Gosh, I’m such a nerd. I mean, we’re looking at a situation here where a Shakespeare parody is the “cool” option.

Mell’s willingness to jump ship and betray Helen for minute personal gain would come up in future storylines, and even provide some degree of foreshadowing toward the Dystopian Brain-in-a-Tank Future. On the whole, though, Mell is fairly loyal to Helen. She’s just distractable. And totally self-centered, of course.

I still kinda like this strip. Mell doesn’t get bonked on the head nearly enough in Narbonic. She deserves it more or less constantly, but it’s just not as funny when bad things happen to Mell. It’s funnier when good things happen to Mell and she uses the opportunity to make everyone else suffer.

Also, no comic with a sound effect that actually says “Bonk!” can be a total loss.

ANTONIO SMITH’s handgun: still freakin’ huge.

Oh, come on, that gerbil panel is awesome! Six years later, that’s probably still one of my best-looking panels. Sigh. I also like the comically trampled Helen in the last panel. The previous strip had Mell getting bonked on the head, so on the whole this is a big week for violence against women. I made a conscious effort, especially in these early, slapsticky strips, to let the female characters get beat up from time to time. If female characters are considered above pratfalls, they’re just that much less potentially funny.

This does not, of course, prevent Dave from getting the shit kicked out of him far more than the women. Poor Dave.

Helen’s dialogue is getting more appropriately Helenesque here. “Golly, I feel just like a Bond villain!” is about the right note I wanted to strike with her character. I like that balance between cartoon feminine sweetness and cartoon megalomaniacal evil.

The total lack of perspective on the control panel makes it look almost Cubist. I wonder if I could have turned this into a conscious style and ended up with a really cool-looking comic, maybe become the next Mary Fleener. Yeah, okay, maybe not. I can dream, can’t I?

How many end-of-the-week cliffhangers can I fit into one relatively brief storyline? Okay, only two, but it still feels a little excessive.

I know it looks like I made the gerbil background by just copying the all-gerbil panel from Wednesday’s strip over and over, but I actually drew all-new gerbils. I checked the original art, and, yup, covered in gerbils. Also, I know it looks like Dave is wearing nail polish and/or slammed his finger in a car door in the third panel, and I have no excuse for that.

The second panel is based on a still from John Woo’s The Killer. Well, it is.

“Push the button” is, of course, a nod to Mystery Science Theater 3000. References to this show may come up once or twice in Narbonic. ANTONIO SMITH is quoting Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene 1: “Stoop, then, and wash. How many ages hence/ Shall this our lofty scene be acted over/ In states unborn and accents yet unknown!” The button labeled “Do Not Push” is from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Man, lots of random cultural references in this strip.

You know, this is the basic plot arc of almost every Narbonic storyline: someone, usually Helen, goes looking for trouble, usually for no good reason, several odd characters and devices are brought into play, they all get set off in various ways, there’s a big explosion, and the survivors go out for drinks. It really never changes much from this first storyline. Creative action plotting: not one of my strong suits. The plots only get more complex later on because I accumulate more metaphorical dominoes to set up. The addition of Artie alone complicates any situation.

Note how these big explosions cleverly save me from having to draw a fourth panel.

22 thoughts on “ANTONIO SMITH, FORENSIC LINGUIST: September 25-30, 2000

  1. I’m honestly kind of curious how this would have worked as a send up of Macbeth- perhaps with Helen as Duncan, Mel as the Big Mac, and ANTONIO SMITH as Lady M, trying to convince the uncertain Mel to do that which she knows is evil good?

    And Dave as… Menteith.  An absolutely pointless and unmemorable character, whose name is never even mentioned in the spoken text.

    I loves me some Shakespeare- yes I do.

  2. My school decided I needed to know “Romeo and Juliet” and “Julius Caeser” and that would be enough. Macbeth? Hamlet? Othello? Pfft. Who needs ’em? ………..I didn’t like my school much.

  3. I think that Dave would be the porter.  Not for any particular reason, I just really liked the porter.  (Hey, compared to grave-diggers, he was *real* comic relief.)

  4. You -are- allowed to read Shakespere on your own, you know — it’s cool;. it’s even fun.  I’ve mostly avoided it, myself, but that’s because I was trying to save my virgin eyes for live performacnes (means I’ve still not had exposure to some of the more rarely performed players — no Love’s Labor Lost (unless you count the movie musical, with sililoquies replaced by broadway tunes), no Two Noble Kinsmen, no King John, Henry IV or VI or VIII, and oddly, no Antony and Cleopatera.   And I’m missing one comedy — maybe Measure for Measure. 

    But you don’t have to — nor do you have to wait for  school to “force” you to expose yourself to the Bard’s plays.


  5. Shakespere in the Park – Hyperactive Lad’s first play (at 8 months old – how geeky is that?) was A Midsummer Night’s Dream set in the Summer of Love. The next year was Julius Ceasar in modern dress with CNN coverage. You have to remember, a lot of what WS was writing was the Elizabethan equivalent of prime time TV – he wrote better because his audience could impact his earnings very intimately.

  6. Tuesday’s Comic: Mell does recieve too many rewards throughout this webcomic. And practically all of them involve being granted control of things that are giant and/or robotic, and all of which are the Coolest Moments of Her Life up to that point.

  7. Reply to Leon: Which if they happened to anyone else, would STILL be the coolest thing that had happed up to that point. Put simply: Mell has a great life.

  8. Don’t underestimate the final panel, because it’s also excellent. Every motif, from Helen’s gap-toothed grin to her distorted speech balloon, is wonderfully applied. I’ve been staring at it for five minutes now and it still looks hilarious.

  9. I must have known at some subconscious level that this one was coming up.  A few days ago I had opportunity to use Helen’s line, to great effect.

  10. If only Dave had been given an extra minute or so to finish the machine – then maybe you could’ve wrapped up the entire webcomic right here and gone on to bigger and possibly more lucrative projects. I’m sure Dave would’ve approved.

  11. Before this week ends, one must ask: exactly how would a weather-controlling machine assist in eliminating a foe who’s already in the same room as you? Or in stopping one from being trampled by stampeding gerbils? (Actually, it’s almost certain that these and further questions will be raised in this week’s podcast…)

  12. I suspect “push the button” goes back farther than MST3K to The Great Race. …No, not the reality show you children, the movie with Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon.

  13. Saturday’s Comic: Hey, kids! Draw your own Narbonic Final Cliffhanger Panel! Have fun, but remember: no swearing, or else this comic won’t ever be syndicated!

  14. That’s the kind of thing that happens to me every friday with compter-related geeky type things.  Even more reason to believe I’m Dave… *seriously – help*

  15. What? How did Helen get ahead of the gerbils? How did Dave get through all of “Mel! The gerbils are stampeding this way” ? I… I… can only suppose that making them big must have slowed them down a lot. It’s a shame, really. I remember my gerbils literally moving faster than the human eye could follow. In close quarters on slippery terrain I would see streaks, sort-of like a cartoon effect or maybe the USS Enterprise, but otherwise nothing. Had Helen’s gerbils retained that ability when mutated, half a dozen or so would level a couple of skyscrapers if they thought they saw a seagull.

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