Shaenon K. Garrity's Comics   || Online Comics · RSS · Creator Profile · Join Mailing List ·
Smithson Thus Far... ·


Obviously, this is one of the strips I wrote early and just waited for an excuse to use. It's one of several strips in this storyline that came out of conversations with Andrew about what a road-trip story ought to entail. Andrew is a student of the ape-themed cinema.

I'm sorry that this got so wordy that it's kind of awkward to read, because I always liked this resolution to the Dave/Bill rivalry. Also, I drew some cool retro-looking gas pumps. I don't know why they got all giant in the last panel.

Zeta probably shouldn't be smoking around all the gasoline. She's as bad as Dave used to be before he never smoked.

This is just a filler strip so I could get a cliffhanger on Saturday, but I hear the dream of the '90s is alive in Portland.

Zeta is quoting Hunter S. Thompson's "The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved," the namesake of this storyline. I wanted to do a Zeta storyline called "Mad Science Is Decadent and Depraved" from early on, and I was thrilled to find a way to give the reference some larger thematic meaning. This is the kind of thing that makes it all worthwhile for me. I enjoy putting all these little puzzle pieces together.

With my art skills at the time, it was really hard to draw that third panel. Hands are hard. I spent a lot of time on it, and, oh well, you can tell what's going on. It'll have to do. On the plus side, I eventually got pretty good at drawing hands, and they don't intimidate me nearly as much now.

Eh, this one doesn't have much of a punchline either, although it's nice that Zeta is also a fan of Oscar Wilde.

Obviously the best part of the strip is the idea of the androids doing Mad Libs, an activity that got me through many long car rides as a kid. We made the two-hour drive from Akron to Pittsburgh every few weekends when I was growing up, to see the extended family and/or because my mom got bored in Akron, and I polished off a lot of Mad Libs and Invisible Ink books. My parents encouraged this because it kept me from reading books, which inevitably made me throw up every twenty minutes. I was not a great traveler.

I had misgivings about doing this particular plot development, but then I was like, what the hell, you only live once. And so it was with many elements of Narbonic.

Drawing in perspective is hard. I've never really figured it out.

Leon Arnott (l) says: Monday:

Zingers: 4. Previously.
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: HA.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Every Which Way But Loose", Eddie Rabbitt)

It seems I've got the kind of life
That doesn't have normal things ...
Being dead, or thrown through time,
That's just what my dumb job brings!
And I ponder, as this story arc
Is coming to an end,
It's like the movie 'bout a trucker
And his wacky primate friend!

'Cause the story ...
Makes anything but sense!
This story makes anything but sense!
My brother turns a vacant eye ...
His weirdness censor's turned on high!
It makes anything but sense ...
I don't mean to give offense,
Our adventures make anything but sense!

Daibhid Ceannaideach (daibhidc) says:


Rachel S. (masamage) says:

Artie, I love you.

E.T. the Eccentric Type (et_the_eccentric_type) says:

You're just like the people at the paper mill.

Joyce Melton (halfelven) says:

La Brey-aa -- where nobody's dreams come troo-ue.

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

Maybe they're not real gas pumps.  They might be giants.

Dave Van Domelen (dvandom) says: They're Plot Pumps.
Adam Underfoot (unnatural20) says:

Tanks aren't big enough, DVD.

Marni Rachmiel (marniferous) says:

The gas pumps are expanding as a prelude to their cigarette-caused explosion, which will happen just after Our Heroes (and therefore the readers) leave the scene. They're just about to blow!

Wayne (wayne) says:

The gas pumps aren't getting bigger, either Dave Baker or Prof. Madblood has secretly dosed them with shrinking gas!

James Rice (jhrice) says:

Look at Zeta's ears in the first panel.  Practically a give away right there.

Diane Castle (deecee) says:

Oh yeah, the dream of the '90s is still alive in Portland OR.  Same for the '80s and '70s and '60s, really.  It's that kind of town.

So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Vinyl on the clerks, or vinyl on the records?
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

It's sad ... Zeta's so young, and already her life is entering its vinyl chapter.

Noah Ramon (bibulb) says:

Damn, but that song is addictive. (And alluring.)

David Harmon (mental_mouse) says:

Ed:  To be followed by madnetic and perhaps digital?

(typo kept on purpose :-) )

John Campbell (jcampbel) says:

Worth noting that Zeta doesn't actually deny belonging with the lunatics and mutants, merely says that it's hard to accept it.

So It Begins (soitbegins) says: So that's where it's from!
Leon Arnott (l) says: Thursday:

The glasses are off. At last she knows who she is, and why she is alive.

