Get a Life: August 6-11, 2001

Yes, the signs in the first panel read “7th Circle,” “8th Circle,” and “Billy Joel.” I blame this on my housemate Jaye listening to “She’s Always a Woman” a lot in senior year. You hear that, Jaye? This is all your fault!

The other sign, “Kittens Boiled in Oil,” needs no explanation.

Incidentally, the title of this storyline is not only a lame pun, but a tribute to the classic short-lived TV series starring Chris Elliott.

The strange thing is, as it turns out, Caliban’s absolutely right.

Caliban gets assigned jobs that place him in close contact with humans because he’s good at talking to them. They constantly irritate him, but he does better than most demons, who tend to regard them as vermin or, at best, some type of novelty talking monkey. He’s very fond of the mortal world, and even if he doesn’t exactly like humans, as a general rule, he understands them. defines “meatjob” as, “Slapping around a penis in order to ‘get it up.'” I had not heard that before.

I pretty much destroyed that first panel with gray fills. Shame.

Caliban’s old-school spelling and usage of “subtil” are straight out of the King James version of Genesis: “Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made.” More modern translations usually translate it as something like “crafty.”

For the third panel, I just copied the previous drawing of Caliban’s child-traumatizing form and pasted it in. It’s all cut off along the bottom where I didn’t have enough art to fill the panel. Geez, this strip got really messed up in post-production.

Caliban’s throwaway last line may be the most subtle foreshadowing in Narbonic. Or subtil.

Really, really, really old joke. I’m sorry. Some of these strips, I feel like I should give everyone a dollar to compensate for reading them.

This strip is based on the time I went to my senior afterprom party in high school because they were raffling off a minifridge, and I really wanted a minifridge for college, and my parents wouldn’t buy me one because they were already going broke to send me to Vassar. Also, my Democracy teacher, who was usually a truthful man (he was the one who explained why Bob Dole would never be elected President, why boys should read Cosmo instead of Playboy, and why you shouldn’t have sex with underage girls), said it would be fun and there would be midnight bowling. Of course it was not fun, and the bowling was terrible, and all I won in the raffle was a Wendy’s coupon only redeemable in Elyria. Which was like forty minutes away. Years later, I was still so pissed that I couldn’t even spell “Elyria” right in my own comic.

And I never did get a minifridge.

I was very taken with the way Caliban magically flicks Dave away, to the point that, much later in Narbonic, I had the same thing happen to Caliban. Incidentally, in a comic with all-caps lettering, “flick” is one of the words you have to be very careful about using, along with the name “Clint.” But Narbonic is mixed-case, so I can flick away.

I don’t have much to say about this strip, but man oh man did I used to draw some big ears. Dave gets some nice expressions in this strip, though.

75 thoughts on “Get a Life: August 6-11, 2001

  1. Monday’s Comic: I wonder why an infinite and everlasting facility such as Hell is staffed by beings of noticably finite patience.

    In the vein of Dave’s third-panel complaint, why does he have to walk through Hell, footstep by footstep, anyway? It’s not like Caliban’s completely motionless wings are responsible for his hovering.

  2. She flew up to heaven and flittered and flied,
    Flittered and flied,
    flittered and flied,
    She flew up to heaven and flittered and flied,
    Flittered and fli-i-i-ied!

    He went down below her and sizzled and fried,
    Sizzled and fried,
    sizzled and fried,
    He went down below her and sizzled and fried,
    Sizzled and fri-i-i-ied!

    Oohm Plucky Plucky (My least favourite primary school song.)

  3. Michael, this is one of my language pet peeves.  “Flied” is often used in baseball, where a batter can be out by “flying out”.  Infinitive: “to fly out”; past tense: “flied out”.

    During baseball games on TV, if the announcer says something like, “In his last turn at bat, Albert Pujols flied out to center field,” one of the voices in my head adds, “…and boy are his arms tired!”

  4. Leon:  Remember the demons are “in Hell” too!  And gratuitous insults are perfectly appropriate for this context!  I think it’s funny that Caliban expects Lucifer to deliver him anything but trouble.

    Dave is probably grounded by his expectations — and I’m sure if he were actually committed to Hell, they’d take away his cigarettes!  (Presumably Caliban’s guiding him past lots of former smokers… all part of the service!)

    Ed:  Hey, that kind of thing happens when a reified verb gets re-verbed… by PE majors.


  5. Just out of curiousity, anyone care to speculate why Caliban is casting his gaze up to the heavens as he says “Lucifer deliver us”?

    And if “Flied” was not a word, the world would be without “Flied Lice”. A culinary tragedy indeed. 

