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I wrote this one really early, back around 2000, and it made it to its final form unchanged; this strip looks almost exactly like the original thumbnail. Some ideas don't require much tweaking, and Dave taking dating advice from his incompetent social life is one of them.

I always liked to draw Dave putting on ties and stuff. It's cute when he's all manly.

I probably should've found a way to make Helen look sexier in the third panel, but I did my best. Helen's dress was based roughly on a dress I owned.

I always liked the way Dave came out in the first panel. He looks good with the visible eyes.

This strip may have the highest on-panel body count in Narbonic. I can't remember where I got the idea for this, but I always find gruesome teleporter accidents hilarious.

Peanut-butter squares. Of course Helen's idea of "party" involves peanut-butter squares.

Originally the raffle items were cat food, the cellular destabilizer, and Bac-Os. Then Jeffrey Wells pointed out that Bac-Os are vegan, so I changed the last item to yogurt, a reference to Jeff's Very Long Fanfic. It works better this way anyhow, because now everything in the raffle is a leftover from a previous thrilling Narbonics Labs adventure.

Yes, that's the cellular destabilizer powered by the Crystal of Marinia, over which Helen so fiercely battled Madblood in their first encounter. She lost interest in it almost immediately after winning the crystal.

A raffle. Of course Helen's idea of "party" involves a raffle.

I always liked this one. This is one of a couple of strips suggesting that Artie deliberately avoids dealing with his own sexuality and is kind of squicked out by that entire realm of experience. He can suppress his feelings by avoiding other gerbils, since male gerbils generally get aroused only in the presence of a mate in heat. [SPOILERS] It gets a lot harder to ignore after he becomes human.

I do like Helen's little Valentine outfit. Actually, I like everybody's outfits in this storyline. Dave's in his adorably dorky tweed suit again.

This one happened because I was watching a lot of "Cheers" reruns. Artie is probably being unnecessarily negative about Dave's romantic prospects, but that's as much about Artie's personal hangups as Dave's attractiveness. Artie is kind of weirded out by the concept of Helen and Dave dating.

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

Personality faeries: 17. I must admit, these flappy fellows are really quite useful in externalising these nuanced intrapersonal moments (of which this half-arc in particular is replete) and reshaping into dialogue what would normally be presented as soliloquy. Our author is effectively (though somewhat unsubtly) playing to her strengths here.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

Q: If Dave doesn't bathe, how does he smell?
A: Much better, since he stopped smoking!

(Except that he never smoked, y'know ...)

Daffyd Wagstaff (lord_killerfish) says:

For some reason I always imagine Daves social life to sound like Mr T.

Diane Castle (deecee) says:

@Dadffyd: Hmm.  Perhaps because of the outfit, but I always imagined that Dave's incompetent social life sounded more like Horschack.

'Keiya' (keiya) says: I always imagined Dave's social life to sound like what Dave would sound like if he was a hipster. I think it's the sunglasses, I dunno.
Andy Wetmore (efogoto) says:

A cheap plastic imitation hipster, with a voice like Joe Pesci.

Leon Arnott (l) says: Tuesday:

I just suddenly noticed... are those fishnets?!
'Keiya' (keiya) says: Don't smoke now? But... you never smoked. Except when people set you on fire, you did smoke then.
Adam Underfoot (unnatural20) says:

And being on fire is very unpresentable, I'll have you know.

Daffyd Wagstaff (lord_killerfish) says:

Sexy is, as sexy does. Two thirds of looking sexy has to do with attitude, and I've got to say, Helen has one of the sexiest attitudes out there.

Chad Kent (chkent) says:

Is the last line Helen's or Artie's?

David Harmon (mental_mouse) says:

I probably should've found a way to make Helen look sexier in the third panel

You've gotta be kidding me... she's already wearing a brightly patterned dress that's cut up to "here" and "there", with fishnets to underline that... what were you going to do, have her falling out of her bra as well?

One of the things I like about your art is you can tell the difference between "sexy" and "hoochie-coochie", and in this context, Dave's lucky not to melt into a puddle....

Chad Kent (chkent) says:

If it belongs to Artie, it might forshadow what Artie will discover about himself in the future.

David Harmon (mental_mouse) says:

Chad Kent:  An interesting point... is Artie now playing cheering section, or are we seeing a hint of future developments?

