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Smithson Thus Far... ·


And a new storyline begins, more or less. This is one of those storylines that wanders in after the previous one with a broom and cleans up its mess. Obviously the events of "Battle for the Lost Diamond Mines of Brazil" left some major loose ends.

When this strip first ran, some people thought the black lines around Artie's rear end were a tail or something. They're supposed to be the remnants of the cage Artie presumably sleeps in. I probably should have devoted more thought to the question of where Artie lives in the lab. Oh well. The important thing is that Man-Artie does not have a tail.

Dave is still wearing his "Here Comes the Hulk/There Goes the Hulk" T-shirt to bed.

Oh, come on, this is one of the best ones. I spent a lot of time on the backgrounds and stuff, at least by my standards. Dave's apartment is, as usual, just my apartment. I recognize my Hitchhiker's omnibus and I, Robot on his bookshelf, along with Andrew's Lego AT-ST. The poster on the wall is for the Harvey Pekar movie American Splendor.

Dave is still wearing the chili-pepper boxer shorts from the very first story arc. I mean, I assume he washed them and stuff.

Dave's "Here Comes the Hulk" T-shirt, in this context, is kind of the nerd equivalent of Jack Nicholson's TRIUMPH shirt in Five Easy Pieces.

In my earliest days of dating Andrew, I sometimes spent the night at his place and had to go to work the next day in borrowed clothes. Andrew's Star Wars T-shirt got compliments from my coworkers.

"Cushlamochree" is the signature exclamation of Mr. O'Malley the fairy godfather in Crockett Johnson's comic strip Barnaby. Back in the grand old days of Websnark, I correctly predicted that Eric Burns would comment on this strip, because I know Eric can't resist a Barnaby reference. It would be like me failing to flip out when someone mentioned The Adventures of Pete and Pete.

I used to make Andrew draw the logos on coffee mugs and such when I couldn't think of anything. I don't remember why he drew the Olympic rings on Helen's mug here.

I wrote this strip early and couldn't bring myself to cut any of my brilliant dialogue. Sorry for the eyestrain. "Fooled you again, brain!" is one of my favorite lines in Narbonic and the one most relevant to my daily life.

And here we have another strip for which I made Andrew draw the logos on the coffee mugs. This one appears to be a Weezer logo.

The cereal box reads "L-Man Pops." I'm still doing the Chris Ellmann thing! Good for me!

Yes, Helen is wearing just a T-shirt and socks (with little hearts on them). It's been a lovely night and morning.

Artie's disgusted expression in the final panel came out even better than I'd hoped. I'm sorry about the sexual harassment, Artie.

As I mentioned once long ago, I used to have to deal with OSHA a lot when I worked in HR, so it kind of became my go-to acronym for punchlines involving office issues. The interesting implication here is that Artie has already been calling OSHA on a regular basis to report Helen. As well he should.

The hiccup transformation is my tribute to Cindy Lou and the Witch's Dog, the first comic book I ever read, by the great cartoonist Jack Kent. I wrote about it for my old Comics Journal column here. I wanted to do this from very early in Narbonic.

Sadly enough, the chair was the hardest thing to draw in this strip. I'm not great at drawing furniture. But it came out looking like a chair, so no harm done.

Leon Arnott (l) says: Monday:

"I believe I've lost all frame of reference for values of 'urgent'" sounds like a line that would be in Alice in Wonderland if it was written 50 years later.
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: ....YES.
Matthew Mather (madtinkerer) says:

Small plot hole: Man-Artie has a different voice and Dave should have recognized it. But I guess Dave's just tired. Do I get a No-Prize?

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: Theme to "The Big Bang Theory", Barenaked Ladies)

His whole universe was just a small wire cage,
But when a scientist got hold of him, it started getting strange!
She tweaked his DNA
So he could be a CPA,
Then he became a homo sa-
Piens one day!
(Then did it once again!)
Mad biology
Messed up his physiology!
It's caused by a simple hic-cup!

David Harmon (mental_mouse) says: One guess where Helen is... come to think of it, this might be the very first time that Helen actually gets eclipsed by Dave!
Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says:

Heads up for the interested: the Couscous Collective store is running Cyber Monday specials all week, including signed and sketched Narbonic and Skin Horse books and a free "La Science" print set with every order.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Tuesday:

What I care most about is the ownership of that sock. I'm going to assume, for the sake of both of them, that it's Helen's.

In panel 2, it's spiral-knee, the lower relative of spiral-elbow. I'll be honest: I still don't get this one particular cartoon abstraction at all.
David Harmon (mental_mouse) says: You'd think Artie could just tell Dave what's happened.... Especially given who normally has the men's clothes around here!
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

That is one darned sexy shoulder.

Jon Stout (brasswatchman) says: This is another one of my favorites.
Jason Summerlott (melkarion) says:

If no one has noted it yet, there is momentous news in the Mad Science.

Clearly MAD for any number of reasons, but I advance the following as key among them:

1)  The importance of ferrets.

