Professor Madblood and the Doppelganger Gambit: May 19-24, 2003

I like that Helen let her hair down before turning on the communication screen. You want to look your best in these situations.

Oh, poor Madblood. After all this, he still holds out hope that Helen isn’t basically out to get him.

I’m not crazy about the punchline panel of this strip, but Helen snort-laughing is excellent.

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I’m sorry, I find the three Daves working together adorable. The alliance dissolves in short order, but while it holds they actually make a pretty effective team.

Helen’s arm is so messed up in the first panel. Man, that bugs me.

Helen brings up escape routes as a cunning ruse to get Madblood to tell Dave and Artie how to get off the moonbase. And thank goodness she does, because they’ll need this information later on.

The best part of this strip is, of course, Helen trying not to laugh. The worst part is her big sausage fingers. Hands are really friggin’ hard to draw.

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People questioned whether Artie would describe something as “ruling.” He would if it were something as awesome as HANDS. Seriously, hands are great. Without hands, you know how long it would take to type this commentary? Way too long. I’ve got drinking to do.

That said, it’s a good thing Dave didn’t have his cigarette in his mouth when Artie clapped a hand over it.

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[SPOILER] Helen’s line in the last panel is prescient. The next time something like this happens to Artie, he won’t be changing back to normal. I already had this planned; at the time this strip ran, Human!Artie was already appearing over in Li’l Mell.

This is far, far from the last time my obsession with “The Wizard of Oz” will crop up in my comics.

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58 thoughts on “Professor Madblood and the Doppelganger Gambit: May 19-24, 2003

  1. The bad news is, he’s split himself into Good, Evil, and Neutral.  To be precise, I’d say Neutral Good, True Neutral, and Lawful Evil, but that’s perhaps open to interpretation.

  2. Artie’s line in the last panel is one of my favorites.  If Narbonic was ever made into a series of movies, that line would go in the trailer.

  3. This. This is why I don’t buy any of the bad things Shaenon says about her art. There are any number of webcomics out there, including some with allegedly “good art”, where it’s only possible to tell the characters apart by their standard outfits and hairstyles. And, frequently, that fails if the hair isn’t colored. There are even some where you can’t tell the boys from the girls if the canteloupes the latter are smuggling are out-of-panel.

    But Narbonic… not only are all of the major characters’ basic designs very different, here we have three different characters in identical bodies. And while there are wardrobe differences to clue who’s who, that isn’t absolutely necessary, because it’s possible to tell them apart just by the way they stand.

    That is good comic art.

  4. Monday:

    To talk about my own experience for a moment: after reading this episode for the first time, I’d somehow misremembered Artie’s line. I’d recalled it as “The good news is, Mission “Find Dave” has been 300% successful“, and earnestly believed that to be its wording until I reread the strip about a year or so later. Personally, I can’t help but feel my wording is a bit punchier than the real version – but then I would, wouldn’t I?

  5. (TUNE: “Katmandu”, Bob Seger)

    At last I’m getting a call from Moon!
    I’ve been here waiting and it’s none too soon!
    I asked for Artie to find one Dave …
    He found a whole platoon!
    C-c-c-c-c-c-call the Moon!
    Oh what a way to spend the afternoon!
    Madblood’s such an uptight buffoon!
    He messed up all the Moon!

  6. One spins the web of fate, meaning to take over the world but only entangling his feet.

    One measures the length, then moans endlessly about the existential meaning of the arbitrariness of ‘length’

    And the last one cuts the thread, adds an RJ-45 jack, connects it to his PlayStation, and disappears into Portal.

  7. I love the last panel. “Mission “Find Dave” is several times more succesful than planed” is one of my favorite lines!

  8. I loved Artie’s line in this strip so much that I had honestly forgotten Helen’s line just before it. 

    There is enough funny in this strip to keep a normal newspaper comic going for a month. 

  9. What’s with Helen’s viewscreen?  It’s so… circular.  And for that matter, what is Artie communicating into that they can be viewed dead-on at about eye level from a few feet back?

  10. @ chumpchange  There are some people who are reading the strip the first time around right now, update to update.  Kindly don’t confuse them.  I admire the endurance it requires (I personaly read the entire archive in 24 hours when I discovered during winter break about two years ago).  Besides, you’ll be able to use it soon enough, relatively (This arc and the next are good but looong).

