102: Back to the Future

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Back to the Future
He's kind of an asshole, when you think about it.
Title text: He's kind of an asshole, when you think about it.


This comic is a reference to the film Back to the Future in which the protagonist, Marty McFly (played by Michael J. Fox), travels back from 1985 (present day for him) to 1955 and accidentally interferes with his own parents' first meeting. He must then arrange for them to fall in love before he ceases to exist due to the paradox of his own parents never having children. An unintended side-effect of the way events occur is that his dad gains self-confidence in the past and becomes "less of a loser" in the present.

As noted in the comic, the time machine Marty uses is built by his professor friend, Doctor Emmett L. Brown (Christopher Lloyd), out of a DeLorean DMC-12 (a 1980s-era sports car).

Hairy (Cueball in the last two panels, as the art is inconsistent in this early comic, and his hair is removed in the last two panels) has had a very similar experience. He suggests that the aforementioned changes to history are what he really needed to do. After a frame of awkward silence, Megan reminds him that her father was in the World Trade Center (WTC) North Tower – implying that he died along with several thousand others in the North Tower on September 11, 2001 at the time the tower collapsed due to a terrorist-flown passenger jet crashing into the building. Megan is therefore implying that saving her father's life (and perhaps the lives of the other 9/11 victims, or even preventing other disasters in history, such as the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, or the Holocaust, scenarios that would be revisited in later comics) might have been something else of importance he "needed" to do — perhaps something of significantly more importance than just helping his father. He seems completely oblivious to what she is trying to suggest. Megan starts to explain, but apparently decides that there's no point even trying to get through to him.

The title text is presumably calling Marty McFly an asshole for not doing something more benevolent for humankind when he traveled back in time, just as the comic implies of Hairy/Cueball. It could also be someone (likely Hairy/Cueball) trying to justify the choice, by saying that Megan's dad was "kind of an asshole."

As a side note, for the comic to make sense, the events in the comic must take place after September 11, 2001, and not 1985 as it is in the movie. Since no dates are mentioned, Hairy/Cueball probably went back by thirty years, because that's how far back Marty travels in the film.


[Megan and Hairy are standing, talking to one another.]
Hairy: This weekend, my professor friend built a time machine out of a DeLorean and I went back in time! I helped make sure my parents got together and helped my dad to be less of a loser.
Megan: Wow! Do you still have the time machine?
Hairy: Nah. But I did what I really needed to do.
Megan: Uh huh.
[Beat panel. Hairy's hair isn't drawn in this panel or the next one, making him a Cueball.]
Megan: Okay, you remember that my father was in the WTC North Tower, right?
Cueball: Yeah...why?
Megan: I...nothing.

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I noticed the character on the right has hair in the first two frames, but is bald in the last frame... Two persons? Rikthoff (talk)

I believe that this is the same person because otherwise it seems that Megan didn't tell the character on the right with hair (presumably Marty McFly) about her father therefore diminishing the humor.

I agree with Rikthoff, I don't think this is Cueball. Being bald is one of his main features and this guy definately has hair.--Popuppete (talk) 13:42, 12 September 2012 (UTC)

The issue date might be off. All files since #101 have been created on April 11th, 2006. Anyone with an actual issue date? Rikthoff (talk)

Could it be possible that Megan's dad died because of something the other character (let's not call him Cueball until we know for sure) did in the future to "make sure his parents got together and helped his dad to be less of a loser"? tesshavon

It's more likely to have been the result of a airliner full of jet fuel crashing into the tower, causing it to burn and collapse. Megan is probably thinking that Cueball (I'm still going to call him Cueball, sorry) could maybe have alerted somebody that this was going to happen. In the past. Him having access to a time machine and all. 20:31, 24 January 2014 (UTC)

Why do we take for granted alt text refers to the Cueball/Hairy and not the father? 21:55, 29 March 2014 (UTC)

What if the alt text refers to Marty McFly and not Cueball/Hairy? You don't have to think about the comic very hard to know C/H was an asshole, but I think the implication is that Marty could have taken the DeLorean and done less petty, personal things with it. -- 21:51, 12 May 2014 (UTC)

If it did refer to MM, Randall's interpretation of the movie is skewed. MM only did what he needed to do to repair the damage he unintentionally did. There was no personal benefit intended other than saving his own life, and that of his siblings. Randall has taken some creative license with the way C/H explains the plot. 07:52, 25 January 2018 (UTC)
Exactly — Marty McFly could have (for example) saved many people's lives, but instead he only saved "his own life, and that of his siblings," so Marty McFly is "kind of an asshole, when you think about it." Yfmcpxpj (talk) 11:18, 1 December 2019 (UTC)

