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This is all pretty silly, but it's the kind of thing I find immensely satisfying to write. Overly complicated humor: that's what it's all about for me.

I wrote this one a long time after the other strips in this sequence; I was probably trying to round out the week. It's one of those strips where the dialogue gets pretty cramped, unfortunately.

Whatever Mell's planning to do, it will clearly not end well.

Most of the strips in this week are really early scripts; I wanted to do this sequence from very early in the planning of Narbonic. I'm a sucker for relationship tension.

That is one crazy console Dave's working at in the first panel.

Okay, maybe not everyone associates peel-and-eat shrimp with popping off heads, but when I was a kid in Texas we used to buy sacks of shrimp with the heads still on from guys selling seafood off the backs of trucks. And they were DELICIOUS.

Not only is Dave aware that he's in a comic strip, he's put some thought into the instructions he needs to shout to his readers. Good one, Dave.

I do like the incredulousness of, "What, with half the DNA of some man?" When you put it that way, it does seem kind of silly.

It's pretty strange to reread strips I originally wrote ten years ago. This is the way I thought when I was in college. The Seven Sisters will do that to you.

50 comments:
Leon Arnott (l) says: Monday:

Helen is so just crafting replies that suitably match Artie's pre-plies.
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Point.
Daffyd Wagstaff (lord_killerfish) says:

"Kindly predict what I'll do to you keep being a pest"

That sentence seems incomplete somehow. It needs an "if" in there either instead of the "to", or after the "you".

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

It seems appropriate that, since Artie is giving the answers before the questions, that Helen should put him in "Jeopardy".

Jon W. (kd7sov) says:

Imagine it: Artie vs. Mrs. Cake.

Andrew Cole (andy4hire) says:

@Ed:  Ha!  As a contestant or as the host?

(Also, Ed, your impressive body of filk has made you my new hero.)

@Leon:  No doubt you're right that Helen is crafting statements that match Artie's pre-plies (I like that word, by the way, and will promptly begin creating excuses to use it in everyday conversation myself).  But I'm not convinced that's the only thing that's happening here.

I like to think that Artie is also setting Helen up with pre-plies to which he knows she'll be able to respond appropriately.  And Helen, being quicker on the uptake in such matters than Dave is, figured out Artie's game based on Dave's complaint in the first panel and seamlessly jumped right in.  Thus Artie and Helen are both sharing a private joke at Dave's expense.  In that case, Helen's smile in the last panel would be a form of self-congratulation at least as much for successfully putting one over on Dave as for making her superintelligent gerbil co-conspirator, and her "Who's smarter?" comment might serve to subtly reassure herself and/or remind Dave that, while she may or may not be Artie's intellectual equal, she's certainly way ahead of Dave (or, if nothing else, to cover up the joke she and Artie have just played).

I'll admit that there are more straightforward interpretations of this strip that may work better, especially in light of Helen's line in the last panel and in light of <SPOILER> certain revelations that will come in later storylines </SPOILER>.

The problem with those interpretations, however, is that Helen really is pretty quick on the uptake, so she'd recognize right away that she doesn't actually need to say to Artie the things to which he's already pre-plied, for her sake or for his.  (Heck, if I were in her shoes, I'd start speaking gibberish to Artie just to see if I could mess with him.)  But she says them anyway.  Perhaps, of course, she's saying them for Dave's benefit somehow--but it's not at all clear how Dave is supposed to benefit.  Perhaps she's quick on the uptake but can't quite make herself stop saying the things to which Artie has pre-plied--but that doesn't seem like our Helen, somehow.

Hence the shared-private-joke theory.

Finally, @Shaenon:  It says something very impressive about you (in a good way) that you've created a comic strip that would induce me to spend this much of my brain energy on an internet comment.  You rock.

So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Ooooooooooooops.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Tuesday:

That toilet-roll-tube rocket isn't going to get very far if it's tethered to a car battery.

Let's all be honest here: Mell's internship under Helen is just ninety-seven percent goofing off. So it's nice that she's trying some proper evil deathtrappery for a change.
Tiff Hudson (tiff_hudson) says:

@Leon: The battery cable probably goes to the ignitor at the base of the rocket. The ignitor will burn away as it starts the engine, leaving the cables behind. Or maybe the wires are wrapped around Mr. Smartyparts Gerbilfur and the rocket is just a showy way to contain said victim.

