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A Painting the Medium and Medium Awareness trope, where characters interact with the confines of the scene. For example, interacting with borders around comic strip panels by crashing through the side or falling out the bottom. In live-action media, it might be implied that two characters are in two completely different locations, only to subvert this by having one of them reach into the other scene. It can also have objects in the frame enter the letterbox to emphasize or simulate a 3D effect.

A Sub-Trope of Odd-Shaped Panel and Metafictional Device.

Particularly common in Webcomics, as a fairly straightforward way to employ the Infinite Canvas.

Compare Camera Abuse. Contrast Behind the Black.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Invoked in episode 11 of Anime-Gataris, where Minoa nearly walks into the abyss when the aspect ratio of a scene changes from 16:9 to 4:3. This is just one example of reality breaking down into anime tropes during her day, but she's the only one to notice the change.
  • In an early Dragon Ball chapter, Goku hits Yamcha so hard he flies into the top frame of the page and cracks it.
  • Obligatory Negima! Magister Negi Magi example: Negi, Blue with Shock, holds on to the frame in a "Kilroy was here" pose when he contemplates what Evangeline's going to do to him for losing the ring she gave him.
  • When a character is formally introduced in One Piece, they often stand outside the panel, overlapping it.

    Comic Books 
  • Ambush Bug once jumped back several pages to rescue Cheeks.
  • Asterix:
    • The characters sometimes use the comic's panel dividers to support themselves.
    • Asterix and the Secret Weapon features a bird being bothered by noises in the forest and flying straight into the next panel, which is at sea, where a seagull looks at it in surprise.
  • In one issue of Batman/Superman, Mr. Mxyzptlk gives Calendar Man the power to see the comic panels and reach across them to interact with things in other panels.
  • The eponymous hero of the French comic Imbattable (Undefeatable) has the ability to move across panels as a superpower. Other characters see him teleporting, travelling in time, or duplicating himself, and never understand his explanations on how he's doing it.
  • Loop: The twins use their time powers to cross panel borders, such as the red twin firing her gun at the next panel's blue twin, or the blue twin leaping back a panel. Their dad, Father Time, also does this, reaching back a panel to poke his daughter's cheeks.
  • The Official Sonic The Hedgehog Yearbook: In the first iteration of this short-lived U.K. annual book, one story has Dr. Robotnik develop an upgraded engine for his Egg-o-Matic in order to outpace Sonic. Sonic eventually outsmarts his nemesis by ducking under the flying machine when Robotnik goes to top speed, leading to the Egg-o-Matic hitting the edge of the panel. Sonic then tells the readers that Robotnik had indeed went off the edge of the page.
  • She-Hulk did it once or twice. One issue of She-Hulk has her ripping through two pages of ads to go after a villain.
  • In part 10 of the Sonic the Hedgehog/Mega Man: Worlds Collide crossover, Duo does this when he flies off to fight the Chaos Devil.
  • An issue of Superboy has Doomsday (actually a clone of him) smash through the entire bottom half of a page in attacking Superboy, destroying the frames in the process.
  • Issue #17 of The Unbelievable Gwenpool is mostly composed of Gwen going How Do I Shot Web? over her new Ninja Prop-wielding abilities which culminate into her not only touching the panel border, but pushing a pencil through it, then breaking into her future (the next panel), and finally falling through the hole out of the comic.
  • X-Men: Kitty Pryde, in some comics, can phase through panels.

