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Smithson Thus Far... ·


I wrote this strip pretty late, which is how I was able to provide a schedule of everything in the rest of the storyline. Man, was I ever tired of drawing Lovelace by the end of all this.

Helen is a little on edge throughout this storyline. She's all jealous about Dave and Lovelace, of course, but she's got other projects going on too. You know how it is.

The mad scientists in the first panel are from Casey and Andy and Jason Shiga's awesome, awesome, awesome comic Meanwhile, now available as a totally professional hardcover book that you should read.

I like Dave's little smile in the last panel. He thinks this behavior is cute. Poor guy.

Oh, and hey! Today's my birthday!

I don't remember who the all characters in the first panel are--a little help, please?--but the guy in the third panel looks a lot like my friend Jason Shiga, the maddest real-life mad genius I know. Dr. K. is, if I remember correctly, the scientist in Shiga's comic Meanwhile, and "Jimmy" is the standard name he uses for most of his protagonists.

"Meathook" is a funny word.

Dr. Thesiger is named after Ernest Thesiger, who played all-time platinum-level champion mad scientist Dr. Pretorius in Bride of Frankenstein. In reality, both Thesiger and his character were totally totally gay.

The influence of Total Recall is felt more than once over the course of Narbonic.

This came out of discussions on the message board. You'll notice I got really lazy about drawing the crowd scenes by the end of this week.

JP Chabot (speedball) says:

Is that why you went with the "beautiful hologram woman" version of her later?

So It Begins (soitbegins) says: And here comes the cat out of the bag.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

If Lovelace had wheels and could roll herself around ... I keep getting these mental images of her trying to take the elevator ... Lovelace and Dave strolling down the street hand-in-cable ... having an intimate conversation (betcha didn't know Dave could make sexual innuendos in Ada, now didja?)

Bo Lindbergh (blgl) says: The Ada specification is full of terms like "rendezvous", "entry declaration", and "accept statement", so it's very suitable for that.
Sam Daniel (samhdaniel) says:

Madblood did a good job of removing the dent, I see....

Leon Arnott (l) says: Tuesday:

Lovestruck Dave is so naive. It's painfully obvious that she's finally lost out to her overpowering goatee fetish, and she and Madblood are rending the bedsheets as we speak. He needs to read between the lines of yesterday's episode.

But seriously, he should know that starting a romance query with "You're a woman" would most likely not lead to a satisfying answer.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Knock Three Times", Tony Orlando & Dawn)

Helen, you're a woman, so please
Tell me what's wrong with the tactics that I have been using?
There's a girl who just might love me
In the hotel room above me!
But she won't meet me!
It's all so completely

(Helen tells me)
"Dave, right now
There's a roomful who will ask me
If Mom inspires
The career that I've had!
(Man, it kills me!)
And somehow,
I've been upstaged by Tinasky!"
Artie inquires,
"Why are lab rats so bad?"

Elaine Corvidae (elaine_corvidae) says:

At least he didn't say "You're a woman, aren't you?" So it could have been worse.

I have to admit that the final panel always makes me laugh, if only because I've been at enough symposiums to know that alcohol is always a high priority for the attendees, for whatever reason.

Grant McCormick (grantcmccormick) says:

I really like Artie's expression in the last panel.

True story: I work for one of the smaller of the national cable tv and internet companies.  Sometimes, when I'm prepping a client for an appointment of some sort (trouble call, installation, whatever), I'll say something like: "— And if you have any dogs or cats or killer gerbils that might eat our tech, please have them confined.  That's an embarrassing way to lose techs."  That usually gets a laugh.

Something about Artie's expression just made me think of this.

Kay Gilbert (kaygilbert) says:

Happy day, Shaenon!  I hope you have a wonderful celebration planned.

Leon Arnott (l) says: Wednesday:

Dave's right - this is a very cute strip. Helen is so shy about lording over him.

P.S: I can barely recognise Casey without his silly spike.
P.P.S: Many happy returns.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "The Army Goes Rolling Along")

Give a shout!  Give a cheer!
Shaenon's made another year!
The cartoonist of Narbonic fame!

She draws blood!  She draws gore!
She draws gerbils by the score!
The cartoonist of Narbonic fame!

For it's draw!  Scan!  Post!
Then we'll raise a glass and toast ...
Hey, last year's song was just the same!
So let's please retire
This song, 'cause we admire
The cartoonist of Narbonic fame!

P. Ipsum (vitupera) says:

Happy birthday!  Thanks for all the wonderful comics!  ^_^

Brian Bogue (badbear) says:

Happy Birthday!

Mary Potts (queenofcapes) says:

Happy Birthday!!!