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

Gerrrrbillls ... Iiiinnn .... SPAAAAAAAAAAACE!

Daffyd Wagstaff (lord_killerfish) says:

Dave's drinking from the three eyed smiley mug! Everybody playing the Narbonic drinking game, take a drink!

Johnn Reynolds (sleepyjohn) says:

That toilet-roll-tube rocket isn't going to get very far if it's tethered to a car battery.    If Mell made the igniter and engine, too, then it will travel very far, in a lot of different directions, all at once.

John Campbell (jcampbel) says:

The rocket's not going to get far because Mell appears to be conducting her test launch inside a refurbished sewer, and the holes in the roof that the death ray made got spackled over.

Carl Fishman (carlfishman) says:

Mell's creation reminds me of those old Estes model rockets, which did indeed use something like a car battery for ignition. 

I don't remember ever trying to launch them indoors, however; let alone in a subterranean Evil Lair!

Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says:

Carl gets major points for old-school model rocketry knowledge.
Mr. Z (demonbunny3po) says:

Do it Dave. We all know that Helen would look good as a hologram right next to a hologram of yourself, in a holographic bed.

Or is that just me?

So It Begins (soitbegins) says: *snerk*
Leon Arnott (l) says: Wednesday:

Dave's grimacing in panel 4 because he's realised he just blew his big secret on trying to show up Artie.

Where did Dave get such a malevolent gloom-shrouded workroom from?
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

"Artie, are you pondering what I'm pondering?"

"I think so, Dave ... but if the trenchcoat-wearing hamsters give me a million dollars, won't we end up crashing the flying island into the nuclear reactor powering the supercomputer that runs your brain?"

Daffyd Wagstaff (lord_killerfish) says:

@Ed: Oddly, at this stage, if Artie did say that, he'd only get blank looks and comments about "what are you smoking and where can I get some?"

'Keiya' (keiya) says: Actually, I think he'd get a laugh. I mean. Dave being unfamiliar with Pinky and the Brain? Inconceivable.
William Saunders (scholaroffortune) says:

@Daffyd: What do you mean? Dave never smoked.

 

Your name tag must be a nice break from the monotony at Dave conventions.

Daffyd Wagstaff (lord_killerfish) says:

@William: Yeah, but they've been trying to make a rule that Daffs aren't true Daves. It's only the fact we Daffyds have been boisterously vocal about not being thrown out after so many years attendance that have kept the playing field in our favour.

Also, why do I have a Welsh name when I'm English?

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

@Daffyd: If you're from the United Kingdom ... then at the Dave Conventions, does your name tag read, "Daffyd UK"?

(Bet that's the first time you've heard that one ... today ...)

Joe Glow (joe_glow) says:

Shuck them tails, suck them heads.  It's a Southern thing, I think.

Cat Bascle (mage_cat) says:

I'm from south Louisiana.  I've even peeled shrimp raw.  They're slimey like that, but it's worth it when they take up less storage space that way, and cut prep time on dishes later.  Plus, buying whole shrimp straight from the guy who caught it is much cheaper than buying from the supermarket.

maggie d (sophistre) says:

I was born in New Orleans, and I definitely remember my dad coming home with paper bags full of the spiciest cooked shrimp you've ever had in your life. We would sit at the kitchen table and eat them together beside a gigantic glass of ice water (that didn't help at all to put out the fire).

So It Begins (soitbegins) says: *snicker*
Daffyd Wagstaff (lord_killerfish) says:

 

Thursday:

Dave is drinking from the Three Eyed Smiley mug! Take a drink!

@Ed: *rollseyes* At this point I've heard every possible joke about my name. Especially the Little Britain jokes.

Most Conventioneers find it easier to refer to each other by their chosen online handle. It makes it easier to send out messages on the PA system if it's addressed to "MegaBuster152" as opposed to "Dave Smith".

Leon Arnott (l) says: Thursday:

Dave's sudden infusion of moxie brings us back to the first episode of last week. Having conquered the past, it is now time to fix the present. Or so he hopes.

Fourth-wall breaking dialogue: 49. Get the party poppers ready!
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer", Amos Milburn)

Don't look, don't listen, don't read!
Don't look, don't listen, don't read!

Please dear readers, now ... look away!
Artie knows what I'm ... gonna say!
Don't look, don't listen, don't read!

