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This was one of the last strips I wrote for this storyline, but, looking at it now, it fits in pretty nicely. It's kind of cathartic to see Artie finally lose patience with Helen's shenanigans. Also, I believe this is the only time Mell addresses the bra-strap issue. It's a cheap gag, but at least I only did it once.

This strip reflects my own concerns about Narbonic getting too dark, here in the final year. I always worried a lot about keeping it funny.

This is another strip that's basically an illustration of my thought process while writing it. At first I was all, "I can't have a cliffhanger in the middle of the week," but then I was all, "Why not? This way everyone will read it," and then I was all, "Whatever, let's draw some hamsters."

Not that it's legible, but Artie's little pillow bears the motto "For You I Pine, For You I Balsam," a reference to the chapter of Stuart Little where Stuart gets a job as a substitute teacher. This entire strip is about Artie's eventual career (at least by the time of Skin Horse) as a schoolteacher. Note the height Helen indicates for Artie's little disciples.

"More inspiring than joining a nonpartisan think tank?" is one of my favorite Artie lines. It's just so him.

This is Helen's first contact with the hamsters, and I like the snarky little conversation she has with them. It's a shame they never got to talk more. Also, as far as I'm concerned, the hamsters' pathetic human disguise will never stop being great.

I wrote this one fairly early on, because really, this was bound to happen. We never got to see the old pre-Dave lab, and all we know about it is that Mell thought it was lots of fun. That's probably a sign that we're better off spared from it.

29 comments:
Tetra Valent (4_valent) says:

I've long had the impression that Mell wears a sports bra, I guess on account of the width of the visible straps.  It makes the shirt seem quite optional.

@Tiff (from Saturday, on changing the originals):  Shaenon has made so many comments on gray fills, backgrounds, and the style of the early strips that I think she's itching to go back and re-draw many of them.  I'm looking forward to "Narbonic 2.0"!  There will be more original strips to buy, and second editions of the books.  Woo-hoo!

(Shaenon has also commented on changes in the way she has drawn Helen's anatomy, but I say there's nothing wrong with character development....)

Leon Arnott (l) says: Monday:

It's been awhile since we had a fourth-wall joke (#70) or an off-panel head insert (#37). It's like old times again.

The dialup gag is actually pretty sad - how temporally inhibited this Dave is, how he's no longer able to perform his job.
Tiff Hudson (tiff_hudson) says:

Fine, but introducing something like Jar-Jar Binks.

Tiff Hudson (tiff_hudson) says:

Fine, but NO introducing something like Jar-Jar Binks.
(Argh - I mistyped the first one - and since it's being held I can't delete it - curse you, Russian fake perfume selling spam bots!)

Eric Burns (ericburns) says: There is a degree to which this always bothered me. Not in a meta-sense --- I thought it worked perfectly as a story point -- but within the story itself. On the other hand, it perfectly made my thesis that the only true evil was Artie, believing he was good. Artie insisted Dave leave. Artie insisted Helen fire him if she wouldn't cure him. Artie got what he wanted. And then Artie learned that Dave on the cure was horrid to be around and Dave was keeping Helen herself on as even a keel as she went. The environment became unpleasant, and even volatile. What does Artie do? Artie gets out of Dodge. His work there, after all, is done. And staying around to help pick up the pieces isn't a "worthwhile way to spend my time." Good guy? Maybe. But Artie's kind of a jerk.
Matthew Mather (madtinkerer) says:

But... But gallows humor is funny!

Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says:

Artie is not as good as he thinks he is. That said, given that the rule of the Narboniverse is that everything Artie does turns out horribly wrong, he's probably doing everyone a favor by getting out before he can screw things up even more.
John Ames (commodorejohn) says: Honestly, Narbonic at its darkest looks like My Little Pony in comparison to even, say, The Order Of The Stick. This fear turned out to be pretty unfounded, if you ask me. Still, this strip is worth it just for Helen's mad dedication to taking things completely over-the-top colliding with her extremely sporadic (and mostly Dave-centric) sense of ethics.
Bart Janssens (blackcatmoebius) says:

I've always had one problem with the 'this is all Artie's fault' reasoning.  Artie's specific demand to Helen was 'either tell Dave the truth, or let him go.'  Helen decided not to tell Dave anything, just like she decided not to tell him about Lovelace.  Is either of those Artie's fault?

