Zombie Woof: September 3-8, 2001

All right, time to bring Dave back! I always planned to do this; it was just a question of how long I could postpone it. All things considered, I managed to keep him dead for a respectable length of time.

A lot of nice details in this strip. There’s the Simpsons-like many-eyed fish on Helen’s desk in the first panel, and one of the beakers in the second panel is filled with something plaid. Helen’s T-shirt reads “Rapacious Devouring Female Void,” based on something from a classic Dave Sim misogynist rant. Actually, it should be “Devouring Rapacious Female Void,” but as a female void, I make mistakes like this all the time. I keep meaning to get a T-shirt made with this phrase spelled out in bubble letters. I would be the belle of the San Diego Comic-Con.

This storyline is named, for no particular reason, after a Frank Zappa song.

Ugh…more horrible gray fills. I was so lazy. The lettering’s extra bad here, too. I do like the little resurrectionist outfits, though. Any plot development that requires a specialized wardrobe is generally a good thing. Why did I never again put Helen in a bowler?

Picking on Dave. Always good for a cheap joke. And, again, this plot development calls for a new outfit, so it must be good.

How many times have I drawn a Pong game on a monitor? Like fifty? I’m sorry, it’s always funny.

Even though I don’t know what half the equipment in the first panel is supposed to be, I like this strip. It’s one of the quintessential Narbonic strips, the kind you can show to people to give them an idea of what the comic is all about. Also, Mell looks hot upside-down with her hair flying around. Later, in the Moon storyline, I did a lot with that look.

At the time this strip originally ran, I remember there being some debate on the mailing list about whether Artie could actually lift an EEG machine, as some of them are very small and designed to be portable. Artie could probably at least push one of the little ones around, so we’ll have to assume that Helen has a big, bulky model.

And I like this strip because it’s a visual gag, and I almost never do visual gags. I have a hard time thinking visually, a very bad trait in a cartoonist. Sigh. Anyway, I was proud of this strip for that reason. And for whatever that giant dome-shaped ray in the first panel is supposed to be. That thing looks sweet.

At the time I drew this, I was really pleased with my artwork. Now I just can’t get over how messed-up Dave’s face is in the third panel. Why did I draw such massive ears? Seriously, why?

“I’m the god!” is originally a line from a “Twilight Zone” episode, but I know it mainly because it was used all the time on “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”

Incidentally, this was still early enough in Narbonic that characters could get away with doing things for little or no logical reason. If this sort of thing came up later in the strip, I’d probably have to devise some strong, plausible reason for Helen to want to bring Dave back to life, but here she just does it because she’s bored and can’t find a good replacement for him.

Well, and she misses him. But she doesn’t mention that.

70 thoughts on “Zombie Woof: September 3-8, 2001

  1. Good God. Helen has managed to isolate the essence of plaid? Imagine the possibilities!

    …no, I can’t imagine any either.

  2. >imagine the possibilities! 

    Causing the death of Biff. (Non-subtle-obscure-cross-webcomic-reference go!)

  3. It’s like kryptonite for The Tick’s Caped/Crusading Chameleon too. “Can’t… Do… Plaid!” 

  4. Monday’s Comic: Hmmm … it still feels like an awfully, almost jarringly, sudden decision.

    I mean, I can understand why you’d keep Dave dead for as long as possible, considering how many afterlife tropes and logically necessary foreshadowings were wrung from the previous arc. But surely, given how much these characters value this fellow, the in-universe reason that Dave had to remain interred for so long ought to be something…. significant. Not just “they didn’t think of it until now” or “they thought getting a new Dave would be easier”. (It’s a little hard to tell which of those is the actual canonical reason as presented in today’s strip.)

    And even if Dave’s reviving was withheld for not-so-excusable reasons, it would be more understandable if the comedic depths of such a scenario were plumbed for even a few days. For instance, I know I wouldn’t mind seeing one of the applicant-Daves failing to fit in the dead man’s shoes, perhaps by being too sane.

    Something I will decline to also explore, for lack of breath, are the ramifications that Bringing Back The Dead have when introduced to a stable fictional universe.

