You can tell Artie is superintelligent because he can keep up with the plot.
I love the thing they’re hanging out in. It’s, you know, some kind of death ray. Mell is reading Found magazine, which I subscribed to at the time.
Sometimes, when Artie is sitting on someone’s head, it’s hard to tell which one of them is talking. I ought to have drawn his little mouth open more.
I like it when even Mell agrees that she’d be a terrible person to entrust with anything important.
So many weird little references and in-jokes in this strip. The solaranite bomb is the ultimate weapon humanity is on the verge of developing in the movie Plan 9 from Outer Space. It links all the “sun particles” in the universe in a massive explosion, blowing up the universe, so you can see why aliens have to resurrect the dead to put a stop to it. Presumably Helen had her solaranite bomb aimed at Boston because that’s where her arch-nemesis, Dave Barker, lives.
The yogurt monster is a reference to Jeffrey Wells’s very long Sunday fanfic, and Storage Room C, the only storage room in Narbonic Labs, gets a shout-out. But by far the most obscure bit of inside baseball is in the second panel, where Artie says, “Mell? I can handle Mell.”
At this point, my spinoff comic Li’l Mell had been running on Girlamatic for a while, drawn first by Vera Brosgol and then by Bill Mudron (and later by many other artists). In the first storyline, the substitute teaching Mell’s first-grade class is Human!Artie, who would not make an appearance in Narbonic for another year and a half. Since he’s using one of the invented surnames Artie sometimes uses because he doesn’t have a real one (at least until he sucks it up and just calls himself Artie Narbon), he wasn’t identifiable at the time as the Artie from Narbonic, unless people caught that his first name is Arthur and he knows to duck when Mell chucks a beer bottle at his head.
Anyway, I managed to time things so that today’s strip originally ran on the same day as this Li’l Mell page. Yes! With months of effort and planning, I was able to carefully arrange it so Artie would say the same line on the same day in two comics! Synchronicity! Even better, nobody could possibly notice this but me! The whole elaborate joke was for no one!
I’m still so happy about it.
I did this strip to explain why Helen wouldn’t be unstuck in time like Dave. It didn’t work. No one remembered the exposition and readers spent the rest of the storyline asking why Helen wasn’t bouncing around in time and what she would have to do to get herself unstuck. Oh well. I guess I could’ve unstuck Helen, too, but at this point the storyline was over three months long and I was itching to wrap it up.
In the years since this strip ran, the incomparable Girl Genius has kind of cornered the market on mad-scientist-related hat jokes, but that doesn’t mean goofy hats aren’t still awesome.
I wrote this one way, way early. The best part of drawing it was, of course, putting in the graffiti. In the first panel we have Tony Millionaire’s Drinky Crow and “Simon Wuz Here,” which I’m pretty sure is a reference to the odd old cartoon Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings. In the second panel I did an AC/DC logo, always a crowd-pleaser, and “For a Good Time Call Edna,” a piece of graffiti from the greatest video game of all time, Maniac Mansion. This is more relevant than it might seem, since the central time paradox in Narbonic also hinges on a Maniac Mansion reference.
After that I ran out of ideas and had Andrew fill in the graffiti in the last panel. I see that he did Pac-Man, the Metallica logo, the Daredevil logo, a heart with our initials, and “Skutch Rulz.” That last is a reference to an R. Crumb autobio comic about a bully named Skutch who terrorized his brother Charles. At one point Andrew and I wanted to put together a comics anthology called “Skutch Stories,” featuring comics written from the bullies’ point of view. We suspected Skutch probably had his reasons for pounding on the Crumbs.
The cartoon of Dave on the wall is my favorite part. It was good in the thumbnail, and it’s good in the final strip.
I know I got the phrase “piddle on my foot” from a Bloom County strip, but I can’t remember the original context.
More graffiti. Let’s see… Written alongside the urinal in the first panel is “Oroboros,” an unfortunate misspelling of “Ouroboros,” which is in turn a Red Dwarf and general time-paradox reference. In the last panel I have “Go Lemurs,” a shout-out to Jeff Wells, who just really likes lemurs, and a “Killroy Was Here.” “SG + AF” is for Andrew and me, and “JS + DK” is probably for BFFs Jason Shiga and Derek Kirk Kim.