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New storyline! This was one of the first storylines I conceived for Narbonic. It's basically an extension of The Phone Call, the proto-Narbonic story I drew for the Thieves and Kings Three-Page Comic Contest when I was in college and a really bad artist.

The original inspiration for the whole concept was a science-fiction story I read in high school, the title and author of which I've forgotten. It was about a guy who got picked on in high school and grows up to be a totally awesome scientist who works out a method of predicting earthquakes and is also super hot and popular with the coeds and stuff. He figures out that his high-school class reunion is going to be held on the site of a major earthquake and decides not to tell them so they'll all die. Even as a picked-upon teenager myself, this struck me as kind of an overreaction to getting called "Master Baiter" in ninth grade. My annoyance over the story and its nerdy-yet-assholish hero somehow produced this Narbonic storyline. And probably large chunks of the time-travel storyline later on, to be honest.

None of this has much to do with this particular strip, which just provides a bridge from the previous week. It was probably one of the last strips I wrote for "Class Reunion," actually. I like low-key strips like this one, where the characters are just absorbed in a ridiculous conversation or argument. Also, Artie is adorable drinking his coffee.

The other important thing about this strip is that it establishes that Dave keeps having to replace his cars as Helen and Mell destroy, lose, and/or outright steal them. I like to keep stuff like that straight.

The best part of this strip is that Dr. Narbon's postcard has a fly on it. She has a sense of humor, that woman.

Dr. Trelone is a scientist in the Olaf Stapledon novel Sirius. He's the creator of Sirius, a dog with human intelligence who goes on to angst a lot about being the only one of his kind. As mentioned in the past, I'm fond of Stapledon in general and Sirius in particular, and the book influenced the way I wrote Artie.

I think I included the line about the lab having a nuclear reactor because someone wanted to know where the lab gets all its electricity. And because it's the sort of thing Helen would think was nice to have around the place.

This was one of the first strips I wrote for this storyline. I wrote this before I wrote a lot of the 2001 strips revealing that Helen was a clone.

Look how happy Dave is to have his penis back!

I missed my ten-year high school reunion, although I did send a note asking the organizers to tell me who got fat and bald. Which they did NOT.

The cheery little "Danger! Gerbils" sign in the last panel is a nod to Jeffrey Wells's fanfic, in which he mentioned Helen having signs like that up all over the place. It's very Helen. The little map includes Storage Room C, apparently the only storage room in the lab. Storage Rooms A and B never get mentioned. I'm sure I was influenced here by Flood Control Dam #3 in the Zork games.

This strip is a callback to the strip I drew in high school, "North of Space," in which Mell and her friends hung out at a convenience store. I'm glad that I managed to attach a decent joke to it.

I'm sorry, I totally failed to draw any part of Mell correctly in the third panel. At least she looks cute blowing bubblegum in panel one. I have no idea what the big globe behind her is supposed to be (or the thing Dave's working on, for that matter), but it appears in the lab from time to time.

All of these people, of course, have names similar to people who rejected or insulted me at some point in my life. Not their exact names, just similar. I don't like this strip very much, but at least I got to draw the shoulder sprites again. The shoulder devil's really workin' it in this one.

53 comments:
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says: OK, every parody I try to come up with involves Dave as a woman, and some play on the word "Volvo".  I'm gonna let this one go ...
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Artie drinking coffee is pretty cute.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Monday:

I assume Dave does get her car back after this episode, right? It'd be tremendously pathetic if she just had to watch Mell drive home with it every evening from now on.

Artie's punchline is actually pretty snappy today!
Tiff Hudson (tiff_hudson) says:

"Those fools at the High School! I'll show them ALL!"

There is no vengeance like returning to your hometown from college and seeing your former tormentor in McDonald's surrounded by his noisy, dirty brats. He did it to himself with his own tiny little sperm and it will go on for twenty years. You didn't have to lift a finger (except perhaps one, in farewell). THAT's why you warn them about the earthquake. BWA Ha ha ha haaaaaah!

