Island of the Ur-Gerbils: May 13-18, 2002

I still like the dramatic zoom in on our shipwrecked heroes. Protagonists. Whatever. It’s a shame I couldn’t figure out how to draw Dave’s legs in the third panel, but that stuff is hard.

Mell has amusing feet.

I remember this being one of the first strips I wrote for this storyline. If it’s funny, I’m not quite sure why, but I kind of like it. Dave’s casual attitude toward death is, you have to admit, entirely justified. Also, I like Mell’s castaway outfit.

This strip is designed to establish something that doesn’t actually come up much from here on out: Dave has been ousted from the Dave Conspiracy, and therefore should not be addressed as “Dave.” This will continue to be the status quo in Narbonic for the next two years, and, again, almost never be mentioned or affect the strip in any way.

I like the seagulls in the background. Very soothing.

I spent a lot of time on the jungle scenery on the island, albeit not going so far as to actually, you know, look at reference or anything. Dave’s last line is a reference to “The Blue Lagoon,” natch. This is, I think, about the only time he tries to hit on Mell, but she is wearing relatively little clothing.

Artie doesn’t get a lot of dialogue in this week of strips. Don’t know what’s up with that.

I think this was the first strip I wrote for this storyline. The whole initial concept hinged on the absurdity of the characters ending up in exactly the same place after weeks of effort to get away. I might even have written this before I wrote a lot of “D-Con” and filled in the details of the thwarted escape later.

The compound looks entirely different in this long shot than it does in every subsequent strip, but it’s pretty nifty here, isn’t it? The early-90s computer game “Myst,” which I loved, was a strong influence on my concept of Dave Island.

Omigosh, I just looked up “Myst” on Wikipedia and got a severe whallop of 1990s PC game nostalgia. I can still sing the damn theme song from “The 7th Guest.”

Drawing buildings is hard, dammit. And Dave’s head is too small in the last panel, which is the kind of thing that always bugs me. I like this strip anyway, just for Dave’s dumb, nerdy dialogue and the other characters’ failure to appreciate same. Poor Dave.

58 thoughts on “Island of the Ur-Gerbils: May 13-18, 2002

  1. Juuuuust … park your butt while we spin a yarn,
    A yarn of a tragic trip
    That happened on the internet
    In some dumb comic strip.

    There first was blonde mad scientist,
    And then a former Dave,
    An intern, and a gerbil too;
    They’re situations grave!

    No water, food, or cigarettes!
    Then Dave invoked the curse;
    He opened up his stupid mouth
    And said, “Things can’t get worse!”
    (… and then, things got worse…)

    They all washed up on the beach of this
    Deserted tropic isle …
    (I’ll finish at a later date,
    ‘Cause this might take a while!)

    (Sung to the tune of … y’know, if you haven’t figured it out by now, forget it.)

  2. Today, Mell also has an amusing “hat” — chibi starfish anyone? ;-)PS: I just switched to my Kubuntu desktop, and even after I logged in, Konqueror isn’t showing the italic-etc. control panel that Mozilla shows below this box. ???

  3. I also liked the foreshortened view of Mell in the raft in Friday’s strip (I couldn’t comment on it there at the time, for some reason.)

    Poor Dave’s sacred flannel is looking a bit the worse for wear.

  4. To Dave: That panel is a javascript doodad (or the one on my site is), it may or may not work in Kubuntu with a little twiddling.

    Mell’s piggies continue to amuse. Helen’s nowhere in sight and I haven’t read this part before. Hmm? Ur-Gerbils, you say?

  5.  Ed:  Not to be a grammar-Nazi, or anything, but its:

    ‘Their situation’s grave!’

    (Those who can, do. Those who can’t, quibble….)

  6. Sam:  Yes, you’re right.  I was pounding this out in a hurry this morning before heading to work.  Of course, it’s the first thing I notice when I return in the evening … my mom’s a retired teacher, she’d smack me if she saw that.

  7. mental_mouse: You *can* run Firefox under Kubuntu.

    BTW, I never knew about this panel, even though I use Firefox. I guess that’s what I get for disabling Javascript. ๐Ÿ˜›

  8. And Mell’s skirk, never known for its length, just got shorter.  Was this supposed to reward the male audience, or just Dave?

