Professor Madblood and the Wetware Interface: November 26 – December 1, 2001

It’s out of character for Artie to think grafting laser cannons on Dave is a good idea, although it’s hard to deny it would be interesting. I must have written this strip early, before I had Artie figured out.

The book beside Artie is The Ellmann Guide to Genetics. I was kind of going overboard for a while there.

For those of you reading this in realtime, I’m sorry the commentary didn’t update yesterday. WebComicsNation burped and lost a bunch of recent updates, and I was in Portland, and blah blah blah. Anyway, this is still a pretty good strip in my book, even though it’s got that thing with the dialogue crowding out the art that plagues my comics. It’s Artie’s dialogue that makes this one for me.

I don’t know what’s up with the little toy robot in the first panel, but hey! Little toy robot!

Pretty straightforward strip. I needed to establish the fate of Professor Madblood’s transforming AMC Gremlin to set up some very silly developments in a later storyline. And thus the Gremlin joins the ranks of Dave’s invariably doomed cars.

Helen’s already put the keys on a keychain with a little pink heart on it. Also, I think those are little half-formed Dave heads in a tank in the first panel. They’re kind of disturbing.

Aw, Helen’s got a soft spot for Dave. Or a soft spot for bugging Dave. This strip still looks pretty decent, art-wise, so I’m happy. I drew Andrew and myself on the magazine Mell’s reading in the last panel. Man, I did that a lot.

This strip looks really good except for Dave’s close-up in the center panel, which didn’t come out right at all. His head is too small for his body and his giant scarf. I was annoyed with this when I drew it, and I’m still annoyed. Otherwise, though, this is a pretty nice-looking strip. I almost never go for clean and simple when I ought to. Also, I should’ve given Dave curly cigarette smoke more often.

And, yes, there’s no real punchline. I try not to do that kind of thing, but in this case I think Dave really did earn a break.

Harlan Ellison made this observation on a few occasions, although in a Comics Journal interview he clarified it to add that growing up to be a cartoonist doesn’t count, because those folks are some messed-up manchildren. I quoted him in this Smithson splash page.

I still like the art in this strip except for the third panel, where I pull in a little too close and the faces get kind of mushed together. Also, Dave’s a little stiff in the last panel. I do like Helen’s little winter outfit, though, which is why I reused it repeatedly over the course of Narbonic.

And thus ends “Wetware Interface” and the whole long string of storylines following Dave’s death and resurrection. From “Smart Gerbils” to here, the saga stretches just under a year. (Incidentally, in a previous strip Dave comments that he was dead for six months; it’s never entirely clear how Narbonic time moves relative to our time, mainly because I didn’t care.) All in all, not a bad run.

Incidentally, I have no idea where the characters are in this strip.

Professor Madblood and the Wetware Interface: Previous

70 thoughts on “Professor Madblood and the Wetware Interface: November 26 – December 1, 2001

  1. I dunno, if Artie is willing to transmorph Dave into Madblood or randomly switch labels on formulas, I doubt that this is out of character.

  2. Or… you could say that Artie, as a fairly newly improved gerbil, is still figuring out his own personality. It’s like a person looking back on his teen years thinking, “Man, how did I ever think ninja were cool?”

    Artie, of course, develops faster, but still, I can imaging Artie a couple of years from now, looking back at himself thinking, “Laser cannons? Really?”

  3. See, I disagree with all that.  I just saw that comment as Artie saying something he knew Dave would want just to get him to agree.

  4. Hey, ninjas are cool. I still want to be a ninja. Transformers, though? Nuh-uh. But that aside, I agree with billionsix- this is just a phase.

  5. Monday:

    Now there’s poetic justice: killed by a laser cannon, and then he becomes the laser cannon. Of course, where the anatomical heck would they be installed?

