It’s not often Helen uses her womanly wiles as part of a plan. Knowingly, anyway. I guess at this point she thinks she can handle Madblood. We’ll see how that works out.
Helen’s hair keeps changing depending on how much I felt like drawing.
This one was, of course, a joy to draw. Why can’t my characters always be chibis? The rocket ship they build looks pretty much the same in non-chibi form, actually.
Even better, of course, is the strip a few weeks from now in which TINY SPOILER Madblood also turns out to have an adorable evil plan drawn up. Sometimes he and Helen seem awfully well matched.
I could have done this joke at any point in Narbonic. Somehow it ended up here. It’s one of my favorites. I’m still pretty pleased with myself for coming up with Helen’s ingenious, if ridiculously complicated and disgusting, snot-based communications system and then only mentioning it in one strip. You don’t know how much willpower it takes not to wear the hell out of a great idea like this.
Although I didn’t have a cell phone at the time and still don’t have one now (yes, there’s something wrong with me), at this point in the strip I figured the characters ought to have them. I mean, it was 2003. Mulder and Scully had been running around with the things for ten years. Cell phones kill a lot of suspense in fiction, but you’ve gotta roll with the times. (In Skin Horse, Jeffrey and I avoid this issue by having very few characters with opposable thumbs.)
The more interesting question is how Dave is able to make cell phone calls from outer space and the surface of the moon. Since Dave is the one who provided the cell phones in the first place, my hand-waving explanation is that SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS he’s got them specially modified and the fact that they work is a subtle nod to his latent mad-science abilities.
Also, I couldn’t think of any funny strips about rigging cell phones to transmit from space. This storyline’s eight friggin’ months long as it is; if I explained everything, I’d still be drawing it today.
“The old family antigravity formula” is, presumably, the formula devised by Helen’s ancestress in the Victorian storyline. It’s never clear whether the Victorian story and the regular story take place on the same plane of reality, but here there seems to be some hint of continuity.
What I really like is Helen’s drinky bird.
Later on we meet Dave at age six, and, yeah, he’s a nerdy little kid.
[SPOILERY STUFF] Helen’s casual mention that Dave designed much of the spaceship is pretty major foreshadowing. That aside, I like the way I drew the spaceship. I’ve mentioned this before, but if I had to do Narbonic over I’d try to give each of the mad scientists a distinctive design style. Madblood would be steampunky, Helen’s inventions would all look like toys (her firearms tend to resemble Super Soakers), and Dave’s would recall 1950s pulp sci-fi cover illustrations. This spaceship looks like a cross between a toy and a pulp magazine cover, so it works pretty well as a Helen/Dave coproduction.
This gag was unconsciously stolen from the episode of “The Simpsons” where Homer goes into space, something I didn’t realize until about two years later. I feel pretty bad about it, but the truth is that all modern comedy is ripped off “The Simpsons.” Just recently I realized that the entire delivery room scene in “Knocked Up” is from the flashback episode where Marge gives birth to Bart. That’s right, Judd Apatow. You’re no better than me.
Anyway, I really like William Blake, as a poet, artist, and nutjob. Artie is quoting his poem An Imitation of Spenser.