Dave Davenport Has Come Unstuck in Time: November 3-8, 2003

You can tell Artie is superintelligent because he can keep up with the plot.

I love the thing they’re hanging out in. It’s, you know, some kind of death ray. Mell is reading Found magazine, which I subscribed to at the time.

Sometimes, when Artie is sitting on someone’s head, it’s hard to tell which one of them is talking. I ought to have drawn his little mouth open more.

I like it when even Mell agrees that she’d be a terrible person to entrust with anything important.

So many weird little references and in-jokes in this strip. The solaranite bomb is the ultimate weapon humanity is on the verge of developing in the movie Plan 9 from Outer Space. It links all the “sun particles” in the universe in a massive explosion, blowing up the universe, so you can see why aliens have to resurrect the dead to put a stop to it. Presumably Helen had her solaranite bomb aimed at Boston because that’s where her arch-nemesis, Dave Barker, lives.

The yogurt monster is a reference to Jeffrey Wells’s very long Sunday fanfic, and Storage Room C, the only storage room in Narbonic Labs, gets a shout-out. But by far the most obscure bit of inside baseball is in the second panel, where Artie says, “Mell? I can handle Mell.”


At this point, my spinoff comic Li’l Mell had been running on Girlamatic for a while, drawn first by Vera Brosgol and then by Bill Mudron (and later by many other artists). In the first storyline, the substitute teaching Mell’s first-grade class is Human!Artie, who would not make an appearance in Narbonic for another year and a half. Since he’s using one of the invented surnames Artie sometimes uses because he doesn’t have a real one (at least until he sucks it up and just calls himself Artie Narbon), he wasn’t identifiable at the time as the Artie from Narbonic, unless people caught that his first name is Arthur and he knows to duck when Mell chucks a beer bottle at his head.

Anyway, I managed to time things so that today’s strip originally ran on the same day as this Li’l Mell page. Yes! With months of effort and planning, I was able to carefully arrange it so Artie would say the same line on the same day in two comics! Synchronicity! Even better, nobody could possibly notice this but me! The whole elaborate joke was for no one!

I’m still so happy about it.

I did this strip to explain why Helen wouldn’t be unstuck in time like Dave. It didn’t work. No one remembered the exposition and readers spent the rest of the storyline asking why Helen wasn’t bouncing around in time and what she would have to do to get herself unstuck. Oh well. I guess I could’ve unstuck Helen, too, but at this point the storyline was over three months long and I was itching to wrap it up.

In the years since this strip ran, the incomparable Girl Genius has kind of cornered the market on mad-scientist-related hat jokes, but that doesn’t mean goofy hats aren’t still awesome.

I wrote this one way, way early. The best part of drawing it was, of course, putting in the graffiti. In the first panel we have Tony Millionaire’s Drinky Crow and “Simon Wuz Here,” which I’m pretty sure is a reference to the odd old cartoon Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings. In the second panel I did an AC/DC logo, always a crowd-pleaser, and “For a Good Time Call Edna,” a piece of graffiti from the greatest video game of all time, Maniac Mansion. This is more relevant than it might seem, since the central time paradox in Narbonic also hinges on a Maniac Mansion reference.

After that I ran out of ideas and had Andrew fill in the graffiti in the last panel. I see that he did Pac-Man, the Metallica logo, the Daredevil logo, a heart with our initials, and “Skutch Rulz.” That last is a reference to an R. Crumb autobio comic about a bully named Skutch who terrorized his brother Charles. At one point Andrew and I wanted to put together a comics anthology called “Skutch Stories,” featuring comics written from the bullies’ point of view. We suspected Skutch probably had his reasons for pounding on the Crumbs.

The cartoon of Dave on the wall is my favorite part. It was good in the thumbnail, and it’s good in the final strip.

I know I got the phrase “piddle on my foot” from a Bloom County strip, but I can’t remember the original context.

More graffiti. Let’s see… Written alongside the urinal in the first panel is “Oroboros,” an unfortunate misspelling of “Ouroboros,” which is in turn a Red Dwarf and general time-paradox reference. In the last panel I have “Go Lemurs,” a shout-out to Jeff Wells, who just really likes lemurs, and a “Killroy Was Here.” “SG + AF” is for Andrew and me, and “JS + DK” is probably for BFFs Jason Shiga and Derek Kirk Kim.

