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In the script for this, I originally had Dave list all the guys named Bruce he considers attractive, such as Bruce Campbell and Bruce Willis. It wouldn't fit in the panel, a problem readers have probably noted I run into an awful lot.

Mell's crush on Willie Nelson occurred previously in a non-canonical Sunday strip by Andrew Farago. It comes up again in a much later strip in which the characters list Mell's weaknesses. Sometimes running jokes develop in strange and unpredictable ways.

As is mentioned in a much later strip, Dave seems to have strong morals only where his crush on Helen is involved. He doesn't have a problem working toward the conquest and/or destruction of the earth, but he's not about to pull a "Revenge of the Nerds"-style seduction. That would be wrong! The protagonists of Narbonic may be villains, but they're generally honest villains, which is why the most severe crisis in the strip involves Helen withholding important information from Dave.

Still, if you're going to do a story where characters turn into duplicates of other characters, you have to at least bring up the possibility.

I like that the pencil cup in the second panel contains a test tube and a hypodermic needle.

I wrote this strip fairly late in the process. It occurred to me as I was reviewing the rest of this week of strips that the previous storyline provided Artie with a petty personal motive for dicking around with Dave. Artie's entitled to be petty once in a while.

It's probably reflective of my personal mindset that the longest Narbonic storyline opens with the female characters building transmogrifiers, plotting revenge against their enemies, and apparently carrying out some kind of illegal international arms deal, while the male characters worry about dating and looking pretty. Also, that I spend way more time on the latter.

This is, I believe, the first of a number of jokes in Narbonic about Madblood's height. The stupidest thing about this is that he's not even short. He's average height, about 5'9" or 5'10". But Dave's 6'1", and in this strip it made sense for him to notice that he was suddenly eye level with Helen. After that, it just became amusing to keep harping on it.

Sometimes running jokes just develop out of nothing.

Inasmuch as Helen built the transmogrifier and encouraged Artie to play with it, there's not much chance she'd be confused by this situation. I always like it when she gets excited enough by Dave's distress to bounce up and down, though.

No, I don't know how the transmogrifier knew how to reproduce Madblood's goatee. As we shortly learn, it reproduces other things that aren't genetically determined, like fingerprints, so there's some serious hand-waving required here.

Argh, I hate the way Helen came out in the last panel. Everything is completely wrong. What is she leaning on? I hated it when I first drew it, too. Sometimes a drawing just doesn't work and there's nothing you can do to make it work.

Which is too bad, because I really like Helen's little crush on Dave here. See, she can recognize him because she knows and loves him, the same way she can differentiate between a dozen identical gerbils! This might be the first outright indication that Helen has a thing for Dave. It'll come up again.

I was really interested in the characters' body language in Narbonic (and in all my comics, really). One of the things I liked about this storyline was the challenge of differentiating between identical characters (and, in the weeks to come, there will be many duplicates of both Madblood and Dave) with expressions and poses. And by giving them different glasses.

46 comments:
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Heh.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Monday:

It seems to be taking quite a while for Dave and Artie to reach a mutual understanding here.

Of course, if Artie doesn't actually know the controls of the gun, and given Helen's sparse description of its functionality two weeks ago, did he actually deliberately calibrate the gun to Madblood's looks?
David Harmon (mental_mouse) says: Leon:  Did he calibrate it, or did Helen?   
Michael Taub (otakuloki) says: Considering that Helen seems well aware of what's going on?  I vote Helen. 
Paul Anderson (pmanderson) says: And what does that say about Helen's feelings about Madblood?
Maricruz Villalobos-Zamora (maki_p) says: Actually I'm with Artie in the last panel, Dave really makes that body work! he should had use it more!
Cat Bascle (mage_cat) says: Somehow, Dave really does wear Madblood's body better than Madbood does, to me at least.  Maybe it's just that I like Dave's personality more.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Tuesday:

It's perfectly reasonable to be megalomaniacal, but you simply cannot afford to be heartless. (Again, refer to our webcomic's logo motif and my 2007 waxed wafflings on Helen's conception of evil. That's a year, not a quantity.)

