This is one of my favorite strips. What with all the cheap jokes about what a nerd Dave is, it’s easy to forget that Helen is pretty dorky herself. Dorky but dangerous. I also like the idea that the sprites have a poker night.
The initial core concept of this storyline was Dave being sent to infiltrate Madblood’s lair disguised as Madblood. I wrote exactly one strip (which I’ll point out when it appears much later) around this idea, then sat on it for a year or more, unable to come up with anything else.
Then one day I thought of putting Madblood’s lair on the moon, and suddenly the whole story clicked together. I churned out eight months of strips without too much more trouble, although Andrew helped me with a couple of key creative blocks. I don’t know why picking a setting for the story made it gel, but it wasn’t the only storyline that only came together once I’d settled on some apparently minor cosmetic detail. For instance, I couldn’t get “Battle for the Lost Diamond Mines of Brazil” to work until I came up with Mongor the Iguana-Man.
This is all tangential to this particular strip, which was written fairly early (although still long after that first, lonely strip) and just serves to slowly introduce Helen’s improved transmogrifier. It also features the first in a series of amusing goggles Helen wears this week.
(Okay, it’s really just two sets of goggles. And the next set is better. I’m sorry.)
Man, I love these goggles.
I stretched out this conversation between Helen and Artie for almost a week. I probably could’ve condensed it, but then the strips would’ve been even wordier, so it’s probably just as well. Anyway. Transmogrifier. The word isn’t original to “Calvin and Hobbes,” but that’s obviously where I got it. “Morphic matrix,” I believe, comes from the Discworld books.
Humans do have large and colorful gene pools compared to other species, probably partly because civilized living allows weird mutations to build up in the population. Dogs are genetically diverse too. Gerbils, not so much. Almost all pet gerbils are descended from 20 breeding pairs brought to the U.S. from Mongolia in 1954, so they have a relatively low genetic variability. I mean, they’re not like cheetahs or nothing, but they’re pretty homogenous.
More important, the design of the transmogrifier is clearly based on a Super Soaker. I wasn’t at all consistent about this, but I tried to give Helen’s inventions the look of colorful toys. If I were doing the strip over, I’d give each of the mad scientists a distinctive design style. Madblood would be all steampunky.
Man, those goggles are boss.
Helen hangs the transmogrifier gun on the wall in a ridiculously literal interpretation of Chekov: “If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired.”
So, yeah, Artie and Dave start messing with the gun next week.
“He’d make a big silly fuss if I shot him” is a line I’m still pretty proud of.
This was a fairly early script. I was and continue to be a huge sucker for big bombastic captions like this. The great part is how they leave almost no room for the art. I’m really in the wrong line of work with the whole cartooning thing.
I do like the whole exchange in the second panel.