Back to the Future comic

Back to the Future co-writer Bob Gale has been filling out that movie trilogy’s universe in the pages of IDW comic books for years, but now a new comic series called Back to the Future: Tales from the Time Train is poised to answer a question that fans have been wondering about since the third film hit theaters in 1990: what exactly did Doc Brown mean by his final line in that movie trilogy?

To refresh your memory, the third film ends with Doc (Christopher Lloyd) staying behind in the old west with the love of his life, Clara Clayton (Mary Steenburgen), while Marty (Michael J. Fox) travels back to 1985 and reunites with his girlfriend Jennifer (Elisabeth Shue). Suddenly, a time-travel equipped train appears in 1985, and Marty and Doc have one last conversation.

In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Gale and co-writer John Barber explained the genesis of the project:

Barber: “…We were talking about it with our editor, with IDW, and the idea of doing a story about Doc, Clara, Jules and Verne — his whole family — it seemed like a good starting point for a good story. It picks up right at the end of Back to the Future Part III from Doc’s point of view —”

Gale: “— Sort of. We’re trying to make sure none of the fans call us out for screwing up the continuity of it. At the end of Back to the Future Part III, when the Time Train flies away, Marty says, ‘Where you going now, Doc, back to the future?’ Doc says, ‘Nope, already been there.’ I said to John, ‘Well, we’ve gotta pay that off. Doc’s already been to the future? We’ve got to show that.'”

I always just assumed that when Doc said, “Already been there,” he was referring to the time that he and Marty traveled to 2015 together during Back to the Future Part II. But I suppose that doesn’t answer how he managed to get the pieces necessary to make the train fly and travel through time using its own power sources. So he must have figured out a way to travel from 1885 to the far future to outfit the train, and this ongoing comic series explores that adventure (and presumably many others).

Tales from the Time Train comic cover

The whole interview is worth reading, but the other fascinating quote is when Gale explains that Doc Brown actually had a secret second laboratory aside from the one we saw in the first film’s opening scene:

“One of my favorite elements is this one: In the first movie, Marty McFly goes to the Twin Pines Mall, the back of Doc Brown’s truck opens up, and the DeLorean comes out. Okay. It’s a great moment, and everyone remembers it, but think about it: We’d already seen Marty go to Doc’s lab. If Doc built the DeLorean in that lab, Marty would already know what it was. But it doesn’t, so how does that make sense?

The idea we came up with was, well, Doc has a second lab hidden away. And that led us to a couple more plot elements we could use — it was something that nobody in 30 years since the movie had asked that question. And believe me, I’ve been to enough Back to the Future events, and been a guest speaker and done interviews, and I thought I’d heard every Back to the Future question. Somehow, we stumbled on this, and John and I both said, ‘Oh, yeah. There’s got to be another lab. That’s so cool!'”

I consider myself a massive BTTF fan, and while I’ve thought way too much about the saga’s depiction of time travel, I’ve never once wondered about why Marty hadn’t seen the DeLorean before. I’ve also never read one of these comics, but after hearing about the ways they’re fleshing out this world, I plan on checking them out. Tales from the Time Train #1 arrives on December 27, 2017.

Cool Posts From Around the Web: