Genius: December 4-9, 2006

We’re into the final month of Narbonic! How did this happen? Where did the time go?

Anyway, yeah. This plot twist took some time to set up but was so, so worth it. Also, I did a nice side view of Dave at the bar in the third panel. That’s what the back of his head should look like!

It would be really annoying to pull of some kind of underage mischief, only to learn that not only do your parents know about it, but they’ve known for decades and have just been waiting for you to catch up to them so they can dole out the appropriate discipline. Poor girl.

She’s about 13 here, I think.

Artie is researching his study on violent tendencies in early childhood in the first storyline in Li’l Mell. I had a lot of fun setting up all this stuff that only I would probably ever care about.

In this and the rest of the strips this week, Dave and his daughter mirror each others’ expressions and gestures. I wanted to subtly suggest the relationship between them.

Seanan McGuire wrote a song, Time Travel Girl, about this week of strips. It is awesome and I can’t wait for her to get around to recording it.

In the bonus story to Narbonic Volume 6 (also available in The Perfect Collection, Future Artie says that Future Dave claims he only destroys uninhabited universes. So maybe it’s not as bad as all that. It’s still pretty bad, though.

Andrew just went through a phase of collecting all the G.I. Joes that existed when he was twelve. They’re all stationed in the basement now, neatly lined up in chronological order, guarding the comics. This is what adulthood is like, apparently.

Yeah, so the girl’s two previous appearances are here and here. Thank you.

I don’t even know where this rolling countryside came from, but the landscape here looks a lot like the area of Ohio where I grew up.

I don’t know whether or not Dave’s daughter goes mad. I do think that either way, she probably goes on to a career as a psychiatrist.

57 thoughts on “Genius: December 4-9, 2006

  1. Yeah, this was a great plot twist.  Loved it.  Also like Dave’s eyes in the last panel. 😀

    Also, Happy belated Birthday, Shaenon. (wasn’t kicking aorund the iNets on your birthday…)

  2. Fortunately, he’s probably blacked out on his last encounter with her…

    And yeah, that last panel is classic.


    Also, she’d better hope he can make it work!

  3. I really like the way this final twist serves as the ‘big moment’ of this concluding arc, a new and unexpected scenario that gives it an identity of its own.

    I also like that the character herself, Helen and Dave’s time-traveling daughter, reprises the comic’s themes of fate – both the genetic fate of madness, and the causal fate of time-travel, that have loomed over this story for so long, and have now, in this storyline, been flipped from doom to hope.

  4. (TUNE: “Bridge Over Troubled Waters”, Simon & Garfunkel)

    When you’re drinking,
    Going mad,
    The girl who’s un-der-age,
    Says, “It’s not so bad …”
    She runs away … but,
    You chase her down!
    She’s just your time-travel-taking daughter!
    What a shock, you’ve found
    It’s your time-travel-taking daughter
    That you’re gonna ground!

    She says, “Talk to Mom,”
    That thought’s not bad …
    But then, if Helen’s “Mom”,
    Then you must be Dad!
    You call her back … she
    Says “That’s dirty pool …”
    She’s just your time-travel-taking daughter!
    You, she cannot fool!
    She’s your time-travel-taking daughter!
    She seems kinda cool!

  5. Thirteen… approx two decades… plus time since… carry the something…

    She’s still, what, minus three as of 2013?

  6. @Sam: If “a couple of decades” is an even 20 years, she’d be born this year.

    Or cloned, but she doesn’t look like what we’ve seen of young Helen.

  7. Wednesday:

    I like how much she lets slip about her absurd super-science family in just a few panels. A ridiculous future fantasia, the continuation of the silly adventures Dave and Helen have been on in just these six years.

  8. They probably had the same birthday, so I bet the plan was for her to attend her double’s party right after.  A scheme to get double the parties for one birthday!

  9. Seanan’s lyrics, like my own, prove one thing … every lyricist in the English-speaking world tries to rhyme “girl” with “world”.

  10. Ah, but the real question is whether her mirror-universe double has a goatee. And I suppose whether she’s left handed.

    • This universe’s Rosalind is left-handed (see Saturday); so the question should whether her mirror-universe double is right-handed…

  11. That’s good, kiddo, ‘fess up 20 years before you break the rule about mirror universe doubles.  (Of course, when it happens, she’ll be all, “But Da-a-d, I *told* you I was going to do this!”)

    I hadn’t noticed the mirrored expressions before, but went back to check the rest of this week – nice touch!

  12. A mad scientist’s mirror universe double is probably still mad. I see it like this.

    “Those fools! They doubted that my invention of kudzu-corn would feed the world! I’ll show them!”


    “Those fools! They doubted that my invention of kudzu-corn would overgrow and destroy the world! I’ll show them!”

  13. Thursday:

    Agh, now that you mentioned that they keep mirroring each other’s expressions, I can’t stop seeing it! It’s freaking me out! After twelve years, this is the final-est of final twists.

    I like the fact that the strip’s time travel constraint has been resolved in the future, just like how genius madness has been resolved. The universe’s science constraints are falling away like torn paper at this, the end of the show.

    I wonder at what point Dave had the time to run those calculations – some idle cycles during the Madness arc? Or some time before, out of idle fascination?

  14. Assuming infinite possible parallel universes, the chances of finding a completely uninhabited one would be the same as finding one where all sentient life put it to a vote and decided they’d rather not exist after all.

    None of my G.I. Joes survived my childhood.

  15. If they have a time machine, they universes they destroy are inhabited sparsely, and Artie is her sage, why isn’t her name Rosemary?

