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When these strips first ran, people asked why the oubliette has spikes on all four sides, which would kind of make it hard for the walls to contract neatly. The answer, of course, is that I got carried away drawing spikes.

I'd been looking for an opportunity to use the word "oubliette" since the first time I saw Labyrinth.

Man, this is a wordy strip. The best part is easily Artie referring to himself as "the short, hirsute one."

He really doesn't mean to stare at anything.

I wrote this one way, way early and liked it so much I had to include it, even though it's kind of out of character for both characters. Oh, well, it's fun anyway. I loved writing strips from Artie's point of view.

Mell has never mentioned to her coworkers that she's been dating Caliban. She's pretty circumspect about her personal life. I don't know much about it myself.

I love the lazy way I drew the spikes on the walls of the oubliette. Sometimes you've got important things to do elsewhere, you know?

And yeah, [LITTLE SPOILERS] that's the first and last time Artie kisses a girl. Probably.

Artie came out looking really good in the third panel. I mean, really good. I'm just saying. I also like Mell's pose in the first panel, but, you know, Artie. I was finally figuring out how to draw him at this point.

I believe this is the first mention of Caliban working as a barista, which comes up a lot in later Narbonic strips. The bit about Caliban working on a screenplay was partly because I thought I might do a storyline about that later on (Caliban became some kind of writer in most of the early stories I wrote about him), and partly because it was the kind of thing a guy would do while working as a barista, especially if he had previously been a demon.

Since I wrote this, gerbils have been moved to the family Muridae (and the subfamily Gerbillinae...aww), ruining my comic strip, but the Wikipedia entry on M. unguiculatus does eerily resemble what I wrote here.

Unguiculatus means "clawed warrior," which is pretty badass. At one point my friend and current cowriter Jeff Wells was threatening to write a fanfic about Artie channelling his Mongolian warrior heritage, which would have been a pretty good storyline, come think.

40 comments:
Sam Ashley (evilmidnightlurker) says:

I think it was the second volume of Samurai Cat in which not only the encroaching walls but the stationary floor sprout spikes, and Tomokato assumes he's safe until the outermost floor spikes retract so the walls can move further in...

Leon Arnott (l) says: Monday:

No better way to leer over your vertically challenged captives than with a glass of gravity-defying sideways wine.
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Heh.
Davia Ditmeyer (zerosd) says:

Ah, presumably the walls are set up so they aren't flat-on-flat at the end, but the edges of the moving ones are spiked as well so that they can pass between the non-moving ones at the ends!

Thus allowing you to have more spikes.

Matthew Mather (madtinkerer) says:

The first time I encountered the word Oubliette was in the game Ultima Underworld II. Nowhere in the game is it explained what an Oubliette is, just that a vitally important item is hidden there by the bad guys. It's probably unintentionally the hardest part of the game depending on whether you bother to look up the definition of the word.

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Cabaret", Fred Ebb & John Kander)

You're in a chamber that's rather bizarre,
Deadly as it can get ...
You're in the oubliette, my friends!
You're in the oubliette!

Of the assassins who've come here so far,
You've come the farthest yet!
Clear to the oubliette, my friends!
You're in the oubliette!

A bit cliché,
I have to say ...
The walls will close, the spikes will skewer,
You'll get flushed into the sewer!

Closing the door now, I'll say au revior,
Leaving you here to fret!
You're in the oubliette, my friends!
You never were a threat, my friends,
Now you're in ... the ou-bli-ette!

Andrew Cole (andy4hire) says:

They're in the oubliette.... Shut up! They should not have gotten as far as the oubliette! They should have given up by now....

Rob (rrreed) says: I want to know what happened to the eleventh assassin before them. Did he(?) only make it as far as the oubliette, too, or did he make it farther? Did he actually succeed in "killing" Dr. Narbon, forcing her to relocate to her current lair/lab/base/hideout?
Rodford Smith (stickmaker) says:

 

The oubliette is hidden under the gazebo...

Dave Van Domelen (dvandom) says: Oooooob. Lee yet.
Kay Gilbert (kaygilbert) says: Bless his little heart, I think this week of strips was Artie's first—and last—heterosexual impulse.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Tuesday:

Artie should probably be used to that point of view. Isn't his normal conversation vantage point just above Mell's shoulder?

Also, you can't have a story called "Battle for the Lost Diamond Mines of Brazil" and not have one of the characters describe approaching spiky death as being "shish-kebobbed". It's almost mandatory.
Rob (acoustic_rob) says:

Kay: doesn't he comment in a later strip how disconcerting it is that humans are constantly in heat?  It probably took him a while to get used to the hormone overload.

vicka corey (drbrain) says: given that he sits on people's heads and shoulders a lot, why *isn't* he used to staring down....?
Diane Castle (deecee) says:

Hey, when he's a gerbil, his eyesight isn't that good.  Plus, his eyeballs are the size of pinheads.  He may look down from people's heads, but he's not seeing *that*.

Pete Bleackley (pete_the_mad_scientist) says:

@Kay Every gerbil that Artie ever expressed attraction to was female.

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

Drat, I hate when I don't spot a typo until the end of the day ...

