Dave Davenport Has Come Unstuck in Time: October 20-25, 2003


You have no idea how hard it was for me to draw the background in the first panel. It was really sad. I’m terrible at backgrounds and I have no idea how perspective works. (I like Kyle Baker’s chapter on perspective in How to Draw Stupid, which reads, in its entirety, “Draw faraway things tiny and nearby things big.” That’s as far as I’ve ever gotten.)

Have you noticed that I can’t draw bushes? What is up with that? Even the bushes in Skin Horse are really bad.

The girl sitting on the sidewalk is my friend Alyssa from high school. We used to go to Brady’s Cafe on the weekends. Like Dave, I occasionally managed to make friends with cooler people who owned cars.

By this point, many readers had already guessed that Future!Helen would turn out to be a brain in a tank. You know why? Because brains in tanks are AWESOME. This is one of the pulp sci-fi tropes I absolutely had to include in Narbonic at some point.

However, I was really bad at drawing brains, so I made Andrew draw Helen’s brain for me. I was worried that if I drew it, people wouldn’t be able to tell what it was, ruining this strip. I should’ve sucked it up and drawn the damn brain myself. A girl has to learn how to draw brains sometime.

I wrote this one very early on, and Dave’s voice isn’t quite right. He wouldn’t think of himself as having charm–although he does, in his own way.

My drawings of Future!Dave came out well, though. I got pretty good at drawing him for some reason.

It’s got to be frustrating for Dave that no one is ever particularly surprised by the time travel.

What is that thing in the background of the first panel? I have no idea. Some kind of industrial brain-water purifier, maybe.

When I wrote this, I didn’t know what Dave “betraying us for Professor Madblood” would entail. I had the other things Helen mentions more or less worked out, but I wasn’t sure how Madblood would be involved. I worried about including the line, but ultimately I decided it sounded cool and I’d figure something out when the time came.

And I did! Good work, me!

Although I started developing the final story arcs of Narbonic around Year Two, it took a while for everything to fall into place. At this point I had a rough idea what would happen, but I changed a lot of details, like the setting of the final conflict, over time.

Dave is wearing a tie, so it must be a special occasion. And it is! He just had that big meeting with Mell. She doesn’t visit very often.

36 thoughts on “Dave Davenport Has Come Unstuck in Time: October 20-25, 2003

  1. Fandarel: No, Dave still has been smoking in the future. He just never smoked in the past, and he always never smoked in the past. He won’t have never smoked at all until he gets back to the present.

  2. David Chelsea has a book called “Perspective for Comic Book artists” that’s very good. I’ts sort of like Scott McCloud’s “Understanding Comics” only about perspective.

  3. Monday:

    His last relationship was with a hologram. Or rather, his last relationship will be with a hologram. When this conversation ends, that’s it. Poor poor Dave.

    At this point he’s taken her rejection as nothing less than proof positive of the immutability of the temporal continuum. In his mind, right now, the solidity of the major events of his past and future has been proven. Which kind of makes panel 4 remarkably witty, knowing what it signifies.

  4. Perspective for comic book artists: no matter how hard you work, the New York Times’ Review of Art will not take you seriously.

  5. This is the moment where Dave starts never having smoked! (Douglas Adams was right about time travel tenses)

  6. Tuesday:

    For what it’s worth, Mr. Farago’s comparatively unsteady linework gives Helen a most fittingly grotesque appearance.

    In spite of the apparant predictability of this ice cold twist, I personally feel it’d be a bit stronger if Dave was shocked into silence, unable even to think, let alone provide a (somewhat redundant) acknowledgement of the biting irony of it all.

  7. (TUNE: “Have You Ever Seen The Rain”, Creedence Clearwater Revival)

    When I got to Helen’s room, couldn’t shake a sense of doom …
    I just … wondered what I’d find there!
    Didn’t know just what to think, when I saw her in the drink …
    I saw … that she’d lost her mind there!

    I wanna know … have you ever seen her brain?
    I wanna know … have you ever seen her brain?
    Floatin’ round in a funny way?

    We know Shaenon tried her best, though the readers went and guessed;
    It still … shocked me when I saw it!
    Even though she might complain … she can’t draw a frikkin’ brain,
    Well she … just said, “Andrew, draw it!”

    I wanna know … have you ever seen her brain?
    I wanna know … have you ever seen her brain?
    Floatin’ round in a funny way?

