If Dave went to Madblood’s supercomputer demo, he’d finally see his girlfriend. Does Helen know this? Maybe. She definitely suspects.
SPOILERS: And she really, really doesn’t want him to attend her panel. The chances of him figuring out the truth if he actually hears details about the Tinasky project are dangerously high, and not even Helen likes to play with fire that much. Or one of the other attendees could get suspicious, which is why she instructs him to keep a low profile. It’s a good thing for Helen, and the Symposium, that Dave is so aggressively oblivious to, well, just about everything.
I often feel the way Dave does. I think if you’re a nerd and you don’t eventually hit that wall, you need to hang out with more interesting people.
The characters in the third panel are more cameos from the Narbonic RPG playtests. The lemur that speaks in text adventure game commands might be the most perfectly Jeffrey Wells character that was ever created by Jeffrey Wells. Jeff is really big on lemurs.
SPOILERS: Dave comments on how depressingly average he is while working on the roll-up pocket quantum computer he will give Titus next week, causing Titus to realize the identity of the Tinasky subject. This is IRONY.
Shanna Cochran is a character in T Campbell’s Fans. Around this time, T had asked my permission to use one of the characters from Narbonic in the climactic story arc of Fans. I decided that, if one of the Narbonic characters was going over to Fans, the Narbonic cast would kidnap someone from Fans and bring her over to even the score. So here she is.
Dr. Thesiger already appeared earlier in this storyline. “Dr. Ellen Fowler” is a terrible phrenology pun. A lot of antique phrenology busts are stamped with the name of L.N. Fowler, founder of the British Phrenological Society. Physically, Dr. Fowler resembles my college friend Allison, a psychiatrist.
Phrenology puns. This is the kind of thing I live for.
Having been on a lot of panels at comic conventions, writing these strips was a lot of fun. This one got way too wordy, but what the hell, that happens in Narbonic. Like, constantly.
Also, I do a pretty decent rendition of Shanna from Fans, if I do say so myself. About a year after this, T wrote a surprisingly dark Narbonic story, “Just Think,” which will show up in a future Sunday installment.
Dr. Fowler is super cute. I should’ve done a whole comic about her.
SPOILERS: Helen is in fact lying her head off and has no intention of outing the Tinasky subject. Helen is a good liar when she wants to be. Dave’s comment early in this storyline about how he can always tell when Helen is lying may be the most wrong thing he ever says. He has no idea when Helen is being honest and when she isn’t, and this is going to screw up both of their lives, big time, a little ways down the road.
I’m a sucker for this old but reliable joke structure, and this strip still makes me smile, especially for the implication that poor Shanna from Fans is now under mind control and eating Helen’s head.
The guy sitting behind Dave and Artie looks like a specific character, but he’s not. I just drew a really weird guy for some reason. This has always faintly bothered me. I think the other person in that row is me.
I don’t know about you, but I think Dr. Thesiger’s pretty hot for an older guy. I admire his poise. Also, any strip where I get to draw stars and pound signs and other classic symbols of pain flying off characters is a good strip.
The details of Helen’s breakdown at the bistro are now familiar to careful readers of Narbonic.
I deliberately made Dr. Fowler’s breakdown reminiscent of Hannibal Lecter’s origin story, since my friend Allison, on whom Dr. Fowler is vaguely based, was a big Thomas Harris fan. I remember her describing, with relish, the brain-eating scene from Hannibal when the novel first came out: “No, listen, it’s really fascinating, because you get to see how the guy’s responses change as they cut off different parts of his brain…” She’s a psychiatrist now, of course.