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Back to the Future is a 25-issue comic book series from IDW Publishing that ran from October 21, 2015 (coinciding with "Back to the Future Day"note ) to December 13, 2017.

The first volume, "Untold Tales and Alternate Timelines," tells much of the characters' respective backstories, as well as scenes from the movie series shown from a different perspective. This volume comprises two stories in each of the first four issues of the comic, with each primary story featuring a Framing Device set in the Old West, and with Issue 5 being a Nested Story.

The second volume, "Continuum Conundrum," picks up five months after the end of Part III, featuring a new plot where Marty must investigate Doc's disappearance after receiving a letter from Clara, who sent the letter from 1893.

Concurrently, a side series called Back to the Future: Citizen Brown ran in 2016, adapting the story of Back to the Future: The Game. This was followed by two side series: Back To The Future: Biff To The Future in 2017, which focuses on Biff's rise to power in the 1985-A timeline, and Back To The Future: Tales from the Time Train in 2017-2018, which follows up on Doc Brown immediately after Part III. A non-canon Intercontinuity Crossover side series, Transformers/Back to the Future, began running in October 2020, depicting the creation of a timeline where the Decepticons rule Hill Valley.

The comic series is co-written by the film series' co-writer and creator Bob Gale. It was originally slated for a limited run, until an overwhelmingly positive fan response prompted IDW to turn it into an ongoing series.

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     Main Series 

This work contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Ascended Extra: Jennifer Parker gets a much larger role in the comics than she ever did in the films, now serving as Marty's voice of reason.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Needles, whose deeds in the movies included the card scam in 2015 and the car race in 1985, is much less subtle and much more openly antagonistic in this series, threatening to beat up Marty on multiple occasions and attempting to steal equipment from Doc's lab.
  • All for Nothing: As it happens, the $85,000 that Uncle Joey supposedly helped steal in 1972 from Doc's mom and was buried in the woods was actually stolen by Doc; he didn't trust the person his mom was dating and decided to hide her nest egg. But when it turned out her suitor was secretly rich, Doc decided "$85,000 [was] significantly less relevant to Mother's well-being", and dug it up not too long after hiding it to use for his time machine endeavors. In other words, Uncle Joey took the fall for a robbery that netted no money.
  • All Just a Dream: 1962 Doc's vision of the temporal arms race. He ultimately can't decide if he dreamed it or if it was something that actually happened that was erased by multiple paradoxes, but comes to the conclusion that it really does not matter — he's not going to give his time travel research to the government.
  • Alternate Universe:
    • Discussed by Jennifer as a possible origin point for the version of Doc they encounter that doesn't recognize them.
    • Bob Gale says that the Citizen Brown series — and, by extension, Back to the Future: The Game — is in an alternate timeline than that of "Continuum Conundrum".
  • Anti-Climax: Subversion: Part 4 of "Continuum Conundrum" sees Officer Griff Tannen approach Doc's secret lab, armed with a flamethrower. Part 5 opens with him being "shut down" for using an unauthorized weapon. It takes the entirety of the issue for him to override it and actually enter the lab, giving Doc enough time to explain to Marty what happened the last time he was in 2035.
  • Antiquated Linguistics: Clara's letter to Marty in "Continuum Conundrum" uses antiquated turns of phrases and formal wordings of the 19th century. Notable is that she is shown to be speaking more normally when interacting with Doc.
  • Army of The Ages: Doc witnesses one of these during his vision of the Temporal Cold War, with modern soldiers fighting soldiers from the Roman Empire, and flying saucers dropping bombs.
  • Ascended Fridge Horror:
    • "Clara's Story" features Doc telling Clara about 1985 A. And not only is it made apparent that there was a Grandfather Paradox at play, but we see that Alt Doc was lobotomized in that mental hospital.
    • "Who is Marty McFly?" starts out by addressing how the first movie ended, with Marty arriving in a different timeline and seeing a different him leave:
      Marty: The night I went back to 1955, I met up with Doc at Twin Pines Mall. ...he got shot by Libyans, and I escaped to the past. When I came back, I ran here- -right where we're standing. And I saw Doc get shot... And I saw me-or... ...I saw a Marty, and he got the DeLorean and went back in time. That was a Marty whose dad was always a college professor, who met Doc Brown in Lone Pine Mall. But where did he go? He never changed the past.
    • That storyline also explores the horror of living in a Close-Enough Timeline when Marty discovers he does not have the same memories as Jennifer of their first dates.
  • Bad Future: 1985-A makes an appearance in the first volume.
  • Berserk Button: Young George hates it when you call what he writes "sci-fi," which he equates with "cheap junk." He writes "science fiction".
  • Bittersweet Ending: The "Who is Marty McFly?" arc ends with Marty making peace with his memories not fitting with the altered timeline and with Professor Irving starting a relationship with Gabriella Sanchez. However, because of 1997 Irving wrecking the DeLorean by ramming into it, Doc is currently stuck in 1986 until it is fixed. But hey, Irving is willing to lend a hand.
  • Black Comedy: If you know anything about the Ford Pinto's infamous gas tank, Marty assuming it being sold for $2100 in "Time Served Part 1" was the result of a "fire sale" comes out as unintentionally savage.
  • "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word: Marty has no time for Doc's use of the word "borrowed" to describe his casual lifting of the Brown family fortune to fund his time machine.
  • Book Ends: Each Volume 1 issue's primary story is bookended by Doc telling his sons that story while working on the Jules Verne Train.
  • Born in the Wrong Century: "Clara's Story" has Clara musing about how she and Emmett are like this, with Emmett fitting in better in the past, and her own desire to leave the past and visit (or live in) the future.
  • Borrowed Catchphrase: Following the lead of "Part III," several instances of Marty saying "Great Scott!" and Doc using the word "heavy."
  • Broad Strokes: While the animated series (which was also created by Bob Gale, along with Robert Zemeckis) on the whole is not adapted, certain things from it are kept or referenced, most prominently Jules and Verne retaining their general personalities from that series in "Tales from the Time Train." See Continuity Nod for other nods.
