Mad Science Is Decadent and Depraved: September 13-18, 2004

I wrote Dave’s dialogue in a stream-of-consciousness kind of way. This storyline contains a lot of references to random weird experiments Helen presumably conducts off-panel all the time. I think this is my second favorite one.

And this one is my favorite. Notice that Helen has put on a nice skirt and hose.

Like I said, I kind of decided to do this plot twist at the last minute. Dave’s right; it’s not really very shocking. I guess it all worked pretty well in the end.

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There are lines of Artie’s dialogue that delight me more than anything else in Narbonic, and the way he gets sidetracked into a politically-correct semantic argument here is the type of thing I love. He’s a very autobiographical character sometimes, at least when he’s being all fussy and absurd. Anyway, I like this and tomorrow’s strip for being less about the joke-punchline setup and more about the characters just having ridiculous conversations.

Anyway, Artie’s last line is what we call foreshadowing. I already had cruel, cruel plans for him.

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I really like arguments where both viewpoints are equally out of touch with reality. Must be why I hang out on the Internet so much. Anyway, I’m very happy with Helen’s and Dave’s parallel monologues here, and pleased that the characters’ voices are sufficiently established that you can tell who’s speaking even over the phone.

My brother’s middle-school science project was teaching a mouse to play soccer. I helped him with it. He built a miniature soccer field with a tiny net at one end, and through positive reinforcement (i.e., food) he taught the mouse to push a Ping-Pong ball from center field to the net. It totally should have won instead of this one kid’s birdwatching journal that his mom made anyway.

Quentin Proctor was the name of a character in a novel my brother and I wrote when we were kids. My brother came up with a whole family of characters with Q names.

[SPOILERS] Being able to tell the creations of mad science apart seems to be a common superpower possessed by mad scientists. Helen was always able to distinguish between identical gerbils. The larger question is, why do I like to draw huge groups of identical characters? It gets pretty tedious after the first few strips.

Dave’s face looks a lot more expressive and vulnerable without the cigarette. Not that he ever smoked.

39 thoughts on “Mad Science Is Decadent and Depraved: September 13-18, 2004

  1. “She just pushes my somehow-this-is-Helen’s-fault buttons.”  I really adore that line.

  2. Monday:

    Dave unknowingly having a tiny rainforest in his molars is probably the silliest conversational aside ever uttered in this comic. (Incidentally, the union of tiny worlds and teeth reminds me of that one Treehouse of Horror episode.)

    What should have more attention is Artie’s gloomy conclusion in panel 3 – yet again, the vindictive gods have snatched hope from Artie’s tiny paws.

  3. (TUNE: “Blackbird”, The Beatles)

    Teeny birdies living in my teeth!
    Teeny birds who live in teeny trees!
    Every spring …
    They end up migrating to my sinus cavities!

    Teeny birdies in my nasal hair!
    Now the EPA will give me grief,
    ‘Cause they’re rare …
    Audubon Society won’t let me brush my teeth!

    Teeny birds …
    And teeny-weeny bison herds!

  4. (TUNE: “Tea For Two” Vincent Youmans and Irving Caesar)

    I’m with slime,
    And slime’s with me!
    So sublime,
    It’s time for tea!
    I’m saying no,
    But you know me
    Too well!

    Don’t mean to boast, Dave,
    But Emily Post, Dave,
    She’s knowing the most, yes,
    Of being a hostess!
    I don’t fret, ’cause I bet
    That I’ll get this ettiquette yet!

    The fate of Zeta I’ll relate
    On some sedater, later date!
    For now, to cater,
    Waiters I’ll create!

    I’ve got to go, a diversion I’ll have
    With Mycetozoa, we’ll gossip and laugh!
    What fun I’ve had,
    But it’s too mad
    By half!

  5. If Dave were there, she’d serve Earl Grey, but since it’s a slime mold, I’m betting Lapsang Souchong.

  6. Slime molds are fun! One crawled out of my compost heap and ate a Cardinal! (All true, except the part about the bird.)

  7. Wednesday:

    Having already discussed Helen’s crimes against nature for the past two days, this third offense does seem benign – indeed, it’s almost cute and wholesome in comparison.

  8. A cautionary note: if you’re not familiar with this song, you may be tempted to search for it on YouTube.  If you do, you’ll discover that it’s the second-most annoying earworm of all time, surpassed only by “It’s A Small World”.  You have been warned.

    (TUNE: “Playground In My Mind”, Clint Holmes)

    When this world has gone berserk,
    I’ll assume it’s Helen’s work!
    Laws of nature, getting bent,
    It’s so depraved and decadent!
    Please explain to me
    How this thing can be?
    And she’ll say, re-luc-tant-ly …

    Her name is Zeta,
    She was a gerbil,
    Mutated gerbil
    Back in fifth grade!
    She was my project!
    My science project!
    She’s just a thing I made!

  9. If you think Bill’s funny, imagine the Weirdness censors in action when 9-year-old Helen brings in a live, fuzzy, baby for her science project. (Of course, despite Helen’s interesting family life, she wasn’t actually Mad yet at the time. As with Dave, that doesn’t seem to have actually slowed her down much.)

  10. PS: The commenting system’s Javascript seems to be broken today. I couldn’t comment until I turned off scripting for WCN.

  11. I actually like the fact that it’s not a terribly shocking surprise. It reinforces just how normal mad science weirdness is for these guys at this point.

  12. Turning a gerbil human – that’s cruel, Helen.

    Artie, you’ve spent your entire life in a evil lab. You should know better than to tempt fate by now.

  13. (TUNE: “Always A Woman”, Billy Joel)

    I was only a kid, it was back in fifth grade,
    When a twisted perversion of Nature I made!
    It was callous, but clever, you’ll have to agree!
    Though she looks like a human, she’s really a gerbil, you see!

