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Another strip I wrote early on. I was always interested in fitting the characters to various archetypal models, although they don't map well to the Fantastic Four. I'd be interested to know who Dave thinks is whom.

When you've got a group of four core characters, you generally want them to follow the four-part Jungian model of the psyche: anima (Helen), animus (Dave), id (Mell), and superego (Artie). I see TV Tropes prefers to express the division through the four humors: sanguine (Helen), phlegmatic (Dave), choleric (Mell), and melancholic (Artie). In manga, teams of four are often defined in terms of the Four Heavenly Kings of Buddhist tradition or the Four Heavenly Beasts of Chinese astrology.

In Skin Horse, we've got three core characters, so they map to the Freudian model of ego, superego, and id. Or possibly what TV Tropes calls Beauty, Brains, and Brawn.

Helen's high-school photo is of course heavily based on photos of myself, although I never had braces. Her activities (National Honor Society, quiz team, Spanish club) are also mine. Above her is Andy Farago, with Andrew's high-school activities (three years of track, NHS, Odyssey of the Mind).

In this and the previous strip, Helen is working on the Forevertron, one of the many things I hope to visit if I ever make it out to Wisconsin to see Skin Horse collaborator Jeffrey Wells.

One of the best stand-alone Narbonic strips. Also, I used to have a dress like that. The characters do manage to outrun explosions on a fairly regular basis, though, so their universe isn't a total wash.

The natural follow-up to yesterday's strip. Dave is even worse at this than Helen and Madblood are. I like his tweedy jacket, though. There was some debate on the message board as to whether Dave would have a tweed jacket, since he's unlikely to own more than one suit, but in the end he has to wear what I tell him to wear. He gets a new suit a couple of years from now, but until then he wears the tweed.

Presumably Helen also had an emergency backup dress shirt. There's a lot of stuff lying around the lab.

I need to draw less distractingly-shaped word balloons.

I like the dialogue in this strip, but the art in the first panel is painful to look at. I do appreciate the hideousness of Dave's latest car, though. It's got a Bill the Cat windshield clingy and a Jack-in-the-Box antenna ball!

Helen went mad in grad school, just short of getting her doctorate. It was at a bistro. There were these horrible tomatoes involved.

47 comments:
Adam Underfoot (unnatural20) says:

Bah! Stupid TVtropes and its random, irreversible 403's.

So It Begins (soitbegins) says: I am pleased to announce that in the fanfic, the character types don't match up at ALL.
Tiff Hudson (tiff_hudson) says: Artie is obviously Ben Grimm :-)
Dave Van Domelen (dvandom) says: It's dialectualizing time!
Leon Arnott (l) says: Monday:

I recall that on mutually exclusive previous occasions I speculated that the roles of either Artie or Mell could conceivably be either reapportioned amid the remaining characters, or intrapolated away altogether. What that says about me is that I've always thought of Narbonic as dichotomy (rather than a... um, a quartet?) between the main character and the title character, with the other characters serving primarily as outside perspectives or external forces. I suppose this means that I subscribe to the Red Oni Blue Oni classification.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

Personally, I always compared them to a much different ensemble cast ...
*************************
(TUNE: Theme from "The Brady Bunch")

Here's the story
Of a cute young lady
Who had quite a clever scientific brain!
When they told of the death
Of her mother,
Then she went quite insane!

It's the story
Of a nerdy techie,
Just a geeky, and unkempt gamer slob!
Life was all good
'Til he graduated
And had to find a job!

'Til the day when techie nerd met genius blondie,
And he knew from that initial scorching blast
That this mad girl was no pacifist like Gandhi;
That's how they became the core Narbonic cast!

David Harmon (mental_mouse) says:

Well the four humors are themselves vased on the four elements, and the Fantastic Four definitely match up with those (but except for the Torch, their personalities and the powers map differently).

 

Mike Kozar (mikekozar) says:

 

@Leon:  I respectfully disagree that the supporting cast is extraneous.  Even if you assume that Mel is simply an understudy for Helen and Artie for Dave, having a third character in a dialog allows for a voice other then villain and victim.  It also allows for dialog between two 'good' characters and two 'evil' characters, which seems more interesting then a simple monologue.

Take, for instance, last week (110202) where Artie was playing the Voice of Reason while Dave nonchalantly was the Willing Accomplice to Mayhem, with the punchline being that his personal history precludes sympathy for the victims.  If this were simply an internal monologue, the doubts Artie raised would be completely at odds with Dave's deep-seated willingness to get payback on the popular kids - Dave doesn't wrestle with *any* moral quandaries here.  An internal dialog, even a personality-sprite one, would undermine the gag.

