Genius: December 25-30, 2006

Mojo Nixon is romantic, right?

And Dave’s bizarre-sounding plan to Artie makes perfect sense! He really is a mad genius!

The island storyline, way back in 2002, closed with a fakeout ending, so I liked the idea of bringing the island back for the real ending. Plus, islands are cool.

Speaking of previous Narbonic storylines, remember when Shane Wegner composed a soundtrack for “Battle of the Lost Diamond Mines of Brazil”? Because, with the help of Jon Sack, he also composed one for this week of strips. Here’s Epilogue: Sunset on the Island of Gerbilflies and Doom, copyright Shane Wegner.

Shane describes this track as “some soothing, islandy music (inspired by Oahu?), with a few gentle shrieks and chirps of Gerbils in the background. I imagine this is how the movie ends, with the final hammock/madness/anything’s possible epilogue.” On Paul Marino, who assisted with the “Diamond Mines” music, and Jon Sack, who assisted on “Epilogue,” Shane writes, “It’s like Helen, Dave and the Doomsday Machine. I give them the slightest blueprint/description/request of what I’m hoping for, maybe a really rough midi sketch and stand back, they make it awesome.”

I dig this so much I cannot do my excitement justice.

I like the idea that Dave typically gets Helen gifts that are transparently for himself. Come to think of it, the island kind of falls under that category too…

It’d been a long time since I last drew the island, so I tried to put an effort into drawing the vegetation and stuff. I hope you enjoy these ginormous leaves.

So now Dave has a new job as mad-science liaison to the Dave Conspiracy, and Helen has a spot for her next evil lair. That certainly worked out nicely. Mad Dave is a much better schemer than Sane Dave. Also he has a lab coat, for Science.

Are we really this close to the end? How did that happen? I’m all choked up.

So anyway, Helen winds up with an island lair, which is easily the most boss category of evil lair. It probably ends up being Dave’s island, too, eventually, so he really isn’t giving it up for very long. Does he know that? Probably. Dave is cunning now.

Did Helen know that it would all work out this way? Possibly. Helen has always been cunning.

The first panel was inspired by a scene in Lea Hernandez’s graphic novel Cathedral Child. I liked the idea of Helen and Dave standing on a cliff, overlooking the future.

I also liked the idea of smooches. I’m a big irrational softie.

This is it, folks. The last daily Narbonic strip.

I wanted the relationship between Helen and Dave–and, for that matter, most of the plot lines and character developments–to end on an ambiguous note. No matter what happens, at least they seem ready to have fun doing it. That’s the best any of us can hope for, I think.

Thanks for reading and rereading, everyone. Final Sunday strip tomorrow.

77 thoughts on “Genius: December 25-30, 2006

  1. The music’s not playing for me (and the plugin itself works, because I just went back and listened to “Diamond Mines” again…).

  2. I should have done this before.
    I binged through Narbonic as it was long-finished, then I binged through the Director’s Cut as it’d be shortly-finished, all the time telling myself “I really should take the time to register and post a comment some time”. Somehow I managed to not realize how little time I had left. Now I’ve been reminded.
    So here I am at last, looking for something to say. Awesome comic. Awesome fans (I’ve had a lot of fun reading the comments). Would say more, but there’s no way of saying what this comic has meant to me and keep this comment within a reasonable length.
    So, that’s it. Thank you.

  3. 6:

    Setting this final scene on the isle, probably the most whimsical surviving Earthly location in the comic’s history, gives it a very rarefied, enchanted air. Isn’t that what romance is about – igniting passions so heady that reality feels like a dream?

  4. I was going to ask whether they were called buttergerbils or gerbilflies, but you’re way ahead of me as usual.

    …I see pokeballs in a certain child’s future.

  5. I wanted to say this. I love this comic. I’ve already read through it many times and can’t get enough. I’m also a fan of Skin horse. Thank you very much for this comic and teh directors cut as I willmost likely be visiting this comic again in the future and telling friends about it. It has ben a long road and I am glad I have taken every step.

  6. 5:

    I like the long shots this week has. It feels like a long pan-out.

    Dave’s clear glasses and tiny mouth really give him an off-putting glazed look. If you wanted some way of making him still appear mad while skirting the upper bounds of normal, you succeeded.

