Dave Davenport Has Come Unstuck in Time: November 10-15, 2003

This is a really, really old one and it still amuses me. I think what I like is the way that, due to time travel, Dave is able to become his own buttmonkey.

More graffiti. Look, a later Chris Ellmann shout-out! There’s also “Chugbot Rules,” another reference to Sam Henderson’s Chugbot comic (man, I really loved that thing) and “Go Bulldogs,” the Bulldogs being my high school football team. NCM is the Nonconformist Chair Movement, an organization in my comic Smithson, which had recently started around this time. The DMP was an evil organization in the manga Ultimate Muscle, which I was editing around this time.

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I don’t remember how I found out what kind of car Dave Barker drove in high school, but he wrote to me afterwards to let me know it was not very roomy at all.

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I just wrote this one to advance the plot, but Dave has a point. He’s been telling absolutely everyone about the time travel, and no one cares. It’s probably very frustrating.

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There’s a lot of foreshadowing in this strip, what with the reference to a frozen wasteland (something I had to include in the dialogue because my art skills weren’t up to drawing a recognizable frozen wasteland) and the appearance of Future!Dave. I made a major decision here by giving Actual Non-Time-Traveling Future Dave transparent glasses. I’d wanted to start drawing Dave’s eyes for a long time, but at this point I decided to give the change plot significance. Sadly, this meant I couldn’t draw regular Dave’s eyes for another three years.

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I have a soft spot for Future!Dave. He’s too old for this crap. I respect that.

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45 thoughts on “Dave Davenport Has Come Unstuck in Time: November 10-15, 2003

  1. Time travel can be funny that way.  Look what the late Robert Forward did with it in Timemaster, and what Stephen Baxter did with it in The Time Ships (which is a sequel to all of H. G. Wells, not just The Time Machine).

    Once you can send information back in time, causality goes flying out the window, smashing through common sense in the process.


  2. On this topic, I refer you all the the definitive expert on the subject of time travel.

    People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but *actually* from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint – it’s more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly… time-y wimey… stuff. The Doctor, Blink


  3. Monday:

    Time travel abuse got him into this mess, and be damned if he won’t abuse time travel to get himself out.

    Dave’s unhinged eyebrow exhibits his uneasiness at witnessing yet another completely impossible event. He’ll be lucky if he has any shred of faith in the stability of the universe left when he’s done with this trip.

    Dave’s teen eyes aren’t so bad, nor his writing so puny, that he really needs to read it at nose-to-brick distance, does he?

  4. (TUNE: “Time”, Hootie & The Blowfish)

    Time …
    It’s a paradox!
    It’s so wibbly and wobbly, a big ball
    Of timey-wimey stuff!

    Time …
    This knocks off my socks!
    Well, the handwriting’s there on the wall …
    I think I’ve had enough!

    Well, it’s really quite a puzzle!
    The effect before the cause, hell,
    What a day I’ve had!
    And causality’s a casualty …
    And I think I’m going mad!

  5. @Leon Arnott: I guess either Kid!Dave put that in the fine print or Teen!Dave kind of likes the smell of public bathroom wall.

  6. To be fair to Dave, I don’t think high school physics would have helped him much in this situation anyway. I seem to recall things like electrical resistence and centrifical forces got a lot more coverage than temporal mechanics.

  7. Tuesday:

    Dave’s back to thinking a bit too highly of Majel. Self-reliance, Dave, self-reliance!

    (By the way, the archive menu entry for last week needs to be fixed.)

  8. Could the DMP be for, oh, I don’t know, some fellow you might have heard of named Daniel Manus Pinkwater?

  9. Wednesday:

    What’s this? Putting your friends in your webcomic?! This hardly seems that professional!

    It occurs to me that Dave couldn’t possibly have been leaning over that urinal for so long that Majel could have learned that much of Barker from just natural conversation. It’s most probable that he introduced himself with Majel’s panel 2 sentence rephrased in the first person.

    Off-panel head pokes: 19.

  10. (TUNE: “This Is My Country”, Don Raye and Al Jacobs)

    Hello, Dave Barker,
    Man that I hate!
    Oh no, Dave Barker!
    He took my date!

    He’s got a big Toyota;
    He took off with Majel …
    Well, so long, Dave Barker,
    And please, go to hell!

