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Smithson Thus Far... ·


I love this strip. Especially the unexplained swirly pattern on Helen's communication screen. It was stupidly hard to draw, but worth it.

Silhouettes always look good! Why do I so often forget this simple fact? As do random circles.

Lotta bubbly liquids in this strip. I hope some far-future literary critic finds symbolic meaning in that. Actually, giant transparent containers of fluid are just really easy to draw (cf. Floating Eyeball Corridor, the most frequently-appearing room in Narbonics Labs).

This one was really hard to write. Sometimes you've just got to sweat 'em out.

I always kind of wanted to draw the scene Mell describes, maybe as a bonus story in one of the books. But I couldn't make it funny, so I never did. It's probably more dramatic as told secondhand, anyway. It's kind of retcon-y, but it does help explain why Helen, and Narbonic in general, were wackier in the early strips.

Helen hired Mell and Dave about six months after going mad. She was still pretty hopped up on the initial rush of crazy when Mell came on board. I'm sure they had fun.

Once again, Artie in a lab coat and goggles is excellent.

I can't remember when I came up with the particular plot point of Helen being madder before Dave came along, but these strips were fun to write. I like Mell being nostalgic for Extra Crazy Helen. It once again brings up the unanswered question of where the heck Mell came from. Apparently one day she just showed up at the lab and started helping Helen out with the mayhem. Of course in the Li'l Mell spinoff she's always been like this.

There are like tubes of giant plants in this room. That's pretty cool.

Leon Arnott (l) says: Monday:

Helen's statement in panel 2 is an interesting and pessimistic observation about a mad scientist's world. If the world of Narbonic is fundamentally chaotic, then a sane scientist is ultimately powerless to control it. Only a mad scientist, through irrational and insane observations and realisations, can fully comprehend and master the world.

As for how this relates to Helen's research, to cure madness while preserving genius: even a 'cured' mad scientist's genius derives from insanity because their discoveries are made irrationally and spontaneously. It is an immense task for Helen to retain this form of 'scientific insanity' while suppressing the social and emotional instability that naturally results from such a mental state.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

This is much like Terry Pratchett's definition of First Sight.  "Second Sight" doesn't mean psychic ability, it means what you see after your mind filters out all the stuff you don't want to see.

I want to combine the DNA of Pratchett and Garrity.  Would the world survive?

Sam Ashley (evilmidnightlurker) says:

If being mad allows you to deal with things as they are, while extreme sanity puts you at grave risk of being killed by things you cannot perceive at all...

...the Narboniverse has some really strange definitions of "sanity" and "madness," 's all I'm sayin'.

Sam Ashley (evilmidnightlurker) says:

But of course you're saying it too, and I shouldn't post on forums at four o'clock in the morning.

David Harmon (mental_mouse) says: Helen does have a point here....
Daibhid Ceannaideach (daibhidc) says:

Really, the definition of "sanity" is pretty much "agrees with the majority consensus on what reality is". If the majority is wrong. well, that's a shame...

Edwin Quantrall (reynard) says:

This kinda reminds me of Stephen King's description of the rumored end of the movie X - The Man with the X-Ray Eyes in his non-fiction examination of American Science Fiction and Horror, Danse Macabre. (pp. 192 - 193)

Long story short, Ray Milland's character -- who has invented a formula to enhance human vision to super-human proportions and tested it on himself -- is now able to see a "bright, shifting, monstrous thing that won't come into focus." King implies that it may be some sort of Lovecraftian Eldritch horror that is aware that it's being watched.

King notes that he's heard rumors that the original ending -- a freeze-frame of Milland standing in the Desert with bloody sockets after having ripped his eyes out -- continues with him screaming "I can still see!!!"

That's how it works in the Narboniverse; Helen, Helen Alpha, Dave, Artie, Zeta, Lupin Madblood and a relative few others can, to varying degrees, see the Eldritch...well...Weirdness that the rest of the world can't. The rest of the world simply doesn't have the Blessed With Suck/Cursed With Awesome vision that our heros (and villains) do. Same thing with Skin Horse. THEY CAN STILL SEE!!!

Tetra Valent (4_valent) says:

Surely one of those circles contains the Official Slogan of Narbonics Labs: "You don't have to be crazy to work here - we provide on-the-job training."

Edwin Quantrall (reynard) says:

Okay, for some reason part of the last sentence in my Monday comment got deleted. It's supposed to read: "No matter how much they try to ignore it (the Weirdness), THEY CAN STILL SEE!!!"

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

If Clone!Dave is True Neutral, does that make him shiftless?

(If you can't drive stick, that joke makes no sense.  But then, neither do any of my jokes.)

JP Chabot (speedball) says:

It's not just that he's not mad--he doesn't have ANY imagination whatsoever.

That is a sad and cruel thing to do to a person.

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

So this is New Dave vs. Classic Dave?  I suppose when he becomes a [REDACTED], he'll be Dave Zero?

Edwin Quantrall (reynard) says:

Working on a new formula for carbonated water, Helen?

Leon Arnott (l) says: Thursday:

Mell is relishing the fact that she's suddenly got a secret life that her mild-mannered friend is unbeknownst to.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

All the indicators are in place.  A version of Dave who's immune to madness will soon take up embroidery ... or maybe quilting.

He's sane; we've seen the sign, he's sewin' soon.

Leon Arnott (l) says: Friday:

We already have some idea of what Helen might've gotten up to in the pre-Dave days.

This is a pretty resonant concept to introduce in this one strip, that love can conquer even madness. You could even argue it's a bit too strongly/unsubtly accentuating the main themes of Narbonic. But I do like that this grand secret to madness that propels Helen and Dave throughout the story is only noticed and remarked upon by clownish Mell.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

Whatever happened to the liquid-hand-soap-and-paper-towel monster, anyway?  Did it get washed away in a rainstorm, or is it working somewhere as a janitor?  (A non-human creature that needs a custodial job ... sounds like a task for Skin Horse!)

Rodford Smith (stickmaker) says:


There's funny, and there's charming. If you could make it charming, that would be fine.

Tetra Valent (4_valent) says:

@Leon: I'm sure love was only a minor part of it.  Given that Mell's first question to Dave was about doomsday machines, I'm sure that the job opening was never really for office IT guru, but for Tinasky Subject.

The thing that made this twist surprising to me is that, even when alone, and while Dave was dead, Helen had almost never seemed ravingly insane.  Evil, yes, which I guess is a madness of its own. Maybe I just work with the wrong sort of people.  (Well, of course, ... computer science graduates....)

Leon Arnott (l) says: Saturday:

What is the reason for Dave quelling Helen's megalomania? Is it that Helen simply has more to lose when she has him around, and is dissuaded from dangerous japes? Does the simple feeling of love in her heart bridle her unceasing rage at the world and all in it?

Or, perhaps more sinisterly, is experimenting on Dave an alternative outlet for her mayhem urges? Rather than the world, is Dave's biochemistry a more desirable battleground against order and reason? She may be shouting and cackling less, but is the wildness just driven under the surface?

I believe a combination of these explanations can almost produce the full picture here.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

Hey, Shaenon could do a prequel comic about Helen, post-mad but pre-Dave!  (It worked for George Lucas, right?)

Tiff Hudson (tiff_hudson) says:

Ed, you can't do that until you've gone back and fucked with the originals.

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