Elaine Corvidae (elaine_corvidae) says: @Tiff: I like the way you think!
John Campbell (jcampbel) says: I like the domestic, "waitin' for the kids to come home" vibe Helen and Artie are giving off here.
Kevin Peckham (detailbear) says:

To the tune of Everclear's Volvo Driving Soccer Mom

You know I used to be a rad girl
I got busy helping classmates pass their Justice test
Yeah I used to be a speaker on gun control
But now I know destruction is the best

Yeah, yeah

I really used to be a nice girl
Helped at the peace rally, no signs did burn
I know I used to be a real mild child
But now I am a volvo-stealing mad intern

Na-na na-na na-na na-na na-na na-na

Mark H- (eyeharvester) says: Dave drives a Volvo??? While Swedish engineering is all well and good, I can't imagine a less mad science-y car.
John Campbell (jcampbel) says: Give him a break... DeLoreans are expensive!
Jason Summerlott (melkarion) says: And really, you can't blame him for being a little attached to is...
Mattias Oyen (moyen) says: Why does the reactor run on plutonium, that is usually the disputably useful byproduct from the reactor. Mad science naturally, but one would think then that uranium would be cheaper.
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Nice.
David Shaw (trazoi) says:

Actually, a nuclear power plant would be handy for a biological mad scientist to have around. All those isotopes are handy for nuclear medicine. Plus sometimes you've just got to irradiate something and see what happens!

Probably the only other power source acceptable to mad science would be geothermal, and you'd need one of those swanky bases built into a volcano to properly install one of those.

Leon Arnott (l) says: Tuesday:

"Grumpypants" is very much a Helen word. Most of the time, I'm of the opinion that she just isn't twee enough.

But what's this? A sentient LAN murder plot? That sort of thing happens a lot around here, doesn't it? If they'd just had one good storyline about it, then they could get it all over and done with.

Plot hole: Helen refers to it as the "new Journal of Malology" rather than the "New Journal of Malology".
Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says:

Leon: It's not so much a "plot hole" as it is a "the panel has only so much space for dialogue" hole.

I forgot to mention in the notes that radioactive isotopes mentioned in Narbonic are almost always plutonium as a tribute to a friend who was obsessed with plutonium in fifth grade.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "The Age Of Aquarius", by The Fifth Dimension)

We use sooooo much e-lec-tri-ci-ty ...
"Let's make our own!", is what I thought.
We'd save currency from current, see?
But now I've found, that we are not!

And I'm bemoaning the
Expense of plutonium!
Expense of plutonium!
Plutoniuuuuuuuuuuuuuuum!
Plu-to-ni-um!

Johnn Reynolds (sleepyjohn) says: I'm betting that postcards from Helen's mom always just say "heh heh heh".
Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says: Test...okay, comments are working again.
Dave Van Domelen (dvandom) says: Well, why not expect her to decant from the cloning pod fully formed? His current body did. But if he wants to keep that newly-regained body part, he'd best shut his yap....
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: I like Helen's expressions.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

Look how happy Mr. Happy is to have Dave back! 

"Happy pnis iz happy" ... great, now I'm imagining a website with pictures of genitalia and misspelled captions ... and I'm sure I just invoked Rule 34.

David Harmon (mental_mouse) says: Dave may be happy, but he's still pissed - that alien riff is pretty cold!
Tiff Hudson (tiff_hudson) says: Dave is apparently holding and admiring his invisble penis in both hands!
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Heh. Heh. Heh.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Wednesday:

Shaenon, that's not a very nice way to think of Dave's current mental state. Regardless of Dave's healthy regard for his own masculinity, most anyone in his situation would, in my opinion, be more relieved at regaining more than an entire foot of verticality than what little else is also regained (wince) horizontally.

Dave rhetorically referring to Helen as a xenomorphic cosmic horror who steals souls: 2. (Previously!)
Leon Arnott (l) says:
"I thought not showing the change was particularly funny, because it thwarted the hopes of several members of the Narbonic forum, who were droolingly speculating about the possibility of a Dave and Helen female/female kiss to change him back to normal. And considering that everything was plotted about a month in advance, the timing was perfect."
--Bellweather, 28 Oct. 2002.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Thursday:

Hypno-rays?

"By now, they should all be my slaves." Helen says that so calmly. It's a little irk-inducing.
Elaine Corvidae (elaine_corvidae) says: I love this storyline. And I skipped my high school reunion because, alas, they all weren't my slaves, either. I feel Helen's pain.
Myrddin ap Taliesin (myrddhin) says: It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a Grue.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Glory Days" by Bruce Springsteen)

I was just a young clone
Way back in high school;
Now my tenth re-un-ion's com-ing ...
I can laugh at those fools!

Hypno-rays!
Though it seems unfair, my dear,
Hypno-rays!
Rather see them cow'ring in fear!
Hypno-rays ... hypno-raaa-aa-aa-ays!

Bryce Utting (butting) says:

Or, to steal from Joseph Heller:  DANGER: NO GERBILS.

"Now, that could mean one of at least two things..."

Grant McCormick (grantcmccormick) says:

Gerbils...

