Professor Madblood and the Doppelganger Gambit: January 27 – February 1, 2003

People actually have been through explosive decompression in accidents in laboratory vacuum environments. No one has suffered any permanent damage, although in every case they were rescued from the vacuum in under a minute. If you happen to get caught out in space without a helmet, death from oxygen deprivation is much more likely than death from explosive decompression–and even if you do die of explosive decompression, it won’t be awesome-looking like in “Total Recall.” It really doesn’t look like much of anything.

In the time Dave seems to have been trapped out in space, he ought to have run out of oxygen and passed out, but I gave him some extra time for comedy purposes.

Helen’s ringtone is supposed to be “She Blinded Me with Science,” but I probably didn’t write it out correctly.

Man, some really bad artwork in this one. And way too much text crowding out the cruddy art. Sorry about that.

On the plus side, this strip features the first appearance, so to speak, of Madblood’s computer, who will go on to play a major role in this and future storylines.

“Brother Brubaker of Sigma House” is a reference to Chugbot, a story in Sam Henderson’s comic The Magic Whistle that ran on back in the day. (Warning: link leads to strong language, an interstitial feature called “Masturbating Boss,” and awesomeness.) The frat in “Chugbot” includes characters named Spurge and the Brube after comics personalities and gadabouts Tom Spurgeon and Ed Brubaker. The Brube is only the greatest guy ever to live in that house.

Moving on, this is some pretty damn smooth work on Helen’s part.

It could be worse. It could’ve been Olive Garden.

I like the way I framed Madblood against the big circular window in the first panel. I did a similar thing with Mell later in the storyline. Also check out his nutty arsenal. I don’t even know what those things are.

Somehow, Madblood’s pose in the first panel got really weirdly exaggerated. As readers commented at the time, he looks like Groucho Marx. I don’t know what’s up with that.

Also, I should have picked a more legible font for the computer. I went through several “computer” fonts over the course of Narbonic, usually because I upgraded Photoshop and lost all my old fonts.

This is one of those strips where “mad scientist” is code for “cartoonist.” I did quite a few like that.

The scenario Helen describes occurred to me while I was writing this storyline, so I thought I’d bring it up in the strip. It would have been pretty funny. Also, I wanted to point out that Helen isn’t very comfortable exploiting her feminine wiles like this. She doesn’t have much confidence in her own powers of seduction.

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58 thoughts on “Professor Madblood and the Doppelganger Gambit: January 27 – February 1, 2003

  1. And the explosive decompression that folks seem to expect is mostly influenced by depictions of deep water fish – where each 33 feet of water equals another atmosphere. A human going from the Earth’s surface to space will only be facing a single Atmosphere of pressure difference… rather than the hundreds or thousands that a deep sea fish will suffer from.

    The Auld Grump 

  2. It’s even sillier in “Total Recall,” because they’re just going from an Earth-like atmosphere to a thinner atmosphere, not a vacuum. That’s not likely to cause any kind of extreme decompression. This does not stop “Total Recall” from being rad as hell.

  3. I first saw that stupid explosive decompression thing done in the movie Outlander.  I seem to recall that the movie as a whole wasn’t bad, but they had this one special effect, used it to death, and it was stupid to begin with.  As today’s strip makes quite clear.

  4. Meanwhile, Titan AE got it exactly right.  It even got right that you need to not try to hold your breath, since that can rupture your lungs.

    • If I remember correctly, this was also featured in one episode of Farscape, where Chrighton and d’Argo were exposed to hard vacuum briefly and survived, although poor John _did_ suffer a nasty case of the bends for a little while after returning to normal atmospheric pressure.

      Let’s hear it for sci-fi writers that actually get these sorts of things right for a change! ^_^

  5. License To Kill had a henchman executed via explosive decompression, to spectacularly gory effect.

  6. In Goldfinger (the book, not the movie), Odd Job is killed by SPOILER:-) being extruded out a hole in the window of a pressurized aircraft in flight.