    Comic Strips 
  • Liberty Meadows occasionally features things like Ralph trying to hold onto the panel borders while Brandy drags him off to therapy. *SNAP* "Stupid cheap panel borders!"
  • Little Nemo used this on occasion. In one strip, Flip tears off the bottom frame of a panel and uses it to knock down letters from the comic's logo.
  • "Little Sammy Sneeze" by Winsor McCay used this as early as the 1900s.
  • Pearls Before Swine:
    • Done fairly often; sometimes the characters sit on the top of the panels, sometimes the panels are tilted, causing issues in-strip, as well as "Panel Walking" into other comics.
    • Pearls occasionally has jokes that work best if the comics page happens to be laid out just right:
      • The Family Circus has Billy denying that he was spilling sunflower seeds in the kitchen. The Pearls strip that day has Rat throwing sunflower seeds down and out of the panel. When positioned directly above The Family Circus, Rat's abuse of the long-running comic became apparent.
      • Another has Rat comment about being able to see up Blondie's skirt. Obviously the joke worked best when Pearls was immediately beneath Blondie.
  • Every so often a character in Pogo would literally lean on the fourth wall this way (or at least against the frame border); on occasion Albert would use it to strike a match for his trademark cigars.

    Fan Works 
  • Seriously, Pinkie Pie is the primary candidate when this happens in any MLP fan-art, like this one.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, magical elements such as the creatures and spells have a tendency to move outside the letterbox bars while everything else remains contained within the main screen.
  • Ghostbusters (2016) had some scenes in the 3D version where characters and elements would protrude over the black letterbox bars. When Erin saves Abby from falling into a dimensional portal, the whole movie expands over those bars. On DVD and Blu-ray, the 2D version also features these protrusions.
  • Life of Pi: In one sequence, the frame narrows to Cinemascope to show fish jumping out of the frame.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Though it was a split screen in this case, one segment of "Formidable Opponent" on The Colbert Report (where two Stephens would debate via chroma-key tricks) had Stephen Al-Bert (his terrorist counterpart) blowing up the split-screen at the end of the segment with a rocket launcher; when the smoke clears, the image is mainly broken like glass and all three Stephens have vanished.
  • One Monty Python's Flying Circus animation has a Comic Book superhero bouncing off the walls of his panel in an attempt to escape.
  • Quiz show University Challenge always shows the two teams in split-screen, one above the other (in reality they're sitting at desks next to each other). This was parodied on The Young Ones when its characters appeared on the show, and Vyvyan kicked through the "floor" to attack the opposing team.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 