    Personally I find the most out-of-character thing in this strip to be Artie’s “but nooo…

    Now that you mention it, did you ever consciously realise that you have turned Chris Ellmann into the most famous and powerful plutocrat in the entire Narboniverse, ruler of what appears to be a worldwide monolithic corporate empire dwarfing even the ACME corporation?

  6. [Of course, where the anatomical heck would they be installed?]

    Let’s just say that Laser-Dave would have to be very, very careful when going to the bathroom.

  7. Pshaw. OBVIOUSLY Laser-Dave’s cannons would be in his eyes. Don’t you people read ANY comic books? Watch any giant robot animes? Even hang out in forums or occasionally brave the chat channels in WoW? PEW PEW PEW!

  8. But laser CANNONS couldn’t really be mounted in the eyes. I’d think that they’re either replace the arms or be mounted on the shoulder like Laura suggested.


    David Given says: “Ninjas? Cool? Please. Now, pirates are cool(…)”


    Ahrrrr! History: She be a harsh mistress! 


    (I especially recommend the book in the fourth link. Quite possibly the best non-fiction book on pre-“Golden Age” [before 1690] piracy written.)

  10. Edwin, if you start a pirate vrs ninja argument on this site I will hunt you down and kill you. With a spoon. 

    I find this to be pretty Artie. Lacking, yes, in his later inclinations towards proactive goodness, but he is really a curious genus. Besides, this is back when his respect for humans is pretty low.  

  11. i woundn’t want to be a ninja. that never apealed to me. i  mean, killing skills? cool. a uniform that gives an air of mystery (and possibly hides that unsightly unibrow (or what have you)). oh, and swords. swords and other stabby weapons are cool (looking at least, even in a simple, untilitarian, ninja way).

    but if iam a ninja, no-one will know me. i will be a shadow, i will be the unseen death, glimsed but for a moment out of the corner of my target’s eye, i will see the dawning horror, right before i finish them. If i try to become known, to be recognised, to stop following my clan’s orders and say, become an accountant… Then i will be a dead man, as my clan sends wave after wave of nameless, faceless trainees to destroy me, the traitor. sure, it will start out easy, and might entertain me for a while, killing with doccument W-12b, the slow painfull death by red-tape. but eventually my master will be dispatched, and we’ll have that great showdown, he will make me feel bad “chosen one, blah blah, you were suposed to blah blah.” and then i’ll die or by maimed/disfigured so much that i would be better off dead, and instead of finishing me off, he will leave me there, to burn with my files.

     see. that part of being a ninja? not too hot. but hey, Laser Cybernbetics? pretty cool untill you start really thinking about it. i mean, a laser gets really hot, so its got to have coolant, which generally isnt very healthy to breath and probley doesnt smell that good. which, admitedly, might not be much of a difference for dave. i mean, what, he isnt going to get dates? Ha! the only way dave could get a date is in drag…

     um. anyhow. ninjas? not that great when you think it through. now, the freedom, nice dress code, and the possibilty of being a hero NOT marked for death by a clan of elite, silent, invisible killers… you gotta admit, Pirates are better than ninjas. 🙂 well. some of them anyhow. when all things are balanced. though, i do get violently sea sick.

    guess i’ll just have to be a land pirate. Arr.


    Aaron Shades says:

    “Edwin, if you start a pirate vrs ninja argument on this site I will hunt you down and kill you. With a spoon.”


    That’s certainly *not* my intent. I merely wished to point out that, historically, Piracy at sea was (and, in fact, still is) actually a rather perilous lifestyle that (with rare exceptions) usually resulted in a violent death for those who chose to pursue it.


    Also, I can think of better things that you could use that spoon for…like eating a delicious bowl of ice cream. Cherry Vanilla, anyone?

  13. Re: spare heads in tank —

    “I want to find a boy to love
    So we can share our hearts
    And kidneys and intestines;
    It’s so nice to have spare parts”

    (Dang, I gotta record that song someday)

  14. It’s out of character for Artie to think grafting laser cannons on Dave is a good idea,

    But it’s not at all out of character for Artie to be messing with Dave’s head!  Sometimes he pranks the women too, but Dave is so much safer to tease….

