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Smithson Thus Far... ·


This is another of the last strips written for this storyline, just to keep the plot making sense, but it fits in pretty nicely. I have no idea how large Narbonics Labs is or how it's organized, but this week of strips mentioned a Blue Sector, so I decided to use Green Sector here. The yeast vats are a reference to Jeffrey Wells's Very Long Fanfic, which has a lot of yogurt in it.

I dodged the question of how Dave 2.0 eventually managed to get by with no car and no apartment. I kind of like the idea that Helen and Mell just kept him stuck at the lab indefinitely.

This strip was inspired by a traumatic incident from my youth, which I have chosen to adapt into comic form:

Thank you.

The Orgone Supercollider is a reference to the great psychiatrist and crackpot Wilhelm Reich's belief in a substance called orgone that suffuses all living things. Since Reich believed that orgone was, among other things, the source of sexual energy and orgasm, it seemed like the stuff to have around when Helen and Dave were, you know, doing it.

At the first Narbonicon we went to a presentation from the curator of the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices, and Andrew got to wear an orgone-collecting hat.

Cartoonist William Steig was a believer in orgone and had his own orgone cabinet. So if you've ever enjoyed a "Shrek" movie, thank orgone.


I was taken with the idea that Rebooted Dave doesn't like Man-Artie. That's a weird sentence now that I look at it.

My habit of drawing characters with their tongues sticking out when they laugh is taken directly from For Better or for Worse. Thank you, Lynn Johnston.

I spent some time on Dave's description of Artie. "Annoying good looks" always makes me crack a smile.

Matthew Mather (madtinkerer) says:

I would guess that the formula would go like this: L = Largeness, O = Organization, A = Attention span of Mad Genius, T = time since breakthrough.

L = ~O(AT)

In other words, Largeness is the inverse of Organization times Time and Attention Span. The less organized and more scatterbrained a mad scientist is, they'll need more room over time for works-in-progress.

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

Wouldn't having no access to Twizzlers be a Code Red?  I figured Green Sector would be where they keep the Mountain Dew, which would be an equally catastrophic loss.

David Harmon (mental_mouse) says: I'm noting that even clone!Dave is slightly uncanny, just as the original was.
Daniel Dwiggins (dand) says:

Ed-  Remember Dave wired the place.  Presumably it has Moutain Dew taps in every single room.

Leon Arnott (l) says: Tuesday:

This scenario is beginning to remind me of the ending of A.I.

To recap, Dave has lost at least 5 cars: one Helen stole for a date, one collided with a satellite, one turned into a self-destructing robot, one got beat up by robots, and one Mell stole for not even any reason. I haven't scanned the bonus stories for any other cases, and who knows how many took place between storylines once it became established as a running gag.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

Oh, yes, I remember the "Bug with a feature".  So I guess Dave 2.0 has been debugged?

Rodford Smith (stickmaker) says:


So, he's a live-in mad?

Jacob Haller (jwgh) says:

Hey, there's a little Helen cameo in another webcomic I follow:

(confusador) says:

@stickmaker Ow, good work, but no, *spoiler* because he's on the cure.

Helen does have a tendency to stay at the lab, though...

Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says:

Jacob: That is awesome!
Leon Arnott (l) says: Wednesday:

That anecdote sounded familiar. I'm pleased to herald its triumphant return. (Pretend that it's actually possible to directly link comments on this antiquated website and that I did so for a specific one on that page.)

Since the Narbonic universe contains both an afterlife cosmology and cloning technology, the question of the soul is one that should well be addressed. But I wonder if Helen is just trying to make herself feel better - trying to justify this man falling short, in her eyes, of the one she truly loves. Surely she didn't really expect the same attraction for a man developmentally years younger than Dave? That a romance cultivated over years of misadventures could be cultured from some cells overnight?
Rex Vivat (sirgarberto) says:

@Leon: You can, you know. You have to use #stripN at the end of the link, where N is the number of the strip in the week. Like this.

Kay Gilbert (kaygilbert) says:

Wow, now I really can't wait to meet your family at the SH3 party.  You may have to explain to your dad why everyone's staring at his butt, though.

