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Dr. Narbon took Dave's Yak-Face action figure with her after using it to get the death-ray codes from Dave, whom she then killed with the death ray, way back when. I guess she keeps it around in case it turns out to be handy again. Sometimes this strip gets complicated.

The "hero costumes" are based on the weird trophy gallery Batman keeps in the Batcave of the uniforms of past Robins. It's a little disturbing.

Except for Six Flags, these are all references to footage of me as a kid. My family didn't have a video camera, but my Aunt Kerry was a producer for Channel 4 News in Pittsburgh, and I and other family members were often pressed into service for "man on the street" stories. On Christmas, 1980, I was interviewed about my Cabbage Patch Kid, Yettie, for a story on the Cabbage Patch Kid craze.

Yes, my Cabbage Patch Kid was named Yettie. A lot of those dolls came with weird names.

This is mostly a plot strip, but I really like Mell's and Artie's poses and expressions, especially in the last panel. They look very natural. For some reason Mell and Artie work well together when Artie is human. There's something about this enormous guy being cowed by Mell, which is a reasonable thing for an enormous guy to be, really.

"What kind of future is VHS-compatible?" is a pretty good line; it's kind of the "Why does God need a starship" of Narbonic. But the best part of this strip is the Dave Conspiracy's Circle of Five all signing their initials to the note.

For the record, the future President sent back a VHS tape because she couldn't remember whether DVDs were common in 2000, the year to which the tape was sent. She's not really into tech stuff.

Okay, this plot dump is necessary but not very funny, which is why I crammed a TON OF DIALOGUE into one strip to get it all over with. I'm sorry. So, basically, here's what happened: Future Mell sent the tape back to the Dave Conspiracy in the year 2000, along with some future mad-tech designed by Dave. The Dave Conspiracy took the message seriously and hired Helen's mom to build the tech and assassinate Dave. They got Dr. Narbon's name from the video; they just recruited the wrong Dr. Narbon.

All the main characters in Narbonic have faintly embarrassing middle names. Except Artie, I guess.

Control yourself, Mell. This is serious business.

49 comments:
Rachel S. (masamage) says:

I like the detail that Artie isn't 100% sure those really are his clothes.

JP Chabot (speedball) says:

Mell's a nerd too. She's just a gun-fetish nerd rather than a science fiction nerd.

Leon Arnott (l) says: Monday:

Off-panel rubbernecking: 25. But then, Yak-Face's mere existence is a closed causal loop, so who wouldn't want to gawk at it whenever possible? It's the paradoxical harbinger of both Dave's death and Dave's ressurection, and might well be the fulcrum around which their entire fictitious reality turns. (But Dr. N seems to be the only person who appreciates such a valuable artifact. Dave and Artie certainly don't.)
Joe Glow (joe_glow) says:

Mell's academic aptitude conclusively establishes her own nerdiness.  And can Dr. Narbon, or anyone else, be a scientific genius without being a nerd?  I believe what she was really hoping for was a geek-free evening.  The fact that she didn't know or care about the distinction, if nothing else, shows her not to be much of a geek.

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Born Free", John Barry and Don Black)

Nerd-free ...
I'd hoped for, with luck now!
Instead I am stuck now
With someone geeky as Dave!

Yak-Face!
I just can't believe it!
Why'd Helen's mom leave it
In here, with trophies to save?

   This place
   Has weapons and ammo!
   But this fool ignores it all
   For some dumb plastic doll!

Gag me!
This junk has me heaving!
I'd hoped for one evening
To be ... nerd-free!

Johnn Reynolds (sleepyjohn) says:

Well, sometimes Mongor the Iguana-Man needs to dress up for a date, or a visit to Temple.  So those might be his pants.

Diane Castle (deecee) says:

@Joe: You can have academic aptitude without nerdiness.  There is lots of overlap, but there are plenty of people outside the intersection of the two.  For example, one Colonel (now General) Jonathan O'Neill (two L's), who has a masters degree.  Or NFL superstar Alan Page.

Rachel S. (masamage) says:

Did they have unique names? I think mine was just Julia... My brother's was a boy named Secily, though, so I guess that's pretty odd.

Kay Gilbert (kaygilbert) says:

My best friend found a Cabbage Patch Kid named "Gilbert Kim," and bought it because it reminded her of me.  (We were in our 20s, so nothing weird about that.)  It was ugly, but it really did kinda resemble me.  I still have nightmares.

