Dr. Narbon: May 7-12, 2001

Helen looks really skinny in that first panel. I drew her a little too heavy early on, and it took a while to get her shaped the way I wanted. Which was, as I think I’ve mentioned before, essentially like me but with bigger boobs. Incidentally, my mother used to call me when she thought I’d drawn Helen’s boobs too big in a particular strip. Sometimes she left messages on my answering machine while I was at work.

The word balloons are all shaped really funky. I really needed to figure out how to draw those in a non-distracting way.

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I do like the beaker Helen’s wrestling with in this strip. I tended to draw tentacles when I couldn’t think of anything else. You can’t go wrong with tentacles, right? Right.

Dave actually hits on the reality of the time-travel situation here, foreshadowing his eventual fate in the “Dave Davenport Has Come Unstuck in Time” storyline, but no one, Helen included, realizes it.

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Actually, as is probably obvious by now, the Helens Narbon are primarily biologists/geneticists. Our Helen dabbles in other scientific disciplines, and does indeed get into time travel for a while, but her undergraduate degree is in biochemistry.

Dave’s gestures in this strip are strangely effeminate. I need to work on body language.

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I don’t have much to say about this strip, except that I like it when Dave has a pencil stuck behind his ear. He looks so cute. Andrew actually does stick writing implements behind his ear, which I find somehow endearing.

I’m slowly getting better at drawing Dr. Narbon’s admittedly very strange hair. Incidentally, if there were ever a live-action version of Narbonic, Dr. Narbon would have to be played by Bette Midler. I would accept no other.

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This strip was based on an actual criticism my mother voiced toward the portrayal of Dr. Narbon in the strip. She felt the wineglasses were too small. She now has this strip framed and hanging on her wall.

Between the autobio angle and that weird horned fish in the first panel, this is actually a pretty good strip. Good one, me!

Dr. Narbon believes that the death ray has a 20-digit access code, but the code Dave later gives her has only four digits. I have no explanation for this grievous continuity error. A six-issue miniseries is probably called for.

Yes, I used the strip to advertise not only my birthday, but my boyfriend’s birthday to the world at large. I’m shameless. Anyway, Dave likes Andrew a lot better than he likes me. Andrew makes him look cool.

This early attempt at a coup will soon lead to all-out rebellion, once the full brutality of my corrupt regime is exposed.

This is another strip that’s great because I didn’t have to draw much.

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56 thoughts on “Dr. Narbon: May 7-12, 2001

  1. Monday’s Comic: This episode implies that all of the prior events in this and the last story arc happened in the course of one day – which, if you care, is 3 Jan. 2001, or a few days afterward. [Edit: Actually, Artie’s DNA testing requires that it be two days. And now that I think about it, there could easily be a day-gap between Artie’s creation and that of the other gerbils.] This has been your bi-monthly Webcomic Time update.

    Today’s Lesson Learned: All good cartoonists have embarassing relatives.

    Incidentally, the proper word to describe early Helen is not “heavy” but “zaftig.” And you can also count me among those who find her most appealing with the build of someone in their late-30’s.

  2. Leon:  Eh?  why couldn’t it have been a week or two?

    And after all that chatter, the strip ends with Dave’s line, “I’ll get the remote” — so innocuous, yet so forboding…

  3. And, in my Quest For Links, I’m carrying forward my response to yesterdays jawdropper:

    Are the folks who can post links, perhaps limited to the “premium” users of the site?  I’m still on a freebie account myself….

  4. And it didn’t seem to be an Mozilla Firefox vs. Internet Explorer issue, in that neither of those works for me.

  5. *Sigh* Getting the remote is the beginning of the end for Dave. And he doesn’t even have paid death leave! Poor, poor Dave. On a side note he does have a great last name since that’s the most fantastic city in the world.

  6. If the Wayback Machine is mentioned in the frame, wouldn’t it have to be Mr. Whoopee and the 3-D BB teaching string theory?

  7. One way to post links: Copy and paste the link (works in Mozilla.) Of course, you need a way to display it first.

    A shortcut: Copy-paste the following text into your address bar after clicking the “Add a comment” box:

    javascript:tinyMCE.execInstanceCommand(‘mce_editor_0′,’mceInsertRawHTML’,false,'<a href=”INSERT URL HERE”>TEXT TO DISPLAY FOR LINK</a>’);

    … making the appropriate substitutions.

  8. See? Pressing enter just sticks in the link (which will just behave as underlined blue text until you actually click ‘Say It Now!’). You can add text before or after your link, too, and do a few other (but not many) HTML tricks.

    Don’t bother with images. I’ve tried.