  16. It’s OK to destroy a universe that Narbonic was never going to appear in.

    Go for it, Andrew!  You may have to grow old, but you don’t have to grow up.  Pick an age you like and stick with it, I always say.

  17. Whas has always bothered me is the Lil’Mell timetravel storyline. Sergio isn’t a mad scientist (and remaining sane while growing up with Mell is a notable achievement) so he is unlikely to destroy whole universes just for fixing his life.

    Then it struck me… The time travel energy expenditure is roughly the total energy in the universe. But not equal. That means that some energy remains, lingering between universes. Asuming an infinite amount of universes, there is an infinite amount of Daves’ time travel machines destroying an infinite amount of universe, so there is an infinite amount of universe remains in the void.

    That way, a sane scientist who is an expert on quenatum physics and, as seen, has a knack with multidimensional engineering could easily, in a alternate future in which he is infinitely bored, notice this energy, lingering in the space between dimensions (and perhaps the aliens of Indy4 making bbqs with it) and use it to power his time travel machine.

    After all, is a saner approach to time travel 🙂

  18. Ed, I can’t decide which makes you a more terrible person: Making those puns in the first place, or calling it a “time machine” instead of a “thyme machine.” (I know, I should be cloven in two for typing that.)

  19. I have to say, like John, the line in the second panel is one of my favorite in all of Narbonic. After all, if they haven’t figured out a way to prevent their universe from being destroyed, or destroyed this one first, they obviously don’t care as much as we do! Seems like a pretty solid justification to me.

  20. It helped that Andrew still had all his G.I. Joes from childhood. He carefully repaired all the ones that had fallen-off arms and such. It was a labor of love.

  21. If it’s any comfort, at least Andrew is collecting things he has actual childhood nostalgia for, instead of, say, electronics and records that predate his own birth.

    Not that I know anybody like that.

  22. @Ed: That’s the name of her mirror-universe double.

    @Shaenon: From what you write, I’m sure that Andrew tried to restore limbs as much as possible to original specs.  But I can’t shake the image of a bunch of Unity-style G.I. Joes in your basement.

  23. Now I’m picturing a V.A. hospital ward full of walking wounded G.I. Joes, going through rehab, group therapy sessions to deal with the PTSD, maybe taking some college courses in the evening (taught by another former veteran, G.I. Bill).

  24. I was going to comment that at least Andrew didn’t collect animation cels… but then I realized that was his day job. 

  25. Friday:

    Those two appearances, as I’ve mentioned, were vital to the final arc, not just narratively and comedically, but symbolically, too. Ah… what a joy this is…

  26. Ooh, that adds an edge to the lesbian sex joke … it’s bad enough for normal kids to think about their parents having a sex life!

  27. (TUNE: “Comedy Tonight”, Stephen Sondheim)

    Soon I will be mad,
    Came here to see Dad,
    Watch him, and figure out
    If sanity’s alright!

    Just as I feared, he
    Still acts so weirdly!
    From this, I kinda doubt
    If sanity’s alright!

        First, driving ‘bots
        North by the score!
        Next time around, he’s
        Licking the floor!

    Seeing him go mad
    Doesn’t seem so bad …
    Will I go crazy?  I just might!
    Dad is mad, not bad!
    Insanity’s alright!

  28. When you’ve already got no weirdness filter, madness only brings clarity to what you see around you when you’re sane.

  29. For that matter, being able to access Skin Horse right now would be really cool. My browser is giving me a “too many redirects” error.

  30. There is something wrong with the Skin Horse site and I can’t figure out what it is. My webhost is being spectacularly unhelpful.

  31. She indeed probably just did cause her own existence.  If she doesn’t tip off Dave, he doesn’t talk to Helen until later (if at all) and the chances of them having the same kids are negligible.

    Growing up with Dave and Helen would likely drive any kid mad, genetic predisposition or no.

  32. Saturday:

    Causal loops are a very powerful means of making something exist, especially if it’s a human. In Homestuck, as an extreme example, they’re used to explain the existence of every major character from birth onward. While today’s strip is a more modest example, it’s still the case that there’s something magical about creating something from nothing – that her existence is, if not divine intervention, then the work of scientist-gods at least.

  33. As Archchancellor Ridcully noted (in “The Last Continent”), any changes made to the flow of time have already been made, so don’t worry about causing paradoxes.  Time is tougher than you think, it’s been around for a long … well … time.

  34. Rosalind’s fear is well-founded. Dave is currently in a world where he never took up smoking. There are worlds out there where he never had children either.

  35. Having grown up with mad genius parents, constantly surrounded by and interacting with mad science tech?  That’s just like the danger of Dave going mad in the lab, but times a hundred!  She could destroy the universe!

    • Enh, not really. The real danger of Dave going mad in the lab was really that the person who otherwise would have been in a perfect position to support and restrain him through the violent transition… had also been lying to and experimenting on him for the last six years.

      From the sounds of it, Rosalind’s relationship with her parents is … much more traditionally loving and supportive than, say, Helen’s with Dr. Narbon. In fact, just from the general disposition of mad scientists, Rosalind might be the very first — or at least, the first in a very long time — child of mad scientist parents who knew what they were getting into and also were at least sufficiently decent people not to abuse their kid.

      … At least, I hope not. The stuff that’s kind of comedic between Helen and Dave is really really really not when it’s between them and their daughter >.>. But from the way she talks about her parents, I’m guessing not. At the least, whatever shenanigans go on in that household is within Rosalind’s own bounds, which I guess is good enough.

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