39 thoughts on “Dave Davenport Has Come Unstuck in Time: November 3-8, 2003

  1. Monday:

    Finally, one of those rare respites where Dave is joined in his suffering at the hands of Helen’s maladorous maladory. (…Though, to tell the truth, they aren’t really that rare given that ‘Gender Swap’ and ‘Doppelganger Gambit’ number among them.)

    These dotty ladies are using entirely the wrong tense in panel 2.

  2. This is what I get for distracting myself with filking … I’ve been neglecting the Big Freakin’ ™ Gun count.  I believe the Panel Four Death Rays ™ bring the count up to 33, but I’ll have to review the last few months of the archives.

    Meanwhile … Can Helen rescue Dave IN TIME??

  3. Whenever Sarge says Artie doesn’t have much of a role in this story, this is the strip I think of.  Of course, now I am reminded that Artie’s role in this strip is just one panel long.

  4. Awww … I must say that I am feeling oddly let-down.  When this strip first ran, I thought they were at an amusement park riding a space-ship-themed merry-to-round.  (Yeah, I didn’t look that closely.)

    It would have been a good indirect reference to when Dave’s head is left on the bus.  🙂

  5. Tuesday:

    Aside from the secondary fact that we already have seen Mell’s past and future, this is one instance where the Mell immunity rule is probably for the best.

  6. (TUNE: “For The Longest Time”, Billy Joel)

    I – I – I …
    I’m unstuck in time!
    I – I – I …
    I’m unstuck in time!

    I performed experiments on Dave!
    Now it seems his butt I’ve got to save!
    It’s tricky finding
    Someone whose mind’s unwinding!
    I’ve got to get myself unstuck in time!

    Back and forth from future to the past!
    Who knows how much longer he can last!
    I’ve got to “date” him!
    (Meaning I’ll in time locate him!)
    For that, I’ll get myself unstuck in time!

    No one else can do this, you see!
    There is only one;
    It’s got to be me!
    Giving Mell the pow’r of history?
    There is no mystery!
    It would be Armageddon!

    Doesn’t take an oracle to see
    Making Mell historical would be
    A terror reign now!
    I’m not stupid, just insane now!
    Now help me get myself unstuck in time!

  7. Actually, they don’t know it yet, but Mell already will have done that!  And while she destroyed her own universe, she actually did improve the surviving timeline!  (Albeit not quite the way she wanted to….)


  8. I like it when even Mell agrees that she’d be a terrible person to entrust with anything important.

    So let’s make her vice-president…

  9. Wednesday:

    But, of course, the actual best part of this strip is “grenades just make it bigger!

    If there’s just one flaw in this strip, it’s that Artie’s pleas don’t directly refer to Mell. Say what you will, but ‘Doppelganger Gambit’ and ‘Gender Swap’ both showed that he’s just as capable of solo misguided mayhem as his human best friend.

    Helen’s wearing different costumes in each of panels 3-7. Does this mean these aren’t actually imagine spots, but bona fide flashbacks?! Goodness grievous.

  10. I notice you liked it enough to gloat… you know, maybe you’ve got a little of the Mad in you, as well.

  11. When I finally read L’il Mell, years later and after reading the entirety of Narbonic, I of course recognized human Artie, and my instant response to, “Mell? I can handle Mell,” was, “and what’s your basis for that statement again?”

  12. (TUNE: “Big Shot”, Billy Joel)

    Well, we just shoved Dave into the time machine,
    And we tried to send him away!
    It’s kinda odd that his body’s still here,
    But his mind went astray!
    So now we gotta fetch him back with synchronicity,
    So he won’t be lost anymore!
    Though you may say, “It’s too dangerous,
    That’s what minions are for!”

    But now you get to wear a cool hat, don’t you!
    Now I know you can’t say no!
    You get to wear a cool hat, don’t you!
    Pull the switch, and here I go!
    If Dave is in the past, I’ll go too;
    Off to twenty years ago!
    You’re stylin’ like a super-swell girl!
    You get to wear a cool hat, Mell girl!

  13. It’s a really good thing Shaenon mentioned the ‘Girl Genius’ deal, or else I would have done the obligatory joke about ‘any plan where you lose your hat’…

  14. Mell would need the J?ger special drink, traditionally made with Dyne river water – and that’s in Europe.

    I may postulate a special batch of fancy bottled European water.  Mell used to hang out at convenience stores, as in North of Space, so the chances are there.  Alternatively, if she met Dave between his trip to Ireland and graduation, it could be some souvenir – but I don’t think that meeting ever happened.