Leon Arnott (l) says: Tuesday:

Mell is unexpectedly smart to think to swipe documentation of pre-madness (and, more importantly, prepubescent) Helen. Could this be real reason she took the job?? (Apart from, of course, swiping the stolen intel that Dr. N is blackmailing the Daves with. She'd be crazy to not have that in mind.)
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: DUN DUN DUN.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Magical Mystery Tour", The Beatles)

Hurrah!  Hurrah for the Video Vault!
Hurrah!  Escaping will come to a halt!
Hurrah!  (The stuff from Helen's childhood!)  Hurrah for the Video Vault!
Hurrah!  (Oh, this is gonna be good!)  Escaping will come to a halt!
The Vi-o-lent Video Vault is packed with spectacular picks!
Helen when she was just six!

Hurrah!  Hurrah for the Video Vault!
Hurrah!  Her very first violent assault!
Hurrah!  (She's on the evening news now!)  Hurrah for the Video Vault!
Hurrah!  (Police are seeking clues now!)  Her very first violent assault!
The Vi-o-lent Video Vault is packed with these mem'ries, so thick!
Cabbage Patch Kids make me sick!

The Video Vault ...

The Violent Video Vault!
Hurrah!  Can't help it, this isn't our fault!
Hurrah!  (Just hear her happy scream when ...) Hurrah for the Video Vault!
Hurrah!  (She got her Bio-Beam then!)  Can't help it, this isn't our fault!
The Vi-o-lent Video Vault is letting us into her past!
Man, Christmas Day was a blast!
The Vi-o-lent Video Vault will show that they ran away fast ...
Hundreds destroyed in the blast, neighbors aghast!

David Palmer (viadd) says:

Many of the Cabbage Patch Kids who replaced people in the '80's have been living the masquerade so long that even they forget how they started.

Yettie, Julia, Gilbert, it's time to wake up.

Jed Blue (froborr) says:

I had one named Jules Clayton. Gave it to my sisters when I was eight or so and anything soft became a "girl's toy." Dunno if it still exists.

I can only imagine what Helen was on the news for at the age of six. I imagine it involved explosions, child protective services, or both.

Rachel S. (masamage) says:

I just looked at the website. Were they always three hundred dollars?!?!

Rachel S. (masamage) says:

Also, I so want to know what Helen did to get on the news.

JP Chabot (speedball) says:

They interviewed you and yours in an attempt to get "random interviews" from people? That's sketchy journalism.

Kay Gilbert (kaygilbert) says:

Oh, I forgot the most importatn part: back in the Cabbage Patch era, my name was Kim Gilbert.  So the Gilbert Kim doll was really freaky.

Leon Arnott (l) says: Wednesday:

There are some good touches in this strip: the ominous white screen, the bookcase skull, Mell's nose resting atop the brick wall that is Artie's shoulder.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "All Together Now", The Beatles)

Good ... bad ... yes ... no ...
Potty-training video!
Ba-by Helen throws a fit,
Let's watch it!

A ... B ... C ... D ...
Under "Dave Conspiracy",
I ... feel ... this is one we should see,
Quite strongly!

   Start the tape ...
   Watch and learn ...
   Mouths agape ...
   Plot will turn!

      Watch the video!
      That is how we know
      How the plot will go ...
      Watch the video!

Bad ... good ... no ... yes ...
Years of stuff on VHS!
I'm ... freaked ... out just a bit,
Let's watch it!

   What's the catch?
   We will see ...
   First we watch
   Helen pee!

      Watch the video!
      That is how we know
      How the plot will go ...
      Watch the video!
      Watch the video!  (watch the video)
      That is how we know (watch the video)
      How the plot will go ...  (watch the video)
      Watch the vi-dee-oooooo!

Jon Stout (brasswatchman) says: I'm a bit surprised it takes Mell so long to recognize Artie, considering how naturally they fall into their usual rapport.
Joel Brackenbury (mockferret) says:

Jon: I suspect Mell has been rather...distracted by Human-Artie's... um... equipment being larger than his entire gerbil body.

Grant McCormick (grantcmccormick) says:

Young Melody's look of pure, innocent delight is priceless.

Diane Castle (deecee) says:

<insert dramatic sting>

Leon Arnott (l) says: Thursday:

This strip is... pretty good. I might even say that it is exquisite. It features an excellent balance of glory (via Mell) and schadenfreude (via Artie).
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "I Am The Monarch Of The Sea", Gilbert & Sullivan)

I am the future President!
And now this message has been sent
To serve as a warning to the people in the past!
(Now see how the gerbil-hypen-human looks aghast!
Yes, see how the gerbil-hypen-human looks aghast!)


