Professor Madblood and the Doppelganger Gambit: February 10-15, 2003

Aside from the always shame-inducing gray fills, I like this strip a lot. There’s the footnote, and Dave holding Mell’s hand, and the rocket ship is just adorable… I want a cookie for this one. Where’s my cookie?

The moonscapes in this and other strips come from photos. There’s a lot of surprisingly smooth hills up there.

It’s true. Spacesuits really are one-size-fits-all.

Man, that’s some crazy hair I drew on Mell. It’s psychedelic. Stare at it too long, and that hair will transport you to a mystical wonderland.

Yeah, every once in a while I did a long strip for no particular reason. It was fun! Used up twice as much bristol, though.

People commented yesterday on Dave’s remarkable ability to slouch and stick his hands in his pockets while wearing a spacesuit. Slouching is one of Dave’s superpowers. Mell got the firepower,
Tip in Skin Horse got the powers of seduction, and Dave got slouching. I’m sorry, Dave.

I do like these strips where the characters pause to note how nerdily awesome their lives are. Also, that moonbase is hilarious. It’s like a Dr. Seuss moonbase. Only in black-and-white. It’s a shame about the gray fills, but what can you do?

The movie selection is the first reference to Madblood’s crush on Jennifer Connelly, which comes up repeatedly throughout the rest of “Narbonic.” It seemed like a typical crush for a nerdy thirtysomething guy to have. (I never established exactly how old Madblood is, but I had him pegged as a few years older than Helen, who’s about 29 at this point in the strip.)

I like the little hot-towel-and-cocoa-serving robot. I like to think that’s all it does on the moonbase. It was inspired by a Ray Bradbury story where a guy slogs through the rains of Venus for page after page (shut up it totally rains on Venus) and at the end of the story he finally makes it to a base and there’s a fluffy robe and a mug of cocoa waiting for him.


The computer’s name, never mentioned in this storyline, is Lovelace. She doesn’t get along with Madblood. She figures out pretty quickly that Dave isn’t Madblood, mainly because he’s polite to her, and takes a liking to him.

Dave doesn’t often mention his opinion of Madblood explicitly, but it’s clear from his occasional comments that he has kind of a negative opinion of the guy. His mention of Madblood’s skinny girl arms in the strip two days before this one is my favorite example. Here, it’s obvious that he’s a little bit jealous.

One of my favorite aspects of this storyline was figuring out how to telegraph the different characters’ identities with body language. You can tell I’m getting into it here; this is definitely Dave, not Madblood, lighting the cigarette and slouching around the moonbase.

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62 thoughts on “Professor Madblood and the Doppelganger Gambit: February 10-15, 2003

  1. Monday:

    I’m listening to anniversary broadcasts of Apollo 11 as I read this. Thanks to this, I cannot help but feel this while reading: every character responsible for the events of today’s episode is terrible.

  2. (TUNE: “Walking On The Sun”, Smash Mouth)

    So now crash down!  With sound!
    I can’t let go of your hand!
    And now with Madblood’s own face
    We’re infiltrating his base!
    So now I’ll suit up and let my laptop boot up!
    Step out, and very soon,
    I’m climbing down and walking on the Moon!

  3. Here and again later when Mell dives into the snow we see the term “Freeeeyow”–is that a reference to Zaphod’s “Phreeow”?  (Technically, I think it was Zipo Bibrox 3×10^27 or some such, too lazy to look it up.)

  4. The footnote makes me think you were sitting there drawing while hollering “FREEEEYOW – CRASH!” out loud.

  5. I suspect – though I don’t remember for certain – that this is the strip most directly responsible for my presence here. Browsing TVTropes I kept finding references to your comic, and one of them (Space Is Noisy, I think, although only the footnote and the cell-phone strip are there now) had a link to the jpg of this one.