  9. Skirk?

    Mell’s hair_is_ terrific. In the original sense of the word. How exactly does it do that? Is it actually tentacles, well-disguised?

  10. Tuesday:

    Dave quietly revenges the irreverent treatment his first death was given by the late Ms. Narbon. Not that he’d know that, of course.

    It occurs to me that, rather than being grateful for a hospitable island to spend their final hours on, our trio should bow to the heavens for the staggeringly implausible benefit of their glasses surviving unbroken, unmarked and still attached to their ears. I mean, really.

  11. “Mell’s hair_is_ terrific. In the original sense of the word. How exactly does it do that? Is it actually tentacles, well-disguised?”
    My personal perpetuating gag-theory is that it is some kind of night-black insect. While it may not be that funny, you have to admit that there is some resemblance.

  12. No group of people ever get shipwrecked on an island together…someone always goes missing, and turns up later with a group ofpirates.. loads of pirates, all of whome can be defeated in funnylovable ways…

    …or am i just thinking of herbie gets shipwrecked?
    Alex, 13 May, 2002.

  13. (Sung to the tune of “You Always Hurt The One You Love”)

    Mell Kelly’s skirt
    Is what I love;
    It hardly is a skirt at all …
    It’s getting frayed,
    Her legs displayed
    Quite muscular, but not too tall …
    The skirt that’s checked
    Has been ship-wrecked,
    And it’s worn and torn and hardly clean…
    So if her skirt
    Should hit the dirt,
    Then this strip is NC-17!

  14. our trio should bow to the heavens for the staggeringly implausible benefit of their glasses surviving unbroken, unmarked and still attached to their ears. I mean, really.

    I don’t know about them, but I know that if I was in the shipwreck sort of situation, the very first thing I’d do was grab my glasses to make sure they don’t come off, or possibly take them off myself and hold them. And then of course, as soon as it was safe, put them back on. I like being able to see, thanks. 

  15. Andrew wants me to point out that Dave’s line, “I died once,” is also a line from the old Nickelodeon cartoon “Rocko’s Modern Life.” I can no longer remember if this was a deliberate tribute or not, but Andrew really likes “Rocko’s Modern Life.”

  16. There are so many ways that sentence could be finished, “You know, Helen is very likely –” and not all of them so sweet and cuddly as merely, “– dead”.

  17. I have to admit, Mell’s hare looks awesome this strip. It’s like it is going to leap off her head and attach to dave, making a mellcrab zombie.

  18. Wednesday:

    And this is the tail end of the Davosity-related jokes, proving once and for all that Daveness is a genuine attribute of nature alongside mass and velocity. That is, in addition to being a chemical property and a normative categorisation. Frankly, it’d be quite hard to wring any more humour from it at this point.

    Silent Pentollament Panels: 8.

  19. Who will Da-a-aves control … when you question their powers now?
    Who will Da-a-aves control … from their shadowy towers now?
    Who will Da-a-aves control?  You’re now a “David” on your own …

    (Sung to the tune of “Who Will Save Your Soul” by Jewel)


  20. This is the strip I reference most when talking to people about Narbonics. Mostly because I know loads of Daves, and very few Davids. In fact I remember when I first decided I’d rather be called Dave, than David.

  21. Did you have to fill out a form in triplicate?  That seems like the bare minimum of evil required to enter a global shadow conspiracy…

    Though I suppose Pledge Week at the average university could be substituted.

  22. I don’t think the winged bug in the third panel would look half as cool if it was drawn from a reference.

  23. Just a knight in tattered flannel,

    Staying brave through every panel,

    And though he lacks a daily shave,

    He’s still our hero, the man called Dave. 

  24. Thursday:

    Deserted island, David. Deserted. You’re surrounded by the complete antonym of desert!

    Frankly, I’m curious about how they can be traipsing around a fantastic jungle when just half an hour ago they were seemingly dying of thirst. The lust for adventure must surely rejuvenate like no mere liquid.

    Well, it is a very nice jungle. Better to die here than on some burning sand.