    She’s an uplifted animal, just like Moreau’s!
    She may fool human eyes, but she can’t fool the nose!
    ‘Cause to Artie, her scent is her proper I.D.,
    She may look like a girl, but she smells like a gerbil, you see!

    Once … she had whiskers and fur,
    Then I modified her,
    Never gave her a chance!
    Now … her demeanor’s subdued,
    She is pierced and tattooed,
    And she’s wearing plaid pants!

    I remember removing her tail and her ears …
    Now to find her feels strange, after so many years!
    I’m afraid, as a parent, I’ve been absentee …
    But she’s sensing that now,
    Though she doesn’t know how,
    Yet she still feels connected to me!

  14. You know, I bet if Helen had turned a human into a gerbil, Artie would have considered THAT an uplift.

    • Nonsense. Turning a human into a cat would be an uplift. Turning a gerbil into a human is just evolution gone sideways, nyao.

      “If man could be crossed with the cat it would improve man, but it would deteriorate the cat.” –Mark Twain

  15. Pete: Bit late for that.  Artie knows the cruel nature of humanity from personal experience after being Dave on the moon.

    Thank you, Narbonic, for making that last sentence possible.

  16. The comparison stops dead when it means that Han Solo goinks Darth Vader.

  17. I love the strips where the characters are having two or more simultaneous but only tangentially related conversations.

  18. ET: Given the technology at their disposal and Dave’s particular fetishes, you have to admit that it’s at least possible that was roleplayed at some point.

  19. So… so your brother made a Skinner box?

    And he trained mice to play soccer?

    Your brother is AWESOME.

  20. tune: “The Animal Fair”

    I went to the Science unFair
    With Zeta the gerbil-girl rare
    But Quentin’s mouse brought down the house
    By kicking a goal in mid-air

    It’s true I did not work alone
    Mom helped, so I had to atone
    But I am she and she is me
    It’s not cheating when you’re a clone
    A clone, a clone, a clone, a clone

  21. Well, we know what happens to Zeta (bus immediately; later symposium, foot, and island), but what happened to the mouse?

    You know, like:  “Escaped from the arena during the regionals.  Turned up the next year in the Czech Republic, where it played as second-string goalie for the Prague team until it was run over by a visiting team’s Yugo.”

  22. ET: You clearly haven’t read the slash fiction I have.

    Grant: You really, really don’t want to know what happened to the mouse, it’s completely unspeakable. Suffice to say Sir Pounce was an *evil* kitten.

  23. (TUNE: “Cars”, Gary Numan)

    Back in the Eighties,
    Zeta was made!
    Young men and ladies,
    All of us played
    Star Wars!

    Helen as Vader,
    Lord of the Sith!
    Many years later,
    Parallels with
    Star Wars!

    Leia is Zeta,
    Artie is Luke!
    Poor Helen Beta,
    Such a cute kook!
    Star Wars!

    Artie feels so-so,
    Dave’s fit to burst!
    “Hey, I’m Han Solo!
    And I shot first!”
    Star Wars!

    It’s hard to hate her
    For doing this thing …
    Plus, “Beta Vader”
    Has a nice ring!
    Star Wars!

  24. Wait, does that mean that Helen’s mom is Padm?? Or maybe Beta is Padm?, Dr. Narbon is Anakin/Vader, which would make the previous Helen Narbon Shmi and totally explain the lack of any father there. Dana would be Bail Organa.

    And Mell is Obi-Wan, because she voluntarily dies and becomes more powerful than anyone really wants to think about.

    And, lessee, Madblood is Lando Calrissian and Lovelace is the Millennium Falcon. And Foot is an X-Wing.

    “She told me enough! She told me you killed yourself and gave her your head in bowling-ball bag!”

    “No, Artie… I am your creator’s mother/sister-clone/creator! Look at your DNA! You know it to be true!”

  25. John- I think you’re on the right track, and Dave’s wrong.  Dr Narbon is Vader, which makes the previous Helen Shmi and our Helen Leia.  Dave still gets to be Han, but without the slash!  And yeah, Artie is totally Luke, I’m sure he shares DNA with Helen.  Or maybe C3PO, now I’m not sure.

    Rob – MEL SHOT FIRST!  Actually, I think Mel is Chewbacca, so that doesn’t even make sense.  Sorry, reflex.

  26. Binary encoding via the hairs of the goatee, lack of hair denotes bit.  Notice that 3’s goatee (to Dave’s right) is slightly fuller than 9410’s.

    It’s as plain as the hair on their faces.

  27. I see no problem with robots being identical, but they proved that cloned people will probably not look identical.  I think it ws the same scientists that made Dolly the Sheep, they made something like a dozen cloned cows and no two of them looked alike even though they have the exact same genetic material, at least as ‘same’ as modern geneticists can make it.

    So obviously it’s a super power and Dave is confirmed (yet again) as a member of the fraternity of mad scientists.

  28. (TUNE: “Twenty-Five Or -Six To Four”, Chicago)

    Just before the break of dawn,
    Dave inquires where Zeta’s gone …
    Grabbed a bus and rode away!
    Where she’s headed, didn’t say!
    Dave asks why this thing she’d do …
    Three asks Ninety-four-ten, too!

    Artie wonders how, these guys,
    Dave with ease identifies!
    He can tell without a doubt
    Which is which!  It freaks them out!
    “How does he know which one’s me?”
    Ninety-four-ten asks of Three!

  29. Many characteristics of living things are determined by non-genetic factors. Identical human twins have different fingerprints, for example. Cat coat colors are genetically determined, but the patterns aren’t.

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