Demons: February 9-14, 2004

Yeah, I just pasted in an extra beat panel. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

I remember readers being incredulous at the suggestion of sexual tension between Mell and Seth, but I liked the idea. Mell, as it turns out, has a thing for little crabby guys.

Artie’s fondness for Boggle is taken from Jeffrey Wells’s Very Long Fanfiction, which mentions the Artie kicking everyone’s butt at Boggle on a regular basis.

Helen and Dave have these little talks on a semi-regular basis. It happened at the end of the whole arc about Dave’s death and again, briefly, at the end of the time-travel storyline. Each time Dave gets a little more enthusiastic about embracing Helen’s evil worldview.

The characters’ winter outfits are by far their best regular outfits. I mean, look at Dave’s little cap. Seriously.

And here, finally, Helen is completely open (at least to the reader) about having a thing for Dave. This will become crucial later in this storyline.

The phrase, “Recently, there’s been evil research…” always struck me as amusing. The idea of a specifically evil/mad research community that otherwise functions exactly like the regular scientific community was one of my favorite things about Narbonic.

Wow, was yesterday’s strip the first use of the word “goinking” in Narbonic? I got that from my friend Rob McCarthy and ended up using it a lot. It just sounds so classy.

This one’s wordy, but I like it. I like all jokes about how terrifying Helen’s mom is. The Institute, whatever it is, never appears in Narbonic and I think this is the only time it’s mentioned, although Jeff Wells wrote some material about it for the Narbonic role-playing game we had going on the message boards for a while.

SPOILERS: Much later, the laughter of fools (or, at least, one specific fool, that being Professor Madblood) contributes to Dave’s own descent into madness.

DOUBLE SPOILERS: Helen carefully avoids mentioning that this is research she herself is conducting. And that the “anecdotal data” includes Dave.

We’ll see how long he goes on feeling this way.

This is the strip that actually ran on Valentine’s Day–the day of my wedding, actually. I timed it carefully to coincide with Helen and Dave’s continued romantic frustration. Do you think this kind of planning is easy? Because it is not. It is VERY HARD.

I was extremely happy with the way the art in the last panel turned out (especially Dave–it was so hard to draw his face from unusual angles) and disappointed by the crucial second panel. Getting an entire strip to look good is always hard. Almost as hard as planning.

Skinny naked legs falling from the sky are always pretty amusing, though. As is the sound effect SPLUNK!

54 thoughts on “Demons: February 9-14, 2004

  1. Monday:

    That gun is bigger than him.

    Silent penultimate panels: 24. This episode is strangely warming, in the sense that getting two of the least responsible and most morally reprehensible teenagers in the entire comic alone together can result in the same beautiful mutual self-consciousness that everyone else feels.

  2. (I don’t actually know how old Seth is, but I’m using the convenient rule of thumb that You’re Still A Teenager Until You Graduate.)

    • Yeah, but I think Toyha Miho from MegaTokyo has a better chance of taking over the world that our dear Helen. Helen only acts evil (but comes across as more Chaotic Neutral than anything else), whereas Miho actually destroyed part of an MMO.

  3. Big Freakin’ ™ Gun count = 39

    (I compared this with the BFG from a week ago Friday.  This one looks bigger, but not quite as freakin’. )

  4. I personally consider the strip a bit ambiguous as to whether what’s going on is sexual tension, or mutual horror at the realization that this is a situation where there ought to be sexual tension.  Possibly both.

  5. …Is that, maybe, Boggle for the Visually Impaired? Most Boggle sets I’ve encountered would fit in a four-inch cube with some room left over, even if you include the timer. (Which I don’t, as the timer on my watch makes noise when it runs out.) So:

    Big Freakin’ ™ Game count = 1

    …I wonder if whoever’s got the rights makes Braille Boggle.

  6. Mell must have an amazing upper body strength to lug around weapons such as that with little effort.

  7. @mental_mouse: And Helen’s second in the voting for ‘most likely to take over the world’, (way) behind Evil Atom’s corporation. Little do they know…

  8. Shaenon: The especially fun part about the pasted panel is that you copied it after signing it!   🙂

  9. Sean– Yeah, and I didn’t bother to remove the signature. I’m so lazy sometimes.

    I’m glad Helen is showing well in the poll, but I worry that she just doesn’t want it enough. She’s really more about the Science.