  25. *standing spoiler warning still in effect* 

    It’s not particularly deserted, either, although I suppose they have no way of knowing that yet.

    This jungle is proof that Shaenon has, by this point in the strip, become an accomplished and professional artist what does pretty backgrounds and what not. Maybe that’s why the island becomes so important – you don’t spend that much time on backgrounds and just throw the location away.

  26. Leon: “desert”‘s adjective form is a perfectly valid (if underused) synonym for “deserted” and has nothing to do with the biome; I always presume this usage in these contexts, which is to say, whenever I hear the “Gilligan’s Island” theme.

  27. I am truly disappointed in Mel for not picking up a tree and bludgeoning Dave in the last panel.  Maybe she thinks he might be useful later on … as ballast possibly … but a girl has to defend her honor, y’know?


  28. I think she’s just being understanding, which may seem out of character, but I think those of us who’ve been to the archives can attest there is a core of humanity to Mell that differentiates her from a soulless killing machine. (She is, of course, a killing machine, just one with a soul.)

    After all, a man in his position can hardly be blamed… Dave just lost not merely a really cool low-level spot in the conspiracy that rules the world, but thereby a core identifying fact about himself.

    He’s being forced, unwillingly, to reevaluate who he is as a person, and the answer’s not particularly pretty.  And there he is, stranded alone on an island with comic relief and a beautiful woman he dare not touch…

    It’s only natural that he’s feeling suicidal, and I think Mell clearly understands that, and chooses not to hold it against him.  Or oblige.

  29. Ed Gedeon says: “I am truly disappointed in Mel for not picking up a tree and bludgeoning Dave in the last panel.”

    C’mon, Ed; surely *you* of all people should know that, as a woman, Mell has instant access to Hammerspace… 

    (Although, according to the comic linked to in the trope description, Mell doesn’t actually *use* this ability until *MUCH* later…)

  30. (The next verse in the “Gilligan’s Island” song parody…)

    They found the camp of outcast Daves,
    Those exiled traitor sods!
    (Where they were headed anyway …
    What are the f***ing odds?)

  31. No smokes! No air! No armored Narbonitry!

    Like Davidson Caruso, it was non sequitur as can be!

  32. I still have my disks too.

    Come to think of it, I never finished Riven… *eyes the disks* …excuse me.

  33. I never finished Myst.  It was too much of a bother trying to find my way through the Underground train system, and then it crashed.  Yes, I am pathetic.

  34. I’ve been going through the Myst series recently… just finished 4 this week. The story becomes pretty intricate as it goes along.

  35. The drab, quiet blocks of deserted flats

    The missing, milling throng of massing Daves,

    “No survivors,” she declares, and still that’s

    The epitaph gainst which he grimly raves.


    The sudden silence in the global force,

    After terrors the exiles couldn’t name.

    One nerdy, beardy henchman mourns, of course,

    And a doubting intern displays no shame.


    No sign to be seen of their missing boss,

    Perhaps off on some gaudy sideshow trip.

    They don’t seem to notice much that wry loss,

    She’ll be back, they can be sure, it’s her strip.

    A parti-colored rodent, shrill, exclaims,

    “They’re gone but they left their grisly remains!”

  36. Saturday:

    Dave’s white-collar haircut is gradually losing its kemptness, even before it gets replaced altogether. A full-blown Adventure changes meek men. Although, Dave has been changed so many times by now that this latest gradual transformation is almost below consideration.

    Y’know, I don’t really know what people see in the “great disturbance” line, such that it’s the third most often quoted Star Wars line after this and (shudder) this.

  37. @Leon – Personally, I’ve always been partial to two of Han’s lines, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this” and “I know” in response to something particularly signficiant and/or complicated, delivered in the same tone of voice in the movie where it conveys that you understand and you agree, etc.

  38. I love Artie’s last line in Saturday’s strip.  It’s so horribly, wonderfully inappropriate.

  39. I really feel sorry for people who completely missed the point of Artie’s line “Guys named Dan?”

    It’s like they’ve missed out on an entire era of human history.

    And once again, I am amazed that in nearly ten years, I am the first one to mention it. I think his line is hilarious, but I feel like everyone else is just sitting there wondering why I’m laughing.

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