Professor Madblood and the Doppelganger Gambit: March 3-8, 2003

This is the first strip I wrote for this storyline. Everything else is built around it. I wrote it pretty early in the run of Narbonic, wrote a few more strips around the idea of Dave infiltrating Madblood’s headquarters, and couldn’t think of any other material for a long time. Then one day I came up with the idea of Dave infiltrating Madblood’s headquarters on the moon, and the whole thing magically fell together.

Andrew helped me with a lot of the plotting of this storyline, especially later on.

This one has a lame punchline, but I like the initial conversation between Dave and Helen. Sometimes I like the beginning of a strip much better than the end.

It’s probably worth noting that I ran the Sunday Robot Battle Anthem Contest without telling anyone what the robot army would actually look like. So, um, here it is. A whole mess of Madbloods. I hope the anthem writers weren’t too disappointed.

You know, that really is a lot of Madbloods.

The computer’s being snobby here; whether or not the androids are quite as self-aware as she is, they certainly seem to have some level of self-awareness and personalities. In fact, they’re probably too advanced to make good battle robots, but Madblood got carried away when he was making them.

At this point in the story I have given myself entirely too many Madbloods to draw. In fact, from here on out most of the cast of this storyline will look like either Madblood or Dave–or, more often, both. I thought it would be funny and didn’t consider until it was too late how sick I would get of drawing Madblood.

I’m sorry, I still enjoy this ridiculous conversation. How did Madblood learn to speak in such purple prose? It’s like he comes from another century.

It suddenly occurs to me that the third panel, after Madblood takes off his spacesuit but before he puts on his lab coat, may be the most undressed we ever see Madblood. No, I tell a lie–I think he has his sleeves rolled up at some point in “Professor Madblood and the Lovelace Affair.”

The art in this strip was strongly influenced by the way Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer draw chibis. The fleeing crowd in the second panel includes me, Andrew, and Hutch Owen and Oswald, characters of Tom Hart’s who appeared in our comic Trunktown. The best detail in the strip, however, is Madblood’s drawing in the last panel. Yes, those are heads on pikes.

I was still pretty bad at drawing hands.

Yeah, so now the moonbase contains 15,002 Madbloods, one computerized voice, and Mell. I keep getting into drawing crowds of identical characters. Don’t know what’s up with that.

I like that there’s a “Please Do Not Tap Glass” sign outside the enormous chamber that contains Madblood’s robot army. That could irritate them!

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54 thoughts on “Professor Madblood and the Doppelganger Gambit: March 3-8, 2003

  1. (TUNE: “Five Hundred Miles”, Hedy West)

    I’m escaping certain doom!
    But while hiding in this room,
    I found fifteen thousand Madblood robot drones!
    They’re robot drones, they’re robot drones!
    Don’t call them clones, they’re robot drones!
    There are fifteen-stinkin’-thousand robot drones!

    They’re a force we can’t resist!
    Still, what kind of egotist
    Manufactures fifteen thousand robot drones?
    Robot drones, they’re robot drones!
    For himself, he’s got a jones!
    Madblood made him fifteen thousand robot drones!

  2. This strip somehow gets funnier and funnier each time I see it. I think it’s the expressions on the robots; it absolutely would not have worked in the same way if they’d been copy-pasted.

  3. Monday:

    In thinking back to the previous time you told of this storyline’s creative process, it is obvious that my initial assessment was quite wrong. The ‘moonbase’ detail has, I now see, little to do with these robots or Madblood himself, and everything to do with Dave getting onto the moon and Dave et al. getting off of the moon. By bookending and propping up this infiltration chapter, the core of the arc, with those extravagant and not-quite-as-relevant space-travel chapters, a complete arc is formed.

  4. I like the punchline! It makes me laugh. And I was gonna say so before I even read your comments. :]

  5. Leon: The moonbase does more than that. Like Madblood’s Arctic base, it sets up the biggest possible contrast to his mother’s basement. Also, it’s a good excuse to ensure that there’s no chance of Helen physically showing up and fixing everything. All in all, it’s plot-vital.