  9. Tuesday’s Comic: Suddenly deciding to draw in Helen’s fingernails is (for me at least) a little jarring. But I’ve spoken about this earlier. I suppose what’s more shocking is the revelation that Helen isn’t wearing gloves. She’ll be mad as a hatter if that keeps up.

    Hmmm… to the first-time viewer, this delicious bit of foreshadowing can really go two ways – the other way being a fairly obvious crossover with the Victorian arc where Mr. Davenport (who is at least someone’s grandfather) really is shot. But hopefully he gets better.

    Finally: your linework has gotten awfully smooth and confident of late. Methinks you need to deploy some wilder-looking characters, scenery and angles to bust your self-esteem back down.

  10. Somehow, that eyeball floating in weird fluid (first panel) reminds me of the “Bolero” segment of the movie “Allegro Non Troppo”.  (If you’ve never seen “Allegro Non Troppo”, rent it, see it NOW.  It’s an Italian animator’s twisted version of “Fantasia”.)

  11. John Wells:  Ooh, Web sorcery!  Thank you!

    Let’s try a link to a… Wacky undead robot.  Yay!

    The beaker reminds me of a riff from a college strip that briefly lived at UComics (confusingly named “Feet Of Clay”):

    “I’d better wash out this coffee mug before it begins to smell…”

    <eyeball emerges>

    “… and see, and hear…”


  12. Not to be a nitpicker (though I occasionally am), but is there some sort of verb disconnect in the first panel?  It seems as though Helen’s line should be “Then she probably does.”

  13. Also speaking of movies … Helen’s pointing hand in the second panel looks like “Glove” from the movie “Yellow Submarine” (Bluuuuuuuue Meeeeanieeeeees!)


  14. No, that’s definitely a beaker, a flask would be like those things you see people drink from out in the desert. And besides, it looks kind of cylindrical to me. Young Shannon may not have been able to draw cylinders yet.

    Just a question. Why does Dr. Narbon look so old? I mean, Helen has put all those special chemicals in her coffee to make her look young, surely Dr. Narbon, being even more experienced in biology, could look like anything she wanted. Why and old woman with toe fungus? 

  15. Rather than deal with umpty pages of Google results, I pulled down my Websters:  a “flask” is defined as a bottle-shaped container, a “beaker” as a flat-bottomed cylindrical container, “usually with a pouring lip”.  So I guess it is a flask.

  16. hm. i dont know. i dont think dave’s gestures seem too effeminate. then again, it would be kinda hard to be masculine while kneeling in front of an open control panel. kneeling doesnt seem very manly.

     mmm… space laser…

  17. Kind of hard to seem very masculine while kneeling in front of a control panel in the vicinity of a frightening, imposing, intimidating woman who may or may not have been stalking you through time since you were six years old…

    And who you nonetheless find disarmingly cute.

  18. Wednesday’s Comic: Now this kind of creepiness is much more compelling than repeating the word “Heh” exactly 28 times.

    And that dialogue in panel 1 is unintentionally amusing in how juvenile it is. (Now there’s an idea: a character whose imposing presence renders all nearby incapable of speaking in anything but simplified English.)

    The remote controller broke? …Hey, yeah, it did. Continuity slip averted!

  19. Oh, how I can sympathize with Dave.  No matter how old I get (I’m currently … ahem … “39” … yeah), my relatives still call me “Eddie”.  I *do*not*like* the name Eddie; it sounds like a sleazy used-car salesman.

    (Apologies to Van Halen, The Cruisers, Rabbitt, and Money.)

  20. Yeah, I think the way Dave’s holding his cigarette in the last panel is a little effeminate, though I don’t think I’d have noticed if you hadn’t pointed it out.  Perhaps he just needs to quit smoking…

  21. Ed Gedeon says:

    Oh, how I can sympathize with Dave.  No matter how old I get (I’m currently … ahem … “39” … yeah), my relatives still call me “Eddie”.  I *do*not*like* the name Eddie; it sounds like a sleazy used-car salesman.

    Once in a while I’ve had the same problem; but, other than a few wise@$$es, they stop once I ask them to use either “Edwin” or “Ed”.

  22. how would one hold a cigarette and look manly, in and of itself? i wouldn’t know. iam not a smoker. that just looks like: “iam holding this cigarette, while i consider the realistic possibility that this Elder Mad Scientist has stalked me through time, while kneeling before the control panel for the Orbital Death-ray and resting my weight on it because my knees hurt.”

    man. i wish i was dave. the closest i’ve come to the control panel for a low-orbit death ray’s control panel is driveing past the local “refridgeration plant”, which is surrounded by a 30′ tall earth wall.

