Professor Madblood and the Lovelace Affair: October 25-30, 2004

Yes, Madblood is back to living in his mother’s basement, along with the boxes of Christmas ornaments and baby clothes. And, yes, he not only rants to himself but just plain talks to himself, despite having Lovelace there to talk to. This is not one of the high points in his admittedly rocky career.

I wish I hadn’t drawn Lovelace’s monitor looking directly at the reader in the last panel. I didn’t mean to, but it came out looking that way, and I’m not pleased with it. Oh well.

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This may be the only time anyone has ever described Dave as having “bedroom eyes,” inasmuch as his eyes are usually invisible. It is not, however, the first time his value as an employee has been judged by the condition of his organs, nor is it likely to be the last.

SPOILERS: Lovelace notes that Madblood’s lair will have a swimming pool–the same one, it turns out, that Future!Dave mentioned to Regular Flavor Dave in the time-travel story. Whenever I posted a strip like this, I’d go crazy worrying that someone would not only pick up on the tidbit of foreshadowing, but extrapolate it into figuring out the entire plot and then tell everyone on the Internet. I do the same thing now with Skin Horse. Writing in installments can be nerve-wracking.

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Out of all the characters in this strip, Lovelace arguably gets the rawest deal. I’m sorry, Lovelace.

And Madblood’s fascination with Jennifer Connelly comes up again. It won’t be the last time.

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That is not creative at all, Lovelace. That is just quoting Christina Rossetti.

Lovelace’s monitor looks a lot like my old gooseneck iMac, P.B., who retired last year. “P.B.” stood for either Pangur Ban or Plastic Baby, depending on my mood. My current computer is named Silver Streak. I also had a laptop named Silver Bell, but U.S. Airways stole it out of my suitcase last month. Learn from my horrible fate, friends: no matter how much crap you have to carry, no matter how long and exhausting your weekend has been, don’t check anything remotely valuable. Also, don’t fly U.S. Airways.

BIG OLD SPOILERS: The forcefield, and its adjustable permeability, will be important later on. Madblood and Lovelace must have come up with an elegant solution, because Dave admires it when he’s working at Madblood’s base.

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I drew some pretty good lab coats on hangers there. Good work, me.

Madblood is such an entertaining character to write dialogue for. “Laughing their mocking laughs” is exactly the note I always tried to hit with him. His head looks weird in the second panel, though. Sometimes he just doesn’t look right in profile.

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The Crabtree Grant is named after a minor character in Sluggy Freelance, which makes this another rare webcomic reference. The Crabtree Grant originally figured in a subplot I cut from the gender-swap storyline; since I didn’t get the chance to include it then, I decided I might as well use it here.

The Von Boom Award is named after shifty scientist Oscar Von Boom from the comic strip Alley Oop. I thought “Boom” would be a good name for the mad-science community’s equivalent to the Nobel Prize.

“Win her some bricks” comes from an old Comics Journal essay by Milo George about Frank Cho winning an Ignatz Award for Liberty Meadows. It made sense in the original context because the Ignatz Award is a brick, but I took to using the phrase to refer to awards in general, and eventually it ended up here. Milo George is the other namesake of the mysterious Milo Tinasky in this storyline.

Man, lotta weird references in this strip.

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59 thoughts on “Professor Madblood and the Lovelace Affair: October 25-30, 2004

  1. I had just assumed that Lovelace shared Dave’s tendency to ignore the fourth wall. That she was speaking to the audience.

    The Auld Grump, an Ernie Kovacs moment

  2. So when he rants to himself, is he of two minds about his future plans?  And when one mind rants, the other mind follows suit … so that suit has two pairs of rants.

  3. Hmmm… that raises an interesting question for the people who are counting fourth-wall breaks. Does it count as a break if it looks like one, but not in the intention of the Artist?

  4. @Ed: And that explains why he is ranting when his mother is out: a full house beats two pairs.

  5. Tuesday:

    Wait a minute, hot tubs and swimming pools are different things, right?

    (To tell the truth, the phrase “late night swim” is buried so deep in this comic that I would never be concerned that anyone could unravel its dangling thread. And, in fact, it doesn’t even suggest a pool itself – Dave could be enjoying a cool dip in the clear arctic. Just laser a nearby iceberg and you’ve got fresh water all to yourself, and an open sky above.)

