When I got to the end of “Unstuck in Time,” I was two strips over. Rather than cut two of the final strips, I decided to run a daily strip on the each of the last Sundays of the storyline. And here we are. I have no regrets.
In addition to being touching, this strip is great because Dave wears his jaunty little cap.
Man, Mell’s always concerned about hair. Helen’s observation ends up being important way, way down the line.
The thing in the background of the second panel appears to be a map of the world with little hearts and flowers drawn on it. That’s Helen for you.
Sorry for being so late getting the commentary up for today and yesterday. My Internet went down on Sunday night and I only just got it back. It has been HELL, I tell you. HELL. In return, here’s Wednesday’s strip early. Whew.
Anyway… this only gets brought up occasionally in the strip, but it’s got to be uncomfortable for Artie to live around lots of ordinary, non-superintelligent gerbils, many of which Helen dissects in front of him. Artie hasn’t been out of the lab much, so whatever goes on there is his idea of normal. It’s a wonder he’s as stable as he is.
SPOILERS: Artie’s absence from the future Dave sees becomes more of a plot point later on. Helen’s brain has already hinted that his death was not from natural causes.
This twist would’ve been better if I’d established earlier that Dave wanted to quit smoking. I did have a storyline like that planned at one point, but I never fleshed it out. Oh well; it’s still pretty good.
[SPOILERS] This will be Dave’s character design for most of the rest of Narbonic: shaggy hair, no cigarette. The other change I wanted to make to his appearance was to make his eyes visible through his glasses. For a while I planned to do this in a mundane way, by simply having him get new glasses. Then I came up with an idea: making his glasses go transparent at a crucial revelation to represent the scales falling from his eyes. Unfortunately, this meant continuing to draw him without visible eyes until near the very end of the strip’s run. Sometimes I outfox myself.
I was really hoping people would notice and comment on Dave’s lack of cigarette before this, but I don’t think anyone did. I probably should’ve dragged it out longer.
I probably spent way too much time figuring out what kind of lighter Dave would carry.
Incidentally, I had this plot twist planned from the very beginning, so these are all really, really early scripts. They hold up pretty well, though.
As Dave will realize later, the larger implication of this is that history can be changed, making it possible to avoid the crapsack future he experienced. This will, of course, leave the past cluttered with paradoxical bric-a-brac, but that’s always a danger with time travel. Untidiness.
MAJOR TOTAL SPOILERS I AM NOT KIDDING AROUND HERE:
I never really spelled this out in the strip, so here, for reference, is the timeline of events in Narbonic as we, the readers, see them. I had this charted out at one point.
1983: Six-year-old Dave, inhabited by his future consciousness, meets Dr. Narbon and nine-year-old Helen. He leaves his Yak-Face action figure with Dr. Narbon.
2000: Helen goes mad and starts her laboratory. She takes on Mell as an intern, then hires Dave.
At around the same time, the Dave Conspiracy receives a package from the future containing a videotape message from President Mell Kelly and plans for several high-tech futuristic devices, including a teleporter. On the video, President Kelly begs the Conspiracy to kill Dave before it’s too late.
2001: The Dave Conspiracy hires Helen’s mother to construct the designs sent from the future and to assassinate Dave, thinking she’s the “Dr. Narbon” mentioned by President Kelly in the video (in fact, it’s Helen). Dr. Narbon carries out the job, but Helen later revives him. Dr. Narbon continues to work for the Dave Conspiracy as their mad-science liaison until she betrays them several years later.
Before killing him, Dr. Narbon tempts Dave by showing him that she has his long-lost Yak-Face action figure.
2002: Stranded on the Dave Conspiracy’s prison island, Helen notices that the Conspiracy’s teleporter seems to have been designed by her Dave.
Dave escapes the prison island. The Conspiracy revokes his membership but gives up trying to kill him because it’s hard.
2003: Dave comes unstuck in time.
2004: The staff of Narbonics Labs resolves a demonic invasion by teleporting Mell to a Dave Conspiracy base so she can kidnap the leaders of the Conspiracy (it’s a long story). Mell gets back to the lab by stealing one of the Conspiracy’s portable teleporters. Examining the teleporter remote afterwards, Helen becomes convinced that it’s a Dave Davenport design.
2005: In Dr. Narbon’s lair in the Lost Diamond Mines of Brazil, Mell and Artie find the video from President Kelly to the Conspiracy. Mell suggests that the message was really intended for her. They also find the Yak-Face action figure and return it to Dave.
2006: Dave goes mad. In the course of his initial rampage, Helen and Artie are knocked off a flying island and crash into Madblood’s Arctic base (again, long story). Artie, shielding Helen’s body, is killed; Helen survives as a disembodied brain. Taking over computer networks worldwide, Dave wreaks global havoc, including setting off a nuclear war.
2007-2022: Eventually, Dave settles down and takes over the Arctic base, turning it into the new Narbonics Labs. He keeps Helen’s brain alive because he needs her knowledge of biochemistry to build himself a new physical body. Madblood is employed by the lab in some humiliating capacity. Mell leaves to pursue a political career.
This version of Mad!Dave is capable of transferring his consciousness between his human body and the Lovelace supercomputer. It’s possible that the “holographic recording” Dave saw on his trip to the future was actually a VR copy of the future Dave’s consciousness.
Mell becomes a ruthless politician and is ultimately elected Vice-President of the United States. Although she seems to pursue power for power’s sake, her ultimate goal is to get into a position where she can reverse the events of 2006. Dave, who continues to design weapons for her, is unaware of her plans.
2023: Regretting the way things have turned out, Dave creates a message for his past self. Mell visits the Arctic base on the same day, picking up a weapon she plans to use to assassinate the President.
With the President’s death, Mell becomes President of the United States. Working in secret with Helen’s brain, she has a time machine constructed that can send physical objects back in time. Unfortunately, doing so consumes an amount of energy equal to all known energy in the universe. Mell sends back a videotape message (Why a video? Probably because she wasn’t sure if most people had DVD players in 2000) and blueprints for some of Dave’s inventions, destroying the universe in her own time. TIMELINE ENDS.
I really like this ending. Dave is now ready to move on from the past and on to a new phase in his life, a phase where he acts with greater self-confidence and takes his fate into his own hands. It doesn’t work very well, at least at first, but give the guy points for trying.