Dave’s Dead, Dave: June 4-9, 2001

Once, when my mother was visiting me out here in California, we spotted the actress who plays Felicia at a restaurant in Monterey. My mother had severely mixed feelings about it, because she hates Felicia. Hates her hates her hates her. I took a lot of agonized phone calls on the subject when Luke and Felicia hooked up.

My mother’s been a loyal “General Hospital” viewer since she was in high school, so I had to give it a nod. The other good thing in this strip is the angry yelling Helen in the first panel. Helen’s head is way too big for her body in panel 3.

I don’t know what the hell Helen is holding in the second panel, but it actually came out looking pretty cool. I like that it apparently hooks into a Ghostbusters-style power backpack with an antenna sticking out.

Otherwise, this strip is mostly just exposition to get Dr. Narbon out of the lab. She’ll be back by the end of the week, natch. I like that she’s still gripping her glass of pink wine as she stands on the vaguely-defined lawn area surrounding the Narbonics Labs elevator.

Heck, I still like this one. It sums up pretty much everything you need to know about Dr. Narbon. And I like that “killing at random” ranks high on the list of problems Helen has with her mother. I’ve been there.

I know I keep harping on this, but I need to draw some backgrounds pronto. Helen’s just wandering around in a white void, encountering the occasional sofa or death ray.

I don’t think Mell breaks the fourth wall as often as the other characters, and when she does it’s usually to confirm that everyone loves her and thinks she’s cute. At least she’s got a healthy ego.

And of course she didn’t get killed by Dr. Narbon. Nothing really bad ever happens to Mell, because it’s funnier that way. Much, much later she gets assumed into Heaven, which really isn’t the same thing at all.

Defibrillators: a comedy staple for some reason. Also, Helen’s got something tied to her head in the first panel that disappears in the next panels. Go figure.

Mell’s line in the first panel suggests that her callous attitude in the previous strips was partly due to being in denial that Dave was really dead. It’d be nice to believe that of her. Anyway, given the frequency with which the main cast of Narbonic survives fatal situations and/or returns from the dead none the worse for wear, Mell’s skepticism here is well-founded. It’s like “General Hospital” over there.

Some halfway decent figure doodling here. I tried to give the characters different body types, because I hate it when characters in a comic all look the same except for their hairdos, and you can see the difference between Helen and Mell pretty clearly here.

P.S. Still looking at Dave’s butt.

This strip actually looks pretty good! There’s a vague attempt at a background, I did an okay one-quarter view of Helen in the second panel (although I still haven’t figured out how her hair works), and her pose and expression in the third panel are just about perfect. It’s still really crude, of course, but it’s not totally hideous, so I’m clearly making progress. Which is good, since I’d been drawing the strip for almost a year at this point.

48 thoughts on “Dave’s Dead, Dave: June 4-9, 2001

  1. Monday’s Comic: Mesmerised by TV? Oh yes.

    Poor, poor Helen. Doesn’t she realise she’s ordering around a killer? One that might still be on the lookout for matching organs? She could wake up next episode with her head grafted onto Mell’s right shoulder.

    Today’s Lesson Learned: Inward-leaning pupils are actually pretty effective at conveying anger.

  2. Hmm. Unfortunately Helen’s glasses’ lenses in the first panel are oval, not rectangular.

  3. How about the fact that in the last panel, the final letter on Helen’s shirt is obscured by her hair, and the crease between her right arm and body looks like a lower-case “L”, making it look as though her shirt reads “levi”.  Is this a Biblical reference, or product placement?  One wonders … but the rest of us don’t.

  4. I wear rectangular glasses, so I just took them off & held them up to check.  If tilted way back and rotated such that an outside bottom corner is nearest the viewer, they look pretty close to how Helen’s glasses are drawn in the first panel (curvature of the lens is part of it).  Especially if I close one eye to eliminate depth perception.

    I love her tantrum face in that first panel–she looks great!

  5. I figure, if you hate a character, hate her hate her hate her, then the actress is doing a good job. Consider Frank Burns: You never, ever hear anyone say “boy, I never liked Larry Linville”, right? It’s always “I never liked Frank Burns”. Ergo, Larry Linville was a good (nay, great) actor.

  6. The sun looks like a lion–I say this with the utmost respect and affection. (Also, that should be a song lyric.)

    On a more general note, this strip cracks me up. I think the punchline(s) are adorable.

  7. Tuesday’s Comic: Best Narbonic second panel ever? (Hmm… nah.)

    The best kinds of Gilligan Cut are the ones where it halfway implies that the victim character has actually skipped through time during the cut-to – usually by having said victim finish their own sentence instead of just echoing it.