  6. I always hear that in the voice of Zaphod Beeblebrox from the original BBC production of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

    • Now I’m imagining the guy that did the voice of the Guide in the BBC Miniseries version reading the footnote from Monday’s strip. Complete with a video clip of Shaenon making weird noises as she draws.

      And it all works perfectly, that’s the scary part!

  7. Tuessday:

    And, with a single show of initiative, Dave solves the ‘Mell-sitting’ problem for a while.
    Dave’s Scheme Score: 1.
    Fourth-wall dialogue’s Scheme Score: 34.

  8. By far the best part of this strip is that Narbonic Labs-issue space suits have pockets to stick your hands down in.

  9. (TUNE: “I Say A Little Prayer For You”, Dionne Warwick)

    That landing was awesome!
    And Mell’s hair, it’s fun to draw some!
    Some psychedelic hair for you!

    Dave puts on his space gear,
    And tells Mell, “You’ll have to stay here!
    There’s very little air for you!”

    This lunar
    Is set to go out
    To Madblood’s moon base!
    Will Mell get
    A helmet?
    She’ll sit there and pout,
    A scowl on her face!
    This space suit
    Is so cute!
    He lied to her flat!
    It’s one-size-fits-all,
    But she doesn’t have to know that …!

  10. Dave still slouches in lunar gravity.  Which I guess is not all that surprising when you consider he was somehow slouching in micro gravity last week.

  11. There is something peculiarly wonderful about the line “I’m almost your size now that you’re Madblood.” Perhaps it’s the way it’s totally incomprehensible out of context.

    Not only has Dave outwitted the redoubtable Ms Kelly… is he implying that the suit only has male plumbing?

  12. And the alternative was to let Mell have the suit, let her go to a secret moonbase full of secret weapons, and then depend on her to come back for him.

    Dave may be mad (or going mad), but he’s not crazy.

  13. cookie cookie cookie cookie cookie cookie cookie cookie cookie cookie cookie cookie cookie cookie cookie cookie cookie cookie cookie cookie cookie cookie cookie cookie cookie cookie cookie cookie cookie cookie

  14. So my dad comes home from work all excited back around 1980, and tell me he caught the cookie monster virus. It was this virus that would demand a cookie until you typed in the word “cookie”. Ah, the good old days when viruses were fun.

    In any case, Shaenon, there’s your cookie.

  15. Real astronauts did do that, in fact. On the later Apollo missions they discovered that bunny-hops were a more efficient method of locomation than walking in lunar gravity. (Source: a costumed guide at The Science Museum).

    BTW great timing in that these strips are rerunning in time for the lunar landing anniversary.

    • I’d either be singing “Walking On The Moon” by The Police or “Shout!” by the Isley Brothers, but to each their own. ^_^

      But yeah, how could you not want to fool around a little up there? I mean, it’s the MOON! I get all excited just thinking about going there!

  16. Wednesday:

    It’s impossible to resist surrendering, even momentarily, to the exuberance of being upon the legendary silver coin itself, and basking in its looser, more generous gravity.

    Speaking of which, I’m curious about the fact that, judging from those motion trails, the moon’s gravitational force seemingly results in constant jumping and falling speed. You don’t normally see that kind of physics outside of Atari videogames and computer-generated movie characters.

    (What would be funny is if today’s strip became something of a running gag, with every subsequent arriving character interrupting even the most urgent business to blunder around in childlike awe, to the irritation of the others.

  17. Obviously, Dave is so excited that his exclamations (timed to his leaps) are adding additional acceleration to keep his path linear.

  18. Wednesday.

    I always read that line as being about the yelling rather than the hopping.

    It’s about both; they go so well together. (One of the deep dark NASA is keeping from us. paranoid chortle)

  19. @Pete: I’ve also seen footage of a real Apollo astronaut (not sure who it was under the helmet) saying “hippety-hop, hippity-hop” as he demonstrated his method of locomotion.

    (Oh, and does anyone find it weird that the moon missions were named after the Greek god of the SUN? “Artemis” would have made more sense.)

