Battle for the Lost Diamond Mines of Brazil: March 28 – April 2, 2005

When my brother and I were kids, we had an unexplained fascination with Brazil, and even cowrote a novel called Saving Brazil. It was about aliens. Anyway, this storyline is named in honor of that childhood obsession. Like our novel, the storyline features remarkably little Brazil.

The box behind Helen in the first panel reads “Dead Puppies,” one of several background references to the Ogden Edsl song and Dr. Demento staple. Have I mentioned that one time I was in a car with Dr. Demento? Because I was.

In a future storyline, Dave has indeed been kicked out of the Secret Meeting Closet. OMG SPOILERS.

Is this the last gray fill in Narbonic? It just might be. I really like the way this strip came out except for the tops of the ladder in the second panel, which are drawn from too far below so it looks like Dave is falling backward. Little things like that bug me when the rest of the art looks good. I mean, Dave with the wrench in his back pocket in the last panel. That’s perfect.

Dave makes some extremely valid points about Dr. Narbon here, although I doubt he’d have the nerve to say them to her face. She really doesn’t seem to do a lot of actual mad science.

This strip later inspired Jeff Wells to write “The Time She Made Him a Sandwich!”, the bonus story in Narbonic Volume 5. So it was all worth it.

Mell’s interest in Willie Nelson started with this ancient Garrity/Farago jam comic, back in 2001. I actually wrote this strip early enough that the “APE-Aid” comic was fresh in my mind. I wanted to do this storyline from way, way early on.

I liked the phrase “clone tanks” and used it many times over the course of Narbonic.

This is a really early script. I think I wrote it before I started drawing Narbonic. I still like Dave’s idea, not to mention his general skepticism about Helen’s plan throughout this entire week. Look how happy Helen is with her idea, and how nonplused Dave is. Dave is a smart man.

Turning Artie human was an idea that predates Artie, and even predates Narbonic. It was a plotline in my earliest preliminary version of the comic, when Helen’s mother was the main character and Helen was one of a pair of clones. Dr. Narbon was going to turn a gerbil into a dude to provide a prom date for Helen. What can I say; it was a very different comic in the beginning.

This particular script is also pretty old; I probably wrote it before I started drawing Narbonic.

The Narbonic Volume 5 bonus story, “The Time She Made Him a Sandwich!”, opens with Dave swabbing guys’ cheeks down at the post office, presumably collecting DNA for Helen. Dave knows better than to ask questions.

I like how freaked-out Artie looks in his close-up. He’s right: it’s hard being the lab animal. Meanwhile, Helen and Dave are delighted with the idea and eager to foist human form on him whether he wants it or not. As was I, the cartoonist! Ha ha, Artie! You’re screwed!

Battle for the Lost Diamond Mines of Brazil: Previous, Next

51 thoughts on “Battle for the Lost Diamond Mines of Brazil: March 28 – April 2, 2005

  1. It’s OK.  Dave’s apparently been kicked out of the SMC before, possibly several times.

  2. Oh, come on!  You can’t just drop that you were in a car with Dr. Demento and not tell us the story.  Remember, nobody likes a Doc tease.

  3. Monday:

    I like the unstated notion that they already know the exact locations of the “Lost” Diamond Mines of Brazil. Yes, all of them.

  4. @Kay: I saw what you did there … “Doc tease” *snicker*

    So if this was early 2005, Dr. Narbon would have been there in June 2004.  Hmmm … I’d just come back from a job in North Carolina, and Joan and I went up to Shipshewana about that time.

    I do recall, there was an awful lot of wreckage, and several shopkeepers were still in shock … one kept muttering “The hat!  The horrible hat!”

    • Mow I have this mental image of Kay, Rachel, you, and myself all going “Tell us about it, Shaenon!” a la Magenta and Columbia in the Rocky Horror Show for some reason…

      {shivering in antici… pation} Ooh, do it again, nyao!

  5. I like that the closet isn’t really necessary; Mell’s out of the lab, so there’s no one not in the meeting for it to be secret from. Still, what’s mad science about if not being ludicrously and unnecessarily faithful to ways of operating that you thought would be awesome when you were a kid?

  6. Yesterday, Andy Holloway asked “what’s mad science about if not being ludicrously and unnecessarily faithful to ways of operating that you thought would be awesome when you were a kid?”  It occurs to me that that describes most of adulthood, at least my adulthood.  This realization is much scarier than Dr. Narbon could ever be.

  7. This grey fill does not remind us of the ignominiousness of previous such fills. For a silhouette-outliner, the grey fill does its job fairly well.

  8. Tuesday:

    I can’t help but feel that Dave’s head’s silhouette was a bit more distinguishable back when his nose was bigger and more rectangular. (By the way, if you look in the negative space, you can see not a vase but a chess king’s crown, warped in the glass porthole.)