  11. Tuesday:

    Let’s analyse this. Helen already knows that Madblood’s assumed Dave’s form (having dealt with him personally), and that Mell’s just taken these three dweebs prisoner, so the entirety of her laughter seems to be directed at Artie’s hideous transformation. Tut, tut. That’s just not nice!

    Also, Artie and Madblood seem to now be resisting the urge to nick Dave’ cigs with far more fortitude than either of them has demonstrated throughout this storyline. Presumably that’s due to the invigorating effects of primal mammalian prey adrenaline?

  12. (TUNE: “You Really Got Me”, The Kinks)

    You’re calling from the Moon!
    I wonder what the heck are you guys doin’?
    Daves, now there are three of you,
    There’s Dave and Madblood and Artie too!

    Daves, you’re gonna hurt me now!
    You make my laugh so hard my breath is short!
    Daves, I’m gonna have a cow!
    I have to hold the wall for support!
    Tee-hee giggle snort!
    Tee-hee giggle snort!
    Tee-hee giggle snort!

  13. I don’t know, anyone who listens to a director’s commentary while going through a work of art for the first time deserves any spoilers they get.  After all, this whole work is great and I do not know anyone who after being introduced to it doesn’t rip through the archives inside a week.

    I dare say, spoil away πŸ˜‰

  14. @mage_cat:

    The problem there is that once the line becomes relevant it will no longer, as it were, be relevant.

  15. Shaenon does point out on the main page that the Director’s Cut may contain spoilers.  I don’t see why we should let her have all the fun.

  16. John Ross says:
    “…I do not know anyone who after being introduced to it doesn’t rip through the archives inside a week…”

    Well, you don’t KNOW me, but I’m an example. Maybe I’ve just got more willpower than most (he says around a mouthfull of oreo cookie…). πŸ™‚

    Spoilers? Heck, they just heighten the anticipation. Bring ’em on!


  17. Okay, fair enough.  I just remembered that some people got really confused one time someone mentioned it and thought I would be nice.  I was up all night working on a paper and my thinking wasn’t terribly clear.

  18. The thing to remember is that Dave hasn’t never smoked yet.


    Also, the tenses involved in talking about time travel are weird.

  19. @Leon: Helen has been not-laughing for some time – and she’s just gotten the full ridiculous details, probably including why the robot army is obeying Mell – which means Shaenon wimped on showing Madblood’s reaction to the claim that he looks like Mell.

    Of course she has the giggles. (In her case, evil giggles.)

  20. By Madblood, no less.

    In actuality, Madblood has only himself to blame for these predicaments – first, he used the transmogrification gun on himself for exactly the purpose of being Helen’s henchman, and one really should expect invaders in your bases when you declare war on Earth.  Also, his programming has some serious flaws.

  21. I need to boast a little and do some namedropping.  Excuses in advance if you think boasting is unseemly in a Sane Scientist.

    Sunday I went to APE.  I bought all six Narbonic books, plus Skin Horse, and most of Andrew’s minis.  I got them directly from the kind hands of Shaenon and Andrew.  With little cartoons drawn on the spot (that’s dedication to art!)  Thanks!

    Tuesday I visited the Cartoon Art Museum, and had a good time with Jason Thompson who was working at the Museum store (I had got some of his cartoons at APE too).  Then, around 7pm I got a completely unexpected extra for my San Francisco visit – a short conversation with Frank Chu.  Truly I had a lucky San Francisco day.  Earlier in the same day I gave a talk about star formation at Stanford – I think that went well too.  At least three people gave plenty of feedback – sane scientists all.

  22. It’s true! Ruben also showed me photos from his world travels. And talked about astrophysics.

  23. (TUNE: “There Is Nothing Like A Dame”, Rodgers & Hammerstein)

    Madblood lost his lovely Moonbase
    To a crazy college girl!
    Artie lost his useful whiskers
    And his tail with tufted curl!
    Dave is losing all his patience!
    They all call me to berate!
    Know what I lost?
    I lost my date!

    I got stood up on my date!
    Madblood stood me up …
    There’s no more distressing fate
    Than to dress up and have no date!

  24. I like that original-Dave is the one to suggest allying against her.  But then, it’s been noted before that Helen likes her henchmen treacherous.

  25. I like how the complaining expressions in panel two match each character–Madblood, perpetually angry and pointing fingers; Artie, having another identity crisis; and Dave, frustrated but not surprised that life is out to get him again.

