Okay, this strip isn’t funny or anything. I just wanted to do Chris Ware-style interstitial text. Sorry.
This little two-week storyline provides a bridge to “Class Reunion,” which isn’t all that long either…but the storyline after that is “Doppelganger Gambit,” the longest single storyline in Narbonic. I think “Mell Expelled” was inspired by my concern over how Mell managed to stay in college when her internship kept taking her away from her classes, sometimes for months on end. It ended up being pretty useful for character development and as foreshadowing for future developments involving Mell. Mell’s the most two-dimensional character in the central cast, but eventually she works her way up to maybe 2.6 dimensions.
“Dollboy” is Sugar’s nickname for Spike in Sheldon Mayer’s classic Sugar and Spike comics. At the time, there was some debate on the messageboard over the meaning of Mell’s comment, so I offered a No-Prize for the first person to identify the source. The prize was an empty envelope, just like the old Marvel No-Prizes (one of which Andrew won in the ’90s for identifying a reference to The Brothers Karamozov in Spectacular Spider-Man).
DC, meanwhile, continues to sadden and disappoint me by not putting out an archive collection of Sugar and Spike. I know no one would buy it except me, but I want one anyway.
Dave’s scared little “yes” is quite good, as is his fancy cigarette smoke. You can tell I was getting kind of tired of drawing cigarette smoke all the time.
Man, Mell has big hands in the second panel. At some point I decided that it was better for the characters’ hands and feet to be too large than too small, what with them being cartoon characters and all, so I started to err on the side of large hands. Often this went too far.
Much, much later in the strip, Dave notes that Mell gives Artie a squeaky voice when she imitates him, too.
Still gotta love the sound effect for gender-swapping. I can’t remember when I decided on this plot development, although I guess it’s a logical enough way to get Dave to Mell’s campus instead of Helen. Helen spent a very long period of time male during the D-Con arc, so I might as well turn Dave into a girl for a while.
This is, I believe, the last storyline to feature the gender-swap formula, although much later it’s implied that certain characters continue to use it for recreational purposes. I’ve said this elsewhere, but I’m kind of sorry I never drew the gender-swapped characters later on, when my art was better and I could have made Dave, in particular, look cuter. Also, I never gender-swapped Artie or Mell, but Artie has his own body issues and nothing really bad ever happens to Mell.
Obviously, the best part of this strip is the collection of weird mutant lab animals in the third panel. Check out the two giant messed-up gerbils in the background! Why didn’t I draw more stuff like this? Oh, right, because it’s hard to keep coming up with new ones.
I also like how quickly Dave recovers from being turned into a woman at this point. And geez, Girl Dave is so much shorter than everyone else in the strip.
No, I don’t remember what the Four Fours was, besides a classic mathematical puzzle, or why I wished to commemorate it in cartoon T-shirt form. I don’t think Mell’s various admirers are based on anyone in particular. Or maybe they are and I’ve just forgotten. Many details of this strip are strange and mysterious to me now. All I can say with any certainty is that Mell’s skirt is really short in that first panel.