  6. @Leon: Yes, they are, but the hot tub is mentioned separately from the swim. Somewhat.

    For the record, this is something like my fifth time through the archives, and I still didn’t pick up on this foreshadowing.

    Besides, even if someone did catch that, and come to the conclusion that it’s the same pool, all that you can really infer from that is that Dave has some kind of dealing with Madblood’s lair. Which he’s done on two previous occasions, both with Helen as a vaguely responsible cause.

  7. @Leon: Speaking as a Scot, I view anyone who swims in the North Sea except at the very height of summer to be insane bordering on suicidal. So the thought of swimming in the Arctic…

    And I never picked up on the foreshadowing either.

  8. I caught a sense of foreshadowing several times when reading, but I never was able to identify what it implied, or even if my foreshadowing sense was right. It was always brilliantly done. I am curious what Madblood means by “parallel” though. Does he mean that they’re both going in the same direction (same conclusion), but with different offsets (i.e. fundamental reasons)? Seems like a mad scientist thing to say. It would make sense, it’s related in his field of science, and it’s unusual enough to dismiss as a mistake at first glance, but packs a lot of thought into a small bundle.

  9. @ Dante:  I thought it just meant that they never intersect, but now I like your interpretation better.

  10. Wednesday:

    In my research, I’ve found that there are three immutable interests that all webcomic characters possess: story tropes, Diablo II, and actors of the opposite gender. Granted, that data dates back to 2002, but I’m sure it still holds up.

  11. @Leon: Replace “Diablo II” with “lasagna”, and you’ve described “Garfield”.  Substitute “baseball” instead, and you’ve got “Peanuts”.

  12. Leon, are you saying Jennifer Connelly and I are opposite genders? One of us should feel insulted.

    I think the set of people interested in story tropes and actors of the opposite gender is “humans.”

  13. I am afraid that the only Rossetti I recognize is ‘Goblin Market’, which is also about fruit….



    Except that it isn’t. >:-)

    ‘MORNING and evening
    Maids heard the goblins cry:
    “Come buy our orchard fruits,
    Come buy, come buy….’

    I think that was the first poem that I ever recognized the subtext.

    The Auld Grump

  14. Thursday:

    I don’t really ‘get’ naming one’s computer. I mean, sure, you spend 97% of your waking hours having it sing to you and play with you and tell you stories and facts and help you with your work, and that hardly makes it all that equivalent to a pet. Hmm… if I did name my computer, I guess I’d give it a name that suggests a slightly more fitting relationship: “Mom”.

  15. I name my computers after Transformers. The one I am typing this message on is named “Alpha Trion”.

  16. I’ve never been one to name my computers, or my cars, or other inanimate objects.  My wife, who gets a bit annoyed when I spend too much time on my laptop, calls it “Other Wife”.  Silly lady, this laptop can’t cook … that makes it a mistress.

  17. Yeah, the computers in our households have names. Mine is called “Starseeker II” (the original Starseeker overheated, died, and its hard drive was transplanted into a new body).


  18. My tech is currently all named in kaiju themes, mostly mecha-kaiju. My iMac desktop (the Intel-based type) is GUIRON (a mecha-Guiron fan-kaiju I created), my netbooks are Kiryu and MOGUERA, my iPod is Garuda (the backpack airship Mecha-Godzilla had in the 90s), my rotating backup external HDDs are Ghidorah 1 through 3, and my wireless hub is MonsterIsland.

  19. Mine is Connor. There’s a reason for this, but it involves a fairly obscure book series and a sequence of events that actually applies to the previous laptop.

  20. My old iPod Nano was Replacement Goldfish, since it was actualy my old, old, old iPod, dug out of a drawer to replace my old old iPod video. My current iPod is one of the newer nanos (v5) with the weirdly stretched vertical screen, and is silver. Naturally, this makes it a Radioactive Mutant Silverfish.

  21. I do not name inanimate objects, sorry.  I’m very boring in that regard: my laptop is Wayne’s MacBook, my iPod is Wayne’s iTouch.  My game is Zombie Cafe, but that’s beside the point.