Have people forgotten? The DeLorean time machine was destroyed at the end of the third film - it spent less than a day in total in 1985 (first used 1.20 am, destroyed by a train c. midafternoon). Cueball even references this in the comic. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Megan can still contact the friend and get her own time machine... maybe. Greyson (talk) 05:11, 22 October 2015 (UTC)
The DeLorean that Marty used to travel from 1885 to 1985 was, indeed, destroyed (somewhat ironically by a fast-moving, modern train). But what of the DeLorean Doc stashed in the cave in 1885? That's what he used to create the flying train. PoconoChuck (talk) 20:19, 9 May 2016 (UTC)
Actually, that cave DeLorean had to stay there after Doc buried it in 1885, or else 1955 Doc and Marty couldn't dig it out to go back to 1885 to get Doc. It is surmised that parts from the hoverboard (that remained in 1885 with Doc and Clara) were used in the making of the Time Train. 07:52, 25 January 2018 (UTC)
The conversation in the comic occurs some time after September 11, 2001, and Hairy/Cueball says "this weekend, my professor friend built a time machine," so the DeLorean in this comic could be a completely different DeLorean than the one in the movies. But either way, it can travel through time, so it could be present at any point in time, regardless of if/when it was destroyed, yes? Yfmcpxpj (talk) 11:42, 1 December 2019 (UTC)

'He' could also be her father, thus explaining why he wasn't saved. -- 06:14, 27 August 2018 (UTC)

I think that the title text can't possibly be referring to Megan's father. First of all, Cueball/Hairy and Megan seem to be close friends, since Megan saying "you remember" implies that she brought it up previously. Most people don't call their friend's father an asshole to justify letting them die. Also, Hairy/Cueball seems to genuinely not get what Megan said. And the title text is in present tense, while we tend to talk about deceased people in past tense. 00:38, 21 February 2021 (UTC)

I don't know which part of saying he could have prevented the 2011 Japanese earthquake/tsunami is more bizarre, that you can't prevent earthquakes, or that it didn't occur until 5 years after the comic was made. I hope this was intentional, but given the minimal intellect of most human beings I can't be certain. — Kazvorpal (talk) 17:33, 29 January 2024 (UTC)

Well, you can't prevent an earthquake[actual citation needed], but perhaps you can prevent the disaster of the earthquake. Somehow. Without setting up your knowledge by pre-predicting something else (to get the authorities/public to listen to you), it might be harder. Though nudging any 'national earthquake drill'/surrogate activity to have more people prepared to not be in danger at the actual moment might work (or be counter-productive... the actual common earthquake fore-warnings at the speed of SMS, ahead of the speed of mere seismic waves, might be mistaken for 'drill warnings' and not obeyed).
Though the best part of having a time-machine (given certain conditions of time-travel, and enough capabalities to take advantange of that for a given time-travelling-device) is that you can actually fine-tune your intervention to discover the most optimal 'best way of avoiding disaster' you can imagine. Find the person who is most pursuadable and influential to get either your direct or indirect assistance used to the fullest extent. Even if that's just getting <insert social media boss> to promote a "Get Outside And Take A Photo Of The Nearest Hill Day" promotion, which might get a significant number of the most influencable people to get out of the way of urban damage (and at least ready to escape to higher ground). But there'll be many other approaches. For example developing a fake 'detector' that is shown to be utterly accurate in predicting minor seismic events (pre-programmed from your time-travelling 'cheat sheet') and then (again, pre-programmed) gives the warning for the "big one"... though what you do then (keep on feeding it with future data, indefinitely? ...or have it 'accidentally' destroyed and unreconstructable in the process, leaving it a mystery how it worked (and perhaps a nasty red-herring solution!) and leaving the 'more future bits of your native past, present and future' just as vulnable in every other respect) is a bit of a moral question, as well as practical).
And, with access to (the right kind of) time-machine, you could have gone forward five+ years and checked out what info you might want to have ready to help the present and future of 2009. (Alongside that sports almanac...)
Imagination. Once you're over the bizareness of temporal engineering/etc, I don't see anything too mich more bizarre with what you do with it... 18:32, 29 January 2024 (UTC)