    @Auld Grump – the uppermost 33 feet are by far the worst, because the fractional expansion is the largest. The gas volume doubles in that last 33 feet. The fractional expansion is even worse going from 1 atm to 0.

  7. Monday:

    Times Dave has shrugged off almost being murdered by Mell: 1 and rising! Funnily, after ‘Mell Expelled’ showing Mell at her most cunning, we now have this storyline showing Mell at her most flippantly homicidal. Madwoman!

  8. Just for the record 33 ft = 1 atmosphere, therefore 100 feet =3 atmospheres, 1000 feet = 30 atmospheres, 1 mile = 5000 feet = 150 atmospheres 6 miles (deepest possible = 900 atmospheres.


    Hundreds, but not thousand*S*

  9. Then there’s that Star Trek: Voyager novel I read a few years ago that, if I recall aright, claimed even asphyxiation wouldn’t really set in for about two minutes.

    Overcompensating for the trope, or misinterpreting the research? You decide!

  10. A sudden drop of 8 atmospheres is sufficient to make a person’s torso explode, as has happened in a diving rig accident. Of course, the impact of the stuff inside the 8 atmospheres was fatal to the handler outside, too. For that matter, it might be possible to injure someone with a 1-atmosphere drop, provided it was sufficiently fast, but airlocks are designed to make the transition slower than otherwise, rather than faster than otherwise, since you can always afford a second or two in order to be prepared for the environment you’re entering. (Plus, if the door opens into the higher-pressure area, it won’t pop open if the lock breaks.)

  11. The “explosive” in “explosive decompression” refers to the speed of the decompression, not to what happens to the unfortunate person caught in it.

    You get somewhere under a minute of useful consciousness before you pass out. This is a fair bit less time than if you were in a pressurized environment that simply lacked breathable oxygen. In the latter case, you can continue to burn the oxygen already in your lungs and bloodstream for several minutes (give or take, depending on individual and preparedness and so on) before you really get into the anoxia effects, while in a vacuum, any oxygen that was in your lungs is leaving in a hurry – and if you’re smart, you let it go voluntarily – and your circulatory system has trouble circulating the blood against the pressure drop in the lungs, so while you may still have oxygen in your bloodstream, it doesn’t get to the brain where you really need it.

    It takes a few minutes after that for brain damage to set in, and a little while longer for actual death to occur. 

    And there’s no need to invoke comic license to explain Dave’s continued consciousness. He’s wearing a living clonal body, but his brain is still his old zombie brain, which has been proven to be able to survive and remain conscious despite decorpitation. What’s a little bit of hard vacuum next to that? Nothing at all, I say.

  12. Mr Campbell, I salute you.

    And I’m happy that this comments thread has finally satisfied me, in my own mind, that Ford and Arthur DID have time to get rescued by the Heart of Gold. Just.

  13. Tuesday:

    World-seizing mad scientist tend to surround themselves with a few dedicated and trusted underlings, such as a grotesque laboratory assistant or a mute murder-happy bodyguard, but in comedy, a certain specific individual is most certain to appear: the irritatingly sane snarker who exists solely to mock his master’s mania, and undercut or overrule it when necessary. Helen has Artie, and, at last, Madblood has his computer.

    “Pirated”? What sort of terminology is this? Surely “compromised” or, for lack of variety, “hacked” is more fitting.

  14. (TUNE: “A Whole New World” from Disney’s “Aladdin”, by Alan Menken and Tim Rice

    I will conquer the Earth,
    From my base on the Moon, now!
    Almost ready, and soon now
    I’ll wreak havoc on the world!

    I have worked night and day!
    Resolute I have acted!
    Until I get distracted
    By a phone call from a girl!