2)  Trans-species contamination and genetic mutation.

3) The consideration of international law mandating specifically against something most people would never even think of doing.

4)  Seriously, WTF?

Zarathustra's Id (zarathustrasid) says:

Ferret science is a nice effort, but destroying humanity with ferrets is the least I expect from a respectable mad science lab. Gerbils is better, though. Because of the unexpectedness factor. Gerbils are cute. Ferrets all have Skrillax's "Kill Everyone" as one of the voices in their head, you know they'd do it if they could.

Sam Ashley (evilmidnightlurker) says:

I've been wondering what happens when two people with large numbers of conscience imps date.  Do the imps pair off by type?  Is there a wild imp orgy?

Sarah T (sarahtea) says:

"Fooled you again, brain!" is one of my favourite lines in anything.

Kay Gilbert (kaygilbert) says:

I compliment Eric Burns on his excellent taste, because I live with an obsessed Barnaby completist.
tune: "Come Sail Away," Dennis DeYoung, Styx, The Grand Illusion, 1977

My sprites are incensed
Naughty sprite and Nice, they both take offense
Was I saving Dave,
Or just using him so I can enslave?

Don't know my own mind now
I'm fooled again
Can't reconcile my bi-
Furcated brain
But Dave's sprite, he's got it right
"It's bagel time"

And they say
Cushlamochree, cushlamochree
You just want Dave for sex!
Cushlamochree, cushlamochree
You just want Dave for sex!

Leon Arnott (l) says:
"And it originates as an endearment in Irish Gaelic, meaning "pulse of my heart" or "joy of my heart"."
--Randy Goldberg MD, 30 June 2005.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Wednesday:

Personality sprites: 20. I'm pretty sure they're just going to go off to that bar for personality sprites in that one episode of Sluggy Freelance that I linked here a few years back.

Evil Helen's fang looks like an uvula.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Who'll Stop The Rain", Creedence Clearwater Revival)

Evil side and good side,
Both are mad at me!
Anger they cannot hide,
Swear "Cushlamochree" ...
Sprites are representing
Parts of my own brain!
Got my caffeine,
Now I'm laughing!
"Fooled you again!"

Good said, "Cure his madness!
Make him a normal man!"
Evil said, "His badness
Is useful to your plan!"
I just wanted sex, though!
That much now is plain!
Now at last, we
Did the nasty!
"Fooled you again!"

David Harmon (mental_mouse) says: I assume that speaking aloud to one's personality sprites is considered normal behavior for a Mad Scientist. Also, at first it looks like Helen is miserably suffering from the dual berating, but it turns out she just needs her coffee! (He says, drinking his coffee.) Also, until my coffee, I wondered why they were agreeing -- you'd think Evil would like the exploitation bit, or at least illicit sex, while Good would be all in favor of Luuurve. Then I remembered that as repeatedly seen elsewhere, Helen is Mad enough that her sprites don't exactly have the usual priorities.
Johnn Reynolds (sleepyjohn) says:

Dave's sprites are dating Helen's sprites?

John Campbell (jcampbel) says:

That Dave's shoulder devil is right there kind of implies that Dave himself is just out-of-panel. Though I guess if he isn't used to Helen randomly yelling out things like, "Fooled you again, brain!" for no apparent reason by now...

Carl Fishman (carlfishman) says:

@John; It's been made clear in the past that at least a couple of Dave's sprites ("Common Sense" and "Social Life") wander away from him for years at a time.  So that could be such a "free-range" sprite.

Or, as you say, he could be just off-panel, and too used to such behavior from Helen to find it anything but endearing.  (As most of us do, think on.)

vicka corey (drbrain) says:

i love it that devil!dave is apparently wearing the same heels-n-fishnets that devil!helen is.

John Campbell (jcampbel) says:

The tiny makes it difficult to be sure, but I believe that in Dave's case, it's actually hooves-n-goatlegs.

Sam Ashley (evilmidnightlurker) says:

Hm.  Could be Wonder Woman, could be a backwards Empire of Wyrms' Friends rune...

Joyce Melton (halfelven) says:

She's got a hickie in panel two, too. :)

Leon Arnott (l) says: Thursday:

Silent penultimate panels: 39. But look at that wood paneling!
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "I Think We're Alone Now", Tommy James & The Shondells)

Dave just recalled ... sometime around three in the morning,
That Artie had called ... he seemed quite appalled!
Now hold on ...

Helen senses something amiss!
Realizes something's wrong with this!
Looking at Dave, and he's catching on too,
But now they're heading back to bed
For forty minutes, like she said,
(Or maybe more)

    He's holding the phone, how?
    That seems a little odd, 'cause he has no thu-umbs!
    He's there all alone now ...
    It probably can wait 'til the morning co-omes!

Daniel Ross (nentuaby) says:

I always did love this strip. It's one of the subtler but more definite markers of Dave's transition from the Straight Man of the labs to one of the active participants in its lunacy.

