I love writing Dr. Narbon’s dialogue. It’s not very polished here, but you can tell I’m getting into it.
Many members of my family sensed a resemblance between Dr. Narbon and my own mother, starting with panel three of this strip. Personally, I think I was tapping universal experience. I’m sure most people’s mothers travel everywhere with several boxes of pink wine in reserve. I mean, what if your mom reaches her destination and finds that there isn’t enough boxed wine around the place? What if she gets thirsty on I-90? What’s a woman supposed to do?
Iron City is the beer of Pittsburgh, land of my forefathers. The natives take great pride in its awfulness.
19. “Dr. Luther’s Assistant,” by Elvis Costello
Oh, he’s Dr. Luther’s assistant
He’ll close in when he seems so distant
Dr. Luther’s assistant
He’ll get on top of you when you lower your resistance
Actually, this isn’t a very good fit, but I’ve got a bunch of Elvis Costello songs on the Narbonic playlist for some reason. I have “Doctor Luther’s Assistant” and “B Movie” because they’re kind of vaguely tangentially Narbonic-y, and “Pump It Up” because Andrew always mishears the line “She’s like a narcotic” as “She’s drawing Narbonic.” Corny but true.
Incidentally, I felt a real sense of accomplishment the day that a Google search for “narbonic” didn’t turn up the suggestion that I meant to type “carbonic.” Take that, H2CO3!
Dr. Narbon’s boxed wine is “Autumn Blush,” a flavor my mother was fond of at the time. It’s pinkish. “Box-O-Wine” is the derisive family nickname for my mother’s favorite bulk alcoholic beverage. My mother likes to note with pride, however, that most of the relatives who mocked her have been gradually converted to an appreciation of boxed wine. What your boxed wines may occasionally lack in sophistication, they make up for in quantity, and my family loves to drink.
Except for me. For most of my adult life, I have squandered my stout Irish constitution by forsaking alcohol. I just don’t like the taste. Nowadays, however, I will drink the occasional bottle of wine.
Artie pushing the giant box of wine is pretty cute, although I don’t know what’s going on with his tail in that first panel.
20. “Brainscan,” by the Hoodoo Gurus
You need a brainscan
To convince me you’re not dead
You need a brainscan
And hope they learn to transplant a head
I just like this song, plus I kind of picture Artie listening to songs like this. I think Artie has peculiar musical tastes, due partly to possessing a different hearing range than humans, and partly to being Artie.
Too…many…words…strip…illegible…arrgh. I dig Mell’s confused lingo, though.
Yes, the crate reads AMMO. Sometimes it’s hard to think of things to write on crates.
21. “Cat with Two Heads,” by the Aquabats
A scientist creates a beast
In a secret laboratory
Nature plots revenge
It’s blood it seeks
That’s where we begin our story!
Completely silly, but there aren’t many story-songs that are just straight-up about a mad scientist and the monstrosity he’s created.
I was in my laboratory
Creating what I thought would be…
Something great for the World!
A two-headed cat!
You could pet one kitty’s head
Then pet the other kitty’s head!
But little did I know the power of Atomic Energy
Would create a two headed man-eating monster!
Thank you, Aquabats. Thank you.
In the last panel, it looks like Dave is checking out Mell’s butt. Although it would be hard to blame him, he really is more interested in the totally boss remote he built. Yes, Dave has a skewed sense of priorities. Mell, of course, is entirely fixated on the superweapon.
Man, I wish I hadn’t filled stuff in with gray on Photoshop. It looks so out of place. At the time I figured I’d learn how to do more and more Photoshop shading, maybe even–gasp!–coloring, but I never did. Instead, I gave up and just learned how to do spot blacks.
Again, I cannot stress enough that at the time I was really, really into “Babylon 5.” Dave would have to be taping the repeats, because it had ended by this time.
22. “Falling Is Like This,” by Ani DiFranco
I’m sorry I can’t help you, I cannot keep you safe
I’m sorry I can’t help myself, so don’t look at me that way
we can’t fight gravity on a planet that insists
that love is like falling
and falling is like this
I listened to this one a lot in the last year of Narbonic.
You know, this strip still looks pretty decent, mainly because of the charred gerbil skeleton in the second panel. What’s more charming than a small, furry animal getting disintegrated with a death ray? Also, I’m starting to make the gerbils more chubby and cute, which is good.
23. “My Man,” by They Might Be Giants
Muscles from hand to foot
Completely coated in uninteruppted skin
Signals command the leg
To follow orders coming down from headquarters
As a nerd, I naturally love They Might Be Giants, and even rhapsodize on them in a later Sunday strip. Sadly, however, the band that defines geek rock has recorded surprisingly few songs evocative of mad science. “For Science” is about aliens. “My Evil Twin” is warmer, but not quite there. “Rocket to the Moon” is better, but there’s a number of other songs about flying to the moon that I like better (yes, moon songs comprise an entire subset of my Narbonic playlist). So TMBG is represented by this biology-minded song from their Mink Car album, which I’m partial to anyway because I got it autographed by the Johns. I’m such a nerd.
Those flying gerbils in the third panel crack me up. How the hell are they doing that? I imagine some kind of gerbil catapult or blunderbuss just off-panel, launching kamikaze gerbils at Dave and Mell. Also, at this point in Narbonic I’m getting pretty good at drawing the gerbils. This storyline gave me plenty of practice.
Everybody’s eyebrows are completely out of control.
24. “With a Gun,” by the Minus 5
I like you with a gun
The way you shine the silver barrel in the sun
It’s no wonder
I sleep underground
‘Cause I just wanna
Just wanna be around
Yes, another love song to a gun-toting girl. I don’t remember how I found this one–I don’t have the rest of the album, which usually means I bought it off iTunes–but it’s pretty great. Kinda bouncy.