In case it isn’t obvious by now, my game plan for this whole period of strips was to create a comfortable buffer between Dave’s death and (sorry, spoilers) his eventual resurrection, in the hopes of building tension and getting people to miss the poor dope. The guest week was timed for this period for exactly that reason. Counting from the end of “Dr. Narbon” to the beginning of “Zombie Woof,” there’s about three months of strips, so I managed to fill the time pretty well.
Still, this is really the only storyline that features Helen, Mell and Artie puttering around in their daily routine without Dave. It was pretty hard to write material without the full central cast of four, and especially without Dave, who was the protagonist and point-of-view character for most of the run of Narbonic. That’s why this storyline is only two weeks long and consists almost entirely of Mell blowing things up.
My other reason for doing this storyline was to establish that Mell is definitely not a mad scientist, or indeed a scientist of any kind. I wanted to show her embarking on a career path that was non-scientific but would still be potentially evil and valuable to Narbonics Labs.
At this point in the story, Mell is a very diffident student, prone to laziness and random outbursts of on-campus violence. This will change once she finds her calling.
This sequence is totally autobiographical. I wanted to major in biology in college, but couldn’t because I flamed out of cellular biology and had to take a pass-fail. Cellular biology is hard! It involves lots of chemistry, which in turn involves lots of math. I was forced to major in English instead, which was much easier and lamer. Writers don’t have to conduct experiments or balance equations; we can just pull science stuff out of our asses.
I spent a lot of senior year in the campus career development office, which did not begin to prepare me for my eventual career as a freelance comic-book editor and webcartoonist. Honestly, how was I supposed to see that coming?
I don’t think the career counselor is supposed to look like anyone in particular, although he kind of resembles my ex-boyfriend Kevin (who was more directly the model for Eric, the GM of Dave’s gaming group). Dr. Seconi, the unfortunate biology professor, is named after a college friend, Ellen Seconi, who majored in biology.
More notes to Chris Ellmann on the counselor’s desk, with the paper in the final panel reading simply “Hi Chris.”
Everyone’s ears are way too big, but I still like Mell’s expression in the last panel.
Mell replacing Dave as the lab tech would have been something, wouldn’t it? I just can’t imagine the tech lasting long. I imagine Artie could do it, but physically moving equipment around would be hard for him. Heck, just typing is a workout.
My characters tend to sweep their arms around in dramatic gestures a lot. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, just making an observation.
My lettering is nigh-illegible here, especially in that last panel, but this is actually a pretty entertaining conversation. Mell expresses a twinge of emotion about Dave’s death, which is a big thing for her. On the whole, Mell is kind of uncomfortable and out of her element when it comes to choosing a major. As she said in the previous strip, she’d be much happier if she could just shoot things, as she in fact manages to do by the end of the week.
The gentleman greeting Mell at the door is Seth, who, as it later turns out, is in Dave’s gaming group. Seth ended up appearing in Narbonic considerably more than I had originally expected. He crops up everywhere, like crabgrass.
Seth’s T-shirt reads “Looking for a Japanese Girlfriend” in Japanese. It’s one of those shirts that helpful men wear to advertise the fact that they do not wish to get laid, ever. The sweat flying off Seth’s brow is not, as will later become clear, due to the exertion of his gaming session; Seth just sweats like a racehorse all the time. He’s also always scowling.
In case it’s not clear by now, I love Seth.
That’s a huge gun in the last panel, even for Mell. The backpack must be roomier than it looks.
“rummage rummage” is a good sound effect, isn’t it?
Final observation: that doorknob is way too high on that door, dammit.
I guess my favorite detail here is the completely blasted-out iMac at center, which looks just like my work computer at the time. Also the huge unexplained pile of rubble.
Seth is visible crouching behind the desk at far left. I don’t think the other two guys are anyone in particular.