Professor Madblood and the Doppelganger Gambit: January 6-11, 2003

I’m generally satisfied with any strip that ends on a line that could be in a Warner Brothers cartoon. And that’s all I have to say about this strip, except that I also like the ray thing I drew in the background of the first panel.

I debated for a long time about whether to go with “Kevlar pants” or “asbestos pants” in the last panel. Although Kevlar is best known for its tensile strength, it’s also retardant against high and low temperatures and is commonly used in firefighters’ uniforms and equipment. I was concerned about the long-term health impact of wearing asbestos pants. Clothing containing asbestos is not too dangerous when worn occasionally in emergency situations, but Helen seems like someone who would wear asbestos pants every day, if she had some, just because. In the end, I went with Kevlar because I had fond memories of doing Kevlar demonstrations during my high-school summer job at the National Inventors’ Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio.

In retrospect, though, “asbestos” is a funnier word, so I probably lost some comedy points there.

Also, those gray fills in the last panel are terrible.

And the Inventors’ Hall of Fame has gone out of business.

Now I’m depressed.

Fingerprints are not determined by DNA, but are more or less random. Twins do not have identical fingerprints. But clearly the transmogrifier copies more than just genetic information. It can, for example, do beards.

Dave looks so pathetic lying there on the slab with Artie perched on his nose. And not even in his own body. Poor guy.

Because if he doesn’t dig his own grave, it’s just undeserved cruelty, that’s why. Artie later does the same thing in “Battle for the Lost Diamond Mines of Brazil.”

Andrew thinks that Dave in Madblood’s body looks like our friend Dirk Tiede. Sorry, Dirk.

Yeah, this is one of the strips where the dialogue completely crowds out the art. I didn’t have the heart to cut any of my brilliant, brilliant dialogue, but really, who would? I was very taken with the idea that distracting Mell with violence is such an important part of any Narbonics Labs plan, even Mell acknowledges it.

Artie was, of course, left alone at the lab with Mell during D-Con, resulting in off-panel destruction and hijinks chronicled at exhaustive length in Jeffrey Wells’s fanfic.

Now on to the most important element of this strip: Dave’s hair! See, with this strip, instead of scribbling in a bunch of individual strands like I’d been doing, I started drawing a hair-shaped outline and filling it in… yeah, okay, only I care about this, but this was the way I would draw his hair for the rest of Narbonic. It’s a big improvement over what I was doing before.

Well, it is pretty cool. This echoes the strip with Dave agreeing to let Madblood put his brain in a robot, and, again, suggests that Dave is more cut out for this line of work than he may first appear.

I’m still drawing Dave’s hair too light and puffy here.

Professor Madblood and the Doppelganger Gambit: Previous, Next

55 thoughts on “Professor Madblood and the Doppelganger Gambit: January 6-11, 2003

  1. Which is not to discount the oscilliscope in the last panel’s background, if I’m not mistaken. Wavely lines, what might be control knobs or a tape backup… good stuff.

  2. Monday:

    That first line of Artie’s sounds almost like a quote from one of your nation’s creation myths.

    This is, to my memory, the most penitent Artie ever gets, which doesn’t speak well of him given that his most troublesome deeds are still before him. (Though, of course, the sheer scale of them means that they exceed the traditional scope of blame and fault.)

  3. @Leon, I think the difference is that Artie’s future sins were committed from genuine good will, whereas this mainly came from boredom, not some real altruistic desire to make Dave “pretty.” Artie only apologizes when he wasn’t trying to do the right thing, and knows it.

  4. I find it interesting that Artie is concerned about wrecking havoc – that is, making it of less effect – by using the ray.

  5. Kevlar is better. I laughed my ass off the first time I read this strip, and Helen’s lines have stuck in my head ever since. I doubt asbestos would have had that effect or have been as memorable.

  6. When this strip came out originally, I E-mailed Shaenon that Nomex was what you wanted for fire-proof pants.  She pointed out that Kevlar was also fire-proof.  This lead to a long discussion that ended much later with the strip where Artie talks about moving toothpicks.  I’ll leave it to you to figure out the connection. 

