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I didn't think this strip was funny enough when I wrote it, but it turned out pretty well. Plus, it's true. Wouldn't life be easier if you could just go be a gerbil sometimes? Unless gerbils live complicated lives, I don't know.

Also, I drew some pretty good mad-sciencey stuff in the background. Around this time I started to make a very belated effort to draw more interesting backgrounds in the lab. What's the point of setting your comic in a mad scientist's underground laboratory complex if you're not going to bother to draw it?

Yeah, Artie was rich for like five seconds. Good one, Artie.

Admit it: there's something charming about angsting in a drawer.

I don't know why I felt the need for a strip about Artie's finances. Sometimes my actions are mysterious even to me. Note the corridor of swimming eyeballs, one of the few recurring settings in Narbonics Labs. I drew it a lot in the last year of the strip.

The concept of Artie having erotic dreams about Cesar Chavez is pretty good, but I deserve all the Nobel Prizes for putting thought into what an erotic dream about Cesar Chavez would actually entail.

In the Special Bonus Narbonic Prose Story I wrote for contributors to last year's Narbonic: The Perfect Collection Kickstarter drive, I described the situation like this:

Artie resumed gerbil form for old times’ sake, recalling with a twinge of shame how long it had been since he’d last spent any amount of time in what was supposedly his true shape. Much as he hated to admit it, his human body was seductive; it had a heady, muscular pull beyond its obvious practicality in a primate-dominated world. And, of course, it got laid more or less constantly. Artie could remember a time when he had been dead set against the idea of sex with humans, for a variety of solid ethical and psychological reasons. This attitude had nearly, but not quite, survived his first semester at college.

Yes, I'm quoting myself at length. Sometimes it just has to be done.

Artie's "Imagine!" is lifted from a Bloom County strip in which Opus makes the same comment about an anchorwoman wearing flavored lipstick, much to Steve Dallas's consternation. I can't find it now, but individual lines from Bloom County strips I read in high school have remained lodged in my hindbrain for decades.

Helen's first line here was hurriedly written at the time, but now it makes me smile. I like it when Helen goes into classic mad-scientist-rant mode.

Also, again, Artie is adorable in his lab coat.

23 comments:
Leon Arnott (l) says: Monday:

Not quite enough punchlines were made of Artie's ability to shrink himself down, and more specifically how this is entirely normalised by his friends.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "I Want To Be A Cowboy's Sweetheart", Patsy Montana)

I want to go and not be human,
Because I'm feeling overwrought ...
Life outside is so much more
Complicated than I thought ...
I want to go and soak my little bitty feet
In the cup of tea I'll brew ...
I want to go and not be hu-u-man;
Don't you wish you could be too?

David Harmon (mental_mouse) says:

That "Life on the outside is more complex than I'd assumed" is hilarious when you realize that he's not talking about the giant robot foot or even learning that all the award recipients were science projects, but about his own first love... and meeting his mad-science "grandchildren".

Andrew Cole (andy4hire) says:

@Shaenon: Well, canonical in-universe evidence suggests that gerbils' lives aren't terribly complicated. Dave once correctly guessed that Artie's answer to "What's it like being a gerbil?" would be "Small. Furry. Alfalfa-scented." If I didn't like eating meats and cheeses so much, I'd be tempted to go be a gerbil, too.

Jeremy Penner (spindleyq) says:

Oh my god the image of Artie in a mug of bubble bath is SO HILARADORABLE.

Tiff Hudson (tiff_hudson) says:

There are days when I wish I could angst away in the fluffy goodness of my sock drawer...

Leon Arnott (l) says: Tuesday:

A lone speech balloon, its long stem wafting like smoke from the dark depths of a black rectangle... an inimitable newspaper strip trope.

Silent penultimate panels: 44. Trivia: Mell has never paid for any lunch with her own money for five years.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

Mell, quit peeking into Artie's drawers!

On a totally unrelated note, I just got this mental image of George Washington calling Alexander Hamilton, "The Hamster".

Jacob Haller (jwgh) says:

At a previous job, I would occasionally curl up under my desk. It was oddly comforting.

Carl Fishman (carlfishman) says:

What; no Moon Mullins and/or Kayo references?  I suddenly feel very old.

Andrew Cole (andy4hire) says:

@Ed: Dang, I wish I'd thought of that when I was attending a school named after The Hamster.

Kay Gilbert (kaygilbert) says:

Jacob: That's why my ultimate dream is a desk kitted out like George Costanza's hideaway on Seinfeld.

Chris (khade) says:

All the eyes  are of course Daves.

Leon Arnott (l) says: Wednesday:

What Artie's writerly pride is preventing him from admitting is that $49,000 came from just the gender-swap recipe (still his only substantial on-screen invention).

Off-panel rubbernecking: 29. Mell isn't being very considerate of the fact that she met her current boyfriend through this job.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Cruella De Vil" from 101 Dalmatians, Mel Leven)

Oh, Cesar Chavez!  That Cesar Chavez!
United Farm Workers, well he was the prez!
My knees get weak when anybody says,
"Oh Cesar, that Cesar Chavez!"

Oh, Cesar Chavez!  That Cesar Chavez!
He conquers my dreams now, like Hernan Cortez!
No one could ever be as sexy as
That Cesar, that Cesar Chavez!

We're in an orange grove,
As through the trees we rove
We can do most anything we like!
And when he takes my hand,
Libido takes command ...
I give up, my intellect's on strike!

Oh, Cesar Chavez!  That Cesar Chavez!
My heart's palpitating, whenever he says,
"You look so cute in nothing but a fez!"
Oh Cesar, that Cesar Chavez!

Kay Gilbert (kaygilbert) says:

Um, all due respect and all that, Shaenon, but when it comes to Nobel-prizes-deserving, I'm thinking you have to stand in line behind Cesar Chavez.

Leon Arnott (l) says: Friday:

It makes one wonder who exactly Artie would, at this juncture, consider fine to be romantically involved with as a human. Zeta??
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

OK, the proper filk here would use the tune of "You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)", but there are practically no lyrics.  "Don't know his name, but I got his number" ... then what?

Or maybe we could make a joke that Artie's a mutant 'cause his hand has extra digits?

Wayne (wayne) says:

There's an excellent Cruella de Ville cover on the Disney tribute album Stay Awake.  I can't remember who performed it, Buster Poindexter was the first thing that popped in to my brain but he did Castle In Spain.

Justin Kane (avatarjk137) says:

"Nearly, but not quite..." that's Douglas Adams, right?

Kay Gilbert (kaygilbert) says:

And Helen is sexy in hers.  Plus, two, two, TWO pairs of goggles!

John Campbell (jcampbel) says:

If Artie were slightly more confident in his abilities at this juncture, and slightly less gay, I bet he could have found out if the nameless blonde reporter was wearing flavored lipstick.

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

"Crimson Vengeance" sounds like a 1940's pulp-comic hero.  Red fedora, trenchcoat, mask, and tommy gun.  Or better still, a female type, like Timely Comics' Blonde Avenger.

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