Angels: November 28 – December 3, 2005

Hey, that’s a good angel! I deserve all As for that angel. Also note the dramatic lighting. You can tell I’m making an effort when I try to do shading, because that stuff is hard.

Judging from the backgrounds, the cherubim have apparently not only broken every picture frame in the house (except the one on the stairs containing a large flat insect), but ripped off the wallpaper. Stupid cherubim.

You are not going to believe me, nobody in their right minds could possibly believe me, but it’s true, really it is: I went through about a million possible names before it occurred to me to name Caliban’s opposite number Ariel. I did research. I studied Hebrew. I fretted over this character’s name for weeks. Then, when it was down to the wire and I had to stop futzing around and draw the strip, I suddenly thought, “Hey, I should call her Ariel.” And felt like an idiot.

People have pointed out that, unlike the Disney character, Ariel in The Tempest is male. In my flimsy defense, Ariel the angel isn’t really female, as angels have no sex. Which is another reason Caliban is reluctant to go back.

At the time I drew this strip, I was displeased that it didn’t have a real punchline, but now I like it. Maybe I’m just mellowing.

It’s nice when I don’t get overly wordy. Good work, me.

“Cloud City” is either a Star Wars or Super Mario 3 reference, depending on which day you ask me. It’s the name Andrew and I gave to the Upper Geary neighborhood in San Francisco, which is on top of a hill and nearly always cloaked in fog. It’s like Heaven, if Heaven sometimes smelled like garbage and sometimes smelled like pie.

When this first ran, some people were confused by Caliban’s comment about the situation with Ariel going “pear-shaped.” It’s just Caliban being inexplicably British again, “pear-shaped” being slang for “all screwed up,” but there were people who thought he meant that Ariel put on a bunch of weight after he got cast out of Heaven. Which is a better story, come to think of it.

Yes, now that he’s mortal, Caliban is literally gross.

Mell’s expression is nice. As is that weird thing Ariel’s robe does.

I remember writing this and being very amused by the idea that both cassette tapes and the band Air Supply predated the Biblical creation. I think most people just found it confusing, but oh well.

37 thoughts on “Angels: November 28 – December 3, 2005

  1. Monday:

    “SHAAAAA-” with serifs is most probably the best sound effect for this sort of visitation.

    The implication of panel 3 is that Dave didn’t even turn around until panel 4. He’s really not into these once-in-a-lifetime extraplanar emergencies, is he?

  2. (TUNE: “I Shot The Sheriff”, Bob Marley)

    Oh s**t, the seraph!
    We just chopped up all the cherubim!
    Oh s**t, the seraph!
    Now the si-tu-a-tion’s looking grim!

        Iris ran her weekly game
        With all her friends, plus Dave …
        Nothing would ever be the same
        Once she asked about her microwave …
        She asked Dave to fix the microwave!

    Oh s**t, the seraph!
    Gonna take one of the souls we’ve got …
    Oh s**t, the seraph!
    Get assumed to Heaven, ready or not!

        Now Caliban, he has a plan
        To rejoin the heavenly host!
        It’s the only way he can,
        Because otherwise, his soul is toast!
        With the demons he will sit and roast!

    Oh s**t, the seraph!
    Seems the fallen angel’s gonna leave!
    Oh s**t, the seraph!
    (But does Mell have somthing up her sleeve?)

  3. @Leon: Do you mean “‘SHAAAH’ with serifs” or “‘SHAAAH’ with seraphs”? (Or was that pretty much your point?)

  4. I always thought that it wasn’t so much that angels didn’t have a sex so much as it just didn’t matter that much to them:  Milton wrote that angels can “either sex or both assume” in Paradise Lost.  Then again, I’ve not read the Divine Comedy, so Dante may have had different rules entirely, and you might not be going by Milton’s rules, Milton being an inveterate Catholic-hater and all.  But I did like the idea that Mel and Caliban are far less adventurous than Dave and Helen as far as such matters are concerned.

  5. A series of miniature punchlines still counts as punchliney in my book. (Of course, my book was written two hours after the publisher called threatening to cut off my fingers if I didn’t turn in a final copy.)

  6. Tuesday:

    I appreciate the extra effort taken for her lettering. Is it based on any typeface or font? It looks very interesting, especially in its use of left-protruding nubs and descending thingies (warning: highly legitimate typographic jargon).

    So, did Ariel melt or shatter Iris’s tiles just by zapping into the room? Surely the winged masters of goodness would have more control over their high-energy bodily emissions.

  7. So, would Mell be Prospero then?  I can imagine when she gets Ariel alone, saying,

    Now my charms are all o’erthrown,
    And what strength I have’s mine own …

    … then clocking Ariel right across the jaw.

