New storyline! I wanted to do a Zeta storyline called “Mad Science Is Decadent and Depraved,” after the classic Hunter S. Thompson article “The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved,” from early on, but I didn’t have any idea what would happen in such a story. Here’s what I ended up doing. It’s basically a story that ties up or advances several dangling plot threads, including [SPOILERS!] the Madblood robots and their machine union, Dana the insane genius gerbil and her race of intelligent hamsters, Dave’s personal history, and how punk journalist Zeta Vincent ties into all of this. In retrospect, it turned out pretty well considering how much of it I made up as I went along.
From this point on, all the storylines in Narbonic tie closely into the larger story arc. I guess the Moon storyline was the last one that had almost nothing to do with the main arc, but, starting with “Decadent and Depraved,” everything’s pretty heavy on plot.
As far as this particular strip goes, the best part is obviously the robots’ protest signs. Also, you’ll note that I’d gotten tired of drawing Dave in the tweed suit.
That anchorwoman has been around since the beginning of the strip. I guess she’s a local news fixture wherever the Narbonic characters live.
The whole machine union is basically Artie’s doing, since he’s the one who introduced them to collective action on Madblood’s moonbase, so he’d better darn well show an interest in this thing.
When you’re telling a story that involves fantastic things happening in the real world, or at least something that resembles the real world, sooner or later you have to address the question of how the fantastic elements are perceived. I usually lead toward some flavor of this approach: the people who care, care, and everyone else ignores the weird stuff and gets on with their lives. In my experience, this is pretty much the way it works in reality anyway.
In Narbonic, this takes the specific form of what The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy calls the Somebody Else’s Problem Field and TV Tropes calls the Weirdness Censor: a persistent tendency on the part of a large portion of the population to ignore things that would disrupt their assumptions about the world. This allowed me to skirt the issue of why mad scientists and their creations haven’t wreaked more havoc on society. The people who care, care.
This develops into an important plot point in this and other storylines in the final years of Narbonic, so this strip ends up being pretty major, plot-wise.
Narbonic had been running for four years at this point, so, yeah, time for Mell to graduate. Among the tiny background witnesses to the event are me, my husband Andrew, and my friends Derek Kirk Kim and Jesse Hamm. Also probably some other people I can’t make out.
I still find Dave’s dialogue in the first two panels pretty funny. I also enjoy the increasingly insulting subtitles under his name in these strips. “Traitor to Humanity” in yesterday’s strip was the first one I came up with, and I built the rest around it.
Mell’s mild-mannered hippie dad appears in Li’l Mell but is tragically just off-camera here. I initially had Mell join the Army, but then I decided it would be better if it were the Air Force and went back and changed it. I had a cousin in the Air Force.
Oh, look, it’s Zeta with a new haircut! I was tired of drawing the old one. I kind of like that Dave’s life now includes giving public interviews about how weird and messed-up his life is, because that’s what my life is like now, too.