The crates in the first panel read, “CAUTION: GENETIC MATERIAL” and “CAUTION: POCKY.”
“Murder will out” is originally from Chaucer, not Shakespeare. It’s a line from the Nun’s Priest’s Tale: “Mordre wol out that se we day by day.” One of my many hidden talents is reciting the General Prologue of The Canterbury Tales in the original Middle English until people beg me to stop.
That’s a freaking huge gun!
Also, it’s obviously the same gun, copied and pasted into each panel. I managed to do it pretty seamlessly here; I think I traced it to make sure it would fit onto ANTONIO SMITH’s arm in each panel. I don’t do those kind of shortcuts very often, but in this case I was very, very bad at drawing guns and needed all the computerized help I could get.
Later, of course, I would become AWESOME at drawing guns.
This one’s still pretty good. I always like it when everyone in the strip slavishly follows the unwritten rules of mad science and/or small business, and then someone (usually Helen) unfairly changes the rules around. A lot of comedy is based on following nonsensical social dictates. “Seinfeld,” for instance, or every British sitcom ever.
Logically, there’s no reason Dave should fear ANTONIO SMITH, FORENSIC LINGUIST, as Dave has done nothing wrong. I have to assume that he’s already thinking of himself as an evil henchman and has subconsciously thrown in his lot with Narbonics Labs. Clearly, he has evil leanings.
That there is basically the worst drawing of a giant rotating circular blade ever. Now it kind of makes me laugh, though, so I guess it’s okay. Also, the dramatic foreshortening in the second panel is pretty good, given my extreme artistic limitations at the time.
The really important thing about this strip is that Helen goes from having four spikes in her bangs while in profile (as in the previous strip) to only three. Well, it’s important to me, anyway.
Why did ANTONIO SMITH, supposedly on the side of justice and the law, strap the evildoers to a death machine? I honestly have no idea.
Aw, Mell looks so cool in the first panel. Actually, the art in this strip is pretty decent, all things considered. Mell is holding the first of many ridiculous retro space pistols I would draw over the course of Narbonic. I was obviously better at drawing these than real guns.
The gerbil inseminator ended up being one of those things that people brought up when discussing Narbonic for years to come. Folks just can’t stop talking about gerbil insemination, I guess.
As I mentioned before, I was an intern myself at the time I was drawing this, working at the Cartoon Art Museum after my day at Viz. I spent most of my internship in the collections room, slowly entering information about each piece of art into a computer database. A couple of years later, the museum hired a collections manager for a while and probably redid all of my work. I didn’t get to punch or karate-chop anybody.
I like that Mell is taller than ANTONIO SMITH here. He’s a tiny little guy in these early strips. I try to stay fairly consistent in the characters’ relative heights. Mell is 5’6″, Helen is 5’10”, and Dave is 6’1″. The characters tend to be tall because I’m tall; I’m the same height as Helen (and, as many people have helpfully pointed out to me, I’m generally built like her, except that I made her boobs bigger). Everyone starts from a base height of me.