Professor Madblood and the Doppelganger Gambit: June 30 – July 5, 2003

The art in this strip still looks pretty good, especially the first panel. Normally, in a scene like this, you want the character to run from left to right, the same direction the reader’s eye moves, but I had Dave running from right to left to slow down the eye and give the impression that he’s not running very fast.

This strip contains many devices of unknown origin and purpose.

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In the second panel, Madblood says, “Free me!” In the third panel, he says, “Drat.”

Anyway, it’s nice of the computer to unlock Madblood’s cell for him. This comes up from time to time in their relationship, but I don’t think she dislikes him as much as she lets on. Then again, she’s mostly doing it because Dave asked her to.

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Yes, this strip is important as the first time Dave uses the L word about Helen, but all I can think about is that I drew his head WAY too small in the third panel. Man, that’s annoying. You have to understand, it looked great in the thumbnail.

So, yeah. Dave’s in love. But his head’s freakishly small. Such is life.

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I just had Mell use “ruddy” in the Victorian serial on Sunday. I was really on a kick with that word. Okay, whatever.

That first panel is pretty boss.

Helen’s line in the last panel is a very oblique reference to Do Peterson’s musical dissertation, in which he sings about the recurrence risk ratio for genetic disease in sibling pairs. Yes, I misspelled “recurrence.”

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Dave’s line in the third panel is yet another candidate for the coveted Most Obscure Reference in Narbonic title. It’s a veiled reference to John M. Ford’s “Star Trek” novel How Much for Just the Planet?, in which a starship’s escape pod gets filled with milkshake. I’m sorry, that was way too obscure.

I really like the way the last panel came out. Apparently an exploding moonbase goes “poom.”

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At the time, I hadn’t decided on a location for Madblood’s next lair. I really wanted to do a storyline set in an underwater base, but I never got around to it, although I did have Madblood tool around in a little submarine for a while. Anyway, Madblood does end up following through on one of these ideas.

And that’s it for the moon. Goodnight, moon.

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53 thoughts on “Professor Madblood and the Doppelganger Gambit: June 30 – July 5, 2003

  1. Monday:

    I’m struggling to avoid becoming exasperated with this, the lastest in Mell’s story-long chain of completely undeserved escapes from responsiblity and inconvenience. Curse that girl, and curse the gods that have placed such great charms on the life of such a feckless creature!!

  2. A hypothetical question:  What if Madblood hadn’t been released?  Would the A.I. launch herself away from the explosion and return to Earth? [[SPOILER]] Would she be emancipated three years sooner than the current storyline has her being?[[END SPOILER]]

    Would she require assistance from a certain underfunded government agency?  Or would she find a way to support herself without federal aid?  Note that this strip was originally published in June 2003 … and “Nerdrotica” went online in June 2004.  Coincidence??

  3. Wouldn’t running in the opposite direction of the eye’s movement make it seem like he’s running twice as fast? Like cars on the highway?

  4. Tuesday:

    My goodness, the second panel is comedy gold. First is the ridiculously undignified and cognitively complex vocal protocol suggested by Computer, followed by Madblood’s instant and flawless application of said protocol, culminating in the sheer ludicrousity of both of them partaking in such an inefficient activity when a huge bomb is about to go off.

  5. (TUNE: “On A Wonderful Day Like Today”, Leslie Bricusse & Anthony Newley)

    Oh, you Unix-based mock’ry of life!
    Oh, you weak simulation of sen-ti-ent thought!
    My situation with peril is fraught!
    Oh, you Unix-based mock’ry of life!

    Oh, you pale imitation of wit!
    Now you’re making me grunt a request to be freed!
    Giving no help in my moment of need,
    Oh you make me so mad I could spit!

    What a pickle I’m in!  One more min-ute to blow up!
    I’m so full of anger and bile!
    What a bad day I’ve had!  I’m so mad I could throw up!
    Without delay, I’ll hop away,
    Though this could take a while …

    Though the imminent danger is rife,
    I will make my escape, and then I will rebuild!
    (Though I suspect that my Mom won’t be thrilled …
    She’ll say, “Why don’t you just build a wife?”)
    Oh, you Unix-based mock’ry … of life!