A similar scene can be found a few weeks prior (102402 & 102502) between Mel and Helen, where Helen is Introverted Evil and Mel is Extroverted Evil - the fuel for the gag is that Mel's attitude led to an entirely different experience in High School then Helen's.  How exactly would this work on 'The Dave and Helen Show'?

 

Mark H- (eyeharvester) says:

OK, we can figure this one out, kids. So, let's see, let's start with some propositions that all can agree must be true:

• Mell is neither the Invisible Woman nor Reed Richards. 

• Helen is not the Invisible Woman.

• Dave is not the Human Torch.

• Artie is not the Human Torch.

Well, this already has us getting somewhere! We now know that the Invisible Woman is either Dave or Artie, and that the Human Torch is either Mell or Helen. I think that, within each of these two pairings there is an obvious winner. Mell is quite clearly more suited to being the Human Torch than Helen, and Dave more suited to the rôle of the Invisible Woman than Artie. So, now we have:

Reed Richards: Helen or Artie

The Invisible Woman: Dave

The Human Torch: Mell

Ben Grimm: Helen or Artie

Now, it seems that both Helen and Artie are at least somewhat suited for the job of Reed Richards, given that both are superintelligent. However, there can be only one. Who shall it be? The answer to this question becomes clear when we ponder how completely unfit Helen is for the rôle of Ben Grimm. No, between the two of 'em, that must be Artie's job, leaving Helen as our resident Reed Richards.

 

Make of this what you will, all.

So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Ah.
Leon Arnott (l) says:
"Gee, Helen must have had a really small class if the yearbook goes right from Farago to Narbon. Should be no trouble knocking them all off... :)"
--rantarn_hellsbane, 5 Nov 2002.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Tuesday:

Ah, yes, the embarassing childhood photo. How shameful that we were ever so incompletely formed!

You might think to yourself "In Helen's case, it isn't entirely Nature that's responsible for her, now is it?" But, given that her creator's original intention for her was organ donor first and heiress a distant second, there wasn't originally any call for design and perfection.

The Forevertron sounds like a glorious piece of work. Who knew that there were individuals motivated enough?
John Campbell (jcampbel) says: Beta's primary purpose was not to be an organ donor, regardless of what she may have said so far.
Mark H- (eyeharvester) says: Y'know, between the Forevertron, House on the Rock, and the Milwaukee Museum of Art (the world's only art museum that might accidentally fly away in a strong wind!), Wisconsin really ought to change its nickname to "The Mad Science State".
Leon Arnott (l) says: Mr. Kozar! I beseech thee to reevaluate my position. I contend, and that the supporting cast are, for the great majority of their presence, merely external perspectives into Dave and Helen's activities and decisions, or external motivations that force their particular hands. Those occasions when this dynamic is reversed - when these characters suddenly become own-rights protagonists - are few and far between (numbering just the two Mell's Major arcs, Battle for the Lost Diamond Mines of Brazil, Hiccup/H is H, 2006's Artie/Vincent subplot, and of course A Brief Moment of Culture). I also, I wish to correct, contemplated the absense of the characters of either Mell or Artie, but not both at the same time.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Wednesday:

Aah! Mell says that as if she has first-hand experience! (First-hand experience, with failing to outrun an explosion.)

Fourth-wall mirror-gazing: 33. (This time it really is 33.)

The referenced trope, to use the modern term for this sort of thing, is this one.
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Incidentally, that scene in The Mummy Returns, where Brendan Fraser outruns the sunrise line? That's (unfortunately) not possible either.

Anyway, Helen is a stunning beauty.
Dave Van Domelen (dvandom) says: It's because Helen isn't Glasses Ugly. Rather, she was correctly cast with an actress who looks correct for the part, so there's no artificial added-on frumpiness. Any frump (real or self-imagined) is, sadly, her problem to deal with and not to be blamed on the makeup artist or wardrobe person.
David Harmon (mental_mouse) says:

DvD:  On the other hand, it might well be blamed on her using a funhouse mirror for primping....

 

Johnn Reynolds (sleepyjohn) says:

Leave it to me to live in a defective fictional universe.

That is SO becoming my header line.

Anyway, maybe Helen should ask Agatha Heterodyne for a tailorbot. There's got to be a Mad Scientist Girl's Network out there someplace.

Mark Chapman (aardvark86) says: Helen, you just look like you in a dress because you're a babe already.
ribbles (ribbles) says: I like how Mell is right there with Helen but still off in a totally parallel world.
James Rice (jhrice) says: Someone could have given Dave that jacket.  I've had people take fashion pity on me that way.  Several times actually...
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: ....um.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Thursday:

"Campaign to save Farscale 2002". Words fail me.

