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This strip ran around the time there was a storyline in the X-Men comics about a "cure" for the mutant gene. I'm kind of impressed that Helen knew that.

Anyway, this turned out pretty nice-looking, with the stars and all. Spot blacks: the secret to good-looking comics. The perfect comic strip would be four totally black panels.

Oh, Artie. You're so clueless. I always enjoyed drawing Helen's embarrassed little crush on Dave.

Helen is apparently capable of seeing Dave's eyes, something none of the rest of us can do. Yet.

I like this strip very much, for the last line and for Helen's lovestruck expressions. She's so cute and so horrifying.

People have noted in the comments that Artie as he currently appears in Skin Horse seems to be considerably more... socially adept than the Artie we see in, for example, this strip. And by "socially adept," I of course mean "apparently he gets laid like whoa." The Artie in Skin Horse is a bit older than the Artie in Narbonic, and he's gotten considerably better at handling people. Not that this is always a good thing. This wasn't intentional, but I notice that as he develops he seems to have more and more of his mother in him.

At this point, Artie could end the whole Helen/Dave romantic tension by telling one of them that the other one loves them. He doesn't, because, well... Artie would say that he has extremely rational reasons for trying to prevent their relationship, which is true, but on a basic level he's kind of squicked out by the whole thing. Helen is his creator, and Dave is his best friend, and it's just weird, is all. Not that Artie's entire experience of humans to this point hasn't been weird.

Helen and Dave both have severe self-esteem problems when it comes to relationships.

There isn't much of a gag in this one, but I needed it for plot and character and stuff. I like to err on the side of funny, but sometimes you just need to set the characters up for future events. Helen's assessment of the situation ends up being important as regards Dave later in the strip. Is that a spoiler? I mean, that's pretty obvious, right?

Helen and Artie are at the hotel bar, waiting for the ice cream Helen demanded they get in the previous strip. They'll have ice cream on Monday. It's a well-stocked bar.

47 comments:
Diane Castle (deecee) says:

Okay, now I'm imagining Ed or Kay writing a filk to "Back in Black".  Make it stop!

Amy Fiori (amy82986) says:

The perfect comic strip (and four runners-up):  http://www.irregularwebcomic.net/comic.php?current=1383&theme=2&dir=next5

Kay Gilbert (kaygilbert) says:

I'm short on time: Ed will have to do the real deal, but here's a mini-filk:
tune: "Paint it black," the Rolling Stones

I see a comic strip, and want to paint it black
I'll add some dots for stars, and then draw Helen's back
I like the way she looks against a sky so dark
Spot black makes comics pop, it adds that certain spark

Hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm-hmm
Paint it black!

Adam Underfoot (unnatural20) says: @Amy Oh well done. Your comic retrieval-fu is greater than mine.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Monday:

The spot blacks are indeed employed at a good time, when the balance of the webcomic's central dynamic has been irrevocably altered. Even while Dave was dead and partially dead, the most we got were spot gray MS Paint fills. This is different. This is serious.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

@deecee: As Mel Brook's character said in "The Muppen Movie", "If I can inflict a little pain during the afternoon, I sleep good at night."   Here you go ...

(TUNE: "Back In Black", AC/DC)

Background's black!
There's Helen's back!
She's talking to Artie, who's taken aback!
Now she ... looks sad,
'Cause she had
A cure for the pure neurological mad!
Don't know if it'd save
That techie named Dave
From becoming a genius who'd gibber and rave!
As Helen plots,
The readers see lots
Of black in the background with little white dots!

And it's black
(Background's black)
In the back
(Black in back)
Yes it's bla-a-ack in the ba-a-a-ack!
If you look in back,
Well, the background's black!

Diane Castle (deecee) says:

Ed, that was awesome.  You're my hero.  And not in an "Everyday Heroes" way.

Kay Gilbert (kaygilbert) says:

Ed, you're my hero, too.  Every day.

John Campbell (jcampbel) says:

Helen is studying Dave's mental state. Familiarity with X-Men plotlines would seem to be a prerequisite.

Kay Gilbert (kaygilbert) says:

tune: "I will," The Beatles

A mind unique and brilliant
You know that's what I crave
And although I'm messing with it
I've found such a mind in Dave

He may be a mad genius
I may yet find a cure
But if he goes bat-s**t crazy
I'll still want him, that's for sure

Loved him forever and forever
Through all he underwent
To cure his madness I endeavor
With ev'ry experiment

And whether clone or zombie
I think he's strong and brave
All the times I've switched his sex, and
All the cars of his I've wrecked, and
I just hurt him to protect him 'cause I'm
So in love with Dave

La la la la la, la la la la
Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha

JP Chabot (speedball) says:

So was giving Helen a little heart pendant when she's confessing her feeling a deliberate move, or did you just think it'd look cute?

