Enter Helen Narbon, With Gerbils

And Helen appears at last. As I said before, the three central characters in Narbonic (that is, until Artie came along and made it four) had all appeared in previous comics of mine. Mell was in my high school strip, “North of Space,” Dave was in my college strip, “The Ratio,” and Helen was in a comic I drew for a Three-Page Comic Contest in the comic book Thieves and Kings, by Mark Oakley. It won second place. I haven’t put it online before because it’s not very good, but that’s what the Director’s Cut is for, right? The morbidly curious can read it here.

In my first stories about the Narbons (none of which, except for the three-page comic, ever actually got drawn), Helen’s mother was the main character. I designed her first and sort of reverse-engineered Helen from her. In the very earliest versions, Dr. Narbon had two clones–one a teenager and one a little girl–and a henchman who had been mutated and brain-swapped to the point that everyone had forgotten what he originally looked like. Oh, and a talking gerbil. I kept the talking gerbil.

Incidentally, all three of the winners of the Three-Page Comic Contest went on to do webcomics. The first-place story was by the Brothers Grinn, who draw Supermegatopia. The third-place story was by Diana Sprinkle, who draws a bunch of excellent webcomics.

Helen is named after Helena de Narbon, the heroine of All’s Well That Ends Well, one of Shakespeare’s worst plays. Helena is a doctor, which was about the closest thing in Shakespeare I could find to a lady scientist. A lot of Narbonic characters have Shakespearean names, probably because I mistakenly think it sounds classy.

The first and last Sunday strips are the only ones that are in continuity with the daily strips. I always intended to use the Sundays for guest art, fan mail, side stories, and stuff like that. I only did a continuity strip this Sunday because the strip had only been running for a week and I didn’t have any guest art or fan mail yet.

This strip was mostly colored with Crayola crayons. You can tell, can’t you?

8 thoughts on “Enter Helen Narbon, With Gerbils

  1. I like Helen a lot better when her lips aren’t drawn. She looks more like a cartoonie and kookie scientist. And when you made Madblood say almost exactly the same thing (“Are you the appliance repairman? Tell me you’re the appliance repairman.”) when Dave came to work for him, I thought it was one of the funniest things I’d ever read in a comic.

    I just find it funny how much comic series’ characters change before our very eyes without our knowing and then when we look back and compare the latest strip with the very first, you just kinda go, “Wow.”

  2. On my third (fourth?) pass through the glory that is Narbonic, Ifinally remembered Mell’s comments (six years later) regarding this Sunday strip: “Then Dave walked in, back at the old place, and she looked at him and fiddled with her glasses, and suddenly she started talking almost like a normal person.  She’s been like that ever since.” (14 APR 2006)  So bravo for foresight / continuity!

  3. Dave’s sense of self-preservation may not be visible, but clearly active. Unfortunately, even after this, he still wants something from them, even if it’s only validated parking. And so his doom is sealed….

    (Never mind that, unbeknownst to him, his doom was sealed years ago, when HN-Sr. first laid eyes on him.)

  4. Wow! Wow! I never saw the three-panel Narbon prequel! I think it’s pretty rad, actually.

    RIP Supermegatopia. I saw you had a link, and hoped they’d actually put something up again, but it appears to be lost to time. I miss them. They’re from Muncie, Indiana, where I was born.

  5. Assume some of your audience are foreigners and haven’t read Shakespeare. Now you can answer this question: the Helena de Narbon mentioned in “Of Lovers and Madmen” is an actual Shakespeare character??!!

  6. How many old fans are still wandering back here? I just linked the “can and should are different words” strip to a discussion about the incoming 2021. (2020 won?)

    Also, the “phonecall” link for Helen’s origin story doesn’t seem to be loading anymore. Link rot?

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