Heck, this one’s kind of cute. The last line is good. My aversion to doing spot blacks or drawing any kind of backgrounds continues.
What else can I talk about? Oh, right…the awful quality of the scans. I’ve been using the same scanner since the beginning of Narbonic, but in the early days I didn’t have Photoshop or anything like that. All the computer touchup was done on MS Paint. That’s right, MS EFFIN’ PAINT. That’s the way we rolled back in the day.
Okay, now we see why I avoided drawing backgrounds. Drawing is HARD. On the sign in the foreground, we see Dr. Noah’s last name, Lazarow, mentioned for the only time in the strip. Dr. Lazarow was our family dentist when I was a kid. His son Dan was The Artist at my high school, and is now a CGI effects artist. You don’t know how giddy I am to discover that he has an IMDB entry. (And Dan, if by some chance you’re reading this: I totally had a crush on you.)
“Saulino” was the name of a guy I dated a couple of times, and the last thing on the sign is a Sylvan Learning Center.
At this point, Narbonic is starting to come together. You’ve got the three main characters (minus Artie, who won’t be along for a while) functioning as a unit, pointless debates about what evil lunatics are and aren’t supposed to do, and references to chemical weaponry. Frankly, you could run the strip above every day for the next six years without losing much.
The strips are also getting pretty wordy. This will only get worse with time.
Eventually, I would get pretty good at keeping my characters’ proportions consistant in full-body shots. Eventually. Dave and Helen look like hobbits in that first panel.
The square, indefinite unit of machinery behind them represents my default lab background decor for pretty much the entire run of Narbonic. I felt kind of guilty for not doing any kind of research for lab visuals, but much later I got to tour Fermilab in Chicago, and it was filled with equipment that looked exactly like that cabinet thing. Only without the potted plant.
First shot of Mell in a bandolier! Hooray!
Oh boy oh boy oh boy. Here we have the first appearance of Dr. Antonio Smith, forensic linguist. From his mild-mannered visage here, one almost couldn’t guess that he would someday inspire the sexual awakening of a superintelligent homosexual mutant gerbil. The future lies before us like a shining golden road.
Dr. Smith was inspired by one of my college professors, Don Foster, a Shakespeare scholar and pioneer in the use of textual analysis to determine the authorship of documents. He’s best known for identifying an anonymous 16th-century elegy as the work of Shakespeare and for correctly identifying Joe Klein as the author of the anonymous thinly-veiled-Clinton-campaign novel Primary Colors. I had him for Shakespeare and Elizabethan literature. I liked him a lot, even though he obviously enjoyed bitching about his work on the Ramsey case to anyone who would listen.
Antonio Smith is named after Bassanio’s ambiguously gay friend in The Merchant of Venice.
Also appearing here for the first time is the unnamed curly-haired cop, who seems to be the only police officer in whatever town plays unwilling host to Narbonics Labs. My friend Ed Wells later dubbed her “Foxy Cop,” a name which has stuck.
Oh, and we have the first mention of Helen’s middle intial, which will provide a key plot point down the line. Man, is this ever a busy strip.
This strip looks different from the other strips in this week because I had to rescan it at some point not too long ago. I think I rescanned it from a photocopy because I’d sold the original art, so it still looks a little off.
Well, hell. Sometimes you’ve just gotta have a meaningless throwaway strip. Yeah, it’s dumb, but at least Helen looks hot in the first panel. She has that fierce gay-goddess look, like Miss Piggy.
Mell wore plaid skirts in the early strips, later switching to checks. Again, back then, I really hated coloring stuff in. I still do, but now I suck it up and do it.