So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Yyyyyyup.
Jon Stout (brasswatchman) says: :D I remember this strip making me grin. Up until now, it wasn't *really* clear if Helen had feelings for Dave or not. (Well. At least not to me.)
Kay Gilbert (kaygilbert) says:

Shaenon: You need to invent a portmanteau that means both cute and horrifying.  Too bad "Hellenic" is taken.  Could "Narbonic" serve?

I have a hard time reconciling innocent little Artie here with the serial-shtupping roué from Skin Horse.  Clearly, he had an interesting few years between strips.

Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says:

Kay: I know, he's so young here. Sigh.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Wednesday:

One other thing I like about this strip is Artie peeking out from under Helen's hair tail thing in panel 3. It bestows a poignant degree of familial intimacy to his ordinary shoulder-perch position - fitting for such a personal conversation.
Kay Gilbert (kaygilbert) says:

@Shaenon: It seems like yesterday that they were just cells in a cryotank, and then, bam! they're all grown up, driving a time machine and having sleepovers with strangers.

So It Begins (soitbegins) says: And there we have it.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

@Kay: How about "adhorrable"?

(TUNE: "It's In His Kiss (The Shoop Shoop Song)", written by Rudy Clark, 1964)

Smart and evil!
Can't you see
What that combination does to me?

(Do you like his eyes?)
They sparkle like the sun!
(And his manly size?)
He's standing six-foot-one!
But the thing that's best,
More than all the rest,
It's just his scream!
(That's what I mean!)

    Oh - oh - oh, kill him ... then dig him up!
    His corpse we'll re-sur-rect!
    Then he's found, when he comes around,
    That his car got wrecked!
    (Again?!)

(Is it in his grin?)
It's such a lovely smile,
And I've felt this way for quite a while,
That the thing that's best,
More than all the rest,
It's just his scream!
(That's what I mean!)

Jon W. (kd7sov) says:

Hey, we can see Dave's eyes. Just not very often. A couple of times you've specifically called attention to the way you framed a panel so as to show his eyes.

Rachel S. (masamage) says:

"serial-shtupping roué"

That is amazing. Ten points to Ravenclaw (or wherever).

Shane Wegner (shanewegner) says:

Speaking of cute/evil, my subconscious completed my request for the Dave/Helen musical themes that are a duet and a fugue depending if they are friendly or not! As a weird bonus today, it worked out a derivative I call "HamsteRampage" that is the hamster's theme. As they are derivative of Helen, their theme is derivative of Helen's theme. (While being faster and more demented for their evil, cute little claws scuttling about, when not riding in stylish cyborgs.)

I need to sketch these out in MIDI next, paper reminder sketches being done already.

Helen's theme sounds cutest in cello.

Kay Gilbert (kaygilbert) says:

I'm most definitely going to work "he gets laid like whoa" into every conversation where it's even remotely possible to do so.

Marni Rachmiel (marniferous) says:

"He gets laid like whoa" needs to be in a filk, for God's sake!

Marni Rachmiel (marniferous) says:

To the tune of "She Loves You" by The Beatles

Helen thinks Dave will go mad
She foresaw it yesterday
She thinks it would be bad
If she drove that Dave insane

Because she loves him
and she knows he will go mad (yeah, yeah, yeah)
Because she loves him
And she thinks madness is bad, yeah!

Now Artie's all upset
It's as if he doesn't know
That in Skin Horse that's not yet
He'll be getting laid like whoa

Yes in the future
he'll be socially adept (yeah, yeah, yeah)
He's transgenic
and not even slightly het - yeah!

She loves him, yeah, yeah, yeah,
He loves him, yeah, yeah, yeah,
We love them, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!

Leon Arnott (l) says: Thursday:

Helen is lucky - for such a socially cloistered individual, she has such a close friend to confide in, who understands her situation perfectly.
Kay Gilbert (kaygilbert) says:

Marni: Brava!  And, again, brava!

So It Begins (soitbegins) says: [snicker] Faux wistfulness...
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

@Marni:  Now, how can I turn down a challenge like that?  :)

(TUNE: "No Particular Place To Go", Chuck Berry)

Artie, on Helen's shoulder ride!
And to each other, they'll confide!
Telling the secrets that they've kept,
'Cause they're both socially inept!
But in the future, the readers know,
That Human!Artie gets laid like whoa!

Helen's fallen in love with Dave!
If she lets go, his mind they'll save!
If the archives you haven't read,
Here comes a spoiler; cover your head!
Soon Dave and Helen's love will grow,
And they'll be having sex like whoa!

Yeah, lotsa people have lotsa sex!
They all end up emotional wrecks!
They cry and curse and fuss and fight ...
But still, it all ends up all right!
It makes an entertaining show,
When ev'rybody gets laid like whoa!

Steve Ford (fordsfords) says:

"I do love him! I was just being dramatic!"  I'm not sure why, but this strip is one of my favorites of the whole run.  Not the funniest, not even the most emotionally deep.  Dunno, I just really really like it.