    There’s a trick to protecting valuables when you fly: go to a sporting goods store and buy a blank-firing starter’s pistol.  When you fly, put it in your suitcase and always declare that there is a firearm in your checked luggage.  There are forms to fill out, and it will slow your check-in a bit, but you have to lock your baggage with a special non-TSA lock and if it is opened and something is stolen from it, it WILL be investigated.

    But also be mindful of local firearms laws where you’re going.

  22. Pester them incessantly about the stolen laptop.  Threaten legal action (you don’t have to actually do anything, just threaten).  I had a camera and some other things stolen out of my bag by American Airlines.  They initially told me there was nothing they could do, but after constant pestering and complaints they sent me a check.  

  23. I named my first couple computers after anime characters. My first laptop was Kino, based on the anime theme and because it would be traveling with me. Now that I study Chinese history, I’ve named my new lappy after Tan-chun from Dream of the Red Chamber, because I want it to follow her example of being competant and traveling far.

  24. I usually name my computers after the brand of their hard-drives. (i.e. I’m currently writing this comment on my Mac desktop “Seagate”.) Other than that; no, I don’t name my machines, devices or gadgets.

  25. @the auld grump; I thought everyone knew “In the Bleak Midwinter”.  (Which is the only Christina Rosetti poem I know.)

    I suppose that it would have been cool if Narbonic had (on this occassion only) been drawn in the style of her brother, Dante Gabriel Rosetti.

  26. Most people I know name their computers after women.  I subverted this trend and named my computer Anne Turgot.

  27. My laptop is Suki, after the spirit of the computer my roleplaying character had.  My car is Heather, after a certain filker who is now a dude, rather to my continued bafflement….  only the car tends to get actually called by her name, though.

  28. @Melissa: wow!  Just yesterday I learned about the Heather/Adams thing, I’m a huge fan of March of Cambreadth.

  29. My big boxy Mac Pro is Wall-E. My sleek white MacBook is EVE. Yeah, not half as creative as most of the other names on display here.

  30. My PC is called David Mitchell, who was the PC in the UK versions of those “I’m a PC and I’m a Mac” adverts. (Which were a miserable failure over here, as Mitchell typically plays the far more likeable character in the tv show their best known for, whereas Robert Webb’s character was smug, pretentious, and utterly useless. And generally a dick.)

  31. My computer is named Multivac. My next laptop will be named Microvac. My PC after that will be named Galactic AC.

  32. Galactica (the most powerful machine in the house), Bearslocker (home server, since we’re the Bear Family), Wanderlust (the laptop), and TinyBear (the netbook). No women, but at least one sci-fi reference. Oh, and Walking Bear, the Windows Phone.

  33. My laptop is named Mehitabel, after a henchman character of a friend, who was named both in-story and out, after the Mehitabel of “Archy and Mehitabel”.  My Neo, which I use for writing, is named Bunbury, after the completely made up and always ill “character” in “The Importance of Being Ernest”.

    I enjoy naming inanimate objects, but that’s mainly because I can’t remember brands as well as names.

  34. Daibhid: Yes, after the cat. Because P.B. was a white computer, and sat up with me turning darkness into light.

  35. I don’t recall his head ever looking normal in profile. I just always assumed he was a freakish rat-thing. Or maybe he crossed himself with some sort of lizard…

  36. “Beetle-bot” makes me think of Doodles Weaver.  (Who else remembers Spike Jones and his City Slickers?)

  37. Friday:

    Helen does not want to look hippy – Lord knows she doesn’t want to appear even more like her mother.

    I have to wonder about the verb ‘henching’, often seen in webcomics like this and Nodwick and such. While thinking about it, I looked up the etymology of ‘henchman’, and it’s apparantly “from man + O.E. hengest ‘horse, stallion, gelding.'” I guess that proves it, then – the English language really is horses all the way down.

  38. My old PC fleet was alphabetically named (as noted above, you need a name to put it on a network), but when I got hold of an Alienware tower, I broke pattern to name it the Green Goblin.

    As far as Madblood’s appearance, well, I guess I assumed that being a Mad Scientist meant occasionally suffering from distortions…

  39. He may look strange in profile, but hs little pouty mouth and ringbeard in panel three are adorable.  For an evil genius, I mean.

