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Yeah, another rare moment where I decide to play with the layout for no discernible reason. Artie and Dave turned out so nicely in the first panel that it's all the more upsetting that a) Artie's left foot is turned uncomfortably, and b) I don't know what the hell the ladder attaches to at the bottom. That ladder bugs me so much I can't focus on anything else in the strip.

I'm glad I closed the plot hole about the whereabouts of Dave's miraculously long-distance cell phone, though. I thought this would be a good point in the story for Helen to have a conversation with Mell.

Mell's dialogue in the first two panels is based on stuff George S. Patton said. The last two panels are pure Mell.

Helen's last line here is pretty thoroughly autobiographical. I do like that line, but my favorite part of this strip is Mell's casually insulting assessment of Dave in the first panel. Also, in the third panel, one robot is polishing her shoes while another offers her a platter of grenades, which is pretty good.

Note that Mell says she knows two mad geniuses besides Helen. This turns out to be important.

This conversation is based on another speech from Patton. I'm not really such a huge George S. Patton fan. I just thought it would be funny if Mell talked like this. Possibly I was wrong.

...Nah, I was right. Push on, men, push on," is just lovely. The sunglasses and cigar help a lot.

In Greek legend and the blockbuster trilogy by Sophocles, Antigone is the daughter (and half-sister*) of Oedipus. In Oedipus at Colonus, the hit sequel to Oedipus Rex, she leads him around everywhere, Oedipus having put out his own eyes at the end of the previous play because he was so squicked out about marrying his mom. This is a slightly odd reference for Artie to make immediately after mentioning Helen, but Artie has some mother issues.

People were asking why Artie wasn't more upset about being practically blind without Dave's glasses, and this, along with the strip where he's upset about lacking whiskers, is the answer. Artie is much less bothered by his poor (by human standards) eyesight than he is by his totally inadequate (by rodent standards) hearing and scent. (How does he smell? Terrible!) Rodents also navigate by touch and vibration, being built low to the ground, and an upright human body isn't very useful for that either.

*He loved his mother like no other/His daughter was his sister and his son was his brother. Thanks, Tom Lehrer!

Argh, too wordy. This strip was inspired by a conversation with James Rice about those geometric puzzles where you move toothpicks around. I'm really bad at those things. (Cue countdown to someone in the comments saying that it's because I'm a woman and women are naturally bad at that stuff. I'm actually good at some other spatial reasoning puzzles; I just can't do the toothpick thing. Or draw bicycles.)

Although Artie's point is well taken (and "brain potluck" is a useful phrase for many occasions), Helen has a perfectly good reason to have tried to light her pants on fire. Obviously, she was testing her Kevlar pants.

58 comments:
Valerie Kaplan (shinyhappygoth) says: What is that twisty thing behind them, at the bottom of the first panel?  Are they playing Chutes and Ladders?
Sean Riedinger (ariamaki) says:

Umm...at the bottom, the ladder appears to be quite firmly bracketed into the wall. Nice big bracket-squares and everything, even properly bolted at all four corners. Not personally seeing a problem here- My buddies' attic ladder is bolted up similarly

Also, I personally just feel that Dave tinkered with his cell phone absentmindedly while swapping battery packs, hence it being able to call from the moon.

Leon Arnott (l) says: Monday:

Somehow I feel that you should have committed to the vertical layout by stacking both of the concluding panels beneath the first. Placing them in an L-shaped pattern subtly implies that the two panels are 'on the same level' as the first, when in fact they both take place in entirely different locations.

Instances of the word "dude": 15.
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Ho-ly...
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Mack the Knife", Bobby Darin)

At the start, see
Dave and Artie
Follow Madblood
Down the hall ...
We hear Dave moan,
"Where's my cell phone?
Helen's waiting
For my call!"

Helen's wond'ring
How Dave's doing ...
There's a call now
On her cell ...
But then when she
Hears "This is ginchy!",
Helen knows it's
Empress Mell!