  • Butterfly of Doom: Discussed when Marty and Doc get marooned in the Pleistocene Era, complete with a few Shout Outs to Ray Bradbury's trope-defining short story "A Sound of Thunder."
    Marty: I mean, if we go stomping around, we could squash Chuck Berry's ancestors...
  • Call-Back: "Continuum Conundrum" has several callbacks to the movies, plus callbacks to events from Volume 1 of the comic (such as Marty and Doc's first meeting).
  • Call-Forward: "Peer Pressure" features Marty playing Wild Gunman at 7-11, and mentioning how cheap life was in the Old West.
  • Casanova Wannabe: Needles, who tries "flirting" with Jennifer (in front of his own girlfriend, no less). It fails, naturally.
  • Catchphrase: Any character from the original trilogy, if they appear, will say one of their catchphrases at least once. Pretty much no one is exempt.
  • Celebrity Paradox: While attempting to sneak into an impound lot, Marty overhears some Red Hot Chili Peppers, and concludes that it's Needles, as Needles is a huge RHCP fan. Needles was, of course, played by RHCP bassist Michael "Flea" Balzary in the trilogy itself.
  • Cerebus Retcon: For 1985-A, if you can believe it. The one-off not-really-a-gag about Doc being committed to an insane asylum is expanded to show Doc meeting the 1985-A version of himself, who has been lobotomized.
  • Clone Angst: Unable to figure out what happened to the version of himself who grew up in the Lone Pines timeline, Marty feels incredible guilt at the thought that he may have stolen his life, wondering if that means he's not the "real" Marty. At the same time, he's terrified that he may fade from existence if the timeline irons itself out. It gets far worse when he meets a whole series of what appear to be vengeful displaced iterations of himself from other timelines. Fortunately, they turn out to be lifelike animatronics.
  • Closer to Earth: Jennifer gets a slightly larger role in which she serves as Marty's often-frustrated voice of reason. It's played back and forth with Clara and Doc. While Doc remains his daffy self, has some classic Forgotten Anniversary shenanigans and admits that his future time-travel plans will be safer with Clara there to "supervise" him, she's ultimately the one who's most eager to explore the time continuum, while he is happy to settle down in the Wild West.
  • Compressed Vice: Marty gets two of these back-to-back. In the "Continuum Conundrum" arc, he's developed such an addiction to time travel that he loses his ability to appreciate normalcy. The following arc, "Who is Marty McFly?" sees him undergo a delayed existential crisis about inhabiting the wrong timeline. Jennifer starts to wonder if he's making up problems at this point.
  • Continuity Nod: To the movies, obviously, but a few other adaptations are referenced as well.
    • Doc's Static-o-Matic, which was seen in a Back to the Future: The Ride queue video, makes an appearance in "In Search of Calvin Marty Klein."
    • The 1930's Courthouse Square from Back to the Future: The Game, which was walled-in with a gazebo in the center, is seen when Doc travels back to 1938 in "Emmett Brown Visits the Future."
    • The animated series episode "Clara's Folks" gets a nod at the beginning of "Clara's Story," as Clara recounts the story of how her parents met.
    • Of all things, the phony "Youth Jailed" front page that USA Today printed in Real Life gets a nod at the start of "Continuum Conundrum". The page contained an article talking about how Robert Zemeckis was a longtime fan of George McFly's A Match Made in Space and was finally going to remake it in 2016 after a botched 1989 adaptation by another director. In the comic, George (in 1986) mentions to his publicist that he doesn't want the obviously enthusiastic "Romancing the Stone guy" doing an adaptation, reasoning that Zemeckis would probably only be ready for it in thirty years' time, and that another director would be appropriate.
  • Continuity Snarl: Defied by Bob Gale in the foreword to Citizen Brown, as he says that the story is in an alternate timeline from the main book's "Continuum Conundrum" storyline.
  • Cowboy Cop: Officer Griff Tannen in the year 2035. He attempts to attack Doc and Marty with a flamethrower, but keeps getting reprimanded by some kind of computerized system in his cybernetic implants, which continually notes that it isn't the first time he's been violent with suspects.
    • Dirty Cop: He also turns down a bribe from Doc, although the system reprimands him anyway, noting that he's been bribed (successfully) in the past.
  • Crossover: Kind of. To celebrate IDW's reboot of Rom Spaceknight (as part of their new Hasbro Comic Universe and the Revolution crossover), issue 10 featured a special cover with ROM flying past the DeLorean (many other IDW titles had special covers that month with ROM).
  • Cutting the Knot: Played with: Despite wanting to know why Uncle Joey was arrested in the "Hard Time" arc, Marty shoots down the idea of using time travel to figure it out... only to head to Doc's garage instead when Jennifer suggests going to the library; Marty clarifies that he doesn't want to use the DeLorean, he just wants to talk to Doc about it. It's only when Doc warns Marty to stay away from Uncle Joey that he decides to go to the library instead.
  • Debut Queue: The first few issues gradually set up how everyone met each other.
    • The first issue relates the story of how Marty met Doc.
    • A later issue establishes that Doc buys the DeLorean from a used car classified ad.
    • Issue 4 recounts how Marty and Jennifer reconnected as teenagers and started dating.
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation: In "Citizen Brown", 1986-A Edna has a brainwashed Biff set up some bombs to blow up Doc's lab; Biff, being...well, Biff, hangs onto the ticking time bombs and they end up blowing him and Edna sky high as Marty and Doc escape. In the original Telltale game, the two of them are simply erased from existence once Marty corrects the timeline and keeps Doc from marrying Edna.
  • Doppelgänger Gets Same Sentiment: Discussed in the "Who is Marty McFly?" arc. After realizing the truth about the alternate Martys (that they're actually androids), Doc shoots them to protect his Marty. He reassures the teen that what he's doing is Not What It Looks Like, appealing to his trust that he wouldn't hurt him or any timeline's version of him. This accidentally helps clear up Marty's existential crisis.
  • Dramatic Irony: In "Time Served, Part 4", Joey knocks out Biff, saying that somebody should have done that to him a long time ago so he'd have some sense knocked into him, apparently unaware that George had done that back in 1955.
