Get A Life: August 20-25, 2001

Why did I do two weeks of this material? One week was too long! Damn you, Shaenon of 2001! Damn you for not realizing that it was okay to cut weak material!

Seriously, for about the first year and a half of Narbonic I used absolutely every strip I wrote. I was worried about running out of material. Exactly how long I thought the material needed to last, inasmuch as I was doing a webcomic that I could start and stop anytime I liked, I have no idea. Anyway, I didn’t start cutting scripts until the “Gender Swap” storyline, which is why “Gender Swap” is one of the first storylines that still holds up pretty well.

I like the ornate ectoplasmic tail on Victorian Helen, though. Victorian ghosts are awesome. She should have lined up some nineteenth-century spiritualist act with teenage girls cracking their toe knuckles to make people think spirits were knocking.

Despite the lameness of these strips, I will defend “What? And leave show business?” to the death. I am such a sucker for ridiculously hoary punchlines.

I like the little guy with the combover in the first panel. I don’t think he’s anyone in particular; I just enjoy drawing little bald guys.

Well, at least I bothered to draw an entire studio audience. Man, I put a lot of detail into it, too. I must’ve been desperate for some way to make this entertaining to draw. I think those are mostly friends of mine in the front row. Andrew is visible to the right of the psychic’s outstretched hand, and to his right are, I believe, Jason Shiga and my friend Hallie.


Dave falls back into henchman mode pretty quickly. Killed by his previous boss, after ten minutes with a new evil lunatic he’s volunteering to slap together a little HTML for her. Guy needs help.

I’ve gotta admit, I still like the bullet going through Dave’s ectoplasmic head. It’s so cheerfully grim. Of course, the present-day Helen and Mell can also kill Dave repeatedly, but there’s a slightly longer wait to bring him back to life.

I did more jokes about Dave’s extremely short-lived resolution to seize the day later on. I know, it’s easy, but it’s fun. I’m not sure if Victorian Helen actually knows what Ain’t It Cool News is, or if she just assumes that anything Dave wants to check up on as soon as he returns to life has to be lame.

43 thoughts on “Get A Life: August 20-25, 2001

  1. Monday’s Comic: This punchline is a bit hard to parse, as it isn’t obvious from her dialogue alon that Helen is assuming a different voice in panel 3. ‘Tis a gag that should’ve been saved for the radio play, methinks.

    Mr. Psychic is far too glibly happy, considering his line of work. Isn’t he aware of the tremendous emotional catharsis that his audience members experience when their departed loved ones give their final farewells? This is deathly serious business, not some conjuring show.

    What I’d also like to know is why these two dead ladies are wandering spirits in the first place. Do they have some unfinished affair that consigns them to this world?

  2. Most likely, they were banished from Heaven for playing in God’s domain, then got kicked out of Hell for trying to “improve” the torture devices.

  3. To paraphrase Douglas Adams, “The last thing that went through God’s mind as Mell kicked him in the nuts was ‘Oh, no, not again.’  If people knew why God though this, they would understand the Victorian storyline much better.”

    OK, it’s not a verbatim plagar–  er, “tribute”, but I’m doing this from memory and haven’t had coffee yet.  Oh, and Shaenon, I also love the little curlicues on Victorian Ghost Helen.

  4. Victorian ghosts are awesome.

    Mell as drawn by Aubrey Beardsley: Huh.

    Helen as drawn by Aubrey Beardsley: *drool* *snort* *paw ground*

    Just as well she wasn’t; drooling and snorting do not show a man at his best advantage.

  5. I always kind of liked this bit with the Victorian ghosts, it was kinda random, strange and fun.

  6. Frankly I think you’re far too hard on yourself altogether. I found narbonic by seeing an image of one of the first strips and thought it was fantastic. That’s how I got hooked. I’m now a certified druggie. Narbonnie. Whatever.

  7. Not Narbonnie – Narbonicle.  You know, like barnacle?  We don’t let go?


    Anyway, I finally made it out to the Cartoon Museum yesterday.  Since I combined that with a walking tour of Chinatown, which is close, my knees are still complaining.  But the museum was cool.  I came away with a free Narbonic post card. 

