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When this first ran I didn't have the thought-balloon pattern along the edge of the panel to indicate that most of this was going on in Dave's head, and it was way too confusing. I went back and changed it later.

Helen's really into milkshakes in this storyline. I think Andrew and I had just gotten a blender.

Yes, through Helen's intervention, Dave will manage to change one (1) of these things about himself.

This is one of the few times Dave indicates that he doesn't like his smoking habit. Originally, I had planned a storyline where Dave tries to quit caffeine, fails, then tries to quit smoking and fails. It never gelled and I gave up on it. It's kind of a shame, because establishing Dave as someone who's been trying and failing to quit smoking would have made this storyline stronger.

The deranged sun popping out of Helen's head is awesome despite being a visual element clearly lifted from the comic strip Rose Is Rose.

I wrote this strip and several others in this week way, way early, possibly back in 1999. "Unstuck in Time" was one of the first storylines I came up with, and a lot of the scripts are very old. That's why there isn't much of Artie in this storyline; back when I was first developing Narbonic, I didn't have a grasp of Artie's character, and I wrote a lot of material that didn't include him at all.

The teleporter is visible in the first panel. Continuity!

Really simple gag, but that's fine. Simple is good. Speaking of simple, is this an awesomely easy-to-draw time machine, or what? I'm so lazy.

Happy New Year! I'm writing commentary on strips I wrote exactly ten years ago. Yikes.

Finally, a week and a half into "Unstuck in Time," we get some damn time travel! I guess what makes this one is Helen's confused expression in the last panel. She really thinks she's doing Dave a favor with this stuff. Maybe she's right.

Also, can we get some love for Helen's time-machine operating helmet? It's based on the helmet Dr. Wonmug wears to operate his time machine in the comic strip Alley Oop. I was really getting into Alley Oop around this time. It's a great strip I wish I'd read earlier so I could've stolen more material for Narbonic.

"Step up the power three more triangles" is a standard callback line at The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I think this is the only direct Rocky Horror reference in Narbonic, which is a little surprising, since it's been a bigger influence on my comics than I'd probably like to admit. I used to go all the time in high school.

Hate those grey fills. But you know that.

34 comments:
Corey Klemow (cklemow_g) says:

http://www.recipezaar.com/candy-apple-milkshake-396606

(It should really be called a caramel apple milkshake, but whatever...)

Leon Arnott (l) says: Monday:

This webcomic's romance thread is only growing ever more tense. How it manages to hold up until 2005 without snapping like an overtaxed rope is a testament to something or other (most likely, the unearthly tendency of highway truck battles and cacodemon invasions to distract one from the real problems in your life).

Fourth-wall dialogue: 42.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says: Would it be wrong of me to imply that Helen's milkshake brings all the madboys to the yard?  (I'm not familiar enough with the rest of the lyrics to do a filk right now, and I'm late for work ...)
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: *snicker*


Also, @Leon: Fourth-wall dialogue is the answer!
Justin Kane (avatarjk137) says: I spy with my little eye a clear disuse of grey fills!  Shaenon's Grey Period is ending!
Leon Arnott (l) says: Tuesday:

We're at the point in this webcomic's development where these whimsical adventures are prefaced with some relevant existential/romantic moping on the part of Dave or Helen. Previously it was Dave sighing about his looks, and now it's Dave sighing about his past choices. If my memory serves me correctly, next storyline begins with some introspection on Helen's part.

"I don't have second thoughts about anything" is really quite a good punchline for Helen. I wonder how it didn't get used before.

Incidentally - this should have occured to me last week, but these three storylines are all explicitly temporally linked - Class Reunion being a few days before the moon picnic of Doppelganger Gambit, which was the day before this storyline. It's terribly hard to even tell which year this trio take place in, let alone the month. October 2002? January 2004? Answers are demanded!
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Heh.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

I know this isn't quite accurate for this story arc ... but it should be, dammitall ... 

(TUNE: "Milkshake", Kelis)

My milkshake turns all the boys into girls!
It's better ... than a Wendy fros-ty!
It makes you ... look a little like me!
If we swap spit, I can change you back!

My milkshake turns all the boys into girls!
(Not this time) ... If it changes your sex,
It doubles ... your chromosome X ...
Now your shorter, and you've grown a rack!

Johnn Reynolds (sleepyjohn) says: The first thoughts tend to be the ones that are the most fun...
James Rice (jhrice) says:

I think Dave's text in the last word balloon should be faded or smaller, like we're hearing it muffled through glass.

Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says:

Sheesh, like my lettering isn't illegible enough.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Wednesday:

Dave is resigned to his burden to science, his job and his love. He has a silent, absolute trust that she will only non-lethally traumatise him.