  11. A paradigm-shifting moment?  This must have been before Dave got a paradigm with automatic transmission.

  12. Friday:

    Is it my imagination, or is the breadth of this episode’s temporal transition effect noticably decreased compared to previously?

  13. @Leon: Espcially since it’s only Friday.  What side of the International Date Line are you on?  And if you’ve lost a day, what *else* are you on??

    (TUNE: “Luck, Be A Lady Tonight”, Frank Loesser)

    Sucks being Davey today!
    Sucks being Davey today!
    Helen’s experiment has done this to me, dang her!
    Sucks being Davey today!

    Bald, emphysemic, and fat!
    Friendless, with no one to chat!
    I’m so upset that I’m beside myself with anger!
    Hey, what the dickens is that??

    A stranger just appeared beside me!
    He’s got my voice … he’s got my face …
    I’m hoping that this guy who’s beside me can guide me,
    And help me get out of this place!

    So let’s hear what he has to say!
    Find synchronicity, hey!
    I’ll get advice now from my spooky doppelganger!
    Luck’s with me, maybe, today!

  14. Ed Gedeon says:

    “@Leon: Espcially since it’s only Friday.  What side of the International Date Line are you on?  And if you’ve lost a day, what *else* are you on??”

    Remember that at least one (and maybe two) leap-year(s) has/have passed since this comic first aired. That might account for the “missing” day.


  15. Saturday part 2:

    Do geniuses really have photographic memories? Dr. Davenport can only be doing this by literally remembering a 20-year-old conversation. Which raises the question: does he know what he’s going to say, too? Does he move his lips knowing that his next word has been predetermined two decades prior, and yet speak a conversation whose themes are predicated on the fact that temporal determinism is bunk?

  16. I believe we later learn that future dave didn’t make a recording at all – that (Spoilers!) this is Future!Dave after uploading himself (back?) into Lovelace’s hardware to vacate his body in order to facilitate this conversation with his younger self.

    This entire ‘pre-recorded conversation’ ruse is, presumably, then just to mess with the head of Normal!Dave by raising these very questions about memory, predetermination, etc.

    Future!Dave is kind of a jerk.

  17. (TUNE: “That’ll Be The Day”, Buddy Holly and The Crickets)

    I knew this was the day
    That I’d get possessed!
    Knew this was the day!
    I hope you’re impressed!
    Knew what you would say
    (As you should have guessed)!
    I knew this was the day-ay-ay …
    Don’t get stressed!

  18. But if Future!Dave knows exactly what will happen in this conversation, he is assuming that a predetermined set of events (ex: Dave’s responses) will follow in Dave’s timeline, up until the point that Dave becomes Future!Dave 20 years later and he pre-records his side of the discussion.  If this is the case, then *SPOILER* how the heck does Future!Dave think he can change his past?!?

    Alternatively, in this scene Dave might actually be talking to Lovelace, who’s decided to wear a Future!Dave ‘skin’ in order to convince Dave of what she thinks is the right course of action.

  19. I never considered any of those possibilities- always took the pre-recorded-conversation thing as legit.

  20. Future!Dave doesn’t think he can change his past; Future!Dave knows that he did change his past.

  21. As the timeline has not been yet changed Future!Dave DOES still smoke. This is evident in that Dave in Future!Dave’s body smokes. Future!Dave exists in the timeline where Dave did not fill the pool, and got hooked on smokes by Majel. Future!Dave (or whomever) is giving Dave information to change his future (and incidentally his past, which is why Dave never smokes).

    Where is the implication that Future!Dave’s recording isn’t a recording? I don’t recall anything like that. That would definitely give this a different spin.

    Future!Dave may know that he can change his past based on his experiences when unstuck in time, but they will be different than our Dave’s as his actions would have altered the timeline to the one we’re familiar with.

    Unless he doesn’t know that, and then he didn’t. Or perhaps his madness has allowed him to see that the past can be changed.

  22. Looking through the archives, it seems that my assertion that Future!Dave isn’t actually a recording isn’t actually supported by the text.

    Maybe I dreamed it? I don’t know where that came from.

  23. It seems to me that FutureDave has access to the Lovelace technology, and thus could easily record a hologram with some built in AI.  Enough to parse questions and supply canned responces.   And I’m 46.  46 is not that old.  Really, it isn’t.   Don’t make fun of the elderly.

  24. It’s never confirmed that he isn’t a recording, but it’s never confirmed that he is, either, and I think the not-a-recording theory fits what we do see better.

