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This was a hard week to write and draw, and it's going to be a hard week to write about. So let me just say that I drew an excellent Spider-Man movie poster in the background. It is thematically appropriate.

This was the hardest strip in the entirety of Narbonic to write. With the characters in their current state, I could not figure out how to get from point A to B to C in the dialogue and end on some kind of punchline/beat. I'm not thrilled with the way it turned out, but I got through it, and it's not bad, and I lived to fight another day. It probably built character.

Okay, okay, this is me making fun of Very Serious Storylines in other webcomics. Fifty points to Griffindor to the first person who can name all of them!

Although I think multiple webcomics have now done Very Serious miscarriage storylines. Writers, especially dude writers, if you can't think of anything dramatic that could happen to a female character besides rape and/or a miscarriage, think harder. Please.

Dave also has a sweet Akira poster. It's also thematically appropriate, in the sense of a character being a ticking time bomb who will eventually blow up and destroy Tokyo. In a manner of speaking.

As he later explains to Lovelace (OMG SPOILERS), dating Helen has forced Dave to get good at relationships fast. She is not an easy girlfriend to have.

This strip was inspired by an early Something Positive strip where the main guy tells his girlfriend that she doesn't get to complain about his asshole behavior because she knew he was an asshole when she started dating him. Or something like that, it's been a long time since I read it. It always bothered me, so this is my little roundabout response. If somebody says stuff like that in real life, you should probably run.

When Dave takes off his glasses, you know crap is getting real.

Helen's sprite is saying what I was thinking. I did draw some awesome hair in this strip.

As people who have read all the way through know, Helen's dialogue here becomes important much later on.

43 comments:
Jon Stout (brasswatchman) says: You know, it's interesting to me that Helen never considers dosing both Dave AND herself with the cure. It doesn't sound like she really enjoys being mad. Then again, it might not have even occurred to her, what with the megalomania and all...
Leon Arnott (l) says: Monday:

The real punchline of this strip is in panel 2, but only during the second read (and this strip is likely to be reread, given the weight of this plot development).
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

Now I'm picturing Helen cosplaying Power Girl.  Excuse me, I need a cold shower and a lie-down ...

Reuben Phillips (psychohippie) says: Jon: Actually, she does consider it, very briefly.
Adam Underfoot (unnatural20) says: It's a punchline, alright... but it's a punch to the gut.
Tiff Hudson (tiff_hudson) says:

I thought this strip was really pretty good - it captures the brain-idling state of shock and still manages to pull a well-crafted punchline out of it.

Matthew Mather (madtinkerer) says:

The funny part to me is, each of Dave's replies could also be actual replies. Especially in the third panel. "You." is What Dave wants. He's answering her question.

A little bit of Genius/pre-Genius leaking though the shock, perhaps?

Leon Arnott (l) says: Tuesday:

This particular punchline might seem a bit hollow, but it actually suits the coldness of this scene quite well. It ends on a line of dada, lacking a satisfying rounding-off of the scene.

Also, a particularly subtle detail is that Helen's "I want" is right next to Dave's "You". No idea if that was intentional, but I wouldn't put it past you by any means.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

It's not easy to mix comedy and sadness.  You done good, Sarge.

Jacob Haller (jwgh) says:

The third panel is poignant - at first read it seems like Dave is answering the question 'do you know what you want?' with 'You.'

Will Knight (waknight) says:

Yeah, I liked it to.  It captures, among other things, that this is about the most traumatic way possible for Helen to break up with Dave -- when there is no evidence to Dave of anything particularly wrong in their relationship (other than the whole 'boss' thing and the whole 'madwoman' thing).  Great job, Artie.

Ruben Krasnopolsky (ruben) says:

I agree with the praise.  The strip works.  "I want you" indeed... sad if said in earnest, even sadder if it is just shock.

@Will - Artie, welcome to the evil-doer side...