Tiff Hudson (tiff_hudson) says:

Helen would only look sexier if that dress were draped over one of my bedposts. (I will not apologize for having the hots for a cartoon - Cool World issues be damned.)

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Wonderful Tonight", Eric Clapton)

I've shaved and I've showered,
Shampooed and brushed my hair ...
I've treated my pimples,
And put on clean underwear ...
But when I get there
And I see this sight,
That's when I know,
She's unreachable tonight!

That dress hugs her body,
All of her shape reveals!
She's wearing her fishnets,
And sporting those four-inch heels!
My ego just give up,
Quits without a fight
Because I know
She's unreachable tonight!

William Saunders (scholaroffortune) says:

Big Death Ray to add to the gun count in panel 3.

(Hey, I'm married. I'm SUPPOSED to notice Big Death Rays before hot mad scientists now!)

Mike Kozar (mikekozar) says:

I think the fact that Helen isn't vamping and still looks that good drives home how doomed Dave is.  She's not even trying.

So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Niiiice.
Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says:

Helen trying to be sexy is probably an awkward sight.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

Ah yes, William is right!  Big Freakin' (tm) Gun count: 37

Daniel Ross (nentuaby) says:

In my mind, the charms on that bracelet are Schlock Mercenary style Fiddly Bits(TM), and the bracelet is actually <i>orbiting</i> her wrist.

Andrew Cole (andy4hire) says:

I love this strip, because Dave is reacting exactly as I would in this situation.

Ed, you've captured my high school and college years (and, um, also my present) all too well with that filk.  I salute you, sir.

Chad and David, I think Artie's just playing cheering section, given that he knows that Dave intends to "put the moves on Helen."  At this point, he has transmogrified into Dave, but <SPOILER> he hasn't had his phenotype permanently messed with, so he'd have no reason to develop an attraction to Dave or any other human. </SPOILER>

So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Eep.

Helen still looks hot, though.
Tiff Hudson (tiff_hudson) says:

How would you do a "body count" on a mariachi band after it became a pile of amalgamated glorp in the bottom of a teleporter? Count the instruments? Count eyeballs and divide by two?

Leon Arnott (l) says: Wednesday:

Helen couldn't really afford the band, anyway.

Does the tilted perspective in the middle panels reflect us, the readers, tilting our heads in skepticism at Helen's ability to pull this party trick off?
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Cielito Lindo", Quirino Mendoza y Cortés)
(If you see a mariachi band in a movie, 9 times out of 10 they're playing this song)

Helen's there!  See her flowing hair!
See her lovely dress, so attractive!
Squares made from peanut butter,
I swear they're hardly ... radioactive!

Oh, holy crud!
Don't use the teleporter!
Those poor mariachis,
They got them some ouchies
And ended up ... in disorder!

Dave Van Domelen (dvandom) says: Guitars are indestructible!
Johnn Reynolds (sleepyjohn) says:

goes in mariachi, comes out marmalade!

Brandon Gorley (bowtothebard) says:

How can you have a body count if there are no bodies?

Daffyd Wagstaff (lord_killerfish) says:

Dammit, Helen, we lose more mariachis that way!

I mean, it's not like we've got an infinite supply of them, and other mad scietists need them for their post time travel valentines day parties too, y'know!

Daniel Barkalow (iabervon) says:

I always read her comment as being worried about what might happen if the celluar destabilizer went to a non-vegan...

Leon Arnott (l) says: Thursday:

The mere idea of a four-person raffle is joke enough to render the remaining three panels little more than a postscript.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Chapel of Love", The Dixie Cups)

Gonna have a raffle, 'cause it ...
Wouldn't be a pa-a-ar-ty ...
You can join the raffle now, with
Me and Mell and A-a-ar-tie!
Cell-u-lar de-sta-bil-i-zer,
Yogurt and a cat food prize are
All here ... in the raffle of junk!

Daffyd Wagstaff (lord_killerfish) says:

Wait, who cleans the labs? I can't see Helen or Dave cleaning up after themselves (it's not a mess, it's freeform creative chaos!) and the idea of Mell pushing a mop around the labs is about as likely as her renouncing all violence and petitioning for the destruction of all guns.

