This is one of my favorite weeks of Narbonic, either because of or in spite of the fact that large chunks of it were written by someone else. It still continues to crack me up that I worked a musical number into the strip.
You don’t often see Dave’s eyes over the top of his glasses, because his glasses are enormous, but I think he looks cute this way.
At the time of the Battle Anthem Contest, I’d exchanged emails with Jeffrey Wells on and off. His long-running online story Mundementia One shared certain character and thematic elements with Narbonic (but featured more lemurs), something we found mutually fascinating. I enjoyed Jeffrey’s writing a lot, and then there was this contest, and he sent me a battle anthem which was both brilliant and perfect for my purposes. So here we are.
Six years down the line, this has somehow led us to collaborating on another webcomic, which also contains very few lemurs. It is funny how fate takes its cut.
One of the highlights of the first Narbonicon was Jeffrey singing the Madblood Battle Anthem in his very Madblood-like baritone. I have an MP3 of it somewhere, but I can’t find it right now, sorry.
Update: Valerie Kaplan has provided me with the MP3 of the Battle Anthem! You can listen to it here.
Jeffrey had “steely heart” in the original. I deliberately mucked it up.
Why didn’t I write my own battle anthem? Well, for one thing, I’m very lazy. Also, I’m not very good at writing song lyrics. If you’re morbidly curious about what my poetry looks like, you’re in luck, because while I was clearing out my closet last month I found a set of Narbonic poems I wrote around 2002. This one is after the style of Walt Kelly’s Pogo poems, although the meter reminds me of that earworm jingle from Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man. Tenser, said the tensor!
Song of the Evil Laboratory
Let us juggle the genetic
With frenetic fancy free
For mutations have magnetic
Magic, merry, gloppy glee.
Come admire the aesthetic
Of prosthetic biology
I’ll inject something tremendic
Into he and she and we.
It’s kinetic, diatetic;
Don’t, frenetic, try to flee
The plurally phonetic
Compounds in your cup of tea.
I know I’ve said this before, but I love the way Dave and Madblood play off each other. [SPOILERS] I think the key is that they’re very similar people except that one of them is an arrogant supergenius and the other one is just a developing arrogant supergenius. Much later in the strip, I had Dave go work for Madblood because I enjoyed the buddy-movie vibe so much.
Going back to the old poetry I dug out of my closet, here’s a sonnet about Dave. I think my original plan was to write a poem for each of the central characters, but I never wrote one for Mell. What would that even look like?
Dave: A Sonnet
The real world would be easy, I thought in
The happy days before I took this job.
I’d land a cushy spot as sysadmin
Wiring networks, twisting little knobs,
Day slotting into day, precise and clean,
With room for the important things, like Quake.
And now? I’m working on some death machine
I didn’t know that I knew how to make.
Not even I can hide inside my head
With women waving guns and shouting, “Freeze!”
While my body might be mutated, or dead,
Or have six arms, or horns, or ovaries.
How dare they fill my programmed world with strife
And force me to (believe it) get a life?
What can I say, I love these guys.
Okay, last poem. I wrote a sestina for Artie, because Artie just has to be difficult. Geez, these things are hard to write.
It’s surely unabashed insanity
To keep penned in a common gerbil cage
Somebody with my brand of well-built mind–
Me? Subject to any odd experiment?
Cruel disregard has always been my tale.
I never win the spins of Fortune’s wheel.
All evening I’ve been running in my wheel
Until I’ve nearly reached insanity.
I’m one snapped nerve from chasing my own tail!
I told them I’d go mad inside a cage!
But outside–oh, I could experiment
Exquisitely–but, oh, well. Never mind.
If they insist, I’ll show them I don’t mind.
We’ll just sit quiet, won’t we, now? Yes, we’ll
Let Helen and the rest experiment
On the effects of genius and sanity
On some forsaken gerbil in a cage.
We’re quiet from our whiskers to our tail.
I won’t so much as twitch that tufted tail
‘Til they admit my marvel of a mind
Is nothing a mere scientist should cage.
Inside my skull, bright wheel clicks on bright wheel.
They’ve really surrendered to insanity
To tell this mind it can’t experiment.
Imprisoned for just one experiment!
Explain, please, the illogic of my tale!
Well, yes, they say a mild insanity
Runs through my genetic potluck of a mind.
Isn’t it worth it for the thoughts that wheel
Behind my eyes, so far beyond this cage?
But it takes more than stainless steel to cage
This tuft-tailed scientist’s experiment.
Around and round I run inside my wheel.
So what if I made Dave there grow a tail?
If they don’t want it, why give me a mind?
Expecting quiet–that’s insanity.
On this wheel I can almost catch my tail.
So cage me. I can still experiment
On me, my mind, myself. Insanity!
Every comic strip should have musical numbers. Even “Gil Thorp.” Especially “Gil Thorp.”
At the time this ran, people commented that Madblood’s dialogue here has an oddly stilted “A Winner Is You”/”Somebody set us up the bomb” badly-translated-from-the-Japanese type syntax. I don’t know why I phrased it that way. It seemed like the right thing to do at the time.