Man, it’s good to have Artie in the cast, even if I wasn’t very good at writing him yet. This was one of the earliest Artie strips I wrote, if I remember correctly.
Artie’s size changes constantly. He’s way too big in most of these strips. Of course, it’s hard to keep a gerbil visible.
Artie’s line in the last panel is from Sirius, a great Olaf Stapledon novel about a dog with human intelligence. Stapledon is best known for his sprawling sci-fi epic Last and First Men, but his Sirius and Odd John are interesting studies of imagined nonhuman and superhuman intelligences. I read them as background while developing Artie’s character.
Dave’s book in the first panel: Getting To Know Your Orbiting Laser.
After all this time, I’m still only 99% happy with Artie’s name. It doesn’t quite fit him–it’s too cute and casual–but maybe he’s better off with a name that doesn’t take him too seriously. And it’s so rich a referent that I couldn’t resist. It can be read as short for “artificial,” or as a pun on his serial number, like Asimov’s robots. Ooo! Also, I had a pet mouse named Artie when I was a teenager. He was named after Art Spiegelman. I also owned mice named Algernon and Maurice. I was kind of a weird kid.
You don’t need to be superintelligent to correctly guess that 5478 is my birthdate. Dumb, yes, but at least I’d never forget it.
Artie hates his name, of course. This is not the last time this will come up.
I’m so ashamed. Gerbils are actually among the very few diurnal rodents. Please, look away, I’m not fit for human company.
Also, as frequently happens in my comics, the background is sliding slowly but inexorably to the right.
Nice font in the last panel, though. And a spit take! How often do I get to do a spit take?
Later, of course, Artie would become an avowed pacifist. What can I say; he’s stil in flux at this point.
I don’t have much else to say about today’s strip, except that I like Artie’s expansive little pose in the second panel. And I have no idea what he’s perched on. And that’s one crazy multitool Dave’s got in panel one.
Oh, you will, Dave. Sooner than you think.
Ellmann’s Own soda again. Dave’s book, in both the first and last panel, is entitled Martha Stewart’s Gracious Custom Platforms. Helen’s shirt bears a not very good likeness of Pogo.
The asterisk over the head is one of my favorite comic-strip conventions, to be used many, many times over the course of Narbonic.
For more silent penultimate panels (although this one kind of breaks the rules by appearing second rather than third), please enjoy The Silent Penultimate Panel Watch!