Professor Madblood and the Lovelace Affair: November 29 – December 4, 2004

I wrote this strip pretty late, which is how I was able to provide a schedule of everything in the rest of the storyline. Man, was I ever tired of drawing Lovelace by the end of all this.

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Helen is a little on edge throughout this storyline. She’s all jealous about Dave and Lovelace, of course, but she’s got other projects going on too. You know how it is.

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The mad scientists in the first panel are from Casey and Andy and Jason Shiga’s awesome, awesome, awesome comic Meanwhile, now available as a totally professional hardcover book that you should read.

I like Dave’s little smile in the last panel. He thinks this behavior is cute. Poor guy.

Oh, and hey! Today’s my birthday!

I don’t remember who the all characters in the first panel are–a little help, please?–but the guy in the third panel looks a lot like my friend Jason Shiga, the maddest real-life mad genius I know. Dr. K. is, if I remember correctly, the scientist in Shiga’s comic Meanwhile, and “Jimmy” is the standard name he uses for most of his protagonists.

“Meathook” is a funny word.

Dr. Thesiger is named after Ernest Thesiger, who played all-time platinum-level champion mad scientist Dr. Pretorius in Bride of Frankenstein. In reality, both Thesiger and his character were totally totally gay.

The influence of Total Recall is felt more than once over the course of Narbonic.

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This came out of discussions on the message board. You’ll notice I got really lazy about drawing the crowd scenes by the end of this week.

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61 thoughts on “Professor Madblood and the Lovelace Affair: November 29 – December 4, 2004

  1. If Lovelace had wheels and could roll herself around … I keep getting these mental images of her trying to take the elevator … Lovelace and Dave strolling down the street hand-in-cable … having an intimate conversation (betcha didn’t know Dave could make sexual innuendos in Ada, now didja?)

  2. The Ada specification is full of terms like “rendezvous”, “entry declaration”, and “accept statement”, so it’s very suitable for that.

  3. Tuesday:

    Lovestruck Dave is so naive. It’s painfully obvious that she’s finally lost out to her overpowering goatee fetish, and she and Madblood are rending the bedsheets as we speak. He needs to read between the lines of yesterday’s episode.

    But seriously, he should know that starting a romance query with “You’re a woman” would most likely not lead to a satisfying answer.

  4. (TUNE: “Knock Three Times”, Tony Orlando & Dawn)

    Helen, you’re a woman, so please
    Tell me what’s wrong with the tactics that I have been using?
    There’s a girl who just might love me
    In the hotel room above me!
    But she won’t meet me!
    It’s all so completely

    (Helen tells me)
    “Dave, right now
    There’s a roomful who will ask me
    If Mom inspires
    The career that I’ve had!
    (Man, it kills me!)
    And somehow,
    I’ve been upstaged by Tinasky!”
    Artie inquires,
    “Why are lab rats so bad?”

  5. At least he didn’t say “You’re a woman, aren’t you?” So it could have been worse.

    I have to admit that the final panel always makes me laugh, if only because I’ve been at enough symposiums to know that alcohol is always a high priority for the attendees, for whatever reason.

  6. I really like Artie’s expression in the last panel.

    True story: I work for one of the smaller of the national cable tv and internet companies.  Sometimes, when I’m prepping a client for an appointment of some sort (trouble call, installation, whatever), I’ll say something like: “— And if you have any dogs or cats or killer gerbils that might eat our tech, please have them confined.  That’s an embarrassing way to lose techs.”  That usually gets a laugh.

    Something about Artie’s expression just made me think of this.

  7. Wednesday:

    Dave’s right – this is a very cute strip. Helen is so shy about lording over him.

    P.S: I can barely recognise Casey without his silly spike.
    P.P.S: Many happy returns.

  8. (TUNE: “The Army Goes Rolling Along”)

    Give a shout!  Give a cheer!
    Shaenon’s made another year!
    The cartoonist of Narbonic fame!

    She draws blood!  She draws gore!
    She draws gerbils by the score!
    The cartoonist of Narbonic fame!

    For it’s draw!  Scan!  Post!
    Then we’ll raise a glass and toast …
    Hey, last year’s song was just the same!
    So let’s please retire
    This song, ’cause we admire
    The cartoonist of Narbonic fame!

  9. Happy Birthday!  I’d do a cake, but I don’t know how many candles to add for the time-loops.

  10. Happy Birthday, Shaenon!

    Also, as much as this is a great strip anyway, which it most certainly is, I agree with grantcmccormick: Artie’s expression in the fourth panel is breathtakingly awesome.

