Island of the Ur-Gerbils: June 3-8, 2002

I like the ur-gerbil popping out of the giant burrow in the middle panel. On an unrelated note, sometimes I drew Helen’s boobs really big in this outfit.

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When I read desert-island stories, I always want the characters to stay on the island at the end. Even if it’s like Lord of the Flies or Island of Doctor Moreau or something. Yeah, there are bands of roving killer mutants, but think of the white-sand beaches! So I had my characters decide to stay on their island. Like Helen says, it’s a major upgrade from a real estate standpoint.

I like Helen standing on the beach in the first panel, and the weird abstracted sun. Given my artistic limitations at the time, I ended up drawing some halfway decent tropical scenery for this storyline.

Yes, this strip is very silly. In reality, Dave would also demand Internet access. I do like the generic symbol for “cigarettes” stamped on the side of the crate. Also that tree shaped like a giant pineapple.

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Oh, Helen. You know being stranded on a desert island with Dave is AWESOME.

This was one of the first strips I wrote for this storyline, and I still like it pretty well. I put a lot of effort into drawing the first panel. Check out that sweet palm tree!

Artie’s fears are, as it turns out, well founded. This was another one of the early strips I wrote for this storyline, and this sequence is pretty much built around it. It’s nice when Dave comes out ahead once in a while, or at least convinces himself that he has.

This is also, I think, the only time I ever drew Artie’s eyes as they appear in the third panel. I drew him like that in the thumbnail and liked it so much that I drew him the same way in the final.

I never seriously considered ending the strip here or anything. I just thought it would be fun to give the characters a happy ending midway through the story. And I did think this was the midpoint; I originally imagined that Narbonic would run for five years, tops. It ended up running for six and a half.

To make this a proper “final” strip, I tried to do a nice job on the art. Again, my abilities at this point were limited, but at least I drew in a lot of flowers and stuff.

Helen and Dave make, if I do say so myself, a really cute couple in this strip. Nonetheless, surely it has occurred to Dave that the killings and mutations will resume the moment Helen gets a proper lab set up on the island.

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55 thoughts on “Island of the Ur-Gerbils: June 3-8, 2002

  1. Unrelated? Are you sure? Anyway, those things hanging from Helen’s ears look improbably sharp!

  2. Monday:

    A few steps, and they’re out of the jungle and into subtropical savannah. Rather than African big cats, the cast of Narbonic have the much less dignified company of big rodents. Their packs are not so much prides as conceits.

    Today’s tenuously related talking point: double question-marks. If you think about it, aren’t they functionally identical to the question-exclamation combo?!

    • I was thinking the same about Mell… which makes me think of Artie Feldman in Young Frankenstein: “You get the blonde, and I’ll take the one in the turban!” (Only in our case, it’s “You take the blonde, and I’ll get the one with the BFG fetish!” -_^)

  3. Dave IS a guinea pig. I knew there was some reason for my feelings of affinity towards him. He’s somewhat guinea-pig-like in general build, anyway.

  4. I don’t begin to know how to typeset this, but years ago I saw an article proposing the “whizbang,” an exclamation point superimposed on a question mark, as an official addition to the punctuation available in standard English.  The author made a good case, as I recall.

    Leon, I see “??” as being more an expression of surprise and puzzlement, and “?!” as being associated with more active doubt.  One is “Huh?” and the other is “Really?  You sure about that?”  That’s how I think of them when I use them while grading students’ papers, anyway.

  5. Eric–thanks!  I really enjoyed the article.  I use the interrobang when I feel it’s warranted, even in typed communication, by going to the trouble of superimposing the symbols in the word processing program–but until there’s a key for it on the keyboard I don’t consider it to have really won the status it deserves.  I think we need this symbol to be official.

  6. Interestingly, Spanish uses punctuation at the beginning and the end of a sentence:

    ?Aye caramba! or ?Que dice?

    The interesting thing is that this ?Y t? qui?n te crees que eres? is proper in formal written spanish.  Which means that those crazy Spaniards have out grammared the interribang.