  15. Why wouldn’t an AMC Gremlin make him feel icky? For that matter, an AMC …

    True story: My grandfather, who grew up farming, took one look at the AMC Pacer when it came out and pronounced “That thing looks like a constipated pig.” 

  16. Dammit, Tiff, you beat me to it.


    I can only imagine that Dave is having a serious Noodle Incident moment, unique in that WE know what happened,but HE doesn’t, so he’s left to imagine the worst . . . .  

  17. Edwin:

     You’re being an unnecessarily damp blanket… We aren’t all going around saying ARRRR because we think a life of sweltering heat, vitamin C deficiency, and rape and murder as the high points is awesome. No more than we think desperate suicidal hitmen in an oppressive feudal society or poo-flinging primate that tends to be infected with diseases that don’t even EXIST yet are viable career options. 

     Roll with the romanticization, man. Embrace it. Otherwise you’re reading a comic about a scientist with no concept of biological ethics, who regularly causes innocent people to die in agonizingly painful ways.

  18. Otherwise you’re reading a comic about a scientist with no concept of biological ethics, who regularly causes innocent people to die in agonizingly painful ways.

    This is bad how? 

  19. You know those shirts that say “You call me a bitch like it’s a bad thing,” right?

    This is sort of like that. If you don’t recognize the badness, Grubbs, you’re probably horribly in denial.

  20. This is sort of like that. If you don’t recognize the badness, Grubbs, you’re probably horribly in denial.

    Ah, but since it clearly says comic then there must be some entertainment value to it. Then again, maybe not. 

  21. I’m not quite sure how Helen could have stopped Dave anyway. It’s not like she was going to fire him, I means look at all the trouble they went just to get a computer guy named Dave. Doing it again would be insanity. Er, I mean really hard.

  22. Tumorsday:

    In this episode, the webcomic addresses what everybody was thinking. That always makes for popular episodes. What’s even more horrifying, Dave, is that they all got to see you age in a week’s time from zygote to adulthood. What I’m saying is that they watched you go through puberty again.

  23. Wetwaresday:

    Ellipses denoting silence: …2.
    Swirly elbow-skin: 1. What the heck is up with that? (No, really, everytime I see it I’m mystified.)

  24. Thoraxday:

    First day alive in half a year.” Well, if you say so. That means 40 weeks with the Victorian ghosts, and since it’s snowed since last week when Dave haggled Caliban, this storyline must end in November. I guess I’ll have to retroactively move the Dr. Narbon storyline from January to May.

    Or, there’s this Completely Sensible Unifying Theory: The Narboniverse has its seasons reversed. In the Northern Hemisphere it snows in June and simmers in November. Therefore, this storyline ends in May, and Dr. Narbon ends in January like we all assumed it did. This correlates with the fact that the dissociated storyline Professor Madblood and the Crystal of Marinia ran from November 20 to New Year’s, and it wasn’t snowing there either. I think we’ve got a breakthrough on our hands here.

    Fourth-wall dialogue: 19.

  25. This has to be one of my favorite Narbonic strips, for its incredibly enconomical character summations.

    And Helen is terribly well-drawn in panel 3.

  26. Helen looks adorably childlike in her winter gear. I can totally see her figure skating.

    Leon: How do you get “40 weeks” out of “half a year”?

  27. Looking over this strip again, I think my favorite part is, “Thanks for the body.” It’s so blase. Thanks, Dave, we only just CREATED LIFE here.

  28. I always love that no matter how good a Mad Sci Helen is, she’s not terribly good at  being a tough boss.

    She’s just too sweet for that. I mean, sure she’ll turn  you into a zombie, poison your coffee, and subject you to experiments but . . . .

    . . . where was I going with that? 