On the BBC headline news that I get through Firefox, China is putting its gerbils on The Pill (One Gerbil Per Family?):  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7963836.stm

And from this story, they have a link to an article from August, 2003 (roughly the middle of the "Dave Davenport has Come Unstuck in Time" story arc), titled "Giant gerbils infest China": http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/3162743.stm

I don't recall any mention of this during the first run. . .

So It Begins (soitbegins) says: There weren't any comments on the first run.
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Sigh.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Friday:

What I don't get is why Mell looks so staggeringly confused by Dave's notion in panel 4, as if a small mammal presented with differential calculus written on a mirror. What'd be a bit more sensical is the same line delivered with that knowing cheek-to-cheek smile we've all borne witness to.

Of course, those people who haven't experienced ur-Narbonic might assume that today is the first of many gratuitous callbacks to Mr. Wells's 'A Brief Moment of Culture', not knowing that these callbacks actually began just one day ago for different reasons. Today's Activity Time: use this information to formulate a refutation to Plato's definition of knowledge as justified true belief, in under 100 words.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "No Particular Place To Go", by Chuck Berry)

Hangin' with friends, back in high school!
Torturing kids who think they're cool!
They come around, I chase 'em off
With my trusty Kalashnikov!
You'll find blood 'n' guts 'n' more
At your local convenience store!

Vlad Taltos (flyingfish) says: Leon: A small mammal not a gerbil, you mean?
Mark H- (eyeharvester) says: I sort of assumed that the giant blob in panel one was a globe, or map of the world, or something like that, on which Helen is wont to plot the progress of her various schemes for WORLD DOMINATION.
Edwin Quantrall (reynard) says: @ Shaenon & Mark H-: Could it be a super-giant plasma globe?
John Campbell (jcampbel) says: Leon - Mell has no apparent filter between notion and action. Is it any wonder that the concept of fantasizing confuses her?
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: OK, I have to say it. Evil Helen is hot.
Scott Davidson (mrson) says: Heh. I actually copied Helen's expression in that last panel a couple times for drawing practice before. It's a great one.
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Ooops, forgot to close the tags... closed now. I think.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Saturday:

Hey! Apparantly, "the Sadie Hawkins" is what they actually call it in that faraway country! And here I thought it was just some more cleverness on the part of Ours Truly.

I have no idea how you pulled off so subtle a distinction, but is that devil wearing... eye shadow?

Appearances of personality sprites: 8. And get a load of this line from TVTropes: "The Devil will invariably be on the left (or sinister) shoulder." (But in this episode, it's more to do with the necessities of the conversation vs. visibility of Helen's face.)
Leon Arnott (l) says:
"..and another pointless observation: isn't it cute the way good sprites speach bubble goes through her halo in pannel 3, Awwww."
--Alex McIver, 26 Oct. 2002.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Everybody Wants To Rule The World", Tears For Fears)

Way back in high school ...
They just laughed at you ...
Guys and girls were cruel ...
Now they'll rue the
Day they mocked you, babes and fellas!
Hire an escort, make them jealous!
You just want to nuke the school, poor girl!

David Harmon (mental_mouse) says: And again, Helen's "good" sprite is none too steadfast...
Noah Singman (nsingman) says: The devil sprite IS working it. And needless to say, I heartily approve of her last bit of sartorial advice.
Valerie Kaplan (shinyhappygoth) says: Leon: I think the devil's appearance on the left shoulder usually does result from conversational necessity.  The devil often gives a sarcastic response to the angel, and its suggestions tend to be funnier, as a rule.
Matthew Mather (madtinkerer) says:

"I don't like this strip very much"

Well I do. It's the fourth panel that really sells it, with the Good Shoulder Angel advocating nuclear destruction and Helen's pupils going different sizes to show how deranged she really is.

You never explicitly explained it in the comic, but I always suspected the true source of Madness in the Narboniverse has to do with the Shoulder Angels.
Tiff Hudson (tiff_hudson) says: I'm thinking the devil always gets the right side (left shoulder) of the panel since angels do the straight lines and devils do the punchlines, ergo temporal dialog imagery dymanics establish the devil's position. :-)
Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says:

Some of these strips were written just for you, Noah.
BlackWolfe Coyoten (blackwolfe_coyoten) says:

@Ed:  What's the problem with lycrics about Dave being a woman and his stolen Volvo?  The moment you said that, I knew what song to use. :D

(To the tune of She's Always a Woman to Me)
He can debug a script
He can kill an AI
He can keep you in school
By supporting your lie
And he wants his car back,
And his genitals, please,
He may be a geek but
Dave now is a woman, you see.

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