Gender Swap: January 21-26, 2002

The two kids in the first panel are my cousins Killian and Carson. That is the actual relative size of Killian’s mouth. The guy in the foreground is a college friend, Marc Hartstein.

Other items of interest: a poster for Disney’s “The Fountainhead,” which was something I actually wrote once on the MST3K newsgroup. That was how I won my boyfriend Kevin’s heart. Ruben Bolling did something similar, but probably more amusing, in a Tom the Dancing Bug strip.

I don’t know why Helen’s clothes fit so well here (although really, male Helen is only a couple of inches taller than female Helen), but he looks pretty cute. All things considered, I think Helen makes a fairly attractive man.

Also, the joke in this strip would be clearer if I were better at drawing restroom-sign silhouettes.

I’m still pretty fond of this peculiar conversation. It’s weird and goes off on odd tangents and makes passing reference to someone eating a GURPS handbook…yeah, it’s Narbonic, all right. I also like Dave’s freaked-out expressions contrasted with Helen’s placidity. This is all Dave’s own fault, of course, and he could have avoided it by just not going on the date, but then where would we be?

Somebody in the comments asked what Seth hopes to get out of this date. I don’t think he’s thought it out very carefully. He honestly thinks girl Dave is cute. And, sure, that cute girl might turn back into a man at any time…but she might not. Hope springs eternal, as does future discomfort around the gaming table.

Movie poster: “Cinna-Bon II: Nightmare’s Revenge,” a reference to a comic Andrew was working on at the time. Artemus Nightmare was an evil mastermind in the comic; I ended up mentioning him in a few Narbonic strips and the never-completed roleplaying game.

Man, even the movie theater stock’s Ellmann’s Own soda.

The drops of indefinable liquid are just flying off Seth now.

I have to admit I still like this strip too. It’s just so dumb, and the idea of Dave being the manliest character in the room is…well, sad, really, but funny. I remember my dad teaching me to make a fist with my thumb on the outside when I was about four years old. He explained that it was to keep me from breaking my thumb in the impact of the punch, which was so likely to happen. About as likely as either Helen or Seth inflicting any kind of damage in this melee.

I drew Seth’s fists really weird. Like tentacles.

Movie posters: “Earth vs. Soup,” a screenplay Tom Servo wrote in an episode of MST3K; “Very Small Movie Poster with Tiny Print for Chris Ellmann”; and “Darling Pet Monkey,” a reference to this disturbing ad that often crops up in the back pages of old comic books. It hails from the days when there were no laws against sealing a live animal in a shoebox and shipping it across two continents to attack people’s faces. Good times. Andrew and I were and remain fascinated by the Darling Pet Monkey. I can’t quite figure out what the mostly-cut-off poster in the last panel is supposed to say.

The second and fourth panels, amazingly, turned out just about the way I wanted them to. The poses are pretty good. Usually this is the kind of thing I get more or less right in the thumbnail and then completely screw up in the final artwork.

This one came out nicely in both the thumbnail and the final, at least by the standards of my admittedly limited artistic abilities at the time. It’s surprisingly hard to draw people kissing. Anyway, I thought the vertical format would make this moment especially dramatic, and it does! This strip gets a page to itself in the print collection.

I like that Helen is wearing socks with little hearts all over them.

60 thoughts on “Gender Swap: January 21-26, 2002

  1. I, for one, enjoy pretending those signs are indicating that only gingerbread men and women should be using these restrooms.

  2. Monday:

    Do they really use public restrooms so often that they’d unconsciously make that mistake?

    …Then again, they don’t seem too concerned with relieving themselves (nor with, hmm, relearning unaided the actual means of doing so), so maybe they were just looking for each other. Or for a chance to light up.

  3. “I simply cannot wait for the premiere of Disney’s “The Fountainhead.”Especially since the story starts with Mr. Roark naked at the top of awaterfall. I mean, Don Bluth tried cartoon nudity in “Titan A.E.,” the moviethat got that entire division of the company fired.”
    Kellie Hultgren, 23 Jan. 2002.

  4. How the heck did they slam the restroom doors?  All the public restrooms I’ve seen have those air-cylinder whooshy door-closing things.  Trying to slam one of those doors is like trying to bounce a meatball.

  5. Nah, there’s some old ones that still slam pretty good. And, may I say, you’ve obviously never really *tried* to bounce a meatball. t’s all inthe wrist.

     And honsetly, it’s pretty subconcious. The whole door-lable thing.