  40. Andrew has long been fascinated with the fact that “hippopotamus” means “river horse,” suggesting that the ancient Greeks saw absolutely every new animal they encountered, no matter how un-horse-like, as some variety of horse.

    For that matter, there’s “hippocampus” (roughly, “seahorse”), suggesting that they even saw newly discovered parts of the human body as small, squishy horses of some kind.

  41. I think the laws of comedy require that the lab coats that Helen’s agonizing over choosing between are all identical.

  42. What kind of mad scientist has labcoats that aren’t stain-proof, acid-resistant, bulletproof (up to at least .38 caliber), and equipped with hardpoints so you can hang equipment (and weaponry) on them?

  43. Yeah, but the bulletproof labcoat is what Helen is changing out of; this is the dress labcoat.


    Ed Gedeon says:


    “‘Beetle-bot’ makes me think of Doodles Weaver.  (Who else remembers Spike Jones and his City Slickers?)”

    Remember him?! I have three albums of his music! For those not in the know, Jones was the “Weird Al” of his day and the Ur-filker. (And for future reference, the horse’s name was “Feetlebaum”.)


    Leon Arnott says: Friday:

    “I have to wonder about the verb ‘henching’, often seen in webcomics like this and Nodwick and such. While thinking about it, I looked up the etymology of ‘henchman’, and it’s apparantly ‘from man + O.E. hengest’horse, stallion, gelding.’ I guess that proves it, then – the English language really is horses all the way down.”


    To add to that, I read somewhere that the term more specifically refers to Eunuchs (basically gelded men) who, back when it was an accepted practice, were a Queen’s personal servant(s) and were the only men trusted to be present with her in “intimate” settings. (i.e. During her bath.) As the practice died out, they were replaced by “Ladies-in-Waiting”. 


  45. Saturday:

    Crabtree’s death scene is the point where, all those long years ago, Sluggy really ‘clicked’ for me. For the uninitiated, that’s a strip where Crabtree, a nanobot-enhanced power-absorbing villain from the talking ferret’s origin story, has eaten and absorbed the personalities of the military elves from the second Christmas arc, and is defeated by an alien from the Star Trek/Alien parody arc. In late 2000, you just couldn’t get this sort of accumulating, internally consistent world of nonsense from any old internet site.

    (Sadly, all I can think of when I read that strip today is how puny and cramped it looks at 1920×1200 resolution. I guess that’s another brick awarded to our author’s foresight for making her strip images 280px tall.)

  46. OK, Killing scripts for this one: My prior lengthy rant got eaten in favor of the version I deleted in favor of it. 🙁

  47. (TUNE: “Go Down, Moses”, traditional)

    Though Helen made a minion small,
    (Win your boss some bricks!)
    He has not plotted her downfall!
    (Win your boss some bricks!)

    Rise up, Artie!
    Against your evil boss!
    Show Mell, and raise hell,
    And win your boss some bricks!

  48. Paul Anderson: I’d think it would be the dress labcoat that would be bulletproof, but then… Mell. Of course, even ordinary (RW)labcoats are resistant to fire, cold, and caustic chemicals, plus insulating against electricity and easily sterilized. Also they have pockets for tools and impromptu sample collection.I imagine Helen’s labcoats would also resist radiation, energy beams, and nanobots, and the pocket contents would include a cheat-sheet for time-travellers, and (as of Valentine’s Day) religious or magical artifacts for use against demons. Her dress labcoats would also include flesh-eating bacteria for use against coat thieves, bribe money in various currencies and/or isotopes, extra pockets for traveling exhibits, and the like. (And a towel, if course. 🙂 ) Of course, all that is before Dave gets around to re-tailoring it, when <SPOILER REDACTED>!

  49. I wouldn’t have been surprised if Mad Scientists had their own Nobel prizes, honouring him for inventing dynamite. Of course, there might be some issue taken with naming a Mad Science award after someone who made a safer explosive.

  50. At one time I had a truly ancient Toshiba and named it Gertie, after Windsor’s McKay’s Gertie the Dinosaur. Ancient, slow, but not without charm.

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