Dave Davenport Has Come Unstuck in Time: September 15-20, 2003

This strip is just here to move the plot along, although Dave identifying himself as not only evil, but more evil than a demon, is pretty
interesting. Then again, it’s not like Caliban is an especially evil demon. He tries, but not very hard.

I realize now that my concept of monsters in kids’ rooms is influenced by the several dozen times I saw “Poltergeist” as a kid. It used to
be on HBO, like, all the time. I thought it was a comedy except for the scene where a guy peels his face off.

I wrote this one long after most of the strips in this storyline, mainly as a way of getting Artie into the story. He isn’t in this story much.

In a much later Narbonic strip, Mell comments that Dave needed the ladies’ civilizing influence. Mell’s not the most trustworthy judge,

This is one case where the technobabble really is technobabble. Because mitochondria are genetically weird (they have their own
genetic material separate from the rest of the cell), they’re a popular choice for technobabble explanations in science fiction. I was
probably thinking of Madeleine L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time books. The ansible is an enormously useful fictional device invented by
Ursula K. LeGuin and used by many, many science-fiction writers; it’s the thing that allows planets and spaceships to communicate
instantaneously even when they’re light-years apart.

The backgrounds here are all based on panels from “Alley Oop.” I was totally into “Alley Oop.”

I thought it was important to clarify that, although Helen knows that Dave is unstuck in time, she can’t figure out exactly when
and where he is or see anything he sees. This comes up again later in the storyline, so I must have been worried that people might
be confused.

The art in this week of strips is pretty good. It’s nice that I bothered to draw backgrounds and weird little mad-scientific devices. Good
one, me.

I can’t remember where I got the “synchronicity” idea. Even when I was drawing these strips, I couldn’t quite remember. A lot of the
strips in this storyline were written almost exactly ten years ago, when I was still in college, and they’re mysterious and baffling to me

I remember the second panel of this being virtually identical to the thumbnail. Getting Helen’s crude doodle of Dave right was crucial.

In the first panel you can see copies of Maniagnosis and The New Journal of Malology, the two mad-science journals that appear
most often in Narbonic.

Let’s face it, there’s no other way this situation could have played out.

45 thoughts on “Dave Davenport Has Come Unstuck in Time: September 15-20, 2003

  1. Leon, as far as I can tell, it means that hell is a beuracracy of the first order: Always answer according to the forms, no matter how unfitting it may be.

  2. I find it somewhat ironic that we won’t see Caliban again until St. Valentine’s Day.

  3. “What are you doing out of bed at this hour?”

    “Catching Hell, Ma.”

    “Not yet, you haven’t, but you will!”

  4. I actually laughed at that scene because at the time I was working a temp job that required that I shave everyday and that’s what it felt like I was doing — *EVERY #$%&IN’ DAY!!!*

  5. Tuesday:

    They’ve simply realised that Dave really needs the costume of a time traveler.

    Since the entire ‘Get a Life’ arc is evidence for mind-body dualism, I can’t help but wonder where Dave’s mind is right now. Is it still in his present brain, while all of his senses and impulses are temporally displaced? Or is his astrally projected ghost lurching through the years, leaving his corporeal husk entirely dispossessed?

  6. (TUNE: “Put On Your Sunday Clothes”, Jerry Herman)

    Put on the funny top hat and the glasses too!
    Get out the greasepaint and the clown-y suit!
    Now get the Lady Clairol, dye his hair all blue!
    His face we’ll ink,
    Paint his toenails pink,
    ‘Cause I really think he looks cute!
    We’re gonna use his carcass for a puppet show!
    He’ll do a Shakespeare monologue to boot!
    Yeah, he’ll be pissed
    That the fun he missed,
    But we can’t resist!  It’s sublime!
    And he’s out of luck, ’cause he’s unstuck in time!

  7. @pgadzikowski, Short Mell is holding her end higher than tall Helen, you’re right, that is very McCAy. Good job, Shaenon. 🙂 Never miss a chance for a funny.

  8. (TUNE: “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” War)

        Mitochondria!  Mitochondria!
        Mitochondria!  Mitochondria!

    Those little organelles, they sure are nice!
    A handy technobabble plot device!

    We’ll track his mitochondrial RNA,
    To find the time when he’s so far away!

    We’ll find out where the dickens he might be,
    By tracing their distinctive energy!

    I know my explanation hurts your head,
    Heck, I don’t understand a word I said!
    (snore-us) …

  9. “Ansible” sounds like an upper-class British name, like “Ansible Worthington, Esq.”.

  10. Thursday:

    Is Mell seriously scrawling “Property of M.K” on our dashing daredevil’s cheeks? Any moment now she’ll drag him into a doll’s tea party. (…which would remind us of the webcomic’s faint recurring Wonderland metaphor.)

  11. (TUNE: “The Way We Were”, Barbara Streisand)

    Future …
    Dave is twenty years ahead!
    He can tell us of the future,
    And the way we’ll be!