    • In the "Continuum Conundrum" arc, an amnesiac Doc is mistaken for a terrorist along with Marty and insists, "I would never embroil myself with terrorists!"
  • Easily Forgiven: Professor Irving, after plotting to steal the Flux Capacitor, taking advantage of Marty's anxiety by sending multiple animatronic Marty doubles after him, convincing him that he may fade out of existence and that Doc doesn't care what happens to him, dropping Marty and Doc in the Pleistocene Era and leaving them to die, and finally attempting to kill them with robot clones of themselves. Ultimately Marty pities him because unlike them he's had to deal with the trauma of time travel alone, and by the end of the arc he's basically one of the gang, bonding with Doc over mutual scientific interest and failure to understand women. To be fair, it's a younger version of himself who has yet to make these bad decisions.
  • Easy Amnesia: Doc has this in "Continuum Conundrum," caused by Griff Tannen using some sort of cybernetics-scrambling device on him in 2035. He starts remembering more things by the end of the second issue of the arc, but it takes a blow to the head back in 2035 to completely get his mind going again.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Rather appropriately, Marty spots an add for the Trope Namer while in 1972 during the "Hard Time / Time Served" arc.
  • Evil Counterpart: Professor Irving to Doc Brown, until he's redeemed. Then they're just counterparts.
  • Existential Horror: "Who is Marty McFly?" Turns out Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory is a harsh mistress.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: After the DeLorean goes missing in 1972 during the "Hard Time / Time Served" arc, Professor Irving voices his concern that, because he and Marty went to Doc's mom's house, his brief interaction with Doc lead to him never inventing the time machine. Marty shoots this down by revealing how he almost prevented his own birth and saw his hand starting to fade. Professor Irving proceeds to freak out again, as Marty notices that nothing is fading away this time, meaning the DeLorean was taken, not erased.
  • Forgotten Anniversary: The plot of Issue 18, in which Doc deals with this problem exactly the way you'd expect.
  • For Want Of A Nail: Had Marty not gone over to Doc's garage in the second issue of the "Hard Time" arc, having been kept up all night for the past few days and having the half baked idea to go back to 1972 to see why Uncle Joey was arrested, Professor Irving wouldn't have decided to take Marty there himself.
  • Framing Device: Each of Volume 1's primary stories is framed as a tale told by Doc to his young sons, during the construction of the Jules Verne Train. One of the secondary stories appears to be taken from one of Doc's voice recordings.
  • Futureshadowing: "Time Served Part 1" sees a four-year old Marty run after Uncle Joey, after the latter angrily leaves the Baines' house. Joey turns around and stops Marty from running into the street, as there's "bad drivers" out there, and he doesn't want him to get hit.
  • Future Slang: Examples abound in the second volume's depiction of 2035:
    • "Hoverboard" is an outdated term by 2035, where the devices are called "fli-blades."
    • "Stay crystal! I'm gonna sage the fifties!" The speaker even stops to explain to Marty and Doc that this means "call the police."
    • Played With in the Bistro 2015 diner. Since it's supposed to be The Theme Park Version of 2015, the waiter uses an egregious amount of contemporary slang like "friend me," "Belieber," and "bae," which were all common in real life 2015 but unknown to Marty and Doc.
  • Generation Xerox: Invoked by Marty during the "Hard Time / Time Served" arc after 1972!Biff realizes he looks an awful lot like Calvin Klein from 1955, opting on the spot to pretend he's his son, Kevin:
    Marty: ...yeah, see, Calvin's my dad. And-and I'm why he left Hill Valley. I probably shouldn't be saying this, but my mom got pregnant and it was a big scandal. They had to get out of town. It was 1955, not the ei-uh, seventies.
  • Glory Days: It's hinted in "Continuum Conundrum" that Marty sees his time traveling days as this. He even has a brief conversation with Biff (of all people) on the subject.
  • Good Angel, Bad Angel: Marty experiences this during "Time Served, Part 2", when he finds himself helping Uncle Joey with the robbery that got him arrested. The angel, Professor Irving, points out that Marty set out on his journey to merely find out what happened, not alter it; if Marty prevents Uncle Joey's arrest, then Marty undoes the reason he's in 1972 to begin with. The devil, Marty himself, points out that he can't let Uncle Joey throw his life away; plus, he always has to help someone in need.
  • Grandfather Paradox: 1985-A is firmly established as one of these. Any fan theories about Alt Doc somehow escaping the asylum and building the time machine are crushed when Prime Doc meets him and discovers that his counterpart had not only stayed in the asylum, but had been lobotomized. This means that the time machine was never built, meaning there was no way for Old Biff to give himself the almanac. Prime Doc notes that he, Marty, and the DeLorean are somehow protected by a bubble of the prime reality, and that once the bubble bursts and the timeline tries to correct itself, all of reality will end.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: A rather bizarre instance of this being played straight, then subverted: the "Who is Marty McFly?" arc starts with Marty dealing with how his memories no longer mesh with the timeline after having altered it. Then Professor Irving becomes involved, convincing Marty that he's about to fade from existence due to not being the Marty of the current timeline. However, this turns out to have been a trick to get Marty to get Doc to come back to 1986, so he can steal the flux capacitor for his own time machine. And then a rampage of Marty robots appear. And then Irving returns, from 1997 to be exact, to try and fix things... by getting rid of Marty and Doc (first by dumping them in prehistoric times, then by taking them to 1997 and then locking them in a room full of Marty and Doc robots). Then, after escaping, Marty has the revelation that winds up bringing the whole arc back to the beginning: it's the choices you make that define who you are, nothing else. Marty's choices made him Marty. And it's up for Irving to make the choices that make him Irving. And this is done by going back to 1986 (with 1997 Irving in hot pursuit) to force 1986 Irving to make some new changes to his life. Needless to say, this arc went places.
  • Happy Ending Override: "Continuum Conundrum" begins five months after the end of Part III, and shows how Marty is having trouble re-adapting to everyday life after his time traveling adventures. It causes friction with everyone in his life, it alienates him from Jennifer, and he spends afternoons in the park telling kids stories about fighting Buford Tannen. Then he gets a letter from Clara saying that Doc has disappeared.
