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I'm really happy with the way this strip came out. That fisheye-lens effect in the second panel is easier than it looks; you just draw wrong.

Just walking up to the front door with a box of wine is probably the only way to get into Dr. Narbon's lair alive. Fortunately for Mell, she usually goes for the direct approach, or maybe she's cleverer than she lets on.

My mom has the original art for this strip hanging in her house. She has light-up flamingos in her yard.

"Beta's little thug" is a pretty good description of Mell. I like Mell's combat/assassin outfit, by the way. She looks good with her hair pulled back, and I love drawing cargo pants with lots of unnecessary pockets. It's that little bit of Rob Liefeld inside each and every one of us.

Dr. Narbon isn't the big-gun type. A small concealed weapon or six, that's more her speed.

This has come up before, but my mother has been a loyal General Hospital viewer since high school and, in the days before you could get reruns on the Soap Opera Network, would freak out hardcore if she was out at 3:00 and it didn't tape. The ordeal of making sure Gen taped looms large in my childhood memories. General Hospital has since become a recurring theme in Skin Horse, as Sweetheart seems to be a fan.

Yeah, so this is another thing my mom does. Every year, she leaves the Christmas tree up a little longer; she now redecorates it in February for Valentine's Day and in March for St. Patrick's Day. I'm trying to convince her to just leave it up year-round and cycle through all the major holidays. It's only a matter of time.

I remember being unhappy with the way the poses in the last panel turned out, but I guess they get the point across okay.

Artie looks completely terrified. This is because Artie is smart.

This strip inspired disturbing speculation on the message board about a possible Mell-Artie-Dr. Narbon three-way. That would be interesting, to say the least, though probably not all that fun for Artie.

In the third panel, Mongor is clobbering Artie with his right fist, but in the next panel he's rubbing his left wrist. I apologize for the serious continuity error.

Moving on from my great shame...

As I've said before, the basic concept for this storyline is extremely old, but it took a long time for it to come together. It was like the "Doppelganger Gambit" storyline: I drew a handful of strips, couldn't figure out a plot for them, and set them aside. With "Doppelganger Gambit," everything suddenly came together when I had the idea of setting the story on the Moon. With this storyline, it came together when I thought of Mongor the Iguana-Man. I don't know why or how this worked, but Mongor is the magic glue in "Battle for the Lost Diamond Mines of Brazil."

Mongor is based on my mother's pet iguana Mongor, now sadly passed on. The name originally came from an evening when Andrew and I were watching the original 1980s miniseries V. After the famous and awesome scene where a teenage girl gives birth to two half-alien babies--one of whom looks human, the other like a reptile--there's a scene where she's taken into the lab to see her babies for the first time. She sees the human baby and says, "I always thought Elizabeth would be a nice name for a girl."

Then she sees the reptile baby, and that's when Andrew said, "And I always thought Mongor would be a nice name for a boy."

Wikipedia informs me that there actually was a character named Mongo in the later V: The Series, so he wasn't far off.

I would have been so sad if I'd gotten through Narbonic without once using the line, "Have the prisoner stripped and sent to my bedchamber!"

45 comments:
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Probably both.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Monday:

All I have to wonder about this scenario is why Dr. N has a peephole in a door situated two inches across from a gigantic clear window.
Wayne (wayne) says:

I used to own a fisheye lens, a 16mm Sigma that covered 180 degrees.  Totally worthless.  But massively cool.

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Let 'Em In", Paul McCartney)

Someone's ringin' on your bell,
Someone's raiding your lair!
It's a henchman name o' Mell,
With her crazy-a** hair!
Look through the peephole,
Open the door ...
She brought wine!

Didn't try a clever ruse
Or some goofy disguise,
There's no ploy that she could use
'Cause you would've been wise!
Let's keep it simple,
Use the front door ...
She brought wine!

     Mama Narbon ... likes your guff!
     She's got pretzels ... chips 'n' stuff!
     How ya been, kid?  Doing fine?
     Find a glass and ... have some wine!

Someone's ringin' on your bell,
Someone came to Brazil!
This assassin, name o' Mell,
On a mission to kill!
Let's have a drink first ...
Open the door ...
She brought wine!

Johnn Reynolds (sleepyjohn) says:

So, what wine goes with bloody-handed mayhem?  I'm thinking a dry white Zinfandel.  Whatever's cheap at BevMo.

Sam Daniel (samhdaniel) says:

Ahh, a box of Ohio's finest, no doubt....

Rob (acoustic_rob) says:

Is that a box of pink wine?  Pink goes with assasinations, right?

Of course, the other way to get into Dr. Narbon's lair alive is using a stolen teleporter that hasn't been invented yet.  But we'll get to that later.

D. Connolly (theogrin) says:

Obviously, that's a box of Franzia rose, perhaps the most enjoyable variety on their oft-enjoyed list of vintage boxen.  Best enjoyed with soda water to drown out the taste to lend a light sparkle to the beverage.  Truly the finest bribe for the assassin-on-the-go.