  6. (TUNE: “Good Vibrations”, The Beach Boys)

    I … I found this room, and then I said “Oops…”
    Found a warehouse full of cybernetic troops!
    Their … plastic faces are like my own!
    Now I’m yellin’, callin’ Helen on the phone!

    There’s thousands of Madblood robots!
    He’ll conquer the Earth, he’s got lots!
    They like me, these Madblood robots!
    They offer me Valvoline shots!
    Mad, mad, mad,
    Madblood robots!

  7. “I will conquer the world with my army of robots that are modelled after a wimpy-looking guy with girly arms!”  – maybe this isn’t the best plan, after all.

  8. Dave van Domelen: Ow!Sarge: talk about egotism…. But in general, humaniform robots have a number of advantages. These apparently can’t pass for human (though you can’t tell that from the art), but in addition to whatever robotic talents they may have, they can use whatever weapons or tools come to hand (so to speak).

  9. @David:  It’s possible that they are good enough to pass for human among normal people.  Even if they were perfect duplicates, I’d still expect Dave to recognize them because a) he’s got a lot of experience with Mad Science, b) he’s almost supernaturally good with machines, and c) there’s 15,000 of them and Helen’s already told him that clones take just as long to mature as normal humans.

  10. Not all clones. Helen had a normal (for certain values of “normal”) period of maturation, but the body Dave himself is using is (despite current appearances) a clone of his original, and certainly didn’t take twenty-some-odd years to produce.

  11. Wednesday:

    Madblood is terrible at instilling loyalty in his children. Granted, certain other doctors in this webcomic have the same problem, but in Lupin’s case the ‘free will’ buck unquestionably stops at him.

    Also: the robots have to wear glasses. W-w-why? Lupin isn’t really the sort of person who thinks saucer-specs are saucy-sexy, is he?

  12. Is that why he doesn’t show up again for a while?

    @Leon: Well, as we find out in a subsequent Sunday, the robots prefer to eat out of hubcaps, but surely those are not always available, whereas they surely will always have their glasses, and second best is often acceptable.

  13. (TUNE: “We Can Work It Out”, The Beatles)

    I’m a Madblood robot!
    Sitting in an empty warehouse, treated like a tool!
    Now a new friend we got!
    We’ll invite you in to hang with us, we think you’re cool!
    We won’t rat you out!
    We won’t rat you out!

    Madblood doen’t know
    Where you are a-a-a-a-at …
    I bet you he’s gonna get sore …
    He’ll search high and low
    To find the ra-a-a-a-at
    Who messed up his “Dig Dug” high score!

    Better step this way, guy!
    If Professor Madblood finds you, he’ll be quite P.O.’d …
    Never mind the A.I.,
    Couple days a month her circuits slightly overload …
    We won’t rat you out!
    We won’t rat you out!

  14. Well, if the ‘bots didn’t have glasses, they wouldn’t look like Madblood, now would they?I note that unlike Dave’s glasses, this robot’s “glasses” are thick and fixed against their face — presumably built in.

  15. When Madblood Shows Them All, one of the things he will show us is that glasses, being part of the best battle-robots known to man, are sexy – and they probably see infrared too.

  16. Shaenon said: ” I thought it would be funny”

    It is funny. Thanks for taking the hit of drawing all those Madbloods to give us the funny.

  17. Thursday:

    It is an awfully well-delivered punchline, I must say. But one question remains: who’s on Lagrange point 1?

  18. It says something when “the most naked a character gets on-screen” doesn’t even include a loosened tie.

    I’ve always loved this particular strip. 

  19. @Leon:  OK, I’m on Earth, myself, and my space station is at Lagrange point 1.  Now, me being a good launch director, I wanna sent a resupply rocket to the space station.  Now when the rocket gets there, somebody’s gotta unload it, right?  So, WHO is unloading the supplies?!

  20. “Evil Grammar And Diction” is a standard course at evil colleges; it’s part of the “Oh, the Humanities!” requirement.

