Mad Science Is Decadent and Depraved: August 23-28, 2004

I think this is about where Eric Burns of Websnark started reading Narbonic. It’s a pretty good point to start reading. Eric ended up developing a lot of fondness for Narbonic, and Narbonic and Websnark were practically synonymous for a while. I miss those days.

I mostly made this storyline up as I went along by knotting together loose ends from previous storylines: Zeta, the Madblood androids, the hamsters, Dave’s brother. Given that, I’m surprised by how well it turned out. I still really like this storyline, mainly because of strips like this one.

Not only is the semi based on Optimus Prime, the robot bug thing is strongly influenced by the Transformers Insecticons. It was a dark day when Matt, the somewhat troubled neighbor kid from down the street, stomped on my brother’s brand-new Insecticon, the pride of his collection, breaking it. I don’t think any of us have entirely healed.

It always bothers me that Dave’s head is too big in the third panel, because everything else about this strip is perfect and awesome. It’s so worth setting up all the other stuff so I can get to the point where the giant robot big chases the semi full of rogue androids.

I am pleased with everything about this strip, but especially Dave’s last line.

In the first panel is a copy of Jeffrey Wells’ as-yet-unfinished epic Mundementia One. The drawers in the background are labeled “Gerbils,” “Hamsters,” “Guinea Pigs,” and “Dave.” The drawer in the third panel is labeled “Dead Puppies,” a reference to the Ogdel Edsl song popularized on the Doctor Demento show.

I don’t laugh at many of my own strips, but this is one of them. It turned out just the way I imagined it. I’m still surprised I managed to get the last panel looking as good as it does. That’s kind of a hard scene to draw, a bunch of androids tossing a guy out the back of a semi while he shouts into a cell phone.

I also like the little bit of throwaway dialogue in the first panel. It’s not funny; it’s just in character. You don’t get a lot of room for casual conversation in a gag strip.

In the second panel, I should’ve written, “Aren’t the androids super-strong?” That would’ve made the line clearer. Oh well.

The Mall of America was a nod to the exciting trip we took there during Narbonicon. This line inspired a lengthy group fanfic on the message board describing the thankfully off-panel incident. I’m kind of sorry it was never finished; it got pretty involved for a while there.

I was always vaguely bothered by the third panel. Like, why did I have to rotate the perspective 180 degrees from the previous panel? And why doesn’t the hatch fly open when Dave unlatches it? This is the kind of thing that probably only bothers me, but there you are.

In my defense, it’s not that easy to draw a guy crawling around on top of a speeding giant robot beetle.

Helen’s confidence in Dave’s skills will become very important starting in the next storyline, where all the big plot arc stuff begins to coalesce.

42 thoughts on “Mad Science Is Decadent and Depraved: August 23-28, 2004

  1. Monday:

    The best part of this strip is “We know”, and more specifically the fact that they’re saying it in unison.

    I think one of the reasons Madblood never quite reaches the big time is because of his inconsistent use of animal symbols. We had those ornidroids back in 2000, and now this insectoid roadhog, and of course his self-styled nickname is “Wolf”. He needs to, at the very least, stick to one taxonomic class.

    (The second-best part is a tie between the panel 2 reveal and Zeta’s “Who cares?”)

  2. (TUNE: “Mean Mr. Mustard”, The Beatles)

    Mean Master Madblood makes menacing
    Motored mechanical monsters …
    All the other ‘bots are aghast!
    Gotta get to Winnipeg fast!
    Trying to escape from their past,
    And their mean old master …
    And their mean old master …

    His rival Helen is always tellin’
    Him “Go to Hell and stay there”…
    Once she had a bit of a crush,
    Say his name and Helen would blush,
    Nowadays she doesn’t so much …
    He’s a lonely mad man!
    Lonely mad man!

  3. @Leon:  “Wolf” may not be a nickname, it could be his name, translated from the french.  He may have been named after the famous fictional french thief, Arsen (sp?) Lupin, or after his more famous (in certain circles) grandson, Arsen Lupin III. 

    You’re right, though.  He needs a theme, to help keep himself on track.  Or at least somewhere near whatever insane course he’s set.

  4. Leon: You don’t mention the robots modeled on genus homo, of which two instances are showcased here. Nor, indeed, the partial homo that appears later, with thoroughly absurd capabilities considering what it says was the plan for it.

  5. As it works out, I miss them too.If only there were something I could do — something that could….Oh. Right. Duh.

  6. @Norman: Arsene Lupin.  Actually, there’s an accent on the first ‘e’ that I couldn’t get to appear properly.  By Maurice Leblanc.

  7. I would pay extraordinary amounts of money to see Lupin III and his gang going up against Narbonics Labs and Madblood.

  8. It would be wrong to stop it!  It’s something to savor!  I mean, how many times in one man’s life will he be chased by a giant robot bug?

    Well, a lot, I guess, if you’re Dave Davenport.

  9. Tuesday:

    Dave’s twisted sense of taste will doom them all.

    One nice touch is that the robot’s giant pincer encloses a somewhat redundant smaller pincer.

  10. Re: Dave’s head: Dave’s melon is swellin’ but Helen’s seems gellin’.

    (Madblood’s is puny, but that doesn’t rhyme)

  11. I really should have posted this under the comics for a couple of weeks ago since that’s when someone commented on how scary the women are in Dave’s life, but I’m late for that party so I’ll crash this one…

    Words: Joseph Abbott
    Music: “Pretty Women” from “Sweeney Todd,” Stephen Sondheim

    Scary women
    Holding weapons
    Spiking coffee
    Scary women
    Scary women
    Are a terror
    Scary women

    Sitting at a console or
    Lurking in a lair
    Something in them chills the air

    Scary women
    Planting implants
    Stay within you
    Stay forever
    Laughing madly
    Scary women
    Scary women

    Blowing up their rivals or
    Cloning you for spare
    Even when you leave
    You’d best beware
    They’re there

    Ah! Scary women, at their beakers
    In their labcoats
    How they make a man scream!

