Gender Swap: December 31, 2001 – January 5, 2002

Yeah, yeah, geeky gamer guys are scared of girls. As I said before, I cut a lot of material from this storyline at the writing stage, but I probably could have trimmed more. A lot of the gaming group strips are pretty blah, although the gaming group itself ended up being a nice set of characters later in Narbonic.

Seth is wearing a classy Lady Death T-shirt. Eric’s shirt is from the MST3K ConventioCon Expo-Fest-A-Rama, the official “Mystery Science Theater” convention. Kevin, the guy Eric is based on, was a big MST3K fan, and in fact we met on the MST3K Usenet group. I wanted very badly to attend the ConventioCon Expo-Fest-A-Rama when I was a feckless Ohio teen who could only dream of someday visiting anyplace as glamorous as Minnesota. Little did I know that someday, thanks to my mad-science Internet comic, I would have a Twin Cities-based convention of my very own. Beverly Garland didn’t come to mine, though.

Song list:

76. “Lonely Lab of Broken Hearts,” by the Arrogant Worms

I’m in the lonely lab of broken hearts
I dissect the way you say goodbye until it falls apart
I’m in the lonely lab of feelin’ blue
And my pheremones can find no trace of you

Suggested by Tara Tallan. Are you reading Tara’s comic Galaxion? Because you really should be doing that. I was reading it before it was a webcomic, which is how cool I am.

I don’t have much to say about this one except that:

1. Although the physical resemblance isn’t really there because I suck at drawing people, Freddy’s reaction in the last panel is an accurate depiction of Jason Thompson, the cartoonist (and author of Manga: The Complete Guide) on whom the character is based.

2. The figurine in front of Freddy is a Mock Man, a stick figure-y character Jason used to draw into his comics all the time.

3. Yes, that’s a can of Ellmann Energy Drink. I’m not sure what it turns into in the last panel.

Song list:

77. “The Operation,” by Charlotte Gainsborg

I want to explore you
I’m gonna get under your skin
So you can feel me running through your veins
I want to examine
Every inch of your frame
The pressure points that cause your joy and pain
Our love goes under the knife
There is no room for doubt

Suggested by Jeremy Berg. Thanks!

I still kind of like this one, although my art in all these strips is terrible. I wasn’t used to drawing the gamers. Somehow the pop cans all got freaky small in this strip.

Song list:

78. “Ruler of Everything,” by Tally Hall

You understand
Mechanical hands
Are the ruler of everything
Ruler of everything
I’m the ruler of everything
In the end

Suggested by B.J. Johnson. Thanks!

I drew very few panels in which Seth doesn’t have a sweat drop flying off his head. For some reason I’m fascinated by nerdy guys who are constantly angry and frustrated at the universe. I’m going to have some in Skin Horse too.

Actually drew some cleavage on Dave in the second panel there.

Song list:

79. “Lost in Space,” by Aimee Mann

Lost in space above all drifting
To a place where planets shifting
The moon erased, it’s features lifting the glare

But I am the stuff of happy endings
Though mostly bluff, belief suspending
But close enough for just pretending to care

Have I mentioned how much I am digging Aimee Mann lately? Because I hell of am.

The things Helen is holding in the first panel are sheets of electrophoresis gel; the dark lines are centrifuged genetic material, which forms layers in the gel based on mass. It’s usually used for genetic analysis. Basically, I can only draw lab materials used in freshman bio, because that’s all I took in college.

I was having underwire issues at the time I wrote this. I bought some better bras later.

I’m actually pretty impressed that Seth asked Dave out. I don’t imagine he approaches girls much. I’m even more impressed that Dave accepted.

Song list:

80. “How to Build a Time Machine,” by Darren Hayes

If I have understood correctly
Velocity equals the distance traveled divided by time.
I’ve read every word ever printed on quantum physics
Now it is time to try
I read your book
I found your notes
I dusted this thing off and turned on the key
The rumbling motors
The buzzing
Incredible gadgets
The hissing electricity

Another song suggested by my friend Drave. Thanks, Drave!

Yes, this is just silly, but I needed some explanation for Dave’s willingness to go on this date. Throughout Narbonic, Dave, is shockingly susceptible to bribery.

I do like Dave’s rock-solid confidence in her own beauty. Oddly, Dave is just as solidly convinced that he’s unattractive as a man.

Andrew prefers Mike to Joel.

Song list:

81. “Frankenstein,” by the New York Dolls

And all these shoes are too big
And this jacket’s too small
How you don’t know Frankenstein, a Frankenstein
We’re asking you as a person
Is it a crime, is it a crime
For you to fall in love in with Frankenstein?

A classic.

57 thoughts on “Gender Swap: December 31, 2001 – January 5, 2002

  1. Monday:

    The best line here belongs to Seth.

    Personally, since Dave has an entirely new voice, I think they’d be more likely to assume that Dave’s long lost fraternal twin has subbed for him. Then we could witness that grand comedy staple where Dave answers several ridiculously specific or humiliating questions and the guys are all “Yup, that’s really Dave.”

