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Originally, Mell's line in the last panel was, "Well! Same time next year?" I had the whole thing drawn and scanned before I realized that, "Didja pre-reg for next year?" was a better line. I painstakingly pieced it together on Photoshop by cutting and pasting letters from elsewhere in the strip (note, for example, that the capital D in the third panel is the same as the one in the fourth). I do that a lot, actually, but not usually for an entire line of dialogue. Anyway, if you buy the original art for this strip, it will have a different punchline. Word of warning.

Planning this storyline, I always kind of wanted to do a romantic scene where Helen falls asleep on Dave's shoulder on the bus ride home, but I'm just not that mushy. Picture it yourself. Bah humbug.

What are those scrolls Helen is carrying? I have no idea. I guess this is what you had to cart around in the days before Powerpoint.

Helen's still got that "Hang in There, Baby!" gerbil poster. I respect that. Also, that's my old computer Artie is using.

This strip and the previous one have similar punchlines, which always kind of bothered me. I wrote them years apart and they ended up next to each other. But I needed them both, plot-wise, so I kept them in.

Here Helen seems to know, or guess, that a) Artie will live well into the future, regardless of what Dave's time-travel trip previously suggested, and b) when Artie is needed to avert disaster, it'll be because Helen tripped. This is the kind of thing that gives Artie headaches.

This strip and the previous one have similar punchlines, which always kind of bothered me. I wrote them years apart and they ended up next to each other. But I needed them both, plot-wise, so I kept them in.

Here Helen seems to know, or guess, that a) Artie will live well into the future, regardless of what Dave's time-travel trip previously suggested, and b) when Artie is needed to avert disaster, it'll be because Helen tripped. This is the kind of thing that gives Artie headaches.

This strip was written for my father, a structural engineer who works on nuclear submarines. Later I gave Madblood an actual sub, so I guess he just really likes submarines. Which is understandable. Submarines are cool.

Madblood's little model sub looks a lot like the sub in the animated Yellow Submarine, which is sort of your touchstone for cute little cartoon submarines.

I'm very fond of this strip. Madblood doesn't get a lot of vulnerable moments.

I can't remember how or why I came up with the idea of Zeta and ANTONIO SMITH teaming up, but here they are. It ended up being useful later on to have them together. The best part of this strip, though, is that I worked in the word "simoleons." That's an excellent word.

Is this the worst thing Helen does in the entire comic? It may very well be. Damn, Helen.

I like her nightgown, though. It reminds me of the inappropriately foofy nightgowns Elaine always wore on "Seinfeld."

45 comments:
Adam Underfoot (unnatural20) says:

The question mark in panel 4 isn't duplicated from any of the other 3, so it must have been the original one. But, where did the hyphen come from? A decapitated 'i'?
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Day By Day" from the muical "Godspell", Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael Tebelak)

Year by year,
Year by year,
Show those fools and make them fear!
Henchmen we're braining,
Mad science reigning!
So entertaining,
Year by year!

Year by year, year by year,
Con-se-quen-ces are severe!
Revenge we're pledging!
Toward madness edging!
Always pre-reg-ing,
Year by year!

Troy Smith (tcreole) says:

Actually, I think the question mark in panel four is taken from panel one. As for the hyphen, surely nobody means to suggest that Shaenon isn't capable of creating a LINE in photoshop?

Adam Underfoot (unnatural20) says:

I thought that about the question mark at first, but I couldn't resist comparing the two more closely. As it turns out, none of the question marks is quite a perfect match of another. As for "isn't capable of creating a line in photoshop"...

I made a guest comic for a webcomic many moons ago, and as I didn't have a professional-quality font for dialogue, I ripped every letter and punctuation point directly from the original comic's own dialogue. I spent a week scouring the comic's archive, trying to finding just three letters from the font, in underlined form. And then I realized "hey... you can just draw your own line."

In summary, if you're copy-pasting, sometimes you just get in that mindset where adding new things just won't do.
John Campbell (jcampbel) says:

Hmm. Helen hit the vendor room at some point and picked up a bunch of mad-science wall scrolls for the evil lair? (I have no idea what's on mad-science wall scrolls. Famous mad scientists? Mad periodic tables? Ayanami Rei?)

