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So here's Artie's human form, which Andrew insists on calling "Man-Artie." I wasn't very good at drawing him yet, which is funny, because I'd been practicing for years. Originally his appearance was based loosely on my friend, cartoonist Keith Knight, and you can tell how long ago that was because it was back when Keith still had dreadlocks. The design changed a lot over time.

By the time this strip ran, Human!Artie had already appeared, under an assumed name, in the first Li'l Mell storyline, drawn first by Vera Brosgol and then by Bill Mudron. When people in the Li'l Mell comments started saying that he was hot, I realized that absurd good looks should be part of Artie's human presentation package. It just got more exaggerated over time.

I never told Vera that the guy she was drawing was Artie. I did tell Bill after the storyline was over. I didn't tell anyone else, but one day I was doodling Man-Artie in my notebook and Andrew leaned over my shoulder and said, "That's Artie, isn't it?"

And yes, Artie is six and a half feet tall. He's a big guy. This is one of the few times in Narbonic he doesn't use metric measurements; usually he converts everything to metric in his head, one of his countless minor annoying know-it-all habits.

I wrote this strip really early in the run of Narbonic, after reading Diane Ackerman's A Natural History of the Senses. You can tell it's early because Artie is uncharacteristically snarky.

I drew Artie with dot eyes like this for a while to make them look like his gerbil eyes, but later I gave up and gave him eyes like the other characters have. The characters whose eyes aren't constantly hidden behind glasses, anyway.

Artie of course quotes Kafka's Metamorphosis, because that's the kind of thing he does. There are a few different English translations of the famous first sentence, so I just went with the one I liked best.

The whole concept here is bizarre, but it still puts a smile on my face. I probably went with Ted Koppel because Bloom Country always used to use newscasters' names as punchlines.

I'm sorry, but Dave describing himself as having "frankly raging heterosexuality" never fails to crack me up, even if it's true. This storyline is so great.

In a later strip, Mell also expresses bafflement that Helen designed a body with sex appeal. Helen doesn't strike people as having frankly raging heterosexuality. I had the idea that Helen would be at the peak of her sexual frustration at this point, having gone five years without getting to goink Dave even once, and it comes out in her design for Artie's human body. Like comic-book artist dudes drawing giant boobs on all their female characters.

I also like the big guileless grin Helen has in every panel, just happily surveying her work.

Seriously, this is a great storyline. All kinds of setups finally pay off here. I hope you're enjoying it too.

Okay, I'm starting to get a handle on drawing Artie. He looks pretty good in this strip.

Remember the teleporter remote? That they got at the end of "Demons"? This strip got complicated over the years.

I like it when Dave encourages Helen in her evildoing. He's come so far. It gets me all choked up. In fact, he could even be ready for... Nah. Better wait a couple more weeks.

Helen fussing over Artie is also good. It works well when he's so much bigger than she is.

34 comments:
Sam Ashley (evilmidnightlurker) says:

Artie: the gerbil your gerbil could smell like. :)

Kay Gilbert (kaygilbert) says:

Oooh, I never realized Keith was so cute.  Here he is with dreads: www.bethemedia.com/tableofcontents.htm.

So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Aaaaaaaartie....
Leon Arnott (l) says: Monday:

Artie has actually been ranting for several long minutes now, and Dave has until just now been silently and very frantically assuming that Helen was going to clothe him of her own accord.

Mr. Wells ought to write a fanfic where Artie tries to convert the lab to metric time, and, through a series of unlikely events, unwittingly accelerates the Earth's spin, shortening the day to 10 hours instead of 24.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "In The Mood", The Glenn Miller Orchestra)

Artie now has hairless skin, he's two meters tall!
On two legs he's balancin', afraid he will fall!
Tellin' Helen, "No, this doesn't work!"  She just laughed!
Artie doesn't notice that he's feeling a draft!
Dave won't look at Artie, even though it is rude,
Though human-Artie may be smart, he's in the nude!

Artie's got his tackle there on public display!
Swaying forth-and-back'll cause the fellows dismay!
Seems to be, apparently, he's hung like a mule!
Shaenon, though, won't let us see!  That's really uncool!
On the artist's face, a smile securely is glued,
Because she can invent a man who's in the nude!

   In the nude!  He's got no clothes on!
   In the nude!  His feet have toes on!
   In the nude!  Hear how he goes on!
   Artie raves and rants on, though he has no pants on!

Justin Kane (avatarjk137) says:

I wonder if Artie's recent performance in Narbonic as a borderline Magnificent Bastard qualifies him for Gone Horribly Right.

Mark Steele (sykomantis) says:

I've been wondering this for months now. Where does the convention of having a descriptor followed by an exclamation point before the name of a character to denote a different version of the character come from?

Diane Castle (deecee) says:

@Mark: I think it comes from the fanfic communities.  Yet another thing for which we have to blame them.

Melissa Trible (tamtrible) says:

Justin: I assume you mean his performance in *Skin Horse*?

