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Man, so hard on Dave! I hope it's touching that Dave values Helen for the things that are uniquely her, and not just frustrating that he puts himself down all the time. This strip originally ran in September, which is why there are evocative autumn leaves blowing around.

The poster in the background is for Shonen Jump magazine. The first issue was just about to debut around this time.

Logistically, of course, the central problem with this plot is that when you cross Helen and Dave you get something that looks exactly like me, only with a cigarette. It's kind of creepy, but I went ahead with it anyway.

I wanted to do this strip to establish that Artie, although a genius, is decidedly not a mad genius. He has the misfortune of being the sanest one in the lab. And, hey, another appearance from the three-eyed smiley mug! That makes me happy for some reason.

I like this strip for introducing the idea that Dave has his own special brand of genius. And for the boss centrifuge in the first panel. Man, I drew ears really big, though. I know I bring it up a lot, but now that I've noticed it I can't stop being bothered by it.

A lot of the plotting for this storyline involved me thinking of possible solutions at roughly the same rate as the characters. You can't have an alternate source of Helen's DNA available without trying to tap it, even if the DNA is located in the most dangerous person on the planet. And yes, I just suggested that the characters go tap Helen's mom. I'm sorry.

Also, I like that HelenDave is about equally upset about Dr. Narbon killing Dave and Dr. Narbon stealing Dave's Yak-Face action figure. It probably burns Dave up that she's got Yak-Face.

That's a nifty gizmo Helen's got in the first panel. I have no idea what it is.

Helen's right. Her mom probably does like Dave. Poor Dave.

It's a sign that Dave's been at Narbonics Labs too long that he distinguishes between regular evil and "bad evil."

If there's ever some kind of live-action production of Narbonic, only Bette Midler could play Helen's mom.

Yes, Mell called Dave an unholy abomination. She's trying to keep up the evil.

41 comments:
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: DigDug... I remember that!
Leon Arnott (l) says: Monday:

Does Dig Dug really have that good a scoring system? It always seemed to me to be just a case of luring the majority of enemies under the lowestmost rock every round. Surely someone like Dave would care more for, I dunno, his Bubble Bobble score?

And so this storyline moves into its final act! Funnily enough, this particular strip is a Monday. Some odd timing, there.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Autumn Leaves", Joseph Kosma)

The falling leaves ... (in February?)...
Go drifting by ... poor HelenDave ...
Dave gives her hope ... (that's kinda scary...)
Her special self ... she'll fight to save ...

This is no life for her ... she should have more ...
No social skills ... his home's a dump!
There is nothing here she'd want, except for
That poster for ... Shonen Jump ...

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Love and Marriage", Cahn & Van Heusen)

Ra-di-a-ted, ra-di-a-ted,
Though your be-ver-age is caf-fein-a-ted,
I forgot to men-tion ...
It just ab-sorbed a thousand roentgens!

Leon Arnott (l) says: Tuesday:

I agree... and I'd like to thank you for freeing me from the task of forming a tenuously witty quip about how much of yourself you put into this webcomic.

Artie hasn't realised that's an ironic statement from a talking gerbil that, in a previous storyline, synthesised a gender-swap potion from alfalfa. (And if I could remember offhand even half of what Artie gets up to in Mr. Wells' Slightly Underweight Fan-Novel, I'd mention that as well.)

Incidentally: is Artie even light enough to perch on the edge of a coffee mug? Especially when he himself is actively diminishing the weight of said mug? Looks like a recipe for scalding disaster to me.
kicking_ k (kicking_k) says:

Leon: yes, gerbils are light enough to balance on the edge of mugs. Not necessarily agile enough, though, as proved by the Gerbil in the Orange Juice Incident, circa 1991. (The gerbil's name was Smokey and her balance may have been affected by the loss of the last inch of her tail in an unwitnessed incident in the cage.)

Dalen (Heve?) looks pretty much like me circa 1993, only with glasses and a cigarette. The hairstyle is particularly accurate. Maybe it's a commoner type than you'd think?