Fourth wall subversiveness: 34.
Dates: 3. I realise that both I and our Director got a certain fact wrong recently - for one can quite truthfully say that this is Helen's second date.
Johnn Reynolds (sleepyjohn) says:

The hero who's going to sweep her off her feet.

 Cool!  Dave gets to drive the Zamboni!

kicking_ k (kicking_k) says: Actually, the jacket looks like a natural oh-dear-I-need-a-jacket thrift-shop purchase. My husband has a similar one (only it's double-breasted, alas) which he acquired as a student. Another friend of his has at least one tie bought hastily from a charity shop to avoid being denied entrance to somewhere.
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: H m m m m.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Friday:

...."Nuke gun".

This makes me wonder... seeing as Helen's underground lair is her personal residence, I have to wonder where she may have kept all her stuff before moving in... or how much of it was completely destroyed in the demolition of her previous lab.

(..."Nuke" "gun".)
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Working For The Weekend", by Loverboy)

Borrow Helen's nuke gun for the weekend!
Gotta have some fun, 'cause Boggle's lame!
Soon the panicked public will be freakin'!
Kinda like that "Grand Theft Auto" game!

kicking_ k (kicking_k) says: Little radiation symbols! Cute. And an ideal gift. I wonder where I could get one of those? Thinkgeek?
David Harmon (mental_mouse) says: Well, she presumably would have needed to dress the Affleckclones... at least for public appearances!
Caleb Schwepker (dizzy_dog) says:

I always though of 'nuke gun' as the good ol' Davy Crockett.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Davy_Crockett_(nuclear_device)

Jason Summerlott (melkarion) says:

I like where the "nuke gun" idea is going with the Davy Crockett, but I don't think it's MAD enough.

I'm envisioning something the size of Vira, with "nuke bullets" no bigger than, say, a flare, who are triggered to implode around the radiative material upon impact.   Even more portable than the previous suggestion, and truly a one-man one-Mell weapon.  

 Nonetheless, it must manage to render an area the size of, say, a city block, uninhabitable for the next 2 years or so.  (That way, it'll be "old news" by the next election cycle.)

Andy Wetmore (efogoto) says: Since my microwave oven is "the nuker", maybe it's a microwave radiation gun. She's really cookin' now.
Joyce Melton (halfelven) says: Didn't we all go mad in grad school?
Hunter Thomas (archangelq) says: Going mad in grad school is a luxury for those that went to grad school. Us honest hard working mad (computer) scientists went mad at startups.
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: MWAHAHAHAHA! ooh chem lab.
Leon Arnott (l) says:
"Anyway, today I selected the model of Volvo to use for photo reference in future strips (like the one I'm penciling tonight). Dave will be driving a 1973 Volvo 1800ES. Once something of a glamor car (Roger Moore drove one in "The Saint"), the Volvo 1800 has not aged well, especially not the ES models with their big-butted "sports wagon" design. It's not one of the '80s compact cars more commonly associated with Volvo, but I find it entirely deserving of Dave's ownership, and I hope you'll feel the same."
--Shaenon K. Garrity, 23 Oct. 2002
Leon Arnott (l) says: Saturday:

Today: an appropriately touching moment of Helen's with respect to madness and its bifurcation of one's sense of self. (It is the sort of psychological transfiguration so sweeping and total that emotions like sadness and regret have little applicability when looking back upon it.)

It would be something if upon stepping through those doors she was completely re-immersed in her vulnerable adolescent gestalt, and thus rendered powerless before her enemies. An eventuality that one deserves to worry about in advance!
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

Speaking of going mad at a bistro, whatever happened to the Narbonic filenames story?  Someone (I disremember who, but thanks anyway) was compiling the story, but it hasn't been updated since last August.  Is there a new URL?

In college, young Helen was fine,
'Til a strange lawyer took her to dine.
He said, "Your mom bought it."
At first, Helen fought it,
But then went insane and killed nine!

EvilMid nightLurker (emlurker) says: http://www.ci-n.com/~jcampbel/narbonic.txt
EvilMid nightLurker (emlurker) says:

Oh, and:

http://www.ci-n.com/~jcampbel/skinhorse.txt

Jon Stout (brasswatchman) says: Oh, man. Come to think of it - how would Dr. Narbon have handled parent-teacher conferences?
EvilMid nightLurker (emlurker) says: Conferences?  You really think there'd have been more than one?
Melissa Trible (tamtrible) says: Sure... the Narbons moved occasionally, right?  Fresh meat.
BlackWolfe Coyoten (blackwolfe_coyoten) says: Couldn't resist an "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" gag, could you, Shaenon?
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The education bestowed on Shaenon K. Garrity by her parents had been expensive, athletic and prolonged. ... full profile