    • Because when he first knew Lucifer, the Lightbringer, Son of the Sun, Star of the Morning, it wasn’t down There?

      –Dave, one lonely Tether in Canada, on the Laurentian bedrock, still survives

  6. Snicker, I have to agree with Eric’s point…  That’s one of those bits of body language that actually has meaning, and doesn’t make sense in this context.

     While it’s probably true that he’s grounded by his expectations, it’s also true that, hey, it’s hell.  Why would they go out of their way to make things convenient for him? 

  7. My god, woman. How long are you going to hold my emo angst from senior year against me?

    Ha ha! You didn’t realize it would have repercussions uncounted years down the line!

    Caliban rolls his eyes because it’s cute when he does that. Also, as is discussed in a much later storyline, in his cosmology Hell isn’t “below” anything, simply, like Heaven, outside the mortal spheres, so it wouldn’t make any more sense for him to roll his eyes downward. I assume he picked up the gesture from humans without thinking too hard about it.

  8. Caliban seems to pick up a lot of things from humans without realizing why he’s doing any of them.  That of course changes utterly when he learns about pleasures of the flesh. This is when he says, in my opinion, the most depressing statement in all of narbonic: It doesn’t get better than this. Seriously, if it doesn’t get better than earth then that’s scary.

  9. Urbandictionary: a sexual definition for any word you can imagine, and a lot of words you can’t.

  10. Tuesday’s Comic: This reminds me – at some point long ago, my faulty memory had somehow conflated both of Dave’s meetings with the ethereal Caliban into one event: when Dave is killed, he wakes up in bed, six years old with a monster under his bed.

    It occurs to me that if I were editing Narbonic down to a motion picture trilogy (as I have foolishly fantasised previously), I might necessarily perform this conflation. Dave’s death by godlike orbital laser really does unstick him in time, sending his detached ghost through past and future, until Helen unkills him and returns him to the present. Interestingly, in this scenario Future Mell’s order to kill Dave is what singly allows Dave to save the future.

    Also: I understand that the stalagmites here are purely decorative, as Hell doesn’t have a ceiling from which mineral water may descend.

  11. “Mind you, the Elizabethans had so many words for the female genitals that it is quite hard to speak a sentence of modern English without inadvertently mentioning at least three of them.” – Terry Pratchett

  12. This apparently holds true of modern English as well, as in George Carlin’s infamous example: “We’re gonna snatch that pussy, put it in the box and take it on the airplane!” (Although, to my knowledge, “pussy” is the only one of those still used with any frequency…)

  13. Oh wow, haha, I love the demon in the background of the last panel which is apparently sentenced to wonder how it’s going to get down for all eternity.

    Your commentary about Caliban being good at talking to humans – yeah.  Wow.  That makes a lot of sense and explains a lot about why he keeps coming up in the story.  Nifty.

  14. “Oh wow, haha, I love the demon in the background of the last panel which is apparently sentenced to wonder how it’s going to get down for all eternity.”

    Or how he got up there. I’ve seen cats with that look.

  15. What still blows me away is that with you, the last line WAS foreshadowing.  You actually knew the story that far in advance. 

     At one time I believed that you (and every other cartoonist) just put in occasional details like that, to use later if you ever wanted, without any specific planned future.   

    Did you ever drop in some hidden foreshadowing that didn’t get used later?


  16. Sometimes I think about how smart you are and get excited.  Other times I just get scared.

  17. Wednesday’s Comic: The perpetrators of the not-that-bad webcomic Terror Island refer to each of their episodes as “theorems”, on the claim that all of the strips are logically necessary. While I personally find this nomenclature a little annoying, I cannot help but see such logical necessity in Narbonic as well.

    Consider: Narbonic’s principal theme is mad science in all of its forms. Thus, it should explore and engage as many different tropes and themes of fictional science as possible. Thus, at some point it must address the theme of time travel.

    Consider also that Caliban is, by virtue of his namesake, a human-friendly demon. Such amicability in a demon, however, must have an efficient cause. Thus, it is necessary to give Caliban a history of human relations – but one which is also sufficiently comedic, as befits the tone of the webcomic. With those requirements, the role of “childhood bedroom monster” is perhaps the only one which fits perfectly.

    But, given the importance of this history to the character of Caliban, it is desirable that, should he make a forthcoming reappearance, this history of bed-hiding is expanded upon. And, given my previous proof that it is logically necessary for there to be a time travel arc, it is possible and most efficient for Caliban’s bed-hiding past to be presented as it occurred. And what better person to serve as Caliban’s past victim than the hapless time traveler’s past self?

    Therefore, it is in fact quite necessary for Caliban, a human-respecting demon, to have been the monster under Dave’s bed, and for that to be demonstrated in the strip itself at a later date. (Hmm… with that kind of thinking, maybe you can know the future.)

