Professor Madblood and the Lovelace Affair: March 7-12, 2005

This strip is way too wordy, but Mell referring to Artie as “the Mensa rat” is one of my favorite things ever.

I had to give Helen memory-erasing technology so Titus could survive the storyline. I guess she’s been making brainscans since the earliest days of Narbonic, so it’s not totally out of left field. It always bugs me when characters pull out some amazing piece of technology for getting out of some predicament and then never use it again, though. That’s why there are multiple storylines involving the transmogrifier and the teleporter. Sometimes I get lazy, is all.

This is a very silly development, but I wanted to bring Madblood back once more in this storyline. Poor Titus, being manhandled and dragged all over the place. It only gets worse.

Man, I misspelled “discomfiting.” That is so annoying.

Also, in the last panel, the direction of the tails on the word balloons makes it unclear who is saying which line. This is a frequent problem when Artie is sitting on someone’s head.

Still, Helen makes out with a guy she just knocked unconscious, so I guess it’s all worth it.

Aw, a nice classic Helen-being-a-mad-scientist strip. I really didn’t do enough of these. She should have said, “Mell, the electrodes!” at least once per storyline. Also, I drew some good random gadgets in there.

Right, so Titus’s employer is Imogene Frog, a character played by Jeff Wells in the playtest of the Narbonic RPG. She is a teenage girl from the 1950s whose mother, a mad homemaker, accidentally launched her into the future with a quantum souffle. Jeff can tell you whether I’ve accurately captured her Centron Educational Films-influenced mode of speaking.

The main problem I had putting Ginny in the strip was that Jeff’s description of her is very similar to the Girl at the Bar, who was already a (very rarely) recurring character. They’re different characters, I swear. They just have the same hair.

I strongly believe that Titus carries aspirin and morphine everywhere he goes. He’s a professional.

At this point, with Helen’s revelation and all, there’s a major piece of information that the audience has and Dave doesn’t. This makes Dave problematic as the main point-of-view character. From this point on, Artie takes over that role for much of the strip. The next storyline is mostly from Artie’s point of view.

I wrote this strip late in the storyline, mostly just to tie up loose ends, but Mell happily covered in brain juice still makes me crack a smile. This was also the first time I made reference to rail guns, which come up repeatedly in Skin Horse. Rail guns are awesome.

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50 thoughts on “Professor Madblood and the Lovelace Affair: March 7-12, 2005

  1. tune: “The name of the game,” Benny Andersson, Stig Anderson & Bjorn Ulvaeus (ABBA, The Album, 1977)

    Spent the weekend, Helen and friend
    At this mad-science Symposium
    What did you do with all that time?
    Why is Artie acting so dumb?

    I took on ANTONIO SMITH
    Just the way you admonished
    I don’t need a FORENSIC LINGUIST
    To see Artie’s astonished
    So I wanna know

    How come Artie’s so lame?
    (How could he not know it was you?)
    Didn’t know that you messed with Dave
    (If I knew it, he shoulda known, too)
    He’s the Mensa rat
    How come Artie’s so lame?
    (Tinasky’s your mad-science name)
    Keeps you from the renown you crave

    This is two failed experiments
    Both Artie and Dave showing impediments

    I’m a college grad
    On an Army op
    I’m no genius
    But you couldn’t hide your plot
    If you gave this rat great intelligence
    He should find a way to help Dave maintain his brain
    Help him not to go insane
    I wanna know

    How come Artie’s so lame?
    (Poor gerbil, you don’t have a clue)
    Why is he slow on the uptake?
    (It’s a ruse that you shoulda seen through)
    He’s the Mensa rat
    How come Artie’s so lame?
    (You’re a box of rocks with a tail)
    Didn’t spot that the Doc’s a fake
    (You’re a super-intelligence FAIL)
    He’s the Mensa rat . . .

  2. Monday:

    There’s no point not letting Mell in on it – she’s the resident mad scientist’s battle-thirsty and morally indifferent bodyguard, after all. What’s she going to do, object?

    But of course, Artie can’t help but feel hurt at this discovery. Why would she not trust her best friend any more than a girl who has already betrayed them to killer robots at least once?