The characters look especially good today.

Carl Fishman (carlfishman) says:

I thought those were big rolled-up blueprints.  Presumably for some sort of Evil Death Machine.

Grant McCormick (grantcmccormick) says:

Well, given events in Skin Horse right "now," it might be by the end of the week, not the end of the year.

So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Shades of 'Flowers for Algernon'?
Leon Arnott (l) says: Tuesday:

This is quite a touching strip, even though it candidly discusses its own uncommon emotional weight. This storyline is really very rewarding, still.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

He's good!  Good, I tell you!  GOOOOOD!!

... I'm sorry, it's just not the same as screaming "EEEVIL!"  It sounds more like the diner scene in "When Harry Met Sally".

Rachel S. (masamage) says:

I love this strip. I love that one can tell how important it is. Agh, it's so good. ;_;

Eric Burns (ericburns) says:

(Admitted SPOILERS) And thus does Artie sow the seeds that will one day endanger the entire world. From this moment comes digital armageddon, potential devastation, heartache and hubris, and naked noble laureates covered in goo.

Even in Skin Horse, I'm waiting for Artie's master plan (for the betterment of all) to accidentally turn Canada into pastry.

Andrew Cole (andy4hire) says:

@shaenon: Y'know, if you were to actually print up copies of that "Hang in There, Baby!" gerbil poster, I bet you could sell 'em pretty easily....

David Harmon (mental_mouse) says: Mad scientists in the real world
David Harmon (mental_mouse) says: Re: poster: Of course, the gerbil should be hanging over some suitably bizarre Certain Doom...
Jon Stout (brasswatchman) says: (More SPOILERS) The other Interesting thing here is - when the year's over, Helen will have solved exactly one of the two problems Artie brings up here. It's just not the problem he *asked* her to solve. There's something very... Helen in that.
John Campbell (jcampbel) says:

An entire Canada-worth of pastry? I can't see how that could possibly be a bad thing.

Leon Arnott (l) says: Wednesday:

Say, is Helen invoking a genre-specific narrative law that says that evil characters naturally tend toward their doom during any sufficiently climactic event, and openly acknowledging it as a quantifiable condition of reality? That's pretty bold of her. Previously Artie was only being melodramatic when he declared himself cursed to have his every deed foiled.
Matthew Mather (madtinkerer) says:

" is Helen invoking a genre-specific narrative law that says that evil characters naturally tend toward their doom during any sufficiently climactic event, and openly acknowledging it as a quantifiable condition of reality?"

I'd say she's invoking a scientifically proven law of the Narboniverse. She has studied the subject extensively, after all.

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

Artie's last line still makes me giggle.  It's true, his mental (and eventually physical) prowess are formidable ... but it's still funny.

David Harmon (mental_mouse) says: Also, (spoiler) as it turns out, it won't be age that's the key threat to Artie's health. Leon: Helen is dangerously genre-savvy. So are several other characters, notably Titus. (And nevermind H.T. -- even before reading today's SH, Artie is not acting like someone in fear for his life.)
Jon Stout (brasswatchman) says: This is kind of a sweet strip in a lot of ways. It also shows Helen's strange sense of morality - oh, she's evil, she knows she's evil, born and bred. But she *knows* that she's evil - or, put it another way, she retains a sense of morality even if she's not really bound to follow it. Once again, it makes her an interesting character.
Rachel S. (masamage) says:

I love Artie vowing to fight Helen. It's sad and funny and sweet and awesome, and the punchline feels very different from yesterday's to me.

ming young (youngbee211) says:

 

Kay Gilbert (kaygilbert) says:

Sad Madblood is sad.

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

Yeah, it's obvious, but somebody has to ...

(TUNE: "Yellow Submarine", The Beatles)

In a se-cret evil lair,
Lives a man, who's smart and mean!
Spends his Fri-day nights in there,
Building little ... submarines!

Keeps the lone-li-ness away ...
Has two hundred ... and fourteen!
As he whiles his time away
Building little ... submarines!

