Island of the Ur-Gerbils: May 27 – June 1, 2002

I figured there was no suspense over this particular mystery, so Dave, Mell, and Artie didn’t need to act surprised about it. Actually, Artie remains mostly silent on the issue. It’s probably beneath him.

Aw, Helen ends up startling Dave after all. It’s that high-cut sarong. I had to draw Dave’s glasses slipping down because it’s the only way to show his eyes from the front.

Obviously, I enjoy drawing sexy ladies in sexy poses. I like drawing sexy men, too, but the early years of Narbonic gave me few opportunities. Actually I think Dave is quite sexy, but he’s not a good sport about vamping it up.

The ur-gerbils are a lot friendlier to Helen here than they were back at the lab, where they trampled her en masse. Otto and Lil must have missed her. Helen cuddling the ur-gerbil still strikes me as fairly charming.

Well, you know, he did press the button on the doomsday device. A lot of the many unfortunate things that happen in connection with Narbonics Labs are technically Dave’s fault.

I like Helen’s little smile in the first panel. It’s the smile of someone who has been waiting to be officially declared a goddess for some time now and is not at all surprised when it occurs.

I really should have found ways to work the ur-gerbils into later Narbonic storylines. I mean, look at them. Also note the backwards chitter.

This week of strips is one of many sequences in which Helen’s character is strongly influenced by Miss Piggy. In this case, Muppet Treasure Island was probably a significant touchstone.

Artie quotes the Saint Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V, natch:

From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition…

I like the gerbil worrying Dave’s flannel in the first panel. Really, the ur-gerbils are great. Who doesn’t enjoy freakishly oversized rodents?

44 thoughts on “Island of the Ur-Gerbils: May 27 – June 1, 2002

  1. Monday:

    Comedy webcomics, despite having already subverted and spoofed every other traditional narrative convention available to them, only sometimes go so far as to subvert the Twist itself.* And, if they do so, they usually wait until after the Twist is played straight on the audience before their characters let the air out of it.

    Pardon me for being uncharacteristically cynical, but I presume this is because, for several such writers, the Twist is a trope that they lean a little heavily upon, such that they never think to undermine it for humourous purposes.

    * But I welcome citations of other 2002-era webcomics that are to the contrary!

  2. …and if there’s a huge dramatic build up to a “big reveal” that everyone knows is coming … there should be some sort of punchline here about “Hype Priestess” …

  3. Oh yeah, I love this exchange!  Dave is totally getting the hang of dealing with Helen’s world….

  4. Tuesday:

    Now, that costume is impressive. How did Helen ascend to the peak of gerbil aristocracy and still have time to assemble such a fancy do? I guess those other slobs must have been really slow-moving. Impending dehydration can do that.

    The feathers are a really nice touch.

  5. Dang! Helen is hot!

    There’s gotta be a joke in there about two Wrights make a sarong, but I’m too lazy to work on it now…

  6. The feathers are a really nice touch.

    Presumably from one of those 23 species of endangered gulls… not that Helen would care.

  7. First, they had to show respect to the gerbils, then be impressed by Helen’s ability to throw an outfit together from whatever she could scavenge … you can’t blame Dave for acting a bit rudely.

    Or, to put it another way:  Boss is evil?  Oh, we hail a gerbil day!  Lo!  Holy ad lib regalia!  He who lives is S.O.B.

    (Hey, if the gerbils can be palindromic, why not the rest of us?)

  8. Incidentally, we see here an early example of the curly words that we’ll eventually learn to recognize as Sarge’s Mad Font.


  9. Eddurd: woah. I salute your palindromic facility.

    Poor Helen. You carefully craft a dramatic reveal, and the flippin’ henchpersons won’t play along.

  10. So, on this 10-point scale, where exactly does a short red dress slit up the side, accessorized with a lab coat, fall?

    I like the curly speech-balloon tail to go with the curly font. Also the little heart in the question mark. 

  11. “Ten out of ten for the wardrobe, though.”

    It looks like something she just threw on…and missed!

  12. I am very fortunate to own the first strip that shows “Jungle Helen”.  Doubly fortunate that it was given to me as a gift by Shaenon.  Triply lucky that it was because I took her and Andrew to Disneyland.  I would have paid them to go to Disneyland with me, but instead, I got Jungle Helen.  *grin*


  13. Oh, I forgot, I did have a relevant point: The recurrence of the “ingenious native language” bit here is another of my favorite Narbonic moments.