  26. The Daves make such a wonderfull team, and Helen shouldn’t talk when she’s been giving trouble

  27. (TUNE:  “Legs”, ZZ Top)

    She’s got hands!
    With big sausage fingers!
    Got no plans,
    She’ll just have to wing hers!
    She’s got mitts!
    With digits like bratwurst!
    Wolf throws fits;
    His bubble just got burst!
    Her advice is tops …
    Although she never stops
    Gigglin’ all night!

  28. Heh – I just thought that her fingers were pressed up against the viewing screen/plate/thingy.


    The Auld Grump, like a kid outside a candy store. πŸ˜› 

  29. Professor Madblood, do you really expect a fellow Mad Scientist not to giggle manicly at a time like this?

  30. Thursday:

    Say, has anyone mentioned the peculiar fact that it is necessary – nay, expected! – that these fancy fictional viewscreens function identically to windows?

    Helen calls dear old Maddybloodkins ‘Wolf’ to his face – and has in fact done so ever since he asked her to. Of course, by now she’s well and truly pulverised their relationship, so her continued use of that appelation seems to be moot.

  31. Perhaps hands govern through a mandate from the masses. Of course, the vote was probably taken by a show of hands, making it somewhat suspect, particularly since they were backed by force of arms. It so often seems to go that way when power comes to the idealistic left, which, fittingly, Artie is using here.

  32. (TUNE:  “Willie and the Hand Jive”, Johnny Otis)

    I know a gerbil, name of Artie …
    Came to the Moon as a rescue party!
    That crazy teleport machine …
    Turned him into a human bein’!

    Helen said, “Wolf, you’re looking cuter!
    Just re-program your computer!”
    Dave saw a hole in Helen’s plan …
    Artie jumps in with a well-placed hand!

    Hands rule!  Hands rule!
    Hands rule!  Dig those digits, hands rule!

  33. Well, when standing shoulder to shoulder, they can elbow their way into positions of power. Their only realistic alternative would be to knuckle under entirely. So it should be no surprise that idealism so often turns sinister.

  34. Sadly, I’m all too personally familiar with Dave’s inability to allow self-preservation to override his urge to point out people’s mistakes.

  35. Friday:

    The other best part of today’s strip is Madblood’s doubled-up self-aggrandisement in panel 1.

  36. Artie is smart enough to know that 1) he has the last balloon, 2) therefore he has punch line duty, 3) punch lines require both brevity and simplicity, and 4) he can borrow from Mel’s vocabulary for both.

  37. 4a) It’s not like Mel’s using her own vocabulary at the moment anyway, she be trippin’ on Patton.

  38. I like how Madblood is so self-involved he completely misses Dave’s interjection.

    Not that that’s surprising.  Why would a mad genius deign to listen to a mere henchman’s prattle anyway?

  39. (TUNE:  “Ding Dong, The Witch Is Dead”, Arlen & Harburg)

    Oh, god!  I miss my bod!
    Which old bod?  My bitsy bod!
    I miss my itsy-bitsy bod!

    Man, this feels so odd!
    This is not my true facade!
    I miss my itsy-bitsy bod!

    I quick-fixed the teleport
    There must … have been a short!
    Oh sh*t!  Though Helen reassures
    The cure’s enduring!

    Though it may disconcert,
    You’ll revert!  Won’t even hurt!
    Be alert, you’ll reassert your bod!

  40. Saturday:

    Personally, I’ve felt it’s a bit of a flaw of redundancy that Artie gets humanised twice (whoops, spoilers) in this webcomic. I feel that being suddenly forced into human form is an experience so life-altering that it should be dispensed upon a character but once – as it is with Caliban (whoops, more spoilers). And, of course, all of the ‘getting used to the new body’ jokes can be quite efficiently packaged in a single arc.

  41. Leon: What do you mean, redundant? In one case, he’s turned into a human, and in the other case, he’s turned into Dave.

  42. @Shaenon: {lightly swatting you on the head with a sketchpad} Those are not “sausage fingers”, they’re ‘retro R. Crumb-style artwork’. You see, if you say that the effect was deliberate and that you were copying from a master of underground “comix”, people will think you’re clever and avant-garde. Silly cartoonist!

    And yes, Helen’s hands in panel 1 of Thursday’s comic did actually make me think of R. Crumb. So now you have a reason to be proud of your weird art style–it’s reminiscent of classic stoner comics. (Err, maybe that didn’t quite come out right… ;-_- )

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