  7. Interrobang‽(Although, while I like the idea of the interrobang as a unitary symbol enough to have customized my keyboard to allow me to type it, typographically it kind of sucks. It generally just comes across as a deformed question mark.)

  8. For the curious, ‽ can be made on anything that reads HTML properly. & then #8253 then ; with no spaces in between.

  9. I imagine Homer Simpson and Chief Wiggam stranded in the desert, half-mad with thirst, staring mindlessly into a sun like that – Doughhhnutsss… Doughhhnutsss…

  10. So it: Like a sedan chair, not like rubbish. Think four-footed-Popemobile.

    And to all of you youngsters, this is your generation’s Nixon vs. Kennedy election. Make the best of these times. Build what you can while you can. Focus that creative energy while it lasts. Remember what Hunter S. Thompson wrote: And that, I think, was the handle – -that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark – that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.

  11. (TUNE: “Leaving On A Jet Plane” by John Denver)

    Oh, the exiled Daves, they are no more,
    We’re stranded here on this far shore;
    I must admit, the beach is kinda nice …
    We’ve got food and drink, and sun and sand,
    Gerbils who obey my least command;
    It’s like a little bit of Paradise!

      So worship and carry me!
      Sing for me this parody!
      Enemies won’t find us here, I hope!
      We’re staying On the island!
      I claim it, now it’s my land!
      Poor Dave, you’ll have to cope …

    Helen says, “Ur-gerbils, call me Mother!
    Artie says, “Ur-gerbils, Dave’s your brother!”
    Dave’s forced to live in tropic greenery!
    But with two hot ladies, barely clad,
    Though one is violent, and one is mad,
    He still appreciates the scenery!


    Now, compared to our old dismal hole,
    On this sunny shore where we now stroll,
    Dave just might learn to live without regrets …
    Just needs one more thing — (Now here I slip
    A spoiler for tomorrow’s strip) —
    A great big freakin’ crate of cigarettes!


  12. (And yes, I know Peter, Paul and Mary had the #1 hit with this song, but it was originally written by John Denver.)

  13. Tuesday:

    David, you have every reason to willingly remain on the island. Your name is gone, and with it your respect among greater humanity. Mell’s more an invincible elemental force than a rational human, so she has no reason to leave either.

    I guess Helen’s only imaginable regret is that she isn’t standing on the shores of the last habitable land mass, far from the death-screams of civilisation. But, maybe this soft sand and pure sunlight will diminish those vile urges, as memories of the outer world gently fade away…

  14. I think it is a mark of how great this strip is that the statement “This island is beautiful, and my gerbils are here” is not only coherent but actually convincing.

  15. Dov: Yeah, I’m sure. Unless Helen plans on giving birth to ur-gerbils, which isn’t likely. Although… she might be planning on Dave giving birth to ur-gerbils.

  16. Am I the only one who finds the way Helen’s skirt hugs her hips in the first panel kind of sexy?

  17. in real– uh, narbonality, dave would probably snap sooner or later and create internet access from a coconut.

  18. Wednesday:

    I find it a bit hard to believe that Dave still possesses the ability to light that cigarette. Crates of cigarettes and not one lighter – wouldn’t that be a Twilight Zone Twist?

    A Mr. Rob McCarthy once proposed, as an alternative bribe for the non-smoking bizarro-universe David, a magic cave that grants wishes. Personally, I prefer my explanation, which is that the island is actually the sublimated dream-world of a giant slumbering dragon, keep forever asleep by 7 magic needles, and a series of inward-flowing tides and uni-directional reefs make all forms of non-motorised water-borne escape impossible unless you travel at a compass bearing of 325. Confronted by all of those restrictions, David would feel that trying to leave would be the height of rudeness.

  19. There could be any number of ignition sources in the ruins of the Prison of Davids. There could easily be Davids over 40 who left behind reading glasses with convex lenses that could light the cigarette with focused sunlight. (Our Dave is nearsighted, so his lenses would be concave.)

  20. For that matter, it’s possible that one of the former exiled Daves had something like … I don’t know … a cigarette lighter on him?? 

