Professor Madblood and the Lovelace Affair: January 10-15, 2005

Not a lot of Narbonic strips stand up really well on their own, without any knowledge of the characters and story, but this is one of them. I mean, c’mon, this is awesome. The mad scientist at the podium is Dr. Vivisectus from Man-Man, by Matthew Shepherd and James Duncan.

I wish I’d found ways to make the guy in the last panel even more miserably mutilated, but Madblood’s expression is exactly what I was going for, so it’s good. And what a lovely plaque!

Dave is just saying what I was thinking. I couldn’t believe I ended up drawing him in a tie so much. He dressed up for the Valentine’s Day party, for the TV appearance that led to the road trip, and now for this. Helen is wearing pretty much the same thing she wore for her class reunion. I did give her a different neckline, so maybe it’s a new dress.

Madblood’s speech is excellent. That is all I have to say on the subject.

Meanwhile, if you’re interested in seeing what my non-illustrated writing looks like, I have a short story up at Strange Horizons. It is also excellent.

Evil geniuses always have to get blown up immediately after declaring themselves invincible. Madblood appears later in the evening none the worse for wear, though, so I guess he managed somehow.

Dave is blase and distracted even by Dave standards here. He doesn’t even care about Helen tackling and straddling him. This is the way I get when there’s a dessert cart.

See, Lovelace should just go for it. Because Dave is, when you get down to it, a reliable guy. He’d be more or less okay with the not-having-a-physical-body thing. Darn you, Lovelace, for being so cowardly!

That said, the very defensive “I’m not a beast-woman!” is a line of which I’m still very fond.

Dave’s self-assessment is very harsh, but that’s Dave for you. He does drink an awful lot of Mountain Dew. Speaking of which, putting trademarked names in quotation marks is an old newspaper strip rule I picked up from Bloom County. Thanks again, Bloom County, for launching the careers of myself and so many other nerds! (Recently I got to interview Berkeley Breathed for a Cartoon Art Museum show catalog, and I tried to convey how much I and countless other geeks owed to his work, but I probably failed. I should have just spontaneously recited Opus’s Casper Weinberger poem. You’re a hero to us all, Mr. Breathed.)

In some ways, Dave and Lovelace are a really good match. Also, Lovelace-centric strips tended to be really easy to draw, at least at this point. She got more complicated to draw later on. Still, she’s a fine character who doesn’t deserve any of the things that happen to her in Narbonic, poor thing. Sorry, Lovelace.

I wanted to have what passes for a tender moment between Madblood and Lovelace. He does care about her, in his limited and distractible way. I have a soft spot for the strips that make Madblood a little more sympathetic, since I pile on him so much the rest of the time.

One thing really bugs me about this strip, though: Lovelace’s monitor seems to be looking straight at the reader in the final panel. I didn’t mean for it to come out that way, and in my mind it spoils the delivery and makes the whole thing too obvious. Oh well.

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37 thoughts on “Professor Madblood and the Lovelace Affair: January 10-15, 2005

  1. Monday:

    Not only has Artie ruined Mell’s dreams of solar system domination, but he also single-handedly placed a coveted award in Helen’s rival’s hands. It’s kind of sad to think that his greatest, most odious of crimes is yet still ahead of him.

  2. Jenkins never wins, but still he’s drawn to these ceremonies.  He just can’t resist finding out what destruction his colleagues wreak, and how they manage to wreak it on people other than themselves.  He has to know … he has to discover their secret methods …

    He can’t help it, he’s hooked.

  3. The only thing missing, looking at this as a stand-alone, is that Madblood is Madblood. That is, if I were coming to this as my first introduction to Narbonic, the punchline would be severely diluted by “who are those two guys in the last panel”. It makes it much better if you know that’s Madblood.

    But that aside, yeah, the joke stands on its own. For that matter, the first three panels by themselves make a very good intro to Narbonic logic (“logic”?).

  4. Absolutely my favorite comic-delivered speech ever. My deepest desire is to accept an award with those lines.

  5. Tuesday:

    But… he didn’t get around to laughing derisively!

    Fourth-wall dialogue: 60. The word “tie” looks like it was drawn on white-out over a struck word. I predict that our author accidentally wrote “This is the third storyline in a row where I’ve had to wear a shirt” before noticing the Freudian slip and scolding her subconscious.

    That short story is pretty good – it’s always nice to see your writing outside of the cosy confines of the four-panel strip framework.

  6. Know, oh reader, that between the story arcs when the androids went to Canada, and the sojourn of Kelly to the diamond mines of Brazil, there was a symposium unheard of, when gibbering madmen plotted to spread across the world like blue mold in a sandwich hidden beneath the leftover Chinese in the fridge.

    Hither came Madblood the Professor, greasy-haired, blank-eyed, supercomputer in tow, a genius, a madman, a nerd, with stratospheric IQ and subterranean morals, to tread the overpopulated capitals of the Earth beneath his sneakered feet.

