Dave in Slumberland

A million billion thanks to the cartoonists who contributed to today’s strip. All of them have given me immense support, in various ways, over the course of Narbonic. Please take the time to check out their amazing work.
Andre Richard draws Jeepers on Girlamatic.com and many other adorable comics on WebComicsNation.
Phil Foglio‘s illustrious comics career includes Buck Godot, Xxxenophile, and runs on Plastic Man and Stanley and His Monster. He and his wife Kaja collaborate on Girl Genius, the other webcomic about a blonde, bespectacled mad scientist girl. He drew the bonus story in Volume 3 of the Narbonic print collections.
Roger Langridge is one of the very best cartoonists working today. His comic Fred the Clown runs on WebComicsNation. He also draws special sequences in my comic Smithson, and he once drew a Marvel comic I wrote entitled “Moleman’s Christmas,” which was awfully kind of him.
Joe Zabel‘s online “Trespassers” stories have run on Modern Tales and elsewhere. His print work includes art for Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor.
William George is the awesome creator of It’s About Girls, on Modern Tales, and Bang Barstal, on Graphic Smash.
Aaron Neathery, in addition to drawing the first Narbonic guest week, has created a number of adorable and occasionally disturbing comics, including Albert, Ed Deadeye, and Daycare.
Trudy Cooper is the utterly brilliant creator of Platinum Grit. If you like Narbonic, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll like her work.
Chris Baldwin is best known for Bruno, one of the longest-running and loveliest webcomics, which is also ending soon. Fortunately, we’ll still have his equally wonderful strip Little Dee.
Chris Shadoian‘s Streets of Northampton was one of the flagship comics on Modern Tales at its launch, and his Popcorn Picnic is on Modern Tales now. He drew the bonus story in Volume 2 of the Narbonic print books.
Derek Kirk Kim is the Eisner, Harvey, and Ignatz Award-winning creator of the graphic novel Same Difference and Other Stories. He’s so talented he makes everyone around him puke with envy.
Irony Chan draws the daily webstrip Get Medieval. She drew the bonus story in the upcoming Volume 4 of the Narbonic print collections.
Tom Hart is best known for Hutch Owen, currently a daily strip on Serializer.net. He’s also the acclaimed creator of graphic novels like The Sands and Banks/Eubanks. He and I collaborated on the webstrip Trunktown.
Vera Brosgol is one of the most gifted cartoonists and animators of her generation.
Brian Moore is a fantastic cartoonist and illustrator. He draws Smithson, which I write.
Jason Thompson draws The Stiff on Girlamatic, and is a hell of a guy.
Dirk Tiede draws Paradigm Shift on Modern Tales. He and I once collaborated on a World Cup tie-in manga, which was fun. He’s a hell of a guy, too.
Andrew Farago is the curator of the Cartoon Art Museum and the creator of the webcomic The Chronicles of William Bazillion. He’s easily produced more Narbonic-related art than any cartoonist besides myself. He’s also married to me.

Shaenon of today here. In June of 2006, I sent a group of cartoonists the following email:

Hey, everyone.
If you’re receiving this email, it’s because a) you’re a cartoonist I admire, and b) at some point you’ve been kind enough to lend your talent and/or kind words to my webcomic “Narbonic.” Now I’m appealing to your generosity once again. At the end of this year–December 31 precisely–Narbonic will end its six-year run. I would like the final Narbonic strip to be a Sunday feature incorporating images of the characters in the future, giving the readers a glimpse of what happens to them after the strip ends. And I’d like for these images to be drawn by different cartoonists, as a nod to the tremendous help and encouragement I’ve received from other creators over the past six years.
Also, because I’m lazy.
So here’s the request: I’d be thrilled if you’d do a drawing for the final Narbonic strip. I will assign you a scene to draw. The details–dimensions, style, B&W vs. color–are up to you. I can also catch you up on any information you might need if you haven’t read the strip in a while. I’ll need finished art by mid-December, so you’ve got some lead time. If you’re interested, please email me by next Saturday, June 10. Also let me know if there are specific characters or situations you’re particularly interested in drawing. I’ll do my best to accommodate you. If you’re not interested or don’t have time, that’s more than okay.
One more thing: whether you decide to participate or not, PLEASE keep quiet about this project. Obviously, it involves hella spoilers.
Thanks very much, and thanks again for all your support. Meeting great cartoonists like you guys has been one of the biggest benefits of working on Narbonic, and I couldn’t have gotten to the end of the strip without you. I’m really lucky.

