Dr. Narbon: April 9-14, 2001

The important thing is that I’ve started darkening the art more when I scan it. Finally, blacks!

“Nuns on Fire” was another entry on my band name list. I don’t remember where most of these came from.

Song list:

52. “Explode,” by Balthrop, Alabama

Today is the day
That the world is gonna explode
Watch and see
You will die
This makes me smile
To think about how
Today’s the day
Of our last goodbye

Thanks to Brenton Clifford for this excellent suggestion. This is an awesome song! Also, watching the MySpace video, I think there’s an entire Narbonic cast contained within the band’s approximately 57 members.

Action shot! This actually doesn’t look too bad, either. Go figure. Between this and Helen sticking her hand out of the frame in the last panel, this is pretty dynamic for a Narbonic strip.

Dr. Narbon and her daughter appear to share a similar design sense when it comes to sci-fi energy pistols.

Song list:

53. “Test-Tube Baby,” by Morphine

I’m just a test-tube baby
I start out clean each day
I’m just a test-tube baby
I start out clean each day
I have a pinch of this
I have a taste of that
I have a glass of this
I have a jug of that
I have a bag of this
I have a box of that

Strangely appropriate to this storyline, at least until the track segues into “Shoot’m Down” halfway through.

Oh, hey! Foreshadowing! Foreshadowing that won’t pay off for years! That’s the Narbonic we all know and occasionally tolerate!

“Dave Davenport Has Come Unstuck in Time,” the big time travel storyline, didn’t run until 2003, but it was one of the first storylines I plotted out. I was therefore able to set up certain elements well in advance. I knew that Dr. Narbon had already met Dave, at least from her perspective, so I had her react accordingly.

The little deely-bopper thing is missing from Dave’s monitor. Maybe he’s on a different computer.

Yeah, Mell’s got a soda in one hand and a grenade in the other. Of course.

Song list:

54. “The Time Machine,” by H.P. Lovecraft

Don’t be outside looking in
You might not get the chance again
You’ll feel fine as soon as you’re strapped in
It’s really keen
You’re on the one and only homemade time machine

Yes! A time-machine song! I pity the fool who doesn’t enjoy psychedelic rock, vaudeville music, old-timey scratchy recordings, and/or lyrics about time travel, all of which this song features. It’s like the band saw through time while tripping out of their skulls in Golden Gate Park in 1968 and realized that someday I would exist, and they decided to craft the perfect song to entertain me.

Oh, Dave, Dave, Dave. Just tell the good doctor you know nothing about time travel and get the hell out of Dodge.

Yes, Dr. Narbon is totally macking on Dave. She thinks he’s cute. She and Helen have a lot in common.

I have no idea what Helen’s T-shirt says this time.

Song list:

55. “The Creature Crawling,” by Frank Black

The creature crawling don’t know when he’ll arrive
Don’t know if creature is dead or alive
All of God’s creatures have the will to survive
Did you know about that?

Always love a good B-movie monster song. My favorite Frank Black song, “Men in Black,” was already taken by The X-Files.

Another imaginary band name on Helen’s T-shirt. Like I said, I had a long list of them.

The little sheep magnet on the fridge is based on one I got as a souvenir in Ireland; I did a junior year abroad at Trinity College Dublin when I was in college. I notice there’s also magnetic poetry at about knee level, which is odd.

In the second panel, Dr. Narbon is dropping ice cubes into her wine, another detail lifted from my own mother.

Song list:

56. “Brainiac’s Daughter,” by the Dukes of Stratosphear

Brainiacs Daughter
Made me a suit of bricks and mortar
And a matching stove pipe hat, oh yes
Brainiacs Daughter
Took me on a sleigh ride underwater
And I’m crazy for girls like that

A mad-science love song that really does sound completely nuts. Lots of Superman references, too. The Dukes of Stratosphear were an alter ego for XTC. I’ve got a couple of covers of this song, but of course the original is the best.

Oh, Artie, Artie, Artie. It really is like getting religion. I actually did vote for Nader in the 2000 elections. I live in a state that was pretty much guaranteed to go to the Democrats anyway, and there was no way that monkey guy was going to get elected, right? Right? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

As far as I know, the ratio of Arties to Stephen Hawkings is correct.