Carl Fishman (carlfishman) says: @ Ed; Surely "Mack the Knife" should be credited to Bertolt Brecht & Kurt Weil, since all Darin did was to arrange the music and sanitize the words.
Andrew Willett (awillett) says:

Well, the ladder can't be attached to the wall behind Dave and Artie, because that would make the two of them about 3 inches thick. Perhaps it's bolted to the fourth wall?

No, wait! It's bolted to the fourth wall at the top and descends diagonally through the shaft until it attaches to the rear wall at the bottom. Dave is about as far down the ladder as he can get before he has to swing down onto the floor. God knows why Madblood designed it that way, though.

David Cunnius (capnq31) says: I think the ladder is attached to the floor in front of a weird, curvy "access shaft" that the trio just came from, with Madblood standing a few feet ahead of the ladder. (I imagine Madblood walked past the ladder and paused to get his bearings and decide whether to continue forward along the shaft or go up the ladder.)

And Artie's foot is twisted because he's not familiar enough yet with his human form to climb a ladder smoothly. (I wouldn't have noticed the foot if Shaenon hadn't commented on it.)
Dominic Corbin (lnick) says: Clearly, the ladder is bolted securely to the wall behind them, however from our perspective we are unable to see the foot and a half rod perpendicular to the wall and ladder that joins the ladder to the bolting apparatus.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

@CarlFishman:  You're right, I was a bit rushed this morning and didn't Google the song like I should have.  My bad.

Daniel Dwiggins (dand) says: Definitely bolted to the wall with spaces we can't see.  That design allows much work from the ladder since you can brace your back against the wall.  As far as the foot, give the poor guy a break, Artie is still figuring out that human motion thing.  It's perfectly reasonable he'd put a foot wrong on occasion.  Especially since he has to avoid stepping on Dave.
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Helen figures out what happens.

Hooooo boy.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Tuesday:

Mell is being quite preposterous lately. I shudder in thinking what dialogue she'd misappropriate had she an actual, competent means of instantaneous world domination.
ribbles (ribbles) says: Mell looks so happy!  
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Summer of '69", Bryan Adams)

Rocket ship, got to the moon lair
Of my boss's arch-enemy ...
Kinda short, glasses and dark hair;
All his robots bow down to me!

Got a hat!  Felt like a million!
Started planning my coup d'etat!
Called my boss, told her "Civilian,
Call me Generalissima!"

Standing with my robot horde,
They're ready now to get invade-y!
The world will call me Overlord!
Correction:  call me Overlady!
This is the best day of my life!

Elaine Corvidae (elaine_corvidae) says: I think this is the happiest we ever see Mell.
Cat Bascle (mage_cat) says: @ Elaine  I don't know.  I can think of some strips in "Madness" where she's pretty fricken' ecstatic.  Quoting two: "I'm the happiest girl in the woooorld!" and later, "This. Is why. I was put. On Earth."
Andy Wetmore (efogoto) says: Come to think of it, Helen should be pretty darn happy. Rebellious henchmen aren't just expected, but outright desired!
Mark H- (eyeharvester) says: I like that she calls herself "Generalissima". The Italian really sells it.
Valerie Kaplan (shinyhappygoth) says: Third panel.  Tsk.
Paul Anderson (pmanderson) says: Wednesday: Oh, I always thought the first panel was a lie; after all, Helen is a mad genius, and if she were there, even as a Dave, there could be real trouble.

After all, Mell's pwer depends on her being short, dark, and bespectacled; Helen can change all of those if she knows what to do.

First!

James Rice (jhrice) says: I've always thought Mell's line about Artie was, by far, the greatest insult to Dave in the entire strip.  It was probably good that neither Dave or Artie was there to hear it. 
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Heh.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Jabberjaw", by Pain)

Mell threw a wrench into my plans!
She's gonna conquer all the lands!
She says to do as she commands!
That Mell threw a wrench into my plans!

Oh well ... big deal ... another chance I'll get!
I never fume or fret;
I just play Xanatos Roulette!
See, not a tear I shed!
Whee, gonna laugh instead!
I'm gonna do whatever dumb thing pops into my head!