  10. Tuesday:

    It’s a bit unexpected that a throwaway panel 4 quip in the distant past is actually being recalled as a conversation starter today.

    Actually, it’s quite clever and admirable that the time machine is invoked here, in the context of two would-be lovers on Valentine’s Day. The context serves to reveal the other half of Helen’s regret – that she is not able to love him outright like a sane person, and that she has to keep him in these infernal glass tubes for the good of us all, and that her mere presence is working poison into his mind.

  11. (TUNE: “If You Could Read My Mind”, Gordon Lightfoot)

    If I were not insane, Dave,
    I could be like the other girls!
    I’d have a normal brain, Dave,
    Not a head that is full of squirrels!

    I’d watch the soaps,
    And I’d also care
    ‘Bout hair and make-up too!
    I’d even watch “The View”!

    If Siegfried and his partner Roy
    Would just employ
    Some budgies, I’d be sane!
    But crazy I remain …

    And if it all
    Keeps to the plan,
    You’ll be the man
    Who goes insane with me!

  12. Budgies are a lot more intimidating than tigers. Mostly because of the whole “defenceless” look they have.

    And budgies do a good job of looking defenceless too.

  13. It took me some time to see that Helen said “am” at the end of panel two and not “atn”.  And this was after I knew that the word was “am” by the context of the sentence.

  14. Wednesday:

    Today’s episode actually has a pretty keen pane; 4, almost entirely due to the flatness of Dave’s line.

    This is also, I think, the first time that mad genius is really properly referred to as a disorder that can lie latent in a perfectly sane person’s mind.

  15. “as sarge herself will tell you this not a new word it aperered in an undrawnhell on wheels years ago (Honestly I forget the number) but it was during the 3parter where Dave has a complex plan to seduce Percilia Presley.WAY before that it was my word for sex too sick to have any other word for it
    Robert McCarthy, 12 Feb 2004

  16. I like how Helen naively assumes that being an ordinary biochemist, doing ordinary research means she would be working for good.

  17. (TUNE: “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You”, The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra)

    If I weren’t insane,
    I’d do stuff that’s mundane,
    Like goinking the bejeebers out of you …
    If I’d not gone mad,
    Such fun I could have had,
    Like goinking the bejeebers out of you …
    I’d be warm and loving, I’d do Good for all;
    But instead I’m cold; want to hold the world in thrall!
    I’d be sweet and kind
    Without a loony mind,
    In love I would be deeper, be deeper, it’s true,
    I’d be goinking the bejeebers out of you!

  18. And prompted by her own evil research, Helen’s actually questioning her own mad nature….

    The idea of a specifically evil/mad research community that otherwise functions exactly like the regular scientific community…

    There’s gotta be a Trope for that….



  19. @mentalmouse:  Would that be “Mundane Fantastic”?  It’s not exactly “Villains Out Shopping”, but it would be related.  (I’m at work, gotta wait ’til I get home to truly trawl the Tropes.)

  20. Shaenon, I always wondered why it was “goink” instead of “boink,” so I appreciate the ‘splainer.

    On to the next mystery: how you acquired the nickname “Sarge.”  Is it because you are a stern taskmaster who brooks no insubordination?

  21. I totally cribbed the word “goinking” from you in my Bring Your Daughter to Work Day story.  So now, every time a mom or dad at a comics show wants to buy BYDTWD for their seven-year-old, I have to show them the “goinking” conversation.

  22. I envision evil research looking something like this:

    1) Choose your field of research. (Since we’re on the subject, why not mad/evil research communities?)

    2) Now you need funding for your research. Prepare and submit a grant proposal. (Note that this will be the most time-consuming part of the process.) Be sure to make your field sound promising and exciting–you want your proposal to stand out! Acceptable mediums for evil/mad research proposals include the traditional manifesto/ultimatum, writing on the moon with a laser, post-hypnotic suggestion, and webcomic forums.

    3) Acquire an assistant. Graduate students are generally the best value for your money. (Alternatively, post these words on any website: “There’s gotta be a trope for that…”)

    4) If your assistant hasn’t solved the problem yet, “motivate” them. If you went the grad student route, grades work well. (If no one takes the bait, imply that It Might Be This Trope, but claim to be unable to look it up, perhaps due to being at “work”.)

