Garrett (garote) wrote,

Comic deconstruction

Five panels of 4chan bottom-feeding can teach you a lot about the comic form:

Read the comic, even though it isn't particularly funny, and check out some Interesting Things:
  • First of all, panel five (the last panel) is an obvious 4chan meme (NSFW). It can be charitably described as a rubber-stamp punchline to "don't you hate it when..." situations.
  • It's the only use of color in the whole comic, so your eye hits it first, and you (probably) recognize the meme, so you're primed for how this is going to go.
  • Know Your Audience: Gamers know expository tutorial spiel when they see it. Here, it's tiny and crushed into short columns, just like on a handheld game screen. You don't even need to know the game to know how this will go. Of course the owl is Very Serious about delivering it, making it even more exasperating.
  • First panels are often used to establish a context, or continuity. In one-off comics, first panels establish an entire universe. Here, the whole universe is apparently a frustrating game tutorial. The impression conveyed is that we, the reader, are playing the game, not that we are watching a game being played.
  • The comic could have begun with the gamer sitting in front of a console. But why waste time? A old axiom for writers is: "Enter the scene as late as possible. Leave it as early as possible."
  • The panel has no title or preamble, implying that if you want to know what's going on in the comic you have to start by reading all this damned small text. Just like in a *$%&#@ tutorial.
  • Panel one is huge, in correspondence with how damn long the game dialog text is
  • Even the game text itself eventually breaks down into "blah blah blah" just in case we didn't get the point
  • Panel 2 is cut down to the only three elements you need: A tired, nonplussed gamer face, a single appendage poking at a big controller, and a universe of As. No background. The gamer is surrounded and plagued by the A button. Note that you subconsciously recognized the As as references to an A button. How? The answer to that can get quite complicated, but on a basic level, it's because the fewer the elements, the stronger their conceptual interaction. To make it easier for you, the controller is right in the center of the panel.
  • Also note that the As are not uniform, as though they were part of a sequence. They're As with individual character - to emphasize that each press on the controller is a distinct act. Making each of those As takes effort. Frustrating!
  • In panel 3, the yes/no prompt is in a precise square, and the text is typeset. But the A is hand drawn, emphasizing human origin, and is plastered across the prompt, emphasizing that it was made in haste.
  • The gamer is peeking in from the corner, implying that he is an observer of this panel, like us. The gamer's reaction could have easily been a separate panel. But this way, we are compelled to equate the gamer's perspective with our own. A relative to this is the "over-the-shoulder" shot in cinema.
  • The gamer is in a lower corner, and bizarrely small compared to the prompt, implying that he is subordinate to it. The prompt has power over him. This is a very old tactic, in printed media and in film: The camera looks down on subordinate characters, and looks up at dominant ones.
  • Inserting a character as a commentator on their own universe is a neat narrative trick. In Shakespeare's time, a character did this indirectly by talking to the audience, or sometimes in the role of a ghost or a god. In a comic, all they need to do is look in from the corner of the panel, and we get the point, because of the panel's window-frame nature.
  • Panel 4: Back to the small text, so we know it's the game talking.
  • We see that the damn owl is extremely pleased with himself, adding to our fury. Perhaps he is laughing at us. Perhaps he is taking pleasure in our suffering. We have to guess, because he has a "hand" over part of his expression, implying that he is trying to conceal the emotion. This makes sense, because meanwhile, in the game, he plays it straight as he starts all over with that damn dialogue...
  • Aaaand, punchline.
I don't know why I felt compelled to document this, except perhaps the irony of finding so much competence in such a crudely drawn work. You could dig an entire Cognitive Science textbook out of these five panels.
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