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My favorite part of this strip is Caliban's friendly little wave in the second panel. It's like, "Yeah, hi, scourge of Hell, nice to meet you, where's the nachos?" All things considered, Caliban is a pretty great character. He's almost, but not quite, awesome enough to justify adding all these supernatural elements to Narbonic, which really ought to be a super-science-centric story.

"It has a taste," is a line from Wings of Desire. Other than that, Dave makes several valid points that are never adequately addressed in the strip. Caliban just gets by somehow.

I am occasionally proud to have created a comic strip where, "Why did you have to reject Satan now?" is a typical opening line.

Those sandwiches look pretty good, actually.

The banana-and-potato-chip sandwich is a reference to the episode of "Red Dwarf" where Rimmer comes back to life for about a minute before being cruelly killed again. At one point he eats a sandwich the gang stole from Adolf Hitler, which happens to be "banana and crisps." Man, that was a good episode.

MILD SPOILER: I had to bring up the Dave Conspiracy because it plays a part in the plot later on. When you do a strip like this for a few years, you start building up a lot of complicated backstory that needs to get reiterated from time to time so people aren't constantly confused. All things considered, it's a good thing Narbonic only ran for six years. Skin Horse is shaping up to be longer than that, and I'm trying hard to keep it coherent.

Lines like, "What do demons care for the laws of Daves?" are what make this comic worthwhile.

That first panel is excellent, especially Helen's expression. She's just delighted that someone enjoys her terrible party.

I love this strip. Dave is so awesome in it. Sadly, Helen will spectacularly fail to follow his good advice.

68 comments:
Sam Ashley (evilmidnightlurker) says:

He is too awesome enough! :)

Anyway, as no less a madgirl than Agatha Heterodyne can confirm, any sufficiently analyzed magic is indistinguishable from SCIENCE!

(It does bring up the question, does Skin Horse handle fallen celestial types?)

Leon Arnott (l) says: Monday:

Once again panel 3 upstages all the others.

If Dave was speaking to a normal person, he would have had to append this whole bizarre spiel with the words "In case it wasn't clear, D&D is real." (Fortunately, very few Narbonic characters are entirely unaware that they're in a webcomic.)
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Almost!
Matthew Mather (madtinkerer) says:

Among other webcomics, I had been reading Sluggy Freelance for almost a decade before I first read Narbonic (which was in it's last six months at the time). The very first Sluggy strip has Riff summoning Satan into his Macintosh. So that the fact that Narbonic mixes "proper" weird science with outright supernatural elements never bothered me. By Sluggy Freelance standards, Narbonic is practically Hard Sci Fi.

See also Ghostbusters, for similar reasons.

Daffyd Wagstaff (lord_killerfish) says:

Actually, I think Narbonic Labs has inadvertantly proven that the afterlife exists, (Spoilers: And will later prove there is a God) using mad science.

Something that mudane science cannot currently do.

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Be Our Guest", Ashman & Menken)

Got six guests!  Got six guests!
And now Helen is impressed!
We've got Artie at this party
And some others, nicely dressed!
Over here's Caliban,
Who has just become a man!
I know Mell was here at one point
And there's Seth, who came at gunpoint!
We've got drinks, we've got chips,
We've got avocado dips,
We've got teriyaki boneless chicken breasts!
So grab a Sprite or Coke, it's time for karaoke!
Got six guests, got six guests, got six guests!

David Harmon (mental_mouse) says:

Agreed, when you've already had a doomsday machine built from junk, a supergenius gerbil, a zombie, a (drunken) robot/car, a mile-high holographic ultimatum, a Transmogrification Gun, sex-change mints, and personality sprites that can hear other people's sprites... well, a  stray demon fits right into the madness.

Besides, there's no sense raving over spilled ichor!

David Harmon (mental_mouse) says:

Ed:  Over here's Caliban, Who has just become a man!

Spoiler warning:  Not yet he hasn't...  ;-)

I like Caliban's cross-eyed introduction to becoming a gerbil perch.

 

Sarah T (sarahtea) says:

I like the supernatural elements. It makes sense - Helen is dabbling in God's domain! So what does God have to say about it?

(Actually nothing, because Mell kicks him in the nuts. I thought that was hilarious.)

This guy I know (thisguy) says:

Love the Caliban/Artie interaction in the last panel! Caliban's expression is so, er, expressive. "Why do I suddenly have a talking gerbil on my head?"