Of the people I emailed, one wasn’t able to participate. Another planned to but couldn’t get the art done in time. As it turned out, the illustration I’d assigned him would have spoiled some developments in the at-the-time-unplanned spinoff Skin Horse, so it’s just as well that I wasn’t able to include it. (All right, all right–it was Artie’s wedding.)

What I did get were, as you can see, some of the greatest artwork of all time. Some of the many details worth turning your attention to:

— Those are some seriously pissed-off hamsters.

— It’s a little hard to tell at this size, but in Phil Foglio’s piece, Madblood is being legally represented by Phil himself. Some of his regular characters are in the courtroom. Also, that’s a really cute pouty Madblood.

— Someone needs to hire Roger Langridge to draw a Little Shop of Horrors comic. How great would that be?

— The “Starfish Body-Snatchers from Outer Space” headline in Joe Zabel’s piece is a reference to his comic The Fear Mongers, which he had just started around this time.

— Dr. Narbon has resurfaced in Australia. I was inspired by Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country, and particularly the section about a mysterious 1994 explosion in the Australian outback that may have been a meteorite, an earthquake, or the Japanese Aum Shinrikyo cult detonating an atomic bomb. I figured she’d be comfortable in a country where it was never entirely clear, at any given time, whether someone was setting off atomic bombs. Sorry, Australians.

— Dave’s proposal to Helen, as depicted by Aaron Neathery, also comes up in a Narbonic story I gave away in the Narbonic: The Perfect Collection Kickstarter drive. Aaron did the first guest week for Narbonic (week-and-a-half, in fact), and he was one of the artists I absolutely had to have in this final montage. He wrote the newspaper text himself.

— I asked Trudy Cooper later than the other artists, mainly because I was and remain intimidated by her talent. As you can see, she responded generously with a super hot pinup of Demon Slayer Seth.

— I submit that my best joke in this sequence is the idea that Caliban has not done anything more notable than getting promoted to manager at Starbucks. That’s about his level. Sorry, Starbucks managers. In all seriousness, I think that Caliban eventually progresses to opening his own coffee shop, probably near D.C. where Mell does terrible legal things for the Pentagon.

— Yes, Chris Shadoian drew Dave’s feet up in stirrups. You probably don’t want to think too hard about this. Move along.

— The Bondian hero in Derek Kirk Kim’s piece looks suspiciously like our friend Jason Thompson, who drew Mongor a few panels down.

— When I sent the artists their initial orders, my friend Laura, the model for Dave’s gaming buddy Iris, was pregnant. A few months later, she learned that she was having twins, and I had to email Irony Chan (a.k.a. Laura Chapple) and ask her to add another baby to the gaming scene she was drawing. The twins are doing fine, by the way.

— Tom Hart’s piece is based on the lyrics from Jonathan Coulton’s “Skullcrusher Mountain”:
I made this half-pony, half-monkey monster to please you
But I get the feeling that you don’t like it
What’s with all the screaming?
You like monkeys, you like ponies
Maybe you don’t like monsters so much
Maybe I used too many monkeys
Isn’t it enough to know that I ruined a pony making a gift for you?

— Vera Brosgol finished her piece on the night of December 30. I had to scramble to get the strip assembled and posted, and was ultimately up until about five in the morning. And it was totally worth it. Artie looks SO NONPLUSED. Also of note: after going through several invented surnames over the course of Narbonic, Artie has, at some point in the future, finally admitted that he’s a Narbon.

— I find the idea of Madblood reconciling with his rogue android duplicates extremely touching, and Brian Moore executed the scene perfectly. Madblood’s face has just the right traces of smug.

— Jason Thompson’s piece is, of course, an Animal House reference. I did it to entertain Andrew. Jason was my go-to artist for this because he is the best guy at drawing monsters.

— And Dirk Tiede’s is a riff on Norman Rockwell’s much-imitated “Freedom from Want.” You’re never short a drumstick at a Narbon Thanksgiving. The important thing is that Dirk drew Caliban looking out at the audience. Never, ever, do a “Freedom from Want” pastiche and forget the guy in the foreground looking at the audience. He’s the most important guy.

— Andrew is the other artist I absolutely didn’t want to do without. He painted this for me on canvas. It remains in a place of honor in our home.

I’ve updated the homepage links for the artists above. I should probably update their bios, too, but so much has changed. One of these people runs an art school now. Two of them make movies. Two draw smutty comics, and one draws Popeye. I should probably leave the bios as-is, so we can look back and marvel.

