At last Antonio Smith, forensic linguist, makes his stunning transformation into ANTONIO SMITH, FORENSIC LINGUIST. He only gets the all-caps treatment when his hat’s on.

I submit that this isn’t any more ridiculous than a swashbuckling, whip-cracking archeologist. I mean, archeologists. With the little brushes and plaster casts. Or whatever it is they use. All I’m saying is, if an archeologist can do it, surely a linguist can.

Check out the dot-matrix computer paper. Even in 2000, was anyone still using that? Besides me, I mean. I was poor.

The quote in the third panel is from Troilus and Cressida, Act IV, Scene V. Wait, I take back what I said earlier about All’s Well That Ends Well being Shakespeare’s worst play. That one’s not very good either.

Just out of college, I still had a lot of Shakespeare rattling around in my brain. Soon it would be replaced with manga plots and factoids about MODOK. I made a point of reading the complete works of Shakespeare in the summer before college, and then I took classes in Shakespeare and read a lot of Shakespeare-related books and was generally really into the man. For several years, I wanted to do a comic book about the life of Shakespeare. I spent a lot of time in college planning it, and no time actually drawing it.

Good grief, the ANTONIO SMITH stuff is silly. I love it. Narbonic is starting to show signs of being halfway decent.

At some point after this strip ran, my friend Ed Wells pointed out that the sulfuric acid ought to just eat through the balloon to Mell’s hand. I told him that it wouldn’t be as funny that way. He replied that it would be much funnier. YOU DECIDE.

At this point in my artistic development, it was very useful to have massive blocks of text that filled entire panels, saving me the trouble of having to draw much of anything. Panel two illustrates this nicely.

This strip doesn’t really add anything after the previous strips, but I was clearly enjoying ANTONIO SMITH very much and wanted to keep this thing going as long as possible. I like his sneakers in the last panel.

I’m a fan of the ANTONIO SMITH sartorial look. When I was a college student, I wore a trench coat and fedora during the winter months. My pride in my own sense of cutting-edge style was tarnished by the existence of another bespectacled brunette girl on the Vassar campus who also wore a trench coat and fedora everywhere, and was cuter than me. It’s so hard to be an iconocast in college.

Aw, this one’s cute. Look, they’re going to redd up their evil lair to get it sparkling for the hero’s arrival. How charming is that? There are a lot of amusing details here: Mell in the background with the little vacuum cleaner, the clumsily-drawn drop of sweat coming off Helen in the first panel, the phrase “the most dread linguist on earth.” What the hell, I still like this strip. Good one, me.

Want the original art for this strip?

This strip contains the first candidate for Most Obscure Reference in Narbonic, right there in the first panel. ANTONIO SMITH’s line is a mangled quotation from Richard II: “Down, down I come; like glistering Phaethon, Wanting the manage of unruly jades.” This particular version is a reference to an anecdote that Dr. Foster used to tell about his toddler son, who grew up around Shakespeare scholars, coming down the steps at home crying, “Down, down, unruly jade!” There you go: a reference potentially intelligible only to people who took a specific class with a specific professor at my small liberal-arts college. And the family of Don Foster. No, I don’t know what’s wrong with me.

The crime lord who left his name on the moon is Chairface Chippendale, from the Tick comics and cartoon show. Holy man-eating cow, Chairface Chippendale has his own Wickipedia entry. That seems excessive, but it turned out to be useful here, so who am I to judge?


7 thoughts on “ANTONIO SMITH, FORENSIC LINGUIST: August 21-26, 2000

  1. by the by, we would have just taken it for Marlowe or something if you hadn’t have told us. Omissions destroy the greatest of con artists.

  2. I’d be happier if ANTONIO SMITH, FORENSIC LINGUIST was actually a linguist rather than an over-confident English teacher. Run-on sentences? Dangling participles? Punctuation mistakes? A linguist cares not for these things!

    Forensic linguists do exist, but we look at use of certain constructions, at identifiable quirks of morphosyntax. And we don’t tend to quote Shakespeare – unless you’re me.

    P.S.: Indiana Jones was a bit of a linguist too, and Michael Shanks’s Daniel Jackson (‘Stargate SG-1’) is the most badass linguist on screen.

  3. ANTONIO SMITH’s act would be far more convincing if he didn’t start a sentence with “and.”

    • There’s nothing inherently wrong with starting sentences with ‘and’. Your teachers told you not to do it because it leads to other grammatical errors.

      • Many of which aren’t actually grammatical errors in English. The language has been targeted by efforts to change it’s nature and structure from Germanic to peudo-Romance several times in the last 80 years. It’s also one of the reasons the language has so many French loanwords in everyday use.

  4. ‘Chairface Chippendale’ is the rightful name of a murderous character from ‘L’il Abner’, circa 1948. Yup. I was delivering papers then, and learned to love comics.

Leave a Reply