    • "Who is Marty McFly?" doesn't so much override the happy ending as deconstruct the hell out of it, reminding us that despite the happiness of his family and their newfound financial stability, Marty still has to fill in for a version of himself he doesn't remember being and has never met.
  • Have We Met Yet?: Ultimately, "Continuum Conundrum" boils down to a matter of perspective. Marty and Jennifer's side of the story is a sequel to the end of Part III, since this is the first time they've seen Doc since the train flew away. From Doc's perspective, however, it's an interquel — the train still needs a few parts in order to work properly, and the end of Part III hasn't happened for him yet; as far as he is concerned, this is his first meeting with Marty and Jennifer after being stranded in the Old West.
  • Heroic BSoD: Doc suffers a really bad one in 1985-A after meeting his alternate self. It's brought on by a combination of seeing that his counterpart's mind was literally cut apart and knowing that the universe may be destroyed if the space-time continuum tries to correct the paradox.
    • Marty gets his turn over the course of the "Who Is Marty McFly?" arc, when he comes to believe that he doesn't belong in the Lone Pines timeline and that he may have ruined the life of an alternate version of himself.
  • Hidden Depths: Jennifer finally shows some in "Continuum Conundrum" when she displays some remarkable sci-fi savvy, mentioning that she was expecting a "time phone" in Doc's lab, and raising the possibility that the Doc they've encountered comes from an Alternate Universe (which she justifies when she admits to Marty that she's read some of George's books). She is also seen to be quite clever and focused, and acts to keep Marty from recklessly endangering their goals.
  • Historical Domain Character:
    • The first issue relates the story of how Doc was brought into the Manhattan Project while teaching at CalTech in 1943, and features J. Robert Oppenheimer, Leslie Groves, Vannevar Bush, and Robert Millikan as characters.
    • A later story, set during the Cuban Missile Crisis, brings back Groves as an agent of the United States government looking to recruit Doc for a governmental time travel project.
  • Idiot Ball: Professor Irving and Marty play catch with this in the "Hard Time" arc. Initially, Irving is the one who steals the DeLorean to solve Marty's current problem despite Marty's protests, but once they're in the past, he quickly changes his mind, and Marty is the one who insists on staying.
  • Indy Ploy: Deconstructed. In "Continuum Conundrum," Jennifer calls Marty out for relying on these, even in situations where it's not in their best interests. Marty doesn't always understand her concerns, though, due to his Indy Ploys working out just fine during the trilogy.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: In Part 5 of "Citizen Brown", as Doc and Marty drive off to return to 1986, a man runs after them saying that they won first place in the "Car of Tomorrow" contest (they stashed the DeLorean in the exhibition hall). After witnessing the car lift into the sky and disappear in a burst of flames, he stares at the sky for a second before pulling a flask out of his coat pocket and taking a healthy swig.
  • In Harm's Way: "Continuum Conundrum" starts in the spring of 1986, with Marty dying of boredom as he tries to readjust to his life as an Ordinary High-School Student. When Clara sends him a message indicating that Doc is missing, he's a little too eager to jump aboard the time machine again, to Jennifer's frustration.
  • Insistent Terminology: 1958 George angrily tells Doc that it is not called "sci-fi." The proper term is "science fiction."
  • It's All My Fault: Marty develops such a bad case of this in "Who Is Marty McFly?" that it practically reaches Catchphrase status.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Marty's answer to escaping the police that have been summoned to Doc's secret lab by the security system? To jump into the backup DeLorean and smash past the gate. Subverted in that it works, although Jennifer calls him out for being so reckless.
  • Like Father, Like Son: Played with: "Time Served Part 1" sees Marty peeping into his Grandma and Grandpa's house while in 1972, from the tree across the street even, just like his dad did in 1955. However, Marty's reason for peeping is to look for his Uncle Joey.
  • Limited Wardrobe/Iconic Outfit: Stories about Marty (set before the movies) usually feature him wearing the "life preserver" vest. "When Marty Met Emmett" features a variation, in that it features 14-year-old Marty wearing only the red shirt and blue jeans combo from the last two movies.
    • Volume 2 starts out with Marty wearing a hoodie and different shirts, but it brings back the vest once the main plot kicks in.
  • Lobotomy: Doc 1985-A's fate.
  • Loss of Identity: Not exactly, but the "Who Is Marty McFly?" arc deals with a big bit of the implications from the original series: because of the changes he made through his time traveling, Marty McFly is no longer the same Marty McFly that he was originally.
    • One notable scene in the first issue of this arc sees Marty going through photos and videos of his life, sorting them by the degree to which he remembers them.
  • "Mister Sandman" Sequence: "Time Served Part 1" sees Marty wandering through 1972 Hill Valley. Amongst other things, he witnesses an anti-Nixon rally held in the Courtyard, an ad for a $2100 Ford Pinto by the gas station (52¢ a gallon, naturally), eight-track players being sold at the electronics store, and Mr. Strickland leaving the movie theater with his mom, all the while complaining about The Godfather.
  • Mood Whiplash: "Clara's Story" has this. It goes from the story about Clara's past and upbringing, to a scene of Doc and Clara reflecting on their new life together in 1880's Hill Valley, to another flashback (or flash-forward?) to Doc's horrific experiences in 1985-A, back to Clara and Doc on the porch as she tells him that she's pregnant and they're going to be a family.
  • Nested Story: "Clara's Story" in Issue 5 is a double example of this, interrupting the Jules Verne Train's first attempt at time travel so that Clara can tell her story, and interrupting that story with Doc's story about 1985-A and his arrival in the Old West.
  • New-Age Retro Hippie: Professor Irving is forced to hitch a ride with a group of them in their Hippie Van during the "Time Served" arc, to his abject horror. They're quite friendly to him and even offer him pot brownies.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: "Continuum Conundrum Part 2" suggests that Doc's current predicament resulted from the note Marty left for Doc back in 1986. In reality, it was a Red Herring.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup:
    • 1962 Doc reasons that he can always build another temporal field capacitor after destroying the original model sending a note to the past. Sure enough, by 1986, a second one is seen in storage at Doc's secret lab.