  8. Galldangit, I just went and finally made a bedanged account here just because, well. . . 

    This is one of MY favorite story-lines, and I thought I;d better say so already.

    This was the story-line that really got me grade-A hooked when i first stumbled on this comic. (I was Already B-grade hooked by Antonio Smith)

     and this bit? I love this bit! Ghost Victorian Helen’s little phantasmigorial ether tail is wonderful. And her expression in panel three is really nifty.

    So *I*, mad as I am, like this story-line. So there. 

    Prof. Tinker signing off, expect to see me tomorrow! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!! 

  9. Actually, I think it’s quite funny–you should hve done more of it! Always good to poke at phony TV psychics!

  10. This strip reminds me of a question I’ve been wondering about for a while, but have been unable to answer for myself with an archive-crawl, because I always get distracted by the actual story and forget my original purpose.

    Do all of the Narbonic characters respect the difference between “can” and “may”? I know Lovelace does…

  11. Tuesday’s Comic: Mell serves to remind us how human ghosts tend to act once they’ve acquired horrific and disgusting supernatural powers as a result of dying. It’s like second puberty.

    Say, what is Mr. Psychic doing with his hands?

  12. Do all of the Narbonic characters respect the difference between “can” and “may”? I know Lovelace does…

    Only the ones who were raised right. Or programmed.

  13. Mr. Psychic is doing a faux praying motion that signifies spiritual connection and heart felt emotions while not offending the potentially non-religious. Assured enough to be comforting, vague enough to be almost subconscious. Often used by people in these kinds of jobs.

     . . . . what? I think about these things. 

    I like how, judging by Daves’ expression in the last panel, even Victorian Ghost Helen chips away at his sanity, just the same.

  14. Speaking of Jason, what’s he been up to? His website hasn’t been updated in literally years.

  15. Wednesday’s Comic: Helen seems quote enamoured with her host. I’m not entirely sure whether ‘a mind of simple purity’ is being construed as a good personality trait or not.

    Y’know, I wonder what’s being filmed in the other studios adjacent to this one…

  16. It seems more that Victorian Helen has found the perfect minion … he does exactly what she wants him to do, she can have a little sadistic fun with him, and he will never turn on her like most minions (because he has not idea she exists).

  17. Are you kidding? Taking a pure hearted soul’s pure will to help people, and ruining it with a horrible scam?

    How much more evil can you get?


    By the way, that little heart piece on her collar, broach or necklace? 

  18. Speaking of Jason, what’s he been up to? His website hasn’t been updated in literally years.

    Oh, all sorts of things. He put out a new graphic novel, Bookhunter. He became a rapper. One time he was at a party, and a friend bought him a shot of Jaegermeister, and he nursed the shot for like three hours.

  19. I love the fact that she says “world dominion” instead of “world domination” Very old-timey. 🙂

  20. Thursday’s Comic: All hail Narbon Regina Imperatrix!

    When she puts it like that, I can’t help but wish to have seen the Ghost Rebellion for myself. The ghosts could’ve possessed the Madblood Robots and used Ranklechick’s Bliss Extractor to increase their numbers by sucking souls out of both Heaven and Hell, which forces them to fight the Demons in addition to the military. And the gertribbils are there, too. Take that, Pete Abrams!

  21. Not to belabor the point, but I *still* can’t believe you didn’t throw in at least on “Ghost In The Machine” joke.


  22. Man, can you blame him? It *is* Helen, and one who uses adorably anacronistic terms at that. Who wouldn;t want to help her?

    I mean, look at the last panel! Adorable!

    A face like that Belongs on TV! *bu-dum=pum-PISH!* 

  23. The reason not to use “Ghost in the Machine” jokes is that they fall flat if you know that they’re a reference to Sartre.

     Okay, sorry… now that I’ve finished showing off, the other reason not to use them is that too-blatant references like that give a strip a much less serious feel. 🙂 

  24. The reason not to use “Ghost in the Machine” jokes is that they fall flat if you know that they’re a reference to Sartre.

    …did you mean to say “Descartes”? (Criticism of.) I guess they’re both Frenchmen. By an accident of my youth I always secretly think of it as a reference to The X-Files.

    This strip always bothered me because I would try to figure out how ghosts used the internet. But I suppose that they actually probably don’t, and Dave just isn’t thinking things through.

