Professor Madblood and the Doppelganger Gambit: June 16-21, 2003

Thiotimoline is a time-displaced chemical in a series of spoof scientific papers by Isaac Asimov. It exists one second ahead of the rest of the universe, and Asimov’s thiotimoline essays involve coming up with clever applications for this property. Helen is working on the time machine she’ll unveil a month from now in “Dave Davenport Has Come Unstuck in Time.”

Aside from obscure foreshadowing, the purpose of this strip is to give Helen a brief but much-needed appearance. It bothered me that she was mostly out of action in this storyline (and, later, in “Unstuck in Time” and “Mad Science Is Decadent and Depraved”).

This kind of foreshadows some stuff that happens to the computer at the very end of Narbonic. But that was still way down the line at this point and I wasn’t really thinking of it.

Fortunately for Madblood, Mell gets so distracted by this problem that she forgets about killing him. Remember how she was going to kill him?

Generally I like Mell’s slang, but sometimes I wish I’d picked more obscure stuff. Trying to talk British when you’re not actually British is a nerd thing, and Mell’s not a nerd. I’m not 100% sure what she is, but she’s not a nerd.

This is all pretty silly, but I do like the crowd of Madbloods. Thank you.

All things considered, the “Madblood robots have to obey people who look like Madblood” concept and the “Madblood robots unite against their human masters” concept dovetailed pretty nicely at the end. Nonetheless, by this point in the storyline I was pretty damn sick of drawing Madblood.

I think this strip was a last-minute addition to the storyline. At this point in “Doppelganger Gambit” I was writing by the seat of my pants. But I got to have somebody smacked upside the head again, so it’s all good.

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56 thoughts on “Professor Madblood and the Doppelganger Gambit: June 16-21, 2003

  1. No, no. You need henchmen as a mad scientist, just as you need a workbench covered with peculiar glass equipment filled with bubbling multi-coloured potions, even if you’re a roboticist.

    You just don’t need them to be anywhere nearby. Unless people are coming round, obviously.

    I suppose Madblood ought to have some too, but he doesn’t get on well with others, and he seems to be trying to make his own, what with Lovelace and the robot duplicates.

    Incidentally, Helen’s goggles look really familiar. Are they based on anything, or are they just standard fancy sci-fi goggles?


    • I suppose that (being a former electronic engineering major before I went completely mad) I should now point out that the strange chemicals are actually the solvent, developer, and etch resist compound for etching your own printed circuit boards? (Except the one that’s bubbling. That’s just Mountain Dew or Jolt Cola with dry ice in it, partly for dramatic effect and partly because room-temperature caffeinated soda tastes horrible.)

      Not that I would actually know anything about being a mad scientist after all. My classmates in college all nicknamed me “mad scientist” because it sounded cool, not because I had the insane laugh and crackpot ideas to actually earn the nickname or anything… {trying to look innocent and failing miserably}

  2. Monday:

    Helen almost forgot about that little moon picnic she’d organised, and, presumably, that the world is about to disappear under the heel of a certain Space Napoleon. She isn’t really the master schemestress she makes herself out to be, is she?

  3. (TUNE: “Ain’t No Sunshine”, Bill Withers)

    Got no henchmen underfoot …
    Maybe on the Moon they’ll stay!
    If those guys would just stay put,
    I’d be ruler absolute
    Of the world by Saturday!

    With no Artie, Dave, or Mell,
    I’ll get so much done today!
    On the Moon, they’re raising hell!
    Gee, I think those guys are swell,
    Long as they stay far away!

  4. (TUNE: “Eve of Destruction”, written by P.F. Sloan, sung by Barry McGuire)

    I came to the Moon as a … doppelganger!
    Madblood is thwarted and he … feels such anger!
    Let’s run for the escape pod … in the hangar!
    That sentient computer … double-dang her!
    If that girl had a neck, man, I’d … like to hang her!

    And we’re rea-ding
    Strip after strip after strip, now at last they’re past!
    Can you comprehend,
    We’re near the end of this chapter?

  5. Okay, I’m instituting a new rule. If you’re going to nitpick six-year-old mistakes, you have to send me five dollars. I’ll fix it for five dollars.

  6. I agree with Shaenon’s new rule, as it will allow me to buy a cheeseburger every time someone points out a spelling error.

  7. I just realised that this went live when I was 11.

    If only I had read it then….

  8. (TUNE:  “Spirit in the Sky”, Norman Greenbaum)

    While I rule, I’m securing my base;
    Gonna shoot Madblood right in the face!
    When the A.I. says it’s soon
    Blowing up Lupin’s base upon the Moon!

    Blowing up Lupin’s base upon the Moon!
    The timer’s counting down, like “High Noon”!
    Don’t you panic, or scramble around,
    Better just get the f*** outa town!

    You’re Helen’s friend;
    You must comprehend
    The principles behind mad science!
    Far and wide, much debris will be strewn
    When we finally finish blowing up the base on the Moon!

  9. But that doesn’t make any sense, *I* use culturally-inappropriate slang all the time, and I’m not a…  Oh.

  10. WRT Yesterday’s comic.

    “Immanent” is a theological term, referring to the presence of God in the world. At this point, the moonbase is Lovelace’s entire world, so the destruction is going to be omnipresent.

  11. Wednesday:

    Well, what’s the point of murdering someone if their grand project, their magnum opus of madness they spent months making, is about to blow away in a rapidly approaching millisecond? Especially if its destruction means you’re no longer above the law, and will have to wake up in an apartment tomorrow.

  12. “Bloody Hell” is generic enough that Mell could pull of using it. It’s not like she is using cockney rhyming slang or anything.