  8. Again, from what I’ve read: being spirits, angels don’t have sexes, except when taking human form, and that’s only a technicality because humans have sexes.

  9. Are angels and devils able to make themselves visible to living mortals with severe weirdness-blindness?  On the one hand, they’re very weird indeed; on the other, they’re of a higher order of being than mere mad science.

  10. I’m not sure it matters much whether angels are “either sex or both”, neither, or “sexless unless they really want to make an effort” (Good Omens). In any case, the point is that Ariel has chosen a female form for aesthetic reasons, rather than actually being female.

  11. If I didn’t already know what was coming next, I’d assume Ariel was about to get annoyed, do a situational readjustment, light a cigarette, and start tapping its foot before explaining the situation.

  12. There is by no means consensus that the Tempest character “Ariel” is male. Women have been playing the role dating back to the late 1600’s, and the part was exclusively female in the mid nineteenth through early-mid twentieth centuries. There is more than a little thought that Ariel was meant to be as sexless as the angel he/she/it/they/sie/other was named for.On the other hand, the angel that predates the Shakespearean character — which apparently (twelve minutes of research tells me) has connections to gnosticism, the Angra Mainyu and the Demiurge — is generally depicted as lion-headed and maned. While that would imply a male angel (since, well, dude got mane), looking at the depiction of Ariel above, I think an ancient seeing her would think “whoa… chick got mane” and then the various authorities who declared that angels were innately male therefore decided it wasn’t a woman but instead was an actual male lion.So in conclusion, what evs.

  13. I dunno. “Lock and load”, when applied to the appearance of a Heavenly messenger, sounds like a punchline — especially considering who might or might not get punched — to me…

  14. “Ariel” is usually a male name in Hebrew, from what I understnd. Comes from ari (lion) + el (God). So “lion of God” or “lion-God.” Which makes one’s brain do all sorts of interesting gymnastics when you introduce “The Little Mermaid” into the picture…

  15. Shaenon, Heaven does sometimes smell like garbage and sometimes smell like pie.  It’s just that the garbage also smells like pie.  Because it’s Heaven.

  16. Wednesday:

    Silent penultimate panels: 45. And then Mell was probably about to say she was going to shoot her so hard she’d receive an enema through the mouth, or something to that effect.

    I have to admire her choice of gun, though. More specifically, it having an iron sight positioned precisely for under-the-arm gun-toting.

    It just occurs to me that under-the-arm gun-toting, apart from permitting our artist to keep Mell’s face unobscured, is basically equivalent to hugging the gun while aiming and firing it. Could it be that these large man-sized weapons have been Mell’s adolescent surrogate for interpersonal intimacy for all this time?

  17. Thursday:

    I’m trying to decide whether “pear-shaped” is more or less British than “belly-up”. Not that people wouldn’t misinterpret that any differently.

  18. The weight thing was my first thought, too. Wait, my ONLY thought – Pear shaped = screwed up hadn’t crossed my mind at all.

    In my defense, I’m not British.

  19. Leon Arnott, “belly-up” is used frequently in US English. “Pear-shaped” is much more distinctive.

  20. Friday:

    Silent penultimate panels: 46. I at first thought today’s episode was a callback to a previous transformation reunion (Dave/Future-Helen? Mell/Man-Artie? Dave/Dave-Helen?), but I have to conclude that it only seems like it because this dialog could fit in pretty much anywhere.

    This also reminds me that Caliban really doesn’t have it as bad as he might be feeling at the moment.

  21. (TUNE: “The Rose”, Amanda McBroom)

    Ariel, we do not need you
    To come … and make amends!
    Ariel, I beg and plead you,
    Because we once were friends!
    First an angel, then a demon,
    And now a mortal man!
    Though obscene it may be seemin’,
    It’s me … I’m Caliban!

    And I’m living with these fools, yes!
    Humanity’s my fate!
    Sacred souls can be such tools, yes,
    In their angelic state!
    I’m a human, quite complete now,
    From head down to my toes!
    I’m a sack that’s made of meat now …
    I know … it’s oh, so gross!

  22. Hi, everybody. Sorry about the update delay this weekend. WebComicsNation is having problems with its server host and I haven’t been able to upload new comics.

    As soon as the problem is finished, I will be putting up comics and commentary! I have an amazing new photo for Sunday!

  23. Shaenon: “I remember writing this and being very amused by the idea that both cassette tapes and the band Air Supply predated the Biblical creation. I think most people just found it confusing, but oh well.”

    Me: “Wouldn’t those be 8-track tapes instead?”


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