Because every once in a while you’ve got to do a dick joke. This is one of the rare strips that still cracks me up, in this case right around the point of Madblood referring to Helen as “that Circe”–a pretty accurate assessment actually.
And Madblood catapults to a whole new plateau of bad ideas. Even given that he thinks the Dave lifestyle package includes regular sex with Helen, this is obviously a terrible plan. If Helen didn’t already know who he really was, it wouldn’t take her long to catch on. And Madblood would make a lousy henchman.
Still, it’s interesting that Madblood leaps at the opportunity to steal Dave’s life and presumably abandon his own. It suggests that, beneath his theatrical bluster, he’s on the insecure side. In a much later strip (which I wrote at around the same time as this one), Dave bolsters his own ego and works up the nerve to approach Helen by realizing that Madblood, of all people, envies him. And in a much, much later strip, Dave confesses that he always envied Madblood until he realized that he, Dave, was the person he thought Madblood was.
As I think I’ve mentioned before, this is the last in a series of storylines involving Dave undergoing different physical transformations and other people transforming into Dave. In every case, part of the point is to explore what it means to be Dave, what’s fundamental and unchanging about his character. This storyline takes it to an absurd extreme, with multiple Daves and Madbloods running around defending their identities. By the end, I hope, it’s been established who Dave is. In the next storyline, we move on to the second phase: Dave undergoing personal, inner transformations.
Meanwhile, we have yet another joke about Madblood’s height even though he’s not actually that short. Dave’s pretty tall, though. He probably didn’t realize how much he slouches until he saw Madblood walking around in his body looking all tall and imposing.
I like Madblood’s smile in the last panel.
Some folks have noted in the comments that Madblood has an old-school dungeon with iron bars instead of a science-fictional arrangement with lasers or something. I did consider laser bars, but a) they were hard to draw clearly, and b) I wouldn’t have been able to draw characters clinging to the bars as Dave does here. Iron bars are more reliable anyway, although it’s hardly in the nature of mad scientists to worry about things being reliable.
The whole point of this one, of course, is drawing Madblood’s facial expressions. Fortunately, by this point I was really toning down everyone’s eyebrows.
Nuts… for this strip, I had the bright idea of using a black crayon to get a blurred, shadowy effect. It didn’t come out right, and it looked and still looks weird, but I applied the crayon right to the original art so there wasn’t anything I could do to fix it short of redrawing the strip. Which I didn’t do, because I’m lazy.
It’s too bad, since Dave has some nice evil grins in this one. Sigh.
So Helen kinda has a thing for Dave. It was worth doing a five-panel strip to establish it.
As this storyline got longer and longer, I regretted that Helen didn’t play a larger role. She’s relegated to the background of her own strip. Still, Helen’s so powerful that it’s useful to find reasons to take her out of the action. It makes things that much harder for everyone else.
Just about every Narbonic storyline has a strip where the characters pause to revel in how weird and/or unnecessarily complicated things have gotten. I’ve seen Narbonic (and now Skin Horse) described as surreal or absurd, but they always strike me as almost depressingly logical. What I try to do is start from a point of mild deviation from the norm and gradually, ploddingly, build from there until the plot becomes toweringly irrational and you have hamsters in flying islands and whatnot. Daniel Pinkwater’s books Lizard Music and Alan Mendelsohn, The Boy from Mars are my touchstones, although I’ll never be a fraction as sublime.
This is one of those weeks where, by the sixth strip, I was tired of drawing backgrounds.