    • I remember reading somewhere that NASA was actually planning Artemis missions after Apollo, but the space program got cut back drastically before they could be put into action.

      Don’t know if it’s true or not, but it totally bums me out that we sent astronauts to the moon a few times, then the government decided that since the military couldn’t make use of it to nuke the Commies, there was no real point in continuing space exploration to any serious degree. I don’t care how much it costs, we need a human-led mission to Mars! The Pentagon can do without its high-tech toys for a few years while we do something worthwhile with our tax dollars for a change!

    • What you’re missing is that Apollo took on the name of Phoebe, a moon goddess, after her death. His full name is properly Phoebus Apollo. Also, Apollo was god of light, not the sun (that’s Helios).

  20. They were trying to confuse the Russians that we were planning on landing on the Sun. No, seriously, a big sexy, macho NASA program named after some girly nature virgin? Never happen.

  21. (TUNE: “Love Me Do”, The Beatles)

    I’m on the Moon …
    It’s late afternoon …
    I’ll prob’ly die soon!
    But still … I’m …
    On the Moon!

    I’m gonna spy
    On some crazy guy
    And most likely die …
    So why ….
    Did I fly?

    How did I get
    Into this mess?
    (Smoking allowed,
    Casual dress …)

    Trapped like a fool!
    I’m just Helen’s tool
    So Earth she can rule!
    Although ….
    My job’s cool!

  22. Ed, you are a genius. With an incredibly extensive music collection, evidently.

    If there is ever another Narbonicon, one of the events needs to be Narbonic Karaoke, with Ed’s songs.

    Or perhaps an online video collection? 

  23. That all computers love Dave helps.  Or is it all machines?  That is truly an awesome superpower either way.

  24. For some reason, it took me until this time through to realize that Lovelace was running the moonbase and that she wasn’t developed afterwards.

  25. I like Lovelace.  I’m just surprised that I don’t think you ever had her say “I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.”  I’m just saying, for a story with an AI and a guy named Dave there are surprisingly few 2001: A Space Odyssey references.

  26. (TUNE: “Legs”, ZZ Top)

    She likes Dave!
    He knows how to use her!
    She’s gonna save
    Guy that won’t abuse her!
    He’s a prize!
    Got him in her sights now!
    Then she’ll realize
    That love really bytes now!
    Poor Lovelace
    Can’t suck face;
    She’s an A.I.!

  27. Friday:

    Why, it’s a veritable living palace! I wish there was a big center panel showing off its extravagantly cavernous and shiny interior, to bowl over both the reader and our black-haired protagonist.

    Lovelace’s Scheme Score: 1. Helen really should have gone herself, as these first two panels demonstrate.

  28. Having all computers love you is definitely a better superpower than slouching.

    The 2001 references do show up eventually, and in such an appropriate – and disturbing – context that it took me a while to realize that they were, in fact, 2001 references.

    I have no comment regarding nerdy thirty-something guys crushing on Jennifer Connelly.

  29. Daveblood is so much cuter than “Wolf”.  I think it must be the lack of scowl and stoop and hand-clenching…

  30. Re: Jennifer Connelly

    I actually work at NASA.  When I was in a group doing programming, about 1/2 the guys in my group were infatuated with Jennifer Connelly.

    I haven’t polled my current group.  I may have to do that just to see if geeky 30-something guys with esp. geeky jobs are still fans of hers.

  31. (TUNE: “Walking In Memphis”, Marc Cohn)

    Put on my new space suit
    And I got off my ship …
    Stepped down on the Ma-re Cri-si-um
    And I did a little hop and skip!
    Lovely lady Lovelace,
    I think we’ll get along just fine …
    You sound like Jennifer Connelly;
    Do you like to game online?

    Yes, I’m slouching on Moonbase …
    Slouching with my hands in the pockets of trou …
    Slouching on Moonbase …
    Gonna smoke and stink the place up now …

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