Mell’s really mean to Dave sometimes. Helen is right to chastise her.
I’ve mentioned this before, way back in the commentary, but I had the idea in the back of my head that Mell may have dated the little Dave-like character from my high school comic, North of Space, when she was in high school. This may be a factor in her extreme and vocal disinterest in Dave. Still, Mell and Dave hooking up romantically would be amazing, wouldn’t it? I can’t even begin to imagine how that would work.
Okay, I’m sorry, but this commentary is nothing but spoilers. Sometimes, in this storyline, there’s no getting around it.
NOTHING BUT CRAZY SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT:
The Tinasky study is named after Wanda Tinasky, a supposed bag lady in Mendocino County, California who wrote colorful letters to the local newspaper and literary magazine in the 1980s. At the time, Wanda was widely rumored to be Thomas Pynchon, although I don’t know why Pynchon would care so much about the politics and arts scene of Mendocino County. Don Foster–forensic linguist, Shakespeare scholar, and one of my favorite college professors–investigated the Wanda Tinasky mystery and ultimately decided that Wanda was an obscure former Beat poet named Tom Hawkins. Foster’s excellent book Author Unknown goes into more entertaining detail, and I’m sorry for giving away the ending but so does the Wikipedia entry on Wanda Tinasky, so what can you do?
I picked “Tinasky” as the name on the study because it was a case of a man using a female pen name, and the situation here is a woman using a male pen name. Other references to pseudonymous writers come up throughout this storyline.
Man, tons of little illegible book titles in the first panel here. I’ve totally forgotten writing these, so forgive me if I can’t remember the significance. As far as I can make out, from top to bottom they are:
2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke. Presumably chosen for HAL, a character Lovelace quotes directly (from the movie) in “Professor Madblood and the Everlasting Ices of the North.”
Something by Vonnegut. Don’t know what I was thinking of, but I’m a big Vonnegut fan, so maybe I just wanted to plug Vonnegut some more. If I was riffing on pseudonymous writers, I should’ve gone with Venus on the Half-Shell by Vonnegut’s alter ego Kilgore Trout, a book actually written by Philip Jose Farmer. It’s complicated.
Demon Seed by Dean Koontz, for the AI angle again. I confess to a sick fascination with the movie, to the point that, when I wrote up bios of the characters for the eternally-unfinished Narbonic RPG, I established Professor Madblood’s origin as that of the Demon Seed baby.
Microserfs by Douglas Coupland, for the online romance between Michael and Barcode. You know, I was flipping through that novel again recently, and it’s pretty good. When I was in college, the characters were my model of what I wanted my adult life to be, only, you know, without all the computer programming. I more or less managed to do this.
Dr. Sbaitso’s Guide to a Happy Love Life, which as far as I know does not exist. Also, I misspelled “Sbaitso,” but can you blame me? I used to love playing with language generator “chatterboxes” like Dr. Sbaitso and ELIZA. I cried a little when Watson won Jeopardy a couple of weeks ago, I was so happy. I wanted to work more references to these old-school AI programs into this storyline, but most of them had to be cut for space. I lose more gratuitous references that way.
In the background: posters for Gremlins 2: The New Batch and Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey. Because Helen is a sequel. And also because I just really love Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey.
The books on the file cabinet are just programming manuals: Java and Visual Basic. You can’t really make it out, but the wastebasket has Darth Vader on it. I think Andrew drew it in when I asked him to put some random image on the wastebasket. Usually, when I ask for something like that, he draws Spider-Man.
I own that adorable Hulk doll on the file cabinet. He makes this little “waah” noise when you squeeze him.
The little round and wedge-shaped magnets on the file cabinet are those tokens you collect to get free pizza at some pizza places. These ones in particular are based on the tokens from Pizza Orgasmica in San Francisco. I’ve never managed to get enough of those together for a pizza.
Some years ago, I came across a journal my mother had kept when I was around two and three, all written from my point of view. It was very unfortunate. I don’t like to talk about it.
Man, Helen’s managed to get a lot of books down into that disused storm drain. There are a lot of copies of staple mad-science journals The Journal of Malology, The New Journal of Malology, Transthanatology Today, and Maniagnosis, which appear in the backgrounds of many other strips. The books in the last panel are collections of The Journal of Irreproducible Results, a title I don’t think I used anywhere else. Too bad; that’s a pretty good one.
This is one of the very autobiographical strips. I like the way Dave sums up the premise of the storyline in the first panel.
On Dave’s desk in the first panel are binder collections of Who’s Who in the DC Universe. They have no significance to the story; I just thought Dave should have them.
SPOILERS: Helen doesn’t say she hasn’t done any groundbreaking research. She just says her name isn’t associated with it. Sly, that.
HOLY CRAP FRIENDSTER THIS COMIC IS OLD.
For the record, Lovelace is the same computer that was running Madblood’s moonbase in “Doppelganger Gambit.” I never specifically established that because it’s not really important to the story. Dave tinkered with Lovelace’s programming on the moonbase, which may be a contributing factor to her interest in him.
Lovelace’s appearance, at least in this storyline, is based on actual supercomputers.
SPOILERS: One problem I had in plotting this storyline is that the central mystery–who is Milo Tinasky?–is pretty easy to figure out, or at least I thought it was. I mean, there’s only so many people it could be. One way I tried to obfuscate things was to open with another, smaller mystery–who is Lovelace?–have Helen brought up as a possible answer, and then have it turn out to be someone else. My hope was that this would leave readers less inclined to suspect Helen in the other mystery. I have no idea whether it worked.