Thanks again, everyone.

This is the best explanation we ever get for Dave’s prescient Slumberland dreams. Sometimes mad scientists just know stuff.

This isn’t my best coloring job, but what the heck. I managed to work in a few callbacks to previous Narbonic strips, including echoing the fakeout ending from the first trip to the island with a real ending this time. I knew for a long, long time that the last line of the strip would be “evil.”

And that’s it! You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here! If you want to read more stuff by me, just about everything is available on Shaenon.com. If you’re hankering for more Narbonic specifically, I’ve been doing new Narbonic stories for the Couscous Collective anthologies, available here. To date, the anthologies with Narbonic stories are SPACE (currently out of print), BEARDS, and SPIRITS.

Meanwhile, thanks so much to everybody who’s read this far, including the people who read Narbonic when it ran the first time and then reread it again on the Director’s Cut. I hope I’ve managed to entertain. You are all awesome. So long!

P.S. Of course Helen makes pink lemonade.

30 thoughts on “Dave in Slumberland

  1. Since this is the first page of the last update, I should probably drop the final list of all those things I’ve been tallying up over the past 6 years 5 months. My original impetus for conducting this ridiculous ritualistic practice was a comment someone, probably Eric, made about Narbonic being “a perfect formula” for a webcomic. I half-cheekily decided to keep track of the “variables” of that “formula” as this rerun progressed. It’s a pretty naff notion in retrospect, and most of these are probably off by one or two, but here they be:

    Fourth-wall dialogue: 74.
    Silent penultimate panels: 58.
    Single-panel weekday strips: 4.
    Non-canon weekday strips: 4.
    Characters leaning on the panel frame: 4.
    Off-panel head inserts: 38.
    Office meetings: 7.
    Background pong games: 3.
    Swirly elbow-skin: 3.
    “Heh. Heh. Heh.”: 17.3.
    “DON’T SAY IT!”: 3.
    “It’s alive”: 1.
    “You must obey me!”: 2.
    “Of Doom”: 1.
    “I’m evil”: 8.
    Star Wars quotes: 5.
    Goldfinger quotes: 2.
    Appearances of personality sprites: 21.
    Extinguished cigarettes: either 47 or NaN.
    Extinguished cars: 5.
    Dave holding a scientist upside-down with superpowers: 2.
    Dave rhetorically referring to Helen as an insectoid eldritch horror who steal souls: 3.
    Times Dave has shrugged off almost being murdered by Mell: 3.
    Characters expressing intention to destroy universe for the sake of one character: 2.
    Spot colour in weekday strips: 6.
    Copy-pasted panels: 2.
    Boob jokes: 1.
    Daily strips not plotted out in advance: 1.
    Greatest things in the history of the universe: 1.

    There were actually a few more, but I tossed them when I realised I’d forgotten to track them for like a year. Oh well, that’s science for yaz.

  2. I was surprised that these panels aren’t in Narbonic: The Perfect Collection as they’re seemingly canon.

  3. If this comic hadn’t existed, so many things would have been different… you’ve done a great thing, Shaenon (twice). I salute you. 😀

  4. tune: “One Less Bell to Answer,” Burt Bacharach & Hal David, 1967, recorded by The 5th Dimension

    One less cartoon daily

    One less filk to write

    One less strip of comic genius

    Knew it was ending

    but I’ll miss what you write


    One less witty comment

    One less wry insight

    One less glimpse into your process


    Oh, I shouldn’t feel sad

    Skin Horse lights each day




    (One less cartoon daily)

    (One less filk to write)

    One less lively morning tonic

    No Narbonic:

    Director’s Cut

    Thanks so much for

    Sending it our way


    I’ve got one less filk to write

    One less filk to write

     But it just won’t feel right . . .

  5. I wish I had had time to do this in the morning, but we were busy bustling off to Denver ComicCon.

    (tune: Elton John’s Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road from the album of the same name)

    When did you know you’re insane?
    When did you first go mad?
    Shouldn’t’ve gone to the labs,
    shouldn’t’ve listened to the cute Narbon lass!

    You know that mad science is forever!
    Do you like Mel shootin’ at you?
    That gig at Microsoft might’ve been better
    than going completely balmy and


    So goodbye, Narbonic Labs
    Where Shaenon has ruled us for years
    Won’t be more filks from Ed here,
    Let’s hope Skin Horse will calm all our fears.

