As a kid I always loved something that’s a dramatic rarity these days: the moment when the hero or villain would break out the map covered with little tanks and airplanes, or better yet, the full-on model or diorama, and demonstrate their amazing plan.  Often it was a story-telling crutch to show something the program or movie actually didn’t have the budget or technology to show in reality, be it a daring train robbery, battles between vast armies, or a huge enemy mountaintop base. It was a staple of old war and spy movies, and 60s TV.

More contemporary examples are harder to find. “Back to the Future” has a great example, where Doc Brown creates the town square of Hill Valley in completely unnecessary detail, including every store front and building. But as you examine the model closer it becomes its made of painted household items, like bottles, jars, and shoe-boxes. And there were scenes in the Battlestar Galactica reboot in which space battles are coordinated using little spaceship models being slid around on a tabletop star map.

These days, people just pull out the CGI to solve these sorts of problems. No army to vast, no budget to slow. Render out the Battle of the Bulge (with added giant robots( on your PC and upload it to YouTube by lunch, or so it sometimes seems. And if that can’t be done, a 3D computer readout will show the plan in lesser detail (and at lesser cost).

When it comes to Minions at Work, thrift stores have always been my friend, and sometimes I find strange things that just make awesome props. The miniature-within-a-miniature terrain in this cartoon was obviously created to teach geology, and I actually have a whole box of them portraying different landforms. As soon as I saw these, I had to have them, and I was immediately reminded of all those briefing model scenes. All I had to do was prop one of the teaching models up on a 1/6th scale table, make a pointer for No. 1 to wield, and we were off to the comics.

Doctor Mumble, by the way, is a generic Overlord created just for the gag, and I doubt we’ll ever see him on panel. Besides the name is really too close to the villain “Mumbles” from the Dick Tracy comic. I think there are a couple of times I’ve come up with one-shot (and one note) Overlords just to put the Minions in a particular situation. There’s really no concept too silly for a one-shot. That’s a good thing.