Dr. Narbon has a lot of common sense for a mad scientist. Helen doesn’t pay any attention to her, of course. As well-meaning as Artie endlessly is, he does cause a lot of chaos and misery. Voting Green is just the tip of the iceberg.

Song list:

57. “Einstein’s Brain,” by Lynn Harrison

Einstein’s brain in the back of a car
Einstein’s brain in a little clear jar
Einstein’s brain is goin‚ somewhere
Einstein’s brain, already there

Not really as mad-sciencey as it sounds, this is a bouncy little song based on the book Driving Mr. Albert by Micheal Paterniti. Paterniti drove across America with pathologist Thomas Harvey and his most precious specimen/relic, Albert Einstein’s (somewhat) preserved brain. Now their story has a theme song. Why not?

47 thoughts on “Dr. Narbon: April 9-14, 2001

  1. Also, in spite of its complete lack of mad science, “Explode” somehow seems more Narbonicky to me than “Weird Science,” “She Blinded Me with Science,” or “Science Fiction Double Feature.” Maybe it’s the video, or maybe it’s the combination of cheerful dark humor and vaguely wistful romanticism.

  2. And this is why Mellony W Kelly will never be a subtle evil.  Hers not to wonder why, hers but to scream out, “DIE!”

  3. Monday’s Comic: Now, that third panel is just heartwarming. But does she ever drink that wine? I’m increasingly thinking that she just carries it around as a fashion accessory.

    “Heh. Heh. Heh.”: 3. The gag has reached a sweet spot – repeated just enough times to be increasingly funny, but not quite enough times for the audience to recognise it as a catch-phrase.

    Also, I disagree with Dave’s use of “cackle”. Cackles are traditionally shrill or shrieking. “Chuckle” seems more appropriate. (Gosh, will I ever tire of nitpicking our author’s vocabulary usage? What monster have I become?)

    You know what? Artie should have been named Ken – then you could do one of those punchlines that makes everyone groan loudly and bellow “Curse you, Piers!” to the heavens.

  4. Neat. Heh heh heh.

    P.S: After all that chuckling/cackling/whatever, your throat must need something…

    …want a mint? 🙂

  5. Back in my D&D days, we had a game master named Ken.  I also owned some of the original Star Trek paperbacks (the original episode stories re-written by James Blish).  On the back of one volume was the blurb, “Worlds Beyond Ken!”

    We kidded Ken that, apparently, there was quite a lot that was beyond him.  We also learned that It’s Not Nice To Mess With The Dungeon Master.  I died a lot.


  6. Sorry about the missing strip, guys. I think I’ve got it fixed now. This would, of course, have to happen on the one week I’m out of town and have limited Internet access.

  7. Tuesday’s Comic: Not even I was expecting this episode, and I’ve already read it at least twice before.

    Having one-upped Mell in two previous episodes, it now seems that those were just windups for today’s punch, in which Dr. N not only quick-draws and shoots Mell in the face with a full-on laser, but, in the very next frame, catches her thrown wineglass in thumb and forefinger with ninja-like reflexes, spilling nothing.

    And then there’s that cute understatement punchline which garnishes it all off.

    “Heh. Heh. Heh.”: 4. I have a feeling that the running “Heh heh heh” joke would work better in an audio context. In the webcomic form, the repetition is more obvious and tends to wear thinner quicker.

  8. Monday: Leon asks, “But does she ever drink that wine?”  Tuesday: She drinks the wine.  Wednesday:  Leon apologizes profusely for every doubting the author, and flogs himself in shame.

    Thursday:  The self-flogging video somehow gets on YouTube.  Heh heh heh …

  9. Neeeat. I’ll add ‘fast reflexes’ to Dr. Helen non-Beta Narbon’s file. That said, it might be a bit of a necessity for being a mad scientist.P.S: Heh heh heh.

  10. Speaking of H. P. Lovecraft, another song rec for the list: “To Life,” from the Lovecraftian musical spoof A Shoggoth on the Roof. Not on iTunes, but the group that put it on has an audio sample on their site: And here it is!