    • Doc also has a second DeLorean stored in his secret lab. This car has a time circuit display and some of the time coils installed, but it retains the original rear engine hatch and lacks a flux capacitor, fusion chamber, and rear louvers.
    • Semi-subverted in the "Hard Time / Time Served" arc: after the DeLorean goes missing while Marty and Professor Irving are in 1972 (both unaware that Doc had the DeLorean return to him), both Marty and Irving toy with the idea of simply making a new time machine in case they can't find it.note 
  • Not His Sled: Issue 5 starts out with the expectation that we're going to see the Jules Verne Train's first trip through time, leading into the end of Back to the Future Part III. Instead, the issue ends with the train running out of tracks right before it reaches 88 mph, showing that the Browns' first attempt to return to 1985 was unsuccessful.
    • This later plays into "Continuum Conundrum" somewhat when Marty sees that Doc has constructed a simple time machine out of the 1893 steam tricycle seen at the end of the first volume. Marty concludes that the train must have not worked as a time machine, but Jennifer questions this theory since they definitely met the Browns in the train on October 27, 1985.
    • However, it's then revealed that Doc made the 1893 time machine to make a trip to 2035 to get materials to help the train time travel.
  • Not What It Looks Like: When Marty seems apprehensive of sending Doc back to 1893, Jennifer assumes he wants to keep Doc. Marty, offended, clarifies that they need to fix Doc's amnesia first.
    • Similarly, Jennifer accuses Marty of being mean to Doc (since he can't remember his kids), when in reality Marty is worried that the timeline may be altering (assuming that he may have come before he had them).
    • Overall, "Continuum Conundrum" boils down to this: Marty and Jennifer assume something is wrong with the timeline when Doc appears in 1986 with amnesia. In reality, his amnesia was the result of a botched trip to 2035 to get the necessary materials to make the time train work.
    • Doc says this verbatim in "Who is Marty McFly?" when he's forced to gun down several alternate Martys (actually highly realistic animatronics) to save the real Marty. He would never hurt any true incarnation of Marty.
  • Out of Focus: The Tannen family, which is unusual for Back to the Future adaptations. Biff makes passing appearances in recaps of trilogy scenes, and briefly banters with Marty at the beginning of Volume 2, but the only story in Volume 1 that features a Tannen in a central role is "Jurassic Biff" (which features Old Biff). Most of the conflict either comes from the characters' own actions, or Needles. It isn't until Volume 2 that Griff Tannen returns as a major antagonist.
  • Papa Wolf: Uncle Joey beats up Biff when he calls Marty a brat and after Biff causes Marty and Professor Irving to fall off a cliff threatens to kill Biff - and later threatens to go to the police and confess for the both of them for kidnapping - if they died from it.
  • Percussive Maintenance: While attempting to operate the stolen time machine, Old Biff smacks the time circuits with the brass fist on the top of his cane. This results in a glitch that sends him back to the dinosaur era.
  • Ridiculous Future Sequelisation: By 2035, the cinematic adaptation of George McFly's novel A Match Made in Space is approaching Jaws 19 levels, with nine sequels and a reboot in the works.
  • Secret Test of Character: When Marty escapes Doc's booby traps in "When Marty Met Emmett," Doc confesses that the escape was meant as such — Doc was looking for an assistant and wanted to ensure that the candidate was clever enough to escape the trap.
    • Which itself was a secret test of character—Doc wasn't really looking for an assistant until Marty turned up and wanted to see how he would react to being offered the job. Marty's confession that he never surmised such a test and was in fact housebreaking marks him as a basically honest person despite...well, the housebreaking.
    • A suitor who wooed Doc's mother pulled this. Doc suspected that he was after her money, but in fact he had an enormous fortune of his own and was pretending to be poor to make sure she wasn't marrying him for his money.
  • Series Continuity Error: In Citizen Brown Issues 1 and 2, Marty uses the alias "Don Corleone" when in 1931, but in Issue 3 he tells First Citizen Brown that he went by "Michael Corleone" instead.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Professor Irving is even worse than Doc Brown.
    Professor Irving: I finally found you! Always the antipodal location you canvass.
  • Shout-Out:
  • So What Do We Do Now?: "Continuum Conundrum" starts in the spring of 1986, when Marty is suffering severe adventure withdrawal after the events of the series. When he learns that Doc has mysteriously vanished and needs to be tracked down, he doesn't even bother to hide his excitement.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Marshal Strickland was shot and killed by Buford Tannen in a Part III deleted scene, and this is confirmed by Edna Strickland in the Telltale game. In the comic, however, the marshal is still alive and well in 1893.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: In "Who is Marty McFly? Part 1", Jennifer mentions Doc "galavanting through time"; when Marty reacts to the word "galavanting", she responds that unlike him, she pays attention in school. In Part 4, Marty uses the same phrase while talking to Doc; he also reacts to "galavanting" and remarks that he's glad Marty is paying attention in school.
  • Swapped Roles: Marty effectively becomes Doc during the "Hard Time / Time Served" arc, knowing full well that his plan to go back in time to prevent Uncle Joey's incarceration was a dumb plan, managing to rationalize that the DeLorean was stolen, not erased, and that he needs to put as much distance between himself and 1972 Doc as possible. Professor Irving even acknowledges this:
    Professor Irving: You are starting to sound like Doctor Brown.
    Marty: Yeah, well, that's a problem for another time.
  • The Theme Park Version: The Bistro 2015 restaurant in the year 2035 is to the The New '10snote  as the Cafe '80s was to The '80s. This includes a waiter dressed as a hipster using gratuitous amounts of New Tens slang.
  • Time Travel for Fun and Profit: In "Emmett Brown Visits the Future," Doc uses the DeLorean to go back to 1938 to buy several copies of Action Comics #1, then sells a couple of them to an auction house in 2015 for $2.5 million, in order to finance his activities in the future.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: In Volume 2, Marty explains to Jennifer that Clara could have sent the letter from a point before or after when they saw her with Doc at the end of Part III, since time travel is involved. If it's after, then Doc simply needs their help. If it's before, then they need to locate Doc in order to maintain the space-time continuum.