P.S: Dave really shouldn't smoke in such a limited space.
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Awww.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Time After Time", Cyndi Lauper)

Helen says "Stand there!"
Machine will descend on me!
Now I don't know where
Her scheme will be sendin' me!
But her smile ... can't lift ...
My grumpy mood,
Because I know I'm screwed ...

Now I'm stuck in a tube and you'll soon see me
Unstuck in time!
I got pwned like a noob and I soon will be
Unstuck in time!

Jon W. (kd7sov) says:

@Leon: What are you talking about? Dave's not smoking. Dave never smoked.

In other news, it's rarely a good sign when someone grinning like that instructs you to hold still.

Rachel S. (masamage) says: Aww, thinking about Narbonic and Rose is Rose at the same time makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.
Jon Stout (brasswatchman) says: What I really like about this comic is the suggestion - by properly spacing out the action in two panels - that the tube is descending *slowly* over Dave. Just one last nail in the coffin of his survival instinct.
Derek Burrow (derekthebard) says:

"Hello!  I'm The Dave!"

"...Don't you mean 'Dave'?"

"No.  The Dave.  Just 'The Dave'.  Nice to meet you.  Jelly baby?"

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "If You Could Read My Mind", Gordon Lightfoot)

If you could speed through time, Dave,
What events would you go see?
The start of Dillinger's crime wave,
Or the ending of World War Three?

Now you're trapped inside
Of a glass enclosure;
Helen knows you're stuck!
You're plain $#!+ out of luck ...

If you find "Gray's Sports Almanac",
Please bring it back,
We'll win a ton of bets!
So let's have no regrets ...

I'll tell you, Dave, if it were me,
In history
I'd run amuck in
Great events, so have some fun,
'Cause you're the one
Who's come unstuck in time!

Andy Wetmore (efogoto) says: WHO invented that time machine?! Helen may have commanded it be built, but she invented that time machine the way Al Gore invented the internet: provided an environment in which it could thrive if others did the work.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Thursday:

Time travel! Is it not true that it is the secret sauce, the narrative Nutella, that brings bountiful possibilities of foreshadowing and revelation? Anyone can foresee the future! Any character can be any other character! Effect can precede cause! ...Which is why it must be doled out in sparing and appetising portions, perhaps more carefully than any other bit of phlebotinum this webcomic has dealt with. (Except for gender-swapping, of course. Heaven will rend Earth if that ever gets abused by an unscrupulous webcomicker.)
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Heh.
Edwin Quantrall (reynard) says: I can only wonder what Dave would think about having to ring in the same year twice...
John Campbell (jcampbel) says: Would he get a bonus Windsor McKay pastiche?
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Heh.
Johnn Reynolds (sleepyjohn) says:

But Dave, think of all the overtime!

Well, actually, since it won't show on the clock...

nevermind.

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Alley Oop", The Hollywood Argyles)

There's a gal in the comics that we read online ...
(Helen B., see, she .. be B!)
She's smart and perky and lookin' fine!
(Helen B., see, she .. be B!)
But she's kinda evil, and she'll misbehave!
(Helen B., see, she .. be B!)
And she likes to torture her tech guy, Dave!
(Helen B., see, she .. be B!)

(Helen B.!) She's the smartest gal there is today!
(Helen B.!) She was made from Mom's DNA!
(Helen B.!) She's the queen of the lab-ra-to-ray!
What will that mad girl do?  (AAAAARRRRGGGHHHH!)

John Campbell (jcampbel) says: The helmet's good, but it's the goggles that really make the outfit.
Carl Fishman (carlfishman) says: Didn't know it was a time-travel lab helmet.  I was wondering why she was wearing a jungle-explorer's pith helmet in the lab.  (Though that might have made more sense in Alley Oop, think on.)
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says: I'm sorry, but I can't stop myself any longer ... why does Helen's hat look like a condom?
Dave Van Domelen (dvandom) says: It's for safe science.
Daniel Ross (nentuaby) says: If it's for safe science, what in the world is it doing at Narbonic Labs?
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Why on EARTH did Helen have to ask "What could go wrong"? That made it certain!
Leon Arnott (l) says: Saturday:

The first time I read this sizzling episode, I misread the 'SSSSS' as 'AAAAAA' - Dave literally answering Helen's question.

Today's technowaffle leads me to believe Helen's design involves instantaneously accelerating Dave past relativistic speeds while stationary and in a clear tube. I can't help but wonder how much pain that would induce on his frail form. It's probably a good thing it's all off-panel.
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The education bestowed on Shaenon K. Garrity by her parents had been expensive, athletic and prolonged. ... full profile