  13. I say criminey. :] But I say a lot of weird things. (Wait, which side of the water do you mean? I’m American.)

    The great thing about “bloody Hell” is that if you take it literally it stops being quaint and British and starts being scary and violent. So that’s how I take Mell to be using it. X)

  14. I think, actually, “bloody hell” is too generic for Mell to pull off. Cockney rhyming slang is ridiculous and over-the-top enough that she could carry it off, but “bloody hell” is just vaguely British, like some nerd who’s spent too much time watching Dr. Who and Monty Python.

  15. Mel is as Mel wills.  Who’s going to tell her she’s being inappropriate?  Not me, I can tell you that!

  16. I like to use “Bloody” and other british slang, but that’s mostly since I started watching “Doctor Who”

  17. I say “Crikey!” all the time. (Got it from watching way too much “Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Rescue Rangers”…)

  18.   Mell is that most ubiquitous of all evil creatures in the USA: a (future) mad politician….

  19. I swear in British all the time – when I’m not swearing in gibberish*. But that’s because I had as many British teachers and friends growing up as I did American – the wonders of being a Foreign Service brat. I actually don’t use bloody, but the euphemistic blurry (blurry ell).

    *my mother objected to curse words, even in British, so I started using nonsense words instead. It’s nearly as good for releasing tension/frustration (though not as good for interjections – it usually takes a sentence or two worth of gibberish to work).

  20. I tend toward Yosemite-Sam-style nonsense swears myself.  “Rackenfrack”, “arglebargle”, and “khaki flak jacket” are handy.  I’ve heard people use odd place names such as “Albuquerque” and “Petaluma” as curses, but personally I think that’s a load of Schenectady.

    Alliteration can also be your friend.  “Holy hand-grenade”, “shiny shoes”, “sea-shells on the sea-shore”, or in extreme cases, “What the flying french-fried frogs?!”

    I used to commute to work in Chicago.  I used up all my real swears years ago.

  21. … as well you might. For some time I’ve interpreted “nerd” to mean “socially awkward” whereas “geek” is more “cares enough about some subject to subvert the capitalist paradigm of ‘work, consume, die'”. I’m a music geek, e.g. I was having a discussion with the accompanist in rehearsal tonight about why the C in one chord was sharpened and not in another.

  22. @ Ed: Other good nonsense “swear words” are “Geezbah” and “Shazbot” from “Mork and Mindy”, “Feldgercarb” from the original “Battlestar Galactica” and “Farglesnot” from the comic strip “Non Sequitur”.

  23. One of the very few real world science goofs in Narbonic. A top velocity (i.e. Mach 10) on a spaceship is perfectly comfortable. It’s the acceleration forces (i.e. 10 Gs?) along the way that’ll turn you into strawberry jam.

  24. Even if Mell would only get cranky when the ship decelerated, I hold that it would not be a pleasant flight.

  25. IMPORTANT NOTE:  If the Director’s Cut version of Narbonic misses an update between now and Monday, it’s because our home computer’s in the shop.  I think Shaenon’s on top of it, and has probably updated things on a laptop at our local coffee shop, but I wanted to give everyone a heads-up just in case.


    And if you want to help offset our repair costs by buying some books, original art, commissions or just dumping money into the Tip Jar, we’d sure appreciate that!

  26. There.

    Right there.  Admire the way the Madbloods have slightly different grins.  That randomization is the product of a little of Madblood’s signature madness rubbing off in his works.

    I wish I had to obey myself.  I could use more self-control.

  27. Narbonic‘s longest named storyline contains lots of very similar looking Madbloods.

    Skin Horse‘s longest named storyline contains lots of very similar looking dogs.

    Probably coincidence.

  28. (TUNE: “She’ll Be Comin’ Round The Mountain”, traditional)

    Shaenon’s tired of drawing Madblood’s stupid face!
    She’ll just load ’em up and shoot ’em into space!
    She detests those plastic masses
    With their beards and ties and glasses!
    (But she’ll keep a couple dozen, just in case!)

    Shaenon’s sick of drawing all those robot grins!
    Shaenon’s sick of drawing goatees on their chins!
    Fifteen thousand times that face, see,
    Is enough to make her crazy!
    Also, Dave and Artie still look like they’re twins!

  29. Star Trek (tos) had lot of similar-looking redshirts.

    LotR has lots of similar-looking orcs (and elves).

    It’s a facet of world-making – you write about the central characters and everyone else is just background

  30. Dave has gained enough much-needed self confidence to smach people who deserve it upside the head.  That can only be a good thing.

  31. (TUNE: “Don’t Stop Believing”, Journey)

    Just a robot horde … standing ’round and getting bored …
    They hope the Earth invasion’s beginning soon …
    Just a quadruped … genius brain inside his head …
    He took the teleporter up to the Moon …

    Now he’s in a human shell … told the robots to rebel!
    Robots now obey themselves, Madblood’s plan undone!
    Humans, though, will soon be dead …
    Got a smack upside his head!
    Got to find escape pod now,
    We must run and run and run and run …

    Freedom … seeing … with a sudden revelation!
    Freed from … mindless servitude!
    Now they’re … fleeing … ten G’s of acceleration!
    Now the … whole world is so screwed!

    They stopped obeying!
    Dude, what were you saying?
    Robots, resist!
    Now they’re Socialist!
    They stopped … obeying …

  32. Saturday:

    “I’m not really a man-“ sounds like exactly the opportunity one needs to compose a filk that’s similar to the Trogdor theme-song, but with “Artie”, “man”, “gerbil-man”, “gerbil” and “radicalising the robots” replacing key phrases. Since I haven’t actually done that in this post, I’m free of all blame for perpetrating this.

    Both of these head-slaps are performed because of decisions made by computers. Who’s really at fault here – Dave, real Dave, or Madblood’s personality AI routines?

    Robots saying “peace out” after socialist indoctrination: 1.

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