Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Lio Breaks Free

Mark Tatulli often uses the fundamental elements of the comic strip in Lio. Part of the humor comes from taking something that passes without notice (like panel borders) and bringing it unexpectedly to the reader's attention.

That's what happened in the November 29, 2015, sequence:

It's a great gag, and one I think merits a closer look. First, consider this: it would be very difficult for this joke to work in a daily strip. There simply isn't enough room to set up the joke -- reading the poor report card -- and having Lio cut through panels to make his escape. Not in the space of three vertical panels.

Second, note how masterfully Tatulli leads the eye through the panels. The father looking through the hole starts us on the path. It's easy to follow. The white space in the hole really jumps out compared to the white spaces still bounded by panel borders. From the first lower panel, we quickly see the open white space of the next hole, then the next, then the next, until we've traced Lio's path through the grid and see him disappear into the distance.

And this is all done for a purpose. If Lio had cut a hole the far right side rather than the floor of his first panel, the joke would not have worked as well. Nor would it if he had cut through the floor of the first panel he entered, then cut through to the right. Because in both cases, our eyes would have traced his path but left an unanswered question -- what's in those other panels?

By making us go through every panel, Tatulli leaves no distractions. When we get to the last one, we see the scissors (explaining how), and Lio running away (who, and where). And it's so well done, we don't even notice that Tatulli has us scanning the second row of panels in reverse order.

No comments:

Post a Comment