Professor Madblood and the Lovelace Affair: December 6-11, 2004

And here’s Titus Misanthropie, henchman nonpareil, created by Jonathan Towne for the playtest of the never-completed Narbonic roleplaying game. I love this guy so much. Most of the other characters in the first panel are other characters from the playtest.

The bonus story in Narbonic Volume 4, drawn by Laura Chapple, features Dr. Narbon’s long-gone henchman, Pericles (who, at the point at which the story takes place, has been turned into a large African grey parrot). I intended for him to be a relative of Titus. The Misanthropies are an old henching family.

It took me a while to get the hang of drawing Titus, but what the hell, he looks pretty good here. The key is to always give him shifty eyes. He’s very expressive compared to Dave, who’s nearly always impassive behind those glasses. Around this time I was very interested in making my characters “act,” something that’s still the funnest part of drawing for me.

Titus’s employer is Ginny Frog, a teenage girl scientist from the 1950s who was propelled to the present day by a mad homemaking accident. She makes a couple of brief appearances in this storyline. Anyway, the panty girdle and Mystery Date cards are hers.

Madblood is pretty well-known in mad science circles by this point. He’s receiving the Von Boom Award, after all. Titus is familiar with all the major players in the industry.

This strip is way too wordy, but I liked the line “she stopped forgetting which closets have the mops and which have the mop-shaped killer mutants” so much I had to cram it in. Sometimes it’s hard to kill your darlings.

The characters in the background are from this character design exercise. I don’t think they were ever used anywhere else, so, hey, here’s their tiny moment in the sun.

The whole situation between Dave and Helen here is very 1980s sitcom-esque, and I kinda like that. Especially Dave wincing in the third panel. It’s hard to get that much expression out of a character with no visible eyeballs.

I totally got that “Ren and Stimpy” DVD set, too.

Why is Radio Shack so funny? Radio Shack is ALWAYS FUNNY.

I always liked this strip a lot, maybe just for the casualness of Dave walking along, talking to his girlfriend on his cell. Speaking of which, John Romita once said that the test of a good comic artist is being able to convincingly draw a character talking on the phone. He was right–it’s harder than it looks. I was still not very good at hands at this time. My characters needed knuckles.

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36 thoughts on “Professor Madblood and the Lovelace Affair: December 6-11, 2004

  1. Monday:

    That last line is pretty great, not the least of which is that it reminds us that Dave really does have a lot in common with this guy.

    Neither of them seem that eager to look directly at their horrid bloodshot glowers, though.

  2. Presumably there are other relatives with names like Coriolanus, Cymebline, and Timon. (And possibly Cardenio, although nobody’s is sure if he’s actually a relative or not.)

  3. Tuesday:

    The best part of this strip is how much it reads like an author-directed zinger at Helen Beta.

    But it’s silly to think he wouldn’t respond to the name of Narbon. No one with brain clumps as old and reusable as his could forget that time in ’81 when Arkansas was renamed to Narbonopolis for six hours (to the howls of rage from Latin majors everywhere).

  4. I do like Dave’s stoic attitude.  He’s been to Hell and back, literally.  But has he been to … Detroit??

  5. ‘Around this time I was very interested in making my characters “act,” something that’s still the funnest part of drawing for me.’ – That doesn’t surprise me. One of the things I really respect about your work is how expressive your characters are. I’m not really any kind of an artist, but it strikes me – at least from the outside – that expression must be one of the hardest parts of cartooning.

  6. @Leon – why would Latin majors care about Arkansas being renamed Narbonopolis?

    Greek majors, on the other hand…

  7. Ohhh, see, the whole time I just figured the girdle was *titus’*! Hey, the man’s entitled to a personal life.

  8. @Marc Reeve: The truth is I spent so long looking up which years Dr. N was and wasn’t alive in that this blunder passed unheeded. Clearly I need to start drafting my comments a few days in advance.

