I used that first panel on my business card for a long time. Until I ran out of business cards, anyway. Now I just have a plain card with pink hearts on it, so I can use it in non-Narbonic-related business. Everyone respects pink hearts, right?

At this point, the bar the characters go to is just named BAR, apparently. And is patronized by tiny startled people. Sigh.

Pink wine comes up for the first time. Helen seems to have inherited a taste for horrible cheap wine from her mother. Liking margaritas is also genetic.

The bartender looks a lot like the way I drew Caliban in his first appearance. It was my generic way of drawing guys back then.

Dave’s analysis of Narbon offensive strategy is pretty accurate. Again, this approach would remain basically the same throughout the entire run of Narbonic. Another thing that would never change: even though they went through hell together, Dave is the only one who looks disheveled. Dude can’t catch a break.

“Kanpai!” is Japanese for “Cheers!” Sorry, did I mention I’m an enormous nerd? (And I fully expect to be corrected on some minute point of translation here by Japanese-culture geeks. You should have seen all the emails I got for not knowing that a God’s Blessing is Irish coffee, foolishly renamed by sci-fi writer Spider Robinson. Why would you take the Irish out of an alcoholic beverage? That’s like taking the Italian out of a pizza, or an organ-grinder monkey, or a blunt instrument used to shatter kneecaps. It makes no sense.)

(I pick on Italians so my Sicilian-descended husband will go, “Ooo!” and shake his fist when he reads this. He’s so cute when he wants to whack me.)

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Mell’s dialogue in the second panel is way messed up. I had to write over white-out and then clumsily fix it on the computer. I believe that at this point I was still editing the strips on MS Paint.

The bag of chips reads, “-ckstar Farms.” I just checked it on the original art, and that’s what it says. I no longer remember what this refers to.

I like the strips that allude to some larger organization apparently in charge of monitoring and encouraging cliche mad-scientist behavior. It’s even better if no real explanation is given for the vague references to grants and stuff. I kind of wish I hadn’t eventually needed to set up concrete institutions like the Mad Science Symposium.

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It’s like this. When I first started writing and drawing Narbonic, I was under the impression that my biggest problem would be coming up with enough ideas to meet a daily schedule. I thought that I had to include every strip I wrote, because otherwise I’d run out of material in a few months. Eventually, I realized that this was insane, and I started cutting with a vengeance.

Which brings me to this strip. It’s not totally bad, and it does establish Mell’s age, which is useful. But I could have cut it without any great loss. The first year of Narbonic includes a lot of strips like that.

Then again, even if I had been cutting material back then, I might have kept this strip anyway, just to fill out the week. I like to make everything end neatly on a Saturday.

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A rare nod to other webcomics. The homicidal (gerbilcidal?) bunny, is, of course, Bun-Bun from Sluggy Freelance, by Pete Abrams. Sammy the Hammy is a character in Melonpool, by Steve Troop. My friend Chris Gleason takes great pride in being the inspiration for Sammy. These and other webcomic sidekick characters played a major role in my choice of gerbils as the iconic small furry animals of Narbonic. Everything else was taken.

I met Pete Abrams several months later, at Non-Con. He was really nice to me. At that time I was pretty much nobody and he had one of the most popular comics on the Internet, but he made a point of sidling over to me and chatting about comics. Also, he had his whole posse with him: the T-Shirt Guy, the Button Guy, the Sluggy Belly Girl, the works. I was deeply impressed. Fortunately, midway through the weekend a bunch of my relatives showed up in matching Narbonic T-shirts, thus validating me. Several years later, when I was a guest at Capricon, I was extremely happy that I was able to get several of my friends to follow me around everywhere and be my posse. I guess the moral is that Pete Abrams is a great guy, and I’m pretty shallow.

The blonde anchorwoman would continue to deliver all news in the Narboniverse throughout the strip’s run.

This strip establishes either that the characters live in the Midwest, or that the ur-gerbils travel very quickly. I grew up in northeast Ohio, of course.

And the first Narbonic storyline ends, not with a bang, but with a whimper and a cliffhanger. Unless you consider “New Digs” part of the opening storyline, in which case it ends with Dave starting work.

At this point, I’d already written chunks of “Island of the Ur-Gerbils,” so I knew I’d be getting back to the ur-gerbils eventually. “If I feel like it” was a bald-faced lie. I had no choice in the matter, and I knew it.

I still think “the mighty gerbils prehistoric Man hunted and feared” is pretty good.

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17 thoughts on “ANTONIO SMITH, FORENSIC LINGUIST: October 9-14, 2000

  1. Tuesday’s Comic: Nothing to say here, except that I’ve only noticed just now that Dave’s nose is a rectangle. Quite unusual…

  2. The first one’s the best version of the “In a dirty glass!” joke ever. The expressions just _work._

    Have we ever seen Helen look more wicked than she does in that last panel? I don’t think so.

  3. Thursday’s Comic: How about that white-on-black signature? I didn’t know that technology existed in 2000.

  4. Actually, I think I disagree that this is cuttable.

    “Here, have mine. It’s not helping.” is a fantastic summary of Dave’s state of mind at this point. And I’ve had entire weeks like that. And I don’t even work for mad scientists (more’s the pity).

  5. Friday’s Comic: The phrase “net.funnies” has catapaulted the nerdiness of this fledgling webcomic even further into the stratosphere.

    What isn’t told in the news article is that two of the mutant gerbils escape alive, and will re-enter the story in about two years. (I wonder, did our omniscient author forsee even these events at this point?)

    Fourth-wall dialogue running total: 7.

  6. This is MY comic! A friend of mine and I traded Narbonic strips for christmas and this fine piece of original art on high quality bristol board sits mounted nicely in my house. I’m the envy of all the mad-scientist’s on my block. Thanks Narbonic!

  7. Friday’s Comic: Aha!

    And this episode validates the usage of the “ur-” prefix in “ur-gerbil”, which is something I’d been wondering about at this point.

    The phrase “the mighty gerbils prehistoric Man hunted and feared” makes me think of the Sandman story “A Dream of a Thousand Cats.”

  8. I have to say, the primitive shading on the bar has a kind of class rarely seen in webcomics nowadays. Or anywhere.

  9. I agree with Michael that Thursday’s(?) strip wasn’t cuttable. It is a worthy addition, not only establishing Mell’s age, but giving Helen some character development, acknowledging Dave’s place in the social dynamic, and breaking the fourth wall. What more could a strip entry need?

  10. Huh, now I kinda want to make a comic with giant gerbils too. I wonder if it would be a better idea than the planet-hopping ex-post-apoc-gang with the 300 year old alien tag-along and no universal translator…

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