    Proof you’re mad too, as you’re staying
    What we do for scary women
    Scary women!
    Scary women!
    Scary women —

    (Would you like a breath mint?)

  12. Wednesday:

    Long story short, this is how Helen manages to keep her clone degeneration at bay.

    What I’m wondering is whether Helen’s ringtone is supposed to be recognisable.

  13. (TUNE: “April Showers”, DeSylva & Silvers)

    When Helen showers
    It takes some time …
    She might spend hours
    Removing slime!
    I know it may seem
    A trifle rude,
    But when she tells me that she’s showering,
    I see her in the nude!

    Though I and robots
    Are venting screams,
    Yet still I know lots
    Of happy dreams!
    And though my life may be in danger,
    I can’t suppress a grin …
    I wonder just what Helen’s bathing in!

  14. @Leon: I’m pretty sure the ringtone’s still “She Blinded Me with Science”.

  15. (TUNE: “I’m Looking Through You”, The Beatles)

    What’s that pursuing?
    A big bug bot!
    And now I’m ruing
    This job I’ve got!
    I said I’d do the
    Idea you had …
    The robots threw me!
    This idea’s bad!

    Why did I think some good advice I’d get?
    Too bad I got distracted
    By thoughts of Helen dripping wet!

    They’ve made their mind up!
    I wear a frown!
    They’re in the wind-up,
    And counting down!
    You think that I’ll panic
    If you know me …
    I’m no mechanic,
    Please, don’t throw me!

  16. tune: “Drink, drink, drink,” Sigmund Romberg, The Student Prince (1924)

    Four, three, two one
    Let’s throw Dave, and then we’ll run
    Four, three, two one
    Let’s throw Dave, it’s lots of fun!

    Toss, toss, toss, toss
    Toss, toss, toss our boss
    At the giant bug that is gaining on us
    Throw, throw, throw this schmo
    From the truck that’s drawn to look like Optimus

    We are grateful for Helen’s quick save
    Someone must hit the bug
    We say it’s Dave
    Now we’re hoping that Dave can hack
    What Lupin sent to bring us back

    Toss, toss, Madblood is mad
    Though his bugbot is rad
    Toss, toss, toss, when we get to Winnipeg we’ll be so glad
    We tossed!

  17. I like to think that Helen’s ringtone is either “She Blinded Me With Science!” by Thomas Dolby, or “Gerbil” by Steven Lynch.

  18. (TUNE: “I Can See Clearly Now”, Johnny Nash)

    I can hear sharply now, good ears I’ve got!
    (Although my poor eyesight is grey and dull)
    They’re tossing Dave onto a big bug ‘bot!
    I know because … it was … inevitable!

    We’re driving northward now to Winnipeg!
    We’re wearing sunglasses, the tank is full!
    Dave is now pleading, for his life he’ll beg!
    I’d bet my paws … it was … inevitable!

       Don’t look behind!  They might be gaining!
       It could be worse!  It could be rain-ing!
       [cue thunder and downpour]

    I can hear sharply now, that thing is near!
    Dave can’t destroy it, it’s too beautiful!
    But now he hangs on as he screams in fear!
    I know because … it was … inevitable!

  19. I looked up the long Mall of America group fanfic a couple of months ago.  Some of it’s still there, but large sections of many of the posts were lost.   If anyone happend to have made a copy of it, I’d love to get it.  Heck, Shaenon would probably run it on a Sunday too.

  20. Oh, yeah, and I never bothered to turn that word balloon tail around. Sometimes it just isn’t worth getting up in the morning.

  21. Saturday:

    Dave shouldn’t be too confident in the future’s malleability. The only immediate thing that’s changed is his loss of a nicotine crutch. Does he really think that was the lynchpin to Future Dave’s success when he was in this mess?

  22. I love how long Dave manages to hang onto his cell phone while getting thrown through the air by androids and crawling around on top of a giant robot bug.

    I also appreciate whatever decision process was involved in having Helen in a towel for this whole sequence.

    And given a decade of Butterfly Effect, Dave can’t be certain that Future Dave was ever in this particular mess in the first place.

  23. (TUNE: “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” theme song)

        Speeding giant robot beetle!
        Speeding giant robot beetle!
        Speeding giant robot beetle!
        Hey, it runs on G4’s!  Apple power!

    Robot bug is coming to attack!
    There’s a screaming guy that’s clinging to its back!
    As we watch it rumble and sway,
    His word balloon gets blown away!

        (repeat REFRAIN)

    There’s naked Helen yellin’ on the phone!
    “Open up the hatch, Dave, don’t just p*ss and moan!”
    He’s now forgetting his fear,
    His nerdish instinct kicks into gear!

        (repeat REFRAIN)

  24. SPOILERS: When it comes to Dave’s chance of surviving this particular timeline, Helen has some information Dave doesn’t have. The teleporter technology still exists, and Helen knows Dave is going to invent it in the future, ergo he can’t die yet.

    I guess if Dave really thought about it, he might find Helen’s blase attitude suspicious, but he’s a little preoccupied right now.

  25. @Shaenon: To me, the second panel is the one with the skewed perspective. The first and third panels play very nicely together….

  26. As for the balloon in the second panel, it gives a sense of “speed”: we’re seeing the moment of Helen’s reply but we’re still hearing Dave’s voice. I thought it were a “narrative device” – or how the heck they’re called nowadays.

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