  7. This is one of those strips that makes sense until you think about it. If Dave were any hotter, and she were wearing heat-retardant pants, wouldn’t she roast her torso? Surely some sort of lower-body heat sink, like a metal tiki skirt, would be more useful in that situation. Kevlar pants only make sense if she sits on him (in which case, he’d have to be even more oblivious than he seems to be).

    On the other hand, needing to wear Kevlar pants is an obvious figure of speech if you’re actually wearing Kevlar pants.

    Asbestos pants are something entirely different. They’re what she’d need if she had to tell Dave she didn’t like Star Wars.

  8. Shaenon! Kevlar starts with a K, of course it’s funnier. But I know dear, you’re doing asbestos you can.

  9. Kevlar is sexier. And it reminds me of the lecture in The Sunshine Boys about words with ‘K’ in them are funny – “pickle” is funny – if it doesn’t have a ‘K’ in it, it isn’t funny.

  10. @Daniel: This is one of those strips that makes sense until you think about it.  That;’s why I try not to think about things, it just makes life complicated.

    Besides, asbestos pants provide no protection against ur-gerbils. 

    So, she has admitted to Artie that she has the hot pants for Dave. I summon the unseen forces of Character Development and Foreshadowing!!!

  11. Not sure whether asbestos is really a funnier word, but “kevlar pants” flows better than “asbestos pants,” in my opinion.

  12. Cheer up…

    “The NIHF museum is currently closed for construction as they add a new science, math, and technology middle school to the complex. The museum is expected to re-open in mid-2010.”



  13. I think asbestos pants wold have distracted me with concern for Helen’s long-term health.  No, I don’t know why I’m worried about the pants but not any of the myriad of other dangerous things she does.

  14. @ Daniel:  I think the intimation is that Dave’s attractiveness is causing an endothermic reaction in Helen’s lower torso.  If he wer e any hotter, then Helen might start charing the chairs.

  15. I agree with Brand- asbestos would have left us with a feeling of “uh-oh, asbestos is dangerous!” rather than “heh, I guess Kevlar is heat-proof. Yeah, I knew that.”

  16. Wednesday:

    Artie, please don’t sit on Dave’s nose when he’s lying down and staring straight ahead. Thanks.

    Speaking of voiceprints – surely, in spite of a changed skull and vocal chords, Dave still retains his original accent, thus lacking the cultured cadence of a worldly evil professor? …Well, I’m sure he’ll have no choice but to work on it.

  17. Artie, please don’t sit on Dave’s nose… <ACHOO!>

    Never mind… but while you’re up there, can you change that light bulb?


  18. (TUNE: “Coming To America”, Neil Diamond)

    Wow!  Look at what we did now!
    I’m Madblood’s twin!
    Don’t ask me how!

    Weird!  This is totally weird!
    I’ve got his face
    And hair and beard!

    Got his voice and fingerprints,
    We made a Lupin lookalike!
    How he smiles and how he squints,
    We made a Lupin lookalike!

    See!  Now I’m like Helen’s enemy!
    Look at what Artie did to me!
    Now he sits on my nose,
    Feeling smug, I suppose …

    Say … how’d I get like this anyway?
    Artie used Madblood’s DNA!
    He just needed a smidge
    From the back of the fridge …

  19. Primarily it’s Shaenon’s ability to draw body language. Dave is moving in ways Madblood never would.
    also dave isn’t wearing a labcoat.

  20. It’s so perfect, I only just realized that you might not know that “Tiede” is Finnish for “Science.” Not in any weird clause or phrasing, either, but a perfectly ordinary word that’s not normally used as a name. 

    The association manages to make both this strip and the man even BETTER, but he might want to look into DNA testing because as warning signs go, this is right up there with Remus Lupin or Frank Einstein or, one speculates, Zeta Iamnotagerbil Vincent.

  21. Thursday:

    I find it hard to believe that Helen hadn’t already thought of this three weeks of episodes ago, but now that I think about it, love and rivalry probably meant that she was distracted from such conclusions. And there’s really a wide number of ways to invade Madblood’s moonbase that she could have also been contemplating.

    You talk about Dave as if there was ever a point where he completely deserved some Helen-induced injustice.

  22. Minor spoiler follows:

    Leon, it’s no use trying to determine if Helen had this planned all along, or if she just does the first thing that pops into her head.  As Helen herself points out near the end of this story arc, “when you’re mad, those are the same thing.”