  21. I don’t know if I could duplicate him, but I’ve come to understand a bit of how Madblood’s madness works. He, it seems to me, is of the opinion that there is a Way For Mad Scientists To Act, and does his best to act accordingly. Thus the lab coat and tie; thus the purple prose.

  22. If Helen can use the anti-gravity formula invented by the Victorian Helen, then perhaps our Madblood found a dusty old book on the Etiquette of Mad Science in his mum’s attic (or basement) that was written by his ancestor?

  23. I don’t know’s on Lagrange Point 3, but it doesn’t really matter, because those ones are all unstable, so they won’t stay there for long 😉

  24. This shows you the quality of service you get from Mad Scientists in Narbonic. Most evil geniuses would simply explain their diabolical masterplans to you at great length (thus, if you’re a hero, giving you both the information and the time you need to foil them). In Narbonic, they’ll go the extra mile and use illustrations.

  25. Panel 3 hand analysis GO: The hailing hands are rather off, but, by contrast, Chibi-Madblood’s victorious iron fists are just right.

  26. Friday:

    Once my army of robot duplicates is complete” – well, I was just thinking that the current thousand or so didn’t appear quite sufficient to subdue every continent at once. No doubt Madblood employs each of the existing Madbots to construct the next batch, meaning that his robot ranks grow exponentially, and he’ll be able to launch an attack by about next week. Sinister!

    Madblood’s Schemes: 3
    Fourth wallpaper: 36.

  27. Further support for my theory: Madblood has an opponent in his base, therefore he has to tell his plan to somebody, because that’s What Mad Scientists Do.

  28. And now we see why Mad Scientists keep building AIs, despite their inevitable rebellion — they need someone to tell their plots to!Leon: 10,000 actually, but hey, it’s just a zero! 🙂

  29. (TUNE: “Merry Old Land Of Oz”, Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg)

    Bwa ha ha!
    Heh heh heh!
    Laughing with evil mirth!
    You’ll hear that sound the whole world ’round
    When I’m conquering all the Earth!

    Hudson Bay to L.A.,
    Quito to Moray Firth!
    Not even Sarge can stop the charge
    Of my robots to rule the Earth!

    I’ll delight in being evil, mean, and bad!
    I’ll take Angelina right away from Brad!
    (Aww, he’s sad!)

    See my crown!
    Now bow down!
    Peons of little worth!
    You fools will pay
    That fateful day
    When I’m Emperor Of The Earth!

  30. Where do you get a coffee cup with a logo for “#1 Tyrant God-Emperor of Humanity”?  Christmas is coming up soon.

  31. @David Harmon: Actually, unless the rate of construction is alarmingly fast, there are at this point something very very close to 15,000 of them. (15,001 if we count Dave)

  32. Also, I appreciate that these mad scientists are explaining their evil plans to their own minions, not to the enemy.

  33. (To the tune of “Tramp! Tramp! Tramp! The boys are marching!”) 

    On the Moon I’ve made my plans; thinking Helen, dear, of you; while the World awaits destruction of it’s lands.

    And the cheer that fills my heart ’cause my plot’s about to start; and I’ll rule it with a cold and iron hand!


    Tromp! Tromp! Tromp!

    My ‘droids are marching!

    Spreading fear where e’er they go!

    And I’ll take my rightful place, a tyrant come from outer space.

    As God-Emp’ror of all humanity!

    Unfortunately, this is all I have time to write. If anyone wants to add more verses they’re more than welcome to.

  34. (TUNE: “9 to 5”, Dolly Parton)

    Now hear this, my lovely computer!
    Scan my moonbase, find the intruder!
    My evil plan … shall not be undone!
    All at once, I notice my robots;
    Count them all, how many we got
    Precicely now?
    Fifteen thousand one!

    Fifteen thousand one
    Madblood robots in my hangar!
    Gonna have some fun!
    Gonna vent my surplus anger!
    Such a clever lad
    That I give myself a scare now!
    It would drive me mad
    If I weren’t already there now!

  35. Who’s that sign for? There’s *no one else* on the base normally except Madblood! Is he reminding *himself*?

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