Lenore Hoyt (landsnark) says:

Looks like me in '93 as well, except I didn't have bangs. 

 Ed, this is a great one.

So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Her hair too?!!
Jon W. (kd7sov) says: Embarassing as it is to type this right after reading that particular revelation on your part, Shaenon, I've long thought this was the cutest Helen!Dave form. Still pretty much female, with big glasses and brown hair... What can I say?
Pete Bleackley (petethemadscientist) says:

Irradiating the coffee is slightly redundant. At school, one of the classic physics demos was to hold a Geiger counter near a pile of instant coffee and watch the needle swing up.

It obviously wasn't in the ground state.

Leon Arnott (l) says: Wednesday:

Of course, Helen's got a backup copy of Dave's DNA and his mind, but not a jot of her own special stuff. In another storyline, this kind of scatterbrainery would be biting down on Dave... and, in a perverse way, this time it is, too.
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Mmmm yummy DNA.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "It Was A Very Good Year", written by Ervin Drake, performed by Frank Sinatra)

The first Narbonic run,
She drew some very big ears ...
She drew some very big ears on HelenDave
And Mell as well ...
HelenDave might smell,
But at least she could hear ...
'Cause of those very big ears.

Dave Van Domelen (dvandom) says: Of course, we long-time readers all know where to find plenty of Helen's DNA.

Heh heh heh.

Elaine Corvidae (elaine_corvidae) says: Considering some of the mutagens in the lab, it was a bit irresponsible of Helen not to keep a copy of her own DNA on hand in case of accidents. Then again, that's why they call it Mad science.
kicking_ k (kicking_k) says: Pity she can't ask her mother!
Jason (hactar) says: Making backups is against the fundamental precepts of mad science.  Or so we are led to believe...
Michael Taub (otakuloki) says:

Dave, I suspect given the nature of that alternate supply of Helen's DNA, the plan that Our Heros embark upon is both simpler, and safer. 

 

Heh heh heh.  

Pete Bleackley (petethemadscientist) says: It's a cross between a microscope and a pagoda.
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: I'd tap that!
Leon Arnott (l) says: Thursday:

"Inconceivable"? Oh, poor poor Helen.

Dr. N isn't really the most dangerous person on the planet, is she? Past misdemeanours aside, of course. (I imagine that the illustrious title of Most Dangerous Person gets bandied between various individuals on an almost daily basis.)

I've come to the conclusion that the unfortunate implications of HelenShaenon could be avoided by having Helen's hair grow shorter (aggh, oxymoron poisoning) into Dave's distinguished haircut before changing from blonde to brunette. That, and hastening the growth of Dave's peculiar rectangular nose.
David M (qubic) says: Pete: I registered for the sake of telling you how much your "ground state" pun was appreciated.  Nice one.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show", Neil Diamond)

It's Mom!  Evil Mom!  My evil Mom has my pristine DNA!
But it's apalling! 
The mere thought of calling
Her makes my heart race!
What a disgrace!
Poor ol' Yak-Face!

Pete Bleackley (petethemadscientist) says: Leon: I imagine that Dr Narbon is the mad equivalent of a senior academic. She doesn't do that much research anymore, but concentrates most of her effort into the evil.
Tiff Hudson (tiff_hudson) says: I think it's an electro-teslic condom-ribber.
David Harmon (mental_mouse) says: You'd think at least Artie would have kept a backup!
Kevin Peckham (detailbear) says: I haven't read the archive, but it would seem to me that the next potential solution would be to steal DNA from another clone, Gamma or Delta or some such.  This would not necessarily involve contacting Dr. Narbon at all, just breaking into her lab, getting past the security, extracting DNA from a clone, and either escaping undetected or planting evidence that someone else did it.  Not nearly as difficult as calling Dr. Narbon, right?
Scott Lawrence (risky) says:

Poor Gamma and Delta. I don't think she wants Their DNA, not after the experiments.

