Off the Wall

I got a kick out of this Mutts strip from September.

Panel 1: Mooch the cat about to throw a ball as Earl the dog waits excitedly. Panel 2: The ball in the air. Panel 3: Earl and Mooch recoiling in surprise as it bounces off the right panel border with a 'bonk'.
Mutts for 2018-09-13 © 2018 Patrick McDonnell.

The most amusing part to me is that it doesn’t really break the fourth wall but accomplishes something very like what we think of as breaking the fourth wall by not breaking the panel’s third* wall, surprising the characters — and in turn the reader — by suddenly reneging on the contract that allows panel borders to be drawn in the same ink as any lines defining solid objects within a strip’s panels yet be traversable by said objects as portals to the rest of the world being depicted.

[*While I’m not sure the other “walls” have a conventionally accepted numbering, if
you count from the left clockwise in a plane intersecting the flat page or screen (or the proscenium of the stage, from whence the concept originates) — the second/middle wall being the background, parallel to the unseen “fourth wall” through which we view the action — you end up with the left and right walls being the first and third, respectively.]

Doubling panel borders as actual floors, walls, or ceilings, and/or otherwise placing objects at an exact tangent to borders — like having a character’s feet planted smack on the line establishing the bottom of the panel — is generally a big don’t unless done very deliberately, such as to create a claustrophobic sensation, because it looks awkward at best and can mess with the reader's mind due to conflicting signals.

Anyway, I figured we could all use a diversion from that other talk about walls and borders.

Related: This Is the Title of This Blogpost Rabbit, Seasoning Five-Panel Draw

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