D. Connolly (theogrin) says:

Classic Mell, but what really /makes/ this strip, for me, is that little exclamation point atop her head in panel 2.  Bonus points go to whoever actually conceptualized the Metal Gear Solid 'alert' noise when they saw that.

Kay Gilbert (kaygilbert) says:

Ah, yes, incontrovertible proof that Unity's brain was cloned from Mell's DNA.

Sam Ashley (evilmidnightlurker) says:

Today: Mell wants, Unity wants.  Synchronicity!

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

I ... I have a little bit of ... *gulp* Rob Liefeld ... inside me??

AAAUGGGHH!!  AAAAAAUUGGHH!!  Get it out get it out get it out get it out get it out get it out!!!!!!!!!!

(TUNE: "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go", Wham!)

(Beta's thug ... Beta's thug ... Beta's thug ... Beta's thug ...)

I came to shoot you right through the heart,
But we got lotsa time, there's no rush to start!
Put a slug into your head,
Goin' bang-bang-bang 'til you're totally dead!

    But I'm distractable, so easily!
    There's so much funky and cool stuff to see!
    You can't bribe me, I'm no fink,
    But I gotta have the thing that's all shiny and pink!

        See that cool flamingo go, oh!
        It's goin' all up and down like a yo-yo!
        See that cool flamingo go, oh!
        I totally want it, could you give to me?
        See that cool flamingo go, oh!
        So much cuter than Sonny Bono!
        If I get flamingo, you know,
        Then I promise to kill ... the Dave Conspiracy!

Justin Kane (avatarjk137) says:

@Kay: at first I didn't believe that, but Mell acts more and more like Unity as the strip goes on.

Rex Vivat (sirgarberto) says:

I kinda wish Unity was sent to Cleveland just to see Artie's reaction at knowing there's a Mell clone...

Diane Castle (deecee) says:

I had that little bit of Rob Liefeld surgically removed back in the 90's, when I realized I was growing a bandolier of pouches on my leg.  As a side result, my feet now look normal again.

Brian Rogers (billionsix) says:

Mell has an odd politeness. I mean, she could just take the flamingo after she kills Dr. Narbon, but no, she asks. Very nice of her.

Kay Gilbert (kaygilbert) says:

@Rex: I kinda wish Unity and Mell would meet, just to see who comes out alive.   Although I'd hate to lose them both in a bout of mutually assured destruction, so we'd first need SALT talks (Superweapon and Assassin Learning Tranquility).  Or just send in something shiny to distract the both.

Carl Fishman (carlfishman) says:

@Kay; Not sure that there's any way that unity could "come out alive", seeing that she's (technically) dead going in.  "Carcass In; Carcass Out", as they say.

Zarathustra's Id (zarathustrasid) says:

"I love drawing cargo pants with lots of unnecessary pockets"

pff, they're all necessary. You're just wearing them wrong

Leon Arnott (l) says: Wednesday:

It makes perfect sense that Dr. N is the sort of super-scientist who simultaneously possesses unparalleled gene-splicing, cloning and death-cheating technology, and owns no TV recording devices newer than VHS. (This in fact becomes a significant detail later in this arc.)
Andrew Cole (andy4hire) says:

But when <SPOILERS> Mell and Artie find the VCR with all those old tapes of Beta and what-not, there's no indication of them taking out a tape that's already in the machine or disrupting Dr. Narbon's taping of General Hospital. Does such an event transpire without acknowledgment in the comic? Does the lair have more than one TV/VCR setup? Is Dr. Narbon's memory faulty, and she didn't set the soaps to tape after all? For the luvva Mike WHAT HAPPENED TO THE TAPING OF GENERAL HOSPITAL? </SPOILERS>

Because, you know, that's clearly the most important thing that happens during this entire storyline. Ahem.

Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says:

Andrew--My mother would agree wholeheartedly.
Andrew Cole (andy4hire) says:

Heh heh. Does Dr. Narbon use VHS? They looked like VHS tapes. 'Cause that means I just now noticed we're talking about VHS tapes of Beta. My day, she is made.

Gabe Krabbe (irishguy) says:

It's St. Paddy's.

Paddy. Not Patty.

Paddy Paddy Paddy.

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Calendar Girl", Neil Sedaka)

You see, you see, you see my holiday tree?
Changes sea-son-al-ly!
You see, you see, you see my holiday tree?
Decorated all through the year!

January:  For the year that's new!
February:  Evil pink hearts, too!
March:  Little shamrocks for St. Patty's Day!
April:  Easter eggs filled with Anthrax/A!

CHORUS:
    Yeah!  Yeah!  It's cute as can be!
    You like, you like, you like my little holiday tree?
    Works for me ... you will see ... fatally!

May:  There are 500 ways to die!
June:  Start of summer, so the heat rays fry!
July:  Independent killer branches grip!
August:  There's no holiday, it's such a rip!
    (repeat CHORUS)

September:  Labor Day, gotta work your way free!
October:  Halloween, bleed so prettily!
November:  Killer zombie turkeys make you scream!
December:  Little Beta gets her "Bio-Beam"!
    (repeat CHORUS)

You see, you see, you see my holiday tree?
Dead-ly as it can be!
You see, you see, you see my holiday tree?
Dead-ly as it can be ...
    (music dies out as you do ...)