Don't tell Leon or S.I.B.!
They would just make fun of me!
Don't tell Daffyd, don't tell Tiff!
It'd be on Facebook ... in a jiff!
Don't look, don't listen, don't read!

Emily NotYourBusiness (emilygirl) says:

Huzzah!  We are quickly approaching my favorite strip!

Johnn Reynolds (sleepyjohn) says:

I don't think I've ever seen Dave in get-down-and-dangerous mode, with eyes and eyebrows and all.  He's scary.

Well, not if you really know him, but still..

Emily NotYourBusiness (emilygirl) says:

You know, I never actually bought that Artie would be able to extrapolate this particular thing given his social cluelessness.  It is funny, though.

Mike Kozar (mikekozar) says:

Man, I love Southern shellfish!  I look forward to taunting the next generation with stories of how good they were.

Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says:

I don't, Mike. I really, really don't.
Cat Bascle (mage_cat) says:

Yeah, my nephew is going to grow up hearing how Daddy *used* to make a living.

Mike B. (epenthesis) says:

Seven SIBLINGS!

So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Side note: The Narbon legacy will continue right on if us fanfic writers have anything to say about it.
Grant McCormick (grantcmccormick) says:

As a note, today¹ is the Friday that was supposed to have the "NOOOO!"² punchline, according to Artie.

Stay tuned tomorrow³!

 

¹ Friday, January 9, 2004.

² Thursday, January 1, 2004.  Happy New Year!

³ Saturday, January 10, 2004.

 

Leon Arnott (l) says: Friday:

I thought less-than-sensical howling outbursts of vengeance were exactly what mad scientist Helen would want in a broodmate.

Personality sprites: 13.
Daffyd Wagstaff (lord_killerfish) says:

"Inconceivable!"

Hell of a word choice to use when talking about cloning and reproducing.

Also, a word often used in The Princess Bride! Featuring the greatest Mad invention ever! A device which utilises the power of suction to suck the remaining years of life out of your body.

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "The Lion Sleeps Tonight", The Tokens)

Oh DNA, oh DNA, oh DNA, oh DNA,
Oh DNA, oh DNA, oh DNA, oh DNA ...

In the future, the hostile future,
The genius gerbil dies!
By my shoulder, and looking older,
Maternal instinct flies!

Seeeee ... why we
Won't free our DNA ...
(Oh DNA, oh DNA, oh DNA, oh DNA,
Oh DNA, oh DNA, oh DNA, oh DNA ...)

Carl Fishman (carlfishman) says:

So "Noooooo!" is indeed the Saturday punchline.  Artie is (sort of) vindicated.

Jason (hactar) says:

I think that the comics should stand as they are.  Artie should be close to right, but not completely correct.

Explanation containing a spoiler below:

I think the fact that Artie is wrong here can actually be seen in different light.  He is apparently unaware of Dave's budding mad scientist personality, unlike Helen.  While he can successfully predict Dave to a certain extent, there is still something that he is unable to see. 

So It Begins (soitbegins) says: A-*HA!*
Leon Arnott (l) says: Saturday:

Fourth-wall-breaking dialogue: 50! I think. (This earth-and-mimesis-shattering milestone reveals almost as much about our author's writing style as it does about my inexplicable fixation thereof.)

It's a bit ponderously hard to imagine that Dave has been honestly chasing this rodent for the past 3 2 episodes over a threat to tell a secret to someone who isn't even part of the story, or even a 'person' at all.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "I'm Not A Juvenile Delinquent", Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers)

No-o-o-o-o-o-o-o!
No-o-o-o-o-o-o-o!
No, oh no, Dave's gonna put the moves on Helen!

Crushing on his boss,
By lust he is consumed!
It can be assumed
That Davenport is doomed!
Oh no-o-o, Dave's gonna try to put the moves on Helen!

So, Artie can predict
Just what Dave will say!
Although to be completely strict
He missed it by a day!
Oh no-o-o, I know Dave's gonna put the moves on Helen!

Daffyd Wagstaff (lord_killerfish) says:

Is Artie ... floating in midair?

The strip suggests he's running at the same height as Dave is, and we don't see a shadow underneath him ... so secret comedic super power?

Sam Daniel (samhdaniel) says:

@Daffyd: I think we can assume that Artie is one heck of a jumper....

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