This isn't the first time Dave has had favourable feelings towards being mercilessly dallied with by Helen. Fortunately for our diagnosis of his self-preservationary instincts, this doesn't bubble to the surface of his psyche often at all.
Rebecca Smith (epivet) says: Oh, I have a highlighter shaped like a hypodermic syringe.  I thought that was what it was.  Drug company freebies and all.
Johnn Reynolds (sleepyjohn) says: @epivet: I have a highlighter shaped like a hypodermic syringe.   Sometimes I think that when Q retired from the British Secret Service, he went to work designing promotional freebies.
Elaine Corvidae (elaine_corvidae) says: I love the exchange in the final panel.
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Heh. Artie's ear in panel 4... forebodes. It simply forebodes.
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Translation: He wanted to mess around with Dave.
ribbles (ribbles) says: Well, Madblood's male, and he conquers the moon.  It just doesn't take.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says: OK, here's a little nightmare fuel for y'all ... Dave undergoing transformation while shouting "Moon Madblood Power -- MAAAAAAKE UP!" followed by a minute-and-a-half of ... well, you can imagine.
Adam Underfoot (unnatural20) says: a minute and a half of losing height and weight, magical beard transformation, and reverting to a darker version of his old hairstyle? Ohnoes.
...I'd kill for magical beard transformation.
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Heh...
James Jones (tprjones) says:

5'9"?!  6'1"?!  For some reason all this time I thought of the entire cast as short, say around 5"2 for Helen to 5"6' for Dave.

This puts parts of the strip in a whole different perspective.

fluffy <3 (fluffy) says: So in reality it's that Helen's actually kinda tall.
Dave Van Domelen (dvandom) says: And human!Artie is titanic.
Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says:

I've mentioned this before, but Helen's the same height as I am. Actually, so is Tip in "Skin Horse." I didn't want to make him taller because I know how hard it gets to find dresses that fit.

I recently did rewrites for some volumes of the manga Love*Com, which, for the manga-impaired, is about a romance between the tallest girl and shortest guy in a high-school class. The manga is filled with references to how freakishly tall the girl is and how this scares all the boys away, but I didn't know her exact height since it's always given in centimeters in the manga. After rewriting the last volume, I finally went on Wikipedia and looked it up.

She's two inches shorter than me. Oh, Japan.
Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says:

Dave: Yeah, Human!Artie is freakin' six-six. He could be played by The Rock.
Vlad Taltos (flyingfish) says: Or Vin Diesel!
Adam Underfoot (unnatural20) says:

Nn. The Rock's got closer to the right kind of charisma. Dude simply oozes charm.

As for shortness... bah! 5'5, checking in. You tall people and your cruelty.

Mel Van Weelden (kessalia) says: I'm a 5'11" girl and yeah, finding clothes is a pain.  Finding cute shoes in size 12 is even worse. *L*
Bauke Schildt (tephlon) says:

Vin Diesel is actually somewhere between 5'8'' and 6'0'' (Between 1.73m and 1.82m in metric.), according to the sites that popped up on the google search "Vin Diesel height". 

 Note: Way too many people want to know Vin Diesel's height.... 

Bauke Schildt (tephlon) says:

I met this tall gorgeous Amazon in New York a few weeks back. 

 She was 6'4''... (1.95m) I'm 5'8'' (1.77m)... I never felt so small... .-)

David Harmon (mental_mouse) says: I'm 5'8".  Growing up on Long Island, I never really noticed it, but once I got to college, it slowly dawned on me that I was kinda short.  This has only gotten worse with time, as the younger generation seems to be half beanstalks.
Matt Katinas (nidoking) says: The Love*Com movie completely failed to choose actors of appropriate height... aside from a few special effects shots at the beginning, they really didn't stand out at all from the rest of the cast, or each other.
Elaine Corvidae (elaine_corvidae) says: This has nothing to do with the current strip, but apparently Helen Narbon Sr. was onto something with the boxed wine: http://www.physorg.com/news163350187.html
Elaine Corvidae (elaine_corvidae) says: Also, Dave as Madblood is awfully cute. Just saying.
Rick Shott (not_home) says:

what, really, handwaving with a transmogrifier?  I mean doesn't the name itself require some handwaving?  :)

It's part of what makes this strip work.  Too much analysis gets into the major failings of star trek.  I always found enough balance in this strip between explanation and plain acceptance of the absurd. 

