And on to another storyline! Not that the previous storyline had much of a plot; it was basically just an opportunity to pause and get some comedy mileage out of the bizarre current status quo. The title of this one, “H Is H,” is a reference to Ayn Rand’s dictum “A Is A,” which she uses in her works as shorthand for “if you don’t agree with me you’re a dumb poopyhead.” In the Narbonic universe, this is a sign that there will be hamsters.
I thought of Dave’s last line at the very last minute as I was inking the strip. I don’t usually sink to puns. I’m very sorry.
But that’s okay, because Artie looks friggin’ hot in his lab coat and goggles. I was getting seriously good at drawing Artie by this point.
Originally I spelled it “Cal Tech,” but then some Caltech people wrote in to correct me. I always like gags where characters refer to offscreen adventures. I think TV Tropes calls this kind of thing the “Noodle Incident.”
Artie’s assumed surname, Meriono, comes from Meriones unguiculatus, the scientific name for the gerbil. He used a different name while unsuccessfully posing as a secret agent in “Battle for the Lost Diamond Mines of Brazil.” Artie kind of has identity issues.
The Knipl Grant is named after Ben Katchor’s comic strip “Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer,” which won Katchor an actual real-world MacArthur Fellowship “genius” grant.
As with so many Narbonic strips, my main regret here is that I didn’t give Mell a bigger gun. The gun can always be bigger.
Why is Artie black? My original idea was that Helen used all the best genetic material she could get for Artie’s human form, regardless of what ethnic makeup this gave him. In one of the Narbonic bonus stories (“The Time She Made Him a Sandwich!”), you can see Dave swabbing the cheek lining of a guy who kind of looks like Artie down at the post office, presumably to collect DNA for the project. Ideally Artie should look mixed-race, but my drawing skills are limited.
Anyway, I kind of like this strip because I like strips where everyone is equally reasonable or unreasonable, and both points of view here are legitimate in their way. Having not been raised with an African-American identity and experiences (or, really, any identity at all, with the whole created-in-a-lab thing), Artie feels uncomfortable identifying as such. Dave, on the other hand, is perfectly happy to label Artie black because, hey, Artie looks black. Dave is not as complex a thinker as Artie.
Nowadays (i.e., over in Skin Horse time), Artie has been living a more or less human life for a while, and would probably have a different response to the issue.
I wrote this strip at the last minute, just to provide a connecting plot thread, but I like the way it turned out. Especially Mell blowing bubblegum for absolutely no reason. Also, what the heck is she carrying in that mail bin?
Yes, Mell has kind of a low opinion of geniuses. This will come up again.
I can’t remember when or how I came up with the meditation concept, but I was really worried about drawing an inflated paper bag well enough that people could tell what it was. It turned out pretty well in the end.
I still do that shading on sound effects a lot. It’s my one trick as far as sound effects lettering goes.
I think this just confused people. Artie is weirded out by the fairly recent revelation, in this week of strips, that Dave’s middle name is Prescott. Yeah, okay, this is a weird strip.