    Dave feels much more emboldened now that his murderer/kidnapper has by his own hand been exposed as a pretender, a mere maternal manipulator, as empty as her wineglass isn’t. It’s sort of a shame that he and she never face off again, because Dave sort-of deserves another chance to prove himself against her.

    I won’t say that Dave has done a ‘nice save’ there, but I will say that he’s pretty quick on his feet. Ideally he’d take Helen’s clone status and assert that Dr. N ripped off her mother’s design.

  9. Dr. Narbon cloned herself, but the result wasn’t very interested in her Mom’s work.  That’s what you’d call a low-interest auto clone.

  10. You’re not a successful invention, Helen. IIRC, you were made to be an organ farm, not a competing mad scientist. Success implies achieving what you set out to achieve.

  11. @Rex:

    Not in Mad Science terms. Dr Narbon probably only gives herself partial credit for Helen because she hasn’t actually been destroyed by her own creation yet.

  12. I seem to recall when this strip first came round, I was really expecting Artie or someone to promptly try and kill them. “You see Dave….I was watching your lips move…”

  13. So – is it that Alpha just doesn’t do a lot of mad science? Or is it just that that’s what she *wants* us to think?Heh heh heh.

  14. Wednesday:

    Show tunes… why did it have to be show tunes?

    I take it as a tiny mark of respect that Dave puts Mell’s preternatural invincibility in such romantic, swashbuckling terms.

    I think at this point in the story the reader already understands Helen enough that the “it had spines and reproduced” balloon is perhaps less comedic than just leaving the incident entirely unspoken.

  15. Leon: for me, Dave’s comment there was one of only a few Narbonic moments that made me genuinely laugh out loud.

  16. (TUNE: “Holding Out For A Hero”, Bonnie Tyler)

    Where has Kelly gone this time?  They sent her to Brazil,
    Sent her off to find my Mom, they sent her off to kill!
    Who could ever stop her?  There’s not a man alive …
    Helen says, “Let’s make one then!  What fun!  Just give me five!”

    Let’s build a hero!
    We’re gonna make us a hero, it’ll be such a ball!
    He can stand up to Mell
    And be hunky as hell,
    And be tougher than Steven Seagal!
    We’ll build a hero!
    We’ll build a guy who is muscular, nimble, and tall!
    And we’ll train him up right,
    So when Mom and Mell fight,
    He can jump in and make it a brawl!
    Free-for-all brawl!

  17. Aaaaand we have my #1 favorite quote in Narbonic. A mid-strip throwaway line. Just by itself, without the bits about how horrible it was, the line “Is this going to be like the time you made me a sandwich?” had me paralysed with laughter.

    For context, you need to realize that I had been stuck at Subway for six years (I finally have a nice new job now making more than twice what I was) and had recently invented a “sandwich” which used all official Subway ingredients but actually combined aspects of pizza, philly cheesesteak, and nachos into one massive abomination dubbed “The Pyramid” because it was pyramid shaped. Cooking it involved the Subway high speed toaster oven (which is considered too dangerous for private home use). Six cheeses, two kinds of hot sauce, and various vegetables were involved as well.

    It’s possibly the most delicious thing I have ever made. There’s also vegetarian and vegan variants I made for my co-workers, but I always used steak for myself.

  18. I agree. One of the funniest lines ever.

    (In the early days of my parents’ marriage, Dad was feeling lazy one day when Mom was already busy, and he asked her, “Will you make me a sandwich?” She replied, “Poof! You’re a sandwich.”)

  19. Tougher than Steven Segall in Cockpuncher?  I don’t think so.  Of course, Mell doesn’t have dangly bits, so maybe it’s Advantage: Mell.

  20. On the one hand, I agree with Leon and Matthew that “Is this going to be like the time you made me a sandwich?” is earth-shatteringly hilarious on its own, without Dave’s subsequent comments.

    On the other hand, I agree with Joel that “It had spines and it reproduced” is an exceptionally great line, and inserting it into everyday conversations has been tremendously fun over the two years or so since I discovered Narbonic and read this strip.

    On the other other hand–which is totally possible when you’re discussing a comic about a mad geneticist’s lab, so wipe that smirk off your faces–I’ve always really enjoyed strips like this where three or more characters proceed from the same starting point into two or more simultaneous utterly-distinct-yet-equally-plausible-given-where-they-started conversations.

  21. This strip’s dialogue is so great.  It’s a classic example of three different characters having three different conversations at once, all perfectly in voice, all perfectly in their own worlds.

    I also agree about the “sandwich” line being one of the funniest in the whole series, and would add that Helen’s response, “Only we know Mell’s weaknesses” really ices that particular cake.