    Some lyrics:

    PRUDENCE. Oh, Papa dear, I want to marry Herbert,
    Since he has a power once reserved for God!
    ARMITAGE. I never could say no to you, my darling,
    Even though young West should face a firing squad…

  11. Wednesday’s Comic: Oh, goodness gracious. In this universe Dave still smokes, so how does Dr. N already know him and have his action figure? …Ahh, don’t you just love time travel storylines?

    Now, now, we noticed the deely-bopper’s absence last week. And right now, we’ve narrowed down the suspects to Mell, Artie, a very fast-moving Dr. Narbon, a Buzzy Beetle, Kilroy, or the deely-bopper suddenly acquring sentience and self-mobility between panels.

    “Heh. Heh. Heh.”: 5. Much as the previous episodes were entertaining, today’s straight play of the Narbon laugh seems a little muted. I mean, she’s been using it for several episodes straight, so it’s a bit hard to take seriously anymore.

    (P.S: I’ve noticed that the level of wine in her glass has only dropped by about half an inch since Monday’s episode. Therein lies the truth of the matter: one does not drink wine – one merely tastes it.)

  12. That or she’s got a box just off frame and fills it constantly, thereby only having “one” glass of wine all day. I’ve seen people use this strategy, though it takes a mad scientist to avoid the nastier consequences.

  13. Oddly, this one is not a black and white strip — it’s a black and transparent strip. (wihch is currently on a black background)  Which showed up Really Wierdly in the livejournal feed.


  14. (by “this” I mean “and this is dave” — the other strips seem to have a normal alpha-channel setup


  15. “Oh, goodness gracious. In this universe Dave still smokes, so how does Dr. N already know him and have his action figure? …Ahh, don’t you just love time travel storylines?”

    I’ve never quite figured out Narbonic’s temporal model. As we see over the next few strips, changes to 1983 from Unstuck In Time are already part of the current timeline’s past, but changes to 1993 from the same time-trip aren’t. I can only think of one distinction between the periods that might be relevant to the temporal physics of the whole thing. 

    In other words, I blame Helen.

  16. The future part of the ‘Unstuck in Time’ storyline seems obviously influenced by the similar sequence on Babylon 5, including what I take to be a number of direct references. The parallel is interesting because it highlights a major contrast between the two universes. All of the prophecies on B5, with the exception of one relatively minor occasion in the middle of season 3 where it doesn’t turn out after all that everyone dies, come true, and the actions of the characters to prevent them are for naught. Narbonic, on the other hand, is dominated by the characters’ awareness of a future that (at least within the timeline followed by the strip) eventually doesn’t come to pass. This makes Narbonic a lot more causally complex!

    It seems as though, at this point, the trip that Dave is going to go on is not the history-altering trip that some version of Dave has already gone on to give Yak-face to Dr. Narbon. We know that Future Hologram Dave also went through a time trip, because he knows to prepare for it and what questions he’s going to ask himself — he, however, lived in a future where he had always smoked and didn’t refill the swimming pool. What I imagine is a whole sequence of Daves, starting with one whom Dr. Narbon didn’t recognize, continually making this trip and making further small changes and then advising their past selves slightly differently and propogating further changes, until eventually our Dave managed to make a big change and break out of the terrible Dave Destiny of ruining the world for everyone.

    One interesting implication of this theory is that our Dave logically wouldn’t be the last one; the next Dave who goes forward would be expected to see a relatively happy mad scientist scenario. This, in turn, might cause him to behave radically differently than our Dave did thereafter. Since the present Mad Future Dave probably likes his life a lot, he might try to prevent this by plugging himself at the appropriate time into a simulation designed to replicate exactly the experience he had when he himself went forward. I like this solution because of the way it stubbornly doesn’t even try to avoid a time paradox; it seems very mad scientific.

  17. Thursday: looks like “Aphrodite Hangnail CONCERT” to me.  Is there a band named Aphrodite Hangnail?

  18. Andy: I like the idea of an endless chain of Daves; I came up with a much more convoluted explanation a while back, involving two timelines and Daves who changed places, but I don’t think it really has the aesthetic elegance of the ‘Daves all the way down’ model.

  19. To stall for time while I cogitate a response to Mr. Holloway (which I may or may not actually produce), here’s a short story about endless relay multiple-universe time travel similar to that proposed by Andy. That oughta hold the little

  20. Thursday’s Comic: See? Not even Dave is able to take “Heh. Heh. Heh.” seriously anymore. Only Helen, who knows the score, is appropriately forlorn.

    “Heh. Heh. Heh.”: 6. The cartoonist perhaps should have considered increasing the panel count for each comic, simply so that Dr. N could get a chance to fit more dialogue in between each mandatory penultimate panel cackle. After all, the main objective of these recent strips is exposition, right?

  21. Well, the whole idea of parallel timelines and “alternate selves” kinda plays hell with the idea of souls and an afterlife — which will be prominent in the next storyline!  (I’m sure there’s tobacco in Hell, if only so the demons can hog it all…. 😉 )


  22. Oh! Sure! The one time I was wondering what the t-shirt says, you don’t remember and can’t read it either!!

  23. It looks to me (without actually pulling out a graphics proram) like it says “Aphrodite’s Aangnai Concert”. So. yeah.

  24. Friday’s Comic: In panel 2, Helen’s previously benign panel-leaning (most recently seen here) becomes just ridiculous. I’m quite confident that nobody can lean on any vertical surface at that angle without making a fool of themselves.

    Ideally, Dr. N’s insidious laughter would have spontaneously crushed the adamant Helen into a weeping shambles by panel 4. In the Narboniverse, Dr. N’s “Heh heh heh” is like Roger Rabbit’s “Shave and a haircut”.

    “Heh. Heh. Heh.”: 8.3.
    Instances of the word “lipgloss”: 2.

  25. Ice cubes in the wine ? ICE CUBES IN THE WINE !!??

    In france, you can get burned at the stake for doing things like that. 


    Surely the band’s name is APHRODITE’S RANGERS.  If not, it should be!  In fact, I going out right now to form that band!

    Does anyone know if any members of the FUGS are currently at liberty?

  27. “In France, you can get burned at the stake for doing things like that.”

    In point of fact, the French villagers burned her at the stake, chopped her corpse into little pieces and hopped all over them.

    Ah, that’s right. Shannon, you neglected to mention that the villagers were French!


  28. “Fred no one  will take this comic seriously if you keep climbing the boarders” – Dan O’Neil



  29. The shirt seems to say Aphrodite Kangaroo in concert.  At least that is what I can make out.  I have just motored through to the end of the comic over the last two days and I realized something about the art style.  When in profile the characters look very similar to the early doonesbury characters.  Specificly the “college years” in the seventies.  The first Doonesbury collection is what got me into comics that had a plot and made you think.  The evil grin of Dr Narbon, Daves wavy mind blown grin, hark back to Joanie teaching, and Phred buying “pajamas”.

    Good times, you have encouraged me to go and dig out those collections.  You stand in the company of ginats in my opinion.

  30. Saturday’s Comic: Ah yes, American political humour – a variety of comedy that transcends time and culture and speaks directly to the human spirit. Just like Microsoft jokes.

    “Heh. Heh. Heh.”: 9.3. I’ll assume Artie’s momentary resemblance to Chad is unintentional, shall I?

    It should be mentioned that perhaps all of the chaos and misery that is the fault of Artie is also, invariably, the fault of Dana. His virtuous actions are twisted into vicious consequences by Dana and her kin. His story is inextricably intertwined with hers. This presumably says something about the necessity of either of those characters to the central Narbonic plot – as does the fact that, out of those three, Dave is the one whom Dr. N is ordered to remove from the sequence.

    Saturday’s Song: Now here’s something that maps surprisingly well to an existing Narbonic story arc.

  31. out of those three, Dave is the one…

    Remember that it’s Mel who ultimately gave that order, and the gerbils learned early to keep on her good side. 

    Also, you can’t blame Dana for the Madblood robots!  Or the Moment of Culture, for that matter…  

  32. There’s an additional comma after “Superintelligent” in that last strip. Not that anyone cares anyway…

  33. My personal assumption is that the knee-high magnetic poetry was the work of Artie, using his resourceful nature to… Do it while standing on Daves shoe? Stick to the bottom of the door using his tail and some cling film?

     Regardless, that is my story and I am sticking to it.

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