    • A driving question in Volume 2 is whether or not the Jules Verne Train worked as a time machine. Marty and Jennifer know it did, since they saw it on October 27, 1985, but the presence of Doc with the steam tricycle time machine — as well as the ending to Volume 1 — proves that it didn't.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Marty as of "Continuum Conundrum," since he can't handle an adventure-free life post-trilogy, becoming more withdrawn and sullen. He's still a jerk when the plot kicks in, making Jennifer give him a boost, outrunning the police in an unmarked car, and being generally impatient with the amnesiac Doc (which Jennifer eventually calls him out on).
  • Wham Line: From the end of "Continuum Conundrum Part 1":
    Doc: (to Marty) Where is this?! When am I – and who in the name of Nicolaus Copernicus are you?!
    • In what can be considered the punchline of the "Time Served" arc, you have the following exchange from "Time Served Part 4":
      Marty: (to Doc) So, Doc, I don't know why you buried the money, but Joey wanted you to have it back, for whatever it's worth.
      Doc: Are you jesting, Marty? I dug up that currency decades ago. Why would I leave thousands of dollars in the woods?
  • Wham Shot: The end of Hard Times, Part 3 reveals that Joey had an accomplice: Biff Tannen.
  • Whatever Happened to the Mouse?: The "Who Is Marty McFly?" addresses a particular example of this from the movies. Namely, where Lone Pines Marty went.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Marty's reaction upon finding out that Doc "borrowed" his mother's nest egg to fund the time machine project.
  • Wrench Wench: At the end of one story, Clara is seen adjusting an armature in the Jules Verne train with a wrench, and other stories imply that she had some hand in assisting Doc with the train's construction.
  • Write Back to the Future: Clara in 1893 does this to send a letter to Marty in 1986. Marty later tries this himself by leaving a note in Doc's secret lab, reasoning that Doc might see it at some point in the future.
  • You Already Changed the Past: The "Time Served" arc has this be implied. The item that winds up kicking off Marty's eventual journey to 1972 was a painting with the top portion ripped off being mailed to Joey in 1986. This painting was from Doc's mom's house, and was one of the things stolen when Joey and Marty robbed it. After Marty makes off with the painting, a confrontation with Biff results in the head being ripped off (the part Marty and Professor Irving keep). As Marty and Irving discuss:
    Marty: If the painting arrived missing the fact, that means it must have been ripped before we went back, too. Maybe Biff tried to pull it away from Joey?
    Professor Irving: I would more accurately surmise that because the painting did not join us on our journey, in 1986 it experienced the future after our changes.
    • Similarly, when Professor Irving goes to encounter Doc at his garage in "Part 1", he comments to himself that the area around the garage is lacking its security measures. When Irving goes into the garage and makes his presence known to Doc, he quietly comments to himself that he needs to install a security system.
  • Zeerust Canon:
    • The year 2015 is presented pretty much how it was in Part II, with all the poppy Eighties Zeerust that it entails (with the additions of The Internet, and mentions of Nirvana and Jurassic Park).
    • The year 2035, on the other hand, takes the Eighties Zeerust of Part II and adds Zeerust from The New '10s onto it, resulting in a strange composite Zeerust.

     Biff to the Future 
  • Ascended Fridge Horror: "Biff to the Future"'s fourth issue mainly focuses on one particular detail about 1985-A. Namely, how the hell Nixon could still be in office.
  • Alternate Timeline: Set in the timeline that would become 1985-A aka "Hell Valley" from the second movie prior to Doc and Marty's intervention. It even showcases what would've happened after 1985-A.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Biff's grandmother is just like anyone in the Tannen family. The old woman is emotionally abusive towards her grandson, forcing him to drive her to Las Vegas where she spends her day with the slot machine. It is implied that she was also abusive towards her son, Kid Tannen as well, as she's the reason he joined the Mafia. Near the end of the first chapter, she was killed by a conman planning to steal Biff's Almanac.
    • Said conman is also the first person Biff ever killed and likely the only person Biff killed that viewers wouldn't shed a tear as it was an act of self defense.
    • After Biff hit it big, he met a fast-talking Hollywood director who convinced him to fund a movie studio. In reality, the director just saw him as an easy mark and strung him along to drain as much money as possible, only producing one movie (which was a low-budget box office bomb) because Biff finally started wising up and put the screws to him. Biff eventually got his revenge by convincing the director to place a bet for him in a Mafia-controlled gambling parlor, conveniently leaving out the fact that the Mafia had sworn to kill Biff or anyone placing bets on his behalf after he won too much of their money.
    • Biff finally meets his end in the final issue at the hands of "Mad Dog" Tannen.
  • Bad Future: ...which likewise makes it this as well.
  • Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: In Gale and Zemeckis' original BTTF FAQ (as seen on the DVD's), it's surmised that Old Biff fades away in a deleted scene because Lorraine had shot him in 1997A. In the comic, however, Lorraine actually talks Marty out of using a gun to stop Biff, telling him that George wouldn't want it. Instead, Biff gets sent back in time to 1884, where he's killed by "Mad Dog" Tannen.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Biff's rise to power ultimately allows him to kill George McFly, marry Lorraine, takes over Hill Valley and get Doc committed to the loony bin. Subverted in the last issue however where karma finally bites him in the ass.
  • Bastard Bastard: It turns out Biff's parents are not married until after he was born.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Biff gets killed by "Mad Dog" Tannen and all his assets go to Lorraine; along with Doc and "secret anti-Biff society", she swears to bring back the Hill Valley that people loved. However, this doesn't address all the changes Biff made to history — like Richard Nixon serving five terms, which means the Vietnam War lasted an extra decade (assuming it still hasn't ended by that point).
  • Blatant Lies: The newspaper headline (Producer Shot 5 Times in Head - Coroner Rules "Obvious Suicide").
  • Boom, Headshot!: 1985-A Biff meets his end ironically at the hands of his ancestor Mad Dog Tannen while trying to get a photo of him and making the mistake of calling him by his nickname, resulting in getting shot in the head. This was all a plan of Doc's naturally.
    • When Lorraine shoots Biff and a Pocket Protector saves his life, he says she should've aimed for his head.