  6. This falls in line with my theory that small-headed people are the lovers, and thus, the breeders.  Check appendix B for further notes on the subject.

  7. “The real comedy is that he takes the time to grunt “drat.””
    You mean you expected all of your readers to decode all that?

  8. Wednesday:

    What I want to know is what kind of bizarre prancing stride Dave is frenetically engaged in.

    Dave’s morality is eroding by the day. Just two days ago he was trying to save Madblood out of down-to-Earth compassion and mutual respect. Now it turns out he only rescued his romantic rival so that Helen still has the man she seemingly loves over him?! …While that’s actually amazingly self-sacrificing, it is still inarguably a step down from true ethical principles!

  9. (TUNE:  “Running On Empty”, Jackson Browne)

    Running ’round like a nut, as I head down this hall!
    In a panic, I can’t think straight (’cause my head’s a little small)!
    In twenty seconds we’re gonna die, and it isn’t any fun!
    Gotta get to the woman I love, now, I gotta run …

    (Gotta run) Running for safety!
    (Gotta run) To the pod!
    (Gotta run) Now I’m running like heck,
    Though my stride’s a bit odd!

  10. @Leon: Panel 1 is a perfect Don Martin run.  All he needs are the shoes that flop over at the toes.

    And ethical principles are the first thing you lose when you become a henchman to a Mad Scientist.  Well, and your spleen.

  11. So if Artie is running from the pod, and Dave is running towards it when they meet, why the heck does Dave turn around?

  12. Usage mnemonic to the word ‘ruddy’: You are very ruddy when you are in the nuddy!

    Just thought I’d put that out there.

  13. Thursday:

    Does a tense three-way escape scene really need a punchline? Surely the sheer pulse-pounding thrills are sufficient?

    The robots don’t actually need to speak to each other, let alone gesture, but I suppose the only logical alternative to that panel – rows and rows of Madbloods marching aboard spacebeans inscribed with the Madblood family insignia – would be a bit hard to make out.

    Fourth-wall fourth-panels: 40.

  14. (TUNE: “London Bridge Is Falling Down”, traditional)

    Robots, there’s no time for mirth!
    Get aboard!  Find your berth!
    Soon we’re zooming back to Earth,

    Madblood’s cursing like a Brit!
    Hopping it!  What a git!
    He’s about to have a fit,
    Bad mood chronic!

    Artie just got back his bod!
    This looks odd; omigod!
    Dave can’t find the stupid pod!
    How moronic!

    Meanwhile, Helen’s bright and brisk!
    Storing on … floppy disk,
    Ratio of recurrence risk!

  15. The first panel reminds me so much of that Spanish Civil War era poster – the Republican one, about the defense of Madrid – Stylized bayonets holding the Fascist forces at bay in the air!

  16. Not just any milkshake, though! IIRC, it was a strawberry-mint Vulcan protein shake.


    I need to read HMfJtP again.

  17. Actually, Madblood designed the self-destruct mechanism to involve fireworks in the shape of onomatopoetic letters, for the simple reason that otherwise nobody would know what sound it would make if it weren’t in a vacuum.

  18. A classic Star Trek novel! Possibly better than the Troble With Tribbles from the actual series. 🙂

     Too bad the natives forgot to allow for the communications officers on both ships… well, communicating!


    The Auld Grump

  19. I always thought the “old milk” thing was a reference to putting the stick of a firework in a milk bottle.

  20. Friday:

    That whimsical vapour trail is a surprisingly Seussian touch for this comic. But, I’m sure there definitely wasn’t time to equip seatbelts or safety padding in that escape pod, so I’m afraid that this is the end of Dave and Artie, boys and girls. From here on it’s an all-female cast until the end.

    Looking again at that trail, one is awfully hard-pressed to figure out exactly when the explosion occurred in relation to the pod.

