I can’t believe I did two weeks of the damn Victorian crossover and only devoted one week to the first appearance of Zeta. Go figure. Anyway, this week of strips isn’t too bad, even if it’s only tangentially related to the main story at this point.
The whole running Zeta and Dana subplot was never meant to occur. It just cropped up because I got softhearted and decided to spare Dana from the carnage at the end of “Smart Gerbils,” which meant that I had to get back to her at some point if I didn’t want an annoyingly dangling plot thread. Then I needed to come up with another character for Dana to talk to, because it’s nigh-impossible to write strips around one character monologuing. Somehow I came up with Zeta. I like drawing punk girls.
Zeta is vaguely a Hunter S. Thompson riff. I figured that Hunter S. Thompson had already made a good cartoon character in Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury and Warren Ellis’ Transmetropolitan, so why not here? Why not indeed. She’s named after Oscar Zeta Acosta, the lawyer, author and missing person immortalized as Dr. Gonzo in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Her last name, Vincent, comes from Thompson’s favorite make of motorcycle, the Vincent Black Shadow. I played around with a bunch of possible surnames.
In retrospect, I have no idea why I wanted to do a storyline about Burning Man. I don’t have any special interest in it. The best part of Burning Man, for me, is that it clears San Francisco of hippies and hipster artists for one blissful week, and I can walk up and down Haight Street like I own the place.
That’s a surprisingly decent VW Beetle in the third panel. Go figure.
At this point, Zeta has three visible tattoos: an anarchy symbol on her left shoulder, an upside-down heart around her navel, and (although it doesn’t appear in this storyline because I never drew her from the back) an eye on the back of her head. Sometimes I forgot to draw the eye.
I think the lobotomized hippie is Andrew’s favorite character in the entirety of Narbonic. Sad but true.
This strip was inspired partly by an email conversation I had with someone who actually did provide Internet access to Burning Man. It just struck me as funny that people could survive for a week without food, shelter or running water (the Burning Man website used to promise that you would “piss clear”), but no high-speed wireless access? How else are we supposed to blog?
I totally made up this guy’s body art. It’s like a Celtic warrior thing, only, you know, on a skinny hipster dude. Also note Zeta’s bitchin’ Doc Martens.
Man, I’m still happy with the art in this strip, and that’s saying a lot for a strip from 2001. The crazy gerbil face in the second panel is very Chuck Jones, in my primitive way. Also, Dana is still riding around in Vic the Hippie’s beard, which is good.
The mad-science scheme Dana unveils in this week of strips is something I wasn’t sure I’d ever get back to. At this point, I didn’t have the finale of Narbonic entirely planned out. I knew some of the things that had to happen–basically, everything foreshadowed in the time-travel storyline–but not exactly how it would all shake out. At first I thought Dana’s brain-engine would figure into the final storyline, then I went through a long period where I didn’t think I’d use it after all. In the end, I managed to work it in, along with a lot of other offshoots of the Zeta and Dana stories. Go figure.
This is a pretty decent strip, too. The exchange between Dana and Zeta is excellent, and it’s the type of conversation you really have to include at least once in a story about mad scientists. Also, Dana has a little tiny welding mask, and that is made of win.
I remember spending a lot of time on that machine in the last panel. I hope you enjoy it. Much, much later, in “Professor Madblood and the Everlasting Ices of the North,” I tried to incorporate some hint of the same design into the hamsters’ much larger and more professional-grade apparatus.
The hamsters are named after Trish Ledoux and Toshi Yoshida, who, at the time, were working on the Hamtaro anime for Viz. I continued the tradition of naming hamsters after Viz employees in subsequent storylines. I don’t know what’s up with all the crap on the girl’s face in the last panel, but you can probably see similar looks at Anime Expo every year.
Of course, the funniest part of this strip is how I ran out of room for text in the third panel and had to dip under the lower border to fit the last line. DRAWING IS HARD.