The Life of Nob T. Mouse
"Oh my!"—Nob T. Mouse, all the time
The Life of Nob T. Mouse is a surrealist science-fantasy comedy webcomic. Created in 1996, it is the oldest British web comic and, according to research by The Webcomics Company podcast, either the 16th or 17th webcomic ever created.
The strip began as a series of hand-drawn and hand-lettered comics, coloured in coloured pencils and updated intermittently before the creator, Zoe Kirk Robinson took an eight-year (unannounced) hiatus. She picked up where she left off in the middle of 2007 and began co-writing the strip with her partner, Jennifer Kirk, in 2008. This has the odd effect of making it one of the oldest continuing webcomics, but not one of the longest-running.
The premise of the comic is to subvert the standard view of reality and make a joke while doing so. Plot points range from the totally random to discussions on how a child might explain the world if she had overheard half a physics lecture, missed the point and then tried to explain it to someone else, who wrote it down.
While clearly influenced by the dadaist and surrealist movements, the artistic style also mimics children's pictures by ignoring perspective to a great extent, using primary colours and containing an army of characters that are, effectively, splats of colour with feet.
The comic was originally the sole purview of one writer-artist, Zoe Robinson, but now the writing duties are shared between Robinson and her partner, Jennifer Kirk, while Robinson continues to produce the artwork on her own.
- Affectionate Parody - Doctor Nob and Nob Trek.
- All There in the Manual - The website has little biographies hidden on it, accessible by accessing individual blog posts and then clicking on the name of the post's author. These biographies give a little insight into the world of the comic. According to the website:
- Robinson did not create the Nob Mouse universe, she won the rights to the characters and supplementary material off Hubert Schlongson when she beat him in a drunken game of poker.
- Schlongson originally wrote the Blobland Band stories to pay his gambling debts.
- Art Evolution - It began as crude, hand-drawn comics in pen-and-ink with coloured pencils and poor lettering. It's now rounded, streamlined and coloured/shaded on computer, with computer lettering. For examples, compare the first strip with this one from 14 years later.
- Art Shift - * Used to demonstrate passage between universes, or shifts in genre.
- Attention Deficit Creator Disorder - The series sometimes stops for days on end without warning, because Zoe has found something else she'd rather do. When Jennifer began co-writing, this got a lot less frequent however.
- Batman Can Breathe in Space - and so can everyone from Blobland.
- Big Bad - The Pie Ghosts of Somewhere in Pie Noon; King Nastie from the Nasties stories (although he's also something of a Dragon); Frederick (to some extent); and Grandfather Time.
- Bilingual Bonus: Bricky speaks Laterian, which sounds a bit like 'Latin'. 'Later' is Latin for Brick.
- The Blind Leading the Blind - It's often the case that none of the cast know what they're doing, but they do it anyway. Sometimes it works out.
- Bound and Gagged - Occasionally, the Big Bad will try this to keep the Blobland Band and their allies from ruining their plans. It never works out.
- B-Side Comics - The interlude strips that ran during Pie Noon.
- The Cameo - Emily and Tesrin from All Over the House appeared in this Revenge of the Nasties story.
- Catch Phrase - Several.
Franky: Wait up, I've got to get a hat!
Nob T. Mouse: Oh my!
Wilf: Hello, everybody.
- Cephalothorax - most of the cast are simply giant heads with limbs attached.
- Character Blog - Hubert Schlongson occasionally pops up on the website to provide increasingly surreal anecdotes about his time visiting Nob Mouse and friends.
- Character Development - All the main characters, and many of the minor characters, have become more rounded as time goes on.
- Chekhov's Gun - Although Spam's Crowd Master trolley was a problem at first, it certainly came in handy when dealing with Grandfather Time's minions.
- Christmas Specials - Seasonal stories in which Santa usually needs Nob Mouse's help to deliver presents on time.
- Cloudcuckoolander - Franky, Frederick, ... actually, the entire cast to some extent.
- Continuity Nod - Series Two and Three often make passing references to previous stories, such as:
- In Pie Noon, Doctor Franky arrives in Blobland using a Phase Induction Bubble first introduced in Parallel Land.
- Nob Mouse and Co. visit Memory Lane to figure out why Emily and Tesrin arrived in Blobland.
- The door to Frederick's secret lab in Pie Noon is covered in the same 'warnings' as his original secret lab in Nob & The Pies.
- Crisis Crossover - The All over the mouse storyline and its lead-in stories almost certainly qualify here.
- Crossover - Although the characters don't meet save for a cameo, the Nob Mouse story The Great Tea Adventure crosses over with the All Over the House story Homeward bound. Both act as lead-in stories, for their respective characters, to the crossover story All over the mouse; which ran in tandem on both comics' sites.
- Dada Comics - arguably the whole comic is one big example of this.
- Doomsday Device - Frederick tends to make these.
- Easter Egg - The biographies of Robinson and Schlongson, accessible only through clicking on their names in blog posts.
- Eldritch Abomination - Grandfather Time is definitely one of these.
- Exact Time to Failure - Used as a joke in Pie Noon:
Computer: Malfunction! The universe will be destroyed in 50 seconds.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The comic details the life of Nob T. Mouse.
- Fictional Document - The Blobland Gang is a set of books, TV & radio shows, and even a film. They are all based on Hubert Schlongson's visits to Blobland to learn about the adventures of Nob Mouse and Co.
- Filler Strip - they tend to be jokes about why there's no comic on that particular day; like this strip:
Franky: Nob! Nob! Why are there no updates?
Nob Mouse: Because the writers messed up on their scheduling...
