Mad Science Is Decadent and Depraved: September 6-11, 2004

Obviously, this is one of the strips I wrote early and just waited for an excuse to use. It’s one of several strips in this storyline that came out of conversations with Andrew about what a road-trip story ought to entail. Andrew is a student of the ape-themed cinema.

I’m sorry that this got so wordy that it’s kind of awkward to read, because I always liked this resolution to the Dave/Bill rivalry. Also, I drew some cool retro-looking gas pumps. I don’t know why they got all giant in the last panel.

Zeta probably shouldn’t be smoking around all the gasoline. She’s as bad as Dave used to be before he never smoked.

This is just a filler strip so I could get a cliffhanger on Saturday, but I hear the dream of the ’90s is alive in Portland.

Zeta is quoting Hunter S. Thompson’s “The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved,” the namesake of this storyline. I wanted to do a Zeta storyline called “Mad Science Is Decadent and Depraved” from early on, and I was thrilled to find a way to give the reference some larger thematic meaning. This is the kind of thing that makes it all worthwhile for me. I enjoy putting all these little puzzle pieces together.

With my art skills at the time, it was really hard to draw that third panel. Hands are hard. I spent a lot of time on it, and, oh well, you can tell what’s going on. It’ll have to do. On the plus side, I eventually got pretty good at drawing hands, and they don’t intimidate me nearly as much now.

Eh, this one doesn’t have much of a punchline either, although it’s nice that Zeta is also a fan of Oscar Wilde.

Obviously the best part of the strip is the idea of the androids doing Mad Libs, an activity that got me through many long car rides as a kid. We made the two-hour drive from Akron to Pittsburgh every few weekends when I was growing up, to see the extended family and/or because my mom got bored in Akron, and I polished off a lot of Mad Libs and Invisible Ink books. My parents encouraged this because it kept me from reading books, which inevitably made me throw up every twenty minutes. I was not a great traveler.

I had misgivings about doing this particular plot development, but then I was like, what the hell, you only live once. And so it was with many elements of Narbonic.

Drawing in perspective is hard. I’ve never really figured it out.

37 thoughts on “Mad Science Is Decadent and Depraved: September 6-11, 2004

  1. (TUNE: “Every Which Way But Loose”, Eddie Rabbitt)

    It seems I’ve got the kind of life
    That doesn’t have normal things …
    Being dead, or thrown through time,
    That’s just what my dumb job brings!
    And I ponder, as this story arc
    Is coming to an end,
    It’s like the movie ’bout a trucker
    And his wacky primate friend!

    ‘Cause the story …
    Makes anything but sense!
    This story makes anything but sense!
    My brother turns a vacant eye …
    His weirdness censor’s turned on high!
    It makes anything but sense …
    I don’t mean to give offense,
    Our adventures make anything but sense!

  2. The gas pumps are expanding as a prelude to their cigarette-caused explosion, which will happen just after Our Heroes (and therefore the readers) leave the scene. They’re just about to blow!

  3. The gas pumps aren’t getting bigger, either Dave Baker or Prof. Madblood has secretly dosed them with shrinking gas!

  4. Oh yeah, the dream of the ’90s is still alive in Portland OR.  Same for the ’80s and ’70s and ’60s, really.  It’s that kind of town.

  5. Worth noting that Zeta doesn’t actually deny belonging with the lunatics and mutants, merely says that it’s hard to accept it.

  6. Thursday:

    The glasses are off. At last she knows who she is, and why she is alive.

    (This really is a quite beautiful episode. I guess I can forgive this comic’s peculiar eyewear fixation if it naturally leads to iconic moments like this.)

  7. (TUNE: “She’s Leaving Home”, The Beatles)

    Now it’s Thursday,
    We’re near the end of the story arc.
    Zeta tells Artie she’s going away,
    As they both search for the right words to say …

    She removes her glasses
    And, smiling, quotes from her favorite book.
    Hunter S. Thompson’s bizzare gonzo prose …
    Smiling at Artie, she knows …

    She …
        (Somehow, so deep down, she knew)
    She finally …
        (Depraved and decadent, too)
    Knows …
        (She’s seen the face of mad science; her own)

    She knows her place,
    She’s at last found the face
    She is searching for …

    She finally knows,
    Hello …

  8. @Leon: Peculiar eyewear fixation? I see nothing glasses-related in Narbonic, except for opacity issues that may be metaphorical, that I don’t see in my daily life.

    And after all, glasses are the default.

  9. If you can’t answer it by quoting HST, it doesn’t need to be answered.

    Is there something peculiar about glasses being the default? I have good eyes, myself – actually a bit better than 20/20 (despite thirty-plus years of my mom telling me I was going to ruin them by staring at CRTs in the dark). This makes me unusual, if not downright unique, among the people I hang out with. There’ve been more than a few times when I’ve looked around a room full of people and realized that I was the only one there who wasn’t wearing glasses or contacts. Narbonic, it seems to me, is simply mirroring reality.

  10. tune: “Bad blood,” Neil Sedaka

    We stopped on the way to Canada
    After beating down a bug ’bout the size of Omaha
    On finding the Madbloods with time on their hands
    I found them the perfect game, there on the magazine stand

    Mad (Mad) Libs (Libs)
    The ‘bots are playing games
    They need an adjective and some proper names
    Mad (Mad) bloods (bloods)
    Will think of funny words
    It’s like a jammie party full of android nerds

    Nar bon nar bon n-n-n-nar bon bon
    Nar bon nar bon n-n-n-nar bon bon
    Nar bon nar bon n-n-n-nar bon bon
    Mad Libs, I’m talking ’bout Mad Libs

    Nar bon nar bon n-n-n-nar bon bon
    Nar bon nar bon n-n-n-nar bon bon
    Nar bon nar bon n-n-n-nar bon bon
    Madbloods, I’m occupying Madbloods

  11. Today’s strip, re-written as a Mad Lib, taking words from other comic titles:

    DAVE: Laundromat‘s gassed up.  I got the slingshots some Mad Libs at the —

    ARTIE: Dave, may I pack shortly to you for a stick?

    ZETA:  Fuzzy?  *sigh*  The only thing more inexplicable than being shifted about, is being shifted about by arcades.

    MADBOT: Can you do us a non-adventure?

  12. I used to always get sick when reading in the car too. It sucked, because nothing else has ever held my attention like reading, so car trips were always totally boring for me.

  13. tune: “More than a woman,” Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb & Maurice Gibb (The Bee Gees, Saturday Night Fever, 1977)
    Apologies if this bit of cheesy disco detritus becomes an earworm.  I like a lot of disco, but this song embodies everything detestable about the genre (and the movie).  On the other hand, it scanned so well.

    Zeta, I know you very well
    You seem more like me every day
    I never really looked before
    But I see you in a new way

    I think Dana knew it too
    And I guess you must suspect
    I don’t know how it can be true
    But our helices intersect

    How did mad science bring you to this place
    My sister from another mom
    I see it in your eyes, your ears and your face

    She’s some kind of gerbil
    Some kind of gerbil, oh yeah
    Some kind of gerbil (ooh, ooh, ooh)
    Some kind of gerbil, oh yeah

  14. “You only live once” is not a sentiment I tend to associate with Narbonic plot developments. I count up to 8 times in the storyline that people violate that statement, depending on what you accept as the same bout of living.

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