Early on, I thought Narbonic might include a) parodies, and b) holiday-themed storylines. Then I realized that this was a terrible, terrible idea. You have to understand I was reading a lot of “Sluggy Freelance” at the time. So I’m stuck with this storyline, which isn’t very good and doesn’t really fit the tone of Narbonic. The one good thing about it, aside from the fact that it’s only a week long, is that it gave me the chance to draw big-eyed little kids, and I always enjoy that.
I think this ran shortly before “A Christmas Story” replaced “It’s a Wonderful Life” as America’s official round-the-clock holiday programming. Before that, I think I’d seen it once, in fourth grade. I remember being deeply impressed by it and taking notes in the little notebook I carried with me everywhere, like Harriet the Spy (I still do this).
The gamma irradiator Helen wants for Christmas is an actual model, and those are its actual specs, except for the thing on the top that tells the time. It probably didn’t exist when Helen was six, though.
First on-panel appearance of Helen’s mother, soon to be a major player. I gave her transparent glasses in this storyline to make her look younger. As other people have noted, there’s no consistent symbolism to transparent glasses vs. opaque glasses in Narbonic, even though it ends up being immensely important for one character. What can I say; I couldn’t plan everything right from the start. I just went with whatever character design I thought looked best. (Why I thought opaque glasses looked good is another question entirely.)
This strip implies that Helen had a father and Dr. Narbon offed him, although at this point I already knew that wasn’t the case. A lot of people didn’t get the long pig gag at the end. I think I got the term from my ex-boyfriend Kevin. And doesn’t that casserole look delish?
At one point I planned out a number of parody storylines. I wanted to do a takeoff of “The Prisoner,” for example. I was a big fan of “The Prisoner.”
After doing this storyline, however, I decided that this wasn’t the direction I wanted to go with Narbonic. And thank goodness for that.
That Santa in the first panel is pretty cute.
Another parody I’d planned on doing was a takeoff on “The Matrix.” Now we can all look back and be deeply grateful that I didn’t, but at one point I wanted it to be the bonus story in the first Narbonic print collection. I got as far as pencilling the entire 15-page story and inking the first page before deciding that it was a terrible idea. Unfortunately, I can’t find the unused art, or I’d share some shame-inducing samples here. All I’ve been able to dig up is this quick Sharpie sketch of Badass Matrix Dave:
I actually still kind of like the underlying concept. My idea was that Dave would find his way out of the “matrix”–the strip itself–and into the real world. This would all happen off-panel, of course, since we can only see what’s happening within the confines of the strip. It would be clear, however, that Dave had joined a guerilla group consisting of comic-strip characters who inexplicably vanished from their respective comic strips: Lyman, Shermie, Patty and Violet, Ham Gravy, Uncle Max, every female character in “Bloom County.” Their leader would be Bumbazine, the little black kid from the early installments of “Pogo.” I spent a lot of time compiling my metatextual task force.
In the end, I scrapped the whole thing and drew a replacement story very quickly, then roped Andrew into inking it. Believe me, it’s very much for the best.
As I’ve mentioned before, in the earliest proto-Narbonic concepts for the strip, Dr. Narbon was the main character, and Helen was one of her two cloned kids. The design for six-year-old Helen here is basically my old design for the younger Narbon clone.
I thought I might share some doodles for that prehistoric version of Narbonic. Old-school Modern Tales subscribers may recognize these pages, as they used to be part of the now-defunct Sketchbook section of Narbonic on MT.
Some more proto-Narbonic sketches. Sharing these doodles is so much more fun than talking about this week of strips. (Regarding today’s strip: yes, that probably is the most swearing in a Narbonic strip.)