  8. Hey, Leon?
    You’ve been assuming that Narbonic storylines are set on the day of the first strip.
    Well, this storyline began on-
    -3 Jan. 2001, yes.
    So, shouldn’t there be snow on the ground?

    -Now that you mention it, Professor Madblood and the Crystal of Marinia ran from November 20 to New Year’s, and it wasn’t snowing there either, even though there really ought to have been. Huh.
    It’s all the cartoonist’s fault.
    -It’s all the doomsday weather machine’s fault!

  9. So… our resident Narbonic history expert happens to have dissociative personality disorder and/or schizophrenia.

    Admit it, who saw this coming?

  10. It’s a pity Artie turned out to be a pacifist… I’m imagining him as high gunner, in a little chair behind those top two barrels of the “polygun”


  11. How in the heck did Mell not steal that polygun and hide it in her Stash of Humongous Weaponry ™? 

    Also, in panel 3 the sun looks like it’s surrounded by the Giant Rotating Saw Blade ™ from the old lab.

    Today’s comment brought to you by Trade Mark ™, the Official Trade Mark Of Sleep-Deprived Engineers.

  12. “How in the heck did Mell not steal that polygun and hide it in her Stash of Humongous Weaponry ™?” 

    How do you know she didn’t?

  13. We might just take the absense of snow as a clue that the series’ unspecified location is on the west coast.

  14. How in the heck did Mell not steal that polygun and hide it in her Stash of Humongous Weaponry ™? 

    Since I never bothered to draw it again, it’s entirely possible that she did.

  15. It’s probably a geomagnetic ray. Weird mad scientist ray guns are always geomagnetic rays.

    (A Miracle Of Science had some awesome geomagnetic rays. Also, read it, if you haven’t already.) 

  16. Wednesday’s Comic: My favourite deconstruction of the aforementioned “paper-white void” trope is the theory that webcomic and newspaper comic backgrounds are filled with the dreaded Campos Fog.

  17. I prefer to think that Helen *is* standing in front of something.  It’s the giant stainless-steel side panel of the Clon-o-mat-o-poeia, which produces both genetic duplicates *and* amusing sound effects … she had just finished it and was ready for Dave to start the software beta-test (Beta-test … get it? Get it?) when her mom had to go kill the software guy and throw off the whole development schedule.  Now how is she going to get her line of Gerald McBoingBoing clones into the stores in time for the holiday season?

  18. When you have a death ray within Mell’s perceptual range, you tend to run low on other scenery pretty quickly.

  19. David Harmon (mental_mouse) says: Well, does the background matter to most of this strip?  Helen is wandering in a funk, Dr. N is outside, evidenced by a hedge.  It’s enough…  Alternatively you might consider that Dave got a lot of the cleanup work when they moved in… he probably just figured “hey, it’s a lab” and painted all the walls white.

  20. Meh, the only complaint I ever had with your comic is the haphazard way you broke the fourth wall. Sorry to say it.

    Sometimes, it seemed like you couldn’t think of a punchline, so it became, “Hey, readers! I’m a character in a comic strip! WACKY!!!”

    Apart from that, Narbonic is the bestest comic evar! 🙂

  21. Thursday’s Comic: In my distorted opinion, such comedy fallbacks as personality sprites and fourth-wall dialogue are almost defining aspects of the “teenage fantasy strip” genre (which Narbonic, by virtue of its parentage, cannot help but take part in). But in recent years that genre has seemingly fallen from grace, and with it the fourth-wall gag has come to be seen as a relic of a younger, much sillier time.

    Fourth-wall dialogue: 14.

  22. Nothing really bad ever happens to Mell, because it’s funnier that way.

    In one sense I understand the necessity of keeping Mell unharmed, because if her character has any purpose at all (which I have in the past presumptuously doubted), it is to serve as a ‘locus of comedy’ – a protective pane that, once broken, admits the passage of much colder subject matter into the world.

    But! I still question the extension of the Mell Invincibility Law to much lighter and even less natural predicaments. On every occasion when something fantastical and unpleasant happened to Helen in lieu of Dave, it was hilarious (and possibly cathartic). Considering the number of absurd terrors that befall Dave in his forthcoming metempsychosis, the possibility of Mell suffering the indignity of becoming not alive should not be so easily dismissed!

  23. I’ve always felt that Mel was a cartoon character to the other characters. After all she is the only one for which “mallets happen” a sure sign of  deep esential cartoonhood.



  24. As a dime-a-dozen computer guy, I am deeply offended.

    Also, in the last panel, Helen is gesturing with what looks like a giant foam finger growing out of her kidneys.

  25. It seems to me that Helen herself recognizes Mell’s invincibility; note how when she does need to stop her, she tries to send a seducer.  (Doesn’t exactly work out, but….) 