    So, the way I figure it, we start with Timeline A. This may or may not be the first timeline, but what, if anything, came before it doesn’t really matter here. In Timeline A, Child Dave-A never gets Caliban-A fired from his bed-hiding job, and Teen Dave-A starts smoking. Henchman Dave-A, who smokes and never met Caliban-A in Hell, then gets unstuck in time, and goes back to possess his younger self in 1983.

    This creates Timeline B, in which Henchman Dave-A in Child Dave-B’s body gets Caliban-B fired from his bed-hiding job in 1983, but does not prevent Teen Dave-B from starting to smoke in 1993. Henchman Dave-A returns to the present in Timeline B, and, in the fullness of time-B, becomes Old Dave-A, a bitter old man who smokes and has destroyed everything he loves.

    Henchman Dave-B, however, is our Dave. He comes unstuck from his body in Timeline B, where he smokes and met Caliban-B in Hell, and travels back to possess his younger self in 1983, which creates another new timeline, Timeline C. Henchman Dave-B in Child Dave-C’s body gets Caliban-C fired from his bed-hiding job, then goes on to prevent Teen Dave-C from starting smoking in 1993, and finally leaps to Old Dave-B’s body in the future of Timeline B, where he has the conversation with (a recording of?) Old Dave-A that we’re seeing here.

    And then he returns to Timeline C, where he got Caliban fired and never smoked, and proceeds to live out the rest of the Narbonic strips…

    So this Future Dave, Old Dave-A, knows that the timeline can be changed – he did it back in 1983, when he created Timeline B, and is certainly smart enough now (2023 “now”) to have figured out what happened there. That means that he knows that the Dave he’s talking to (Henchman Dave-B) isn’t the same Dave that he was, and may not react quite the same way.

    So I figure that, rather than risking his plan getting screwed up by variations in the timeline, Old Dave-A just uploaded himself into the Lovelace hardware (assuming he wasn’t already living there full-time), where he’s using the attached holoprojector to carry on a real-time conversation with Henchman Dave-B in Old Normal Clone Dave-B’s body.

    And he’s lying to Dave-B about it because he doesn’t want Dave-B’s to learn yet the truth of what Old Dave really is, and, most especially, how he got that way. Remember, learning that truth is what ultimately sends Dave mad… letting him learn it this prematurely would change the subsequent Timeline C completely. Old Dave-A doesn’t want that; he wants a Timeline C that’s predictable and as similar as possible to the Timeline B that he experienced… up until the point that Dave-B makes a single small change that nudges it onto the path that they want it to follow.

  25. A somewhat simpler (if less comprehensive) theory.  OldDave (who isn’t as old as I am) is a frigging GENIUS!  Just as Artie once demonstrated the ability to predict Dave’s sentances/reactions ahead of time, so OldDave uses his genius to predict Dave’s reactions. 

    Apparently Dave is pretty predictable.  (At least if you’re a genius.)

  26. Also consider: At what point does President Mell Kelly send back the tape that prompts the Dave Conspiracy to hire Dr. Narbon to kill Dave? And what events in the timeline depend on that assassination attempt?

    Ah, of course — Dave-A doesn’t meet Caliban nopt only because Caliban hasn’t yet been fired from underbed duty, but also because in Timeline A Dave DOESN’T DIE, since Dr. Narbon hasn’t received the contract to kill him.

    … which means he doesn’t recognize Caliban when he goes back to age 6. Does that change the interaction there any?

    Actually, in fact, Dave might not get unstuck in time yet. That might wait until Timeline B, created by the actions of President Kelly. Except Caliban has to have been fired already.

    This is giving me a headache…

  27. Saturday: What I like about this scene, now that I stop to do the math, is this. I had always kind of assumed that the future Dave WAS a recording because I know Shaenon loves to steal jokes from Red Dwarf, and there’s a scene in Season 10 where Lister (with help from a supercomputer) makes recordings of himself while blackout drunk, then has a conversation with them the next day after he’d forgotten what he said. However, this strip was posted in 2003 and the tenth season of Red Dwarf aired in 2012 — so maybe this time, they were stealing from Shaenon!

  28. Perhaps in 2023 Shaenon will show the cast staging this Potemkin Village future… Real Older Dave is playing his deteriorated self in realtime, with makeup, etc. Obviously, Helen will keep the cast rejuvenated!
    Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

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