Edwin Quantrall (reynard) says:

@ Matthew Mather: Especially for the guy at the end of his rope...

Leon Arnott (l) says: Wednesday:

Fourth-wall jokes: 71. But I must say, putting the "To Be Continued!" sign in the middle of the strip is a new, brilliant level of silliness that I'm pleasantly surprised to see in this comic's 6th year.
David Harmon (mental_mouse) says: So he doesn't even have an apartment to go to... he has to call the hamsters to pick him up from the lab? Eep.
Eric Burns (ericburns) says: @Bart (from Tuesday the 18th) It's a fair question to ask -- are these things Artie's fault? Unfortunately, the answer is "yes." Artie was the instigator. Artie uncovered what was going on. Artie pushed for a resolution. Artie upset the applecart, in the name of... well, "good." Artie set the course of events into motion.Helen is far from blameless, but Artie's culpable.
Eric Burns (ericburns) says: Well, that's weird italicizing. Sorry about that!
Tetra Valent (4_valent) says:

With all the facilities at the lab, it's a wonder any of them bother with an outside residence.  Since Helen and Mell don't have cars, I wonder how they commute.  Did Helen threaten the mayor with her pesto sauce until he changed the bus routes and added a stop in the median strip of the highway?

Tetra Valent (4_valent) says:


Ah, Stuart Little.... Go Sir Pounce!

I had thought that Helen's right hand was just out of shot and that she was referring to 3-inch-tall disciples. Artie briefly *did* lead a group of revolutionaries. I come from a family of school teachers - sadly, there's nothing inspiring about it for the teacher, and not much for most of the kids. Did she plan from the beginning on making Artie human?

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

Yes, when Artie goes out into the world, he will balsam.  He'll balsam tall men, he'll balsam short men, he'll balsam bishy psychologists ...

David Harmon (mental_mouse) says: So, looks like Helen's getting her wish, more-or-less!
John Wells (johnwwells) says:

"Well, little disciples" remains one of my favorite lines in the whole strip.

Andrew Cole (andy4hire) says:

Huh. I never picked up on the reference to Artie as a schoolteacher before. I have a whole new appreciation for this strip now! Well done, Sarge!

Rex Vivat (sirgarberto) says:

I never picked up the reference to Artie's job before. I just thought "Well, Dana could. It wouldn't be entirely unreasonable for Helen to expect it from Artie..."

John Campbell (jcampbel) says:

Does that mean that Artie wasn't the one who won the cellular destabilizer in the raffle?

Helen could've solved a lot of problems by turning the hamsters into a furry beverage right here, though.

Leon Arnott (l) says: Friday:

The two most interesting parts of this strip are that A) the Narbonic Labs elevator has a doorbell, and B) the Narbonic Labs elevator is roomy enough for Artie to be entirely out-of-shot in panel 2. (Well, all that furniture had to fit in there somehow, I guess.)
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

Now if only the hamsters spoke in a garbled Scottish accent, it's be perfect.

Tetra Valent (4_valent) says:

The disguise is great for Halloween, too.

Leon Arnott (l) says: Saturday:

It's easy to forget, but in most situations where Mell and Helen are alone together, they're really quite dear friends.
John Campbell (jcampbel) says:

You know that the situation's bad when even Mell says that it's horrible and wrong, rather than just pointing and laughing at the misfortunes of others.

David Harmon (mental_mouse) says: Mell tries the "denial" stage, not too successfully.
Jacob Haller (jwgh) says:

Mell's final line is great.

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