  3. Actually, don’t you have Helen wiping Clone-Dave’s memories repeatedly towards the end of the comic?

  4. Jon–Yeah, so she must still have the technology later in the strip. It’s always kind of off-panel, though.

  5. Honestly, I think that Artie was right, and Helen had nothing to worry about.

    First, Lupin most likely would not even notice Titus, since (a) Titus is male, (b) Titus is neither a robot nor an automaton, and (c) Titus is not a female robot nor automaton.

    Second, if my some chance Lupin did notice (“What, prey¹ tell, are you doing with that minion?”), Helen could just reply “Oh, nothing much — just testing kneecapping and blunt-force-trauma brain injury on a type ‘I’² minion.”

    ¹ Not a typo.

    ² For ‘Indestructable.’

  6. Worse? Or ever so much better?

    And, yeah, given Madblood’s… Madbloodness – as illustrated a few storylines down the road by his failure to recognize Dave, into whom he once transformed himself – I don’t think Helen really has anything to worry about here.

    On the other hand, it does give her an excuse to mack on Titus. Those madgirls from a couple weeks ago can only wish they were in her labcoat. If only she could afford to risk having Dave help her with Titus’s revival…

  7. I love Artie’s “Here?” comment. After the revelation of the Tinasky subject, he’s already determined to be as savvy as possible and not just book-smart.

    Could this be the first development on Artie’s path to becoming the character we know in Skin Horse?

  8. Wednesday:

    I think that in this day and age, “discomforting” and “discomfiting” are largely regarded as interchangeable, despite their slightly different etymologies.

  9. Now, in a Skin Horse crossover, Unity would be saying, “Hey, y’know what goes great with peppermint?  Chocolate sauce!”  And Titus would wake up covered in chocolate, with a bite out of his ear, ’cause he’s nearly indestructable and Unity found he was too tough to chew, so she went looking for some marinade and came across one of the other mad scientist guys who was a lot more tender, and after that she went to get some ice cream for dessert.

    Arrrgh, now my brain is writing Unity/Titus slashfic …

  10. @Leon: I think this is the only place I’ve ever encountered ‘discomforting’. ‘Discomfort’, sure, as a noun. But I don’t think nouns can be gerunded; you need a verb for that.

  11. She didn’t just knock him unconscious, she kneecapped him….

    And wouldn’t there be blood all over the floor as they’ve been dragging him around? Then again, given the nature of the attendees at the convention, maybe nobody pays attention to that kind of thing anymore.

  12. @Sam; You make a good point, but consider this.  He may well have been wearing armored knee-pads.  (To go with the lead-lined coat.)  So perhaps the bullets (or whatever came out of Mell’s gun) didn’t penetrate and tear through flesh and blood vessels, but merely smashed the armor into Titus’ knees hard enough to smash bones.  Which would incapacitate him (temporarily, at least) but not leave trails of blood.


    @Shaenon; To anyone who has been reading the comic for any length of time at all, it is entirely obvious which word balloon goes with which character in the final panel.  So don’t worry!

  13. Incidentally, I’m not certain, but I think today’s may be the strip that convinced me to start reading Narbonic. Not that I saw it, but I do distinctly remember reading its mention on TVTropes – the Fakeout Makeout page – and I think that was the thing that finally led me to look up the address.

  14. @Jon W.:  I just checked Webster’s site, and yes, “discomfort” is also a verb, and therefore ripe for gerunding.

  15. I’m pretty sure the second panel contains multiple references to Rocky Horror Picture Show. 

  16. More importantly, the second panel includes Helen performing a properly ominous Glove Snap. If Titus is lucky, the gloves are simply because Helen is about to perform brain surgery.

  17. Thursday:

    This might be the highlight of the Tinasky reveal sequence – dear gentle Helen turned ominous and mighty. And not that fake bombast she was brandishing on the symposium floor, but genuine power and strength. (I think that panel 4 grin might be laying it on a bit strong, though – though it certainly bespeaks a tilted mental state.)

  18. (TUNE: “Young Girl”, Gary Puckett & The Union Gap)

        Mad girl!  Your head is a mess!
        But now you’re oh so close to success!
        ‘Cause you had, girl,
        A plan that’s mad, girl!

