Professor Madblood and the Lovelace Affair: January 24-29, 2005

At this point, Helen seems to find Madblood’s arrogance more amusing than anything else. Madblood, for his part, is not at all bothered by the fact that his last interaction with Helen involved her minions blowing up his moonbase. Ah, mad love. Or mad infatuation. Whatever’s going on here.

I like that Von Boom recipients get a nice plaque. It’s so agreeably mundane.

I wrote this one at the last minute just to advance the plot, and I wasn’t crazy about it at the time. Looking at it now, though, it’s pretty good, because, hey, Artie in a little reindeer costume. Poor Artie. His only consolation through this indignity is that he won’t be so cute in a little reindeer costume later in Narbonic.

Wait, no, yes he will. Never mind.

This strip was based on Andrew’s childhood crush on Penny from “Inspector Gadget.” He also liked Jerrica Benton from “Jem and the Holograms,” but when she was Jerrica, not so much when she was Jem. Meanwhile, I kind of had a thing for Donatello from “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” The episode where Irma (who looks like me) had to pose as Donatello for a science conference because he’d published his research under the name “Donna Tello,” and they had to work together to stop the Foot from destroying the conference, was pretty much my perfect episode. Have I mentioned this before? Because it’s a big part of my formative years.

For those of you interested enough to read the filename story, Madblood is the newly-mad teenager pulled out of the wreckage in Winter’s flashback. He had this whole Oedipal thing involving his dad. Probably seems very trite to him in retrospect.

I debated for a while about what beer has the funniest name. Andrew voted for Yuengling. Really, though, the funniest part of this strip is Helen referring to Titus as Dave’s “new little friend.”

Helen looks unhappy and distracted throughout this strip. As will be explained in the next two installments, her conversation with Madblood discombobulated her.

Obviously, whenever Helen is ready to open up emotionally, Dave is distracted by something else, and vice versa. This will continue until it ceases to be amusing.

Man, I put myself in a lot of situations where I have to draw hotel interiors. The same thing’s happening in Skin Horse right now. I don’t know why I do that. It’s no fun at all. Though that painting in the first panel is kind of nice.

I felt the time had come to broach the question of what Helen thinks her relationship with Madblood actually is. And here it is. This is probably the closest to a straight answer you could hope to get out of Helen.

Dave is surprisingly perceptive here, and I like him rolling his eyes at Helen’s nonsense in the last panel. At this point he’s more mature about love than she is, which is an interesting development. Or maybe he’s always been this way. Helen’s kind of backward.

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48 thoughts on “Professor Madblood and the Lovelace Affair: January 24-29, 2005

  1. tune: “They didn’t believe me,” Jerome Kern & Herbert Reynolds (The Girl from Utah, 1914)

    Though I blew up your moonbase
    I still kinda like your face
    And I’ll let you flirt with me
    lf it gets me your room key
    While you’re pumped by your Von Boom
    I’ll gain access to your room
    If I can manipulate
    You to think I want a date

    ‘Cause when you told me what a genius you are
    I didn’t believe you. I didn’t believe you
    Though all these nerds think you’re the bomb
    I know you’re living with your mom
    You can’t hide your vulnerability

    So when you told me
    No more brilliant madman could be
    To mad science you are the apogee
    I didn’t believe you. I didn’t believe you
    You’re just a swotty, dotty, hottie, sweet on me

  2. When you think about this, this is pretty much the high point of madblood’s life, at least as portrayed in the comic. It’s all downhill from here.

  3. @Jon: Implying that Madblood has a life not portrayed in the comic, which effectively elevates Shaenon to godhood.  An interesting notion . . . maybe mad science isn’t fiction, as I’d always assumed.  Maybe Shaenon’s entire ล“uvre is really a roman ร  clef!

    • My friend Artie says you’re not supposed to have figured that out. I say there’s a reason why Helen looks like Shaenon with different hair color, but I’m not supposed to tell you that, since it’ll probably ruin my chances of meeting the real-life Mel.

  4. @Kay – nah, can’t be. If it was, I’d be able to find someone to fix this stupid cybernetic eye that keeps trying to kill me…

  5. Tuesday:

    Truth be told, the Narbonic Babies week only slightly exaggerated what a Helen of any age would do to her dear pet/son/best friend.

    (The only way that could be more degrading is if the holiday display was actually a slightly confused nativity diorama.)

  6. (TUNE: “Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer”, Johnny Marks)

    Artie, the gene-changed gerbil
    Had a mind as sharp as tacks!
    His maker, though, was cru-el,
    Had him do degrading acts!

    She made him wear a red nose,
    Hitched him to a tiny sleigh,
    She had him holding that pose
    For their holiday display!

    Then at last, on Christmas Eve,
    Helen let him go!
    “Artie, buddy, you’re the tops!
    Here, have some alfalfa schnapps!”

    Then all the others joined him,
    Caliban and Dave and Mell!
    They told the gene-changed gerbil,
    “Artie *hic* we think yer shwell!”

  7. lack of multiculturalism?

    it’s a display for a german holiday suborned by the italian branch of a medditeranian religion, with the swedish portrayal of a turkish saint, riding in a english style winter vehicle, pulled by finnish hoofed quadrepeds…

    what more do you want?

    • /Swedish/ portrayal?? It may match contemporary Swedish Santa, but that’s mostly an Anglo-Saxon import. (There are indigenous traditions that have been mixed in, but it’s complicated.) Even today, Santa in Sweden typically does not have a vehicle (rather, he walks up to your home, and he walks away, footprints conveniently getting snowed over), which makes the whole reindeer connection tenuous to say the least. (Also, in Sweden reindeer are more associated with the Sami than with Santa.)