  6. Tuesday:

    As my only impressions of tabletop gaming are derived from its portrayal in webcomics, I hold it as true that the only interpersonal relationship fellow gamers can have with each other is that of seething passive-aggressive rivalry. They are not the sort of acquaintances whom you can leave your backpack around for even a quick toilet break, let alone love.

    I shouldn’t really take pride in understanding Helen’s punchline this time around, and yet I do.

    • No, there can be true friendships forged through shared RPG experiences as well. I’ve even heard of romances starting within gaming groups (not that I’ve ever been lucky enough to have that happen). It’s just that seething passive- (and sometimes not-so-passive-*) aggressive rivalries are the funniest to portray in webcomics… and in real-life gamer tales, as well.

      *As in the case during a Vampire: The Masquerade LARPG session wherein I used my character’s superhuman vampire strength to literally throw a stake all the way through the heart of a friend’s character in-game. (To the point where it shot out of her back and embedded itself a full foot into the ground a yard behind her, no less. Oops!) She loved to tease me about that for several weeks afterward between game sessions.

  7. It’s worth noting that the GURPS Handbook is a fairly large book. Eating one of those would be a perverse accomplishment in itself!

    • Hmm… would that be a 10-point advantage or a 15-point?

      Oh, wait, I know!
      Can Eat RPG Rulebooks (Variable Advantage)
      The character with this ability can devour entire roleplaying game rulebooks in one sitting. For an additional cost of +2 CP, the character does not need to add salt to the rulebook. Point costs are as follows:
      +5 Points: slim or small rulebooks (eg Justifiers, BESM 1st Edition, Narbonic RPG, most Classic World of Darkness splatbooks)
      +10 Points: Average softcover rulebook (Sailor Moon RPG & Resource Book, any GURPS worldbook)
      +15 Points: Large softcover rulebook (GURPS Core Rulebook 2nd Edition, Amber Diceless Roleplay)
      +20 Points: Any hardcover rulebook (Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, any Revised or Third Edition World of Darkness rulebook)
      +25 Points: anything that would normally be indigestible (World of Synnabar, F.A.T.A.L., anything from Black Dog Games Factory, Shaenon Garrity’s sketchbook)

  8. I always find the gamers scared of girls joke amusing, if only because I started table top gaming in a group composed equally of both genders (this was while I was attending Elmira College, which based on Shaenon’s description of Vasar is a lot like that institution except with about 90% less name regonition and 100% greater infatuation with Mark Twain and the color purple…and I don’t mean the novel).

    Not all gaming groups are as vitriolic as they are presented online, but everone has roleplayed with a Seth at least once and they do make for some of the best drama/humor when presenting gaming like this.  Most of my RPG experiences have been closer to the depiction in The Gamers (“Dude I can’t belive you took his PANTS!”

  9. Oh, and a note to my fellow gamers… It’s a Gazebo! (sorry I can’t resist that when conversations turn to gaming…)

  10. *screech* The deadly Gazebo! Run for your lives before it strikes!

    I use my next turn to attack the darkness. ^-^ 

  11. The darkness *eats* you- or was it a GRUE?


    And I actiually wrote up a monster sheet for the Deadly Ambulitory Gazebo. Hee!!

  12. Holy crud, I lived in Elmira when I was little, in a house formerly owned by Mark Twain’s wife. Small world!

    I’ve gamed a couple of times with my husband, and it’s gone well. The best was the pirate RPG where he played a character based on Chris Elliott in “Cabin Boy.”

  13. All time best “Gazebo” story to happen to one of my early games: “I pee in the corner.”

    Long story involving a cemetary dedicated to Wee Jas (Neutral Lawful Goddess of Death etc), which happened to have both unwanted undead running around and a small temple to Nerull (Neutral Evil God of Death, Murder, etc).

    We, as players, assumed the latter was causing the former, and so one of the clerics tried to desecrate (?) it. The theif decided to “help”, with the above line.

    Turns out:

    A – the temple was SUPPOSED to be there (Wee Jas not caring much about the entire Good-Evil thing, and just respected the Death stuff in our GM’s interpretation).

    B – The temple, being modest, had a dirt floor. And a maze that happened to run underneath it.

    C – The room directly under the temple was filled with those stupid mosquito-monsters that do CON damage (AKA: Now you’re weak! Now you’re DEAD!). The GM swears this had already been planned out.

    Three guesses how we found out about C. 😛 

  14. Holy crud, I lived in Elmira when I was little, in a house formerly owned by Mark Twain’s wife. Small world!

     Awsome, very cool.

     And my personal favorite gaming is with the 1990’s Marvel Superhero Adventure Game, which used a special deck of cards in place of dice.  Got to work a lot of “Storylines I would write if only I had the talent/chance” out of my system.  And I turned a Norse God into a rat(not Thor, and original PC).  