Ed: Bravo! Quite catchy. I somehow skipped the line where you identified the tune but found myself humming the right song anyway. But really... Coke/karaoke? Ow. (Okay, I'll admit it--I loved it. More, please?)

Dave Van Domelen (dvandom) says: Well, he has demonic scorn, so he's well suited for his eventual job.
Joyce Melton (halfelven) says:

Sammitches!

Chris Reed (animeraider) says:

Wim Wenders would be proud.

James Rice (jhrice) says:

I would think that at least one of Mell's gun contacts could get Caliban a nearly valid ID.   Either that or Artie could forge one up.

So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Wait, you mean he didn't before?
Sam Ashley (evilmidnightlurker) says:

@soitbegins: It's like Artie and color vision, only more so.  Caliban had some way of perceiving the world without a physical brain and nervous system... and this is different.  And, apparently, way more intense.

Leon Arnott (l) says: Tuesday:

Those trapped beyond the veil of corporeality are quite regularly ensorceled by otherwise mundane Earth-bound delights, with taste in particular being a treasure beyond all reckoning. Sadly, it's times like these that I wish I could call forth literary references that are a bit more classy than Red Dwarf and Pirates of the Caribbean.
(N-not that I'm just trying to impress people here, of course.)
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

He could always go to work for the United States Senses Bureau.  Counting humans *by* decade instead of humans that *are* decayed.

David Harmon (mental_mouse) says:

Well, he does later get a job tending to a notable human addiction!

Daffyd Wagstaff (lord_killerfish) says:

If he thinks that tastes good, just wait until he tries ostrich or kangaroo!

...

What? I like exotic meats!

Diane Castle (deecee) says:

@Leon: I was thinking about the Auditors of Reality.  The sensation of taste is so acute you can kill them with chocolate.

John Campbell (jcampbel) says:

Panel 3 is just begging to be a loldemon.

Sam Ashley (evilmidnightlurker) says:

At least it's not a rogue vindaloo... or yogurt...

Yogurt vindaloo?

Kay Gilbert (kaygilbert) says:

Yes, but it can't top the episode with the Rimmer ride.  The song still haunts my dreams:
He's Arnold, Arnold, Arnold Rimmer
Without him life would be much grimmer
He's handsome, trim, and no-one's slimmer
He will never need a Zimmer

So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Heh. Or Marmite!
Leon Arnott (l) says: Wednesday:

While it may be quite sufficient at containing several of the 5 basic tastes, I'm hard-pressed to imagine anyone finding this palatable.

I'm also quite alarmed that Helen is now increasingly likely to be the sort of person who shoves French fries into their burgers before eating - a sort of person for whom I have large quantities of extremely irrational loathing.
Daffyd Wagstaff (lord_killerfish) says:

Eh, it's no worse then putting a hash brown on top of a fried chicken fillet ...

 

Jeffrey Channing Wells (channing) says: I've always been curious about the egg, chili and chutney sandwich that Lister favored, at least until the writers decided it was funnier if all he ate was curry all the time.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Matchmaker, Matchmaker", Bock & Harnick)

Sandwiches, sandwiches,
I will prepare!
Beyond compare!
You'd best beware!
Beside the seaside,
A picnic we'll share,
While eating sandwiches there! **

So first, we start with some Pringles!
And then, we add banana or cuke!
On top, we'll put some Kraft singles!
This dagwood, I brag, would make maggots puke!

Sandwiches, sandwiches,
Yummy as dirt!
Things I'll insert!
What's for dessert?
Cooking, while looking so sexy, it's true,
Is easy to do!
Do it with ease!
I'm asking you,
Try a bite, please!
While I order out ... Chinese!


(** Get it?  "Eating sand which is there"?  Heeee, I kill me ...)

David Harmon (mental_mouse) says:

That "banana and potato chip" filling looks alarmingly dark!

Peni Griffin (penig) says:

The probably goes along with his British accent.  In England, they have this thing called a "chip butty," which is made in this way:

Split plain white roll.  Butter each side.

Fill with "chips" (i.e. hot salty greasy French fries).

Eat.  Retain water and gain weight without any nutritional benefit to speak of.  (Though the potato is the nearly perfect food, nutritionally, and peeling, frying, and salting it does not remove quite every vestige of good you can get out of it.)