  9. OK, now this is gonna be an earworm for me all day … I’m old enough to remember the “Mystery Date” TV commercial …

    Mystery mop!
    You’ll be murdered by a mystery mop!
    Call a cop!
    It just won’t stop!
    Don’t touch that door!
    We store … mystery mop!

    And, just so I don’t suffer alone,

  10. I’m somewhat disappointed to learn that the panty girdle doesn’t belong to Titus.

  11. (TUNE: “Respect”, Aretha Franklin)

    Yeah, for Helen
    I’ve been henchin’!
    Hear her yellin’!
    Did I mention
    That she gives me,
    Gives me some respect!
    (not a lot of it … not a lot of it …)

    That’s what Helen gives to me!
    Fetch her … EKG!
    (Wanna wine, I wanna wine, I wanna wine, I wanna wine,
    I wanna wine, I wanna wine, I wanna wine, I wanna wine …)

  12. Ed, I consistently love and R-E-S-P-E-C-T your filks.  On occasion you catch me not knowing the song, mainly when you go Broadway or musical movies.  I think we’re probably of similar age based on the music that you pull from.  In fact, I had to open up iTunes and play that recent Pat Benatar song as it wasn’t fresh in my mind and I was conflating the tune with another Benatar number (and it mostly worked).

    But today’s got an actual LOL! over breakfast from me.  Excellent job, dude! (it doesn’t hurt that The Blues Brothers movie is one of the greatest movies of all time and always in my top 10).

  13. Is Dave’s line in the last panel a Princess Bride reference?

    Did Dave intend it as a Princess Bride reference?

  14. @John Campbell I can’t imagine Dave ever passing up the opportunity to make a Princess Bride reference.

  15. Friday:

    Helen’s taking her maternal original’s signature beverage for herself. She’s really trying to impress.

  16. @owlsayssouth:  You’re right, it is inconceivable

    (TUNE: “Unforgettable”, Nat King Cole)

    That he’s her slave …
    How he’ll behave …
    “Helen, you had better leave for me
    ‘Ren & Stimpy’ box set DVD,
    Once we’ve returned …
    That’s what I’ve earned!”

    Dave will take a bribe,
    And act just fine!
    Helen will imbibe
    Her glass of wine!
    Still, it doesn’t seem believable
    That his dream girl is achievable …
    Dave and Helen?  Inconceivable, oooh!

  17. But that raises another question: Does Helen get that it’s a Princess Bride reference? Judging from her thought balloon in the fourth panel, I’m guessing she does not.

  18. @Andrew: I assumed that Helen’s fourth-panel thought balloon is a direct reference to her knowledge about [SPOILER!] Dave’s future as the subject of the Tinasky experiment.

  19. @Diane: Interesting. I had never really read anything plot-specific into that thought balloon. To me it was just a dreadful recognition of an inevitable future occurrence that will make her life much much harder, analogous to the sort of thing most parents I know say in reference to their kids’ developing ever-more-sophisticated thought processes or senses of willpower or what have you.

  20. There are plenty of comics out there with better-drawn knuckles that I like less than Narbonic.

  21. Radio Shack is funny. I’ve been tossed out of one or two for not being as stupid as the manager.

  22. Saturday:

    Silent Penultimate Panels: 33. But I have to say that the placement of the door frame works well to accentuate the symmetry of the panel, lending it a pleasing stillness and rigidity. It looks like a moment that could last forever. And, of course, leaving the panel unframed only complements its atemporality – giving it the appearance of an interruption in the flow of time.

  23. Ah, yes, walking along, talking to his girlfriend, immediately after telling another woman/product of mad science, “As you wish.”

    Poor Lovelace. She doesn’t deserve half of what happens to her.

    • And you obviously have no idea what you’ve gotten into by teasing us Narbonites (or should that be Narbites? Well, whatever clever and vaguely science-related nickname us Narbonic fans should have) with an unfinished Narbonic/Skin Horse RPG!

      Please please pretty please finish it, oh magnificently talented, delightfully creative, and all-around gorgeous webcomic creatrix that you are! (See! I’m even shamelessly sucking up to you! See how desperate I am, nyao?)

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