    God I miss GMing…

  15. And Here I thought that said “Cthulu II” not “Cinnabon II”.  Maybe it is “Cthulu-bon.”

  16. Wednesday:

    Weren’t those two already in a theatre this time last week? …Must be a double feature or something.

    Furthermore, surely Seth would remember the only other person in that dingy underground lab not two weeks ago, right?

    Swear word symbols: 1. One of the few webcomics that invoke this trope! For the old-school charm, no doubt.

  17. Some of us happen to LIKE those @#$% symbols …

    Cthulu-Bon wouldn’t sell cinnamon rolls, so what would they sell?  Maybe “Octopus Pie”?  (No wait, that name’s already taken…)

  18. Man, who steals from their teamates? Sethdeserves everything this strip ever throws at him- *everything*.

  19. I dunno, Helen looks like he’s ready to throw down in the second panel there. Seth…. just, no.

    and Daves cool advice is the bestest ever. M yDad may never have taught me the Thumbs rule, but my mom showed me the basic Mantis style fighting stance and a few ‘how to fight dirty’ tips.

  20. OK, I don’t even know if they’re a real band, but Questionable Content has an absolutely perfect mad science song today –

     Band – SCRA; song – Balloon Ride


    Come take a ride, in my beautiful balloon

    We’ll use the death-ray to burn our names into the moon

    Hold London to ransom, turn Paris to a crater

    We’ll land at the Acropolis for tea and crumpets later…

  21. Ditto the above comment — I love QC almost as much as I love Narbonic.  I said almost.  Wednesdays strip (#1172) made me laugh out loud.

    And I don’t have time to re-read the entire archives and find which QC strip had a cameo by Helen and Dave.

  22. Hey, Helen makes a fairly large guy, if clearly not in the best of shape. Certainly he’s a lot bigger than Seth!

  23. Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

    And I don’t have time to re-read the entire archives and find which QC strip had a cameo by Helen and Dave.


    Found it- number 543, first panel.  Dave and Helen make great indie kids.

  24. Wow!  The phrase “testosterone poisoning” has entered my vocabulary and, through me, my family’s.  I didn’t realize it came from Narbonic.  Or is it more general and I just don’t talk to real people?

  25. More general and you just don’t talk to real people. It’s sometimes considered something of an insult, too, but oh well.

  26. I’ve always wondered what exactly it is that Helen’s found in that last panel. They’re still gender-swapped, so it isn’t yet proof that the solution works. Are girl-Dave’s tonsils worth a eureka?

  27. Never even noticed them. Now if Helen’s jacket had been open so I could see the Evil(pink heart) t-shirt, I _might_ have recognized them…

    And BTW, hasn’t his art style changed in the last 500+ strips! Much less manga about the eyes…

    I’m having fun watching Shaenon’s style change, too. I can’t draw worth a darn, but I can sure see when someone else goes from bare sketcher to real artist…

  28. I thought it was Crow T. Robot who wrote “Earth versus Soup.” Obviously, I need to watch “Earth versus the Spider” again.

  29. Friday:

    Isn’t it magical? Today’s Lesson Learned: if it’s actually part of a science experiment in a comic strip, then it’s magical instead of sexual harassment.

    (Hypothesis: sexy! Double-blind: just look at those clenched eyelids! Peer-review: Seth rendered speechless!)

  30. “Are girl-Dave’s tonsils worth a eureka?”
    Well, “Eureka” has been the ISO standard scientist’s victory cry since about 100 BC.

  31. “Earth vs. Soup” starring Naomi Campbell.  Bwahahaha …

    And speaking of Narbonic cameos … *modest blush*

  32. I think that poster is “Window Washer”.  Maybe “Window Watcher”.  Does that ring any bells?

  33. Presumably, this is both of their first kiss in their switched genders… a taste of things to come?

  34. Saturday:

    Just… just look at Dave’s pupils! Look at Dave being lifted out of her shoes! These are the awkward disgusting moments in life that set the heart aflutter.

    So, I guess we must bid farewell to that ashen-mouthed princess and that bold capricious prince, for now. Hail to thee!

  35. Ah, but oh so fun to research the source material of the people kissing or, even better, getting the SO to help you with use of a camera with a timer.

  36. Dave truly has the ADHD nature. A kiss from the boss he’s terrified of, and what does he think? “Yes!”? “Let’s get out of here!”?No, “I’m missing the Spiderman trailer.”Dave is so me. (Except for the being female part. And the having a boss you might possibly want to kiss outside of a nightmare part.)

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