    Here at the Mad Sci Convention,
    This henchman’s figured out your plans …
    It’s just ridiculous how Titus tried
    To fight your side,
    And now his fate is in your hands!
       Oh, (repeat CHORUS)

    While dragging Titus to your room,
    Here’s Madblood, looking discontent!
    With Titus then you started making out
    To fake him out …
    How odd, he tastes like peppermint!
       Oh, (repeat CHORUS)

    You’ve got to wash Titus’ brain now,
    He’ll be OK, his body’s tough …
    But Artie worries that it’s too bizarre,
    You’ve gone too far!
    But you say, “NOT YET FAR ENOUGH!”
       Yes, (repeat CHORUS)

  19. One to help with the ordinary aches and pains of his everyday workday life, and the other to help prevent excessive blod-clotting and strokes.

  20. I’d suggest the lovely Aspirin/Codeine mix you can get in Canada.  That stuff was useful before I went in for surgery for Charcot joint. 

  21. I like Aspercodine and Acetacodine just fine, but nothing beats the Ibuprofin/Codeine you can get over the counter in Britain. The British don’t mess about when it comes to minor joint pain.

  22. Wait, isn’t there also a davenport and Dr Narbon from like 100 years ago?  Couldn’t there have been other incarnations of them?  Wouldn’t one of them have managed to have children.

    What?  It was the fifties.  All things considered, I think Helen would make a great MAd HomeMAKER!

  23. Heh.

    And another of the class of heavy-duty painkillers is known as Tylenol 3 w/ Coedine (perscription req’d). I had some when I got my wisdom teeth out… powerful stuff.

  24. (TUNE: “Peggy Sue”, Buddy Holly)

    Imogene!  Imogene!
    Smartest girl I’ve every seen!
    Oh, Imo … oh, Imogene!
    You are good, not bad,
    But you’re quite mad, Imogene!

    Imogene, science queen!
    Thoughts like lightning through your bean!
    Oh, Imo … oh, Imogene!
    What a clever brain,
    But it’s in-sane, Imogene!

    Imogene, squeaky-clean!
    Still a 1950’s teen!
    Oh, Imo … oh, Imogee-he-he-he-he-he-ene!
    Well, my goodness me,
    You’re so peachy, Imogene!

  25. I had my tonsils taken out about 10 years ago and I lived on Tylenol 3 for about 2 weeks, that and applesauce and Fudgicles.  You could grind up pills and put them in the applesauce and I still couldn’t take ’em, it had to be liquid Tylenol 3.  Wunnerful stuff!

    (and as a point of reference, it’s not a good thing to have your tonsils taken out when you’re pushing 40.  It was possibly my first solid clue that I didn’t have an immune system per se.)

  26. I’m sure Codeine is great stuff for lots of you, but when I had my wisdom teeth out, I discovered (the hard way) that don’t respond to it. At All. (This is a not-uncommon mutation….)

  27. Shaenon, I am so very pleased with this strip.  We saw Imogene very briefly in an earlier daily, of course, but this is the one that really captures her.

  28. The capitalized “Seeking Cheap Thrills” really pushes home the feeling of being primarily raised by Duck-and-Cover-style filmstrips.

  29. This is another of my favorites. Imogene and Titus are so great individually, and then together they just get better!

  30. There should be a whole other strip about the adventures of Imogene and Titus.

    Since they are Jeff’s characters, do you think that it might be possible for you to work with Jeffrey Channing Wells on a comic strip?

    Just asking . . . .

  31. Since they are Jeff’s characters, do you think that it might be possible for you to work with Jeffrey Channing Wells on a comic strip?

    Oh, sure, like Jeffrey Wells would want to work with me on a comic strip.

  32. I was always sad that we didn’t see Tidus in the strip after this.


    Given the *spoilers* that happen at the end of the story, I really wanted to know what end-of-story Dave and Tidus would have had to say to each other.

  33. Spammers hunted down and killed at low low prices!

    Religious door knockers quietly taken care of!

    Shows quickly “Un-Canceled”!*

    low low Prices! call Now!

    *(any show in the main-timeline. un-canceling unavailible for Firefly, sadly season 2 would have lead to Ragnorok)

  34. Narbonic (R) brand Brain Juice: now with 30% more dendrites!

    And of course, their main competitor is Synappsle.

  35. The mad-scientific world, like everyone else, has difficulty distinguishing between “Helen implementing a cunning evil scheme” and “Helen being barking mad”. It’s hard to penetrate a scheme when you can’t even identify it.

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