    Is it hopeful,
    Or dystopian with dread?
    Dave can tell us what’s in store for
    The way we’ll be …

    Will he be upset if we can’t get him back?
    And will Mell keep drawing on his face?
    Cackling like a harpy with her Sharpie now,
    Drawing girly … swirlies …

    If … we …
    Get him back, will he forget?
    Will he find a Gray’s Sports Almanac,
    And tell us which way to bet?
    Or will disaster
    Be soon befalling?
    We’ll know, if Dave’s recalling
    The way … we’ll … be!

  12. Time travel requires a funky helmet, earphones, and a stethoscope.  THAT’s what I’ve been doing wrong…

  13. Friday:

    One of the unspoken assumptions of most fictional varieties of time travel, and an assumption that Dave’s ‘mind-travel’ had avoided until now, is that there is such thing as a “same location”. Party poopers are quick to chirp up that the Earth orbits the sun at nineteen miles per second, (“so it’s reckoned”) and the sun is moving at forty thousand miles per hour, so no location can really be called the “same” for any meaningful length of time. (And that’s not even getting into special relativity.)

    …So let’s instead assume something else: that since Dave’s temporal problem is mostly mental, then this synchronicity solution is psychological rather than physical. By forcing his mind to experience identical conditions in all timelines, he will lose his newfound ability to distinguish between them and, henceforth, only experience the vector addition of the timelines (which is, hopefully, the present).

    (Say, that is Artie getting the line in panel 4, right?)

  14. Even operating on the more “hard” concept of locations never being the same, that concept never actually matters: It only has to be the same RELATIVELY.

    If a single point is the same relative to enough frames of reference (for example, most major co-ordinates of the planets crust, which are relative stillpoints to the earth’s core) then that is more then enough for technology advanced enough to cause time travel in the first place.


    Also Leon, yes, that is Artie getting the line– He even has little “shout lines”, which I find cute.

  15. Synchronicity is mentioned a LOT in Hellblazer. John Constantine uses it to get where he wants to go, or, more often, where he needs to be.

    It’s used similarly in the Unknown Armies RPG, as a Pornomancer (mage that gets magical power from re-enacting scenes from certain porn movies. Yes, it’s a bizzare game) significant spell, which, as in the comic, gets the Adept where they need to be. I’m fairly sure they got it from Hellblazer, though.

    So. Synchronicity. Handy thing, that.

  16. (TUNE: “Dream A Little Dream Of Me”, Andre, Schwandt, & Kahn)

    The answer’s absolute, sure!
    Dave’s bouncing from the past to the future!
    We’ll find his mind, whenever he be,
    Using synchronicity!

    For temporal extraction,
    We’ve got to match the place and the action!
    We’ll fetch him chron-o-lo-gi-cal-ly,
    Using synchronicity!

  17. I figured the whole “doing the same thing in the same place at three different times” was a call back to the series finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

  18. Of course! Star Trek! All my good ideas are ripped off Star Trek!

    I saw that episode recently, and there’s a lot of wacky stuff in there.

  19. @Richard: Yeah, I thought that was obvious, too.  This, of course, means that Dave is Picard.  Which is pretty cool.

  20. I’m not entirely certain what ends up happening counts as performing an action, though.

    It works, but I have to wonder how firm Helen’s grasp of time theory is.

  21. Helen and Mell look so pleased with themselves in panel 2!  Which always seems to happen when Dave’s in terrible trouble…

  22. (TUNE: “Mambo Number 5”, Lou Bega)

    Five, ten, fifteen, then
    When it’s been twenty years, we’ll see Dave again!
    Then Mell and Helen will be telling of the spelling
    To escort Davenport, thru the time stream propelling!
    Now Dave is here, but I fear that I lost it!
    I shoulda wrote, made a note or used a Post-It!
    Don’t condemn her, she really can’t remember
    The word that she heard, how absurd!

    I think that it was so-ci-o-lo-gy
    Or maybe it was spe-lae-o-lo-gy
    I get the sense that sen-si-bi-li-ty
    Is wrong, but sounds so-phis-ti-ca-ted, see?
    I know for sure it’s not psy-cho-lo-gy,
    Although it sounds the same, it starts with “p”!
    We gotta find the syl-la-bles sublime
    To help you get your fat butt back in time!

  23. There’s a version of this interaction where Dave doesn’t smoke.

    What are you talking about, smoke never Daved…

  24. Actually, the version of the future where Dave never smoked is SPOILER radically less dystopianl.

  25. I seem to remember consistency requiring the existance of versions of the future (never shown at all) which were dystopian but where Dave never smoked. But now I want to see the non-dystopian version of this part of the future, where Dave is clueless and everyone is mean to him to preserve the non-dystopian future. And, of course, because being mean to Dave when he’s clueless is fun.

  26. In panel 4 of Saturday’s comic, when Mell says “Began with an ‘S'”, all I could think of was “Skillful way you beat the other girls [with whips and chains] to the bride’s bouquet [that too!].”

    Man, it has been so long since I last went to the Rocky Horror…

  27. Wednesday: It occurs to me to wonder how Helen came to have access to a temporally nonlinear ansible net.

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