  7. Helen and cheesecake … what a combination.  Of course, the way Shaenon’s drawn Helen a few times IS cheesecake.

  8. tune: “Invincible,” Holly Knight & Simon Climie (Pat Benatar, The Legend of Billie Jean soundtrack, 1985)

    I am fed up with this ceremony
    I’ve said all that I have to say
    You all know I’m the best
    My robopocalypse
    Is beyond all control

    Don’t count on dessert, fools
    Don’t try to flee the tiramisu—there’s
    Nowhere you can run to anymore

    You can’t blow up Lupin Madblood
    I tower over you little ants
    I’m the maddest genius in history
    You’ll find I’m invincible
    And this Von Boom Award proves me
    Greater than all of you!
    You dare not challenge my supremacy
    You’ll find I’m invincible

  9. (TUNE: “You Won’t See Me”, The Beatles)

    Though you say … you crave
    A little chat!
    Well, I’m sor-ry, Dave,
    I can’t do that!
    No delay … you’ll brook,
    You don’t care how I look!
    Yes, this trip … I took,
    But I can’t see you!

    With per-sua-sive words,
    You just won’t tire!
    “We can laugh … at nerds
    Who’ve gone hay-wire!”
    Though it sounds … like fun,
    It just cannot be done!
    This may hurt … a ton,
    But I can’t see you!

    Worse than I feared,
    Terrified to say the least, man!
    I may be weird,
    But I’m not a female beast-man!

    Saw your pic … online,
    You’re ra-ther cute!
    Though you may … look fine,
    The point is moot!
    If you care … for me,
    I say, reluctantly,
    That this can-not be,
    And I can’t see you!

  10. Since Narbonic was up for a WCCA in 2004 or 2005 and I read through it for the first time (the current storyline was Mell and Artie breaking into Dr. Narbon’s basement), I’ve considered Lovelace’s line in the first panel of this strip to be the funniest line in the run.

  11. I used o collect funny newspaper comics – and sometimes I’d make work-related modifications and put them up in the office. The only one I still have is an unmodified Bloom County featuring Jim & Tammy Bakker. “Sex. Lies. Rape. Air conditioned doghouses.”

  12. tune: “Every breath you take,” Sting & Andy Summers (The Police, Synchronicity, 1983)

    Madblood went Von Boom
    You weren’t in the room
    Now the hour is late
    But here comes your date
    I’ll be seeing you

    I’m a patient man
    Who no longer can
    Live by words alone
    From a face unknown
    I’ll be seeing you

    Your standoffish ways
    Are designed to craze
    On the phone you sound so free
    Like Jennifer Connelly!

    From two floors below
    Comes your eager beau
    In your hotel room
    Our romance will bloom
    I’ll be seeing you

  13. (TUNE: “Brand New Key”, Melanie Safka)

    I met with Davenport in an online chat room,
    And now I feel a sense of impending doom!
    Although for weeks, I’ve been avoiding him,
    He’s coming up now, and the outlook is grim!

    I’m knowing abject disappointment
    Or utter happiness!
    I’ve been avoiding this appointment
    My feelings are a mess!
    If he finds out just what I am,
    I will have to confess …
    Oh, I’m knowing abject disappointment
    Or utter happiness!

  14. This would be a great “Train Man” reference if “Train Man” hadn’t come out years later.

  15. Somewhere there’s a whole alternate touching story of Lovelace’s 2chan community cheering on her romantic efforts.

  16. /* Somewhere there’s a whole alternate touching story of Lovelace’s 2chan community cheering on her romantic efforts. */Who are all AIs and/or clients of Skin Horse?

  17. Nar, like Dave Lovelace ignores the fourth wall – the only change might have been saying ‘He’s right.’ instead of ‘You’re right.’

    The Auld Grump

  18. At my college, there was this creepy, unbalanced, 30-something stalker guy, whose rich, politically connected family paid the school to keep him a perennial student.  Once he came up to me looking just like Madblood in panel 1, and asked if I wanted to see what he had.  No, I didn’t, but he turned it around and showed me a framed invitation to Jimmy Carter’s inauguration.  I guess he thought he could use it to pick up girls.  So no, I don’t find Madblood particularly sympathetic here.

  19. Kay: Wait, was he in a ripped-up lab coat and covered in burns? Because that, combined with the invitation to Jimmy Carter’s inauguration, would be pretty amazing.

  20. Back in high school, I won a state-wide academic competition.  I had pretty much the same reaction as Madblood.

  21. Oh I dunno, I think I agree with Auld Grump. Before I read your comment, I decided the way Lovelace appears to be looking away from Madblood with the punchline enhances the delivery, in three-quarter instead of in profile as in the previous panel. The same way Charlie Brown frequently does, when the person he’s speaking to has stomped off in the third panel and the punchline is essentially an aside. I don’t think I’d’ve done it that way in this gag on purpose either, but I think it works better.

  22. @Kay — I can completely understand how disturbing and unnerving your experience must have been.

    At the same time, the urge to write a story featuring a 30-something, covered in burns and torn clothes as Shaenon says, doing this on a college campus today, with the subsequent investigation by friends and what they discover, is quite strong. It’s a fantastic hook.

    I’m not saying I will — it’s your anecdote, not mine — but it’s tempting.

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