    Pedantic Webcomic Time update: according to a future strip, Dave remains dead (or rather, outside his proper functioning body) for six months. Since he died during the Gerbils/Narbon arc (first week of Jan. 2001), that takes us up to June for this arc. Goodness, that means he’s had to bunk up with the Victorian ghosts for about 20 weeks. If not for him being dead, he’d probably have acquired their accent.

  5. Alycia Shedd says:

    “Good God. Helen has managed to isolate the essence of plaid? Imagine the possibilities!

    “…no, I can’t imagine any either.”

    Perhaps it’s a formula for instant kilt? 

  6. I thought Dave was already kilt?

    Speaking of t-shirts, I like Helen’s line in the second panel, “Dave had real potential for evil”.  Imagine a t-shirt that simply reads “Potentially Evil”.   Imagine one of these on a baby.  No wait!  Imagine Helen walking through the mall with her pink-heart “evil” shirt, and carrying her baby who has a “potentially evil” shirt!  I must draw this!!  Shaenon, do you still accept fan art??  Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeease????

  7. To get a beaker of the essence of plaid, simply cut a beaker-shaped section out of Scott McCloud’s overshirt.

  8. Ooh oooh! Forshadowing n Panel one! none of the applicants have the ‘dave spirit’ AND MELL EVEN SAYS IT!

    ‘Well, none of them were named Dave.” In true mell fashon, she teeters on the edge of knowledge with a wry aside.

    . . .  or, yanno, something. 

  9. The essence of plaid?

    Two immutable laws of the universe lead this to an frightening conclusion.

    Law 1. If a dye for a color exists, some portion of the population will use it as a hair dye.

    Law 2. If anything degrading can be done to a pet, somebody will do it (witness this page: http://www.crazyauntpurl.com/archives/2007/11/cats_in_sweater.php ).

    Result – Rather than putting pets in plaid sweaters, certain pet owners will start using PetPlaid Pet Shampoo.

    Helen, herself, has shown a tendency to lose capacity for rational thougt around “cute” animals (evidenced by use of such words as “adowabwe”), and this is the prime indicator of susceptibility to Law 2.  If Sir Pounce ever has a successor, will he be Sir Plaid?

  10. Because She Never needed one again!  You only need it when grave robbing to bring somebody back from the dead!

  11. Obviously, the mistake was that you never killed another character, buried them, and then required a return of helen’s “Graverobbing” clothes. i supose they could have just decided to bring some celebrity back from the grave… or mabye they wanted to make a really cool halloween haunted house, with real Frankenstein(‘s monster(er, creature)).

  12. Tuesday’s Comic: Another of my little niggles is with non-circular crescent moons. If one mentally ‘fills’ today’s moon, it appears to be shaped like a bar of soap.

    I just remembered something from yesterday. Who are “the great mad scientists” of the Narboniverse? Narbonic’s mad scientists are real manifestations of a fictional character archetype (much like Watchmen). I wonder, was there a crossing-over moment (also like Watchmen) where the Narboniverse’s first mad scientists, inspired by their fictional counterparts, assumed those tropes and traditions for their own? Or is this a universe where Victor Frankenstein and Dr. Moreau were based on actual people? (And did Nikola “TESLAAA!” Tesla really build the first death ray?)

  13. This is a lesson in life. Pay attention.” The phrase “lesson in life” has always looked grammatically suspect to me. But, if you hadn’t included that phrase, I wouldn’t have been inspired to redraw some of today’s episode in the style of Kier McFarlane, the greatest Brisbane internet cultural export not named Ben Croshaw.

  14. The moon also “points” the wrong direction for a nighttime scene. The lit side has to be towards the Sun, after all. 🙂 (Once in an episode of Xena, she was standing dramatically in front of a quarter moon that was pointed the wrong way…I can only presume the post-production guys thought that they had to flip the moon so it’d be “correct” for Greece after filming in New Zealand.)

  15. Dave Van Domelen:  That depends not only on the hemisphere, but on the phase — in the northern hemisphere, a waxing moon “fits” into a right hand (that is, the circular side is on the right), a waning moon into a left.  In the southen hemisphere, it’s the other way ’round.  Near the equator, you need to crane your neck and remember which way is north.  😉

    Leon:  And Sarge has long since admitted she can’t draw circles freehand, nohow, so why rag her again?  Bring on the  electromechanical “circulator”!