  • Box Office Bomb: In-universe. Biff's first and only film Dreams of a Madman sunk big time. This is mainly due to the film being made as a last ditch effort to recover Biff's movie studio's finances, and that Biff's sleazy movie producer Bernie Kessoff had wasted their millions of dollars for himself.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Biff walked into the set of McLintock! to offer John Wayne to play his ancestor Mad Dog Tannen in his film. When Wayne rejected to play a "degenerate low-life trash" an incensed Biff tried to punch him. But instead Wayne slugs him across his face and then delivering his movie's one-liner "Pilgrim, you caused a lot of trouble this morning." Even better, the entire incident was filmed and plastered on front page newspapers with the title "Duke Puts Mad Dog Down."
  • Caught on Tape: Strickland suggests recording Biff confessing to the murder of George McFly but Dave claims Biff is too smart for that and doesn't even acknowledge George ever existed.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: While researching Biff's family history , Doc comes across information about Buford Tannen. This seems to just be an acknowledgement of the character, but in the last issue, Doc tricks Biff into going back in time to encounter his ancestor and get shot by him.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • The farmer who was attempting to "breed pine trees" is committed in the same mental institution as Doc in the last issue.
    • The film features a headline saying Nixon seeks a fifth term. In this comic, Biff wants to become President after Nixon's fifth term ends.
  • Continuity Snarl: For whatever reason, in the last issue of "Biff to the Future" (which takes place in 1986-A), while Doc Brown is still in the mental hospital, he was not lobotomized as he was in the main comic series (Issue 5: "Clara's Story").
    • Although it wasn't actually shown/mentioned in the movie, Lorraine ended up shooting and killing Biff sometime in the 1990s. Here, Lorraine shoots Biff in 1986, her attempt to kill him fails, and Biff ends up being killed by Mad Dog Tannen after being sent back to the old west.
    • After Strickland's Heroic BSoD (see below), an anti-Biff society member stated Strickland was "on leave from school" even though, by that point in time, Hill Valley High School would've burnt down four years prior as mentioned in BTTF Part II. It could've been another school though.
  • Darker and Grittier: Given the nature of Biff's influence slowly transforming Hill Valley into a Wretched Hive, this has to be one of the darkest, most depressing entries in the entire BTTF franchise. It ends on a high note, though.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Biff's biggest mistake in using the Almanac is always betting on the winner. This eventually comes back to bite him in the ass, as he ends up getting banned by every casino and gambling institution (though he's already fabulously wealthy by this point and this backfires as it leads to Biff getting Nixon to get California to legalize gambling). The smarter course of action would have been to play the long game and "lose" as often as he won (let alone not drawing the kind of attention he did out of the gate with that very first bet). But then, if he could plan ahead and think things through, he wouldn't be Biff Tannen, would he?
  • Enemies List: Richard Nixon suggests Biff should keep that kind of list. Biff likes the idea but would need a whole library to keep track of his enemies and Nixon says the both of them would.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: After Biff kills a man who tried to kill him and steal the Almanac and had killed his grandmother, Biff briefly shows remorse for having killed him, before remembering that it was out of self-defense as opposed to murder.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: No matter what Doc and those he told about his Time Machine in the bad timeline do to prevent Biff from becoming wealthy, they always fail.
  • Fake Ultimate Hero: Biff not only makes himself to look like a national hero, he also rewrote history to make his ancestor one as well.
  • Flanderization: Biff's trait of mangling metaphors is exaggerated in this series, to the point where a good 90% of his dialog contains some form of malapropism.
  • For Want Of A Nail:
    • While mainly focusing on Biff's rise to power, "Biff to the Future" also takes the time to lay out how Richard Nixon was still in office in 1985-A. After buying out The Washington Post in issue #4, Biff proceeds to fire two reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, for wanting to run a story about some kind of "water gate". With them fired, the Senate decides to cancel their hearings on the matter, thus making Biff Tannen Nixon's favorite person. In turn, Biff grows to like Nixon being president... only to be informed of the 22nd Amendmentnote . As such, Biff decides to abuse the Almanac in order to drum up enough money to "convince" 38 state legislators to ratify the Constitution and repeal the 22nd Amendment.
      • This in turn is why California legalizes gambling: after Biff pulled this stunt, no one is willing to take his bets. However, Nixon owes Biff a favor...
  • Held Back in School: Biff was already repeating his senior year at Hill Valley High. Strickland then informs him he's being held back again due to not attending class or completing any assigned work. In this altered timeline, Biff gets expelled after trying to bribe him.
  • Heroic BSoD: When Doc introduces his time machine to the "Anti-Biff Society", Principal Strickland volunteers to use it, explaining that he almost sent a young Biff to reform school but was stopped when a "soft" teacher protested. When he arrives in the past, however, Strickland discovers that he mis-remembered the event: he was the one who "saved" Biff, back when he was a fresh-faced and idealistic new teacher. Blaming himself for Biff's descent into villainy and rise to power, Strickland becomes a recluse, shutting himself away in his house.
  • Hidden Depths: Despite his lack of intelligence, Biff had done many things to ensure his success (such as faking his grandmother's death certificate and sending a director who had conned him to his doom), and that is before he met the mystery man from the government.
  • Historical Domain Character: Biff dates Marilyn Monroe, steals thunder from Charlton Heston at an Oscar afterparty, gets punched out by John Wayne, gets a pep talk from Ronald Reagan, becomes corrupt pals with Richard Nixon, briefly chats with Frank Sinatra...
  • Hostage For Macguffin: Biff threatens to kill Marty unless Doc fixes up his time machine for him to use.
  • Hypocrite: Biff's grandmother claimed she would raise Biff better than her no good son. Some parent figure she become.
  • I Have Your Wife: Biff threatens harm on Einstein, Marty, and the rest of the McFlys unless Doc cooperates with Biff's plan for the time machine.
  • Irony:
    • When Doc plans to go back to the time Strickland tried and failed to convince a Principal to send Biff to a reform school, Strickland is concerned that Doc might be mistrusted by being near a school. Not only Strickland faces that treatment, he also remembers that the Principal was the one who tried to send Biff away and it was him who convinced her not to do so.