Sam Daniel (samhdaniel) says:

@eddurd:  Aces!

John Campbell (jcampbel) says:

Artie, you may have just been promoted from "lab animal" to "henchman", but that still doesn't give you any measurable workplace protections. Ask Dave if you don't believe me.

I love Helen's smirk in the last panel.

And, man, Artie's got feet of funny-looking thing down there? Seems a little excessive, Helen. No wonder Dave wants Artie to have pants.

Scott R (nekura) says:

@Mark:

TVtropes has an article about it

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/CharacterizationTags

Dave Van Domelen (dvandom) says: Mark, it comes from toy packaging, specifically a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle line. It'd have things like Sports!Raphael.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Operator", Jim Croce)

Body odor!
There's a distinctive human smell,
But hey, I cannot say that this body has it ...
Artie, have no fear!
We'll just dab behind each ear
With 3-methyl butatonic acid!

Isn't that the way you humans work?
When you are going out,
The social encounters that you call "dating"
Are all designed for attracting a mate, and
You know ...
You fear to be alone,
Although you mask it well
With phoney pheromones
To imitate the smell,
Though it just isn't real!
But that's how you humans deal!

Leon Arnott (l) says: Wednesday:

Helen can finally do that one thing she always wanted to do with Artie: use him as a shield. There were so many situations where she'd have found that useful.
Sam Ashley (evilmidnightlurker) says:

I'm still going with Isaiah Mustafa.

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

Helen could have used his appearance, too, and turned Artie into a complete Koppelganger.

Johnn Reynolds (sleepyjohn) says:

THank heavens it wasn't George Clooney.

craig ferguson (pistonrage) says:

Wow, this puts a whole new spin on what just happened in Skinhorse,  I'm gonna have to go back and reread it in a Ted Koppel voice.

John Campbell (jcampbel) says:

I've used Dave's line in panel 2 in conversation more than once.

Leon Arnott (l) says: Thursday:

Dave wouldn't be so surprised if he found her stash of workbooks... years and years of sketching, planning, refining, researching...
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

Is "raging" the heterosexual equivalent of "flaming"? 

I'm not even going to comment about Dave's saying "had it in you".  Wait, I just did.  Damn.

Will Knight (waknight) says:

Speaking of Helen's frustrations, has Shaenon mentioned Helen's dating history in her commentary yet?  I imagine that it's like Dave's, but with extra madness-induced dating troubles and angst.

Kay Gilbert (kaygilbert) says:

As far as the readers can know, Helen's sexuality—indeed, her entire romantic history—was only theoretical at this point, so it's no wonder that her team was surprised at the evidence of such a . . . robust imagination.

Kay Gilbert (kaygilbert) says:

Oh, and Dave?  If you have to tell people you have "frankly raging heterosexuality," you don't.

Sam Ashley (evilmidnightlurker) says:

My wife finally read my paperback Narbonics (the first three) a few days ago.  Last night she finished speeding through the full archive.

You've got another fan. :)

Matthew Mather (madtinkerer) says:

" This strip got complicated over the years."

I would have just assumed Dave invented it, if Helen didn't. Her degree may be in biology, but it doesn't take a PH.D in biology to adapt a common household gadget designed to control things electronically to something designed to be controlled electronically.

But over-thinking is usually better than under-thinking when it comes to continuity. It could be worse: the writer of Death Note forgot about one of the Death Notes about 2/3 of the way through the manga. (To be fair, at that point in the story the Notes were being swapped around between characters a lot and everyone was playing mind games with everyone else. But at one point everyone just forgets about one of the Notes that should still have been in posession of someone at that time.)

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: The U.S. Air Force Song (aka "Wild Blue Yonder"), Capt. R. M. Crawford)

Off you go, into the te-le-por-ter!
To Brazil, Mother to save!
Though you know, first it was out of order,
Turning me ... into a Dave!

All warmed up!  Go on and climb aboard her!
Artie asks, "Can I decline?"
We say "Heavens, no!"  So off you go!
Off to my Mom's Brazilian lost mine!

Jon W. (kd7sov) says:

Complicated? Surely you jest.

You just have to think fourth-dimensionally. Okay, occasonally fifth.

Sam Daniel (samhdaniel) says:

Cinderella, the clock is ticking towards midnight....

So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Awwwww.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Saturday:

"I'm evil": 7. It's something that doesn't really come naturally to Helen, but she's very diligent. (She should also be reminded that she's trying to prevent the death of a very evil person who has done both her and her henchman a good deal of misfortune. Unless she kills Mom first.)
Joel Brackenbury (mockferret) says:

"Don't gnaw anything!" Is another of my all-time favourite Narbonic lines.

Shane Wegner (shanewegner) says:

He needs a shirt made out of a synthetic material laced with antidote/biological nulling agent that counteracts the poison your mother prefers to coat the spikes in her obuilettes with.

Oh wait, you already gave him one of those. Way to plan ahead, Beta!

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