  16. Of course TESLA invented the first death ray.  For further info:  please consult the new book EMPIRES OF LIGHT.

  17. he moon also “points” the wrong direction for a nighttime scene. The lit side has to be towards the Sun, after all. 🙂

    No, It is just very early in the morning. Like 5-ish so the Sun is about to come up over the other horizon in a couple hours.  See, it makes sense when you understand that mad scientists are just college students who don’t want to give up the lifestyle(see Professor Madblood)

  18. “Any plot development that requires a specialized wardrobe is generally a good thing.”

    That is hilarious but also has some truth to it.  I am taking this to heart. 🙂

  19. The phase of the moon is determined by its position relative to the planet and the sun. It’s possible, then, to figure the position of the sun in the sky by observing the position and phase of the moon.

    In this case, the moon is a crescent, which means that the sun is less than 90 degrees from it in the sky… judging by the size of the crescent, I’d say probably somewhere between 30 and 60 degrees. And the sun is in the direction of the lit side, which faces upwards here, so, since the moon is just above the horizon, the sun is somewhere between the top of frame and maybe two-thirds of the way up the sky. 

    Also, since we know the lab is in the northern hemisphere, we can tell from the direction the crescent is tipped that we’re looking east, at a rising moon, not west at a setting one. This means that the sun is also rising, some 30 to 60 degrees ahead of it. That makes it… call it 9 AM, at a rough estimate.

    But Helen says they went out in the dead of night! What’s up with that?

    Well, clearly they went out in the dead of night, but it took longer than planned to excavate Dave’s not-so-final resting place with a single shovel (and I suspect there were a couple hours of making Artie do the digging in there), so they’re still at it at 9 AM. The sky is just gray because of smog.


    Also, drawing circles freehand is hard

  20. Yeh, I’ve been atempting to draw crecent moon for *years*. IT NEVER WORKS.

    I am perpetually enchanted by Helens attention to the rules of Mad Scientist Conduct. and her bowler hat. I don’t have one yet, dangit.

  21. Oh, one last thing? Grave robbing is done in the middle of the cold night so as to suppress further decomposition while you’re still digging them up. . . it stinks *more* in the daylight.

    Or so I’ve heard. . . 

  22. Wednesday’s Comic: Mad biology infringes on a lot of disciplines, but surgery is considerably more relevant than most of them. Also: some avid fans, upon seeing this episode again, might suddenly be struck with vivid flashbacks to the next storyline where this costume appears.

    Penultimate Pause Panels: 7.

  23. And in the filename story, the penny drops for Octavius Winter.  Can he get out of the restaurant before Helen takes over the kitchen, or does he become one of the nine casualties?

  24. Speaking of bringing people back to life, did you see the shoutout you got over in Anywhere but Here a littel while back?

    Oh, sweet! Thank you! I’ve missed some of the recent installments of ABH.


    Aside from the Narbonics reference, this ABH strip brings back fond memories of Bill the Cat in ‘Bloom County’.

    Ack! Thbbbt!

  26. So here’s a question for the audience. If Helen’s been lusting for sweet, sweet Dave loving since meeting #1 — as she later claims — why the constant slamming of his looks, in this and other places? Has she just not realized the attraction yet?

  27. It’s simple: she was only ever attracted to him in the timeline where he never smoked. When Dave changed the timeline and retroactively kicked his nicotine habit, he also made himself more attractive to Helen.

    Well, maybe I’m just believe that time travel solves everything.

  28. Thursday’s strip:

    I have a big soft spot in my heart for this strip, (a space on my wall for it too).  This was the strip where I fell in love with Narbonic.  I actually started reading Narbonic on the next day, or the day after, but decided to look back into the archives after reading that first one.  After a click or two, I came across this strip and fell in love.  I then started reading from day one and have loved it ever since.  This in my mind will always be the quintessential Narbonic strip.

  29. Of course Helen has a big, bulky EEG machine! Look at her lab equipment in the first panel. It’s huge! Clearly she shops for the largest, loudest stuff she can.

    And I think there’s a ’50s-style jukebox on the right. 