Tiff Hudson (tiff_hudson) says:

My mom put an artificial tree on a rolling platform and glued the ornament hooks onto the tree so they wouldn't slip. After Christmas, she rolled it into a close for next year. Setting up the tree took 3 minutes.

Pete (westrider) says:

A couple years ago, I was over at some friends' place in mid-January. They'd gotten their first Christmas Tree of their own that year, and still had it up. I made some joke referencing this strip, and Luke said: "Dude, don't even joke about it. My mom actually does that."

If you used a fake tree, leaving it up all year and re-decorating could probably actually work out pretty well.

Sam Ashley (evilmidnightlurker) says:

If Artie was bi, I could see a Mell-Caliban-Artie relationship.

Leon Arnott (l) says: Friday:

Dr. N looks too much like she's holding that gun like it's a remote control.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "I Won't Back Down", Tom Petty)

He's a stone-cold babe!  What a stone-cold babe!
I can stare a lot
At a guy this hot,
He's a stone-cold babe!

He says "Break.  It.  Up.
Villains, break.  It.  Up."
With a pair of guns
And some rock-hard buns ...
Like a frightened pup,
He says "Break.  It.  Up."

    (A stone-cold babe)
    Hey, ladies!  That ain't no way to behave!
    (A stone-cold babe)
    He-ey ... now the world he'll save ...
    He's a stone-cold-babe!

Dave Van Domelen (dvandom) says: And it'd probably drive him to teh gay even faster....
Andrew Cole (andy4hire) says:

I love how the best facial expression Artie can manage for his Big Damn Entrance into this scene is sheer deer-in-headlights panic.

Maricruz Villalobos-Zamora (maki_p) says:

I've always loved how Artie looks like he has no clue what's he's doing here. It's so adorable

Andrew Cole (andy4hire) says:

On a side note, as much as I like the spam-free comment threads now, I do kind of miss being able to respond to comments other people have made without having to wait for a moderator to get through with them first.

Kay Gilbert (kaygilbert) says:

            "Have the prisoner stripped and sent to my bedchamber!" is a great line.  I'm just sorry she didn't follow through, just to see the hilarity—and mayhem—that would have ensued.
            Yesterday, Andrew Cole said "as much as I like the spam-free comment threads [I] miss being able to respond to . . . other people . . . without having to wait for a moderator."  I share his annoyance, but the spam was so excessive that I think it's worth the trade-off, absent a better alternative.  In fact, I'd like to see moderated comments at Skin Horse too, because the status quo is maddening.  I'm curious how other people feel.

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

Mongor the Iguana Man reminds me of Patty and Selma's iguana Jub-Jub, so much so that I have to wonder if middle-aged, single, nominally villainous women and iguanas isn't some sort of trope.
Wayne (wayne) says:

I think I first encountered the 'stipped/bedchamber' line in, IIRC, the movie M*A*S*H, when Hotlips arrives and Hawkeye says "There, that blonde with the fire in her eyes: have her scrubbed and brought to my bedchamber!"  Or something like that.

I always liked that line.

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE:  "Popeye The Sailor Man", Sammy Lerner)

He's Mongor, Iguana-Man!
He helps out as best he can!
He's rough and reptilian,
He's big and Brazilian,
He's Mongor, Iguana-Man!

It's really quite rude
When these heroes intrude
Just to break up our fun attacks!
Although we don't mind 'em
'Cause Mongor's behind 'em
To give 'em Brazilian whacks!

If heroes are hunky and ripped,
They're stripped
And tied to a bed or divan!
They just did the wrong thing
So they get a KLONK-ing
From Mongor, Iguana-Man!

He's Mongor, Iguana-Man!
He's part of Doc Narbon's plan!
He's strong and he's scaly,
He reads "Skin Horse" daily!
He's Mongor, Iguana-Man!

Andrew Cole (andy4hire) says:

"I would have been so sad if I'd gotten through Narbonic without once using the line, 'Have the prisoner stripped and sent to my bedchamber!'"

We all would have, Shaenon, we all would have.

Maricruz Villalobos-Zamora (maki_p) says:

I forgot how funny this strip was!

Diane Castle (deecee) says:

Okay, I confess.  I don't care about the moderator issue (in part, from having to handle moderator duties elsewhere).  I just want to be able to read filks from Kay and Ed (and Nate, if he comes back) and the witty commentary.

Although "And I always thought Mongor would be a nice name for a boy" is a line worthy of Joel or Mike.

Andrew Cole (andy4hire) says:

@Ed: "Brazilian whacks"? That, sir, is why you are my hero.

Paul Anderson (pmanderson) says: Continuity glitch? Naw. It just implies that Mongor has been doing something equally effective but unprintable with his left hand. Poor Artie.
David Harmon (mental_mouse) says: Artie made another error -- gesticulating with the guns in his hands, so that Mongor had a chance.
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The education bestowed on Shaenon K. Garrity by her parents had been expensive, athletic and prolonged. ... full profile