    Madblood's building a little submarine,
    Little submarine, little submarine!
    He's installing a storm door with a screen
    On his submarine, little submarine!

Wayne (wayne) says:

Don't forget Thomas Dolby's One of our Submarins is Missing, could save it for the reveal of the big one.

Rachel (admiralshazbot) says:

I think this is my favorite dialogue in all of Narbonic. I only wish Lovelace had a way to express emotion through facial expression at this point, because the last panel would be even funnier if Lovelace were responding silently to Madblood before he said "I have 214 of these."

Pete (westrider) says:

This is another of my favorites from Narbonic. I go for Warhammer 40K kits instead of Submarines, but the principle is the same.

Mark Temple (mithril) says:

at least this spambot was short and polite. :P

i love how human this makes madblood. it would be real tempting to just let him be a slightly inept but evil madscientist. instead we get madblood, the sensitive loser who plots to take over the world -because he's lonely-. i love it. that would also help explain why his robot army not only looked exactly like him, but were quite erudite and intellegent. he doesn't have freinds, so he tried to build his own.

D. Connolly (theogrin) says:

Somewhere, Wil Wright's development team scratches their heads, trying to find a way to extort money from the sales of Narbonic.

And failing.

So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Zeta looks a bit more stringy than I remember her.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Friday:

While it's well-known that there are many colourful euphemisms for sex, it's often underappreciated how many equally delightful slang terms there are for that altogether more important concept, money. "Simoleons" bespeaks a certain 19th century nostalgic charm, much like one of my other favourites, "spondulicks".
Daibhid Ceannaideach (daibhidc) says:

I prefer the medieval/biblical sound of "lucre". The "filthy" is optional.

"Rhino" is another one with a 19th century feel, and also has a Discworld connection, which is nice. (The currency of the Agatean Empire is the rhinu). And "brass" has a lovely North of England/Industrial Revolution sound to it. "Where there's muck, there's brass".

I also like that 500 pounds is a "monkey", but sadly have never made a transaction involving that kind of money. If I ever do, I'll certainly use it.

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

"Simoleons" is good, but I always liked the simplicity of the term "moolah".  I remember an old cartoon where a couple of city gents helped out a hillbilly, and asked for "a little moolah" in return.  Turns out, his daughter was named "Li'l Moola".

Rex Vivat (sirgarberto) says:

The first time I read this strip I misread "simoleons" (I think I read "simolcons" instead) and thought it was an obscure grammar structure element or something like that. Gave the sentence a different meaning... but I guess it doesn't matter in the end.

Jon Stout (brasswatchman) says: Hey, English majors have to stick together, you know? (Well, that's presuming that Zeta went to college.)
Justin Kane (avatarjk137) says:

So, Ed, in this cartoon the hillbilly gave them his daughter?  Or did he go after them with a shotgun for suggesting such a thing?

Kay Gilbert (kaygilbert) says:

At this point in the story, for Dave, thinking that Madblood was Lovelace is the less-humiliating ooutcome.

So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Worst thing? Not sure.

Is there something adorable about her dozing madschtick? You betcha.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

Now why would Helen be torturing the President with giant leeches?  Heck, why wouldn't she be torturing the President with giant leeches?  You need a reason?!

But, just for s&g, let's assume she trying to get ... oh, I don't know ... the nuclear launch codes?  Then she could launch a combined nuclear-biological attack on some remote country, and create an army of mutant creatures that would obey her every command.  Hey, the Falkland Islands would be perfect!  It's got more sheep than people, and the mutant creatures would willingly follow her, because they're, y'know, sheep.

Rachel S. (masamage) says:

It totally makes sense for her as an evil thing to neglect, since she's in love with him and presumably doesn't anyone else to have him.

Bo Lindbergh (blgl) says: So that week had two Wednesdays?
John Campbell (jcampbel) says:

Maybe the giant leeches are not so much a torture as a means of acquiring Presidential blood samples for Helen's evil mad-scientific purposes.

Daniel Barkalow (iabervon) says:

"Now why would Helen be torturing the President with giant leeches?"

Because Artie insisted that it would be demeaning for her to use the tiny gerbils. In real life, she'd argue with him, but you know how dream logic goes.

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