  21. The fourth panel was made possible by a grant from the Don Martin Memorial Onomatopoetic Society.



  22. Best Star Trek Novel EVAR. That it was never chosen to be made into a movie is such a crime. 

    (I mean, geeze – having both a “Dilithium… And YOU!” filmstrip and SEVERAL musical sequences – how could you NOT film that?) 

  23. All these years I thought “old milk” was the smell of a startled, stressed gerbil. After all, that’s what a startled baby human’s diaper smells like.

    Sound effects in space are a little more complicated than “don’t happen”. If you were floating in space above in the moonbase, and weren’t deaf, you would hear something. The explosion is a cloud of rapidly-expanded gasses (mixed with recently re-particulated moonbase components, which we’ll ignore). The propagation of these gases towards the observer is not mitigated by an atmosphere the way it would be on Earth, so they would arrive at the observer at full speed (minus the effect of lunar gravity). As the molecules of these gasses hit your spacesuit, they would both push you way (like an artificial wind) and making a mechanical noise against the suit that you would hear as the air in your suit transmitted those mechanical vibrations to your ears.  Similarly, you would not hear the escape pod approaching you, but if it flew past you (and assuming it’s powered by expelling gasses instead of aetherical traction), you would hear the sound of the expanding gas wake striking your suit – much as the wake of a boat rocks the boats it passes.


  24. Okay, that’s officially too obscure because I missed it and do you have any idea HOW MANY TIMES I read that book??  Hell, I taught my sister to READ from How Much for Just the Planet.  (Among other books.)  I figured the begining chapter about the blue orange juice was appropriate to a toddler.

  25. …and I think I need to reread that book now.  Which might mean I might need to buy a new copy ’cause my old one is loooooong mising.

    Darn you Shaenon!

  26. Let me just second Muppet K here – that’s one of my most-read books, and I still missed this one.  Love that book, love the reference here.

    I think there’s another webcomic reference to HMFJTP – “there is a certain inalienable logic to that position” – (see the page before for context).



  27. No, no, no.  I think we’re all missing the point here.  The point is that the last panel has a grey fill, and yet Shaenon “really like[s] the way the last panel came out.”  Shaenon likes a panel with a grey fill.  This is freakin’ history we’re seeing here.

  28. I’m with Tiff and Andrew.  I loved that book (as well as Ford’s The Final Reflection) and I still missed the joke.  In fact, I interpreted it exactly as Tiff did.  (Maybe I’ve changed too many diapers.)

    I’m almost empted to put my copy of HMFJTP up on e-bay and see how much I can get for it now that Shaenon’s gotten everyone pumped up about it…

    (Except that I never get rid of books.)

  29. (TUNE: “Levon”, Elton John)

    Madblood has a dream, to rule the Earth!
    His base is on the Moon!
    He’s planning world-wide conquest,
    And he’s gonna be God-Emperor soon!

    Madblood, Madblood likes his robots!
    He built up quite a few!
    And when he tells them, “Kill stuff!”,
    Not surprising, that’s exactly what they do!

    He was born by accident, it seems, in suburbia,
    When the Journal of Malology stated, “Holy cow!
    Felix Madblood had sired a son, somehow!”

    And he shall be Lupin!
    And he shall be a bad man!
    And he shall be evil,
    And he’ll have a diabolic plan!
    And his mom, you know, had
    To suspect he’d go mad …
    He’s … a … true … Mad-blood!

  30. In regards to the path of the escape pod – I suspect two things:

    1. It is a low thrust pod – not too muchgetting mashed flat by the acceleration there….

    2. The path is that chosen by Dave to get a good look at the nifty explosion and resulting cloud of dust rising from the surface.

    The Auld Grump

  31. Saturday:

    Hmmm… Madblood’s orbital defense satellites are still there, aren’t they? …No, wait, he blew them up with his UFO’s weapon. But now Lupin isn’t feeling motivated to take a few potshots at his departing droid deserters? He must be quite deflated if high-energy vaccuum violence isn’t appealing.

  32. @Leon – it seems likely to me that Madblood’s just following standard mad scientist protocol there. After all, when your base gets blown up by the usual group of Heroes, one doesn’t just shoot them in the backs after being defeated. That’s just not cricket.

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