This message, I must stress,
Was sent on VHS,
To warn and inform the Dave Conspiracy!
(Now see how the intern-slash-assassin looks with glee!
Yes, see how the intern-slash-assassin looks with glee!)


Their feelings now, it seems,
Have gone to both extremes!
One says, "Oh, no," one says, "All RIGHT!"
(Emotions are running now from horror to delight!
Emotions are running now from horror to delight!
Emotions now are running from a horror that is stunning to delight!)

So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Aaaaand there we go.
Jon W. (kd7sov) says:

So, did that particular Mell remember watching this? Or has the future already been changed to that extent?

Joe Glow (joe_glow) says:

I really think the best part of this strip is Artie's horror at the president's identity.

David Harmon (mental_mouse) says: It's all best parts! This is the beginning for one of the keystone sequences of Narbonic. It's made of win....
Sam Ashley (evilmidnightlurker) says:

I wonder, now, what happened to Skin Horse and the Old War plotline in the Bad Future...

Rachel S. (masamage) says:

Well, Artie's middle name is kind of a number, isn't it?

So It Begins (soitbegins) says: President Mell looks weird. ...also: 'Prescott'?
Daibhid Ceannaideach (daibhidc) says:

You don't consider 5478 an embarassing middle name? True, it's not as bad as 2X4B, much less 2Q4B.

Leon Arnott (l) says: Friday:

In Dave's parents' defense, he does look like a Prescott.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Catch A Wave", The Beach Boys)

My name is Kelly, I'm the future Pre-si-dent ...
(Discontent ... President ...)
Message from the future has been sent!
(Cool wow cool wow cool wow cool wow!)
I'm including some gifts for you ...
Just one thing that you gotta do ...
Kill a Dave, and you're gonna be saving the world!

Zappy weapons and booth to teleport!
(Teleport ... just for sport!)
You must find Dave Prescott Davenport!
(Prescott, Prescott, Prescott, Prescott ...)
You must work up a deadly plan,
Punch his ticket while you still can!
Kill a Dave, and you're gonna be saving the world!

John Weiss (cheshirecat) says:

Technically, there is only one Dr Narbon, right?

Pete (westrider) says:

At work, I regularly ship stuff to a store in Prescott, Arizona. Every time one of their Orders comes through, I think of this strip and the later one when Artie asks Dave about it.

Thank you for making my job more fun!

Also, I love the fact that, repeatedly, in the midst of world-shaking events, Artie's concerned with stuff like this.

Diane Castle (deecee) says:

Prescott?  That's not embarrassing.  Now if Dave's middle name were 'Lavelle' or 'Rosebud' or 'Muriel' or 'Tiberius'or 'Gaylord' or...

Joe Glow (joe_glow) says:

A strip doesn't necessarily have to be funny if it's interesting, and this strip was verrrrrrrrrry interesting.

Mike B. (epenthesis) says:

Shaenon, do you not remember why Prescott is Dave's middle name?  :-)

Dave Van Domelen (dvandom) says: Lucky girl. Most people never get the chance to fulfill their dreams...and those who do are always left wondering what to do next. How do you top it? Well, Future Mell doesn't have to worry about that.
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Artie looks... in shock.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Saturday:

Artie is paralysed with horror.
Sam Ashley (evilmidnightlurker) says:

Once in a while, you get that reminder that NO THESE PEOPLE ARE BAD NEWS BATSHIT CRAZY.  Even the ones who aren't mad scientists. :)

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Across The Universe", The Beatles)

I have sent this message from a dismal future, telling you
That I'm the President, so some will shout for joy and some will curse ...
When this message is complete, I then will load the tape into
My time machine and turn it on, which will destroy the universe ...

CHORUS:
    Shout "WOO-HOO!", shout for joy!
    Now we get to save the world!
    We'll deny the Daves the world!
    Now we get to save the world!
    We'll deny the Daves the world!

Dr. Narbon's telling me, to send a message back in time
Requires the total energy contained in all the universe ...
Nonetheless, I feel I should prevent this future; that's why I'm
Prepared to push a single button and destroy the universe ...
    (repeat CHORUS)

Edwin Quantrall (reynard) says:

Some men (and at least one young woman) just want to watch the world burn...or destroy it themselves, whichever is more fun...

Chris (khade) says:

OK, I can't be the first to comment on this.  Must mean something is going wrong.  Man, Mell looks so happy.

Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says:

Mike-- Of course I do! What I can't remember is how I learned his middle name in the first place.
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The education bestowed on Shaenon K. Garrity by her parents had been expensive, athletic and prolonged. ... full profile