Professor Madblood and the Doppelganger Gambit: July 14-19, 2003

At this point, it’s all over but the shouting. Next week we’ll be on to a new storyline, but in the meantime there’s a full week of loose ends to tie up.

By the standards of nerdy online comic strips, Narbonic doesn’t contain a lot of shout-outs to other webcomics. It says so on Wikipedia, so it must be true. (That said, the Wikipedia entry for Skin Horse contains some dubious citations. At no point have I ever said that I consider Tip’s cross-dressing “some form of elaborate self-flagellation.” I don’t even know what that means. But it kind of freaks me out.)

This week represents the longest sustained webcomic ref in Narbonic. Tailsteak’s strip 1/0, which I enjoyed very much, had recently ended with all the characters assuming human form (except for the one who became a fish) and leaving their universe for Portland, Oregon. I was concerned for them, so I drew them into the bar in this week of strips. I was taken with the idea that other webcomics could adopt the 1/0 characters to ensure their continued existence, but I don’t think it caught on. It’s not too late! Draw the 1/0 characters into your webcomic, now!

The presence of the 1/0 characters is not to be taken as evidence that Narbonic takes place in Portland, Oregon. Narbonic seems vaguely Midwestern, except when it’s not.

Dave’s question in this strip comes up repeatedly throughout Narbonic and is never answered to anyone’s satisfaction.

First panel: “I’m Petitus, and I look like a freaking Backstreet Boy.” Good old 1/0.

I was always happy with the way Mell turned out in the third panel. Just so you know.

Ear update: I’m still drawing the characters’ ears too big, but not as distractingly big as they used to be.

The 1/0 characters are playing darts in the first panel. That’s excellent. I have no idea where Mell’s line in the first panel came from, except that it was probably inspired by a bit on “Mystery Science Theater 3000” where one character’s plan for high living after the apocalypse includes “doing doughnuts in the Taj Mahal.”

You know what’s really easy to draw? Two talking heads in profile. That’s why all those other webcomic jerks do it.

Man, the plot sounds almost coherent laid out like that.

It’s really embarrassing that I can’t draw those man/woman restroom symbols, but here we are.

I really like this strip. It manages to encapsulate the characters’ twisted worldview in a simple, tidy way I seldom manage elsewhere. The more comics I draw, the more I appreciate simplicity. It’s not something that comes naturally to me.

Dave goes through a lot of cars.

Once again, I gave up trying to draw Dave’s crushed car and figured I could just futz with it on Photoshop and create something good. This was very wrong and hurt countless innocent people. I’m sorry. Let this be a lesson to us all: never assume the Saran Wrap filter on Photoshop will save you. It won’t.

As mentioned previously, the Madblood robots are, like Dana, Zeta, and the hamsters, characters who became regulars because I didn’t have the heart to abandon them or kill them off after they’d served their original purpose. Their makeshift union becomes a plot point down the line, in “Mad Science Is Decadent and Depraved,” which is kind of a crossover for all the characters I didn’t necessarily want in Narbonic in the first place. It ends up being a pretty good storyline, believe it or not.

Wait, is this the last appearance of Foxy Cop? I can’t remember if I ever used her again.

Professor Madblood and the Doppelganger Gambit: Previous

37 thoughts on “Professor Madblood and the Doppelganger Gambit: July 14-19, 2003

  1. Standard Helen Narbon battle plan.

    1. Point henchmen at the problem
    2. Sit back and watch all hell break loose.
    3. Gloat
  2. Monday:

    Here are some slightly more legitimate explanations for the not-in-the-least-bit-explicable success of Helen Narbon’s Moon Raking Mission:
    1) Emergence. An individual Narbonic character is little more than a flightless duck, but three or more Narbonic characters working toward roughly the same goal somehow destructively interfere with each other’s incompetences, and result in behaviour that is equivalent to that of a completely competent individual.
    2) Quantum immortality. Everyone on the Moon survived because there must be some universe in which they all survived. All that can be done is accepting this and moving on.
    3) Supernature. God has loaded everybody’s dice – not just Mell’s. (But then, what about the fact that “Those whom the gods will destroy, they first make mad”?)

    Helen will, of course, gladly take all of the credit in spite of these much more likely possibilities, and in spite of the quite improbable implication that she has a very high degree of control over Madblood’s behaviour, or any degree of control over Mell’s.

    By the way, here are the numbers of Schemes successfully pulled by characters on other characters through this arc:
    Madblood: 5
    Helen: 4
    Dave: 4
    Mell: 1
    Artie: 1
    Computer: 1

  3. @Leon:  referring to your point 3 above, I think a better explanation can be found if you paraphrase Terry Pratchett: “Whomsoever Helen would destroy, she first hands the equivalent of a stick with a fizzing fuse and Acme Dynamite Company written on the side.  It’s more interesting, and doesn’t take so long.”

    Also, this could be my all-time favorite Narbonic strip, summing up the whole Mad Science philosophy so perfectly.

    And now I have to go read 1/0 and see if I can rescue any characters from webcomics oblivion. 

  4. “Zadok! Zaaaadok! ZADOK!” 

    I was thinking about this a day or two ago on the train –about how lovely a tribute it was, and how, if I ever make my own comic, I should let them visit a bunch.