  23. Dave shouldn’t even be holding the cigarette since it usually just floaats in front of his mouth. Is this some sign of respect he’s showing to Dr. Narbon? AND WHY IS SHE SO OLD LOOKING? Just curious.

  24. I can accept that Dr. Narbon is 50 years old.  Give or take some <a href=http://www.webcomicsnation.com/shaenongarrity/narbonic/series.php?view=archive&chapter=9988>telomerase, pineal extract, daf-2 inhibiting RNA.</a>

  25. For me at least, having the pencil in behind his ear seems to make it about two times bigger. It kind of looks weird.

    Actually, I kind of feel sorry for Dr. Narbon in this one. It makes it apparent that unless she uses her trademark, “heh heh heh” no one really listens to her much. Perhaps it’s this lack of attention that drove her insane as a young woman and made her a scientist. Or maybe it’s genetics. I dunno. 

  26. well, four could be twenty if you have to input it four times. or she could just be guessing that it is a twenty digit code. i mean, a death ray is something you would want a real secure password for. something with obscure symbols, and is case sensitive. it would be MAD to make the code only four digits.

  27. Friday’s Comic: If you’re trying to figure out which TVTrope entry corresponds to today’s punch-line, the closest fit is probably this one.

    Incidentally: why does Dr. N need the death ray to kill Dave, anyway?

  28. Access code explanation: Dave got so tired of typing in the 20-digit code over and over again every time he needed to test a circuit that he replaced it with a temporary four-digit code until testing was done. (Experience in IT security tells me that “temporary” never is.)

  29. Leon: Dr. N. doesn’t need to use the death ray to kill Dave; she wants to use the death ray to kill Dave.  It’s like the difference between going hunting with a new rifle and going to the supermarket with a new coupon.  You get the same result; one just gets the blood pumping more than the other does.  (Warning:  don’t get between old ladies and free waffle samples on Saturday morning.  I couldn’t stop the blood pumping from my nose for an hour.)


  30. Also, Dr. Narbon probably has more sense than Dave.  Sadly, A programmer putting a 4-digit code on a death ray is all too believable….

  31. Didn’t Dr. Narbon bring her own glasses? How come we haven’t seen these glasses before if they belong to Helen? I’m assuming the reason we don’t see them after is that Dr. Narbon steals them, but before? I just don’t know.

  32. 4 x 4 = 20 if you count in octal.

    The only time I recall Beta drinking wine was at the bar. 

  33. Alternative explanation for the code length difference:

    Additional security can be had by having the prompt on the Death Ray ask “Please enter your 20-digit Access Code”, but only having 4 digits in the code.  Hackers would tend to enter 20 digits and press enter, which would be rejected.  After trying every 20-digit code, only then might the hacker figure out that the code might not be 20-digits.

  34. mental mouse thank you. Even more believable is that there IS a 20 digit code but dave hacked a 4 digit code for himself. And always  give the easy (and probably unchanging one) when asked, to “make my job easier otherwise they’re going to bother me again”.

    I’ve been there

  35. Octal brings to mind the Tom Lehrer line “Base eight is just like base ten really, if you’re missing two fingers.”

  36. Saturday’s Comic: My birthday is on the last Wednesday of next month! Everyone’s invited! On condition that they find my house of their own accord.

    (But really, I’m very, very appalled at the audacity of today’s strip. Gobsmacked. Agape. Agog. Beside myself with outrage.)

  37. Dave’s eyebrows are kind of really insane in this one. I wish my eyebrows were like that. Ya know, gravity defying.

  38. OK, I’ll tell you in advance, I’m ashamed of myself.

    Dave’s eyebrows sort of look like integral signs.  So later, when Shaenon draws them normally, the flying eyebrows … disintegrate.

    I warned you.

  39. OOPS! I actually emailed the address, to wish Andrew a happy 31st (and to urge that takeover). Then I looked at the original release date of the strip.

    I haven’t yet gotten a reply back.

  40. For the Narbonic soundtrack, I submit “Still Alive,” the ending credits song from Portal, written by Jonathan Coulton and sung by Ellen McLain (who makes an excellent deranged computer voice).  I’m not an FPS fan, but the song hits my funny bone.  And Jonathan Coulton!

    “We do what we must
    because we can.
    For the good of all of us.
    Except the ones who are dead.
    But there’s no sense crying over every mistake.
    You just keep on trying till you run out of cake.
    And the Science gets done.
    And you make a neat gun.
    For the people who are still alive.”

    Note: The cake is the reward the computer promises you when you finish the experiments she’s running you through.

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