And although it would be absolutely cute to see Artie in a Janitor's outfit, it's unlikely he's the designated custodian. So who is this invisible cleaning force who takes care of Narbonic Labs floors and wastepaper bins?

Kathy Moon (flipkat) says:

Kind of odd to see yogurt in a rectangular container. And how does she make her bracelet float like that?

Carl Fishman (carlfishman) says:

@Daffyd; I'd guess that Dave gets bullied into it.  He seems to be the one who gets stuck with most of the grunt work.  (I seem to recall that he had to do most of the remodeling when they first moved in.  As well as all the driving.)  Some combination of heavy menace and appeals to the fact that he's got the most muscle in the group.  Tis the manly thing to do!

Emily NotYourBusiness (emilygirl) says:

What storyline is the catfood from?  I forget.

Andrew Cole (andy4hire) says:

Emily:  I'm guessing that'd be the "Smart Gerbils" storyline (January 1 - March 3, 2001), wherein we were introduced to the ill-fated but devastatingly cute Sir Pounce.

Daffyd Wagstaff (lord_killerfish) says:

@Emily: Presumeably it was left over from when Helen introduced Sir Pounce in "Smart Gerbils". (EDIT: Damn you Ninja Andy!)

@Carl: You're probably right, but I'm going to keep on hoping that Narbonic Labs has a Secret Janitor. A Zen Master of cleaning, armed with the state of being one with the universe, and a bottle of Windex.

Andrew Cole (andy4hire) says:

Daffyd:  I'm tempted to reply with "No, no, damn Sir Pounce!" but apparently Sir Pounce already got himself damned.

So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Oh, so it's a red dress.

Daaaaamn.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

I know this is similar to one I've already done, but hey, it's the most appropriate song ...

(TUNE: "Devil With The Blue Dress On", Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels)

Goodness, gracious, my oh me!
Look at her, what do I see?
Dress so red, with little hearts,
Can't concentrate, she's stimulating certain parts!
Hemline's short, slit up the side,
I wanna change my gender and be her bride!
Helen with her red dress, red dress, red dress,
Helen with her red dress on!
In her knock-'em-dead dress, red dress, red dress,
Helen with her red dress on!

Rob (acoustic_rob) says:

Did you ever draw a color picture of Helen in That Dress?  I vaguely remember seeing one in a Sunday strip, but can't for the life of me find it now.

And technically it's not a tweed suit, because he's wearing dark slacks

Daffyd Wagstaff (lord_killerfish) says:

Hey, didn't you hear? The New Doctor Who wears tweed. Dave is ahead of the fashion curve.

K. Williams (crazy_quill) says:

He also wears a bow tie.

Bow ties are cool.

Mike Kozar (mikekozar) says:

Hey, Shaenon's article on Beetle Bailey made it to the Showbiz tab on FARK this morning!  Over 10,000 clicks right now.  Congrats!

Edwin Quantrall (reynard) says:

The thought of Mort Walker making a Tijuana Bible (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tijuana_bible) became so much less appealing just now...

Maricruz Villalobos-Zamora (maki_p) says:

I love the reason why Artie can't ignore his... "urges". We are in heat constantly! We rock!

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "We're Not Gonna Take It", Twisted Sister)

We're at the office dance now,
Dave thinks this is his chance now!
What kind of odds can Artie give?
The best approach remains, then,
If Helen's bruised her brain stem
And finds she's got a week to live!

Dave and Helen dating?
On thin ice we are skating!
Strategy debating ...
There ain't none!

So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Heh.
Daffyd Wagstaff (lord_killerfish) says:

Artie drank his punch rather rappidly! (I was going to say "Hella quick", but it really doesn't sound right saying that with an English accent)

Jon Stout (brasswatchman) says: I always wondered during the first run of the strip if human-Artie was gay while gerbil-Artie wasn't, in part based on this strip. It would kind of make sense... since Artie's kind of a chimera, maybe the human bits of him have the "gay gene" while the gerbil bits don't... or maybe the "gay gene" in humans is used for something completely different in the gerbil genetic code. -- Anyway, not like it matters, since it's his conscious decision in the end. Just my random wonderings on the interactions between genetics and sexual identity.
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The education bestowed on Shaenon K. Garrity by her parents had been expensive, athletic and prolonged. ... full profile