  7. He’s just trying not to explode from keeping the smug off his face.  He just caught Helen totally off guard twice in a row!

    Helen’s punchline is one of my favorites.

  8. I’ll buy you a PS game, my friend,
    If I get to play it too.
    I’ve finally gone insane, my friend,
    So I know what I should do.
    I’ll give you the gerbil island,
    The island might buy your love.

  9. (Continuing from above)

       Might buy your love, true!
       Something I can try to do!
       Might buy your love, true!
       Woo-woo-woo hoo!

    Dinner, you admit, is kind of sweet
    But love you still deny!
    Saying that the island’s yours, complete,
    Is sure to stupefy!
    Giving you the gerbil island,
    The island might buy your love!

    (TUNE: “Can’t Buy Me Love”, The Beatles, in case you couldn’t tell)

  10. Realtor pitch: “Yes, this island has his and hers lairs, hot and cold running madness there, let me tell you!  It’s low mileage, only been flown over the Antarctic once.  Originally owned by a bunch of uplifted gerbils, but they’re all dead, so no worries about infestations or progressive Randians.  Utilities have already been built-out with amazing high-speed internet connections and an armory that will make you weep!”


    And Daibhid and Ed: good job!  Though I’ve got “Another Girl” locked in my brain for some reason, comes from listening to nothing but Beatles to and fro the observatory Sunday night.

  11. I’m kind of curious if Shane has this music up for download anywhere?  Somhow or another I was able to grab a download of his last song, but can’t seem to figure out how I did it anymore….

  12. Shaenon-

    Thank you. Thank you for years of fun. I think it was Esther Friesner who provided the reference that got me here, and I’ve been here ever since. The director’s cut commentary was every bit as fun as the original run, which in and of itself is rare. So, thank you again.

  13. 4:

    I think the leaves really contribute to the rarefied atmosphere of this scene.I like the symmetry of Helen being given a of a new lair, given that the comic starts with her old lair office being demolished. While it was moody and subterranean, the median strip lab was always just a hole in the ground that she didn’t have the dollars to do better than. Hardly an Arctic base or a Brazilian diamond mine.

  14. (TUNE: “This Land is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie)

            I own an island!
            This now is my land!
            From the soggy sea-shore
            To the high-and-dry land!
            No need to panic
            If it gets volcanic!
            This is the island meant for us!

    An eye that’s twitching
    Or a nervous quirk’ll
    Convince the five Daves
    Of the Inner Circle!
    Now this is my gift
    To repair our love’s rift!
    This is the island meant for us!
        [repeat CHORUS]

  15. Sam: Mad engineers definitely prefer the virtually limitless geothermal energy available from a volcano lair, but like David said, a mad biologist probably prefers not having a looming environmental factor that will eventually wipe out her work without her say-so.

  16. 😀 Always did love that last panel. Just the look on her face when she says “not anymore”…

  17. I can only assume the lab coat was also part of his deal with the Dave Conspiracy. Or perhaps something they insisted on. If they’ve got a mad science liason, he should at least look like a mad scientist, after all.

  18. Very clever, Dave. By making her deny your ownership of the island, you also trick her into accepting your gift.

  19. @axel: Unless the lab coat just sort of spontaneously grows on a scientist once he or she goes mad–you know, like the Goatee of Evilness(tm) does.

  20. I agree with everyone who says that Helen’s “Not anymore” in the last panel is perfect, but I admit I was kind of expecting her to say it with an expression similar to the one Dave has in the same panel–the one that says, “I’m awesome! I own an island! Go, me!” (The expression she’s got also works great in that panel; it just wasn’t the one I was expecting to see.)

  21. Doctor Horrible’s vestment ceremony with The Evil League of Evil is shown on his blog.  Presumably the Narboniverse has similar rituals.

  22. I walk by leaves that big to go into the underground tunnel where I commit certain deeds!

    There’s no way Helen planned this end result of getting an island from her minion all along….. is there?

  23. (Piggybacking on Daibhid’s and Ed’s excellent contributions from Tuesday….)

       [alternate chorus:]
       Can’t buy your love, oh?
       Everybody tells me, “Nah”.
       Can’t buy your love, oh?
       Bwa-ha-ha, hah!