    So yeah, eeeeeee. 

    Also, @EdGedeon, you should *definitely* read 1/0. It is one of the best webcomics I have ever read.  

  5. 1/0 is just about the most immersive webcomic world that I’ve ever read, just because it’s so philosophical and contemplative about its own made-up world, in connection to the real world and the nature of fiction. For those who haven’t read it, it comes highly recommended.

  6. Tuesday:

    One of my favourite parts of 1/0 is something that its characters could not analyse: the incongruity of their creator’s name being the generic-sounding Internet handle “Tailsteak”, the sort of name that we as Internet users more closely associate with pseudonymous, interchangeable web denizens rather than a lonely extradimensional being.

    Helen doesn’t even narrow her eyes in the last panel, so you know that she considers this a moderately serious transgression.

  7. Oh no, Leon. It’s when she assumes that wide-eyed innocent expression that you know there’s a beatdown in the offing.

  8. Re: Monday’sThe presence of the 1/0 characters is not to be taken as evidence that Narbonic takes place in Portland, Oregon. Narbonic seems vaguely Midwestern, except when it’s not….I imagine Junior’s team has an away game which his friends are attending.

  9. Mell is pretty genre savvy, knowing that there’s always a brave band of rebels.  Although none of them seemed very brave at the time, come think. 

  10. I’m about a month late with this observation, but I peg Mell as a stoner (q.v. the June 18th “Mell’s not a nerd” commentary). Maybe not with an actual pot habit, but certainly with an iPod full of Sabbath.

  11. Wednesday:

    It’s clear that part of Mell’s internship over these long years has involved pep talks about world domination. Possibly even impromptu seminars. Mell, however, doesn’t really have a high opinion of her employer as a threat to her career. She probably remembers something about how wizened mentors are usually the first to bite the dust.

  12. (TUNE: “Stormy Weather”, Harold Arlen & Ted Koehler)

    Think a bit …
    Why’d you think you could outwit
    Helen Narbon?
    Genius IQ is so far gone,
    She’s schemin’ all of the time …

    Had a base,
    Called your boss, said “In your face,
    Helen Narbon!”
    You had your general’s garb on,
    But she’s schemin’ all of the time …

    You were almost there,
    Nearly had it all, now!
    Earth, they had no prayer,
    Ready for the fall, now!
    Would have made your lair
    In the Taj Mahal, now,
    Sucking down baklava!

    ‘Twas a start,
    But you thought you could outsmart
    Helen Narbon!
    Really, I don’t want to harp on,
    But she’s schemin’ all of the time!

  13. Wednesday’s where I realized, on my initial read-through of the archives, that the strange people occupying ever-scarce panel space weren’t just random background people, but the 1/0 characters. Mock and Terra are a lot more distinctive than Zadok, Junior, and Petitus.

  14. Thursday:

    In defense of Helen’s position: most everything Mell describes in panel 2 happened by accident, whereas everything Helen is blamed for in panel 3 happened on purpose. Helen could argue that as the only character who managed to successfully act on her intentions, she is responsible for thwarting Mell just by default.

    (Though, this is pretty much equivalent to saying that she intended to break a machine by dropping ball-bearings into the top.)

  15. @Johnn: And really good Mad Science sums up as “I reject your causality and substitute none at all.”

  16. I misread that first sentence as “I really like this ship”, and now I’m imagining the glory that would be the Helen/Mell ship.  It would be awesome, and no building would be left standing.

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

    You’ve been doing fairly well, for an evil girl;
    But there’s one thing you need to know to rule the world …
    Nar-bon!  Your boss is insane,
    And there’s no way for you to match her frantic brain!

    Take a look inside her head now, and you will find
    Her unhinged hypercognitive demented mind!
    Nar-bon!  She’s totally mad,
    She can dream up ideas that you wish you’d had!

    If you try to match her wits, well you know you can’t;
    If you cross her again, she’ll squish you like an ant!
    Nar-bon!  You know she’s the worst!
    So if you want to win, you’d better kill her first!

  18. Friday:

    Helen was being so sinister in panel 2, but then she used the very Helen-like but decidely umseemly word “squelch”. While it works in terms of ‘slumbering giant’ imagery, nonetheless, to truly demonstrate your icy-crisp ruthlessness requires one to use words like “pulverise” or “devour”.

    I wonder how evil geniuses can even bear to take on apprentices. Maybe, maybe it’s all to do with planning a respectable downfall. It is surely much more dignified to be cast down by your cleverest student than to lose the final duel against your most hated foe. It’s a win-win: the pupil claims the prestige of surpassing the master, and the master robs her foes of their long-awaited triumph.

  19. I wonder how evil geniuses can even bear to take on apprentices.

    Well, they need people to gloat to!

  20. Saturday:

    Extinguished cars: 4. For what it’s worth, this is the only time Helen wasn’t responsible.

  21. Yes, I’ve heard about the malware issue. There seems to be a glitch in WebComicsNation. I’m hoping it gets straightened out soon.

  22. Technically speaking, wasn’t Dave’s current car one of Madblood’s designs?  In this case, the androids may have had a point …

  23. In regards to Friday’s comic: does this mean that evil mad scientists are like Sith Lords? If so, it makes me glad I’m True Neutral. ^_^

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