John Campbell (jcampbel) says:

I'm guessing it probably helped that Artie a) moved out of the lab, thus expanding his social circle beyond two antisocial nerds and a sociopath, and b) acquired his new form, meaning that he's interacting with humans as a human rather than as a small fuzzy critter that everyone ignores either because they can't mentally cope with him talking, or because he's physically incapable of slamming them dramatically against a wall.

David Harmon (mental_mouse) says: Steve: Well, this is when Helen's feelings come out in the open.... Of course, she's still a Mad Scientist, so she will "hurt who she loves"....
Diane Castle (deecee) says:

Kay, this is for you.  I thought it was too obvious to pass up:

(to the tune of "Like Whoa", sung by Aly and AJ  - why yes, I do have teenagers)

Artie's hot I can't complain,
I mean just see those muscles glistening,
His body overwhelms my brain,
And it's all good, good, good.

Now I'm taking my Guccis off,
I know your warned but I just scoff,
He's like a lingering and stubborn cough,
And he feels good, he feels good, he feels good!

Like a roller coaster ride,
Artie's gettin' laid just like
Whoa, whoa!
He's getting laid just like
Whoa, whoa!
Getting laid just like,
Up and down, and side to side,
Artie's getting laid just like
Whoa, whoa!
Getting laid just like
Whoa, whoa!
Getting laid just like
Whoa, whoa!

Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says:

Final notice: 24 hours left on the Narbonic Kickstarter drive!
Kay Gilbert (kaygilbert) says:

Diane: Please tell me you performed your filk for your teens around the dinner table.  That would make me insanely happy.

Kay Gilbert (kaygilbert) says:

This is barely a filk, but I can't improve on Lennon & McCartney, and the song's just about a perfect fit, anyway, all yummy and romantic:
tune: "Do you want to know a secret," The Beatles

You'll never know how much Dave really loves you
He'll never know how much you really care

Listen (ooo ah ooo)
Do you want to know a secret? (ooo ah ooo)
Do you promise not to tell? (whoa oh oh)
Closer (ooo ah ooo)
Let me whisper in your ear (ooo ah ooo)
Say the words you long to hear
Dave's in love with you (ooo ooo ooo ooo)

I've known his secret for a while, you see
Nobody knows, except Dave and me (Titus makes three-ee!)

Listen (ooo ah ooo)
Do you want to know a secret? (ooo ah ooo)
Do you promise not to tell? (whoa oh oh)
Closer (ooo ah ooo)
Let me whisper in your ear (ooo ah ooo)
Say the words you long to hear
Dave's in love with you (ooo ooo ooo ooo)
(Ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo)
(Ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo)
[Resolve to major key, and . . out]

David Harmon (mental_mouse) says: Helen and Dave both have severe self-esteem problems when it comes to relationships. And that's why I for one, identify with them!
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "You're My Soul And My Heart's Inspiration", by The Righteous Brothers)

My feelings do not matter ...
I'm brilliant, but insane ...
I'm madder than a hatter ...
Use my genius for meanness and pain!

Artie,
I'm a monster and maker of monsters!
I'm as inhuman as I can be!
I'm a monster and maker of monsters!
This thing called Love, it's just not for me ...

Jon Stout (brasswatchman) says: Ah. So Artie has the "best friend dating his mom" problem? Out of curiosity, does he eventually come to see Dave as a father figure at all? ... no, wait. Never mind. Forget I asked that.
Mason Kramer (masonlk) says:

It may be well-stocked, but that's not very fast service....

Jon Stout (brasswatchman) says: One of the things I enjoy about Helen as a protagonist is that she's a surprisingly decent person for an evil mastermind. Well, except when she decides not to be, of course.
Jon Stout (brasswatchman) says: Also, spam o'clock.
Kay Gilbert (kaygilbert) says:

Well, of course it's a well-stocked bar; it's being run by a quantum PDA.  Would you expect any less of Dave?  I just hope Titus gets a cut of the profits.

Carl Fishman (carlfishman) says:

Probably the biggest difference between Helen and Helen is that the younger clone is surprisingly decent a good deal of the time, while the older one is much more consistently evil.  And the one factor which seems to have caused this difference is that the younger clone fell in love with Dave.  (Repeat after me; "All you need is love!")  This is a remarkably mushy and romantic moral for such a funny comic!

Doug Wykstra (dougthehead) says:

Where did the "mystery wrapped up in an enigma wrapped up in a ______" gag come from?  I've seen it in a few webcomics.  Is this the first instance of its appearance?

Chris Anthony (besesoth) says:

Doug, the original quotation was Winston Churchill talking about Russian foreign policy in the early days of WWII:

 

"I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma: but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest."

John Dallman (jgd) says:

Doonesbury did once run four successive all-black panels, with speech, thoughts and sound effects, but they weren't all in the same strip. It was brilliant.

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