    5) Take all the credit and cackle maniacally as your victim assistant realizes they have been trapped in a nightmarish time vortex and lost the last six hours/months for no adequately explained reason. Mad/evil researchers may mount a rescue if they feel like it, or have a shiny new toy to test. “Regular” researchers will promise release after graduation.


    Whew! How lucky are we that this couldn’t happen in real life?

  23. THIS strip!  I’ve been trying to remember which Narbonic strip had this line (“The laughter of fools?” “Usually those fools at the Institute.”) for a long while!

    However, Helen is really toeing the line on her research ethics here.  While she’s doing some really heavy ethnography, and its all well and good to go with what you know, she *should* have pulled out of the research when she realized she had romantic feelings towards her subject.  I don’t know what kind of ethics review board mad science has, but they ought to be up in arms over this breach of protocol.

    Although…given that this is *MAD* science, it may actually be a prerequisite of this sort of research that the tester fall in love with the subject.  I mean, we can’t ignore the archetypal dynamics inherent in such a situation, and there is a definite opportunity for greater qualitative research.  Especially if she’s using her own madness as a lens with which to observe Dave’s.

    This requires further consideration.  Quick!  To the library (or, at least, the research methods notes…mad grad student AWAY!)!

  24. You know, I always figured the reason Dr. Narbon didn’t get around to more actual science was because she spent so much time just straight up driving people insane. It’s a sweet job if you can swing it.

  25. Thursday:

    What Dr. N lacks in personal contributions to the diabolical fields, she gains in inspiring swathes of sane young people to realise their lifelong dreams (and a few of their nightmares).


    I think it’s little things like this conversation that also caused Dave’s anger with Helen. He’s not stupid, once all the data is together, he can easily see that Helen not only knew he was going mad, but in a sense actively encouraged it.

  27. Do an unusual number of geniuses go mad in Missouri?  Since it’s brought on by the laughter of fools, I thought it might occur more often in the “I’ll Show Them, I’ll Show Them All” state.

  28. @Ed: Missouri is a statistical anomaly, given the high fool to genius ratio we have here. It drives all of us Mad, skewing the data set.

  29. I do not know if it was the way it was worded,  but the first thing I thought of when Helen said “Mom” in the third panal was here mother.  I guess that just means that when I think of things that make you crazy, I think of Dr. Helen Narbonic.

  30. Friday:

    Dave’s apparently quite grateful for the networking opportunity afforded to him by being sent to the pits of Hell – he met a chum he could call in to do his homework a few years later when he was 6. This webcomic is as logical as clockwork.

    Of course, this is actually clever foreshadowing for tomorrow’s completely shocking and entirely unprecedented episode.

  31. (TUNE: “Crazy For You”, Madonna)

    Helen, please, no need to feel so bad …
    Though it’s not so easy being mad,
    It’s been hard but good for me as well!
    Ever since I started working here,
    I found out that I’ve got naught to fear!
    Death nor madness, nor the flames of Hell …
    I don’t even fear Mell!

    It’s all from
    Working for you!
    What a wild ride I’m going through!
    I saw some cool stuff when I died!
    Saw kittens fried!
    I met a demon too,
    While working for you!

  32. Wait, Dave’s insinuating that there are a hundred sane employers. I want evidence of these so called sane bosses!

  33. Saturday:

    Uncaring Hateful Universe vs. Davenport: 40 – love.

    I like how elegant Caliban’s introductory line is. But what I want to know is how this fellow managed to fall in such a way as to hit the ground at a 60 degree angle.

  34. (TUNE: “Who’ll Stop The Rain”, Credence Clearwater Revival)

    Dave gets close to Helen,
    Looks her in the eye …
    Nude dude comes a-yellin’,
    Falling from the sky!

    Face-plant in the snowbank!
    Crashing like a plane!
    Using nerves now!
    He observes, now,
    “This would be pain!”

  35. And Dave Davenport screams futilely at an uncaring sky…  come to think of it, why is our Martinesque party crasher coming from the sky?


  36. He explains that next week. Of course, while the explanation may be philosophically sound, it’s so scientifically faulty that even Mell notices.

  37. SPOILERS: Stress, personal tragedy, laughter of fools and Helen’s Mom were all contributing factors in Dave’s breakdown. Once again, you’re brilliant

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