    Say you don’t need that old style Dave
    And I’ll be satisfied.
    Tell me that you want the kind of rave
    That’s from a brain that’s fried.
    For I don’t care too much for saneness,
    ‘Cause saneness can’t buy me love.

  24. 3:

    It would have been a very self-confident Helen indeed that predicted Dave would extend the hand of amends like this, after all this. Maybe she counted on Dave falling under those powerful fixations that mad genius creations have with their creators – and, as he lamented in the bar, that she’s the only tie he has to the mad science world.

    Perhaps all these things are actually true, but let’s not forget he’s also closing the wounds for his daughter’s sake. In a sense, their coming back together is just as inexplicable as their having been together in the first place. Sometimes you just can’t predict the flushed emotion.

  25. Cunning + cunning… an explosive combination.

    I wonder if Antonio Smith ever became a cunning linguist?

  26. @Tetra: very nice!

    @Soitbegins: Well, Zeta did mention that he’s actually married.  And Artie mentioned that he’s Latino, so his wife is probably Hispanic also.  (Insert obligatory “taco” joke here.)

  27. (TUNE: “I Want To Hold Your Hand”, The Beatles)

    You tinkered … with my brain …
    And I was seeing red!
    You made me … go insane …
    I want to kill you dead!
    That’s what the old me said …
    I want to kill you dead!

    In twenty … years from now,
    Disaster was widespread!
    I ruled the … world, somehow,
    And I had killed you dead!
    You’re just a brain instead!
    I killed your body dead!

       My mind into Madblood’s computer
       I did hack!
       Old me fell victim to a shooter …
       Now I’m back!
       Now I’m back!
       Now I’m baaaaaaaack!

    This island’s … just our size,
    To build a Lair of Dread!
    Let me a- pologize …
    Don’t want to kill you dead!
    Let’s live in love, instead!
    (And possibly get wed!)
    Don’t want to kill you dea-ea-ea-ea-ea-ea-ead!

  28. @Eddurd: I’m not sure Dr. Smith’s ethnic background has ever been established in canon, Latino or otherwise, unless I’ve missed something. Are you thinking of the strip a couple of weeks ago in which Artie says that he gets hot for “Slim, bronzed Latin men, actually … there’s just something about linguistics”? I always understood that line as an explanation of why Dr. Smith is an exception to the normal pattern of humans on whom Artie develops crushes, like, “Normally I just go for Latino dudes, but dang, I’d totally make an exception for that Dr. Smith and his linguistics!”

    (Sorry, I tried linking to the strip a couple of different ways, but I couldn’t get the link to work. It’s the strip from October 27, 2006, for anyone who wants to find it in the archives.)

  29. @joe: Or as cunning as a fox what used to be Professor of Cunning at Oxford University, but has moved on and is now working for the UN at the International Commission of Cunning Planning?

  30. I got hooked on Narbonic somewhere around year 2 and read it daily until the end. Then I did the same for the Director’s Cut. I can’t believe another six years has gone by! Scary! By the way, I met you and Andrew in Boston two years ago yesterday. You very generously gifted me with the first Skin Horse book. Thanks again for that and for all these years of entertainment. You’re a major talent with a tremendous body of work to be very proud of. I’ll miss the daily visit with your gang of lovable loonies. If you decide to do Director’s Cut II, I’m there!

  31. Remind me – did Helen give Dave an island every time *she* tried to kill *him*? I’m sensing a possible issue for marriage counseling in the future…

  32. I bought the original art of this strip from Shaenon, sight unseen, a few weeks before the original end of Narbonic.  I’m glad I did.

  33. 2:

    These people are bonkers. But then, they’re both gods among people, so why not let them blast through the mending process? They’re villains – bouncing back in time for next week is what they do.

    I believe this is a callback to, if not their first kiss, then at least their zeroth kiss. Or maybe our host just really likes an especially swoopy-lifty kind of smack.