    • Well, when you’re a mad scientist like Helen and I are, it’s hard to ignore the voices in your head when they give you such wonderful suggestions! Mwa ha ha! ^_^

      @HelenBeta: Uranium-powered gerbil inseminator? Passe’. How about a neutrino-harnessing gerbil inseminator instead?

  23. It isn’t going to happen, but it would be interesting if, at the end of it all, Madblood was transmogrified by accident into Dave and had to  be Helen’s computer geek and permanent lab subject forever.

  24. i’ve often thought that madblood WAS dirk. in fact, i usually just call dirk Lupin. But that’s between me and him. And emily.

  25. Dirk’s wife Emily is a scientist. It’d be perfect if her last name meant “Cartoonist,” but I guess it probably doesn’t.

  26. Bahahahah!! He *does!!* Ohman, I am totally going to break into giggles the next time I see Dirk now. 

    I don’t know Emily’s last name off the top of my head, but there’s a potential that it’s Tiede, since they’re married and stuff. Making her “Emily Science – Scientist” which is kinda wonderful. 

    …I kinda want to draw cartoons about Emily Science. Do you think Emily would be upset at me? 

  27. Friday:

    Woof woof draw wider panels woof.

    Mell has a bit of a one-track mind, don’t you think? But it occurs to me that she would actually be weirder if her shooting fixation was replacing with something more wholesome, such as playing magnetic scrabble or stealing teeth. There’d be whole swathes of Narbonic storylines where Mell struggles amidst robot hordes to find an official dictionary or quabble about upside-down Ws, or trick a Dave Patrol officer into opening his mouth within proximity of her omnipresent dental pliers. Really, the shooting thing makes some sense as a fixation and a meaningful contribution.

  28. I literally think about Mell’s quote in this strip at least once a week.  This strip is the reason I started using the word “Viz.”

  29. (TUNE: “Saturday In The Park”, Chicago)

    Normal day … here at work …
    Time’s about a quarter to ten.
    Here I sit … like a jerk …
    While I’m put in danger again!

    Helen’s scheming,
    Smiling, beaming,
    She thought up a hot plot
    To sab-o-tage her foe!

    Try to protest,
    Helen knows best,
    I get no rest,
    I can’t win!
    Though I haven’t died in some time …
    I’ll have to go …

  30. Saturday:

    Dave may have solved the perceived problem of his staggering looks, but the problem of his workload will have to wait another day. There’s a moon picnic to plan!

    I’m not sure if Helen’s thought balloon is entirely necessary – it seemingly draws the limelight away from the punchline in Dave’s exasperated self-realisation. Though, it seems equally apparant that Dave’s line would seem a bit paltry standing alone in panel 4, and needs some reaction from Helen so that it doesn’t appear too outwardly-directed.

  31. Helen’s thought balloon is important for furthering the explication of geekiness in the world (i.e., it’s a great line.)

  32. (TUNE: “Piano Man”, Billy Joel)

    It’s a typical day in Narbonic Labs;
    Helen wants to invade Madblood’s lair!
    But while Mell blows a bubble, poor Dave senses trouble;
    He thinks this is slightly unfair!

    He says, “Helen, is this yet another plan
    Where I’m in mortal danger again?
    Now you tell me that soon, I must fly to the Moon …
    When you put it that way, just say when!”

    (oh nerd nerd nerd, nerdy nerd …)

    Fly to the Moon, you’re a science geek!
    Fly to the Moon, you fool!
    Yes, it’s so su-i-ci-dal-ly dangerous!
    And yet it’s so totally cool!

  33. Perhaps the light and puffy hair is a side effect of being recently transmogrified back to Dave form?

  34. Now Artie had been left alone one night

    In the lab-o-ra-tory with Mell

    And he proffers that “fatal” is quite understatal

    And Helen can only say, “Well…


    “In that case, you’d better go out with them

    And fire a bunch of grenades.”

    Now Mell is ecstatic (though that’s automatic)

    And Artie’s relief is displayed.




  35. Anyone else loving Helen’s expression in the last panel of strip 6? Dr. Narbon would be so proud.

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