    Now.. where was I?

    Instances of the “Like this!” panel: 2. I’m afraid that there’s only one way to recompense for the venal sin of panel recycling, and that is to turn it into a running gag.

  18. Curiously enough, the only thing that went through the mind of the bowl of petunias as it fell was ‘Oh no, not again.’

  19. Hell, this foreshadowing stuff was easy. The time-travel story was one of the first storylines I started writing, so I just worked backward from there. It’s fun, but it’s not really hard to set up if you know roughly where the story’s going.

  20. demons lurking under children’s beds. still love that that is an aproved place for a demon to materialise.

     Truely it is a mad world.

  21. Regarding Terror Island, it seems that if each strip is logically necessary, that would actually make them lemmas, not theorems.

     The theorem would be the last strip of each arc.

  22. Ed: Douglas Adams literature, and do the eyes count as an orifice?  Unless it’s the radio show.

  23. No comment on “Mind the gap”? While the London underground does have largish gaps in places, they aren’t big enough that you’d actually fall through if you weren’t very careful.

  24. Clearly it’s there to add a maddening level of uncertainty to the Narboniverse cosmology.

    Sure, we’re *told* it exists out past the spheres and whatnot, but a more subtil reading may indicate that Hell is actually below London.

    And presumably LA, but only because so many people got confused and went there by mistake that they had to open a branch office.

  25. I love how Dave isn’t even remotely fazed by Caliban’s transformation.  Come to think of it, I love how Dave isn’t remotely fazed by anything in Hell.  It’s all just complaints, annoying questions, and Dave being Dave.

  26. Re: ‘Mind the Gap’

    Uh, yeah, you totally could.  Some of the stations make a pretty decent arc, and the train cars are straight.  Some doors can easily be a foot and a half  from the platform sometimes. Not big enough to fall in, yes. But you could lose a leg, and that should be reason enough to mind them.

  27. Why did Caliban ever become a demon? He really sucks at it.

    He was, if anything, even worse at being an angel.

    Shaenon considered a brief Dave/Mell tryst, but thought better of, since the relationship could not end with more than 17% of Dave’s body remaining non-disintegrated.

    Oh, crud, I never seriously considered Mell/Dave. Frankly, it came as a complete surprise to me that Mell was capable of channeling her passions into anything other than destruction.

  28. Thursday’s Comic: I cannot help but smile at the notion that even though Heaven is full of magic, there’s still something to be desired in sufficiently advanced human technology. That, I suppose, is indicative of the main charm of life: without it, nothing ever changes.

  29. You know, as the title “BOFH” implies, the flow of CS majors is actually in the other direction.

    (BTW, I’ve always understood “Mind the gap” to refer to the ‘gap’ designated by the yellow line on the platform betwixt passengers and moving trains. I.e., ‘stay behind the yellow line.’   But mind the gap sounds just so much more… British.)



  30. I agree with Leon’s comment, actually.  Charm of this series, too. 🙂

    (And I also have the same understanding as Eric about the meaning of “mind the gap”, but that doesn’t mean others can’t say it too….) 

    As a programmer, I don’t find this particular joke too overdone. 🙂 

  31. The tube definitely has gaps that one must mind to avoid injury, but none (so far as I know) that one might reasonably fail to cross despite trying.

  32. Wikipedia has a page on “Mind the gap”, which matches my recollections. Mind the gap.It’s definitely about the gap between the train and the platform, not the yellow line – the recording is played during boarding, and in some cases it’s expanded to “Please mind the gap between the train and the platform.”

  33. One of my strongest memories of my cycling vacation in England (no, my pump did *not* get caught in my trouser leg) was when I didn’t mind the gap.  On one occasion, our group was taking a little side trip, and I was sneaking a sideways glance at an attractive woman as we boarded.  I stepped right into the gap, avoiding physical injury but humiliating myself in the process.

    “Avoiding physical injury but humiliating myself” actually sums up quite a lot of my life.

  34. If Caliban is worse at being an angel then I must assume that God made him to be a human. God must have known

     that Mell needed a boyfriend who wouldn’t be sucked into hell in the first half hour.

  35. Is Caliban’s use of the phrase “leave your body” rather than “die” meant as extreme long-term foreshadowing of when Dave does leave his body in Madblood’s arctic base?

  36. I had a hell of a time finding Ilyria Ohio, when I tried looking it up years later.  I finally concluded that Shaenon had changed the name, just to be evil.