  11. Meanwhile is indeed a fantastic comic. Also related to birthdays. Which you should have a happy one of. See what I did there?

  12. Happy birthday, Shaenon!

    Is anyone else kind of weirded out by Casey Grimm (who I’m assuming is, in fact, that Casey Grimm) commenting under this strip in particular? I think it warped my metalevel discriminator.

  13. This strip always makes me wonder about neutral mad scientists.  Does the disorder force you toward a moral extreme, or can you express madness in some other way?

    The Tinasky study also holds my interest.  Dave remained apparently sane for several years while doing mad science.  Once he knew the truth his powers improved and his sanity imploded, but the revelation was sudden and came at a bad time — what if he’d been eased into it?  Could there be such an oxymoronic being as a sane mad scientist?

    • Speaking from personal experience, Malignant Hypercognition Disorder by itself doesn’t make you good or evil, simply smarter than most “normal” geniuses. Mad scientists rarely turn evil merely from being superintelligent; it’s being rejected by society and being told you’re evil and insane because you can not only think outside the box, but outside the warehouse the box is stored in that tends to make us mad scientists “turn to the dark side”. In my case, I happen to be True Neutral, having rejected much of society’s rules in favor of my own moral code, but having a philosophy of “play nice”. (Being neopagan probably helps too; I just love our one and only commandment: “Do whatever you want, as long as it’s not hurting anybody.”) Madness itself is usually morally neutral, as the existence of good and neutral mad scientists like myself and the mad scientist from Mystery Men demonstrate.

      As for the Tinasky study and sane mad scientists go, nope. Sane scientists stay “blindered” by their sanity, and thus do not possess The Knack/The Spark/whatever you want to call it that comes from mind-boggling insanity. With Dave, the key words are “apparently sane”; he obviously had the beginning stages of Malign Hypercognition Disorder, where it manifests as incomprehensible bursts of super-genius intellect and/or bouts of the ability to transcend the laws of physics as sane scientists know them, before erupting into obvious madness and the ability to make reality your bitch at will. If he’d been eased into it, as Agatha Heterodyne (of Girl Genius fame) had, he’d probably still have bouts of madness from time to time, coupled with bursts of creative genius.

  14. @evilmidnightlurker-

    In Girl Genius, Agatha eases into becoming a mad scinetist because of a device that supresses her mad science-ness. When the device is removed she becomes a full mad scientist without the sudden destruction of sanity.

    However, agatha still wouldn’t exactly qualify as any more sane than you “aveag” mad scientist

  15. I’m going to cheat and say eyepatch goatee is one of the very many Gavs in Shlock Mercenary, this one adopting an eyepatch to stand out from the crowd. He’s only angry because Kevin, (to his right) is arguing that technically, he has fathered this Gav and in fact all but the very first one.

  16. For Good Mad Scientists, what about The Doctor? 11 makes me wonder who’s madder – him, Amy, or Steven Moffat?

  17. Thursday:

    I have to say, I really like the idea that good genius exists in and fulfills the tropes of children’s edutainment programming.

    However, I don’t know about you, but “Space-Time Ossifier” give me a mild disquieting feeling.

  18. @Adam U – I think eyepatch-and-goatee guy look more like Dr. Schlock from Sluggy Freelance.

    Hey, why isn’t Mr. Peabody here?  He invented a time machine that re-writes history … would he qualify as a mad dog-ter?  (Except if he defines himself as “mad”, he’s going to get put down by Animal Control.)

  19. @Pete – The Doctor might be mad, but I wouldn’t call him a “scientist.” He’s more of a… dabbler in science.

  20. The Doctor can make starnge devices work with only a sonic screwdriver, I think he qualifies as a mad scientist.

    ‘Good’ there’s some scope for arguing over.  A recent article over at was discussing whether the Doctor is a pacifist.  Ten ‘only’ committed genocide on two races, and one of them was his own – a very low score compared to some of his other incarnations.

  21. When I wrote up the section on good mad scientists for the never-completed Narbonic roleplaying game, my description was transparently based on Doctor Who. Professor Peabody was definitely an inspiration for today’s strip.