Casey Grimm (caseyg) says:

Happy Birthday!


(Doctor X)

Johnn Reynolds (sleepyjohn) says:

Happy Birthday!  I'd do a cake, but I don't know how many candles to add for the time-loops.

Sam Daniel (samhdaniel) says:

Happy Birthday and thanks for all the laughs....

Justin Kane (avatarjk137) says:

Happy birthday, Shaenon!

Andrew Cole (andy4hire) says:

Happy Birthday, Shaenon!

Also, as much as this is a great strip anyway, which it most certainly is, I agree with grantcmccormick: Artie's expression in the fourth panel is breathtakingly awesome.

Vlad Taltos (flyingfish) says:

Have a happy mad science-like birthday! *gets out the fusion candles for the cake*

This guy I know (thisguy) says:

Whaddaya mean "thinks" it's cute? It's downright adorable!

Happy Birthday, Shaenon!

Q. Pheevr (q-pheevr) says:

Happy birthday!

Zhou Fang (fhnuzoag) says:

Meanwhile is indeed a fantastic comic. Also related to birthdays. Which you should have a happy one of. See what I did there?

Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says:

Thanks, everybody. I am indeed having a happy birthday.
John Campbell (jcampbel) says:

Happy birthday, Shaenon!

Is anyone else kind of weirded out by Casey Grimm (who I'm assuming is, in fact, that Casey Grimm) commenting under this strip in particular? I think it warped my metalevel discriminator.

Bo Lindbergh (blgl) says: Kevyn Andreyasn from Schlock Mercenary.
Sam Ashley (evilmidnightlurker) says:

This strip always makes me wonder about neutral mad scientists.  Does the disorder force you toward a moral extreme, or can you express madness in some other way?

The Tinasky study also holds my interest.  Dave remained apparently sane for several years while doing mad science.  Once he knew the truth his powers improved and his sanity imploded, but the revelation was sudden and came at a bad time -- what if he'd been eased into it?  Could there be such an oxymoronic being as a sane mad scientist?

Eddddd theawsome (eddddd) says:


In Girl Genius, Agatha eases into becoming a mad scinetist because of a device that supresses her mad science-ness. When the device is removed she becomes a full mad scientist without the sudden destruction of sanity.

However, agatha still wouldn't exactly qualify as any more sane than you "aveag" mad scientist

Eddddd theawsome (eddddd) says:


your average mad scientist

not aveag, sorry

Adam Underfoot (unnatural20) says:

I'm going to cheat and say eyepatch goatee is one of the very many Gavs in Shlock Mercenary, this one adopting an eyepatch to stand out from the crowd. He's only angry because Kevin, (to his right) is arguing that technically, he has fathered this Gav and in fact all but the very first one.

Pete Bleackley (petethemadscientist) says:

For Good Mad Scientists, what about The Doctor? 11 makes me wonder who's madder - him, Amy, or Steven Moffat?

Leon Arnott (l) says: Thursday:

I have to say, I really like the idea that good genius exists in and fulfills the tropes of children's edutainment programming.

However, I don't know about you, but "Space-Time Ossifier" give me a mild disquieting feeling.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

@Adam U - I think eyepatch-and-goatee guy look more like Dr. Schlock from Sluggy Freelance.

Hey, why isn't Mr. Peabody here?  He invented a time machine that re-writes history ... would he qualify as a mad dog-ter?  (Except if he defines himself as "mad", he's going to get put down by Animal Control.)

Jon Stout (brasswatchman) says: @Pete - The Doctor might be mad, but I wouldn't call him a "scientist." He's more of a... dabbler in science.
John Campbell (jcampbel) says:

Is that Caprice of A Miracle of Science?

Andrew Barton (andrewandkatebarton) says:

The Doctor can make starnge devices work with only a sonic screwdriver, I think he qualifies as a mad scientist.

'Good' there's some scope for arguing over.  A recent article over at was discussing whether the Doctor is a pacifist.  Ten 'only' committed genocide on two races, and one of them was his own - a very low score compared to some of his other incarnations.

Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says:

When I wrote up the section on good mad scientists for the never-completed Narbonic roleplaying game, my description was transparently based on Doctor Who. Professor Peabody was definitely an inspiration for today's strip.
Jeff Klein (jeffklein) says:

I've long held that both Willy Wonka and the original Doctor Dolittle are good mad scientists. As a scientist, Wonka has a wide range of study (teleportation, shrinking rays, antigravity potions) with a limited scope of application - confectionery! Meanwhile, Dolittle's range of study is much more focused - he used appropriate application of linguistic science to teach himself the languages of animals, keeping copious notes on how he did it, and is entirely motivated by the opportunity to increase his field of study.

