Aaand the gerbil inseminator thing from several weeks ago pays off. This is the type of delayed punchline I imagine it would be hard to do in a newspaper strip nowadays, because people would forget. Or maybe not. People seem to remember a gerbil inseminator.

I’m starting to draw slightly more backgrounds and props here. The console in the last panel is cute.

Man, I remember drawing this one. I spent forever drawing the big piece of equipment in the first panel; it was easily the longest I’d spent drawing a strip. I usually draw pretty quickly, but you can tell that, right? Anyway, the art in this strip isn’t too bad, considering. It’s never a total loss if I get to draw safety goggles on people’s heads.

The dialogue is also getting a little closer to the way the characters should talk. Slowly but surely, it’s coming together.

Oh, look, I finally put in some damn blacks! It’s clumsily inked, but at least there’s ink. I also made extensive use here of my favorite secret tool, the white gel pen. I use them for touchup and for drawing on black, if you let the black ink dry completely first. I don’t know any other cartoonist who likes them, though. Oh well.

The final punchline is pretty dopey. Like Dave would work at a paper mill. What would he do there? Besides set things on fire, that is. This subject probably requires a fanfic somewhere.

The art here is pretty funny, actually. The little flowers floating around Mell in the first panel, ANTONIO SMITH tucking his giant revolver under his arm, and the big WA-POW!…heh. At least I was trying to do some interesting things here. I was smart enough to make the final panel extra-wide to fit Mell’s karate pose.

Also, ANTONIO SMITH calls Mell “toots,” which is good.

Aside from being too wordy (a problem I would never overcome throughout the course of Narbonic), this strip is pretty good. The drawing and composition are okay, and Mell says, “I swiped a piece!” Longtime readers may have noticed that I have a weakness for outdated slang and tough-guy talk of all varieties.

Helen’s confidence that Dave can fix the doomsday device will become a major plot point, oh, four years down the line. To be honest, at this point I didn’t have the larger Narbonic storyline planned, although I knew the strip would run for about five years and I’d already written chunks of some far-off storylines like the time-travel story. I started to work out the main story arc in 2001 and 2002, and by “Island of the Ur-Gerbils,” when Dave repairs the teleporter, it was pretty much set in stone.

The first panel is one of my favorite panels in the entirety of Narbonic.

ANTONIO SMITH’s gumshoe dialogue owes an obvious debt to the Tracer Bullet strips in Calvin and Hobbes.

Dr. Noah is named after Noah Singman, a friend of mine from the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Usenet group. Noah continued to read Narbonic and encourage me throughout the strip’s run, even after his namesake’s eventual grim off-panel fate. But that’s a long way off. For now, let’s think happy thoughts about Dr. Noah and his brave refusal to stand for the antics in the evil laboratory upstairs from his dental practice.

10 thoughts on “ANTONIO SMITH, FORENSIC LINGUIST: September 11-16, 2000

  1. Like Dave would work at a paper mill. What would he do there?

    Well…in the modern mills, the big paper machines are computerized…

  2. Maybe it was just one of those jobs people take to pay for college.  I’m sure most of us had jobs around then that were not at all indicative of our personalities and abilities.

  3. That’s one of the things that was really compelling about Narbonic, the sense that emerged that as painfully slowly as they revealed themselves, things were going somewhere.

    I’m a sucker for continuity.    

  4. Maybe the dentist had the competition (the one next door to the lab) wiped out by Helen? (And, I must say, Helen looks pretty cute and smug in panel 4 of Monday)

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