  22. I’ve long held that both Willy Wonka and the original Doctor Dolittle are good mad scientists. As a scientist, Wonka has a wide range of study (teleportation, shrinking rays, antigravity potions) with a limited scope of application – confectionery! Meanwhile, Dolittle’s range of study is much more focused – he used appropriate application of linguistic science to teach himself the languages of animals, keeping copious notes on how he did it, and is entirely motivated by the opportunity to increase his field of study.

  23. Willy Wonka a mad scientist? That actually explains a lot. Particularly if you’ve read the sequel, “The Great Glass Elevator”.

    I’d classify him as neutral though. I remember him being awfully cavalier about people getting eaten and such.

  24. the guy center bottom in panel 1 is the spitting image of Howard Tayler of Schlock Mercenary fame….

  25. I’m guessing panel 1 is two of the Kevyns from Schlock Mercenary. Who do bear an uncanny resemblance to Howard Tayler.

    They could also be Lore Brand Comics Lore from back when Lore still drew himself skinny.

  26. /tangent

    @petethemadscientist:  Of those three, I’m going to have to go with Steven Moffat.  His work on the Doctor only confirms the madness he showed in Coupling.  This is, after all, the man who brought us Captain Subtext and his Helmet of Truth.


  27. @This guy I know:

    Yes, he was cavalier about it, but they deserved it.  Willy Wonka classic Chaotic Good (at least the book version.  Gene Wilder’s Tunnel of Terror Wonka might be more in the Chaotic Neutral range).

  28. Friday:

    This strip is trying very hard to appear classy – perhaps a bit too hard. It took me awhile to remember which part of Total Recall he was referring to. (And then I realised I was a fool, because of course it would be that part.)

  29. Wonka: Mad Science is one way to look at him, I prefer to consider him the Psychopomp on a classic Journey Through the Underworld. That’s one reason the backstory implanted into the Depp movie was so grating: A psychopomp is the guide for the hero, they’re not supposed to be a protagonist in their own right!(And yes, the Great Glass Elevator continues the journey.)

  30. I’m ashamed to admit that I never got the joke in this strip, possibly because I haven’t seen Total Recall since it first came out in the movie theaters.

    OTOH, I completely agree that Dr. Pretorius is the gold standard to which all other mad scientists can only hope to aspire.

  31. Willy Wonka is a total mad scientist in the remake, though. I like the scene where Mike Teevee loses his patience at him because Wonka invented a friggin’ teleporter and only wants to use it for candy-related purposes.

    In the original movie he’s just the scariest damn wizard on earth.

  32. I think I get the reference… What I don’t get is where Dave knows Mrs. Thesinger from. Is he just seeing her for the first time now? How does he know her name? Does she have a nametag on? It’s just one of those “not quite sure what’s going on here” sort of thing.

  33. Saturday:

    The only thing this strips needs to be perfect is several more exclamation marks in panel 3. More exclamations = more sarcasm. (It also means mental instability, but given that it’s Helen, that meaning is largely redundant.)

    I especially love that this strip aligns with Helen’s previous anecdote that had Dr. N had her way, she’d have been harvested for organs in her teens.

  34. This strip always made me wonder if any of helen’s “sisters” might have survived. And what might have become of them.

  35. It’s probably only because Dave’s in love with Lovelace that he’s not imagining a whole bevy of Helens… admittedly, as the control group, they’d lack that mad spark that he truly loves, but hey, curvy blondes!

  36. @Sean – you forget that mad science is *genetic*. the reason for the control group was to prove that it wasn’t environmental – I.e. Helen became mad because she was raised by her mom (not that that didn’t play a certain role, I’m sure…). So the control group helens would have still be mad — they probably would have just taken longer to get there…

  37. DarkMode: Was there crying, when Dr. Narbon came for them? Did they beg? Were they in denial? Did she engage in her penchant for torture as she dissected them?

    Philosophy Mode: Even supposing you weren’t a mean mad scientist, this gets into Cloning Rights.. .a little bit. I don’t have any problem with denucleating my cells and rebuilding sweet, new organs with them. If they begged for mercy before they turned into my new liver or whatever, I would be deaf to their pleas. However, comma, allowing such cells to achieve sentience before dissecting them does seem kinda mean. I guess Power justifies it though, in its own perverse way.

  38. I could be alone here, but the man in the bottom-middle of Thursday’s first panel looks an awful lot like Cheyenne Wright and/or the King of the Silver Lands, from Girl Genius. (Which is odd, because as far as I know he (or they) wasn’t depicted in the comic until ’07, and non-GG depictions of the real person don’t look like this cameo.)

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