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Breaking The Fourth Wall / Comic Strips

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Examples of Breaking the Fourth Wall in Newspaper Comics. Note that there's a common convention in newspaper comics of having a character seem to turn toward the audience in the final panel when the punchline is delivered, as if to say "Can you believe that?"

  • Pearls Before Swine does this more and more as time goes by. The most common instances consist of the characters discussing a situation that results in an extremely lengthy and groan-worthy pun, followed by Rat scolding Stephen Pastis.
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  • Dilbert often utilizes this in order to respond to reader feedback, including the artist drawing himself into the strip. Examples include putting up a survey as the last panel, encouraging readers to vote on whether Ratbert would get whacked with a newspaper, having Dilbert attend a book signing where a "renowned cartoonist" is asked how he can keep thinking up ideas for a daily strip, and having the artist appear to explain that the "Wizard of Oz Dilbert version" concept is a popular suggestion for a strip arc before trying out that arc for the week.
  • Earl in Pickles during a recent Christmas strip looks directly at the readers and wishes them a Merry Christmas. This causes the following exchange:
    Opal: Who are you talking to?
    Earl: Oh, no one. I just keep having this eerie feeling that we're being watched.
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  • This Rhymes With Orange strip.
  • Sherman's Lagoon does this every so often. For example...
    • One strip has Ernest telling Sherman that he wants to go to the North Pole. Sherman protests, as it's A) cold up there and B) a long swim, then says, "Can't we just all wear parkas and SAY we're in the North Pole? This is a comic strip."
    • In another strip, Hawthorne is planning on going on a trip. Sherman wants to tag along, and says that the readers expect it.
    Hawthorne: The READERS? What have they ever done for ME?
    Sherman: Shhhh! They're right there.
    • In one strip, while Sherman and Ernest are in Hawaii, Ernest informs Sherman that nearby there is an abundance of sunken ships. Then we get this exchange:
    Sherman: Really? And you can just swim inside them?
    Ernest: How else are we going to start some silly adventure?
    Sherman: Sometimes I question if your heart is in this strip.
    Ernest: Profit-sharing would help.
    • One storyline begins with Ernest telling Sherman that someone on the internet claims to have spotted Triton. Sherman's response is, "The mythological Greek god? Son of Poseidon and Amphitrite?" When Ernest asks him how he knew that so fast, Sherman replies, "It speeds the story along."
      • And after Sherman and Ernest pay Triton a visit, Sherman tells Fillmore that the Greek gods are real and that he saw one. Fillmore then says, "You did? Right here in this comic strip?", to which Sherman says, "Are you mocking me? Don't mock me."
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    • When the characters go to the Gulf of Mexico to help clean up the oil spill, Fillmore informs the others that if you're a cartoon character, you can just click your heels and be there. Then Sherman, Megan and Fillmore notice that they don't have heels. Fillmore says, "Better start swimming."
    • Here, Hawthorne is the captain of the characters' paintball platoon. After giving his teammates a pep-talk, Sherman asks when Hawthorne became the captain. Hawthorne's response is, "Panel One. Pay attention."
    • After Hawthorne is arrested, Fillmore suggests that they break him out. Sherman then says, "But wouldn't they just come here and arrest him again?" Fillmore's response is, "It doesn't work that way." To which Sherman responds, "In general, or just in comics?"
    • This strip has Ernest about to tell Sherman that he thinks they should go to Heracleion. Ernest asks, "Have I become that predictable at such a young age?" Sherman's response is, "No. I get these scripts in advance."
    • One storyline has the lagoon get invited to the Underwater Winter Olympics. Hawthorne explains to Fillmore that they take place on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge - the longest mountain range in the world, and it just happens to be underwater. Then we get this exchange:
    Fillmore: But how can there be snow?
    Hawthorne: You need to believe in the magic of comic strips.
    Fillmore: Is a hermit crab with no shell part of the magic?
    Hawthorne: The BEST part.
    • One strip has Sherman's son Herman asking him for help with a math problem. Sherman agrees, and then we get two Beat panels of Sherman attempting to figure out the problem.
    Herman: Dad, we're running out of panels.
    Sherman: This is going to run into tomorrow's comic strip.
    Fillmore: Cartoonists are, in a sense, powerful.
    Sherman: (not convinced) Yeah, sure.
    Fillmore: If you anger them, they can do things... like turn you into an enormous bratwurst.
    Sherman: (now an enormous bratwurst) Yeah, sure.
    • This strip has Sherman commenting that the cartoonist on the beach that he was criticizing before doesn't take shortcuts, unlike "some cartoonists we know." He doesn't even bother drawing their lower halves, which Sherman reveals.
    • Sherman asks if he can be in Hawthorne's animated movie. Hawthorne replies that it's an ANIMATED movie. To which Sherman responds, "But I'm already a comic strip character."
    • In this strip, Hawthorne claims that Sherman is out of shape. Sherman denies it.
    Hawthorne: You got winded just going from the second panel to the third panel!
    • Here, Fillmore tells Hawthorne that he wants to open a restaurant, then asks how he's going to secure a loan, get permits and all that. Hawthorne's response? "Follow me to the next panel."
    The fourth panel reveals that Hawthorne has opened up a business called "LOANS, PERMITS AND ALL THAT"
    Fillmore: (dryly) Of course.
    Hawthorne: NEXT!
    Ernest: Good point.
    Sherman: (facing the fourth wall) Snot... snot... snot.
    Fillmore: Now you're just being a jerk.
  • Garfield was prone to this, especially early on. One notable time featured panels of nothing but Garfield sleeping, with him waking up in the last panel to say, "Oh no! I slept through today's strip!"
    • Another time involved multiple strips, when Garfield caught Odie eating out of his food dish, he kicked Odie into next week. Jon asked Garfield if he'd seen Odie around, to which Garfield replied that he was probably somewhere over next Tuesday. A full week after the kick, the strip started with Garfield thinking to himself, "I feel as if there's something I should be remembering..." at which point Odie landed on him, causing him to think, "Oh yeah, I kicked Odie into next week last week."
  • In Frank and Ernest, Frank pulls off a card trick by buying the early edition of the paper to see how it was done.
  • In the May 6, 2002, strip of Beetle Bailey, Gen. Halftrack — confused by a high-tech–related communication from the Pentagon — walked into cartoonist Mort Walker's studio and demanded a new character to help him with computers.
  • Dykes to Watch Out For did this occasionally, including a sequence where the characters stop the storyline in order so that they can hold a meeting to plot out the strip's upcoming stories.
  • This strip from Big Nate.
  • B.C. by Johnny Hart had one in which ant character Jake has been less than honest with his wife, Maude. In asking his buddy to back up his alibi, he winks, and the word "wink" appears above his head. Maude not only lampshades it, but it becomes part of the plot. "Don't you lie to me! I saw that word 'wink' above your head!" She storms off. Jake addresses the signature in the last panel as if speaking directly to the cartoonist. "Thanks, Hart!" There is a word balloon above the signature, offering an apologetic, "My fault."
  • A case of What Could Have Been in Calvin and Hobbes. Some of Watterson's early strip submissions had the title characters referring to their being characters in a comic strip; these were all rejected by the syndicate, which Watterson later came to decide was for the better.


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