I'm gonna make some mayhem
'Cause I'm an evil sort!
I'm gonna get poor Artie to transmogrify and teleport!
I'm gonna scheme from midnight
Until the break of dawn!
I will twist your DNA
Until at last I get my way,
Then all my foes will say
That I'm a true Nar-bon!

Justin Kane (avatarjk137) says: As a side effect of the Dave-charged atmosphere, any tobacco-based accessory can float freely in the general vicinity of its user's mouth.
Derek Burrow (derekthebard) says: Mel looks absolutely *EVIL* in the third panel.
fluffy <3 (fluffy) says: I wonder how much of this is because of the childhood lessons Mell learned from Homeschool Joe.
John Campbell (jcampbel) says: Huh. Where did that cigar come from? I've always assumed that Mell looted the rest of the outfit from one of Madblood's closets, but he said earlier that there was no tobacco on the moon...
Joyce Melton (halfelven) says: It's not a cigar. Don't ask.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Thursday:

Dave's lifestyle is becoming a bit too much of a punchline punching-bag lately.

I don't know why Mell only considers Dave to be a threat. Didn't Artie or his intellectual equals almost manage a coup within the first months of their life?

Speaking of which, I just realised that it's a dreadful shame that Helen disposed of the Angel of Death some time back - she could just spin it around and, with just a few small calculations, take out the moonbase lickety-zot.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Dream On", Aerosmith)

Got my hat, my coat and sunglasses ...
Find the Daves, and we'll kick their asses ...
Dave-Prime is through ...
'Cause I know ... just what he'll do!

Push on, men!  Seize the Nintendo!
Cut the caffeine, their panic will crescendo!
Push on, men!  Push 'til the dawn!
To linger on the beach is fatal, so we must push on!!

Push on, push on, push on,
Push until we find those Daves!
Push on, push on, push on,
Push until they're all our slaves!
Push on, push on, push on, push on,
Push on, push on, push on, 0,
1010101010101 ....

Dave Van Domelen (dvandom) says: More of a no-life style. And not a lot of style, at that.
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
David Cunnius (capnq31) says: Thus far, the cigar has not been shown as lit or smoking. I like to think it's a bubblegum cigar. (I hope I'm not the only person here old enough to remember candy cigarettes.)
Edwin Quantrall (reynard) says: Yeah, I remember them. Never saw the attraction. When I tried (and got sick from) the real thing I decided that I was better off without both.
Fandarel (fandarel) says:

VERY spart Edwin.  My parents are trying to quit now.  Progress is slow.  I need a time machine.  Let's see, Crazy glue, Aluminum foil, some palladium, hydrogen and ununpentium....

Um, can anyone spare me about thirty kilos of pure gold?

Cat Bascle (mage_cat) says:

You know, since Dave's on his second body, and Helen mentioned that she did a few things to make it more familier for Dave when she brought him back, including weakening his eyesight, he actually _could_ complain to her if he felt the desire.

Of course, being this strip, such an enterprise would likely to horribly wrong for Dave.

Derek Burrow (derekthebard) says:

One thing on which you can depend is

He sure knew who a boy's best friend is! 

Michael Martin (mcmartin) says:

Of all the things we hail as good

The most sublime is... motherhood. 

Leon Arnott (l) says: Friday:

Artie shouldn't have such high expectations for a form created in a teleportation accident - or, indeed, that such a felicitous, spontaneous form is an entirely accurate facsimile of Dave's sorry structure. I mean, any moment now he (Artie) could start spontaneously sprouting a tail or turning into Helen, or growing ninety feet tall or something. (Actually, that last possible abberation would be an equally fitting way to dispose of Madblood's base - at least, insofar as it matches the current ridiculous situation.)
Tiff Hudson (tiff_hudson) says: So be sweet and kind to mother. Now and then, have a chat. Buy her candy or some flowers or brand new hat. But maybe you had better let it go at that...Orrrrrrrr.....
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE:  "Eddie My Love", from "Grease" by Jacobs & Casey)

Oedipus Rex, one day his mood was kinda bad ...
Felt a bit vexed, he ran a sword right through his dad!
Fates intertwined, married the lady who whelped him ...
When he went blind, "sister" Antigone helped him!
Life is unkind, out of his mind, nerves ain't too steady
Oedipus Rex!