  14. Wednesday:

    There’s no punchlike quite like a double subversion, is there? And look at how seamlessly it’s integrated into the exposition!

  15. The males are referred to as Sir-Gerbils;
    The ladies, of course, must be Her-Gerbils.
    You put ’em together
    In warm sunny weather;
    They’ll gestate a whole tribe of Ur-Gerbils.

  16. Y’know, it occurs to me just now that Helen’s pink glasses survive a LOT over the course of Narbonic.

  17. I want to see them do ballet. I’m sure they all know how to do a gerbilesque. Then we could have a party, a gerbilation. Or speak German, find out what gerbildungsnicht means. Anyone for Mexican food? A gerbilito con arroz?

  18. Thursday:

    What is the proper relationship a manufactured species should have to its human creator? These tyrannical gerbils hold Helen as a creator goddess, whereas mumble mumble is content with simply calling her “mother”. Artie has no intention of ever accepting either. This also reminds me of a younger Helen giving Dr. N the title of “sister”.

    Something else that is only touched upon: cargo cults. If Helen is the virtuous Creator in ur-gerbil cosmology, then evidently David is the vicious Destroyer. How he’d react to this ignomious deification is bound to be worth a joke or two.

  19. (Sung to the tune of “A Horse With No Name” by America)

    I’m stuck on the island where the ur-gerbils came
    And they each took a palindrome name.
    On the island, or at home, it’s the same;
    If there’s something screwed up, I get the blame!
    La la laaaaaaa la la la la …

  20. y’know, on second thought, it’s kinda creepy how Helen looks so ecstatic at the secondary sentence.

  21. Friday:

    Something else this week of strips reminds me of: throughout Narbonic, all three of the human cast temporarily gain a position of great authority over the other two. Helen here is goddess of a gerbil kingdom; Mell apportions control of an army of world-conquest robots; Dave’s brain is transplanted into a Venusian emperor.

    How these three use their powers in each case, and how they manhandle the others, reflects quite a bit about themselves. Helen here, for instance, is merely affably irresponsible – she’s already used to bossing David and Mell around.

  22. In today’s strip, Helen and the Ur-Gerbils bring a whole new meaning to the phrase, “disarmingly cute”.

    (Sung to the tune of “Baby You Can Drive My Car” by The Beatles)
    I told my henchman his prospects weren’t good …
    My kids are hungry, and you look like food!
    But hey, don’t panic, and don’t have a fit,
    They’ll only chew you a little bit!

    Babies, you can bite his arm!
    Won’t do him no lasting harm!
    Oooh, that blood looks nice and warm!
    (I think that I love him …)
    Squeak squeak ‘n’ squeak squeak, kaeuqs!

  23. Helen’s already fixed death, for that matter. On the other hand, having a robot arm is possibly even cooler than being a zombie.

  24. Saturday:

    As we all know, Artie is even more correct than David is prepared to accept. And not just because David’s body was manufactured in the laboratory, every cell and organ the work of that wanton woman.

    Freakishly oversized small things are indeed marvellously freakish. I can always appreciate the delicious cognitive dissonance of meek things suddenly being mighty, and minute things suddenly being immense.

  25. Once more onto the beach, dear friends, once more,
    Or blow the world up with our Science Mad!
    At school, there’s nothing that a Dave loves more
    Than TMBG and some D&D;
    But when the blows of Mell batter our face,
    Then imitate the action of the gerbil:
    Scamper and scurry, summon up some speed.
    You’ll see me run like heck in just a sec,
    Leaving a cloud of dust.  Don’t fail me, feet!
    Flee from these rodents, and on this retreat
    Cry, “God, why’d Helen land upon this shore??”

  26. I like the happy gerbil faces in the last panel and Dave petting one of them between the eyes. They love that.

  27. In gerbil related news, a political cartoon for tomorrow(it is in the sunday funnies which show up on saturday) claims that 84% of registered voters want to see Pollsters eaten alive by gerbils.  Would Helen Oblige?  Or should I go search for the Ur-gerbils myself?

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