  29. that is so awesome, by the way.

     staring up at the sky. esp at night, when you are out in the middle of nowhere. its amazing how interesting, it can be. the cold air whipping at you. the sky luminious with just the light of the stars.

    then the wind blows some ash into your eye, and ruins the moment.

  30. This was the first Narbonic my wife came across. Immediately she was intrigued–“What? Dead? And he’s not now? What’s going on here?” She introduced me to the strip shortly thereafter. And thus, our love for Narbonic was born.

  31. Meh. I guess I can forgive the fourth wall breaking this once. It’s a nice little scene.


  32. I really like this one.  It’s got that quiet contemplative feel.

    And the black spot is the tip of his hat.   He’s walking away from us.

  33. Friday:

    A paper-white snowfield is a good place to rest after a long arc. It will be used in later stories as well.

  34. Of course, as soon as he says, “…I get one day without a punchline,” Mell comes out and punches him on the arm.

  35. I’ve always really, really liked this one.  One of the things I love about Narbonic is that it’s got a heart as well as a funny bone, and it shines through clearly in this strip.  Having a character break the fourth wall to tell us that they’re only human, they’ve had a really rough time, and damn it, just for today at least they’re not here to amuse us?  Genius.

    Oh, and Dave’s head in the middle panel looks fine to me.

  36. I think this is the only breather moment dave gets for the rest of the strip.

    This is before the romance, before the hamsters, the plots,  the robot armies.  . . 

    ‘s nice. 

  37. . . . . when I was ten, I wanted to be a cartoon.

    I’m working towards this nicely, I think.

    Ah, poor Dave. . .  

  38. always dreamed of being a scientist. then i found out science was boring, lots of work, and not cool. then i wanted to rule the world. then i realised that wouldn’t work, because it would be too much work running the planet. so then i wanted to become cynic (read: philisophical bum). that worked out for a while, but was too boring. now, once i figure out the key-code to the secret goverment lab meddling with weather control down the street, i will live out all my dreams at once. besides the cynic thing.

  39. Saturday:

    Today, Dave makes a decision. It is, obviously, the wrong one for a person who wants an easy life and highly values self-preservation.

    But, of course, now Dave can never escape mad science, now that mad science is inside every cell of his being – now that he’s legally one week old, Helen is his surrogate mother and his brain is functionally immortal.

    (Incidentally… I only just remembered that this strange cerebral boon, much like his strange vehicular boon mentioned on Thoraxday, isn’t one that Dave manages to retain through the end of the webcomic. For those visitors who haven’t read that far yet, let’s say that he has a slightly more lasting out-of-body experience. Oh well.)

    Also the result of this storyline: both characters want each other’s bods but neither of them know it. This is the best kind of unresolved tension.

  40. Well, being dead’s not exactly something you can do for a living, no?

    Several of Terry Pratchett’s characters would disagree with you, Adam.  If you haven’t read Pratchett, your life is poorer.

  41. <i>Today, Dave makes a decision. It is, obviously, the wrong one for a person who wants an easy life and highly values self-preservation.</i>

    Leon, she did preserve him!  And I’m sure she’s got plenty of formaldehyde left…. Also, he’s being a little unfair in panel two — it was Dr. N. who killed him, (with his own cooperation) and as for Hell… well, that wasn’t her decision!

  42. I’d take Harlan’s comment on cartoonists more seriously if it weren’t that I’ve missed zero daily updates in 1444 since I started, but he couldn’t bring in the Dangerous Visions series within years of deadline. Ha.

  43. Leon: Obviously Dave’s brain is not the kind of zombie where the parts crawl back together after being severed. They’re individually immortal, though.

  44. I’d take Harlan’s comment on cartoonists more seriously if it weren’t that I’ve missed zero daily updates in 1444 since I started…
    You started updating in the fifteenth century? …That explains a lot of things.

  45. Only sometimes. Depends on whether I’m channelling Malory or Wace or Chretien or Geoffrey or …

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