    Now there’s one less web comic to load,
    Maybe SMBC’s new.
    Skin Horse is fantastic,
    Reed Richards’ elastic,
    But there’s only one Helen Beta…

    MWU-ha-ha-ha  ha!

  6. I’ll admit it, I teared up a bit as I was removing Narbonic from my daily bookmark folders. Something like 7 years now since I started reading, and it’s been here for me every day. Gonna miss it. Thank you.

  7. P { margin-bottom: 0.08in; }

    BRAVA!! BRAVA!! BRAVA!! <A 20-minute standing ovation> <A stage full of roses>

    Twelve years and ten months. July 30, 2000 to June 2, 2013. I have been lucky enough to be reading daily from the beginning, and trust me, Shaenon, Narbonic is just as consistently surprising, funny, and thought-provoking the second time around.

    Thank you, Shaenon, thank you, thank you. And thank you, Ed Gedeon and Kay Gilbert, for providing a sound track that lives up to the cartoon, and to Leon Arnott and the other regular commenters for your fun and insights.

    And now I’m off to Shaenon.com, to find out what wonders await there.


    Ed Wells, aka Prof. Andie W. Swell

  8. Ah, but we all know there’s at least one more “mainstream” Narbonic strip coming. Hint: it belongs with “Lemonade?”

    I know I know the answer for this, but is there any way to get good prints of this strip’s panels. I would kill for the Foglio and nuclear sunset pieces on my wall.

  9. And thus ended what was, for me, a truly and unquestionably life-changing webcomic. Thank you for “Narbonic”, Shaenon. It’s one of the top ten best things to have ever happened in my life.

  10. I like how we get a glimps of the future of all the plot threads, and Madblood finaly gets to have a happy ending. 

  11. I know I know the answer for this, but is there any way to get good prints of this strip’s panels. I would kill for the Foglio and nuclear sunset pieces on my wall.

    I’d like them too, but they belong to the artists, and I don’t have high-res versions of most of them anyway. Maybe Andrew would let me do a nuclear sunset print, though…

  12. One last addition to the Narbonverse:

    Last night my middle child Anastasia, who has been fed a steady diet of Narbonic for years (and whom makes a fan appearance here: http://goo.gl/FfjqL), graduated high school. She is going to Missouri Science & Technology in the Fall to major in Biochemistry with a minor in Explosions (http://goo.gl/ZrOPB) and will be joining the Air Force ROTC.

    (That “inside-out” baby in the picture? She’s five now, and wants to be a roboticist.)

    Thank you Shaenon, for helping inspire my girls.

    William Saunders

  13. Man, I’m so sad. It’s like it ended all over again, except this time for good.

    Thanks for the memories and the awesome, Shaenon.

  14. Thanks Shaenon for this TWICE complete piece of art: NARBONIC!

    Due to Narbonic, webcomic art has a much higher standard to meet.  And mad scientists have higher levels of madness to achieve…

    And for this page, I thank Shaenon in particular for the Australian data.  Tracking Dr. Narbon is a dangerous sport, so it should not have been easy 🙂

    It is touching how many inspiring artists contributed to this page – big thanks to them too!

    And now, next on to Skin Horse!  Woof!  Woof!

  15. So many things from this lineup were etched in my mind, yet there’s so much I hadn’t understood until now. One thing didn’t change, though: Dave letting his little girl use the laser is possibly my single favourite scene in all of Narbonic.

  16. I knew there wouldn’t be a new comic here today and yet I came anyway…hope springs eternal!

  17. Man, I couldn’t connect yesterday! And I absolutely love this piece! Althought I had some troubles identifying some people here, Sergio took me years! (yes, I am that dense)

  18. How many times have I binge-read the whole Narbonic strip? Answer: Many. How many more times will I? Answer: again, most likely Many. I love this little world you made – when I’m down, sometimes I’ll turn to it because it seems like a friend, and the characters are my friends. Thanks Shaenon. Good work. Maybe I’ll be able to meet you and bow before you at the Seattle ComiCon some year.

  19. It may seem strange, but Narbonic is a great comfort to me. When my life is even madder or messed up than usual, I turn to Narbonic – a love story that is incredibly complicated but also incredibly deep. This is the sixth time I’ve read the story the whole way through. It will not be the last.

    Thank you, Shaenon. May the madness and your true love be a comfort to you as well.

  20. I am listening to Lose My Mind by Jai Wolf while reading this section of the comic. It’s incredibly appropriate and I love the universe for having put up that coincidence through Spotify shuffle.

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