- Freudian Trio: Two sets. Word of God is that this is down to Robinson preferring to write about Nob Mouse and Franky, while Kirk prefers to write about Wilf and Spam.
The main trio:
Super Ego: Nob Mouse
The secondary trio:
Super Ego: Spam
- Funny Animal - Given that Nob is a 'mouse', Wilf is a 'dog' and Frederick is a 'rabbit', this is given an abstract, almost cubist, twist.
- Go Mad from the Revelation - The reason for Frederick's madness is he saw the true form of Grandfather Time.
- Halloween Episode: The Scary House.
- Hidden Depths - Frederick wasn't always a pie-obsessed nutcase with a tendency to endanger the universe...
- Idiot Ball - Franky is one.
- Intelligible Unintelligible - Bricky can say only 'Pop' but this doesn't stop him being a useful ideas man.
- Invisible Anatomy: How else would Jip put his hat on? Averted with Wilf and Frederick however, as these guys use prehensile ears to manipulate objects.
- It Runs on Nonsensoleum - The comic is the epitome of this. One example in many is that waving a jelly on a stick with pink-icing buns stuck on it will summon a letterbox that lets you post yourself to another universe.
- Knight of Cerebus: Grandfather Time.
- Little-Known Facts - which, in an almost inevitable inversion, sometimes turn out to be true.
- Long Runners: The comic began in 1996, making it one of the oldest webcomics.
- Mind Rape: Grandfather Time did this to Frederick, turning him into a prototypical Mad Scientist.
- The Multiverse - subverted through Quantum History, in which every point in time is effectively a separate reality. Also, played straight through the multiple alternate universes and, arguably, alternate continuities shown throughout the series. Examples:
- In Parallel Land, an entirely separate universe with its own history is shown. This universe reappears briefly in Pie Noon
- In Doctor Nob, we see Nob Mouse as a time/space traveller instead of a café owner.
- In Nob Trek and its sequels, the Blob City denizens live aboard a starship shaped like a giant cheese with oars.
- In Nasties! there are at least three other universes, with at least two of those having a separate history.
- Odd-Shaped Panel - Skewed ellipses with part of a character popping out of them occur so often they are almost a signature effect in Robinson's long-form comics.
- Older Than They Look: The Memory Lane story makes it clear that Nob Mouse was born prior to the founding of Blob City but in The bureaucratic empire a Blob City law is mentioned that is dated to 244. If the dating used in Blob City is based on the year the city was founded, that makes Nob Mouse over 240 years old.
- Out-of-Genre Experience: In The Squeeze, a surreal comedy comic suddenly turns into film noir.
- Painting the Fourth Wall: Apparently people in Blobland can't hear anything replaced by asterisks in speech bubbles.
- Part Time Hero: Nob Mouse. He is a mayor, cafe owner and part-time adventurer who just wants a quiet life but apparently can't have one.
- People Puppets: In Parallel Land, the parallel universe version of Nob Mouse is being remote-controlled by the parallel universe version of Wilf.
- Power Walk: Used when Wilf, Franky and Bricky head into battle against the minions of Grandfather Time.
- Power-Up: Wilf gets one of these when he opens a literal can of Whoop Ass in order to battle Grandfather Time.
- Private Eye Monologue: Jip does this in The Squeeze, a film noir parody strip from The Life of Nob T. Mouse.
- Promoted Fanboy: In-universe example. Zoe was a fan of Hubert Schlongson's Blobland Band stories and originally made The Life of Nob T. Mouse as a fanfiction comic, before meeting Schlongson and winning ownership of the copyright to the Blobland Band franchise off him in a game of poker.
- The Rant: The news section is occasionally used to tell extra anecdotal stories.
- Running Gag: Several:
Kevin's inability to comprehend metaphor.
Spam's inventions will go wrong.
Every series on the site's 'Stories' page includes a claim that "some claim [it] is the Golden Age of Nob Mouse stories"
- Shoo Out the Clowns: Notice how often Bricky is missing from the more modern stories.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: The strip sits firmly in the middle, with idealistic stories and tones masking a dark and cynical core. The Bureaucratic Empire storyline is a good example of this.
- Something Completely Different - This film noir-inspired detective story where most of the main case appear to be petty crooks of some kind. The art style and the writing are significantly different to anything else the comic has done.
- Speech Bubbles: Grandfather Time has translucent black speech bubbles without tails. Everyone else gets normal speech bubbles.
However, in the past, everyone got a speech bubbles whose outlines were the same as their main colour.
- Story Arc - Several. The longest is probably the establishment of Memory Lane in its titular storyline. At first it seems like an abortedarc but then it reappears in All over the mouse.
- Surrealism - Robinson studied the surrealist movement for her school art classes and regularly discusses the influence of surrealism on the comic.
- This Is Sparta - Frederick delivering his final words to Grandfather Time during All over the mouse.
Frederick: You! Broke! My! Mind!
- Threshold Guardians: Nob Mouse is forced to risk killing Frederick (who is effectively his adopted father) in order to save the world during Pie Noon.
- The Unseen - Hubert Schlongson is mentioned in All Over the Mouse and even writes the occasional anecdotal story in the site's blog but he has never actually been shown anywhere.
- Waddling Head: Most of the cast.
- Weird Science - Anything Frederick and Doctor Franky create will undoubtedly fit the bill.
- What Do You Mean It Wasn't Made on Drugs? - Although the warped logic, surreal look and unconventional use of language in the series suggests it is influenced by LSD, Robinson is teatotal and created the comic simply as a way of letting off steam during exam revision.