    And then there’s that whole “wild girl” phase….

  26. Oh yeah, and when she’s hunting Dave, he doesn’t even bother to “kill her back”, he just slaps up a force field.

  27. There there shaenon. “Saturday Night Live” made a lot of money on breaking the fourth wall so it can’t be wrong. That’s the American way.


  28. I have a philosophical problem regarding 4th-wall breaking.  Namely, I do it in real life.  That is, I’ve been known to make comments to an imaginary audience for humor value.

    <><>I’ve tried the “knocking on the pane” gag, but it doesn’t work.  There is no fourth wall for me to break.  I’m just an idiot.

    <>Now,  if I were to write a character into a comic based on myself, and he made the same comments I do, would he be breaking the fourth wall, or just displaying a character trait of pretending he was?


  29. Friday’s Comic: Defibrillator pads connected to Pong machine: check. Crazy-eyed accelerated animal face: check.

    Something I was going to mention yesterday before I got (ahem) carried away is that Mell’s hair, despite being patently asymmetrical (or, for lack of a more pretentious word, “chiral”), regularly performs parity-inverting horizontal flips whenever she turns her head. Observe: Mell’s chitinous locks switch places between panels three and four.

    Super Silent Penultimate Panel Bros.: 5.

  30. That thing in her hair looks like a pair of safety goggles, she probly just took them off in between panels. 

  31. Mell’s hair is starting to show its later gravity-defying properties, bit by bit.  Has she been using the Victorian antigravity machine as a hair dryer or what?

  32. Different body shapes = The Win. In my book, it’s the mark of an artist who gives a damn.


    And Leon: Astro Boy’s “hair” used to do the same thing, as did Mickey Mouse’s ears. Consider it grounding in the cartoon universe, and with great precedent.

  33. And we’re now within a couple of months before the end of the first collection… which I now know, because I just received all four volumes-so-far, woo-hoo!  (requested B-day present)

    I dunno that I’d figure Mel’s locks as “chitinous” (that would attract undue attention in her classes!) — I’ve been assuming they were “white-girl’s dreads”, as she’s a reasonable age for that.



  34. okay, I signed up just so I could comment on Helen’s statement,”I built a very effective death ray.” Helen could have invented a very effective death gerbil, but we know who really built a very effective deathray.

  35. Hoist by his own petard!

    Killed by his own petard?

    Hung up by his figgin?

    Sorta… lost my train of thought there. 

  36. Saturday’s Comic: Don’t you just love self-aware relationship jokes like these?

    Hey, where did that big defensive wall come from? That wasn’t there four days ago.

    Hey again: where and what are those elevator doors sliding into?

  37. But why is Helen mucking about making nice with her mother for a timemachine? She has everything she needs: cloning technology and brainscans of Dave. She could even fiddle a few genes: take away thatnasty addiction propensity, reduce his future male pattern baldness,things like that.

    She has the technology… she could make him… better, faster,stronger…”
    Jude McLaughlin, 15 June 2001.

  38. The elevator shaft is actually cylindrical.  The doors just rotate back.  It only *looks* rectangular in some views because of an optical illusion.  You know the old drawing of the weird-looking bracket where three round rods turn into two square rods?  Someone just found a practical application for that technology.

    Helen’s elevator is manufactured by the Optical Elation Corp. of Upper Sandusky, OH, Fine Purveyors Of Weird $#@! To The Mad Scientific Community Since 1927 — “We Build For Those Who’ve Killed”.


  39. In the final frame Dr. Narbon’s face in pretty expresive considering that 4/5’s of it is glasses. The mouth does all the work and deos it well.

    “big powerful ears” I didn’t have a reason to say that but it WAS fun.



  40. [i]Leon said: “Hey, where did that big defensive wall come from?”[/i] Isn’t the lab on a median strip? That’s not a wall, its the other lanes of the highway.

  41. Note that the arrow-halves on the door panels still take up the same relative amount of them when they’re open as they do when they’re closed; they don’t disappear back into the walls or wherever.

    The doors aren’t sliding back into anything. They’re shrinking horizontally. They might be some sort of high-tech morphing metal, or possibly they distort space-time around them. In any case, I blame Dave.

    After all, he can’t defend himself; he’s dead.

    • It’s true; whichever side of Mell’s face is toward the viewer has two parallel vertical dreadlocks, while the side facing away has the single geniculate lock. I can envision her turning her head back and forth, causing the dreads to alternately rise and fall as the little cams in her cheeks operate.
    • The elevator enclosure is rectangular, while the elevator doors and shaft are cylindrical. Anyone should be able to see that; it’s as clear as Dr. Narbon’s glasses.

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