  30. I’m so glad you’re doing this Director’s Cut thing. I was missing out on a lot of the awesome stuff.

    On a perpendicular note, my goodness, even Mel’s skirt is acting upside-down.

  31. Thursday’s Comic: My goodness, is that a Van de Graaf generator but with a plasma lamp instead of the metal dome? That’s… probably not even legal.

    I should’ve done this weeks ago!” You don’t say.

    Pong games: 2.

  32. Big impressive-looking machines are surely part of what mad science is all about.

    I bet half of that gear doesn’t even do anything relevant (or possibly anything at all beyond sitting there and looking cool), and Helen just made the henchbeings drag it out for the style points.

  33. “Sparks… Lights… A corpse lightly putrefying on the slab…”

     The screams of the innocents as the monstrosity rises over the horizon…

     Mmmm. ^-^

  34. On a perpendicular note, my goodness, even Mel’s skirt is acting upside-down.

    Well, *I* wasn’t going to bring it up, but since someone else mentioned it … “I see London, I see France …”

  35. If it’s not a jukebox, it’s probably an arcade game seen from the side. Maybe “Space Invaders”?

  36. Exhausted Artie: Cute, and to be seen soooooo many times. Seriously. If *anyone* is going to look so tired that they may become catatonic, It’s Artie. Why? because he’s a good guy. 

    I mean, who else would *apologize* for not being able to lift a huge chunk of machinery when you’re the size of a largish candy bar, if not a good guy?

  37. Friday’s Comic: Ah, the deific powers of evil science. Is there any greater affront to the balance of the universe than undoing death? (Apart from destroying the universe, that is.) And as such, it’s befitting that a certain degree of preparation, resources, and suspended common sense is necessary to perform it.

    With her hair tied back, Helen’s eyes are found to engulf 90% of her face. Aaah!

  38. She got dressed so quickly, she forgot to cover her nose with the surgical mask.  I know, it’s less sanitary, but it *looks* funny and that’s what counts.  At least Helen has a cute nose, so this look works for her.

  39. She’s not going for *sanitary* here, people. She just dosn’t want to get cancer. So the nose poking out is okay.

    On a side note, I’m not the only one shocked this didn’t give Mell super-powers, right? 

  40. That actually happened to me as an RA at the Naval Research Institute.  I had so much fun there…

  41. Isn’t just being able to cry, “I’M THE GOD! DEATH COWERS BEFORE ME!” and burst into maniacal laughter a sufficiently good reason to do practically anything?

  42. Sounds good to me John. 

    I think panel 4 may be the only shot looking straight down in all of Narbonic.

  43. “Push the button while I stand behind the lead shield” I mean.  They’ve got this warehouse full of old experiments in crates, and I’d be sent back there looking for random parts for new ones.  Don’t think I ever identified what any of those experiments were supposed to be.

  44. Is it just me, or does Helen look more surprised/pleased in the last panel, instead of the all-powerful/pleased one would expect of a mad scientist in this circumstance?

  45. NigaiAmai Yume, she could easily have not really expected this to work.  You know what they say.  Hope for the world to cower before you, plan for the heroes igniting your Duck Ponds of Doom and bringing your secret lair crashing down around your ears.

  46. Saturday’s Comic: Finally Helen Narbon successfully cures death – a scientific endeavour one century in the making.

    PPD. He tried to take care of himself. He tried to stay on the side of goodness and law. He tried to stop himself from becoming infected with mad science. But look at him! Now and forever he has become Helen’s little twisted science project, her horrifying patchwork doll.

    Total occurences of the sentence “It’s alive”: 1.

  47. NigaiAmai Yume:  I agree.  I thought Helen should have been striking the “milking the giant cow” pose.

  48. “Milking the giant cow” pose.

    Thank you, Ed Gedeon, for providing me with yet another fabulous image to shove into my head, where it will provide nightmares and insanity for the voices living within. ^-^ 



  49. <i>Well, and she misses him. But she doesn’t mention that.</i>

    I think that’s good enough reason for Helen: Because she wants to.  ^_^

  50. Disclosure:  I have to confess, the “milking the giant cow” reference comes from “Heroics For Beginners” by John Moore.  Read it, enjoy it, improve your life.

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