At least banana and potato chip, on what looks like it might by ciabatta, will have flavor and texture variety, with some vitamins and minerals in the banana.

Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says:

Leon, it was already obvious we could never be friends, but as a Pittsburgh native I cannot countenance the inability to appreciate the supreme culinary achievement of the Pittsburgh sandwich.

We have also developed a thing called the Pittsburgh salad. French fries in salad. Take that, Alice Waters!
Mike Kozar (mikekozar) says:

Shannon:  Is that... is that corned beef with french fries and sauerkraut on it?  I'm honestly a little misty.  That is freaking genius.  Rollerskates-for-giraffes genius.

 

Damn it, now I'm going to have to leave the house today.

Sam Ashley (evilmidnightlurker) says:

Cole slaw, not sauerkraut.  Which takes it from genius to a horrific crime against nature and mad science alike. :(

Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says:

There's a restaurant near my aunt's house in Regent Square that has a menu section for "Salads" and another, much smaller section for "Vegetarian Salads." That tells you all you need to know about the genius of Pittsburgh cuisine.
Sam Daniel (samhdaniel) says:

@Ed:  Kill yourself slowly, some of the rest of us would like to help....

Sam Daniel (samhdaniel) says:

@evilmidnightlurker:  My brother lives in Pittsburgh. I have it on his authority that each of the Primanti Bros. locations is worshipped by the locals as holy.... Woe betide you if you should offend them.

Andrew Cole (andy4hire) says:

@Shaenon, et al.:  I used to like bringing to family and friends gifts of foods that were characteristic of wherever I was living at the time.  Not so since I moved to Pittsburgh.  I like the Pittsburgh-specific foods, mind you, including and perhaps especially Primanti Bros. sandwiches.  But transporting them safely for a nine-hour car ride is a challenge, because there aren't any Pittsburgh-specific foods that don't involve copious amounts of meat.

(It's a slightly different phenomenon from when I lived in North Carolina and routinely found macaroni and cheese listed on restaurant menus under "Vegetables.")

Paul Anderson (pmanderson) says: Ah, that may explain a certain FDA regulation of some years ago; they weren't ignorant of nutrition, they were just speaking a foreign language.
Mike Kozar (mikekozar) says:

. . .also Helen objecting to necromancy for reasons of fashion is amusing on several levels.

Chris Reed (animeraider) says:

I have always loved Helen's line in that last panel...

Sam Ashley (evilmidnightlurker) says:

That's the cool thing about webcomics, though; the archives are usually right there, so a link or five may be all one needs.

And is it wrong of me to want to see Helen in some of those outfits? :)

Daffyd Wagstaff (lord_killerfish) says:

If I remember correctly, Shaenon once made some suplimental stuff for the Narbonic RPG, stating that necromancers where shy and retiring and dressed like librarians.

Helen's not objecting because necromancer's outfits show off too much, but because they don't show off enough! :D

Leon Arnott (l) says: Thursday:

Something peculiar about Helen's secret subterranean 'stablishment, compared to many others in the field, is how cozily lit its various nefarious chambers are. There are relatively few places where you can wallow in regret in front of an immaculately inked black wall - so I can't go without lauding the effective visual contrast it creates for our two speakers in panels 1 to 3.

(Though, I can't quite tell if Dave's leaning on a flat door or some sort of smooth cylinder.)
Sam Ashley (evilmidnightlurker) says:

@Daffyd: Librarian Helen?  Yes please!

So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Heh.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Tiny Dancer", Elton John)

Caliban ... had a plan
Quickly to depart!
Said, "Oh well ... I'll leave Hell,
And make a brand-new start!"
Fell to Earth ... painful birth,
He's had a change of heart!
Now he'll see ... mortality
Just isn't very smart!

And Helen said, "I don't bug the dead!"
Oh those scowls, and heavy cowls!
Wearing robes, so big and bulky,
They look so gloomy, sulky ...

Summon ghosts, you're necromancer!
Find the souls that wander aimless,
Evil shades at your command, but
Have you seen the way they dress?

Jon Stout (brasswatchman) says: That's also an awesome punchline.
N B (davecloneseven) says:

So does raising Dave from the dead count as unlicensed necromancy, or somehow something other than 'dabbling'?