The device is from Tron and it puts you Inside The Computer.

Adam Underfoot (unnatural20) says: Well, one, only one clone survived. (she got a gun)
Two, the, err, partial clones... Well. They're like Pinky and the Brain.

o/`They're leboratory mice, their genes have been spliced, they're dinky, they're Pinky and the Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain,,, o/`
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: It could be worse, believe me.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Friday:

"Bad evil" is, funnily enough, a much more common brand of evil than Helen's girlish pink-heart-insignia variety.

Then again, being a clone means that Dr. N was, in her brighter years, much the same as our Helen of the present. The gerbil motif was handed down, after all. And, in moments of genuine urgency and self-preservation, Helen Narbon is as much the real one (dot jpg) as her sinister progenitor.

Dave's a tad mistaken, then, in openly differentiating between Helen's evil and Dr. Narbon's evil. If only he knew...
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Bad Company", Bad Company)

Helen's Mom ... madness in her head ...
Cool and calm ... she once killed me dead ...
All alone ... in her mountain lair ...
Kill one clone ... she'd still have a spare ...

(So go and call her!)
Bad evil Mom!  Helen, can't you see?
Bad evil Mom scares the pants off me!

kicking_ k (kicking_k) says:

Oh my goodness, I dismissed the possibility of asking Helen Alpha too soon!

(thus proving that I do not read ahead.)

Johnn Reynolds (sleepyjohn) says: It's a sign that Dave-ness has not totally overwhlemed Helen: her mom's phone number is in a Rolodex, not a PDA with a calendar, a contact list, and a database of all the Star Wars action figures and her curent bids on eBay.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Saturday:

I don't think I ever properly asked about how Dave's feelings about this storyline's casting of him as a hideous all-consuming biological contaminant.

More telling, though, is "...Yeah, one of those things." These characters are somewhat aware that they're living through someone else's storyline. Aren't all mad scientist protagonists nowadays redemtive reinterpretations of the camp, cackling villains of stories past? (Though I doubt that Seth Brundle closely adheres to that archetype.) And so, infamous experiments that happened once have a preternatural habit of happening again. AIs become psychopathic, teleporters make biological chimeras, and duplicating machine switches get stuck on the 'on' position.

Cheeky ungrounded assertion: our artist decided to substitute the word "transforming" for "transmogrifying" halfway through the letter 't'.
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Nice.

@Leon: What about Jane Narbon (in the fanfic)? She's not redemptive at ALL.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Call Me", sung by Petula Clark)

Evil more than any other!
Worse than Genghis Khan or Hitler!
No one's bad as Helen's mother
When she's singing to Bette Midler!

Call Mom!
Please don't discourage me,
Call Mom!
Gather our courage, we
Call Mom!
We need some clean DNA ...

Tiff Hudson (tiff_hudson) says:

Helen - Renee Zellweger (Doubt it? Watch Miss Potter.)

Mama Helen - Judy Dench

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

@Tiff: No no no ... Helen must be played by Caroline Rhea.  I heard her as a guest on the Bob & Tom show one day, and she had the perfect combination of energy, cheerfulness, and insanity to make the idea Helen Beta.

David Krumholtz (Numb3rs) as Dave, David Hyde Pierce as Madblood, and Patrick Stewart as ANTONIO SMITH.  And, just for a laugh, Miley Cyrus as Mell.

Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says:

I always thought Renee Zellweger would make a good Helen, too. It was Chicago that did it for me. Also, she kind of looks like a gerbil.

After Andrew and I saw Miss Potter, we noticed on the poster that it was rated PG. What the hell happens in Miss Potter that requires parental guidance? Rabbit nudity?
Rachel (admiralshazbot) says:

"Brief mild language", according to IMDb. I like that phrase....

"Watch out, my language is mild."

"Does that mean you can't speak passionately?"

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The education bestowed on Shaenon K. Garrity by her parents had been expensive, athletic and prolonged. ... full profile