    A blonde mad girl!
    Who always treated me like dirt!
    She says she’s so impressed!
    Well, who’d have guessed?
    She’s asking me to dinner …

    She’s one bad girl!
    See, it says “evil” on her shirt!
    This girl will soon be mine!
    A concubine!
    (Along with all the other babes on Earth…)

    This blonde mad girl …
    With whom I’ll dine …
    My long-time foe,
    Who’s bad, I know,
    Will soon be mine!

  15. Shaenon you are always complaining about the text crowding the art.  Which is true, but the dialog is great.  I think your choice of a daily strip format hampers your style.  The work you do is probably better in a graphic novel format.  Lots of room for your dialog and cool inventions laying around and vats of floaty eyeballs or other organs.  Still, I love Narbonic.  Don’t beat yourself up, this is good.

  16. “Pirating” a communications channel predates “hacking” by a couple decades. The term “pirate radio” was coined in 1958, the first “pirate television” station in the US appeared in 1978. “Hacker” was first used in mass media in the context of computer networks in 1982. (All factoids gleaned from Wikipedia, FWIW.)

    • If I recall correctly, “hacking” as a term comes from 1960s MIT Engineering student slang for pulling off a brilliant prank or clever gimmick. When MIT got the TX-0 mainframe, a group of engineering students began playing with it late at night, seeing just what they could program it to do and what kinds of ingenious “hacks” (pranks/clever jokes/ingenious stunts) they could do with it, thus becoming the first “hackers” in history. Since a number of those hackers were also phone phreakers, the term “hacker” changed meaning from someone who could pull off an ingenious stunt to someone who could find newer and better ways to make the phone system do interesting things, and from there to computer programmers with too high intelligence and too much time on their hands. Unfortunately, since some phreakers and hackers inadvertently caused damage to the phone system and primitive computer networks of the era, “hacker” gained the negative meaning of someone who deliberately damages or crashes a computer system thanks to the news media, who assumed deliberate malice on the part of the phreakers and hackers who caused disruption accidentally as part of their trying to see just how far they could push electronic systems.

  17. I rather like Madblood’s face in the last panel, art “cruddiness” aside. He’s just so gosh-darned cute.

  18. Wednesday:

    This story should be called Professor Madblood and the Come Hither Gambit. Actually, every fortnight of this storyline should have its own label involving the word “gambit”, because everyone keeps dropping schemes on everyone else. I might even start keeping a Scheme Scoreboard just for this storyline.

    Helen: 4 (the spy telescope, the transmogrifier test, the moon trip plot, and now this.)
    Madblood: 2 (the moon base, the spy telescope subterfuge)
    Mell: 1.
    Dave: 0.
    Artie: 0 (he was, of course, completely honest with Dave about the ‘mogrifier.)

  19. He’s mad, all right, or his blood’s getting the better of him.  When does another mad scientist issue an invitation that *isn’t* a trap?

  20. Well, of course it’s a trap. But look at Panel 3! Those big, blue eyes, that innocent face, and yes it says “evil” right on her shirt… but with a heart! That makes it cute! And she calls him “Wolf” without even snickering! Tell me you wouldn’t willingly leap into that trap.

    Madblood’s probably been fantasizing about being held at Helen’s mercy since he first read those scientific papers she starred in. 

  21. Oooo, lookit all the Big Freakin’ (TM) Guns!  Official BFG count = 29.

    (TUNE: “Everyday People”, Sly & The Family Stone)

    I’ve got the might,
    My genius is great;
    Put my plans on hold, I’ve got a date!
    See all my guns,
    So murder-y?
    They respond to me and only me!

    I’m … your Emperor, people!

    The gamma radiation
    Will cause disintegration!
    You face annihilation,
    So take my reservation!
    Diff’rent gun
    For ev’ryone!
    So bow down before me,
    Admit it, you adore me!
    (Oooooh, sha sha … you’ve got live beneath me!)

  22. Maybe Olive Garden is the second choice? I always thought the Tony Roma’s gag was hilarious. It’s just so perfectly the place Madblood would pick for a date.

