Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Lio's Endless Loop

I know I keep returning to the newspaper comic strip Lio for these brief essays about comics. There's a good reason for that. Mark Tatulli, the creator, consistently plays with the urtext of the genre. And that brings it to light in a variety of innovative ways.

His sequence from April 4, 2016, is a good example.

The gag depends on the reader knowing the conventions of sequential art. That is, we read the panels from left to right, each subsequent panel representing a later moment in time. In this case, Lio falls down an endless hole, and so the cycle endlessly repeats.

What cycle? The sequence of panels 2 through 5 (as explained in the final panel). The sequence follows the traditional form of a daily comic strip.
Panel 1: set up the premise
Panel 2 (and later): tell the joke
Panel 3 (or final panel): deliver the punchline

In this case, the punchline requires the reader to loop the middle panels. It's a brilliantly delivered bit of meta humor. And another reason I look to Tatulli to help explain the mechanics and the appeal of sequential art.

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