    • I do hope you’re not asking anyone other than your husband, madam, otherwise the poor moderators for this site would probably have to demand both massive overtime AND severe hazard pay…

  2. …. I can’t do it. It’s too easy. ‘This isn’t shooting fish in a barrel, this is dropping a nuke on a bucket of carp’.

    That aside, I would try and defend against Seth’s damn line, but well, *I* play Bards, and I’m not the best example of manlieness around here. Seriously.

    I know the words to ‘Hello Dolly’ and everything. 

    And hey, is that a Willow reference in the first panel? 

  3. One thing I like about this sub-storyline is that, whatever their issues with the female of the species might be, the whole gaming group immediately and without question accepts the idea that this strange chick is, in fact, Dave transformed into a woman. No Weirdness Blindness for the gamers, thankyouverymuch!

  4. Shaenon,

    I think the answer to your question has be written in invisible bits, like so:





  5. Aaron, I like to think of it this way. You can always shoot at fish in a barrel, but if there isn’t enough water you’re gonna get splinters.

  6. Tuesday:

    Ah. I have a personal story about this strip. When I was first reading the archives I had “010101.jpg” open in a window. Then I decided to view the next episode by changing the image URL. (If you don’t know why I did this, I’ll tell you in two months.)

    However, just that once I accidentally typed “010102.jpg” instead of “010201.jpg“. Whoops! I’ve seen too far ahead. But, as it turned out, this episode is one of the few in this story arc where the meaning of Dave’s situation is somewhat ambiguous.

  7. Hmm, firebaling the tunnel is valid, but doesn’t he have one of the Hand spells? One of the few things they’re even good for (besides providing cover for the Ranger or Paladin) is moving things. Plus, that and a tensers floating disk can make a sort of magical slingshot dealy…

    erm, I mean… 

  8. Somehow the pop cans all got freaky small in this strip.

    It’s a government conspiracy to confuse us! They’ve clearly hired some sort of mad scientist to shrink objects, causing us to lose our sense of proportion! Gaaah!

  9. Wait a second–druids can’t cast fireball!

    No, I’m not ashamed to know that.  And I love the magic slingshot idea.

  10. Wedneday’s Comic:

    It is a common element of these storylines that the victim’s transformation is shunned and rejected by her former friends. But is this really the worst that Dave suffers? She gets off quite lightly, even for comedy.

  11. I think the group would just have taken ANY excuse to grab some extra Level 10 equipment.

  12. Amy: Nigaiamai Yume is right.  Dave’s probably not even playing the druid in this campaign; the others have just been lusting after his stuff this whole time.

    Alternately, maybe he mis-spoke and mean to say “Fire Seed”.  (Geek +1, *ping!*) 

  13. Also: Somehow they got a hold of a bunch of those little soda cans they serve on airlines and in hospitals and such.  No problem!

  14. What do I remember from my gaming days?

    Our elven wizard wore a magical belt buckle inscribed with the mystice runes “DISCO SVCKS”.  Whenever the cleric used his Spiritual Hammer, the whole group starting singing, “Bang bang, Feldspar’s Spir’tual Hammer came down upon their heeeeaaaads …”.  Our dwarf fighter got hold of a magical curse that turned him blue, and everyone (including enemy orcs) kept calling him “Papa Smurf”.

    And you wonder how I ended up like this?

  15. He could have had a scroll, you know.

    heh. Best purchase ever: Wand of glitterdust. Why? Because nothing says ‘Die’ like ten feet worth of glitter summoned up your left nostril. hee hee! 

  16. You know what I would’ve done in Dave’s place? Made a new character, started playing it, then slipped some gender-swap compound to the other players, then used the new “new-gender, new-character” rule to lay claim to all their old characters’ stuff. Helen would probably let Dave have some, since she would likely approve of the evil revenge sentiments involved.

  17. Thursday:

    Ah, those triple lower eyelids. Will I ever tire of those evokative lines, and those dilated pupils?

    Those opportunistic gamers. They assume that girlfriends are little more than girl friends.

  18. Personally, I love Dave’s expression in panel 3.  The cigarette cocked defiantly to one side, the single raised eyebrow … it just works.

  19. Agreed, Ed. But Dave should’ve known better than to ask for any final humiliations from that group.

    I also love the final line in the strip, and have always been curious who Seth out-maneuvered.

  20. A properly done shell-shocked looked on a comic character’s face is a thing of beauty.  Panel 4 is beautiful.

  21. Yep. Dave is screaming on the inside there, you can tell.

    Isn’t it amazing that later events actually manage to *top* this? 

  22. *prepares to start yelling like the old man with the dangnabed kids in his yard about ‘4rth edition’*

  23. OK, in the first panel, girl-Dave looks to be about 5 years old.   On the plus side, man-Helen in panel 3 looks pretty darn rugged.