 

Jon Stout (brasswatchman) says: Are you kidding me? This strip is great! Managing to find humor - ANY humor - in this kind of situation is like trying to squeeze water from a rock.
Andrew Cole (andy4hire) says:

The breakup sequence was gut-rending to read, but I really really liked the way you handled this strip. Helen's coldness, her inability to make eye contact with Dave, Dave reeling (or so I imagine) from disbelief and shock but still managing not only to answer her questions but also to cover the horror of the situation by choosing the punchline answer over the true answer in the fourth panel .... I'm with Ed here. You done good, Sarge.

Marni Rachmiel (marniferous) says:

I agree with everyone else about the third panel poignancy...

Sam Ashley (evilmidnightlurker) says:

Funky Winkerbean.  Isn't that, like, all of them? :)

(confusador) says:

Can I just say I was really proud of myself for getting all of these, back when it first ran.  After I picked myself up off the floor, that is; this was a brilliant way to break the tension after the last strip.

Anyway: QC, FBoW, S*P, CAD.  At least, I thought it was FBoW, since that's what everyone was talking about at the time, but it's not what one would traditionally call a webcomic.  And as you say, the miscarriage thing is overdone, even by those who should know better and not just by men.

(Also, I appreciate that the points go to Gryffindor no matter who gets it. That seems to be pretty much the way it worked.)

(gamerbj) says:

Panel 1 is Questionable Content, Panel 2 is General Protection Fault, Panel 3 is Something Positive, and 4 is Crtl-alt-del I think. It took me a bit to remember 2, and I'm not positive on 3 and 4.

Dave Van Domelen (dvandom) says: Panel 1 is Questionable Content. Panel 2 is nagging at my brain, but I can't place it.
Glen (snelg) says:

QC, GPF, S*P, C+A+D

...is it sad that I know those answers off the top of my head six years later? To be fair, I don't read two of those any more, and one of them I never read in the first place.

Leon Arnott (l) says: Wednesday:

Fourth-wall jokes: 69.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "My Favorite Things", Rodgers & Hammerstein)

I must convince you that I'm really leavin',
Give you a story that you can believe in ...
Dad suicidal, I saw him get shot!
These are my fav'rite Devices of Plot!

I was assaulted, my lover betraying!
Alzheimer's got me, my mind is decaying!
Bloggers would think a miscarriage was hot ...
These are my fav'rite Devices of Plot!

   When the plot's been
   Tied in knots, and
   Story's on the ropes ...
   We'll pull out our fav'rite Devices of Plot,
   And end up on T-
   V Tropes!

L E (firstcrusader) says:

C+A+D's miscarriage strip was in 2008, two years after Narbonic ended. I have no idea what strip she's talking about, though.

Daibhid Ceannaideach (daibhidc) says:

It's only been a few months since I went on a GPF archive binge, and I still couldn't place that one until someone else said it. No points for Hufflepuff, as usual...

Viktor Dosk (hugin) says:

I've only seen one comic(CAD) do a Very Serious Miscarriage story. I've seen dozens, if not hundreds, of jokes, parodies, and storylines referencing it, but CAD was the only one that I've seen play it completely straight. 

Justin Kane (avatarjk137) says:

"anything dramatic that could happen to a female character besides rape and/or a miscarriage"

This is why I stick to gender-neutral tragic backstories.  So no rape, no miscarriage, and no... castration, I guess.

Paul Gadzikowski (pgadzikowski) says:

My understanding is that the miscarriage storyline in Ctrl-Alt-Del was an attempt less to bring drama into the characters' lives than to come to terms with the author's own experience.

Carl Fishman (carlfishman) says:

Slightly related; I've noticed a tendency in fantasy novels aimed at women readers for any female character that gets pregnant to die in childbirth.  (Whereupon the heroine decides that she doesn't ever want to go through that!)  Which, yeah, did happen way too much in pre-germ theory days, but from the frequency that it happens in novels it's a wonder that the race didn't die out!

John Ames (commodorejohn) says: This has always been my favorite "zing!" moment in Narbonic. But then, Very Serious Storylines have always been a huge pet peeve of mine. I'll say no more, to avoid a page-long rant...
This guy I know (thisguy) says:

Didn't AsLAN have all of these?

Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says:

AsLAN has all of those in a typical week.
Matthew Mather (madtinkerer) says:

" It's also thematically appropriate, in the sense of a character being a ticking time bomb who will eventually blow up and destroy Tokyo. In a manner of speaking"

Not to mention the theme of a character's brain being the source of a growing supernatural power which they have less and less control over, and will eventually overwhelm them.

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE:  "All I Know", Art Garfunkel)

I love you, you love me,
But this darned insanity
Is stopping me
From bedding you ...
We're in love, but you say we're through!

   It was such a joy, when I was your toy ...
   Each variation we used to enjoy!
   We tried it girl-on-girl, and boy-on-boy!

Now you say we're through, but I can't see
Why you're do-ing this to me?
Emotionally,
We're total wrecks!
I've lost you, and I've lost great sex!

David Harmon (mental_mouse) says: The irony of course, is that for once, she's being entirely rational and calculating. Also evil, mustn't forget evil. Indeed, she's just "played the madness card" as a cover for her true plans.... (And poor Artie, playing right into her scheme!)
Justin Grubbs (jjgrubbs) says:

Your ア looks more like a フ and I'm chuckling at the title Fukira.

Rex Vivat (sirgarberto) says:

@Justin: That's the font of the original poster for akira: 

http://www.movieposterdb.com/posters/05_10/1988/0094625/l_61539_0094625_7c1a0f81.jpg

See how that "A" looks like a "FU" too.

Adam Underfoot (unnatural20) says: @RexV nope, movieposterdb resists hotlinking
Rachel S. (masamage) says:

Dave's last line kind of breaks my heart.

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

>> If somebody says stuff like that in real life, you should probably run.

Why didn't someone tell me this in 1986?

Rex Vivat (sirgarberto) says:

"If somebody says stuff like that in real life, you should probably run" -> well, that's what Helen is trying to accomplish here.

@ed: I couldn't. I wasn't born yet.

Leon Arnott (l) says: Saturday:

Helen's pose is a bit hard to read in panel 3 - it's hard to tell what direction her torso is facing.

Personality sprite strips: 21. If today's panel 4 isn't a callback to this panel 4 then I don't know what it is.

However I will also say that the personality sprites' reappearance does reinforce Helen's "mad people" line in a pleasing fashion, insofar as they are tiny invisible people that only she can see. In fact, it would be great if all of Helen's sprites were surrounding her - a mental menagerie comforting her, underscoring how alone she is at this moment.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "A Boy And His Frog", Tom Smith)

Long time ago, I decided
That I would decipher the rules
How genius could turn into madness,
And that would show all of those fools!

I was screaming and giggling and ranting
At experiments furry and strange!
All of that was before you walked in through my door,
Then ev'rything started to change ...

    Down at the pub that we called Manganello's,
    We'd raise a pitcher or two ...
    We swore we'd show all our mad-science fellows
    All of the things we could do!

    We would toast to victorious battles,
    (Or, at times, the occasional loss)
    And ANTONIO SMITH
    Knows he can't trifle with
    Dave and Helen ... the henchman and boss!

With the intern named Mell, we would raise lots of hell
And give in to each violent urge!
But who knew, amidst all the gunfire,
Your genius would start to emerge?

We would carve out a swath of destruction
From the tropical isle to the Moon!
But the breakthrough to madness comes closer,
And I know I must end this, and soon ...

I never meant this to happen,
I didn't plan, at the start,
When toying with you, to discover
Your mind was the key to my heart ...

We could be crazy together,
But that is a price I won't pay!
So I'll now lie, with a dry eye,
And I'll tell you it's better this way ...

    You must go on to a life without madness,
    Hopefully not go insane ...
    I want to free you from danger and sadness,
    I want to spare you the pain ...

    You were more than a subject, or victim,
    Or experiment strapped to a bench ...
    Though I feel like a jerk,
    I'll abandon my work
    Just to save ...
    (I love you, Dave)
    My wonderful hench.

Andrew Cole (andy4hire) says:

Indeed, Sarge, that is some epic hair Helen's got going on in this strip.

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