Paul Anderson (pmanderson) says: @Leon Arnett: Looks to me like a square vertical pipe; there's a junction over his head in panel 4.
Jon Stout (brasswatchman) says: @NB - that's not necromancy, that's SCIENCE! Big difference, obviously.
John Campbell (jcampbel) says:

I'm reminded of the Brust novel in which a character accused of dabbling in forbidden magics replies, "Oh, no. I never dabble."

This guy I know (thisguy) says:

That's great news about Skin Horse! I was pleased as punch and expecting great things when I saw the first outlines of a larger storyline appearing--until I realized that meant S&J most likely had a definite end in mind as well. I got over it (partly due to Narbonic's fine example of how it was totally worth it), but it's still good to know that we've got quite some time yet. :)

Also, you know Dave has really embraced the whole "evil" thing when he feels free to berate his employer for not doing enough business with Hell.

Dave Van Domelen (dvandom) says: Mmmm, pleasures of the flesh.
Cat Bascle (mage_cat) says:

I just love how casual Mel is in this strip.

Daffyd Wagstaff (lord_killerfish) says:

@Catherine: Mell is always casual. Being Mell is a way of life where getting surprised easily results in wasted ammo. As such Mell has to "keep frosty" about almost every aspect of life from interacting with Demons to recruiting unsuspecting Daves as IT technicians/Guinea pigs.

Leon Arnott (l) says: Friday:

Cal really needn't dash so hastily. She clearly said brass horns - it's just the last member of the mariachi band.

Off-panel head inserts: 20.
Johnn Reynolds (sleepyjohn) says:

Alive, dead, undead, or reconstituted, sammiches are the best!

Side note: Shaenon, the next time you feel guilty about oversized word balloons, remember http://comics.com/peanuts/2010-08-06/

 

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Carolina In The Morning", Walter Donaldson & Gus Kahn)

Helen Narbon's seemin'
To be dining with a demon
At the pa-a-arty!
Nothing could better than
To share a snack with Caliban
And A-a-artie!

Demon has a sandwich,
He couldn't taste before!
Helen lends a hand, which
I hope's a metaphor!

Then a stranger comes, alas,
A burly guy with horns of brass,
He's twelve-four!
Caliban, he didn't say
Exactly what he ran away
From Hell for!

Caliban some panic and some fearfulness showed!
He'll grab another sandwich and he's hittin' the road!
Fleeing Hell's invasion,
Though they had no invitation
To the pa-a-arty!

Maricruz Villalobos-Zamora (maki_p) says:

And my favorite line of the storyline! I love someone using the term: "pleasure of the flesh" to refer to sandwiches

Carl Fishman (carlfishman) says:

@maki p; Sorta like the OT referring to a pot of stew as a "fleshpot".

Cat Bascle (mage_cat) says:

@lord killerfish: Well yes, but that doesn't mean I stop finding it funny.  Outrageous statements made in an offhand tone is my favorite brand of humor.

Mark Chapman (aardvark86) says:

I love that Helen pronounces "horn-ed" as a 2 syllable word in the proper sppoky fashion :)

Leon Arnott (l) says: Saturday:

A not insignficant amount of plot-significant reality-threatening events in this webcomic occur in toilets - let's think back to both Unstuck in Time and Gender Swap. Obviously this is because of the toilet's unique and convenient properties as a secluded off-stage location to which characters can be sent at almost any time to make a discovery without interrupting the flow of the plot.
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Heh.
Daffyd Wagstaff (lord_killerfish) says:

@Catherine: I actually agree with you. My family has only just got used to me walking into a room and calmly stating  "You all will fall before the might of my robo-chimp army!" And please feel free to call me Daffyd, as everyone else here does. It's surprisingly refreshing to be called by my birth name as opposed to my real name.

Saturday's comic: Yeah, fishnets are not really a good choice for complex lab work involving chemicals.

Tiff Hudson (tiff_hudson) says:

The bathroom, as a literary device, is like Storage Room C, but without a lock on the door.

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Margaritaville", Jimmy Buffet)

Where'd Caliban go?
Seems like he might know
Something about these guys at the door ...
A portal to Hades
Appeared in the ladies',
And there's some demons screamin' for gore!

Looks like some crashers coming to the party now!
See the demons and devils and stuff!
If we send Mell,
Then she can just give 'em Hell!
They'll say "Thanks ... but we've got enough!"

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