    You know that it would be unfair …
    You know that it would be so cruel …
    If Dave had tons of cigarettes
    But then ran out of Zippo fuel!

    Come on baby, light my smokes;
    Still, no Mountain Dews or Cokes …
    It’s so nice of all you folks
    To tolerate my sh***y jokes …

    (TUNE: “Light My Fire” by The Doors)

  21. It always seemed to me Dave’s cigarrettes spontaneously lighted.  His mojo was fulfilled simply by having one, so since it was there anyway, it obliged to be burned rather than chewed.


    There was the early incident where his cigarrette was extinguished by a water pistol, however.

  22. Pete–I must have those alphabet blocks for the little mad scientist I’m currently gestating!  Thanks so much for posting that link.

  23. I prefer Andrew’s continuity patch. I mean, look at what Helen’s wearing. Why should Dave want to leave the island?

    (Yeah, no Internet access. But look at what Helen’s wearing!)

    IIRC, in a couple days, Dave explains his reasons for putting up a show of resistance. 

  24. I LOVE the mad scientist alphabet blocks! Nifty!

    And the ur-gerbils are adorable, as always. 

  25. I’ve always assumed several places where the cigarettes play a role (here, Doppleganger Gambit, probably others) they are replaced by Mountain Dew in post smoking continuity.

  26. Thursday:

    Every so often we get that beautiful variety of punchline that is as cute as it is awkward. I love it, and it isn’t even that funny!

    (But I still find it a bit hard to believe that this sort of conversation could ever happen in reality.)

    That palm tree isn’t what you should be gawking. Look at that butterfly! Insanity.

  27. I agree with Leon’s last line.  Looks like a cross between a Mourning Cloak and Elvis’ hair.

    (TUNE: “Dog And Butterfly” by Heart)

    See the Elvis Butterfly,
    Those crazy wings can barely fly.
    Elvis Butterfly,
    Of order Lepidopterii …
    You flit and land
    On the warm soft sand
    Product of mad sci … crazy mad sci …
    Elvis Butterfly!

  28. (But I still find it a bit hard to believe that this sort of conversation could ever happen in reality.)

    You haven’t met me and my lady friends. When we’re stranded on a desert island. And drunk.

    Obviously, what I like best about this strip is the idea of Helen and Mell deliberately causing shipwrecks, probably with a complicated device made out of coconuts and bamboo, in the hopes of stranding hot sailors. They would do this.

  29. How soon did you decide just how clever Dave actually was?

    Around this time. I’ll have to discuss that in more detail later.

  30. “I’ll just have to cope with living on a tropical island with two scantily-clad women … who would cheerfully rip out my internal organs to build a still so they can have daquiris.”  Kindofa mixed blessing donchathink?

  31. Aaaand just when his intelligence is shining through, we happen to be getting a glimpse of Dave’s eyes around the side of his glasses…

  32. Speaking of Br’er Narbon, if you google “song of the south DVD” there are apparently some copies available now. It just might be your chance to see what people’s problem is with it. (Best I can tell is that it’s “offensive” because the people with different skin colors mostly get along with each other.)

    And for those of you who read The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and wondered about The Reverend Dr. Syn in the portraint of “presumably previous members”, Disney is about to re-release The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh with Patrick McGoohan. Personally, I’ve been waiting for that for decades!! Woot!

  33. Actually the problems with Song of the South have been edited out of the recent release. The original release had some terribly offensive racial stereotypes in a few scenes, you can probably look ’em up on YouTube.

     Also, I would not mind being in Dave’s presumed position at ALL.

  34. (TUNE: “The End” by The Beatles) (How appropriate.)

    … and in the end,
    The lab you build
    Is admin’d by the Dave
    You killed …

  35. You forgot the beginning! Something like,

    Oh my, oh me!

    Are we gonna stay on this is-

    land indefinitely?

    You have to sing the last bit kind of fast. 

  36. I love that [SPOIILERS AND STUFF] the story actually ends with Dave and Helen walking side by side down the same beach.

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