    • Biff always looked up to his ancestor, Buford Tannen, and saw him as a hero instead of an outlaw. He ends up dying to Buford after getting sent back in time to 1884.
  • Let Me Get This Straight...: Marty's reaction upon learning the only reason he's back in Hill Valley is to help Biff become President.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident:
    • In the last issue. The shady figure Biff aligns himself with suggested that Biff to keep his family together for the election in the hopes of presenting an "all American image" to the voters... before having them killed off by "terrorists" to gain a sympathy vote and win in a landslide. Biff doesn't hesitate at all in agreeing with the plan.
    • Doc tricks Biff into into going back into the past of 1884 rather then 1996 as intended (Biff was looking to gain more Almanacs and make himself all powerful) and sending him into the Old West while wearing a wildly gaudy tourist outfit to draw attention to him. Doc specifically sent Biff to a day that he knew "Mad Dog" Tannen was in town, and sure enough, Biff stupidly presses his ancestor's Berserk Button, earning him a bullet to the brain. When his body reappears in the present, Doc knocks out his cronies with a electric mat when they go to check on him. The whole thing is covered up as an freak accident with a power surge. And since Biff had so many enemies, no one was willing to question how he really died.
  • Mistaken For An Impostor: When Biff decides to go ten years ahead in time to learn which stocks will become more valuable, he's warned that people in the future might think he's someone trying to impersonate him.
  • Mythology Gag: Doc Brown invents a different time machine from the DeLorean, one that's a refrigerator-like chamber, much like the one in the original drafts of the Back to the Future screenplay.
    • Farmer Peabody is briefly seen in the same mental institution as Doc, being mistaken for being crazy after telling people about the "alien encounter" that was actually Marty time traveling. This had happened to him in the original screenplay for Back to the Future Part II.
    • When Biff leaves Hollywood to return to Hill Valley, there's a sign saying he's 88 miles away from his destination.
  • Never My Fault: Biff's grandmother refuses to take responsibility for her son being a criminal.
  • Never Shall The Selves Meet: While Doc usually enforces this, he sees no problem with Strickland doing it during his attempt to change Biff's past because Strickland looks so different from his self from that point in the past the eventual meeting won't cause any issues. He's right but the plan still fails.
  • Not His Sled: In the last issue, Lorraine pulls out a gun and shoots Biff; fans familiar with the franchise may think that this is the off-screen murder mentioned in the commentary for Back to the Future II, which was Gale and Zemeckis' explanation for Old Biff's mysterious deathnote . Unfortunately Biff had a Pocket Protector so he survives the attack.
  • Obfuscating Insanity: Doc faked insanity so he could perform his experiments without people bothering him.
  • Pocket Protector: Lorraine's attempt to kill Biff was foiled when a book inside of Biff's breast pocket blocked the bullet.
  • President Evil: Biff was attempting to make a gamble for presidency in the last issue set in 1986. He's killed before he can even start his campaign.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: He may be the most powerful man in the United States, but Biff acts like a teenager and doesn't even know simple phrases like "harassment".
  • Race Against the Clock: When Biff decides to become President, Lorraine tells him that, unless she finds Marty in one week, she'll divorce him, making it even harder for him to be elected. One week later, Biff upholds his end of the deal.
  • Ret-Gone: Doc opts for this as preferable to murder, going back in time to prevent the wedding of Biff's parents. Unfortunately for him, Biff was already born by then.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Combined with his connection with the government, Biff is practically untouchable.
  • Shout-Out: When Biff is told Doc is somewhere "between catatonia and suspended animation", Biff thinks Doc became a cartoon cat and asks if he's Sylvester or Tom.
  • Smart Ball: For all his stupidity, Biff manages to figure out that Doc's "refrigerator" is a time machine after seeing Doc in the photo of his parents getting married and combining it with the fact that he has the sports almanac from the future.
  • Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace: Doc goes back to the day Biff's parents got married and plans to use that cue to prevent the marriage so Biff won't be born, only to learn it's too late as Biff already exists at this point and his parents only got married because his grandmother didn't want people to know he was born out of wedlock.
  • Stalker Shrine: Biff has one to Lorraine hidden in a secret underground room in his mansion. Since it's Biff, the switch to open it is hidden in a statue's breasts. Biff's second wife discovers it and promptly divorces him.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: There's a panel where Nixon is dancing with Lorraine and telling her Biff is a great American and Biff telling the First Lady he never thought he'd be proud at seeing Lorraine dancing with another man but Nixon is a great guy. Both women reply with "You're not married to him".
  • Take That!: Biff Tannen is a callous, ridiculously unqualified, corrupt beyond parody, Upper-Class Twit and former realty mogul running for president. "Seriously? The American people would never elect someone like that. It impossible!"
  • Time Travel for Fun and Profit: Biff not only became rich thanks to his future self giving him the sports almanac, he also plans to go to the future to expand his wealth through the stock market and convince voters he's a reliable President.
  • Unperson: Biff makes George one after marrying Lorainne. He gets rid of all photos of George and Dave later says that Biff refuses to even acknowledge George's existence.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom:
    • Ronald Reagan (an actor at the time) gives Biff some friendly advice to give up the Hollywood life and use his money to make something more meaningful in his life. Biff takes his advice to become the corrupt mayor of Hill Valley.
    • The Hill Valley Telegraph's editor sold the newspaper to the Washington Post so Biff wouldn't be able to buy it. It eventually leads Biff to buy the Washington post and kill the story that'd ruin Richard Nixon. Biff and Nixon become friends as a result and Biff uses his influence to repeal the two-term limit, explaining how Nixon got four terms and could run for a fifth one.
  • Villain Protagonist: Biff of 1985-A is the main lead here and the story follows what happened on that timeline after his older self from the original timeline gave him the Sports Almanac.
  • Would Hurt a Child: When the initial attempt to Set Right What Once Went Wrong fails, one of Hill Valley's citizens volunteers to personally use the time machine to kill Biff when he's young and defenseless. Naturally, this is a little much for Doc.
  • Written by the Winners: Biff is able to rewrite history to make his great-grandfather a hero who saved Hill Valley instead of the outlaw he is.