Just in time for the holidays, we’re getting into my least favorite run of Narbonic strips. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have included Dave in the afterlife or any other supernatural stuff; it doesn’t gel naturally with the rest of the Narbonic universe, which is all about Science, and most of this material is overdone anyway. The demon and angel stories in Narbonic are some of the weakest, in my opinion. The only good thing that came out of the whole mess was introducing Caliban into the cast. He ended up being a pretty good character.
I do like the utterly pathetic grave marker erected over Dave’s hastily buried corpse.
I think I used a brush pen, the same one I used for the haiku art, for those swirly clouds in the last panel. A good cartoonist, of course, would be using brushes or dip pens all the time, to give the art some damn texture.
Okay, Caliban. Caliban is the oldest character in Narbonic; I wrote him into a lot of stories I worked on in high school and college, all unseen by human eyes. As such, he has a whole complicated backstory that I don’t bother to get into for Narbonic. The monster in The Tempest is named after him, not the other way around. I was a little nervous about incorporating him into this comic, and maybe I shouldn’t have, but I did enjoy writing him.
Caliban sounds British. He’s not, of course; it’s just where he learned to speak English. Actually, since he started hanging around London in the sixteenth century or so, he ought to have a very odd accent, but I didn’t deal with that in Narbonic because it would get too complicated. It would probably sound sort of Scottish to modern ears.
Dagon is one of the rulers of Hell in Milton’s Paradise Lost, my starting point for all things angelic and demonic. Like a lot of the demons in Paradise Lost, he was originally a deity in one of the many ancient religions competing with early Judaism. He also got to star in an H.P. Lovecraft story, so he keeps busy. Dagon is traditionally depicted as a sea creature/demon/god, so I thought he’d be a good match for Caliban, whose counterpart in Shakespeare is described as a fishy creature.
Dave’s line about rocking the boat is an oblique reference to the song Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat, from Guys and Dolls: “And the devil will drag you under/By the sharp lapel of your checkered coat/Sit down, sit down, sit down, sit down/Sit down you’re rocking the boat.” The song gets a mention in an issue of Sandman featuring Lucifer, which was how I knew it.
That’s Andrew and my friend Hallie in the second panel. Andrew periodically cultivates facial hair. I don’t know if the people visible in the first panel are supposed to be anyone in particular.
“Make that face.” Ha ha. I got that pun from the only episode of The X-Files I have on tape, “Small Potatoes,” the one where Darin Morgan plays a janitor with shapeshifting abilities which he uses to impersonate women’s husbands. At the end of the episode, he offhandedly refers to his power as “making faces.” Also, voice actress Christine Cavanaugh plays his nerdy ex-girlfriend who’s seen Star Wars 368 times. Man, that was the best episode of The X-Files not actually written by Darin Morgan.
Dave, as usual, tends to forget about personal safety if he sees something really, really cool. Cool by Dave standards, anyway.
If I remember correctly, the part of this strip I agonized over the longest was the question of whether Caliban should wear sneakers or go barefoot. I don’t know why I had the notion that demons should go barefoot, although I guess he doesn’t especially need shoes if he sort of hovers everywhere. Anyway, I put shoes on him.
I can explain away Caliban’s casual dress as indicative of his general lack of interest in his personal appearance, as dramatized in yesterday’s strip, but really I can never think of outfits to draw on my characters besides T-shirts and jeans. It’s what I’m wearing; why should they be any different?
I think that’s me and my ex-boyfriend Kevin in the second panel. Also, that’s some weird-looking hellfire.
Right there in the first panel is the stupidest pun in the entire run of Narbonic. Oni wa soto (Demon, get out) is a traditional chant made by Japanese children during Setsuban, the holiday marking the beginning of spring, when people throw beans to scare the wintertime demons away. (No, really. This happens. It was in a Tenchi Muyo comic.) When we see Caliban’s supervisor, Mr. Wasoto, much later in the strip, he’s an oni, a traditional Japanese demon or ogre. So, um, he’s Oni Wasoto.
Gomory (one of a number of variant spellings) is a demon mentioned in the Lesser Key of Solomon, a seventeenth-century book on demonology. He is indeed described as a Duke of Hell who commands 26 legions. I had lists of this stuff left over from an abandoned story I was working on in college.
Caliban came out from behind his desk at the end of the previous strip, but here he’s back behind the desk so I can do one more gag. This is the kind of little continuity glitch that crops up in a daily strip if you’re not careful. Again, I’m sorry. I’ve got a lot to apologize for in this strip.
Bite me, I love this one. Apparently Sir Pounce really was an evil kitten. Who knew?
I also like the two demons carrying Sir Pounce, who really doesn’t look too bothered by the situation. They look like they could have their own webcomic. The guy in the foreground of the first panel kind of looks like my dad, but he’s totally not.