
"Genki Kawaii Chibi Angel of Yuri!"
Yes! Exactly!
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE:  "Part Of Your World" by Menken and Ashman)

Readers will flock!
Nerd boys will click!
Fan service yuri?  You're really sick!
Helen and Mell!
Sexy as hell!
Hot girl-on-girl!

(Oh, and yes, I love Evil Sprite Helen.  Yow.)

Jaye Brown (illogicalv) says: I, too, approve of this "seduce Mell" plan. Shaenon, how would you like your bribes?
K C (spotweld) says: Do you accept baked good as bribes?
Dave Van Domelen (dvandom) says: Well, during the Prop 8 fundraiser someone could have bid on it....
Leon Arnott (l) says: Tuesday:

It's about time you got back to that mystery, Helen. But, I suppose you wouldn't ask until you'd already decided upon an... hypothesis?

This is, if I remember correctly, the last time that Helen outright tells David such important information. It seems a shame that she has to build such a rift between them, but it's all for the good of scientific inquiry.
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Why, mm?
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

That's a swtich ... Helen carrying wood for Dave?

Joyce Melton (halfelven) says: Shaenon, you're like a flat-bottom riverboat - you don't draw many feet. :) But I agree panel four is very good. 
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: I like the first panel, myself.
John Campbell (jcampbel) says:

Feet are hard.

The distinctive body language is wonderful, though. There are a lot of webcomics where it's only possible to tell the characters apart by their hairstyles. Not Narbonic. Not only are the basic designs of the main characters all very different, there's a later storyline where it's possible to tell who's who among three characters in identical bodies just by how they stand. 

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "For What It's Worth" by Buffalo Springfield)

Strange things happened before ...
Who's behind it?  I'm not too sure ...
My mom stopped by and said "Hi,
Oh, by the way, your henchman should die."

We gotta
Calm down!  Get a grip!
Say, didja see that big warship?

Valerie Kaplan (shinyhappygoth) says: NEVER compare yourself to Rob Liefeld again.  Never.  My brain will bleed if you do.
Brendan Adkins (brendanadkins) says: Compare yourself to Gary Trudeau instead!  The man has drawn approximately three feet in the five hundred years Doonesbury has been running.
Jeremy Berg (pisceneanteater) says: @Brendan: Oh come on.  There's far more than 3 feet of Doonesbury [rimshot].
Bryce Utting (butting) says:

@Brendan: huh?  There's four in last Sunday's alone!

(I hear he subcontracts drawing duties to Jim Davis)

Jason (hactar) says: Helen's actions, plans and briefings have led me to believe that a key part of mad science is ADD. 
kicking_ k (kicking_k) says: Helen's outfit is making me shiver. I know she's on a tropical island, but I'm not.
Joyce Melton (halfelven) says: Oh, great. Now I have to turn my monitor upside down. 
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Cute.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Thursday:

Mell is, like I said, the obligatory zany comic relief. And yes, you deserve to congratulate yourself for this particular manifestation of her character.

how is she still wearing glasses
Tiff Hudson (tiff_hudson) says: I always wondered about the etymology of EFNU!
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Belle" by Menken and Ashman)

Look there, she's swinging in her grass bikini,
With feral language, knife, and smell!
It's her fighting skill that saves
Both Helen's butt and Dave's;
What a funny, feral, f*cked-up femme is Mell! 

Jeremy Berg (pisceneanteater) says: I like how Dave is talking to her as though he understands her perfectly, kind of like (as he would doubtless say) all the characters in Star Wars) speaking different languages to each other but having coherent conversations.
kicking_ k (kicking_k) says:

I think one can comprehend the tone easily enough, if not the actual words.

And I think keen eyesight is probably just as important if you're feral, if not more so.

Pete (westrider) says:

Back when I was working Graveyard shifts all the time, this comic led to me joking about the morning crew coming in one day to find me hanging from the pipes and struts on the ceiling, flinging Scones and Danish at them.

 "Ah! The Night Baker's gone feral!"

"What, again? Go get the broom and poke him down so he can check on the bread."

Edwin Quantrall (reynard) says: @ Ed: You. Are. My. Hero.
Jon W. (kd7sov) says:

Leon: Obviously, the glasses are not mere physical objects designed to affect the path of light. Rather, they are semi-metaphorical manifestations of a number of factors, including Mell's intelligence, Shaenon's default drawing style, and intimidation in darkness.

Alternately, they could have adhesive earpieces, although I'd imagine that'd be awful for anyone with reasonably normal hair.

Adam Underfoot (unnatural20) says:

What I like about this strip is that Dave can simply carry a feral Mell under his arm. That takes guts! And luck! And strength! And... and...

She's letting him carry her. Why? 

crazy dave (crazydave) says: This strip is indeed awesome. I think panel one is possibly the most badass that Dave gets in the run.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Friday:

"Atavistic"! How fortunate that this word exists.

What's clever about feral Mell is that she's an exaggeration of the premise that Mell is, in personality, closer to a wild, simple-minded animal than a refined gentlewoman. Furthermore, what's also clever is that it isn't entirely clear that Mell's consciously putting on this jungle woman role for theatrical purposes. We're led to assume that her going feral is, indeed, a natural result of her character.
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: What, you mean she's not gnawing on his arm by sheer, animalistic nature?
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "From A Distance" by Bette Midler) 

Atavistic!  She's just a feral faun,
Her bikini's made of grass ...
Atavistic!  How does that thing stay on?
Barely hides her boobs and a** ...
Atavistic, she'll chew on Davenport;
She will threaten everyone!
Oh, she wants them dead,
'Cause, like Lauper said,
Jungle girls just want some fun!

Brendan Adkins (brendanadkins) says: If only her onomatopoeia in panel three was "nom nom nom."
Sam Daniel (samhdaniel) says: Maybe it's just me, but 'efnu' seems most pronouncable as a 3 syllable word, with a possible meaning that seems very appropriate to the situation....
Adam Underfoot (unnatural20) says:

3-syllable? It's more pronouncable as 'ef nu'- F and the Greek letter 'Nu'.

I think we all know what that means.

Joyce Melton (halfelven) says: Helen's attitude toward her crew is the real punchline, though. Again, as you say, very in character. :)
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Heh.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Saturday:

Despite her proficiency with unreasonably large guns, Mell doesn't appear to possess the much more common trait of unreasonably powerful fists. This is fortunate for David, who has the chance to berate Mell's unseemly temperament in the midst of his not-so-effective pummeling.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

Hmmm ... don't know if this was intentional, but there is another well-known character who vocabulary consists primarily of "OOK" and gets violent when insulted.  (Dave used the M-word!)

And for those of you who haven't read Pratchett ... well, you're just SAD.

Metal Fatigue (metalfatigue) says: @Ed: Mell as a librarian? Verily my brain hurteth!
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The education bestowed on Shaenon K. Garrity by her parents had been expensive, athletic and prolonged. ... full profile