Kay Gilbert (kaygilbert) says:

As close as we'll get to a real-world Artie: Check out Dr. Luigi Gratton (  He was formerly one of my doctors at UCLA, and is now a veep at Herbalife (more's the pity).  Smoking, muscular body, about 6'5", a smile that makes your britches melt away, and, on top of everything, a nice guy.  Put dreads on him, and you've got Artie. I really understand where Helen and Mell are coming from (although I don't condone).

tune: "Shall We Dance?," Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstain II, The King and I, 1951

You're back in human form
We've no idea why
We'll run some tests until this mess is truly straightened out
But, Artie, understand
When we see you as man
Our knees grow weak, your physique makes us want to scream and shout

Lose the pants!
For this blood-pressure test I want you nude
Lose the pants!
Sorry, Dave, I can't help my attitude
In his scants
Artie'd put anybody in the mood

Give me this bit of headroom
And when we get to the bedroom
I will show you a hot pole dance

First we'll act lewd and crude
Then you'll be well and truly screwed, so
Lose the pants!
Lose the pants!
Lose the pants!

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

@Kay:  One of your better ones ... well done!

(TUNE: "Safety Dance", Men Without Hats)

Lose the pants, 'cause we told you!
Both the pants and shirt are gone!
'Cause when you lose the pants,
I bet there's a chance
That ... it'll turn us on!

We just want to undress you!
Yes, I know it's kind of odd ...
And though you're feeling stress,
We'll make you undress
'Cause ... well, it turns us on!

So now,
Lose the pants, lose the pants ...
Better lose the shirt as well!
Lose the pants, lose the pants ...
Listen to your mom and Mell!
Lose the pants, lose the pants ...
Helen's playing with her doll!
Lose the pants, lose the pants ...
OSHA's gonna get a call!

Lose the pants ...
Gonna hide your pants ...
Gonna hide your pants ...

David Harmon (mental_mouse) says: Think Dave's a bit jealous? As for OSHA, what would Helen do, without the occasional government busybodyfigure of authority to capture and torment?
Thomas Plummer (dracomax2011) says: This strip just raises to many questions. Liike, does the Government regulate mad Scientists in some way? Does OSHA even apply? If so, why did we never get a strip where OSHA raids the underground lair and fines her for violations?
Rachel S. (masamage) says:

I'm entertained that OSHA apparently doesn't really care.

David Harmon (mental_mouse) says: For a real-world Artie, here's another candidate: while he doesn't offer a full-body shot, he is doing easily-misunderstood research on hamsters!
Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says:

I ought to scold you guys for sending me all these pictures of hot scientists, and yet... I'm not, somehow.
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: *fnop* Gerbil! *fnop* Man!'s just too much to bear!
Leon Arnott (l) says: Saturday:

There is something oddly charming and juvenile about hiccups having some unwitting magical effect, especially one which causes a dramatic change in size. Even though this webcomic's extended Alice in Wonderland analogy applies mostly to Dave, this particular situation puts Artie in a most visually similar role.
K. Williams (crazy_quill) says:

TTTO "At the Hop" by Danny & the Juniors

He went human for just one day /
Now he seems to go back that way / When he *hic!*

He's a tiny ball of fluff /
And then he's human, nude and buff /
When he *hic!*

Helen's messing with his genome /
This is not Artie as we know'm /
When he *hic!*

Artie's human - hic! (Oh, Artie) /
Now he's gerbil - hic! (Poor Artie!) /
Artie's human - hic! /
Now he's gerbil - hic!

Poor guy needs his spirits lifting /
For his shape is surely shifting /
When he *hic!*

(Did the line breaks work that time?)

Wayne (wayne) says:

Seems I recall hiccups having some rather disasterous consequences in Woody Allen's James Bond movie, Casino Royale.

And Ed, I didn't get a comment in, but that BNL/BBT song was fantastic!  It's one of the few TV theme songs that I'll not fast-forward my Tivo through, largely because my wife is an astrophysicist and enjoys it.  (when I'm alone watching BBT, usually I zip thru it)


And Shaennon: got my Narbonic Collection a couple of days ago!  And now I have to decide whether or not to throw away the shipping envelope as SOMEONE drew a very cute Artie on it.  Like I need more clutter.

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "He's A Rebel", The Crystals)

Artie's not his usual shape ...
He's become a big, hairless ape ...
He's not happy with his fate!
He says, "Becoming a pri-mate
Isn't great ..."

"I can change the shape that I am
By contracting my di-a-pragm!"
Dave exclaiming, "Oh, that's neat!"
'Cause now a gerbil's on the seat!
Can Helen Beta find a cure?
Not sure!

He's a gerbil, and his genes were made that way!
He's a gerbil, and he wished he'd stayed that way!
And though he changes back and forth with ... just a little hiccup,
He's astonished that dates he'll pick up!
He's a human hunk!
Mell the intern saw his junk!
But he's just a gerbil!  Lost his clothes!
He's just a gerbil!  Here he goes

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