    Web Animation 

  • Bob and George: During the Mega Man 5 parody, the protagonists split up and the comic began running two strips per day so the plots for both groups could update concurrently. After about a month of these updates, the characters in the bottom strip began wondering how their allies were doing, so they climbed into the strip above them to ask.
  • The Book of Biff: One panel and all the others that same week have Biff end up as a giant who towers above the comic panel.
  • Dark Legacy Comics #421 features a whole page full of increasingly broken frames (eventually collapsing onto each other, with objects sticking from one frame to the next) as a result of Narya and Miji mining the frame sides to make "white platinum". #411 features the clones attacking each other (accidentally) through the panel borders, even between rows in a strange form of time travel.
  • The sprite comic Double-U Tea F features King Lyger jumping into frame and kicking Mikau through the outer panel. A few issuess later, Mikau collides with the outside frame, which startles the characters in the comic.
  • In El Goonish Shive, a flashback panel featured Grace holding onto the "pop-up" panel she's coming out of in one instance and pointing at the flashback in another instance.
  • Gavin, the main villain of The Fancy Adventures of Jack Cannon, here tries to trap the titular hero in a shrinking panel frame, and Jack has to break it to escape.
  • Footloose may provide the most triumphant example. Faerie pirates cast a spell that lets them fire a cannon through the side of the panel and into the next.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court: A massive fire spreads beyond the panel borders, and even onto the following page (an effect that will presumably be more impressive in the print version).
  • Homestuck:
    • Late into the comic's sixth act, a villainous (and metafictional) character discovers a magical Crowbar and proceeds to use it to beat a harmless, if unsettling, clown. The narrator is disgusted and plays terrible music to punish the villain, but the Anti-Magic gives the crowbar the ability to attack the website's format, and send links across the page flying around. He uses this to keep the narrator in-line and protest any story development he objects to here.
    • Cans clocking powers allow him to punch characters out of panels into the default background of MS Paint Adventures. This escalates in the End of Act 6 animation, where his powers have him chasing a character across and through multiple panels until they start fighting on top of one.
    • To demonstrate John's new metafictional powers to traverse and retcon the story, when he turns into wind he dissipates past the panel borders.
  • From Keychain of Creation: Nemen Yi is a master of Infinite Canvas Style. High-level Exalted are just that good. Including using part of the frame as throwing knife.
  • L's Empire has this as part of a Wham Shot when Temporary Dark Samus jumps out of the frame of the comic, taking one of the authors with him.
  • In Mixed Myth, Tamit learns the secret of Time Travel, and it involves seeing the comic panels. She then demonstrates her mastery by reaching through time (i.e. across the panel borders) to poke someone in an adjacent panel.
  • The aliens in the webcomic One Small Step grab the corners of the panel so they can pull apart from being stuck.
  • The Order of the Stick plays with this sometimes.
    • Haley gets knocked into the next strip in the fight with Tsukiko. (The strip in question is called "At Least It Wasn't the Fourth Wall This Time.")
    • In "Threadbare", the visible "Threads of Creation" (the raw materials making out the plane, as well as the Snarl), a sure sign that reality is getting frayed around the edge, are seen bursting through the usual panel dividers of the strip.
  • In a strip of Out at Home, Penny bats a speech balloon from one frame to another.
  • Paranatural: On this page, when the werewolf digs its claws into the Ghost Train, one of its claws extends past the panel border, tearing a gash in the surrounding white.
  • Only the outsiders of Project 0 break panel to show that they aren't bound by reality.
  • Rock, Paper, Cynic
    • Panel-breaking is used as a version of two-dimensional time travel in the comic, "Time Travel".
    • We see a similar trick in "Free", where a stickman tries to dig his way out of the frame.
  • Schlock Mercenary likes to show characters leaning into frame and holding onto the panel borders. Of particular note is that, when Tagon crashes through a ceiling to make an entrance, it also looks like he crashes through the top of the panel with a large section missing, and bits falling off.
  • In a strip of Square Root of Minus Garfield, Garfield breaks through all the panels to get a cookie jar that's just two seconds out-of-sync.
  • Near the end of the original series of Star Mares, the background ponies are trying to reach the top of the Empress's tower, but are trapped in an adjacent shaft with no way through. Maple Leaf, after having spent the entire comic telling everypony not to break the fourth wall, uses her party cannon to bust through the frame (it being more easily broken than the wall would be).
  • True Villains: Mia briefly stands astride two panels when Dexter teleports her into his house without warning.
  • In Unbound, events sometimes spill over the sides of the comic. In one case a fire spreads to the 'paper' of the website's background, leaving it blackened once the fire is out.
  • In Unsounded, weird supernatural stuff — like certain fires, or metaphorical snake skeletons — extend off the page. When the characters walk through a dark tomb, the entire webpage is darkened. Interactions between the Khert and the physical world are also occasionally shown through frame breaks — Sette enters the Khert by falling through a frame, and during a later conversation she has with Murkoph he's trapped outside the page's frames while Sette is safely inside of them.
  • The Way of the Metagamer does this. A lot. Looking at previous and future panels, climbing between panels, and even pulling a section out of a panel are common occurrences.
  • In the Art Shift chapter of Welcome to the Convenience Store.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • In the intro of The Beano Video we see numerous instances of this, including Teacher being used by the Bash Street Kids as a battering ram.
  • In The Fairly Oddparents, when Timmy magically goes into the Crimson Chin comic book, he's able to jump from frame to frame (and time travel by doing so).
  • Several scenes in Maya and the Three depict objects or characters "breaking out" of the letterbox, usually for some sort of dramatic effect.
  • The Zeke's Pad episode "King of the Pad" combines this with Split-Screen Phone Call. Zeke calls Jay late at night, and once the screen splits, Jay hits his head on the border when he sits up.

Alternative Title(s): Panel Break