  37. Now you’re waiting for somebody to ask why you have to be careful about those words.

     But we’ve already heard that one. 🙂 

  38. Friday’s Comic: A clerical error in the book of the dead? It’s proof right there that history has been changed and Dave’s ultimate destiny has been meddled with.

    Dave’s sense of American consumer outrage has persisted beyond his death, even if his sense of personal survival hasn’t. Fair enough, I suppose.

    I also recall, Nich, that Dave was flushed out of his body when he was sent on his excellent adventure through time. I also recall that Victorian Dave is a few episodes away from a very different out-of-body jaunt as well. It is, it seems, a shared yearning of both mad science and theology to outgrow our ugly mugs.

  39. I like the way the tiny lower-case “flick” and Caliban’s bored expression contrast with the huge all-caps reactions.
    I had no idea flicking in comics was so dangerous! Smeggin’ ‘ell, man!

  40. Could you expound more on the wisdom of this democracy teacher?  I”m curious to know his reasons that boys should read cosmo instead of playboy…

  41. I *knew* Wendy’s was in league with the Forces Of Evil.  What does Heaven give out coupons for?  Subway, Panera Bread, or Heavenly Ham?  (scratch that last one if you’re Jewish)

  42. Brings back memories of being up in a tree in the park with my little sister, when she turned to me and asked, “Who’s Mother Flicker?” Needless to say, there was peurile graffiti chiseled into the bark.

  43. I remember hearing there are more scantily clad women in Cosmo than in Playboy.  Something about how, if you’re going to advertise to men, you can use either rugged manly men or scantily-clad women, but if you’re going to advertise to women, you ALWAYS use scantily-clad women to do it.  So there are more titillating pictures in Cosmo than in Playboy.

  44. Boys read Playboy instead of Cosmo because they really can’t use the excuse with Cosmo that they’re only reading it for the articles.

  45. well, except one could technically cite the reason for reading cosmo as gathering enemy intelegence, through their propaganda. as the wise man said: “Know thy Enemy”.

  46. Wait, I though the fair-sex was not supposed to be my enemy?  So dancing really is supposed to be a battle?  Does this mean I can bring oversized weapons to clubs?

  47. “Shrouds and chains are widely available through wholesalers…”

    I always knew those big chain stores were evil.


  48. Saturday’s Comic: The audience, at this point, is now quite convinced that Dave is on the brink of his final transmigration. Ghosthood, as shown by the works of Messrs. Shakespeare and Lucas, is a fine and historically proven way to reintroduce important deceased characters.

    Also, I personally get far too worked up at how the verb “haunt” has almost entirely become inextricated with ghosts. About the only non-supernatural variation left is the plural noun “haunts”.

  49. well, to haunt, to lurk. to linger. makes sense that it is all tied in with “ghosts”, but it still has its uses. even if they are generally considered sinister.

  50. Yeah, there’s nothing quite “evil” about haunting.  Nonetheless, the idea of there being stores for ghosts – wholesale, even! – is pretty entertaining.

    And the use of ghosthood goes at least as far back as Homer, who at one point introduces the ghost of Achilles. 🙂

    Notice how in panel one, Dave is so surprised that he drops his cigarette.  In panel two, it’s back in his mouth.  Ah, but this needn’t be an art error; we can easily attribute it to the fact that he’s manifesting a ghostish cigarette without intending to, because he *expects* to have one in his mouth at all times.

    Well, I doubt Shaenon had that particular explanation in mind.  This is probably just part of the blanket rule that Dave always has a cigarette no matter what, because it’s funny, and moreso from the fact that the dialogue never draws attention to it – it’s just a background detail.

    (Re-post to correct my embarrassing misspelling of Shaenon’s name.  Grin.) 

  51. Notice how in panel one, Dave is so surprised that he drops his cigarette. In panel two, it’s back in his mouth.

    It isn’t falling, it’s floating.   Dave commonly talks with his cigarette about a foot away from his face, somehow, and no characters ever comment on it.  He does the same in Monday’s panel 4.

    A week that shows this well (in one panel, he should have set Helen’s hair on fire) is here:

    He won’t be the only one to do this.  See these strips: 

  52. And I never did get a minifridge.

    You didn’t?  Then whose fridge do I have?  I somehow inherited yours after you graduated.  Or at least, I thought it was yours.  *scratches head* 


  53. When I was young, I had a number of favorite haunts, where I made acquaintances with many types of spirits.  *hic*

    Thankyou, thankyou, Illbehereallweekend, dontforgettotipyourserver, yerabeautifulaudience, gnite!

  54. Re: The cigarette, when Helen accidentally gets zapped with Dave’s DNA, she actually has a cigarette “pop” into existence in (front of) her mouth.  Presumably it’s less discreet with her, because she’s more used to Mad Reality.


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