    I want to try something more fun.  Dyne’s water should not be the only source of J?ger-like effects.  Mell met (we know) the Mole Men of the Rukavina Caverns, quite early in her adventurous life, and they have some powerful stuff of their own.  Only Mole Men could know the effects that stuff can have on a surface girl of Mell’s qualities.  It is known they wanted her to share some of their evil and well-cooked food, because she counted them as friends.  Which would help on the other step – surviving the Quaffing of the Draught.

  15. I believe Rosebud the basselope had just piddled on the foot of… someone in a suit who would much rather appear dignified and non-piddled-on.

  16. Friday:

    This is funny because of how seemingly exasperated the message-writer has become. Although, the mystery of who wrote it isn’t really all that mysterious, as the only person who is capable of apprehending how idiotic everyone in the other time periods is is Dave himself.

  17. (TUNE: “All I Have to Do Is Dream”, The Everly Brothers)

    My mind in time … has gone astray!
    Can I get back … to my own day?
    I’m here in the washroom,
    ‘Cause I’ve really got
    To pee …
    Really pee!

    My childhood self … is feeling trapped!
    My future self … just feels like crap!
    But here in the present,
    All I wanna do
    Is pee …

    Now that I can see
    Is the cure … for my blues!
    Only trouble is … I whizzed
    All over my socks and my shoes!

    I see it now!  I’m such a dunce!
    To do three times … but all at once,
    A singular action!
    Gee, to pee or not
    To pee?

  18. The 2005 series of Doctor Who would have been much more straightforward if Rose had just done this at the end rather than spread cryptic words across time and space. Ah well.

    Still, it’s amazing, the way the graffiti changes between panels 2 and 4. May I propose a new comic, provisionally entitled “Krazy Kat goes to the Bathroom”?

  19. If I recall correctly, “Bloom County” included at LEAST two references to foot-piddling during its run.

    One, as shinyhappygoth has pointed out, was uttered by Rosebud the Basselope, when someone–I think it was an Army officer–was describing the horrors of a basselope attack.  In the last panel, Rosebud appeared for the first time and, addressing the fourth wall, inquired, “Should I piddle on his foot?”

    The other occurred when, through the mysterious workings of his anxiety closet, Binkley was taken into the future for a glimpse of his adult life.  He and his older self are standing in the yard of “Binkley Manor,” talking, and the younger Binkley pauses to observe, “There’s a gopher wetting on my foot.”  The older Binkley, addressing the offending off-panel animal, responds, “Bad dog, Rambo….BAD DOG!”

    I am, sadly, forced to provide these solely from memory. My “Bloom County” books, along with my “Calvin and Hobbes” books and several others, were in a box that got lost in the mail when I mailed them from my old home to my new one.

  20. Drinky Crow, YES.

    My college has some great real-life bathroom graffiti, including a fatalistic poem written across two square meters of space, pi to twenty places, and (written by three different sources), “ARE YOU HUMAN?” “ARE YOU?” and “I’m a martian.”

  21. Just for reference, attempting to combine priorities and involve Megan in the synchronicity would be…bad.

  22. It just occurred to me that BFFs is wrong.  Like Courts Martial or culs-de-sac, the plural for BFF (best friend forever) doesn’t come at the end… but kids do that anyway when they say, “best friends forever”.  So it should be BFsF?

  23. Saturday:

    It seems all of these wall scrawlings are fundamental facts about the fabric of the universe.

    Off-panel head inserts: 18.

  24. (TUNE: “P.S. I Love You”, The Beatles)

    As I’m u-ri-na-ting,
    All at once I see
    I must be creating …

    As I’m in the boys room, going potty,
    Amidst graffiti naughty,
    Synchro-nicity …
    See, see, see!

    Through three points in time, I must be matchin’
    The place and then the action …
    Synchro-nicity …
    See, see, see!

    Thunderbird, I could lose
    My vir-gin-i-ty …
    But instead, I should choose

    Although Megan Hawkins I could score with,
    Priorities are more with
    Synchro-nicity …
    See, see, see!
    Soon I’ll be …
    Back to me!

  25. Oddly, I have that /exact Li’l Mell page/ open in another tab. And I noticed the synchronicity, though I already knew he was Artie.

  26. As far as the decision about who to send back goes — isn’t Dave four years older than Mell? If she went back to when he was six, she’d be two. I’m not sure whether that’s a good reason not to send her, or the best possible reason TO send her. Two-year-old Mell with a gun would be adorable.

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