  25. “Like killing you a second time?” So in Victorian times, it was Mell who killed Dave, not Helen Narbon, Sr.?

  26. Friday’s Comic: Might I mention that I’ve long felt a certain disquiet at the idea of Mell, shorn of bodily limitations, and in permanent possession of multiple guns that are permanently loaded, persisting on and on through the ages, shooting and shooting with manic lust forever and ever. It’s a scene similar to the hair-yanking ending of The Cat Came Back.

    Incidentally: being imprisoned in a fixed square of land for as long as the world lives would normally have corrosive effects on a disembodied mind’s health. Fortunately, outside of life, nothing changes… not even yourself.

  27. OK, I am re-thinking this … Mell’s gun is *not* the same as the one in the Victorian adventure.  It’s an ectoplasmic gun that shoots ectoplasmic bullets through ectoplasmic people.  That makes it properly Freakin’, and it certainly is Big … so I’m officially adding it to the Big Freakin’ ™ Gun count, bringing the total up to 11.

    Cameron:  Just because Mell kills Dave a second time, doesn’t mean she was the one who killed him the first time.

    Leon: “being imprisoned in a fixed square of land for as long as the world lives” describes my cubicle-dwelling job perfectly.  But it has had no effect on my mental health.  None.  NONE.  NONE, I TELL YOU!  How *dare* you impugn my sanity!  I am as mentally sound as the next accordion!  To care for the weasels, the milk must be folded carefully!  And I *GZZZZT*!!….  ah, electroshock for breakfast.  Thanks, Mom.

  28. Mell can make ectoplasm, as already established. She just chooses to generally make it in the form of large-bore weaponry.

  29. My theory is that Dave, in whatever incarnation, but especialy so as a henchman, has near-infinte capacity to get fairly used to just about anything Mell choses to throw at him.

     Witness later on in the strip, at the beginning of the D-Con arc one of my favorite bits.

    Helen: Talk of I’ll drop you into an oil Drum full of shaved gerbils and jell-o!

    Dave: I’m already IN an oil drum full of shaved gerbils and Jell-O.

    Helen: AHA!

    Dave I don’t think this is part of the torture. Mell just does this from time to time.

    Mell: Only when I can spare an oil drum.

    Helen: Right. Time to think of something worse than your daily routine.

    *giggles maniacly* 

  30. “now old Mr. Johnson had troubles of his own, he had a yellow cat that wouldn’t leave his home. a special plan with deception as it’s key, one little cat, how hard could it be, how hard could it be?”

     *cackle* love that song / video. always have, always will.

    as to Mell (victorian) stateing that she killed dave previously, lets remember we are talking of, well, a mell, and a dave. just cause he died didnt meant he Stayed dead that time. then again, it might explain why Mr Davenport decided to haunt someplace besides where helen and mell were.

  31. Saturday’s Comic: If I had a second chance, I’d do more than just make jokes about people squandering their second chances.

  32. “I feel like I haven’t really done the current storyline justice. Thiswhole thing with the ghosts has a lot of potential, but I couldn’t think ofenough gags and it feels rushed. I’ll get back to this plot thread sooneror later, but, you know, Burning Man’s next week…”
    Shaenon K. Garrity, 25 Aug. 2001.

  33. Of course, now you could work in a lot of jokes about “Second Life”.  Hmmmm, that would be an interesting plot … some life-form is spontanteously created with in “Second Life”, and it creates a real-world avatar, and spends all his/her waking time controlling the real-world character … making *this* life his/her “Second Life”.

    On second thought (or is it first thought?), that sounds more like the bastard child of Penny Arcade and xkcd.

  34. Ed, I’m going to officially and formally ask you right now if I can steal that idea for my own nefarious purposes.  It might come in handy some day.

  35. Which idea, Jeffrey? The one about “Second Life,” or the one about Penny Arcade and xkcd spawning some sort of horrible predatory mutant webcomic meme? Because, you know, one of those is actually kinda lame.

  36. I think this punchline would have come off a little better is helen was more pleased than serious in the last panel. She looks so oddly. . . dissapointed. If she knows better than why  . . ?

     Hey, did Victorian Dave go mad? I wonder. . . he’d have to have, really.

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