  22. Much as I love some of the individual lines in this strip, what really makes it for me is how there are at least three totally different conversations going on here, and no one seems even the slightest bit aware of any of the others.

  23. Remember, this is what she was intending Artie to become.

    If Helen could only have left out his Artieness . . . .

  24. And this is back when Nikita was a tall, leggy blonde with a nearly unplace-able accent too! ^_^

  25. For some reason this strip made me think, “man, I hope some day we get to find out what happened to Sergio.”

  26. Panel 2 describes precisely what Artie just did to Tip over in Skin Horse, so I guess Helen succeeded in the long run.  Mad science 1, ethics 0.

    tune: “It’s raining men,” Paul Jabara & Paul Shaffer (1979)

    I’m warming up the clone tanks. The Daves just raised the stakes
    I know Mell’s greatest weakness, and it’s not Frosted Flakes
    Sure, she loves Willie Nelson
    Her dreams I know he haunts
    But I’ll make a secret weapon of the willy she really wants . . .

    I’ll build a man! (Hallelujah!)
    I’ll build a man! (Amen!)
    I make him fascinating, witty and
    Very, very, very tan
    I’ll build a man! (Hallelujah!)
    I’ll build a man! (Maybe six-foot-ten)
    A super-agent, great in bed
    Like James Bond with long, black dreads
    I’ll build a man!

  27. If Helen were to hire ANTONIO SMITH, FORENSIC LINGUIST, he could probably destroy her with one devastating simile.

  28. Thursday:

    These two are already far overthinking the original goal of “don’t let Dr. N get killed” but then, the last storyline was set in September, so I imagine not much has happened since then, especially since Helen might not have been so keen to do anything particularly unsafe to Dave so soon after the symposium.

  29. (TUNE: “Thanks For The Memory”, Ralph Rainger and Leo Robin)

    Tank vs. Melody!

    Now Helen wants to style
    A guy that’s full of guile!
    A tall dark man
    Who’s suave and can
    Destroy her with a smile!
    But I’d rather send …

    Tank vs. Melody!

    We’d need artillery,
    Perhaps a nuke or three,
    To stop the chick
    Who’s strong and quick
    And deadly as can be!
    Let’s blow up our friend!

  30. A Sherman tank?  Go for an Abrams, much better rate of fire with it’s machine guns and a lot faster.

    Dave really needs to renew his subscription to Jane’s Defense, or at least hack their web site to get at their database.

  31. please. she’d be expecting a big guy in a tank. Helen certainly knows her mother’s weaknesses, and as we see, sending a good looking guy makes her fall into a gender swapped version of the “send the prisoner to my quarters” trope for evil overlords.

  32. Well, if some strange man tried to swab my cheek while I was in line at the post office, I’d sure be asking a few questions.
    tune: “I want to hold your hand,” The Beatles

    Oh yeah, I have a boss now
    Whose every whim I seek
    It’s no worse than floss now
    I want to swab your cheek
    Please let me swab your cheek
    I want to swab your cheek!

    Now you have some down-time
    And quite a fine physique
    I really need your mouth slime
    I want to swab your cheek
    Please let me swab your cheek
    I want to swab your cheek!

    And when I touch you with this Q-Tip, it won’t hurt
    I’m just a servant of mad science,
    No pervert
    Not a flirt
    Not a flirt!

    Oh, if you only knew Helen
    You’d fear her fits of pique
    She’s crazy, she’s a felon
    So let me swab your cheek
    Please let me swab your cheek
    Or havoc she will wreak
    I need to swab your chee-ee-ee-ee-ee-ee-eek!

  33. Friday:

    Of course Artie had to say the Sentence of Doom in panel 3 – it’s almost as potent as ‘things can’t possibly get any worse’ when said by people who aren’t several feet shorter than everyone else in the room. At least he was spared the indignity of a Gilligan Cut (I’m not even bothering to hyperlink that one).

  34. @Jon: Hey, he’s not the experimental subject this time, so of COURSE he’s into this idea.

  35. Just how much of the plot did you have sketched out before you even started drawing comic panels, anyway?

  36. Ah. This is obviously some strange usage of the word “safely” that I hadn’t previously been aware of.

  37. Saturday:

    It’s nice that it’s so obvious that Helen’s pointing to the skies in panel 2, such that it doesn’t need to be portrayed.

    Disembodied panel-border heads: 23.

  38. If I had to pick the one Narbonic character least likely to match Mell in a scrum, it would be Artie.  She’s right, it’s funnier.

  39. You know, if you ever decided to revisit that original concept as a kind of “Ultimate Narbonic” or whatever, I’d read it. The hints we’ve had have me curious about it.

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