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says: Yeah, I love Prof. Tom Lehrer as much as the rest o' y'all, but I got a reputation to uphold y'know?
David Harmon (mental_mouse) says:

"Oh, Helen never listens to me anyway" -- thus putting Artie in the same boat as the rest of us.

 

Myrddin ap Taliesin (myrddhin) says: Am I the only one thinking that it rocks to see the number of fellow Lehrer fans?
Paul Anderson (pmanderson) says: Am I the only one thinking that it rocks to see the number of fellow Lehrer fans?

Doesn't surprise me; I bet a lot of us know Bob and Ray too.

Edwin Quantrall (reynard) says: Much as I <3 Lehrer, I must confess that the only song of his that I can quote with any accuracy is "Smut". (And, yes, I know that this makes me a bad person.)
Paul Gadzikowski (pgadzikowski) says:

OEDIPUS [sings]: I want a girl / Just like the girl / Who -

 

Maricruz Villalobos-Zamora (maki_p) says: In Oedipus defense he didn't know she was his mother. He was abandoned for fear of the prophesy that he would kill his father and marry his mother and belived his parents were other people, and ironically when he found out of the prophesy he ran away from home right into his actual parents. This is why you don't lie to your kids
Carl Fishman (carlfishman) says:

Well, really, it's why you don't try and circumvent prophesy/Fate/the Will of the Gods.  Things always turn out worse.  (Dorothy Sayers wrote a whole essay on the topis.)

But yeah; when Lehrer isn't being too smug and pleased with his own cleverness and sophistication, he's awfully damn funny.

Andy Wetmore (efogoto) says: For another take on the story that's fairly darn funny: Oedipus Tex by PDQ Bach. Worth it just for mom's name: Billie Jo Casta, Queen of the Rodeo.
James Rice (jhrice) says:

Saturday:

As someone that actually owns a couple of pairs of fireproof pants, I had tried to correct Shaenon that NOMEX is used rather than Kevlar.  At the time of our discussion, neither of us looked up to see that NOMEX is actually the meta variant of Kevlar. 

I don't remember how or why, but I wound up with the original for this strip. 

Zarathustra's Id (zarathustrasid) says: I'm pretty sure kevlar is flammable. Not even going to google it, I mean, at some temperature Everything burns.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Goldfinger", John Barry, Leslie Bricusse, Anthony Newley)

Brain potluck!
Though it seems ... with knowledge my mind's replete,
She can't be beat!

I use skill, not luck!
Still I can't ... anticipate what she'll do ...
Until she's through!

Stephen Hawking and Bach I could teach;
But her brain's on some plane I can't reach!
Although common sense she's somewhat short of ...
You can never tell; it's sort of --

Brain potluck!
Is this all ... just part of some plan she had?
This girl is mad!
She's totally mad ...
Oh so mad ...
Rather mad ...
FREAKIN' MAD!!

The Auld Grump (theauldgrump) says:

Heh - pants in the State's meaning of the word, or the British...?

The Auld Grump

Leon Arnott (l) says: Saturday:

Madblood and Artie never really say anything to each other throughout this webcomic. Nor, if my memory serves me correctly, does Artie get time to discuss with Lovelace the existential rigors of being a manufactured person. It seems a little bit of a shame that these tiers of characters are seemingly penned off from each other.
David Palmer (viadd) says:

Regarding toothpicks:

http://xkcd.com/385/ 

 (But you've already seen it.)

So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Yes, yes... be a cog in my rarefied brain-plans! Muahahahahaaaaaa!
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The education bestowed on Shaenon K. Garrity by her parents had been expensive, athletic and prolonged. ... full profile