  8. @Mark, Jon: don’t forget that the Turkish saint is wearing an outfit designed by an American artist working for a soft drink megacorp. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. “Then we’re going to…oh, never mind.

    Brother, thy tail hangs down behind!”

     – Rudyard Kipling

  10. Penny was my first crush as well!

    Of course, I knew that it could never go anywhere as she and Brain were obviously a couple.

    …What?  Don’t judge me! ๐Ÿ˜›

  11. Wednesday:

    Artie doesn’t want to think about the boyhood crushes of the people whose bodies he is covertly climbing all over. But at least the embarassing anecdotes are causing the mark to stare into space instead of examining his person. all that closely.

    I heard that if you subtract Gadget from Inspector Gadget, you get a cartoon about a precocious girl and her dog who solve mysteries using actual detective work.

  12. I always suspected that Penny created her “Uncle” Gadget. She somehow has a laptop at least 14 years ahead of when Moore’s Law says she should, Brain has a retractable two-way radio built into his collar, and oh yeah: Brain can talk with a speech impediment, etc.

    Did Penny invent exploding paper as well? Less likely, but still…

  13. This comic actually kind of makes you feel for Madblood – and for all of the mad scientists, actually. One of the ideas in Narbonic that I really like is it’s treatment of mad science as a mental disorder, with the same kind of culture that’s sort-of kind-of grown around other diseases like depression or bipolar disorder. Strips like this manage to be both funny and a little bit real at the same time.

  14. @shaenon: I thought that was Madblood in the filename story. Thanks for the official confirmation!

  15. @Shaenon: How could anyone reading your Director’s Cut version NOT be interested enough to read the filename story?

  16. Did Penny invent exploding paper as well? Less likely, but still…

    Of course. And Chief Quimby was also a robot. And she made the car.

    In fact, everything in that show was just Penny’s version of playing with action figures. The first day she took her toys out to play, Doctor Claw happened by and thought this was real law enforcement technology. As it turns out, M.A.D. hasn’t actually done anything to any real organization for years.

    But Penny’s beginning to get bored with all this. She’s thinking she may need to spice it up a bit.

  17. I think the word ‘discombobulated’ is the funniest word here tonight.

    Now, if there was a pastrami sandwich on hand…

  18. I would have gone with either “Leinenkugel” or “Blatz”.  Hey, according to Wikipedia, Leinenkugel bought the old Blatz brewery … that’s a perfecta right there!

    Too bad Leinenkugel discontinued their Hefeweizen.

  19. Leinenkugel has a “Berry Weiss” that I can’t help bit see as being pink beer (the berry part)…perfect for a Narbon. Heh heh heh.

  20. Friday:

    Silent penultimate panels: 37. Dave’s romance opportunities have very recently improved for entirely different reasons than what he currently thinks.

  21. See, I thought that Madblood’s revelation was kind of touching, in a way. I know that Helen doesn’t have particularly fond memories of that study, of course, but I would’ve figured it would have been nice for her to know that his attraction to her wasn’t just entirely physical.

  22. A few days ago Eve said: “I want to buy print versions of Narbonic, but I want the commentary to be in there! Reading Shaenon’s comments is half the fun.”

    I say, much more than half!  I *thought* I loved Narbonic before, but there is a whole new level once you start getting the story behind the story.  In case we haven’t said it in a while, Shaenon, thank you, thank you for Narbonic and for doing this daily commentary.  I love it (my recent lapse in daily reading, due to way too much travel and work and not enough internet time, notwithstanding.)

    Aaaaand I’ve gotten so much pleasure from Narbonic that I’m really glad you put up your Kickstarter campaign–which I also just found, as I’m getting caught up.  I will not be left out just because you already got your funding, dammit.

  23. Aw…thanks so much.

    I think Madblood’s story is sweet too. It’s a shame Helen doesn’t take it that way, but she’s touchy about the whole issue.

  24. Aggh! For some reason, I’m getting an image glitch! What’s Helen’s last line in the second panel?

  25. @bullcityfats: The full text of this strip is as follows:

    Dave: I can’t believe how well things worked out! We got the hotel key… I’m finally going to meet Lovelace…

    Dave: You got some quality time with Madblood–
    Helen: Madblood, who only fell for me because of Mom’s horrible old case study!


    Dave: And the hotel bar had little pretzels! Score!
    Helen: Stupid girlfriend.

  26. Also, @soitbegins: If you look closely, you can see that the outside edges of her eyes are indeed drawn in there. Admittedly, it is kind of hard to tell, since they’re close to the same position where the sides of her face would normally be, but you can kind of make out her eyelashes.

  27. (TUNE: “Sundown”, Gordon Lightfoot)

    I can see him standing there, with his new Von Boom …
    And the dork doesn’t know we’re sneaking in his room!
    Showdowns!  He’s cute but he’s weird,
    Standing there in his lab coat and his little beard!
    Showdowns!  They’re really quite fun,
    I es-pe-cial-ly like when it’s an evil one!

    Helen says “It’s his goatee, that I kinda like,”
    (Billionsix says that technic’ly, it’s a Van Dyke.)
    Showdowns!  It’s mad versus mad!
    Causing wholesale destruction is so totally rad!
    Showdowns, with big evil grins!
    When there’s stuff blowing up, then the cartoonist wins!

  28. I’m with Helen.  The little goatee is freakin’ adorable.  I have kind of a thing for Madblood, and it’s not about evil showdowns.

  29. Yeah, Dave, you should have stuck with Friday’s decision to just pretend Helen didn’t say anything. More socially ept men than you are completely out of their depth here.

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