(This really is a quite beautiful episode. I guess I can forgive this comic's peculiar eyewear fixation if it naturally leads to iconic moments like this.)
Pete Bleackley (petethemadscientist) says:

Without her glasses, Zeta looks strangely like Caliban.

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "She's Leaving Home", The Beatles)

Now it's Thursday,
We're near the end of the story arc.
Zeta tells Artie she's going away,
As they both search for the right words to say ...

She removes her glasses
And, smiling, quotes from her favorite book.
Hunter S. Thompson's bizzare gonzo prose ...
Smiling at Artie, she knows ...

She ...
    (Somehow, so deep down, she knew)
She finally ...
    (Depraved and decadent, too)
Knows ...
    (She's seen the face of mad science; her own)

She knows her place,
She's at last found the face
She is searching for ...

She finally knows,
Hello ...

Jon W. (kd7sov) says:

@Leon: Peculiar eyewear fixation? I see nothing glasses-related in Narbonic, except for opacity issues that may be metaphorical, that I don't see in my daily life.

And after all, glasses are the default.

John Campbell (jcampbel) says:

If you can't answer it by quoting HST, it doesn't need to be answered.

Is there something peculiar about glasses being the default? I have good eyes, myself - actually a bit better than 20/20 (despite thirty-plus years of my mom telling me I was going to ruin them by staring at CRTs in the dark). This makes me unusual, if not downright unique, among the people I hang out with. There've been more than a few times when I've looked around a room full of people and realized that I was the only one there who wasn't wearing glasses or contacts. Narbonic, it seems to me, is simply mirroring reality.

Adam Underfoot (unnatural20) says:

Most of my friends need glasses for one reason or another- for driving, if nothing else.

David Harmon (mental_mouse) says:

And their Beat ReGeneration figure re-enters the picture....


Kay Gilbert (kaygilbert) says:

tune: "Bad blood," Neil Sedaka

We stopped on the way to Canada
After beating down a bug 'bout the size of Omaha
On finding the Madbloods with time on their hands
I found them the perfect game, there on the magazine stand

Mad (Mad) Libs (Libs)
The 'bots are playing games
They need an adjective and some proper names
Mad (Mad) bloods (bloods)
Will think of funny words
It's like a jammie party full of android nerds

Nar bon nar bon n-n-n-nar bon bon
Nar bon nar bon n-n-n-nar bon bon
Nar bon nar bon n-n-n-nar bon bon
Mad Libs, I'm talking 'bout Mad Libs

Nar bon nar bon n-n-n-nar bon bon
Nar bon nar bon n-n-n-nar bon bon
Nar bon nar bon n-n-n-nar bon bon
Madbloods, I'm occupying Madbloods

Leon Arnott (l) says: Friday:

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

Today's strip, re-written as a Mad Lib, taking words from other comic titles:

DAVE: Laundromat's gassed up.  I got the slingshots some Mad Libs at the --

ARTIE: Dave, may I pack shortly to you for a stick?

ZETA:  Fuzzy?  *sigh*  The only thing more inexplicable than being shifted about, is being shifted about by arcades.

MADBOT: Can you do us a non-adventure?

Dave Van Domelen (dvandom) says: Ed: Sounds like Nick's writing it, and is annoyed.
Pete (westrider) says: I used to always get sick when reading in the car too. It sucked, because nothing else has ever held my attention like reading, so car trips were always totally boring for me.
Dave Van Domelen (dvandom) says: "Is she ever!"
Kay Gilbert (kaygilbert) says:

tune: "More than a woman," Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb & Maurice Gibb (The Bee Gees, Saturday Night Fever, 1977)
Apologies if this bit of cheesy disco detritus becomes an earworm.  I like a lot of disco, but this song embodies everything detestable about the genre (and the movie).  On the other hand, it scanned so well.

Zeta, I know you very well
You seem more like me every day
I never really looked before
But I see you in a new way

I think Dana knew it too
And I guess you must suspect
I don't know how it can be true
But our helices intersect

How did mad science bring you to this place
My sister from another mom
I see it in your eyes, your ears and your face

She's some kind of gerbil
Some kind of gerbil, oh yeah
Some kind of gerbil (ooh, ooh, ooh)
Some kind of gerbil, oh yeah

David Harmon (mental_mouse) says:

Indeed, Dave's followup comment (see you next week!) is even funnier.

Daniel Barkalow (iabervon) says:

"You only live once" is not a sentiment I tend to associate with Narbonic plot developments. I count up to 8 times in the storyline that people violate that statement, depending on what you accept as the same bout of living.

Add a Comment:
Log In or Register to post a comment! It's free!

Tooncast this comic on your own website by copying and pasting this code snippet:
<script language="javascript" src=""></script>
Shaenon Garrity ||    Forum ·  External Homepage ·  Blog · 

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