So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Gaaaaahahahahahaha. Alas, poor Dave...
Leon Arnott (l) says: Saturday:

Hey, we already received a silly non-justification for the persistence of goatees and circle-beards in Narbonic transformations. All that really remains unexplained is where Dave's flannel went to between Wednesday and Thursday.

Silent Penultimate Panels: 14.
kicking_ k (kicking_k) says:

Dave's flannel would flop over Madblood's hands, clearly, so he took it off?

Shortness and tallness all does depend on perspective! When you got school medical check-ups during the 80s in the UK, they used to give you a predicted final height. My brother and I were both tall children and our predicted heights were 6'2 and 5'10.

The chart they used didn't take early developers into account. We ended up 5'10 and 5'5. Perfectly average, but we feel... kinda short.

Still, I'm the tallest in my department at work (all my colleagues are women). Context is all!

Johnn Reynolds (sleepyjohn) says: Daves wears flannels.  Madbloods do not.  Once he looked like a Madblood, the Madblood-ness would shed the flannel.  And the cigarette.
Richard Wendling (misterflames) says: You know something I just realized?  Do Dave and Madblood share the same prescription for eyewear?
Paul Gadzikowski (pgadzikowski) says:

reproduces other things that aren't genetically determined, like fingerprints

Obviously Helen's discovered one of the principles incorporated into what's called "holographic cloning" in the fifty-first century, by which a microscopic image of oneself, including all memories and other acquired characteristics to date such as wardrobe, can be injected into oneself to hunt down the virus that's taking over one's body, ennabling one to save the day and then keep the robot dog.
Jon Stout (brasswatchman) says: Okay, so she's bouncing up and down in the third panel, though? On my first readthrough, I'll admit that I just thought those were Jeff Smith-style eyebrows. Oh, well. The content remains pretty much the same, though the bouncing up and down *is* a lot funnier.
Rachel S. (masamage) says: This (differentiating your characters through posture) is one of the things you do really, really well. I remember being so excited the first time I read this storyline. In fact, I tend to use it as my explanation of how great Narbonic is whenever I tell people to read it.
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Heh heh heh... YOU CANNOT HIDE HIDDEN DESIRES!

Unless you do, obviously.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Saturday:

Helen still recalls Madblood's blush from their last intentionally romantic encounter, such that she can directly compare to Dave.
David Harmon (mental_mouse) says:

Panel 4:  I think she's leaning on the panel frame.

Note that the transmogrification is incomplete, even superficial.  As indicated previously, the cigarettes are essential to Dave's nature, and he retains them (and the odor) even in Madblood's shape.

Jon W. (kd7sov) says:

@David:

I'd say you got it on both counts. One thing we're seeing here is the distinction between Dave's identity (his nature, as you put it) and his  body. The transmogrifier would have to be about three orders of magnitude more advanced to change the former.

ribbles (ribbles) says: Helen's thing for Dave: I think the first mention was when Helen is looking at Dave's genes while cloning his body and notices he has a nice butt.  Since then: holding hands after the reunion.  Which would make this #3.
BlackWolfe Coyoten (blackwolfe_coyoten) says:

On the subject of hand-waving required in a fantasy story, I once wrote a story that I determined very early on would only make the barest of nods towards real physics.

One chapter of the story has a giant sized character getting rid of extra mass by magically turning it into light in one of those "barest nod"situations.  I posted the story to the intarwebz and not long after that, someone proceeded to berate me for my misuse of matter/energy conversion.

All I could think was, "Wait, with all the stupid crap that goes on in this story, this is what you decide to get upset about?"

MORAL:  If you're going to handwave, handwave big.

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