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Norwegian Wood", The Beatles)

I once had a tech,
Then he had me
I built a machine!
It helped us bone,
Filled with orgone!

    The orgone infusing our cells gave us power, and how!
    With bodies colliding at trans-light velocities now!

And when we came to,
I said to you,
"How 'bout Round Two?"
Now, when I recall,
I cry and moan!
No more orgone!

Sean Duggan (duggansc) says: Orgone is also notable because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration not only charged him with false claims but banned his books and burned the majority of them. Oddly enough, you almost never get them to do that anymore, despite the presence of things of homeopathy and Head-On that are infinitely more ridiculous and potentially harmful.
Jacob Haller (jwgh) says:

I worked in a used bookstore for a while, and one day a gentleman came in asking if we had any books by Wilhelm Reich.  It took me a while to remember who that was, and when it finally clicked I only just barely managed to keep myself from saying, "OH, YOU MEAN THE CRACKPOT?"

Anyway, we didn't have any of his books, which is not that surprising. since I believe the FDA destroyed most of them -- though I did later notice one of his books on sale in a used bookstore in New Bedford.

Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says:

Reich was persecuted less for his crackpot science and more for vocally supporting free love and sex education back when that could get you put on a Communist watch list. There were public burnings of his books.

At least one of his (non-orgone) books is worth owning: Listen, Little Man!, an extended rant about the mediocrity of modern society illustrated by William Steig. It's crackpot in its own way, but very entertaining.

I admit I have a soft spot for Reich. As a psychologist he was brilliant and humane, and, as far as quack medicine goes, sitting in a wooden box (LINED WITH METAL IT HAS TO BE LINED WITH METAL OR THE ORGONE WILL NOT ACCUMULATE) for sexual energy is at least not going to actively hurt anyone.
Jacob Haller (jwgh) says:

I think there's a fairly sympathetic chapter on him in Martin Gardner's 'Fads & Fallacies in the Name of Science'.

Edwin Quantrall (reynard) says:

When I first heard of orgone I thought that it was where the city of Eugene was located...

Leon Arnott (l) says: Friday:

That mug of Artie's looks pretty interesting.
Matthew Mather (madtinkerer) says:

"I was taken with the idea that Rebooted Dave doesn't like Man-Artie."

He probably realizes on some subconscious level that Artie is Helen's pre-Dave idealized male fantasy made flesh. So as a clone of someone she has a real relationship with, there's some mild tension. Even though Artie is most definitely not an Ex and isn't about to become a rival for Helen's affection for his own reasons, there's still a mild bit of residual tension between all three of them, on top of the obvious part about huge plot-related secrets.

Also, Helen obviously confides in Artie much more than clone-Dave. She says as much right there in panel three. Regardless of anyone's off-the-clock relationship, too much of that kind of thing in the workplace can lead to resentment.

Ashley Lange (alange) says:

"Someday there will be a reckoning, Helen!" might be the most understated entry in this category, but it's my absolute favorite line in Narbonic. Perfect in context, hilarious after multiple read-thrus. Sometimes it's the little things.

Kay Gilbert (kaygilbert) says:

tune: "It's Impossible (Somos Novios)," Armando Manzanero and Sid Wayne, 1970

It's the awesomest!
Helen grew a clueless clone
It's just the awesomest!

It's the awesomest!
I cant leave this mook alone
It's just the awesomest!

We told Helen
"Dave is hist'ry"
Then he came back
What a myst'ry
I laughed so hard,
Nearly pissed me
It's just the awesomest!

Doesn't know that
He and Helen once saw stars
It's just the awesomest!

Doesn't know that
We've destroyed all of his cars
It's just the awesomest!

Me and Artie
We are gonna throw ourselves a mocking party
Dave is acting awf'ly dumb for such a smarty
This pathetic, off-brand Dave is just the awesomest!

Leon Arnott (l) says: Saturday:

Mell's last line is really adorable. There oughta be more strips that just end with the characters basking in the present silly situation.

Off-panel head pokes: 36.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

Bravo Kay!  You win the Internets today!

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