This guy I know (thisguy) says:

Willy Wonka a mad scientist? That actually explains a lot. Particularly if you've read the sequel, "The Great Glass Elevator".

I'd classify him as neutral though. I remember him being awfully cavalier about people getting eaten and such.

Sam Daniel (samhdaniel) says:

the guy center bottom in panel 1 is the spitting image of Howard Tayler of Schlock Mercenary fame....

fluffy <3 (fluffy) says:

I'm guessing panel 1 is two of the Kevyns from Schlock Mercenary. Who do bear an uncanny resemblance to Howard Tayler.

They could also be Lore Brand Comics Lore from back when Lore still drew himself skinny.

Norman Thallheimer (normanrt) says:


@petethemadscientist:  Of those three, I'm going to have to go with Steven Moffat.  His work on the Doctor only confirms the madness he showed in Coupling.  This is, after all, the man who brought us Captain Subtext and his Helmet of Truth.


Andrew Farago (andrew) says:

First panel, bottom right corner is probably Dr. Mindbender, of G.I. Joe fame. 

'Nuff said.

Doug Wykstra (dougthehead) says:

@This guy I know:

Yes, he was cavalier about it, but they deserved it.  Willy Wonka classic Chaotic Good (at least the book version.  Gene Wilder's Tunnel of Terror Wonka might be more in the Chaotic Neutral range).

Leon Arnott (l) says: Friday:

This strip is trying very hard to appear classy - perhaps a bit too hard. It took me awhile to remember which part of Total Recall he was referring to. (And then I realised I was a fool, because of course it would be that part.)
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

Who'd want to marry that boob?

David Harmon (mental_mouse) says: Wonka: Mad Science is one way to look at him, I prefer to consider him the Psychopomp on a classic Journey Through the Underworld. That's one reason the backstory implanted into the Depp movie was so grating: A psychopomp is the guide for the hero, they're not supposed to be a protagonist in their own right! (And yes, the Great Glass Elevator continues the journey.)
Elaine Corvidae (elaine_corvidae) says:

I'm ashamed to admit that I never got the joke in this strip, possibly because I haven't seen Total Recall since it first came out in the movie theaters.

OTOH, I completely agree that Dr. Pretorius is the gold standard to which all other mad scientists can only hope to aspire.

Wayne (wayne) says:

Actually, there's a recent Calamities of Nature strip on the Total Recall issue:

Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says:

Willy Wonka is a total mad scientist in the remake, though. I like the scene where Mike Teevee loses his patience at him because Wonka invented a friggin' teleporter and only wants to use it for candy-related purposes.

In the original movie he's just the scariest damn wizard on earth.
Jon Stout (brasswatchman) says: I think I get the reference... What I don't get is where Dave knows Mrs. Thesinger from. Is he just seeing her for the first time now? How does he know her name? Does she have a nametag on? It's just one of those "not quite sure what's going on here" sort of thing.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Saturday:

The only thing this strips needs to be perfect is several more exclamation marks in panel 3. More exclamations = more sarcasm. (It also means mental instability, but given that it's Helen, that meaning is largely redundant.)

I especially love that this strip aligns with Helen's previous anecdote that had Dr. N had her way, she'd have been harvested for organs in her teens.
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: I feel fortunate to know, or believe, that she's probably joking.

Jon Stout (brasswatchman) says: This strip always made me wonder if any of helen's "sisters" might have survived. And what might have become of them.
Sean Duggan (duggansc) says: It's probably only because Dave's in love with Lovelace that he's not imagining a whole bevy of Helens... admittedly, as the control group, they'd lack that mad spark that he truly loves, but hey, curvy blondes!
Jon Stout (brasswatchman) says: @Sean - you forget that mad science is *genetic*. the reason for the control group was to prove that it wasn't environmental - I.e. Helen became mad because she was raised by her mom (not that that didn't play a certain role, I'm sure...). So the control group helens would have still be mad -- they probably would have just taken longer to get there...
Shane Wegner (shanewegner) says:

DarkMode: Was there crying, when Dr. Narbon came for them? Did they beg? Were they in denial? Did she engage in her penchant for torture as she dissected them?

Philosophy Mode: Even supposing you weren't a mean mad scientist, this gets into Cloning Rights.. .a little bit. I don't have any problem with denucleating my cells and rebuilding sweet, new organs with them. If they begged for mercy before they turned into my new liver or whatever, I would be deaf to their pleas. However, comma, allowing such cells to achieve sentience before dissecting them does seem kinda mean. I guess Power justifies it though, in its own perverse way.

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