  24. Y’know, really, Ed, oughtn’t we be calling her HELEN-MAN? AND HER SIDEKICK…ER, HENCHMA…ER, HENCHWOMAN, DAVE-WOMAN!

  25. Friday:

    Some details of today’s strip that elude comprehension are 1) whether this is the day after the game, or just a few hours later, and 2) exactly why Seth is going to miss Toonami. Also 3) why Dave invited Seth into an underground laboratory below a highway median strip in the first place.

    And 4) how Dave is still tall enough to drive.

    Unfortunately, those clear sheets still look like fastened insect specimens to me. Even now I struggle to live down my previous gaffe in that regard. (Why did I choose physics in high school? Why?)

  26. I am hypersensitive and absolutely refuse to wear underwires anymore, period.  This is problematic because, due to weight gain, I’m pretty busty at present.  They do not make a lot of non-underwire bras in the larger sizes, let alone ones that do the job.  Is this sufficient grounds for liposuction, do you think?

  27. So I went home and I borrowed
    The keys to my dad’s new time machine
    He told me not to touch it, he’d just had it cleaned
    But I knew that if I took it then I’d have the means
    To finally make it back to see you

    I set the controls for yesterday
    I thought the machine would take that literally
    I expected to step out and to see you smiling at me
    So when I opened up my eyes I was surprised to see

    I was at the dawn of the day before the time of the land the lost dinosaurs forgot to remember
    Not even the lost dinosaurs remembered not to forget the land of the time that came right after the day of which we’re going back to the dawn
    And if you ever visit the beginning of time
    I’ll be the one in the bathrobe
    Swinging from a vine

    At the dawn [etc]

    Escape, Ookla the Mok (from their Smell No Evil rock opera about a space monkey and the boy who loves him)

  28. This may be my favorite strip in this story line.  “You’re wrong on a couple of counts there.”  Heh.

  29. As I am male and not very worldly yet, I Wikipedia’d ‘underwire’. I spent over half an hour of learning new stuff, mostly about the opposite sex.

  30. You have to think of Narbonic as being filmed like a reality show. Imagine one of those hand-held Steadicams, with the operator bobbing and weaving to frame the best shot.

    Thus, in Panel 1, the operator is clearly standing on a chair to shoot down from above Helen(m)’s head. This also has the effect of making Dave(f) appear shorter.

    It’s all a matter of perspective, and, in Dave(f)’s case, foreshortening. Or backshortening, since she’s in the back of the frame.

  31. Valkerie: Yes. Personally, I tried underwear out once and it bugged the hell out of me. Soft-fit is the way to go.

     …. what? It was holloween! I had a Dolly outfit, kay? Ms. Streisand is a tough act to follow…

    And panel three helen is unfair, dammit. 

  32. irresistible  adj 1.Having detectable breasts 2. female

      — The Oxford Geek Dictionary

  33. This will probably come as no surprise to anyone, but I lost count of how many times I went to see the original “Star Wars” during my college days.

    Actually, I didn’t lose count, but I’m not gonna admit it.  (Let’s just say, “double digits”, and let it go at that.)

  34. I do like Dave’s rock-solid confidence in her own beauty. Oddly, Dave is just as solidly convinced that he’s unattractive as a man.

    Possibly because he knows that – if he were a man – he’d hit that?

  35. …. Jon, just, no. Please, this universe is bad enough with such things. stop tempting the fanfic writers.

     And I find that most two-person main characters tend to, at some time or another, become calvin and hobbes. 

  36. Aaron, you’re only saying that because you realized that Dave could probably time-travel to this point in the continuum and hit exactly that.

    Just sayin’. 

    I gotta say Joel edges out Mike for me, but mostly because I just like the Trace Beaulieu/Joel Hodgson run best of MST3K.  It helps that a) it’s the first one I was exposed to and b) “Sandy Frank” had yet to figure out why they were licensing his films.  Making fun of Gamara is like stealing candy from comatose babies.

    There were some really great moments in the later years, though. “Remember to always believe in magic…or I’ll kill you.” is one of those memorable lines that still pops up in the midst of meetings here at work.

  37. For some unfathomable reason, this strip caused me to ponder my opinions on MST3K in detail far before being rerun in the Director’s Cut. I figured that bringing them up in a discussion about the comic would be too crass and inflammatory, so thanks to Steph for broaching the subject instead.

    In my (limited) experience, it’s Mike who has the most to offer as a host. I prefer his more active attitude, his “big brother” relationship with the bots and all the wacky hijinks that ensue. MIKE BROKE THE HUBBLE! MIKE BROKE THE HUBBLE!

    At the same time, Joel meshes better with the rest of the show. MST3K’s ubiquitous jury-rigging themes were a heartwarming example of turning a weakness into a strength: presumably the show wouldn’t have looked nearly as good if it had had more money to work with. Mike never really fit into that. That’s why the invention exchanges stopped – Mike was not a tinkerer. If we  hold the hosts accountable for what happened during their watch, then I favor Joel. Mary Jo Pehl was many things, but she was not Trace Beaulieu.

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