And we’re out of the guest weeks and back to Narbonic Prime, albeit without the central cast. They’re still stranded happily on the island.
Hamsters are funny creatures. All golden hamsters in captivity are descended from a single litter captured in Syria in 1930. They were originally taken to Europe and bred for use as lab animals, but ended up being more popular as pets (although they are still sometimes used in labs). The golden hamster is either extinct or severely endangered in the wild (or very, very good at hiding), but other species of hamster are serious pests in various parts of the world, so hamster owners are warned not to release their pets into the wild for ecological reasons. Same goes for gerbils, actually. Also, it’s cruel to the rodents, because backward-swooping owls are everywhere.
The first panel may be the first time we see the eye tattooed on the back of Zeta’s neck. This was based on a tattoo on my friend and Viz coworker Urian. He also has a rude suggestion tattooed on his bicep, but I didn’t draw that.
Two Willows is my default small-Midwestern-town name. I started using it in stories when I was a teenager in a small Midwestern town myself. Elsewhere in Narbonic, it’s mentioned as the town where Dave went to high school, among other things.
This is the first time Ayn Rand is mentioned in connection to the hamsters, although it’s not until the end of this brief storyline that they’re introduced to The Fountainhead. I had established an unwritten rule that the gerbils in Narbonic were all very left-wing and the hamsters were all very right-wing. Don’t ask me why. Anyway, it developed very quickly into the concept of the hamsters as devoted Objectivists, mostly just because it seemed more interesting than having them glom onto some other flavor of conservative ideology. I think we’ve all seen enough right-wing Christian hamsters and neoconservative war hawk hamsters in the media, thank you very much. It’s such a cliche.
I probably shouldn’t have let the typed text overlap the artwork, such as it is. Oh well.
Geez, Zeta’s all out of proportion in the third panel. Actually this whole week was really hard to draw. The hamsters are cute, though. Hamsters are not exactly hard to draw.
“Number One” is a quick and obvious “Prisoner” reference.
At the time I drew this I didn’t have a clear idea of how the Zeta and Dana storylines would fit into the main story arc. Even the main story arc wasn’t really set in stone until the next storyline. When, eventually, it all came together in a relatively coherent way, I was a little bit surprised.
Zeta’s laptop is really skinny. I’ve got a laptop that skinny now, but this was 2002, for cryin’ out loud.
In addition to the radical ecoterrorist group Incisor and Dr. Noah’s dental practice, the business park includes Media Alliance, which used to share a building with the Cartoon Art Museum offices; Mock Man Press, the imprint of my friend Jason Thompson; and a Sylvan Learning Center.
Dr. Noah got his scar in his encounter with Narbonics Labs in the first story arc, natch. I knew it was silly to bring him back, but I did it anyway. Gotta keep myself entertained somehow.
The Che poster on the desk in the first panel is a drawing I’d done as a sticker a while back. I didn’t often cut and paste stuff like that, but I kind of liked that drawing.
The Dana and Zeta stories have a very different feel from the rest of Narbonic. It’s like a different strip, at least until the characters start crossing paths later on. Zeta is so disaffected at this point that it’s hard to play her off the other characters, although her rapport with Dana isn’t too bad. Strangely, my sometime collaborator Jeffrey Wells is very fond of these segments and used to write me little fanfics about Dana.
I brought back the hippie just because Andrew liked him. As I said last time, I think the lobotomized hippie is Andrew’s favorite character in Narbonic.
“The right spark” was a little nod to Girl Genius, which at the time was about a year old and still a print comic.
Dana’s brainpower engine ended up playing a fairly major role in the final story arc of Narbonic. I went through tons of drafts of the final arc over the years. At one point it was set in the Nevada desert and Dana’s device, abandoned at Burning Man and reconstructed by someone or other, was the central element. When I moved the setting to a more appropriate Arctic locale, I developed a plot around Professor Madblood and dropped the brainpower engine entirely. When, at last, the time came to do the final arc, I put it back in after all.
Also, at one point I was going to do the final arc as a Choose Your Own Adventure story. If only I were as clever as Jason Shiga, I’d have gone through with it.