(TUNE: "I'm Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover", Mort Dixon & Harry Woods)

I'm looking down on
A pair of round ones,
As I've never looked before!
Left one is perky, and so is the right!
I could admire them all day and all night!

Sex-u-al reflex,
So many defects
This body has more and more!
I'm looking down on
A pair of round ones,
A B-cup in thirty-four!

Sean Duggan (duggansc) says: Admittedly, it's anecdotal evidence, but a number of gay guys that I've known are fascinated with boobs. It's not really a sexual thing even, just a fascination with staring at them and handling them.
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Heh.
fluffy <3 (fluffy) says: What I have heard is that boob-glancing is hard-wired into the human brain, and is actually triggered by testosterone. MTF transsexuals eventually realize they've stopped doing it at some point, and FTM transsexuals often are horrified to discover that they've STARTED, without even knowing it, regardless of what their underlying orientation is.
JP Chabot (speedball) says:

Personal theory: He discovered that he likes kissing, but only discovered he prefers kissing guy later. He had only half of the equation!

Tiff Hudson (tiff_hudson) says:

Boobglancing is horribly instinctive. With certain of my colleagues, I find that I must carefully discipline myself to maintain eye contact.

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "I'm Just A Singer (In A Rock And Roll Band)", The Moody Blues)

I was concocted from a slurry of genes,
I've got rodent and simian in my DNA!
Though small and furry, I still know what it means
To be feeling so bifurcated e-ve-ry day!
But now my form has undergone a change,
It's so strange!
And now my body and my brain are in tune!
Both stupid!
I'm just a gerbil in a simian bod!

My rodent mind is saying this is so wrong,
While the parts that are human say that this is so right!
My mind is reeling 'cause the feeling is strong,
The testosterone surge creates an urge I can't fight!
And now my heart is palpitating as we're osculating,
Tissues are inflating, I've ...
Got wood now!
I'm just a gerbil in a simian bod!

Kay Gilbert (kaygilbert) says:

Helen designed Artie's human form to attract Mell, so Mell's behavior really is in character.  If Helen was right that this is Mell's ideal man, what may be out of character is Mell and Caliban.

Leon Arnott (l) says: Thursday:

Artie is lucky there was enough floor space left for him to be instantly wrestled and pinned down to.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

Well, if Artie's gonna act like a booger, Mell will help him blow his nose.  (That'snot the worst joke I've made, but it's close.)

Johnn Reynolds (sleepyjohn) says:

Suddenly, the spikes on the moving walls are just not that big a deal...

Dave Van Domelen (dvandom) says: He welcomes the spikes.
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: B-b-b-BUSTED.
Matthew Mather (madtinkerer) says:

Well technically, given their situation, Mell can only threaten to kill him slightly faster than they're supposed to already.

But then, when have slowly-moving spike walls ever killed a protagonist in adventure fiction? I guess Mell is a much bigger threat, then.

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Heat Wave", Irving Berlin)

He's writing a screenplay!
A topical screenplay!
He's written a treatment,
The devilish heat meant
It's certain to thrill!  E-vil!

He's writing a screenplay,
With music by Green Day!
The evil it's got there,
Although it is hot there,
Will give you a chill!  E-vil!

   Fiery and steamin' eyes
   Certain to demonize!
   Should be no surprise ...

He's writing a screenplay!
An evil and mean play!
In my book, at least, a
Demonic barista
Can show off his skill!  E-vil!

Justin Kane (avatarjk137) says:

Caliban could certainly do worse than writing what he knows.

For Mell's tastes, that's an awfully small gun - she must be down to her emergency weapon.  Not that it's any less capable of punching holes right through Artie's polymorphed brain.

Jennifer Rutherford (jenfullmoon) says:

I love "my boyfriend's a nice evil guy." Think that one over for awhile....

John Campbell (jcampbel) says:

Artie once again illustrates the difference between Intelligence and Wisdom.

Rex Vivat (sirgarberto) says:

You know, with the way you draw them, I tend to forget that they're supposed to be Gerbils and not Jerboa... but, then again, they're a completely different family, aren't they?

Leon Arnott (l) says: Saturday:

In panel 3, was Artie about to do a showman's grin-and-wink, but changed his mind halfway through?

I approve of the fact that Mell's jaw has been loosened farther than ever before. Helen's powers have, after all they've been through, finally exceeded Mell's credulity.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

What would Artie's Mongol warrior name be ... "Gerblai Khan"?  Now I'll have research Coleridge's "Xanadu" and write a poetic parody ...

"And all will cry 'It talks!  It talks!'
His chiseled abs, his dreadful locks!
Let's untwist his DNA,
And form his body to the shape
Of this bipedal, hairless ape,
Not family Cricetidae."

Wayne (wayne) says:

It might be a small gun but it also might be a prototype for the....

Noisy Cricket.

(and I hate the fact that you can't post a comment on the week-long page, even though there's a comment box there)

David Harmon (mental_mouse) says: But can these "clawed warriors" stand up against the Kung Fu Hamsters.
David Harmon (mental_mouse) says: Leon: I suspect he'd just realized that after that nerdout, he no longer needs to *tell* Mell who he is.
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The education bestowed on Shaenon K. Garrity by her parents had been expensive, athletic and prolonged. ... full profile