  34. For the record, Jon (and Paul) did so much more than “assist”. seriously the ratio is like 3% me saying “hey you know what would be cool, a mysterious island song and it should maybe have these instruments –> [list, sometimes a midi]” and 97% Jon going “I am good at making music and am strangely amenable to carrying out your suggestions, my Liege!” I’d be the worst evil genius ever, giving entirely deserved credit to minions like that!! Definitely a sweet song. Thanks to Shaenon for making an island scene that fits it!

  35. Tara to Willow: “There’s so much to work through.  Trust has to build again . . . on both sides.  You have to learn if you’re even the same people you were, if you can fit into each other’s lives.  It’s a long and important process and can we just skip it?  Can you just be kissing me now?”

  36. To Andrew and Rex:  as John said yesterday, when Zeta said that Dr. Smith was “married to grammar … and actually married”, I took that to mean that, in addition to his linguistic work, he had an actual flesh-and-blood homo sapiens of the female type for a mate.

    Rest assured, Shaenon, years from now your fans will still be splitting hairs over obscure, throw-away lines in your work.  You must be so proud … *sniff*

  37. I like how Dave clearly isn’t listening in panel 2, just waiting for his opening to grab her like that.

  38. But he still says “Please?” He may be mad now, but he’s still a Nice Guy.Exit, pursued by an ur-gerbil.

  39. To Ed: Right. Zeta’s comment makes Dr. Smith’s marital status pretty clear–and, as his assistant, she’d probably be in a position to know such things about him. What I was questioning was your assertion that Artie had identified him as Latino, when, if anything, Artie’s line seems to imply that he isn’t.

  40. … and they lived evilly ever after.

    It looks like Helen actually prefers the second alternative.

  41. There’s no reason they couldn’t live happily ever after while also destorying the planet together!

  42. Actually, I hate happily ever after endings.  In my mind, “They lived happily ever after,” means “They settled down and stopped doing all those things that made you like them and enjoy reading about them.”
    So, yay ambiguity!  If Rosalind’s hints about the future are anything to go by, I’d say Dave and Helen will continue to save/threaten the world for many years to come.

  43. To quote Granny Weatherwax “You can’t make happiness. All you can do is make an ending”.

    And I can’t believe we’ve reached this one already. 8-(. Thanks, Shaenon, it’s been fun.

  44. It was even better the second time around. Thanks for sharing Narbonic with us, Shaenon. As far as webcomics go, it’ll always be my first love.

  45. I’m voting for the maelstrom thing, it goes well with boxed wine.Thank you, Shaenon, for the trip down Augmented Memory Lane.

  46. It’s been awesome! Thank you so much, Shaenon, for all the cleverness, laughter, and delight that is Narbonic. True greatness and greatly loved. <3

  47. I discovered Narbonic just after the Director’s Cut started. I was in high school and it was the first webcomic I’d ever seen. This was the start of many things, and I can say, with all seriousness, that it has had a noticeable and lasting impact on my life. So, for who I am today, thank you.

  48. If only there was a way to go back and do the Director’s Cut again, one day at a time, without any manual bookmarking, etc. Is there?

    Many thanks, Shaenon, it’s been great.

    Also thanks to Ed and Kay and several others for all the excellent filks, which at times were almost funnier than the comic of the day.

  49. It was a great ride, both times!  Thank you for what rapidly became my favorite webcomic, and has yet to be displaced.

    I look forward to your annotations of your comments in the third run.  : – )

  50. Sigh! I found Narbonic via a list of works by Daniel Pinkwater fans. It was the first webcomic I started reading, not too long after it started. It was always the best one on the list. The most reliably updated, the most well-written, and guaranteed to make me laugh. Just re-read the last two storylines now as a friend I got to read it is finishing it up today too, and it’s been a while. Can’t wait until my nieces and nephews are old enough for it.

  51. *does math, assuming a nine month gestation, no additional time travel, and a negligible delay starting the process*

    So Rosalind, if that does turn out to be her name (Was this guess by Kay Gilbert ever confirmed?) perhaps born as early as October of ’07, would now be fourteen years old. And if we add in the in-continuity five-year jump in this week’s Skin-Horse ( (if that wasn’t just a corrective measure to bring that story back into sync with the “real world”) then she’s about nineteen. And Shaenon seems to be wrapping up that story, perhaps she’ll tell us what Rosalind (or whoever she is) is up to next ^_^

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