  8. A brain in a tank is indeed awesome.  If I ever end up as a brain in a tank, I want the tank to be a Bolo Mark XXVIII. 

  9. Edd, I always enjoy your songs, but I love this one enough to sing it on karaoke night.  And I don’t sing karaoke.

  10. “A girl has to learn how to draw brains sometime.”

    This one sentence made me LOL more than the comic did. I’m just too easy to get a laugh out of sometimes…

  11. Brain!Helen isn’t the most talkative type, so if Dave were shocked into silence they’d just be stuck staring at each other wordlessly for several strips.

    I am not discounting the possibility that this would make the strips better.

  12. @sleepyjohn: While a Bolo would make an impressive brain-tank, indeed….  they tend to get shot at with VERY large weapons.

  13. Weird. The strip showing here is the right one, but the narbonic.com front page is showing the coming Friday’s strip.

  14. Wednesday:

    This is actually a pretty great slapstick gag, made even more so by Dave’s inability to fully realise what just happened, and Helen’s aloof reaction.

  15. (TUNE: “Thanks For The Memory”, Ralph Rainger and Leo Robin)

    Tank … full of memories!

    For Dave, it’s a surprise …
    We see it in his eyes …
    Though scared to death, he takes a breath,
    Then shouts up to the skies,
    “By all good and fair …!”

    Tank … full of memories!

    “Your body can’t be found …
    You’re bobbing up and down …
    Your life is spent in nutrient;
    If you had lungs, you’d drown!”
    (Of that she’s aware!)

  16. So… how is Helen talking?  I’m sure she can see and hear Dave from cameras and microphones hidden in the chamber and speak through a sound system, but… the speech bubbles are coming from her cortexes.

  17. Thursday:

    A fairly good question is that of why Helen just happens to be floating at around the middle of the tank. That single spinal wire of hers is most surely not tethering her to the floor or supporting her weight or anything.

    The first question out of Dave’s mouth isn’t “why” but “can you help me”, which is surely a case of unnaturally careful prioritising in this unseemly situation.

  18. I guess Dave assumes that getting reduced to a floating brain is just something that happens in mad science. Which is true.

  19. Friday:

    Helen isn’t all that immediately effective at the ‘Ghost of Christmas Future’ thing. Then again, it’s a bit hard to unambiguously interpret what kind of emotions Dave has in panel 4. Is he trying to idly bat away Helen’s doom portent, or does she need to make things even clearer?

  20. I love the way Dave’s nose is pressed up against the glass in panel 3.  Is there an automatic cleaning mechanism, or is Helen stuck looking at Dave’s noseprint until the cleaning crew comes in this evening?

    (TUNE: “Spanish Harlem”, Jerry Leiber & Phil Spector)

    There is a nose print on my tank wall!
    An oily nose print; I’m not thankful!
    He tries to preach to me!
    But who did this to me?  Who killed Artie?
    And who betrayed us all to Madblood?
    This future world you’ve screwed, I would swear a blood feud,
    If I had blood …

  21. Saturday:

    Helen hasn’t failed to notice that she no longer has a heart left to ache, or a body left to break.

    (And is it my imagination or do I detect a hint of… guilt… in her synthesized voice?)

  22. (TUNE:  “The Jet Song” from “West Side Story”, Bernstein & Sondheim)

    When you’re a brain, you have thoughts, you have dreams!
    Though you may be insane, you can scheme to extremes!
    When you’re a brain, it’s your fault, you can claim!
    Got the life you deserve, with no-body to blame!

    Now Mell’s gonna rule!
    There’s no one who can sink her!
    And Dave’s job is cool,
    With gadgets he can tinker!
    While you’re a thinker!

    When you’re a brain, it’s yourself you can thank
    For a life full of pain in a dirty old tank!
    In a dirty … grubby … floaty … bubbly … tank!

  23. There’s got to be an “Ache-y Break-y Brain” joke in there somewhere, but I have a busy day planned.

  24. What really intrigues me about this episode is that we’ve already seen a disembodied brain controlling a giant robot.  20 years in the future there is no reason at all Helen couldn’t be given anew body, organic or otherwise.  The fact that she hasn’t implies that things have gone very, very badly between our protaganists.  No wonder she’s bitter.

  25. Catching up from yesterday – so if the setting of the final conflict changed over time, what was the original idea?

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