  23. It might also be an indication that the lab’s so far out in freakin’ nowhere that Roma’s *is* the posh spot to eat. 

  24. I recall, during my first run through the archives, feeling that Madblood’s words in the first panel were slightly off.  A couple of days later, I decided that I’d subconsciously noted the five/seven structure of the first two lines and expected another five to complete the haiku.  Evil haiku contests…

  25. Me, I like the holographic videophone he’s talking into. That’s pretty neat, particularly as it’s probably extrapolating the signal from a simple video camera at Helen’s end…

  26. @alphatango: You mean like Haiku Jitsu, the art of poetic insult?

    – Is that a camel

    – You’re smoking? No, your nosehair

    – Is burning again. 

  27. Yeah, that “hazard” is nigh-unrecognizable.  The rest of it is pretty good, though.

     And “mad scientist” definitely equals “cartoonist” in my head.  For more than one reason. 

  28. Question.  At this point,did you know the rest of the story involving Dave and Lovelace?  I know in these strips the AI is referred to as “Computer”, but I sort of “hear” Lovelace, or at least a feminine personality, in the computer’s voice.



  29. Friday:

    I’m beginning to see the advantage of adding a minor character who does not have any physical form to depict. Though, Madblood should have arrested the growth of his AI’s personality before it developed a Snark Subroutine and a Contempt Condition, which are classic warning signs of the onset of artificial depression.

  30. (TUNE: “Hooray For Captain Spaulding”, Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby)

    Hurrah for Lupin Madblood,
    Our planet’s future master!
    Whose date ends in disaster!
    Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah!

    He’s pausing his proposal
    To subjugate our race now;
    He’s hoping to suck face now!
    Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah!

    With great anticipation,
    He dreams of osculation
    Or even copulation!
    Hah hah!

    Hurrah for Lupin Madblood!
    He’s fast, but Helen’s faster!
    In Helen’s hands, his geeky glands
    Expose his fatal flaw!
    Hurrah … hurrah … hurrah!

  31. Heh – “mad scientist” == “cartoonist”

    I once set up MSWord’s typo fixer (the one that automatically replaces “teh” with “the” when you mistype it) so that, when I typed “idiot”, Word automatically replaced it with the equivalent noun “manager”).

  32. Question.?  At this point,did you know the rest of the story involving Dave and Lovelace?? 

    I’ll probably go into this later, but yeah.

  33. The Groucho walk never bothered me, but every time I look at the last panel, it takes me a moment to tell that it’s the moon landscape in the background.  For some reason because of where its line goes to Madblood’s neck it looks like a scarf caught in some Dramatic Wind or something.  But then, my eyes like doing wierd things to me.

  34. @Catherine: Presumably Madblood placed that window specifically so that he could pose in front of it and look like he had a dramatically-billowing cape.

  35. Dave on the other hand, by this point, actually can be said to be relatively comfortable exploiting his feminine wiles. I mean, hey, free movie. So really, it WOULD be the more sensible plan when you think about it.

  36. Saturday:

    I’m sure forcing Dave to physically transform into and impersonate A) the lady he’s fallen completely hind-over-head for, B) the person who once left his head on a public bus, and C) his boss, and THEN be forced to seduce his own rival to said lady’s affections, would be the ultimate cosmic insult, an affront to his dignity so complete and total that his very soul would evapourate the moment he felt Madblood’s goatee tickle his soft bare chin.

  37. Leon: and what about the affront to Madblood’s dignity? Especially when the transformation wears off?

  38. (TUNE: “Ode To Joy”, Ludwig van Beethoven)

    Evil, evil, mind on fire!
    Let’s get up in Madblood’s face!
    I’ll use my transmogrifier,
    Then invade his lunar base!

    Dave’s now Helen, Helen’s Madblood,
    Madblood’s coming for a date!
    Love to mess with Lupin’s head, bud!
    Laugh so hard I’ll ur-i-nate!

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